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From the bites and scratches of lovers and the threat of flogging that hangs over the comic slave, to murder, rape, dismemberment, and crucifixion, violence is everywhere in Latin literature. The contributors to this volume explore the manifold ways in which violence is constructed and represented in Latin poetry and prose from Plautus to Prudentius, examining the interrelations between violence, language, power, and gender, and the narrative, rhetorical, and ideological functions of such depictions across the generic spectrum. How does violence contribute to the pleasure of the text? Do depictions of violence always reinforce status-hierarchies, or can they provoke a reassessment of normative value-systems? Is the reader necessarily complicit with authorial constructions of violence? These are pressing questions both for ancient literature and for film and other modern media, and this volume will be of interest to scholars and students of cultural studies as well as of the ancient world.
Ennius … noster … qui primus amoeno detulit ex Helicone perenni fronde coronam
Our own Ennius, who first brought down from pleasant Helicon a garland of evergreen leaves
auia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante trita solo. iuuat integros accedere fontis atque haurire, iuuatque nouos decerpere flores insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam unde prius nulli uelarint tempora Musae
(DRN 1.926-30 = 4.1-5)
I wander through trackless places of the Muses, trodden by no foot before mine. It is pleasant to approach untouched springs and drink, and pleasant to pluck fresh flowers and seek a glorious garland for my head in places whence the Muses have crowned no other brow.
These two closely related passages from Lucretius’ first book suggest - when taken together - a concern with literary filiation and poetic originality typical of the poets of the first century bc. A cross-reference is implicit in the shared image of the garland plucked on the mountain of the Muses: even as he stakes his own claim as a literary innovator, the poet points us back to his earlier acknowledgement of Ennius as literary forebear. Paradoxically, the poet’s originality is predicated on the existence of a prior tradition.
Lucretius’ engagement with previous poetic traditions is intense and sustained, though largely conducted with a subtlety that has often led commentators to overlook its existence. The issue was a particularly pressing one for an Epicurean poet: Epicurus himself appears to have held literary pursuits in general to be trivial, if not positively dangerous.