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Ritual and Religion in Flavian Epic$
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Antony Augoustakis

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199644094

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199644094.001.0001

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Wasted Water

Wasted Water

The Failure of Purification in the Thebaid

(p.181) 10 Wasted Water
Ritual and Religion in Flavian Epic

Nicholas Dee

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the ineffectiveness and perversion of lustration and other modes of purificatory ritual in Statius’ Thebaid. In several instances, attempts at purification in response to specific pollutants beget further pollution rather than eradicate it. Such failed atonements underscore and enhance many of the epic’s most prevalent themes: the overwhelming influence of nefas, sacrilege, the attempted expiation thereof(piaculum), and the Olympian gods’ capriciousness and declining influence. At different points in the poem, Eteocles, Polynices, and Jocasta undergo some type of (attempted) purification, but to no avail: the miasmic force of Oedipus’ crimes and curse prove indelible.

Keywords:   Statius, Thebaid, purificatory ritual, pollution, lustration, sacrilege, piaculum, Eteocles, Polynices, Jocasta, Oedipus

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