What was Horace’s concept of personal ethical cause and effect?

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 BC, known in English as Horace, was a Roman poet during the time of Augustus.  He aspired to deliver his idea to the individual, in a way that it would stick mentally with the individual.  Horace’s basic concept of ethical cause and effect poses that the individual should remain in the golden mean.  He or she should expect no more, and no less than the healthy medium.

In his odes, Horace ultimately provides that the only major thing in life, is death.  Death comes to everyone.  With this inescapable end, all men will be equal during and after their last breath, and thus they are equal throughout their lives.  The amount of wealth an individual possesses will not mean anything after that person is deceased.  A person can work really hard to obtain riches, however, ultimately, this doesn’t change their position.  However, he points out that a person does not want to find himself in poverty, because this will lead to material suffering.  What is the solution? Live in the healthy medium; the golden mean.

Horace discusses this Stoic idea, and his reasoning behind it.  There is not a substantial need to overwork yourself to obtain excessive riches, however, you must avoid poverty.  In a nutshell, Horace says to live a balanced life, don’t allow less, and don’t do any more.  You should make an effort, but don’t go too far out of your way.

Another reason he provides for living in the “golden mean,” is simply that of avoiding disappointment.  If you make significant plans for yourself, you are enlarging the possibility of disappointment.  Why? Horace says the fates have plan for every individual.  The plans the fates have may or may not coordinate with those of the individual.  If individuals position themselves in a middle class type of lifestyle, that is adjustable, then they will not encounter major disappointment.

Horace provides the example of the ant.  She consumes what she gathers, and lays up only when she needs to.  He says that people should follow this example.  He poses the question, what is the point in having piles of gold? You cannot take your wealth with you when you die, it will be taken by friends and family, and your effort will be forgotten.  Throughout his writing, he points to the golden mean, not too hot, not too cold; just right.  In his first satire, he explains that individuals should not equate wealth with who they are; it does not define them.  Rather, they should seek a balanced lifestyle, in which they can imitate the life of the ant.

Death is certain, no one can escape it, but living in the golden mean as Horace says to do, according to Horace, will provide satisfaction.  Horace describes what we call today, the middle-class lifestyle.  You do not have to depend on other people, and other people do not have to depend on you.  This medium will give individuals a balance.  Ultimately, the middle-class will be equal to the wealthy, because both WILL encounter death.

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