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Priam’s Spear and Pyrrhus’ Shield (Verg. A. 2.544-6) 1)

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Abstract The inconsistency at Verg. A. 2.544-6 is usually regarded as either a slip on Vergil’s part, or as the result of an unrealistic conceptualization of Pyrrhus’ shield. This paper argues that the passage draws upon a similar inconsistency present at Il. 3.347 which, together with the allusions to the dynamics of the first clash between Hector and Achilles in Iliad 20, underlines Priam’s distance from the Iliadic epic models. The concept is reinforced by an anti-antiquarian reference to the behaviour of the Roman pilum, which further emphasizes Priam’s inadequacy as a warrior, and rules out any possible epic connotations of his spear-cast.

Affiliations: 1: Sackler Library 1 St John Street, Oxford, OX1 2LG UK


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