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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 July 2021

Ritual Murder and Suicide in the Thebaid

Ritual Murder and Suicide in the Thebaid

(p.233) 13 Ritual Murder and Suicide in the Thebaid
Ritual and Religion in Flavian Epic

Neil W. Bernstein

Oxford University Press

Throughout Statius’ Thebaid, human beings pervert both the performance of religious ritual and the positive relationship with the gods that ritual is imagined to facilitate and extend. Yet ritual performance in Statius also reveals a pattern of excessive and unmerited violence perpetrated by hostile gods. Ritual practices negotiate between at least three parties: the ritual actor(s), the wider community, and the gods. Both human and divine parties profess to be interested in performing and rewarding meritorious behavior. By narrating the actual circumstances and consequences of ritual performances, however, the Thebaid confounds any expectation either that ritual actors are meritorious or that the gods they address are themselves either virtuous or powerful. This paper argues that Statius exposes the contingency of the relationship between ritual performance, the claim of merit, and the exercise of power

Keywords:   Statius, Thebaid, murder, suicide, ritual, community, gods, power

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