Virgil, Lucan, and the Meaning of Civil War in Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica

in Mnemosyne
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In his recent monograph (2012) Tim Stover has provided the first full-scale study of Valerius Flaccus’ interaction with Lucan’s Bellum Civile, arguing that the Argonautica restores epic after Lucan and optimistically supports Vespasian’s restoration of the Principate after the civil wars of 68-69 ad. Focusing on the ‘civil war’ between the Argonauts and the Doliones in Book 3 of Valerius’ epic, I will propose an alternative reading of the influence of Lucan as well as Virgil’s Aeneid. Although Valerius at first sight seems to set up the Cyzicus episode in Virgilian fashion, he in fact deconstructs this reading, revealing the impossibility of (re)writing an Aeneid in the Flavian age.

Virgil, Lucan, and the Meaning of Civil War in Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica

in Mnemosyne



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Stover 2012back cover. Cf. p. vii.


See e.g. Boyle 20034-6.


Stover 2012115. Cf. Stover’s analysis of Gigantomachy imagery in Chapter 3 which deals with the sea storm in Book 1 of the Argonautica (574-692).


Cf. Garson 1964269 (who deals with other tragic aspects of the episode as well); Shelton 1971 112.


Garson 1964269: “(. . .) it is not without significance that the Argonauts’ realization of their error is compared (. . .) to Agave’s in the Bacchae (. . .).”


See Bernstein 200852-54 for these and other ways in which Valerius represents “the combatants as symbolically united through ties of created kinship a motif not paralleled in Apollonius . . .” (p. 52). Cf. Stover 2012 123 with n. 33.


Cf. Stover 2012135n. 64: “The simile also adds to the tragic note that Valerius strikes throughout his narrative of the battle.”


Bernstein 20084852 (see also n. 10 above).


McGuire 1997109-110. Cf. Stover 2012 123-125 on Valerius’ “terminology of civil war”.


Stover 2012123.


Stover 2012125.


Stover 2012148. See also the quote below.


Stover 2012114.


Cf. Bernstein 2014159: “As in Lucan’s Bellum Civile and Statius’ Thebaid the narrator emphasises the arbitrariness of the reasons for the collective punishments levied by angry goddesses at Lemnos and Cyzicus.”


Burck 1970180; McGuire 1997 109. This intertextual link is not mentioned by Stover 2012. Compare also Valerius’ address to Clio at the beginning of the episode (Arg. 3.14-15 tu mihi nunc causas infandaque proeliaClio| pande virum.) with Virgil’s question to the Muse at the beginning of the Aeneid (A. 1.8 Musamihi causas memora . . .) on which see e.g. Spaltenstein 2004 10 (ad loc.).


E.g. Stover 2012122 n. 31 also for more bibliography.


See e.g. Stover 2012114: “even in the midst of bellum civile there is a clearly defined ‘right side’ and a clearly defined ‘wrong side’. In Valerius’ civil war narratives the distinction between good and evil does not collapse as is the case in Lucan’s Bellum Civile.” Cf. p. 141 where Stover speaks of “good and evil” and p. 145 where he states: “. . . Valerius employs gigantomachic imagery to distinguish the Greeks from the Phrygians the heroes from the villains”.


See also Spaltenstein 200444 (ad loc.) and Manuwald 2015 98 (ad loc.) for this allusion. Stover (2012 122-123) does deal with the Virgilian intertext when he discusses Valerius’ allusions in Arg. 2.638 and 3.16-18 to A. 8.124 and A. 8.169 so the Doliones are already associated with the Greeks and the Argonauts with the Trojans at the very beginning of the Cyzicus episode. Stover concludes that “[t]he bond between Vergil’s Trojans and Arcadians thus operates as an important model for the union of Valerius’ Argonauts and Doliones” but as I argue on the basis of the later allusion the relationship between the Argonautica and Aeneid 8 (and Aeneid 2 for that matter) is not straightforward and evolves.


Stover 2012142-147.


Stover 2012115. For his treatment of the passage itself see Stover 2012 142-147.


Stover 2012115. Cf. the quote above.


Cf. Manuwald 2015102 (ad loc.).


See Stover 2012100-102 for Lucan’s Caesar as a “gigantomachic mariner” in this episode.


Stover 2012114-115.


Hershkowitz 1998120. Incidentally Stover 2012 does not treat Jason’s aristeia in Cyzicus.


This paragraph is based on Heerink 201495.


Cf. e.g. Bernstein 2014160. See Stover 2012 27-77 (Ch. 2: “The Inauguration of the ‘Argonautic moment’”) for a different i.e. optimistic interpretation of the “Jovian programme” (p. 28) in Valerius’ Argonautica including Jupiter’s prophetic speech and the transition from the Golden to the Iron Age.


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