In The Odes of Horace, Steele Commager examines the odes with particular attention both to their language and structure and to the effect a poem is intended to, or does, produce. Horace’s conciseness and apparent clarity phrase by phrase tempt us into believing that there is an equally concise and clear meaning to be assigned to a poem, or even to his thought as a whole. Yet Horace has no systematic philosophy to impart; his poems record only an imaginative apprehension of the world. Each ode is a calculated assault on our sensibilities, a deliberate invasion of our consciousness. Only by yielding to each in its entirety can we momentarily share Horace’s vision.
Socrates - his life, ideas, and techniques of argument - is an indirect presence in the work, and the Socratic tenor of several of the dialogues in it is the subject of one chapter. The lovely Panthea, the fairest woman in Asia, is Xenophon's most colourful heroine and her story, along with the dramatic tales of the eunuch Gadatas, bereaved Gobyras, and defeated Crosesus, are the focus of another section; special attention is paid to the question of Xenophon's originality in fashioning these tales. The symposia of the Cyropaedia, with their intricate blend of Greek and Persian elements, are also investigated at length.