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The War with GodTheomachy in Roman Imperial Poetry$
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Pramit Chaudhuri

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199993383

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199993383.001.0001

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Theomachy in Historical Epic

Theomachy in Historical Epic

Disenchantment and Remystification in Lucan's Bellum Civile

(p.156) 5 Theomachy in Historical Epic
The War with God

Pramit Chaudhuri

Oxford University Press

In Lucan’s Bellum Civile, the absence of the gods removes the possibility of any conventional scene of theomachy. Yet the removal of the gods goes hand in hand with the proliferation of figures who exemplify different kinds of theomachy - Caesar, the narrator, Pompey, and even Cato. The chapter treats the different theomachic aspects of the main protagonists and the narrator in three sections. Part one examines the grove-cutting scene at Massilia in Book 3. It reads the impious rationalism of Caesar against the episode’s key intertext of Ovid’s Erysichthon in order to elucidate the epic’s competing concepts of disenchantment and remystification. Part two focuses on the account of the Battle of Pharsalus in Book 7 to show how Caesar changes from a figure of disenchantment to one of remystification, effectively filling the void left by the absence of the gods. In the course of this shift, however, the narrator emerges as another rationalising theomach, undermining the gods both of Olympus and of the Julio-Claudian imperial cult. Part three shows how remystifications proliferate in the latter part of the poem, in particular through the sublime, divine, and theomachic aspects of Pompey and Cato.

Keywords:   Lucan, Bellum Civile, god, theomachy, Julius Caesar, impiety, Julio-Claudian, imperial cult, sublime, divinity

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