In putting together his dictum, Horace, as a native speaker of Latin, perhaps instinctively chose to put first the word "sapere," and then the word "aude," even if, strictly grammatically speaking, "aude sapere" might have been equally correct.

Did he choose to put the verb in the imperative mood at the end of his dictum because it is a personal mood, like the indicative and the subjunctive, and the verb in the infinitive in initial position because the infinitive is not a personal mood, and we all know that in Latin there is a strong preference for verbs in personal moods to be placed at the end of their sentences?

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Do not read too much into word order in poetry. The metric constraints on language distort the word order quite a bit. Not all freedom is lost, but it is difficult to see what was the author's design and what was limitations of the medium. Adhering to the metric structure does give a certain benefit, so sacrificing some freedom to that end is reasonable. The benefit certainly depends on your taste, but I for one really enjoy metric poetry.

Both word orders are equally correct grammatically. A quick look at attested classical uses of audere shows both word orders in prose. I didn't dig deep enough to see if one is more common than the other, but both are clearly possible: audere can come before or after the infinitive.

In this particular case putting aude last (at the end of the verse) gives it more weight. The order gains more emphasis this way. Although this sounds better in this order, I think Horatius would have used the opposite order if the words or the meter (hexameter here) were somehow different so that sapere aude didn't work metrically. Also note that sapere can only appear in hexameter if followed by a word starting with a consonant cluster or a long syllable starting with a vowel; one has to elide or lengthen the third short syllable.

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    As a beginner student in Latin, I'm only too pleased to learn that both word orders are correct as I have actually suspected them to be. Your answer is very enlightening as far as I'm concerned. Jun 18, 2017 at 10:58
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    @User26328 I'm glad I could help! I hope you'll continue to find this site useful for learning Latin.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 18, 2017 at 11:00

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