Friday, March 03, 2006

The Epic Successors of Virgil

'This is a short book on some very long poems written in the first 130 years of the Roman empire: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Lucan's Bellum Civile, Statius' Thebaid, Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica, and Silius Italicus' Punica. My aim above all is to throw light on the dynamics of a tradition. Tradition is often felt negatively as a dead weight; I shall have succeeded if I encourage in my reader a sense that these monstrous poems are possessed of a restless and fertile energy and that close to the surface of their hides there is stretched an intricately sensitive nerve-system.

'In literary terms the source of this dynamism is Virgil's Aeneid. One of the greatnesses of this apparently definitive Roman epic is its ability to spawn a vigorous progeny. The successors to Virgil, at once respectful and rebellious, constructed a space for themselves through a 'creative imitation' that exploited the energies and tensions called up but not finally expended or resolved in the Aeneid.'

--Philip Hardie, The Epic Successors of Virgil (Cambridge University Press 1993), p. 1

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