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date: 30 November 2020

Aetnalocked

, Latin didactic poem by unknown poet, 1st half of 1st cent. ce
  • Harry Morrison Hine

Extract

Aetna, Latin *didactic poem of unknown authorship. It attempts to explain the volcanic activity of Mt. Etna (see aetna (1)).The poem is ascribed to Virgil in our earliest MSS and included amongst his juvenilia by the Vita Donati, where, however, doubt is expressed about its authenticity. Few, if any, would now maintain this ascription, or any of the other attributions that have been suggested. The poem predates the eruption of *Vesuvius in ce 79, for it describes the volcanic activity of the Naples region as extinct. It is generally agreed to postdate Lucretius, and allusion to Virgil and M. *Manilius is likely. Because of resemblances to Seneca's Natural Questions, and because Seneca shows no knowledge of the poem, a late-Neronian or Vespasianic date is perhaps probable, but an earlier date cannot be ruled out.Rejecting mythological explanations, the author argues that the controlling force behind eruptions is wind operating at high pressure in narrow subterranean channels, and that the volcanic fire, produced by friction, gets a nutritive material especially in the lava-stone (lapis molaris).

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