BMCR 2014.09.36

Plenus litteris Lucanus: zur Rezeption der horazischen Oden und Epoden in Lucans Bellum Civile. Litora classica, 3

, Plenus litteris Lucanus: zur Rezeption der horazischen Oden und Epoden in Lucans Bellum Civile. Litora classica, 3. Rahden; Westf.: VML Verlag Marie Leidorf, 2013. 305. ISBN 9783867574730. €34.80 (pb).

This doctoral thesis book from Mainz treats Lucan’s deployment of intertextuality with Horace’s oeuvre thoroughly, imaginatively, and combines scrupulous correctness with comprehensive documentation. Gross has no difficulty in vindicating subtle and powerful manipulation for this particular instance of the (fiendish) literariness in Bellum Ciuile. The guts of the presentation is the collected mass of cases of specific allusion; but Gross presses on much further, pursuing diligently and fearlessly wider thematic takes on sundry cultural and ideological propositions that run across generic divisions and exclusions, in effect challenging the monopoly of post-Virgilian epic moulding for the poem. The Lucan thing of provoking strongly argued interpretation at odds with all the lines presented by other worthy citizens works once again—YOU MUST READ LUCAN—as Gross (esp.pp.53-5, ‘ernst’) hangs BC on the proem’s deferential scrape to Nero and finds the rest of the epic agreeing with Horace that the way past the traumatic doom experienced by Romans living through the Civil Wars, and recapitulated in the Epodes was the salvation brought by the new order of the Caesars represented by the Odes and Epistles —except that the world was waiting, not for Augustus, but for Nero, and so for Lucan, not Horace. The strategy consists, then, in foregrounding Horatian citation (and re-casting, including reversal and inversion), and in pressing for a thoroughgoing harnessing of Horace’s status as participant observer then survivor and (faux) moralist of civil war for a vividly melodramatic but ultimately upbeat hailing of present felicity, built on the discrediting of Horace’s delusionary hosannas. The poser, Gross knows, will be how to extricate Nero’s Rome from the hail of scorn.

The book’s Introduction (pp. 9-40) gears up with brisk reviews of Horace in scholarship on poets between Horace and Lucan, of brands of intertextuality and their heretofore neglected commandeering for BC (q.e.d.). A second chapter (pp.41-70) concentrates on the profiling of Lucan’s narrator figure, lyricizing, frenetic, and inyaface aggressive: this obtrusive authoring is what bespeaks (yells) ‘HORACE is in and for it—Virgil, not so much’.

Chapter 3 detonates the substance of the book (pp. 71-261, sporting the Petronian tag of the main title, from Satyrica 118.6), with just Results, Conclusion, and 1-page English Summary to wrap up (pp. 268-77; 278; 279). The key Horatian passages discussed are: Epodes 2, 7, 16; Odes 1.1, 2, 8, 12, 23, 37; 2.1; 3.2, 3,16, 20, 25, 30; (and short discussions of 1.3, 4, 35; 2.13, 15; 4.9; plus brief notices on Satires 1.7; Epistles 1.10; Carmen Saeculare). Gross’s demolition work, however, extends through ‘Horace’ to the Augustan bid to eternalize the self-representation of their state: as Golden Age agribusiness, as devotion to duty above flesh, as cultural identity re-inscribed from Trojan and Romulean foundation myths; as cosmopolis re-centering empire on cityscape heritage, as verity trumpeted past time by the privileged/sponsored medium of affirmative poetry, as definitive construal of the great men monumentalized at, and as, the effectual end of history.

Verbal responsion entwines Epod. 2.5 with 4.186, ib. 17 ~ 2.46; 16.1, 66 ~ BC 7.553-4; ib. 5 ~ 1.120; Odes 1.1.18 ~ 5.539; 1.2.24 ~ 1.27, 25-6 ~ 5.200-1; 1.4.1 ~ 9.998; 1.12.41-3 ~ 1.168-70, 10.151-4, ib. 35-6 ~ 9.595; 1.23.5-6 ~ 8.5-6; 1.37.6-8 ~ 10.63, 22, 32 ~ 10.452-3, 458; 2.1.35 ~ 7.851; 3.3.65 ~ 9.965; 3.3.10 ~ 7.593; 3.2.20~ 1.132; 3.5.1-2 ~ 7.447; 3.16.26 ~ 5.403; 3.20.15-16 ~ 9.972; 3.25.1-3 ~ 1.564, 676-8; 3.30.1=2 ~ 7.7-8; 4.8.25-7 ~ 9.981; 4.9.28 ~ 9.980 (plus Epistles 1.10.8 ~ 7.596; 12.19 ~ 1.98). Gross assembles and deploys this mixed, largely familiar but (true) yet to be pressurized, batch of linkage way away from the obvious cases of shared personnel and events, trounced programmatics and negated imagery, to expropriate lyric forging of a wor(l)dview from axiomatic assertion—rather than to beef up tragified historical narration, say as Horace reads Pollio in Odes 2.1, or to weigh into the tragical wing of horrorshow epic, say as in any Thebaid we can imagine: at every turn, the transumption of triumviral by post-revolutionary Augustan poet impels the Neronian hitman to pivot his work on treacherous emulation, with Flaccus exposed for model and target. Needless, no doubt, to retort that what Lucan’s Horace does to one Caesar slides right across to apply to the latest Caesar facing Lucan, proemial declaration, enigma, or sarcasm notwithstanding: ever and again, critique of BC properly disseminates division. Among many striking formulations of Lucan’s re-handling of key topics is a fine exposition of an ‘ambivalent’ (?) Julius, sweeping away rotten tradition, gods, political system, norms and controls, and installing instead in his own figure the energies of decisiveness, audacity, chance (pp. 231-47). PLENUS LITTERIS LUCANUS may not manage to hoist its mangled and reassembled Horace up into the driving-seat, but the demonstration that this intertextuality has deserved and rewards concentrated investigation is secure.