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Lucan’S Cato and the Poetics of Exemplarity

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Chapter Summary

Lucan reveals his Cato’s inadequacies as a sage and a Republican ideal in Stoic terms. In a paradigmatic speech describing his response to the rising conflict, Cato describes himself as a passionately grieving father (2.297–303). This metaphor evokes the popular Stoic anecdotes on parental loss, but Cato’s response is at odds with the proper Stoic reaction: Anaxagoras is said to have responded to news of his son’s death, “I was already aware that I had begotten a mortal” (Cic. TD 3.30). In like manner, Lucan simultaneously raises the expectation of Stoic perfection, only to reveal all too acutely how Cato displays un-Stoic anger, immoderation, and ultimately, disharmony with the plan of a malignant universe. Lucan’s Cato therefore represents the inadequacy of ideals, both philosophical and political.



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