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Title: Magno proles indigna parente: The role of Sextus Pompeius in Lucan's Bellum Civile
Contributor(s): Tesoriero, Charles Anthony (author)
Publication Date: 2002
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Abstract: The second half of the sixth book of Lucan’s ‘Bellum Civile’, the so-called ‘witch-scene’, is one of the more controversial sections of the poem. Its ‘baroque’ excesses, graphic and horrifying depictions of witchcraft and the hindering presence within the epic of an invented, unhistorical episode, delaying the narrative of Pharsalus, have raised questions about its purpose. The scene opens as Sextus Pompeius, obsessed with the outcome of the civil war, departs from the newly-encamped armies of Caesar and Pompey to seek a prophecy from the evil witch Erichtho (413-37). After lengthy descriptions of Thessalian witchcraft and the practices of Erichtho which emphasize the criminality of the witch (438-569), she performs a necromancy, raising from the dead the corpse of a recently killed soldier (670-776). This corpse, rather than revealing the future, is disappointingly vague about what will happen. Instead, it preaches in a Stoic vein to Sextus about the best course of action to take, the ennobling path to suicide. In the last lines of its speech, the corpse seems to discard its previous advice and finishes by alluding to the final destruction of the ‘Gens Pompeia’ (777-820). The book closes with Erichtho and Sextus departing together from the scene of necromancy (820-30).
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Sextus Pompeius, p. 229-247
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Company Limited and The Classical Press of Wales
Place of Publication: London
ISBN: 0715631276
Field of Research (FOR): 210306 Classical Greek and Roman History
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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