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Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii$
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Kristina Milnor

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199684618

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199684618.001.0001

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A Culture of Quotation: Virgil, Education, and Literary Ownership

A Culture of Quotation: Virgil, Education, and Literary Ownership

(p.233) 5 A Culture of Quotation: Virgil, Education, and Literary Ownership
Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii

Kristina Milnor

Oxford University Press

The fragments of Virgil’s Aeneid found on Pompeian walls must be seen as part of a wider culture of literary consumption. The canonization of the first words of the Aeneid made them both deeply meaningful and completely meaningless, a shorthand way of gesturing to a wider Roman literary culture. At the same time, however, quotations from other parts of Virgil’s epic text, as well as from his other works, show a broader knowledge of Rome’s most canonized poet, but one which focuses on the use and meaning of individual lines and phrases rather than of the work as a whole. Ultimately, the culture of literary quotation in the streets of Pompeii turns out to be one which prioritizes the quoted fragment as a means of communication, so that the Aeneid speaks in this popular context not as a single, unified, and canonized poem, but as an atomized and utilitarian series of pieces of text.

Keywords:   Aeneid, quotation, canonization, popular culture, fragment, Roman culture

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