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18. The Emperor’S Saturnalia: Statius, Silvae 1.6

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Chapter Summary

In Silvae 1.6 the poet describes a public celebration, the entertainment; gifts, a banquet, and spectacular shows provided by the emperor for the people on the occasion of the Saturnalia. The idea of the emperor is examined here through spectacle rather than through architecture. In Silvae 1.6 Domitian is presented largely from the point of view of the audience, who enthusiastically respond to him in the complementary roles of benefactor and God. Silvae 1.6 explores the imperial appropriation of the discourse of popular liberty. In the swift-moving hendecasyllables of Silvae 1.6, a metre associated with social and political irreverence, Statius explores from within the public arena the hegemonic practices that confirmed the social and political order under Domitian. The principle of change embodied in the shows is related to the concept of imperial power that is expressed in this poem.

Keywords: Domitian; God; hegemonic practices; Saturnalia; Silvae 1.6



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