The Poetry, Politics and Perversion of Roman Epic
By Robert Cowan
What is epic? Is it all kings and battles with no women? Is it about glorifying and validating the victors? These are the questions that Virgil’s successors self-consciously explored through poetry in the 120 years after the Aeneid achieved instant classic status and set the standard for Roman epic. Through their work they engaged in a dynamic process of imitating, interpreting, reacting against, and even perverting that standard.
With subject matter drawn from myth and history – from Hannibal to Caesar, Oedipus to Medea – these poems explore issues of gender, the relationship between gods and mortals, tyranny, civil war, and, above all, what it meant to be Roman under the Emperors.
After a survey of the epic tradition before Virgil and on through Ovid, each chapter explores a theme or issue, with illustrations and case-studies from all of the post-Virgilian epics. Themes covered include intertextuality, politics, cities, gender, the supernatural, and narrative. A final chapter will examine the reception and afterlife of post-Virgilian epic.
Contents: Introduction; Chapter 1. Before, during and after Virgil: the Roman epic tradition; Chapter 2. After Virgil, because of Virgil: fighting with the master; Chapter 3. The Power and the Gory: the politics of horror; Chapter 4. Rome from Rome: the epic city; Chapter 5. Sex Games: the gender of genre; Chapter 6. Infernal Affairs: heaven, hell, and everything in between; Chapter 7. It's the way I tell 'em: epic narrative; Chapter 8. After After Virgil - the epic tradition marches on Appendix of concise synopses of the plots of the five epics; Index.
Robert Cowan is Fairfax Tutorial Fellow in Latin Literature at Balliol College, Oxford and Lecturer in Classics at the University of Oxford. He has published articles on Silius, Virgil, Juvenal and Horace, and contributed a chapter to Brill’s Companion to Silius Italicus. He wrote the introduction to the new edition of O.A.W. Dilke’s Statius’ Achilleid (BPP, 2005) and is currently completing a book, Indivisible Cities, on the poetics of cities in Silius Italicus.