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Statius’ Self-Conscious Poetics: Hexameter on Hexameter

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Chapter Summary

Ironically literary criticism of Statius' poetry has generated its own kind of civil war, so vigorously have critics been divided over whether Thebaid has any meaningful relationship to imperial politics. One approach to this controversy lies in Statius' Silvae, which provide a significant interpretive guide to the epic. The first published collection of Silvae were written as composition of the Thebaid was drawing to a close. Several of these poems offer self-conscious reflections on both the Thebaid and Achilleid. As praise poetry, the Silvae are grounded in Roman society, in Roman values, and in Roman anxieties. This chapter argues that in the Silvae literary criticism and socio-political criticism are intertwined. By looking in particular at three poems, Silvae 1.5, 3.2 and 3.5, it argues that the Silvae, through dialogue with Thebaid, confront the vexed question of whether imperial poetry can have a meaningful social and political role in Domitian's Rome.

Keywords: Achilleid; Domitian's Rome; imperial politics; self-conscious reflections; Silvae; social-political criticism; Statius' poetry; Thebaid



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