LOST - The Estate of Horace

Last week on LOST, viewers were treated to a (less-than-exhaustive) history of the enigmatic DHARMA Initiative. In this history, told from the perspective of the creepy Benjamin Linus, we met a DI worker named Horace Goodspeed. Of course, this is LOST, and names are loaded with meaning; as such, it's easy to see that a last name like "Goodspeed" (like the Goodwin of Season 2) is a tell as to the importance of the name or character to which it is assigned.

But in all the discussion about Horace (and most commentators have realized that it is the first name that holds meaning, not the overtly coded last name), an intriguing potential clue has remained elusive. None to date have discussed Horace's Estate.

LOST Horace may have earned his name from Quintus Horatius Flaccus, a lyric poet of pre-Common Era Rome better known to those without laurels behind their ears simply as Horace. Horace gave the world "carpe diem," without which "Dead Poets Society" could not have become a box office draw. He also contributed a phrase ("Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori") which means "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."

(It bears noting at this point that LOST Horace was killed as his settlement defended itself against a hostile invader on the Island.)

Horace, as his fame grew, was granted an estate in the Sabine region of Italy by a wealthy patron. On Horace's own deathbed, he in turn granted his estate to his friend, a certain fellow who went by Augustus in conversation but signed his paychecks with "Caesar."

(It bears noting at this point that "Sabine" has already appeared in LOST lore as both a character name and a mythological tie-in. Sabine the character was a woman who died in childbirth on what has been revealed to be a very inhospitable place for women to bear children. The mythological tie-in involves a Roman myth about the capture of the women of the Sabine region, who were then "used" to repopulate early Rome. This story was told years in advance in the Hebrew Bible, where the captured women were from Jabesh-gilead and the society that needed to be repopulated was the Hebrew Tribe of....Benjamin.)

The gift was apparently intended to be used for "Imperial purposes"; that is, Caesar's own purposes whether they agreed with Horace's use of the estate or not. Caesar was granted the ability to take over the land and do with it as he pleased. And we all know how the Caesars turned out in the end: power-hungry and corrupted.

(Once again, we note that when LOST Horace was killed, his land was taken by Benjamin, the eventual leader of The Others, and turned to their own purposes. We are now seeing that Ben's assumption of power may have led to a corruption of his own tribe's initial goal--although we don't know what it is yet.)

So, we see all these tie-ins with LOST and the story of the poet Horace. They're all pretty interesting, but they don't really tell us anything about LOST. They're just cool little nods to real-life experience and literature. But in the history of Horace's estate, we are offered actual clarity into the truths of LOST.

See, the intriguing connection is that, until the mid-eighteenth century, no one knew where Horace's estate was. Many people searched. Since the fifteenth century, historians, artists and classicists endeavored to locate the estate. The actual site of the estate had actually been located around that time, but was dismissed as a candidate. Over the centuries, Horace's estate became as much a "literary topos" (repeated myth, like the Flood or the myriad hero epics) as an actual location to be found. It became an ancient totem with which to facilitate the expression of a contemporary idea. Think Xanadu, El Dorado, or the Garden of Eden; like those places, Horace's Estate became a label for something rather than a place in and of itself.

LOST columnist Jeff "Doc" Jensen has often speculated that The Island in LOST is a grand psychological/psychic experiment, designed to effect a change on the collective subconscious; recreate a mythological structure to mankind; or (most broadly) save the world of its sins and ills by altering some unknowable and fundamental dynamic of the human condition. The fact that The Island is so difficult to locate only demonstrates that its location is not important; it is The Island's meaning that determines its value.

The Island is "somewhere"; I'm convinced that it is not an ethereal nonplace. It is not Purgatory, or Hell, or Heaven, or any other cosmological locale. But it is the very nature of The Island's place in the machine that is Earth that makes it so difficult to find. Call it the Garden of Eden. Call it Avalon. Call it Atlantis. That's what it is. It's a place that creates meaning by its absence rather than its presence. And it is for this reason--the importance of the activities on The Island and the people conducting those activities--that those on The Island will never, ever leave it.

Even when Horace's Estate was found, it was still most important for having been lost.


For more of my thoughts on LOST, which are occasionally well-elucidated, click here.