Thebaid (Latin Poem) - Poetic Models

Poetic Models

Statius' Thebaid deals with the same subject as the Thebaid – an early Greek epic of several thousand lines which survives only in brief fragments (also known as the Thebais), and which was attributed by some classical Greek authors to Homer. Perhaps a more important source for Statius was the long epic Thebais of Antimachus of Colophon, an important poem both in the development of the Theban cycle and the evolution of Hellenistic poetry. Also significant for Statius were the myth's many treatments in Greek drama, represented by surviving plays such as Aeschylus' The Seven Against Thebes, Sophocles' Antigone, and Euripides' Phoenissae and Suppliants. Other authors provided models for specific sections of the poem; the Coroebus episode in Book 1 may be based on Callimachus' Aetia, while the Hypsipyle narrative in Book 5 echoes Apollonius of Rhodes' treatment.

On the Latin side, Statius is highly indebted to Virgil, a debt he acknowledges in his epilogue. Statius emulates Virgil's Odyssean and Iliadic book division, concentrating aetiological material and traveling in the first six books and focusing on battle narratives in the second six, and many episodes allude to sections in the Aeneid (such as the correspondence of the Dymas and Hopleus episode to Nisus and Euryalus). Ovid's considerable influence can be traced in Statius' handling of cosmic structure, description, style, and verse; Ovid in some ways seems to be more a model for Statius than Virgil at times. The influence of Lucan can be particularly felt in Statius' penchant for macabre battle sequences, discussion of tyranny, and focus on nefas. Seneca's tragedies also seem to be an influence in the Thebaid, particularly in Statius' portrayal of family relations, generational curses, necromancy, and insanity.

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