The Thebiad

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sat Dec 06, 2003 2:35 pm

Salve Coruncani,

What is the Latin/Greek title of these works? I never heard of them, in any case, but my suggestion would be that the Thebiad may be a compilation of all Theban myths and stories. The Achilliad is, in its name, reminiscent of Achilleus of course, but other than the Trojan wars I can't think of any other important legend featuring Achilleus.

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Postby Curio Agelastus on Sat Dec 06, 2003 9:07 pm

Salvete,

the Thebiad is the story of the Seven against Thebes. (I believe the second, the successful assault that involved Diomedes.)

Since the Iliad tells the story of Achilles' rage, I would guess (But this is only conjecture) that the Achilliad is the story of Achilleus' death - I have heard of another Epic where his killing of Memnon to avenge Antilochos was detailed, as well as his death. Perhaps this is it.

The Iliad and the Odyssey were just part of a whole Epic cycle, and another part of the cycle is called, IIRC, the Cypriad, though why escapes me.

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:13 pm

Maybe because another name for Aphrodite was Kypros (if I'm not mistaken) and the whole Trojan cycle starts off with love affairs and love contests?

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Sun Dec 07, 2003 6:47 am

I found a short reference to the Achilliad at a usenet site. It said,

In the only part of the Achilliad (an uncompleted follow-up epic
to the Thebiad) written by Statius, almost the entire plot occurs under
water as the sea goddess Thetis gives birth to Achilles, baptizes him in the
Styx and has him raised in Chiron's cave (undoubtedly near her domain of
Ocean).

It could be that the Achilliad was intended to be a "prequel" to the Illiad, explaining who this Achilles guy was. My Latin teacher in secondary school always maintained, however, that the Illiad was about Hector rather than about Achilles. She based her argument on the fact that the work ends with the death of Hector, the mutilation of his body, and his father's recovery of same. Achilles death by Hector's brother Paris is not in the Illiad and known to us from other works.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Dec 08, 2003 12:33 pm

Salve Tiberi

Among the Loeb Classic Library series is a two volume set on Statius. It has the Thebaid, Achilleis, and Silvae. P Papinius Statius (c. 40-96 CE) wrote in Latin. I am currently working on translating certain parts of these works. I will have copies for less than a week though, if you have anything you'd like to ask.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Dec 12, 2003 1:54 pm

Salve Tiberi

The Achilleid Statius never completed. There are only two books. Both the Thebaid and Achilleid are original works, not translations, and only loosely based on Greek sources. By Statius' time the Greek stories were so well known that any semi-educated Roman would be familiar with them.

What I have been looking at are the prayers that Statius included in his works. There are some references to rites. Are they Greek because the subject is Greek? No, I think Statius was really describing Roman attitudes, rites, and Roman religious concepts. For example, Thebaid II 740. A prayer is offered to Minerva (II 715-742) where in exchange for Her services on the battlefield, a vow is made to establish a new temple for Her, along with a hundred virgins to serve in Her devotions, and an elderly preistess, longaeva sacerdos, to attend Her altar throughout the night and to maintain Minerva's arcanum pudorem . Loeb version translates this as "mystic sanctities" as though it were some sort of Eleusian mysteries of Minerva. But what Statius is refering to are the kind of rites performed for Minerva at the Capitolium, and criticized by Seneca; i.e. the priestess attended Minerva's toiletries. I am not familiar with Greek practices to a point where I could say Greek practices were not considered, but Statius, being Roman, was I think more likely refering to the Roman temple practices.

Another passage that interests me is Thebaid IV 443-487 where there appears an exorcism of a field. Some farmers had newly ploughed a vacant field, releasing the shades of fallen soldiers on an ancient battlefield. A rite is performed that could be either Greek or Roman, sacrificing black animals to the Gods of the Underworld. While much of its imagery uses conventions drawn from Greek myth, still the rite retains Roman aspects.

There is a similar matter with the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus. The basic story may have originated with the Greeks but Valerius wrote from a Roman perspective for a Roman audience. The same is found with Plautus using Greek plays on which to model his own. Are Shakespeare's plays, many drawn from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and set in Italy, to be regarded as Italian or English plays? Statius took a difficult subject in the Thebaid, in that it was written in several different Greek sources, and never before Statius combined into a single coherent story. Leave it for others to decide how well he may have succeeded in his effort but Statius did make over the many Greek stories into a single Roman story.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Dec 20, 2003 1:37 pm

Salve Tiberi

I do not think Livy gives account of much that can be called ritual, except with regard to the fetials. The fetial rites and a couple other things, Livy needs to explain because Romans of his day were unfamiliar with them. That leads to the question of what were his sources? Some he refers to. The Annales of Piso, the pontifical Libri maximi were likewise annals, and family histories. To me it seems odd that other authors, Varro included, appear to rely on Ennius as a source for early rituals. Other early sources quoted were likewise poets, Naevius comes to mind. So the antiquarians of the Late Republic and early Principate were quoting poets as sources. There were also commentaries on law, pontifical law, that may have included ritual details. The primary work on ritual, which unfortunately did not survive, was Granius Flauccus' De Indigitamenta that contained the formular of invocation. Veranius' work on augury is referred to, but not quoted directly AFAIK. Then the work of Valerius Soranus, and that of Nigidius Figulus, both highly respected, often referred to, yet their works have not survived. What we do know are only pieces and parts, with perhaps only the poets offering us some context to draw those parts together.

Related is Pliny's reference to a number of formulae for different occasions. It is assumed in that that there were set prayers for state rites. However reviewing those found in the literature, and a number of inscriptions, there is no repetiition to indicate a set prayer. IMHO Pliny refers more to what we would today think of as a style of speach in speaking with the Gods than that there were written formulae for the rites of the cultus civile. Without direct quotes of segments of the pontifical books though, there is no way of knowing.

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