This week we had two excellent presentations by Katherine Krauss and Ludovico Pontiggia, respectively talking about late antique fictional narrative and Roman imperial epic.
In her presentation, “Aeneas and Apollonius in Africa: Virgilian Imperialism in the Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri”, Katherine has led us through a reappraisal of the context and literary function of the Historia Apolloniii Regis Tyri, a novelistic prose narrative written in Latin that enjoyed a great fortune in the Middle Ages. The Historia survives today in three recensios, the oldest of which date to the fifth century CE. Scholarship on the Historia has tended to argue for its literary merit only insofar as its ability to reconstruct its source text, long perceived to be a lost Greek novel. In her paper, by contrast, Katherine has aimed to explore the Historia’s claim to a place within Latin literary production through a close reading of the scene of Apollonius’s shipwreck on the shore of Cyrene, and has eventually proposed a persuasive reassessment of the Historia’s relationship with past literature and of its appropriation of symbols of power and colonisation derived from that same literature.
In the second section of the seminar, Ludovico presented a paper with the title “Embracing Athena Parthenos’ Aegis: Theseus’ Shield in Statius, Thebaid 12.665-676”. Statius’ Thebaid is obsessively pervaded by the presence of gods. However, in book 11 Jupiter and the other Olympians withdraw from the human world and leave mankind alone, without ever (fully) coming back. Books 11 and 12 are therefore characterised by the absence of the traditional Götterapparat: it will be a man, Theseus, to take on its role, thereby elevating himself to the status of human god. Ludovico’s talk set out to analyse Theseus’ shield within this broader theological context, where the human element replaces the divine one: mainly through a comparison with Achilles’ and Aeneas’ shields, he has shown how the absence of gods outside and inside Theseus’ shield is perfectly consistent with that context. Ludovico has finally argued that Statius draws both some narrative elements and the political message of cosmic order restoration from the famous aegis of Athena Parthenos.