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epic  

Philip Hardie

At the summit of the ancient hierarchy of genres, epic narrates in hexameter verse the deeds of gods, heroes, and men The authority of Homer, the name given to the composer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, ensures that the forms and conventions of the Homeric poems are determinative for the whole of the Greco-Roman tradition of epic. From an early date, the production and reading of epic poems was accompanied by intensive scholarly and critical activity. Over the centuries, numerous epics were written on both legendary and historical subjects, as the genre responded to changing aesthetic and ideological conditions. In Rome, Virgil’s Aeneid successfully established for itself an authority comparable to that of the Homeric poems, and all later Latin epics place themselves within a Virgilian tradition. Epic in Greek and Latin continues to flourish in late antiquity, when Christian writers appropriate its forms to propagate their own messages and praise their own heroes.

Article

Pliny (2) the Younger, 61/62–c. 112 CE  

Christopher Whitton

Pliny the Younger is the best-documented private individual of the early Roman principate, and one of the most accomplished writers of Latin prose. Nephew of Pliny the Elder, he rose from provincial equestrian origins to serve as suffect consul in 100 ce and governor of Pontus-Bithynia in c. 110–112. His nine-book Epistles is an innovative collection of purportedly authentic letters, crafted into a literary work of minute artistry. It sketches a fragmented portrait of Trajanic elite society, with Pliny as the exemplary individual at its centre. Among its varied contents are eleven letters to Tacitus, including celebrated narratives of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, several accounts of senatorial trials, and fulsome descriptions of two villas belonging to Pliny. The Panegyricus, the only extant Latin speech from the two hundred years following the death of Cicero, is a founding example of imperial encomium, praising Trajan and vilifying Domitian. The book of letters to and from Trajan known as Epistles 10 bears unique witness to Roman provincial governance, and to early Roman views of Christianity.

Article

Laus Pisonis  

Tom Geue

The Laus Pisonis is a 261-line hexameter poem of praise for a certain aristocratic Piso and an application on the part of an unknown poet for Piso’s patronage. Previous scholarship has concentrated on the thorny issues of the poem’s author, addressee, and date, with current opinion putting the date around 65 ce and identifying the poem’s addressee with the anti-Neronian conspirator Gaius Calpurnius Piso. Beyond these contextual questions, the poem has been usefully seen, in Peirano’s formulation, as an epideictic “historical fiction” and a quasi-satire on poetic patronage. The poem is designedly playful and trivial, and contains a detailed excursus on the Roman board game of the ludus latrunculorum. It also contains a host of intertextual and intratextual features which grant it a versatility to match its subject.The Laus Pisonis is a poem of hexameter panegyric addressed to one Piso, an aristocratic patron in (probably) 1st-century ce imperial Rome. The poem is pitched as a bid for patronage from an up-and-coming-poet who never names himself. The poem’s 261 verses are wishfully framed as his breakthrough Horace-Maecenas moment, the point just before he makes the transition to the inner sanctum of Piso’s patronage. The poem is occupied entirely by an effort to say absolutely everything possible in the way of praise for Piso, even though this effort risks appearing as barrel-scraping rather than as a bountiful harvest of rich pickings. It begins with conventional enthusiasm for Piso’s family pedigree (.

Article

Sidonius Apollinaris  

Joop van Waarden

Sidonius Apollinaris, c. 430–c. 485 ce, Gallo-Roman aristocrat, poet and letter writer, civil servant, and bishop, is one of the most distinct voices to survive from Late Antiquity as an eyewitness of the end of Roman power in the West. Born in Lyon to a family of high-ranking Gallo-Roman administrators, he became a leading resident of the Auvergne through his marriage. In the 450s and 460s, he delivered poetic panegyrics to three emperors: his father-in-law Avitus, Majorian, and Anthemius, voicing Gallic, and especially Auvergnat, interests. His other poetic output consists of occasional verse, celebrating moments of high-profile aristocratic, and Christian life. He put out a carefully crafted collection of his selected letters in nine books against the foil of his personal and contemporary history, including significant elements like his early career, culminating in the urban prefecture in Rome (468/469), lettered leisure in the company of sophisticated friends on Gallic estates, and the turning of the scales that made him into bishop of his hometown Clermont, in vain opposing the onset of the Visigoths and having to put up with the final withdrawal of Roman authority from Gaul (475/476). After a period of exile, he was reinstated as bishop under Visigothic sovereignty. His career is typical for the kind of aristocratic bishop that emerged in Gaul as imperial career opportunities vanished, social distinction being transferred to office holding in the Church, and a distinguished ascetic lifestyle.