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Epic and Empire in Vespasianic RomeA New Reading of Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica$
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Tim Stover

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199644087

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199644087.001.0001

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Recuperating the Hero

Recuperating the Hero

Medea and the Issue of Jason’s Virtus

(p.181) 6 Recuperating the Hero
Epic and Empire in Vespasianic Rome

Tim Stover

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes the manner in which Valerius recovers a space for heroic virtus by recuperating the figure of Jason. Valerius' recuperative strategy is read as a response not only to Apollonius' controversial depiction of Jason, but also as a timely reaction to Lucan's iconoclastic assault on the very concept of heroic ‘excellence’. Valerius' reintroduction of the aristeia, a device undermined by Lucan's portrayal of anonymously inglorious warfare, is an important element of his restorative program. Since Valerius' rehabilitation of Jason relies heavily on his interactions with Medea, the chapter examines how her presence allows Valerius to advertise his rehabilitative gestures vis-à-vis the issues of epic virtus and Jason's heroism. It is argued that Valerius' recuperative strategy marks the narrative — and historical — present as a time conducive to bona fide heroics, a situation made possible by the Argonautic moment ushered in by Vespasian's accession to power.

Keywords:   heroism, virtus, aristeia, Jason, Medea, Vespasian

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