What is Horatian Satire

This article covers, 

     1. What is Satire?
             – Definition and Types

     2. What is Horatian Satire?
              – History
              – Definition
              – Features and Characteristics
              – Examples

What is Satire


Satire is the use of humor, irony, wit, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s follies or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other existing issues. Although satire is humorous, its main purpose is to criticize the vices, abuses, and follies in the society.


Satirical literature can be classified into three main types known as Horatian, Juvenalian, or Menippean

Juvenalian Satire:

Named after the ancient Roman satirist Juvenal, Juvenalian Satire is a formal satire which attacks the vice and error in society with contempt and indignation. Juvenalian Satire uses strong irony and sarcasm, and is more harsh and abrasive than Horatian satire.

Menippean Satire:

Named after the ancient Greek parodist Menippus, Menippean satire criticizes the mindset or attitudes of people rather than societal norms.

What is Horatian Satire

The term Horatian satire is named after the Roman satirist Horace (first century BCE) who gently ridiculed the dominant opinions and beliefs of Ancient Rome and Greece with humor and clever mockery. Horatian satirists are tolerant, indulgent, amused and witty, and ridicule the follies and absurdities of the human beings. Instead of attacking the vices in the society, this satire ridicules common human follies so that the readers may identify with these follies and laugh at them. Thus, Horatian satire is not as harsh and abrasive as Juvenalian satire. In Horatian satire, the satirist’s goal is to heal a situation with laughter, rather than with anger.

Many of the ancient literature, including the Horatian satire, were forgotten after the fall of the Roman Empire. But this satire form was revived centuries later when influential authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Francois Rabelais drew inspiration from Horace to criticize the society using whimsical stories.

Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels, and Daniel Defoe’s The True-Born Englishman, etc. are some examples of Horatian satire.

What is Horatian Satire

A scene from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock painted by Charles Robert Leslie

It can be also argued that modern cartoonists also use Horatian satire to criticize the social follies and absurdities. For example, The Simpsons cartoon, which is set in the fictional small town of Springfield, is a satirical depiction of the American life.


  • Horatian humor ridicules universal human follies.
  • Horatian satire is witty, amusing, tolerant and, less harsh and abrasive.
  • It is able to criticize the society by evoking humor and laughter. 

Image Courtesy:

 By Charles Robert Leslie (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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