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Noscendi Nilum Cupido: The Nile Digression in Book 10

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Chapter Summary

At Cleopatra’s banquet in Lucan’s book 10 Caesar asks the Egyptian Acoreus to reveal the source of the Nile but receives a lengthy, evasive reply on the planetary influences on the Nile, on theories of its flood, and on its course through eastern Africa.This essay establishes the thematic coherence of this Nilescape within the scientific and ethical economy of the epic. First, Acoreus’ Nilescape responds to earlier, hostile references to the Nile and contrasts a cosmological view of the river to those terrestrial perspectives. Second, Lucan’s juxtaposition of these two views draws from 1st century ce stoicism, particularly Seneca’s cosmology in the Natural Questions.



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