Lucan's Natural Questions: Landscape and Geography in the Bellum Civile
Zientek, Laura Anne
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This dissertation is an analysis of the role of landscape and the natural world in Lucan's Bellum Civile. I investigate digressions and excurses on mountains, rivers, and certain myths associated aetiologically with the land, and demonstrate how Stoic physics and cosmology - in particular the concepts of cosmic (dis)order, collapse, and conflagration - play a role in the way Lucan writes about the landscape in the context of a civil war poem. Building on previous analyses of the Bellum Civile that provide background on its literary context (Ahl, 1976), on Lucan's poetic technique (Masters, 1992), and on landscape in Roman literature (Spencer, 2010), I approach Lucan's depiction of the natural world by focusing on the mutual effect of humanity and landscape on each other. Thus, hardships posed by the land against characters like Caesar and Cato, gloomy and threatening atmospheres, and dangerous or unusual weather phenomena all have places in my study. I also explore how Lucan's landscapes engage with the tropes of the locus amoenus or horridus (Schiesaro, 2006) and elements of the sublime (Day, 2013). The epic's first simile, which compares the end of the Republic to the Stoic theory of cosmic conflagration, is a programmatic image expressed through landscape and environment. The geographical scope of the Roman civil wars, stretching from Spain to Greece and even including parts of Northern Africa, is reflected in Lucan's poem and in my reading of it. My first chapter focuses primarily on Italy, from the Rubicon in the north to Brundisium in the south; aside from being the center of Roman power, in Bellum Civile 1 and 2 Italy is defined by its transgressed limites and is home to a countryside ravaged by time and neglect. Chapter Two focuses on the battle at Massilia in Gaul and the flood and conflict at Ilerda in Spain. The progression of events at Massilia - cutting down the grove, the siege, the sea battle - and the deluge and floods in Spain both demonstrate the threatening aspects of nature and the consequences of its violation; both episodes are venues for renewed images of cataclysmic destruction. The topic of Chapter Three is the geologic and mythic history of the Greek landscape in Delphi and Thessaly, and the climactic moment of tension and disarray in the Stoicized universe of Lucan's poem. My fourth and final chapter is devoted to Libya, as portrayed during Curio's campaign against Juba in book four and Cato's desert march in book nine. The environment is bound to anxieties about water and the changing boundary between land and sea, as well as by the characteristic heat, aridity, and pathlessness of the desert. Mythical digressions on Hercules and Antaeus (book four) and Medusa (book nine) introduce creatures native to Libya that, in their confrontations with the Romans, embody the dangers inherent in the landscape.