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Tombs of the Ancient PoetsBetween Literary Reception and Material Culture$
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Nora Goldschmidt and Barbara Graziosi

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198826477

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826477.001.0001

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Dead Letters and Buried Meaning

Dead Letters and Buried Meaning

Approaching the Tomb of Virgil

(p.253) 12 Dead Letters and Buried Meaning
Tombs of the Ancient Poets

Andrew Laird

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines recurrent epitaphic formulae in the Aeneid, including those applied to Dido, Misenus, Caieta, and Cretheus, which have a metatextual force, amplifying associations between Virgil’s oeuvre and his tomb. In particular, the succession of epitaphs for Palinurus and the account of his demise resonate respectively with Virgil’s attested ‘auto-epitaph’ and with the supposed circumstances of the poet’s death, narrated in the Suetonius-Donatus Vita. Finally, the pre-proemium to the Aeneid, the sphragis to the Georgics, and the closing verse of the Eclogues account for the intensification of the customary paradoxes of absence and representation which are conveyed by the auto-epitaph attributed to Virgil himself.

Keywords:   Virgil, Aeneid, epitaphs, closure, indeterminacy, auto-epitaphs, Caieta, Palinurus

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