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Lucan’s Cleopatra

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Chapter Summary

The ways in which public duties and private relationships intersected within the imperial household of the Julio-Claudians were a central theme for the writers of the early second-century CE. One of the fundamental problems with dealing with Caesar and Cleopatra is that even the primary material is removed in time from the events it describes. The silence under Augustus and Tiberius may perhaps be explained in part because of the prevailing ideology of the imperial domus. The island of Pharus, which was joined on side with the mainland at start of the Ptolemaic period by a long mole, the Heptastadion, lay beside a channel which opened into the great harbour of Alexandria. Comparison of themes in Lucan's narrative with contemporary social issues and intellectual preoccupations provides another useful way for understanding how he arrives at his portraits of Cleopatra and her lover Caesar, and infuses them with such withering scorn.

Keywords: Caesar; Cleopatra; Julio-Claudians; Lucan's narrative; Ptolemaic period



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