Mille simul leti facies: The Allusive Battlefield of Punica 4
Conner, Daniel Abraham
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This dissertation examines the two major battle scenes in book 4 of Silius Italicus’ Punica, Ticinus and Trebia, focusing on the poet’s intricate, purposeful, and programmatic use of inter- and intratextual allusion on the battlefield. I argue that a close and unprejudiced reading of these battle scenes reveals a level of artistic skill and planning not previously associated with combat narrative in Silius. I use detailed analysis of aristeiai, necrologues, and other type scenes, as well as an examination of Silius’ many sources, including primarily Vergil, but also Statius, Lucan, Homer, and (in historiography) Livy, to discuss themes that are integral to the entire poem. Major themes include the compression of history, confusion of identity, self-destructive or suicidal ideation, civil war violence, and theomachy. The first two chapters examine the battle of Ticinus and focus on the establishment of these themes, first through a close analysis of four short death scenes, and then through larger, escalating scenes in the second half of the battle. The second two chapters examine the battle of Trebia and investigate how Silius uses meaningful and varied repetition to establish a pattern of mistakes that looks back to events in the Aeneid and anticipates later scenes in the Punica. Through this reading of Punica 4, I show how Silius’ use of allusion on the battlefield is surprising, inventive and highly significant.