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The Hero and the Law: A Study of Silius Italicus' Punica
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Linguistics and Philology.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study of Silius Italicus’ Punica is executed by means of the analytical tools provided in Hegel’s Aesthetics together with the Weberian concept of the Idealtypus. The Punica and in particular a group of its protagonists are examined in relation to the “Hegelian Idealtypus of epic”, in order to identify the driving forces in the narrative and the pivotal conflict of the poem.

I argue that although the Punica displays numerous traditional epic features regarding formal criteria and subject matter, its historical situation must be taken into consideration as well as its text-internal qualities. Accordingly, the Punica must be considered a Kunstepos.

Furthermore, in the frequent occurrences of conflict and disintegration within the epicizing narrative, the poetic principle of drama emerges. This quality is shared by Livy’s reflective and pragmatical history. The dramatic principle, however, is not allowed its full realization. The narrating subject of the Punica appropriates the space of the objective narrator of the ideal-typical epic, but is substantially the counterpart to historiography’s ideological epitomator. The narrating subject’s point of view is closely connected to the notions of Roman fides, ius and mos, which are construed as opposites to Carthaginian unpredictability and primitivism. However, several of the central Roman protagonists also have problematic relationships to these notions and fail to comply with the expectations imposed on them as state officials. Above all, this becomes obvious through their defeat and death.

Hence, the pivotal conflict of the Punica is the struggle to yoke together epic heroism and historically oriented rationality. The parties of the conflict can be expressed as “the law”, as a metonym for the ideological demands of the Roman state, and “the hero” embodied by the generals that fight and die, but without recognition.

In four close readings, the characters Gracchus, Flaminius, Paulus and Marcellus are studied. They express in different ways the incompatibility between the heroic inner driving forces and the demands of usefulness and rationality associated with the Roman state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala University, Department of Linguistics and Philology , 2014. , 257 p.
Keyword [en]
Silius Italicus, Punica, Flavian poetry, Hegel's Aesthetics, epic, drama, hero, Idealtypus, narrative, historiography, Vergil
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-220099ISBN: 978-91-506-2390-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-220099DiVA: diva2:709303
Public defence
2014-05-24, Geijersalen, Thunbergsvägen 3P, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-04-29 Created: 2014-03-11 Last updated: 2014-07-21Bibliographically approved

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Åhman, Hannah Bartonek
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