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Die Mauer ist in euern Kopfen.1
The symbol:'/', for 'Antithesis', is used throughout this essay to indicate the main
alternations in its voicing. What I have in mind is to project the contentiousness
that constitutes narration through this discussion of Statius' epic. '/' will mark
exchange between the (binary/convergent) views of an 'Eteocles' and a 'Poly-
nices', then, yes, but also between warring textual 'forces' such as uirtus /
planctus, etc. / etc. For faction and fraction / threaten to / multiply in, and as,
'Thebaid' - to the power of Seven, or regression to Infinity. The essay explores
Thebais' - / Barthes' insight:
(T)he antithesis is the battle between two plenitudes set ritually face to face like
two fully armed warriors; the Antithesis is the figure of the given opposition,
eternal, eternally recurrent: the figure of the inexpiable. Every passage through
the wall of the Antithesis thus constitutes a transgression .. ?
Statius sings us Antiquity's Killing Fields. Statius' epic horror-show the Thebaid
is - / in terms of literary genealogy - the (prima facie better-behaved) sibling of
Lucan: rebel sons of Virgil, both epigoni spoiled by Ovid. / So, as we shall see,
declare the proem that shadows Lucan's, the poem whose Vergil-reverenz may
parricide the Aeneid, and its epilogue set to match Ovid's.3 More generic damage,
the poem will proclaim, is down to the grim image-repertoire of Senecan
Tragedy. / All control and containment, Thebaid re-discovers epic form. This is a
- the -finished Latin poem. Composed. Verse composition. /
/ Noone wanted to - / But everybody once knew this tale:4
Cursed Oedipus damns his brace of sons to the craziness of agreeing to
annually alternate rule over Thebes;5 this at once breaks down and, dispos-
sessed by sibling Eteocles, Polynices brings his guest-friends, new in-laws and
crusaders from Adrastus' Argos, to fight his way back: 'The Seven against
Thebes'. After long delay half-way, epical bloodbath - until the brothers duel,
erase each other. New king Creon denies burial to all the invaders, defiant
womenfolk call in Theseus from Athens to overturn this: Thebes' royal house
is (good-as) extirpated.6 Lamentation in prospect; explicit...

/ Statius' poetry diagrams his schizo/phrenic scene on your brain. Lasered there,
indelible, through macabre oceans of narrative:
alter(n)- / gemin-
patr-, gen- / fratr-, german-
tenebr-, noct-
dir- / ir-, fur-
unc-, ungu- / scrut-, rim-, quaer-
ocul-, uid-, lumin-, luc- / plect-, nect-
matr-, par- / soror-
ei mihi, heu, gem-, plang-, quer-, lament-, fie-, dol- / ()
('Alternate, The Other's, Amoebaean / Double, Twin, Dual
Father / Brother
Dark / Blindness
Curse / Anger, Mania
Claw / Rummage
Violate sight-light / Hug
Mother / Sister
Pain / Silence, []')7
With Statius' cover-version of'The Guilt of Thebes', Epic, conceivably, reverts
here to type, / recovers the type, /findsits pre-made/orm. To present its Essay on
Flavian Man, its bid to show up to the imperial gaze a Humanity, if but for the
secondariness, belatedness and consequential agitated excess of its time, then so
be it; in any case, an if necessary gargantuan bid to capture the colossal
dimensions of Power play in the World State; Epic's destiny to voice megalogra-
phy for its culture - a massive onslaught, past-saturation literary bombing.8
/ To the otherwise view, the docile rhetorician Statius but gears up Homeric-
Virgilian machinery (Olympian Inserts; Underworld Scenes; Catalogue and
Teichoscopy; Tragical Included Narratives, Prayers - even the odd Hymn;
Developed Formal Similes, Mountain Vastnesses tipping volumes of river-
torrent verse; etc.). Petronian Eumolpus' - sc. Everyman-as-amateur-poet's -
dream comes true. Statius must bash out an o.t.t., kitsch, cut-out Thebes. / To
save, retrieve, Culture - / with 'a cascade of absurdity' .. ?
Renovation / Enervation.
/ Thebaid is not just to be read between these alternative positions, / they do
more than alternate through a reading. Mutually constitutive, binary/eristic, as
... any sons of Oedipus, to the demise each of the other they are out to alter the (/
your) ego.10 To think, write or read 'Thebes' threatens to be to fight out - to the
hilt" - its constant re-making and un-making of its frame of reference.12 We
resist, we attack on all fronts, run for it, get it all wrong, with its characters, or
against them - / against them all. Be warned, either or any way, you aren't going

to like this text. It may sate or saturate. But hardly satisfy, - / that's not what it's
(hysterical) for.
I shall soon enough move onto the 'offensive', bound for the glory of disgust.
(The main loci Papiniani to be discussed are listed after the notes.) But I'll not
plunge into my disruption of the poem - / and I'd best first own up.
We've seen the enemy
- They're us.13

1. 'ADRASTUS' / The status of Statius

And the walls came down

All the way to hell
Never saw where they were standing
Never saw where they fell .. .'4
I won't deny it. / 1 won't, as you'll see, deny it.15 Staunchly echoing through what
biblio-hagiography there is on this poem has run the refrain: 'Best - of the Rest'.16
Even its devotees would concede: here dictates Bombination in its Silver void,
mobilized to glittering near-abjection. Most Latinists have in concert declared
Thebaid past legibility. Without the saving anti-absolutist gusto of Lucan's
histrionics, Statius' dire lines are doomed to traipse emaciated ice over oblivion:
self-consigned to the blank of post-Virgilianism; stuck in the mere formalism of a
poet's workshop, dissolute two-fingers at Valerius Flaccus its contemporary
classicist's shipshape Argonautic-.]1 Draw breath for just a 'The history of Roman
epic seems one long decline' and pass on (secure) .. ,18
Thebaid has generally disported just beyond the canon's effective/protective
reach. In the marches generously stalked by the doctoral thesis.19 But embryonic
forms, then, of spasmodic critical attention. Just an epic handful - Arico, Kytzler,
Schetter, Venini, Vessey and Ahl; hard, you'ld find, to fill out this fraternal
phalanx to any famously Magnificent Septem - have pulled into the Statian for
their solo aristeiai. Each such post-doctoral moment (reviews thrown in, natur-
ally) temporarily swelling the philological annuary to the single-handed tune of
50% total world output .. .20
/ It is, I shall claim, fated that the - a - Thebaid attract virtual repression:
monstrum ... infame futuris / excidat (11.578-9)
('If only the abomination that fell upon my mind could fall out of the Future's.
The damned fame it gives its infamy, through your reading of this and every
line: / Fall-Out')
We are obliged, otherwise, to scoff - or be scared. / Neither reaction sitting
comfortably with our preconceptions for epic monumentality.

/ Theme and performance conspire to insist we wriggle off their hook, any way
we can. We citizens, in any of our United Nations, can scarcely (feel / be entitled
to surrect any 'post-thaw' political cosmology to) profit from Labdacidal epos'
return to consciousness' rim. I point toward Danger / Thebes, but we may well
not yet, ever, be safe - I don't see we can be - to think we can handle it. The
question will haunt: 'Did the Romans?' The 'rhetorical' question, as it might
amplify: 'Did the Romans, DID THEY HELL!...?' j But I run, Oedipally, ahead.
We begin, resentful or howsoever, in the knowledge that we are starting where
decidedly most readers of Latin (epic) have dropped off.
/ Troy. Troy, Thebes. Thebes and Troy, et Thebae steterant altaque Troiafuit.21
From the beginning, the Thebes theme lurked ready to shadow the Iliad - to
overshadow Homer's founding text. Tydean origin, so displacement of Dio-
medes, the father forbidding filial self-realisation.22 According to that genealogi-
cal imperative which boundaries patriarchal narrative, Statius' like all the rest.
To jump the tracks of parasitism, to elude the influence of father Homer, Epic can
always (follow dutiful, Homerikbs,) anticipate, trump, so topple Troy. / To
Thebes runs an other, dejected, way to become Homer, to play The Poet.
First tracks were put down by the Cyclic Thebaid. 'Homeric' child father to its
progenitor lies all but buried.23 Its opening verse survives to embarrass us with its
first word: 'Argos, sing goddess, athirstfrom where chiefs / -'. This emphasis must,
we insist, misrepresent what flowed on from the 'unageing mouth of the whole
world'. / Or may(be) this paradox put us on the spot? Always in the ruination that
is 'Thebes', there nags 'and Argos ...?', the argument's Third Man:24 this
narrative, was and is it nightmare of Argos even before it is the unnameable
passion of Thebes? This is . . . what warfare? What song is set the singer - to what
duty bound?
/ That Poseidon among proto-Hellenistic poets, 'timeless' Antimachus,
'worthy of the frowns of ancient heroes', excavated his massive, we guess
massively recherche, Thebais. Pedigree start with an Ennepete ('Speak on') to his
Muse - 'daughters of mighty Zeus, son of Cronus', for an Iliad's 24 books sof
preliminaries obstructed his Seven from reaching Thebes. As obliterated, for
posterity, as Thebes itself was by Alexander.25 / Did the poem already obliterate
its politics with a myriad of formal blooms? Did it not!26
I Slight Hellenistic ruts were left by such as Antagoras, one Demosthenes, and
Menelaos - Menelaos of Aegae,27 before Rome's first dynastic inauguration
promptly brought forth its Thebaid, in the very early 20s B.C.E. backwash of
Actium - well before Rome's founder could leave Virgil's Troy: Theban epic from
Propertius' sparring partner Ponticus survives exclusively as the trace that
colours elegy's mockery of the Caesars' first installation: litterature Latine
inconnue2% / Which side was Ponticus on? His work would take its place alongside
Varius' Thyestes as the first, proto-Augustan, questions for imperial represen-
tation at Rome: familiar old faithfuls of entertaining melodrama, hallowed by the

tradition of Greek re-cycling, welcome artistic sublimity to re-found Roman

culture? / Alternat(iv)ely: first lessons in the explosive return to relevance of those
dynosaur cityscapes of myth, unimpeachable work of silently irrevocable,
uncanny, analogy?29
/ Other ancient 'Thebes' could be lamented but let's now face Statius'
salutation to Rome's second dynasty, the Caesars Flavian. Father Vespasian and
his two (non-alternating) sons who inherited their World patrimony. (No third-
generation future, stemmatic in-fold: but that's in the wake of Thebaid.) I must be
clear now, Statius did not write about the Flavian fix. Rather, his fratricidal tale
will have to have re-presented, if it was going to be mastered with such a meaning,
the debacles of The Year of the Four Emperors (69 C.E.), when months of Julio-
Claudian stasis offered up Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius for supervenient settle-
ment by a 'Theseus' charging up from Alexandria, the conclusive hero
/ Still, Statius, to confirm his own prefatory annunciation, did not not write his
Thebaid about the Flavian domus, either.31 The elaborate proem (1.1-45) pos-
itions the reading of its narrative within an extended and complex frame of
reference.32 It would repay a good deal of thought. For a start, we must wonder
whether its recusatory structure does not exquisitely but unmistakably bind to
the Oedipodae ... domus ('the house of Oedipus', 1.17) the subject of his 'bald
Nero' Domitian all the way from dominus et deus' emergence in the thick of
Capitoline defence of Father Jove in 69 to the series of imperial triumphs won
now that his Eternality has taken up the Flavian parent's duties for his own
(1.17—31. Vespasian found he was becoming a god as Statius wrote.). We must
examine some of the Thebaid's work of self-definition in these opening lines - An
Emperor gets the epicist he deserves, the epic doubles for The Empire. Of course
the poem is also giving here its first specimen sui.
Where shall we start? / Can it matter? /
... unde iubetis
ire, deae? gentisne canam primordia dirae,
Sidonios raptus et inexorabile pactum
legis Agenoreae scrutantemque aequora Cadmum? (1.3-6)
('At your service, patronesses for ever. To start where?
My epic's to run, is it, from
the origination of the cursed race /
one more Lebanese abduction, /
inexorable term of Agenor's dictate /
probing the waves, Cadmus?')
The poem's subject of guilty Thebes (1.3) comprehends always already the
primordial Cadmean formation, the longa retro series ('long chain reaching
backwards', 1.7) which the poem here begins by explicitating in praeteritione}i

and will go on to figure ecphrastically in the form and shape of 'Harmonia's

necklace': longa est series ('its chain is long', 2.267), as it passes down from Ares-
and-Aphrodite's daughter 'Harmonia' to Jocasta to Argia and, to Tisiphone's
derision, on via Eriphyle, the throne a woman will kill for, to its epigonal future
. . . For (as the list's first word insists) this is to be the articulation of a gens - the
temporally-structured and -structuring account of accursedness (gentis ...
dirae).M It is in terms of this work of structuration that meaning had always been
socially imagined, understood and fashioned, matrix of communal and indivi-
dual identity. The gens never stopped becoming, the original formation was
unabating through to the end. Inherence, heredity, heritage. We are then told,
prepare for the unrolling of social violence in the cultural code of the exchange of
women: Sidonios raptus wraps its meaning up in / - the 'tiresome' routine of
phrasal distortion which threatens to preclude and so become its meaning: - /
'Sidon' and 'abductions' for 'the (one-off) abduction of the princess of Tyre by
bullish Jupiter'.
/ But suppose your mind is warming to the task. You'll find Statius nudging
here toward the Herodotean origination of History in Euro-Phoenician recipro-
cal abduction(s) (Hdt. 1.1-5) and the logic that that shares with the myth's slant
on the 'Justice of Zeus', the original and permanently fundamental question for
the epic narration's power to mean: can the sense of human 'solutions' to mortal
limitedness - Society formed from exogamous but intra-polity marriage as the
core of re-productivity, that cultural ruse which locates humanity in cyclic
positionality within the gens - . . . Can any of this survive the ordeal waiting for
poet and historian, for readers, for Political Thought . . . the ordeal waiting,
then, at Thebes?35 This is the same 'issue' as those that follow here: in that
inexorable determination, the 'Word of the Father', heralded into permanence by
Agenor's exile of his son Cadmus, sent to repair the family, the very model for
'Law' (legis). The law which will find voice in Oedipus' curse works still through
Statius, his readers, to pressurize the story into its pattern of signification through
injunction and prescription. Inexorably. Through a dozen books, a myriad of
verses. / Obedient to the end - the poetaster Statius fulfilling his own father's
mandate of the Theban project.36 / And Cadmus probing the seas', now. The City's
father plumbs the oceanic depths. / He scratches, then, but the surface. / The
predicament is set - for Cadmean citizens: to live their (/ our) experience as
always already typed in Cadmos' Quest, the Cosmos as Quest, the human
experience as a homeless wandering in search of recuperation, reality felt and
ordered as the tangible loss of self; the fingers scrabble in the immediate,
infinitesimal, surface of the Real. Sibling in a sea .. ,37 / Or does your reading stick
at the surface of the text, sliding past any response?
These phrases we are probing are mounted as a tetracolon:
. . . , / . . . et . . . que . . . /.

And so we have at once come up against that additive Silver (apology for)
writing: the soon-insufferable listing in needlessly defamiliarized phrases that
trade on readers' assumed over-acquaintance with this staple material. (So reads
cool Prejudice.) / Or, do we exempt the present occasion, where our dislike for the
writing is grounded in the text, motivated and mobilized since the recusatio has it
function as sampled longueur in the rhetoric of the priamel? (This is the abject
'preterite', the henceforth to-be-discarded.) / But, let's not deny it, it will recur as
a prominent stylistic feature and incessant fetish of the whole poem. / If Statius is
to speak to our predicament, we must start, in fact must have started, reading
from the very first sentence's list:
. . . que . . . que . . . (1.1-3)
on the very assumption that the writing can never be wnmotivated. The agglutina-
tion works once it reads as a conceptual merger, the inscription of a scene: these
phrase-meanings are separated only by the (nuisance) linearity of language; they
specify aspects of a thought-complex; we puzzle our way to see them as an 'it',
with its aspects knotted transformations of each other. Such is the work of (this)
poetry - / if it is or is not 'ludic . . . a mockery of itself, . . . humorous'. 38
The 'zero-degree' syntax could be here to make meaning from the collage-like
strings of deviant slogans - noteform catachresis pressurizing us toward a cosmic
cacotopia. / We proceed, if we will, with the rest of the by-passed catalogue,
summed up as gemitus et prospera Cadmi ('groans and plusses, the gamut of
experience we must name "Cadmus" ', 1.15). Already we must scoff at the series,
as the voice considers 'probing deep' (penitus ... sequar, 1.9) a combination of
riddling aspects of Thebes as if each offers a likely starting-point:
. . . agricolam infandis condentem proelia sulcis
. . . -que . . . muris
iusserit Amphion Tyrios accedere montis,
. . . graues irae cognata in moenia Baccho,
. . . saeuae Iunonis opus, . . . sumpserit arcus
infelix Athamas, . . . non expauerit ingens
Ionium socio casura Palaemone mater,
('a farmer founding . . . battles, furrows unspeakable /
+ a poet singing mountains over to wall the city /
the Theban god's Wrath down on his family's walls /
Juno's epic Wrath against that god's mother /
a father's filicide /
a mother and infant son
cliff.' (1.7-14)39

'Tiresome' as before, even when already explicated. / As before, a 'pedantry'

some of us could (try to) read - until either Thebes gets inside our lives or else we
take its measure and keep out. Already we position and are positioned by the
epic: it is a poet's lusus; / or: its power to mean stands in for a communal
authorization of a meaning for power, this narrative reaches out to engross us. If
'narratives require close study because stories structure the meanings by which a
culture lives',40 then always already we decide in our response what sort of
cultural institution this is that parades or takes refuge in this kind of signification;
from privileged epic representation, classically the flagship of a cultural ensemble,
we extrapolate, warily or not, outward to the socio-political configuration, to
homo Flavianus. / Don't we just.
Guided by the recusatio's proportioning, as it says, and maybe decides, we are
told to expect (just) a 'poem', indeed but a standard topic preferred apologetically
by the unassuming poet to something real, some Itala ... / signa ('Roman
standards: a patriot's Latinity', 1.17-8) which would confront directly Domi-
tian's Roman Empire. Our paltry verse drills mere arma ... j Aonia ('the epic of
poetry's Thebes', 1.33—4)41 in an immature M/ireality, says that 'The Thebaid
cannot be said to be about anything' - as critics have often (thought they) decided
for themselves.42 Announcing, then: the sound and fury of a safely Hellenic
otherwheres. Pierius ... calor ('Inspirational heat from Pieria, near enough to
Thebes', 1.3) will orchestrate a chelys ('Greek for tortoise: the lyre of art-
language', 1.33). A performance explained, categorized, catalogued: this stuff will
be the 'true' poet's decorum, his satis ('enough', 1.33). He has the challenge of his
gross material, the measureless that poetry must fit into measures {modus):
... arma . . .
Aonia et geminis sceptrum exitiale tyrannis
nee furiis post fata modum flammasque rebellis
seditione rogi tumulisque carentia regum
funera et egestas alternis mortibus urbes,
caerula cum rubuit Lernaeo sanguine Dirce
et Thetis arentis adsuetum stringere ripas
horruit ingenti uenientem Ismenon aceruo.
(Thebais: power / death: those twins; /
Deathstiny, then madness unbound; flames of war, more war, /
street-fighting in the grave; regal corpses
unceremonied; tit-for-tat cities killed: /
poetry of massacre toned at once in both registers
- the reddened myth of a Callimachean spring;
twinned with a great river's cumulatio:
vasty Homeric carnage, dumped to the sea.' (1.34-40)43
The poet is some (post-Lucanian) 'Horace':

quern prius eroum, Clio, dabis? immodicum irae

Tydea? laurigeri subitos an uatis hiatus?
urget et hostilem propellens caedibus amnem
turbidus Hippomedon, plorandaque bella proterui
Arcados atque alto Capaneus horrore canendus.
('We order our High Command of unpoetic heroes,
through unbounded mania /
to Excess, / the 'bard' who disappeared
- puff! - into an epic maw.44 /
Forward march: muddy mess, blood-river
run; pathos of killing fields, /
the obligatory climax of horror-show,
to finish off the song on a high
- low-down as you can get.
Singon.'(1.41-5) 45
It will be no surprise to find the poem well adequate to deliver this promise, a
strenuous incorporation of the formidable but trite saga of Thebes within the
reach of classical artistry: horrore canendus /, ends the proem. / impia ... dextra,
writes the poet's 'hand of sin', teeing off with a stylus' plunge into Oedipus' guilty
eyes (1.45-6).
/ Thus the formally polished product - multum uigilata ('night after night of
effort', 12.811)46 - says, with formal polish, that it is a post-Virgilian, propter-
Virgilian, poem which knows its late-coming secondariness, cuts the teeth of its
urbanity on a difficult and repugnant task, hopes only for a prince's attention and
a text-book's future (12.814-9: the epilogue).47 Many (comfortable) readers
repeat and report this as (if) their view. It can coincide, too, with the post-Flavian
satirist's famous sketch of the epic pimp Statius gladdening Rome with his
Theban whore's generosity: Thebais has the sexy voice of a Sheban, she sings
sweet to the lusting groundlings. Statius needs what she'll fetch - just one of his
string of amicae .. .48
This is how we Juvenals will regard Thebaid if we read its frames as
straightforwardly, literally, informative: declamatory orgy, for a younger Pliny.
For example, its twelve books took twice-six years' hard labour (12.811). It says
so. We identify the imperial years in question, A.U.C. We want to. / . . . And we
want, too, to ground our prejudice that Silver Epic is remote from any civic order.
/ Self-condemned to model verse-composition - from Claudian, through the likes
of Dracontius, to the Renaissance sweepstake of classicism: now good as defunct

/ But, you know, the poem parades its filial devotions. It knows its 'humility' is
Horatian-cum-Ovidian decor. The wish (for example) for imperial attention plus
schoolroom immortality is modelled on Horace's wish for his own corpus to wing
its way to Eternity,49 just as Statius' hope to take Envy to the grave and leave his

maid her deserved glory speaks of Ovid's finale to his completed epic adventure.50
Even the tracks she is to tread recall Lucretius' elaborate devotions to Epicurus
with all their reservoir of self-pride.51 To these rhetorical conventions of poetic
self-advertisement we are to add that classical habituation to political meiosis
which has been acutely traced by Ahl (cf. nn. 12, 29). What else, you could ask, is
Statius luring us to consider by inviting us to contemplate Domitian the Scholar-
King's reception of Thebaid52 than that the scholarly reader of an epic oifraternas
acies ('battle-lines of brothers', 1.1) anticipate the meaning to and for that
Imperial Reader and his World of its filiation from Lucan's Bellum Ciuile, with its
Neronian programme of cognatas ... acies ('battle-lines of family', 1.4) and its
Reader 'Caesar' (9.980-6)?53 All cultured readers, all who know the post-imperial
poetics of Ovid's Tristia 2, with its Super-Reader Augustus the same wrathful
Jove as that adverted to through and at the close of Metamorphoses: the one that
blotted out the poet but not his epic, must wonder whether Statius' poem has not
lined up a single longa ... series that includes passim both those 'cut' Theban
preliminaries and those Domitianic exploits reserved 'for later treatment', all
implicated in the signs that go to make up this Oedipodae confusa domus ('that
chaos, the Oedipal menage', 1.17).54 At its very simplest, we can see that the
narrative of any domus - Oedipodae or Flauia, Adrastus" (1.524) or Lemnian
(5.310) . . . - 'asks' that we read within the terms that regulate the Roman social
formation, for the concept is to be understood according to inter-textual cultural
patternings within which literary narration in general and the epic genre
specifically could find signification. The poet's 'unworn path', the limes ...
carminis ('line/limit/path/domain, the 'Wall', the '/' of Thebaid, 1.16),55 is itself
'blurred', confusa, as the Roman imperial subject comes to confront the 'chaos' of
subjectivity within the idiom of mythic absolutism. How can anyone hear merely
the poet's rhetorical apokeryxis of civic meaning? How do you refuse to hear the
question: 'Has(n't) 'Thebes' returned - to repeat and continue Labdacide?' The
Lucanesque address of epic to an imperial 'patron' opens writing to totalization,
beyond the Homeric sublime: every reader cosmocrator, entire to their own
/ But I do not deny it. It's no use pretending that Statius is popular. The usual
roll-call of great names who can pre-figure us as enthusiastically 'hot' readers of
Thebais: Chaucer, Dante and Boccaccio, is near-bogus. They honour the name,
mine the composition, or love the homage to Virgil. But ditch the sociopolitics.56
You'll find that cultured Romans de Thebes will tend to be 'Accian' - i.e. post-
Attic drama a la Racine, with Statius long repressed: 'C'est la Thebaide, c'est-d-
dire le sujet le plus tragique de I'Antiquite.'51 / Yet always there lurks in what
limited reception has survived the epic's repression a margin of implication with
real enough experience of 'Kings and Heroes'. 58 And let us sow the suspicion that
the fear and distrust of the Political Thought practised in the genre of Tragedy as

Athenian democracy's invention which has worked so extensively and zealously

through history to bound off the world we in the West inhabit from recognizing that
we are all too clearly Cadmean denizens of 'Thebes' has needed to work overtime
upon this quasi-pious Virgilianizing narration to stop it, at all costs, from infecting
the cultured Body Politic with the 'confusion' of its Oedipal plague upon our
'houses'. It's uncomfortable, may I say, to feel the chaos of Aeneas {confusam ...
mentem, Aen. 2.736) as he looks back to find his dutiful Creusa failing to keep up
with his tracks: Statius' heroine, Thebais, may f a s t . . . over-take.
I If Thebaid app(e)als with its tonnage of Ovidian-nVo tripe59 such as (senile
Adrastus' piously Olde-Worlde uplift):
. . . et iam temone supino
languet Hyperboreae glacialis portitor Ursae (1.692-3)
/ then at the very least you must accept that Statius knows - and says he knows -
what he is doing: this is all part of his act:
(' < And now, to fuse the effete with frigidity incarnate, try this: >
the hour of lazing indolence is come,
his beam, at ease, reclines - that icy Waggoner in the Sky
who ferries the Great Bear from beyond the North.')
/ This dire poet, terrible, isn't he?, gets lost in your derision. / But with his
knowing tonal poikilia, his 'plexity', / mastery of excess - is he not also taking
cover? Does he not promise, the Lord God his Caesar can look forward in and as
his reading of Thebaid to an amplified blast from Statius' Pierio ... oestro ('as
Greek a gad-fly as the Muses who already hyper-ventilate our bard can art-rap
into a poetic frenzy worthy of its purple Emperor', 1.32, cf.1.3, Pierius ... calorj!
I Statius' most counter-Virgilian moment is, precisely, his overt act of deference
to Virgil, his writing frames itself in its (e)very wording: hie incipit a crafted luxury
commodity.60 / He keeps us wavering held to the edge of immersion in his
Perfection of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand.62

2. 'POLYNICES' / The Epoch of Epic

And only one small boy,

who was not paying the least attention,
will ask
between two victorious wars:
And did it hurt in those days too?63

For Thebes spells Guilt. Here, Now, Us.64 The story (r)evolves, exactly, guilt, that
annihilating anti-structure of regression, all-devouring scene of stasis. / As has
often been complained, / - everything in Thebais has already happened: the poem
can only 'begin' late by arbitrary excerption of an unavailing length from the
seamless series of re-petitions, re-venants out for re-venge,65 from Father Jupiter,
Father Agenor, Father Cadmus, through Father Laius and Father Oedipus
(Shades of Seneca's Tantalus, come again for more of a Thyestean feast),
summoning Tisiphone along the notum iter ad Thebas ('the unpoetically well-
trodden Thebes Highway that she and we stalwarts of epic know so all too well',
1.101) to present Castle Cadmus with its adsueta ... nube ('regular cloud - of
banality', 1.124).66 The Almighty and his Better Half Juno will soon tell each
other (to tear up theodicy)67 that Thebes is Labdacid Thebes, 'and Argos' is
Tantalid (- Atreus'/'Thyestes' -) Argos, both primevally guilty - like all the rest
of mankind there has ever been.68 The poem, as I hinted already, begins from this

fraternas acies alternaque regna profanis

decertata odiis sontesque euoluere Thebas
Pierius menti calor incidit. (1.1-3)
('Battle-lines of brothers / the kingdom of alternation,
cursed hatred's final solution. / The guilty: Thebes.
Falling. My mind. On heat with Poesy.

The articulation of 'Thebes' begins with this molecule of meaning. If it seems a

'(chrono)logical' hysteron proteron,69 so that the arche of the poem's first words
names its telos as the duel of Eteocles and Polynices, then it will prove to be
suitably ouroborous, for the poem soon has the voice of Thebes name as /
fraternas ... acies those Spartoi of Cadmus, the moment of origin which he 'left
to his late-comer grandsons for their legacy-to-be: omen of dissemination' (1.184-
5).70 Thebes, / as we shall claim, / is this model and machine of recursion,71 the
Oedipal transgression of generational linearity as the spine of mortal

hie impius heres/

patris ...
proprios - monstrum - reuolutus in ortus. / (1.233-5)

(This code-breaking heir of his father: he spiralled back in a way that you'd
best beware to regain the place he came to be, the Origin that makes him
himself, that is his own purely as his origin, temporality the condition of
mortal possibility')

The bard 'unrolls' the book of Fate (after Father Ennius and Virgil's Jove
rolled into one).72 But Thebes - / Thebes is a Moebius strip. Thebans can only
play roles in a re-make. It takes the crazy psyche of a mock-lyric poet to stand the
'heat' of Oedipod melt-down.73 / Silver Latinity - the taste of Excess.
/ We must soon make real for our Selves a scene of exile from our normalities,
where we drop off the end of a line -
. . . amens
incertusque uiae per nigra silentia uastum
haurit iter; pulsat metus undique et undique frater. (1.367-9)
('With Polynices:
Out of my mind and off the rails,
I stumble blind across blanked-out Wasteland.
Nothing fills my ears.
Throbbing panic attacks
in front, to the side, from behind.
(And) The Enemy, monfrere, mon semblable')
I In this text, you scoff, or else. / Or else you 'see', inside,74 this post-Senecan
phantasmagoria 75 where 'terror' and 'brother' fuse - concrete passion with
familiar person(ality) - into The Other you carry within, dinning into your skull
from all directions. The collapse of your categories, the impossibility of maintain-
ing a direction:
undique et undique
('total(ized) Obsession')
To read your way into this Statian 'Wasteland' is to have negotiated with
Polynices the poetry of the whole episode, 1.312-89. / Some Boeotian Star Trek,
this, across the universe into - the Argolid. Microscopic myopia. Just one single,
measly, ex-prince-in-rags. Longueurs of anticlimactic bathos. What else? / A brief
vestigation is required.76
To see the mise en scene through Oedipus lenses, we involved readers must
. . . Ogygiis ululata furoribus antra
deserit et pinguis Baccheo sanguine colles.
inde plagam, qua molle sedens in plana Cithaeron
porrigitur lassumque inclinat ad aequora montem,
praeterit. hinc arte scopuloso in limite pendens
infamis Scirone petras Scyllaeaque rura
purpureo regnata seni . . . (328-34)

('1) in the wake of the narrative: primeval caverns of screams, hills of blood,
Bacchus. (2) in preterite paralipsis: Cithaeron seduction: primal, Oedipal,

scene. And (3) on the path of the reader 'in' the text: archetypal infestation,
princess' parricide .. .')78
Along the lines we climb, our vaulting ambition, along the convergence of
Thebaid's 'track' with its mimetic 'shore'.79 And so to schizoid 'Isthmus',
backdrop for the epic's field of 'Di/Vision':
... mitemque Corinthon
linquit et in mediis audit duo litora campis. (334-55)
('Back off classical Corinth.
Listen, Polynices:
Two shores in-land.
In the middest:
Pre-echo of battlefield, this. Of its centre-piece de resistance, the brothers' duel.
'Now', in four 5- or 6-verse units, Epic tunes up. Listen:
iamque per emeriti surgens confinia Phoebi
Titanis late, mundo subuecta silenti,
rorifera gelidum tenuauerat aera biga;
iam pecudes uolucresque tacent, iam Somnus auaris
inrepsit curis pronusque ex aethere nutat,
grata laboratae referens obliuia uitae. (336-8, 339-41)

('1) Interstellar duel for interstellar mastery. Light / dark blurs our way.
Titan Moon / Sleep fetch a Golden Line apiece, lull day to welcome rest.
Across boundaries, silent and cosmic, cool and rarefied; still of creation,
creeping inside your head; nod off nicely, wipe the slate clean again, oblivion
is, in Statius, the spice of life. Mesmerix.')80

sed nee puniceo rediturum nubila caelo

promisere iubar, nee rarescentibus umbris
longa repercusso nituere crepuscula Phoebo:
densior a terris et nulli peruia flammae
subtexit nox atra polos. (342-6)

('2) Cancelled Imaginings. No good tomorrow, this twilight's promise. Dense-

ness. Sunless web of negations. Ahead, no way through. The length of the
planet. Black text. Rhetorix'.)81

... iam claustra rigentis

Aeoliae percussa sonant, uenturaque rauco
ore minatur hiems, uenti transuersa frementes

confligunt axemque emoto cardine uellunt,

dum caelum sibi quisque rapit ... (346-50)

('3) Poetry pumps up the volume. Post-Virgilian epic's first-book tempest,

'Aeolian stasis' in its teacup. Sound FX.')82

... sed plurimus Auster

inglomerat noctem, tenebrosa uolumina torquens,
defunditque imbris, sicco quos asper hiatu
praesolidat Boreas; nee non abrupta tremescunt
fulgura et attritus subita face rumpitur aether. (350-4)

('4) Phantasmagoria outbursts. Dark mass gathers. Blind Vortex spins.

Sheeting ... Crude . . . Blocks bellow from Epic's driest voice. Atmospherix.83
Oh - and Pyrotechnix: White Light. Tremor. Fission. Reactor Blown.
Supernal Meltdown.')
Mere geography can now only explode. Into three end-stopped three-verse-
units. Into Metaphorix:
iam Nemea, iam Taenariis contermina lucis
Arcadiae capita alta madent; ruit agmine magno
Inachus et gelida surgens Erasinus in unda,
puluerulenta prius calcataque flumina nullae
aggeribus tenuere morae, stagnoque refusa est
funditus et ueteri spumauit Lerna ueneno.
frangitur omne nemus, rapiunt antiqua procellae
bracchia siluarum, nullisque aspecta per aeuum
solibus umbrosi patuere aestiua Lycaei. (355-7, 358-60, 361-3)

('1) Welcome to Nemea, the Argolid: hell-high Himalayas, epic onslaught of

river rush. Classic terrain, this, of Epic. In its element.' (in unda/)M
(2) 'No holding Thebaid now. Over the levees of fustian, past cliche canal. The
repressed returns to culture's gaze: wells from the Unconscious primitivesque
Poison.' (ueneno./)85
(3) 'Tradition - Classical Poetry - shatters. Poetry's wood, post-hurricane.
Root and branch, every mot. Excess must savage material back through
Homer. Vistas open up, unknown to Time. From the study's heat: new heights
of pen Panic.') (Lycaei/)*6
And so this is something like a response to the way we were readied to feel the
narrative. With Polynices. Now, 'however', we can return to our reader, dwarfed
by their scene:

ille tamen, modo saxa iugis fugientia ruptis

miratus, modo nubigenas e montibus amnes
aure pauens passimque insano turbine raptas
pastorum pecorumque domos, non segnius amens
incertusque uiae . . . (364-8)
('Stunned, lost in wonder. Fear in the ear:
(1) Those mountains. Peaks blown. Everything is broken.
'Ridge/yokes' in smithereens:
what should join / separate the pair,
to make a whole range / to make a range whole.
'The (conjugal) Family'.
Massive chips break away / from the old block:
dispersal in self-abomination.
Offspring on the run / from (family) implosion.
'The gens'.
(2) Those rivers. Round the twist. Every one. / Every one a centaur monster.
Miscegenation's children. / Fruit of Forbidden Desire.
'The Curse of Lust'.
(3) Panic. Giddy breakdown. Passim.
Savaged creation. Man / beast, keeper / kept, pastoral Innocence.
'Homelessness'. /
Lycaean Panic.87
Listen, you son of Oedipus, and wonder.
This scenography. It re-arranges into -
At the end of the line, Vertigo.
Kaleidoscope / Insanity. Off the rails:
. . . ruptis /
. . . amnes /
. . . raptas /
. . . amens / (364-7)
In a flash, with all your might, the Endgame says, re-arrange this deranged scene:
ruptis / : raptas / :: amnes / : amens /
('Rupture the sign > rapture, consign river > raver')
R/ U | /P/T/ A /S:A/M/ | E /S
'Mountains' fission -
whirl savaged homes;
Mountain rivers -
runs The Fool on the Hill, Mad YOU.')

Recall that our Polynices drifts through this poetic ECT-treatment. He sees
. . . pulsat metus undique et undique frater. (369)

3. 'AMPHIARAUS' / The basis / The biases / The abyss

We sat with astonishment
enjoying the shade
of the vicious words he had planted.89
In some ways, we could learn from travelling with / as Polynices, the poem seals
itself off from the Roman outside precisely to make its impact on reading. The
stream of quasi-formal oration from the characters, the Silver hustle of nar-
ration's implicature within its narrative, that relay of address: oration from the
characters, reactive exclamation and reflexion from the narrator, and apostrophe
to the characters and the reader, all this does make the poem a live reading
experience in (individualist) psychodrama. / But there is one thing we surely,
sorely, miss.
'quis furor, o ciues, quae tanta licentia ferri ?

('Citizens, all who participate in and are comprehended by Latin culture and
Roman civilisation, feel this madness, the anarchy, the killing, the greatness ?',
Lucan 1.8)
This is not the Homeric-Virgilian appeal to the Muse, but horror of the
inconceivable and programmatic collapse of reader into character into text:
noone stays out of this story, you all fight each other, your brothers, your Selves
at Pharsalus .. .'.90 For all that Statius' text will assert its 'relevance' with
moralistic outbursts and timeless gnomai about Power,91 still it yawns where the
fulcrum of appellation of the citizen-as-such, that o ciues and all it mobilizes,
belongs. So Thebais vacantly dis-joins reader from read. Lucan used the voice of
Virgil's doomed uates, ardent Laocoon of Troy, Oedipally doomed to take his
family-future pair of sons down with him, civically doomed to unmake his polity
into Julian Rome, his every patriotic effort only made his undoing by Virgil more
o miseri, quae tanta insania, ciuesl / (Aen. 2.42)
('My home town, figure of epical pathos and pity;
your sublime dementia past human intelligibility')

This is the point: 'The citizen, fellow-countryman, fellow statesman, is insane if

he believes the words of a foreigner. And the result . . . is the dissolution of the
city, the pollution of its divinity, the loss of its traditions.' 92 Whereas Statius
abandons his city, his State, his Culture - ships just his Language off to play the
writer in nowhereland, another Valerius Flaccus tripping aboard his Argo. If the
problem is: what has Rome to say after Lucan 's holocaust ?, then Thebaid's first
answer might be along these lines - pre-made curse from Oedipus:
non satis est adhuc /
ciuile bellum: frater infratrem ruat (Sen. Phoen. 304^5)
('Lucan's 'Civil War' makes a good start for the tiro-poet.
But don't stop, brother, take the plunge: to fratricidal Endgame')93
If Lucan's Bellum Ciuile determined to represent the ultimate epic amplification,
Bella . . . plus quam ciuilia (B.C. 1.1), we will find that Statius scores a
resoundingly hollow point by trumping his forerunner's cognatas ... acies with
his Theban fraternas acies. Simply: anxiety of influence has sent the latecomer
hell-for-leather into lyrico-fantastical ex-centricities; in the quest to make the
work really his own, to father his Self, he fluffs his lines: and forfeit, his civic soul
...? Latin is doomed, meantime, to idle. This way, Aonian exile. To aestheticized,
anaesthetized, cul de sac: to 'baroque' 94 'decadence'95 and (more polite) to
'mannerism'.96 The Thebaid is not a Roman epic; it has no national or patriotic
Without denying this, see that 'mythological epic' - i.e., for Romans, the fiction
'Greece' - was never securely fenced off for formalist fiddling. At the very least,
you could never be sure that myth was not the vehicle of civic thought. Even in an
imperial declamation-hall, in a school text-book. (Nor can you. Otherwise,
Thebaid is dead. And so is your reading of Latin.)
Of course Myth 'mythstifies', occludes our modernity with nostalgia.98 Truly,
'We are much less Greek than we believe'.99 If we can but feel in and as our
longing to belong there our distance from the human-scale, cooperative, self-
governing, autarkic localism of the classical polis, so must the Romans have felt,
before us. Indeed, we can even say, so must those democratic Athenians whose
theatre preserves 'Thebes' for Rome and the West in the full glare of the classical
canon. For it was by taking their distance from their remoteness from the archaic
world-set of 'Homeric' tribalism that they negotiated an identity for their post-
modern, 'hot', polity. Greek Tragedy's shattering interrogation of mythic para-
digms, - centred, even, on the 'cycle' of Theban plays - disturbs its successive
audiences precisely by its deployment of the evocative codes of clannish fraternity
and blood-brother comradeship as the sociopolitical order lost from future
reality. We, the Roman World State, the Athenian Empire, find in myth both
what our subjectivity can never experience and the matrix we need to fashion the
terms of our subjectivity - the 'homelessness' of self-fashioning culture:

(T)he critical point is that cultures are more than just empirically comparable:
They are intrinsically comparative. Cultures have their own / built in. Like
languages, cultures are fundamentally beside themselves: inside out as well as
outside in. Analytically, cultures are constituted contrastively, from an 'opera-
tional point of view' .. .'l0°
We move necessarily to-and-fro across the limits that divide us from the rawness
of a 'Humanity' centred round the Epic Warrior's Combat, neither teleologically
determined by that patrimony nor ideologically severed from it by our universal
Law, our / whose ? / chance for ?post-nuclear Feminism?. Since there are no
'persons', so back, we revert, to an Mud tempus when there were no persons: back
into . . . the primitive^we.
How could we miss seeing our dire relevance to fraternas aciesl
Bruderkrieg. 'The Western Way of War, conceived by the Greeks as trial by
ordeal, leads [us] their descendants into the pit of the holocaust.'101 Back at the
beginning, 'Brothers-in-Arms' were more than metaphor, more than the charis-
matic product and support of the ideological labour of the Western state. Our
armies must continually forge anew this self-misrecognition for themselves,
where once, as we know, it was literally true that when push came to shove
family-units stood shoulder to shoulder for the show-down - the way they
definitively still fall in the Homeric epic and its re-makes.102
Statius, for one, soon has Mother (Ide) emerge from among the herd oimatres
scrutantur galeas frigentum inuentaque monstrant
corpora, prociduae ...
... lumina signant
... ceruicibus ora reponunt. (3.126-32)
('They ferret through helmets of the numb,
they identify the bodies,
they label corpses,
they fall on the dead,
they close the eyes,
they stick the faces back
on their necks')
Double-death bound, Ide rummages for sons through the cannon-fodder casual-
ties (quaerit... natos), clawing her face (ora j ungue premens) as she mourns the
lot of them (134-9). She is come to bless Her Boys the Thespiadae with the pain of
her lamentation:
quin ego non dextras miseris complexibus ausim
diuidere et tanti consortia rumpere leti:
ite diu fratres indiscretique supremis
ignibus et caros urna confundite manes (3.165-8, see 133-68, 2.629^43)

('I, only I can speak this Truth: listen. This mother would interfere if she undid
/ from their piteous embrace these right-arms / the true Man's pledge to be
true, to fight for right. ('Stand and fight and see your slain. / And take the
bullet in your brain.') This epic death celebrates a sacred togetherness / not to
be broken. Claim the Future, brother-to-brother. / Merge once for all in joint
cremation. Fuse in the love you bear your spirits after death: One urn, one

/ Believe it, with no 'or not', no 'or': Statian excess will later (9.351^405) dream
up a 'parapotamian', underwater traansmogrification of this set-piece, when his
'Thetis', Ismenis, re-doubles Crenaeus', Crenaeus', name (ingeminat, 9.356), as 'in
grief she seeks her dead 'Water-Baby' in the murky depths' of River daddy's bed
(penitus ... occulta ... funera nati / uestigat plangitque tamen, 363-4), 'She
rummages through the helmets and rolls back the bodies face-down' (scrutatur ...
manu galeas et prona reclinat j corpora, 369-70), hugs him to the bank (amplexa,
373) and mourns his face that reflects back her own, the eyes that looked back
with papa's grim look' (hisne mei uultus ? haec torui lumina patris ?, 381) - like
Thebes' archetype, Ino with drowned infant Palaemon (401-3) .. .104
/ These women anticipate Father Oedipus's now-fatherly wish to join his sons,
his brothers, in utter (sick / delicious as ever) perversion:105

ei mihi, quos nexus fratrum, quae uulnera tracto!

soluite quaeso manus infestaque uincula tandem
diuidite, et medium nunc saltern admittite patrem.' (11.624-6)
('A A A A A A G H.
Brothers wound tight together round their wounds. My ringers feel all.
Unfasten, all I ask, hand from hand, these bonds of hate at last / undo,
and let me in, between you, finally: Dad. /') 106

We (have thought we) 'know' why we must have a Wild West's Magnificent
Seven fight it out before us, why the champions of a Thebaid's army of Argives
must live their face-to-face code of 'heroism' for us. These are scenes of
consecration for the Human Being conceived as civic pugnacity: 'at the bottom-
line of national ideology, you'll find that the subject who 'is' is man as male, and
is a male male, a manly man. And that's what he should be.n01 His fraternal
solidarity valorises the Warrior's valour: set alongside his like to make the
paradigm of the patriot State. When the Oedipodid brothers 'fight together', the
story not only implodes - in its disgusting catachresis: fraternas acies - the
language of War and its categories, but threatens by laying bare our re-
investment of cultural capital in the re-telling of the founding myths to show us
more than 'our' culture 'inside-out'. In the hallowed epic scene of brothers-in-

death, by contrast, the warriors love their death, it brings them closer than men
can ever be, locks them together in / what Statian jaundice pictures as / a
sickeningly eternal hug, The Kiss:108
procubuere pares fatis, miserabile uotum
mortis, et alterna clauserunt lumina dextra. (2.642-3)

('Undivided they fall. Deathstiny deals them a shared end. Pray / to die this
way. You'll find, like them, a place in everyone who has a heart. / Their hands
closed each other's eyes, / they watched over each other's death, a twosome
alternation of soldierly righteousness')109
This Man's Talk trumpets its antithesis to the guilty 'alternation' of Theban
But a Thebaid is not cleanly the other of Patriotism, 'The wrong war in the
wrong place at the wrong time.'110 It does not simply stage a hyped-up re-make of
Bellum Ciuile,lu but rather it makes itself a messy collage from a cursed scene of
fratricidal hatred and denouement against the background of a (hysterically
primitivesque) blood-brotherhood-in-arms. 'Thebes', Tanti-cite, la cite de la
violence pure et de la stasis',112 has that unsettling (- 'post-modern' -) status of not
not confounding War, Revolution, Civil War, Stasis - especially once Statius has
deflated its shape by un-featuring the Walls, the Gates, the Seven Paired
Champions .. ."3
The fighters fight to impose their reading on anyone left alive to dispute
'Thebes': belligerents must invent their war aims and search for ways to justify
their actions. Thus, for Adrastan Argos this is a Just War. An obligation to a
guest-friend, with God on our Side. And international Law. Blurring into: the
restoration of its own Crown Prince to his full heritance, (cloaked) military
Annexation. An adventure for 'heroes'. Alliance in operation. Whereas for
Eteocles, this is Coup d'etat: to fail. Patriotic Defence of the Realm. The elder son
reclaims his own rights, maintains Internal Security, re-establishes Stability. An
outlawed Enemy of the State leads an Invasion, backed by the might of a Super-
Power arsenal and economy, the Intervention is papered-over Self-interest.114 For
Tydeus, the attack is Revenge. The Principle is Diplomatic Immunity. Theban
Aggression assaults the Argive Nation when it assaults the person of its (second)
Crown Prince-and-Envoy. Polynices is out to re-make (his own) epic 'form',
Restoration. He vindicates a solemn Treaty, reclaims his Right to Rule, grants
Thebes Anschluss with Argos, uses Minimum Force to punish the Usurper."5 For
Creon, this is his son's Sacrifice to Save the Walls; the Enemy is one Alien
Undifference, set below Human Rights. Loser Jocasta must play Veturia failing
to avert her Coriolanus.116 For Theseus, one more request to remake Man for
Clement Civilisation. With some (regrettable) Loss of Life - from Hostile
Extremists condemned by World Opinion. For the Cities, for their Women, this is

War - why discriminate further? 'And it's 1 -2-3-What are we fightin' for?' - What
takes the Men away. Why mothers bear sons. Victory, the Body-Bag; Oblivion,
Lamentation . . .
Thebaid, more than producing or witholding decisions, limps blindly - sidles -
toward some (Clausewitzian) deconstruction of war:
War is, first of all, at war with the rationality of its own participants . . . Hatred
assimilates each side to the other, the Wechselwirkung becomes an oscillation
as well as a mutuality, each side becoming the other as the sides work each
other up to a resemblance in extremism. There is ecven an altruism of hatred,
in which the other becomes more important than the self. One is willing to give
one's life in order to take the foe's. This is the selflessness that gives war its
weird and inverted nobility. It is, in Clausewitz's view, a necessary mark of
fighting men. But it is hardly rational . . . (W)hen we are most exalted by
hostility and have the greatest sense of wielding war to serve our purposes, war
is wielding us, carrying us away from ourselves in the nobility of self-sacrifice
inspired by hate. Shoulder shoving, on the largest scale, has become an end in
itself... 117
With the Women, pick up the pieces. Can your sockets see this Man's Curse,
War, re-make the person into the warrior, 'helmet'-hide the 'face', 'hug' those
sons tight in the Suppliant Women's 'mother's arms'?118 / With Statius, we do not
deny, poetry goes limp. Epic flop.
/ For Romans, 'Theban' myth's metaphorics and the epic's generic power
continue to implicate readers in (re-)ma(r)king for themselves their narratives of
Virtus in-and-out of Anna. More than this, in any attempt to understand their
own fix those Romans who earned the burden of a mind - and with it the curse of
self-consciousness, Guilt - could not avoid thinking with and through the old
repertoire, so that the infelix fabula of Thebes must always already threaten to
comprehend Roman civil war.119 Moreover, with the coming of the spectacular
courts of the Caesar Acteurs-Rois (- And we . . . Does our world not know
filmactor, playwright, Presidents? - ) , the participants all learned their parts
'straight' from the old scripts of Kings and Heroes, Tyrant and Victim alike, on
the basis that life could only play and re-play a video-loop of Post-Homeric /
Attic Horror:120 sine quibus non, the dynastic palaces of Thebes 'and Argos'
became the very form of imperial culture. Form hammered back into place.
Premeditated, re-made. / Premade.

Every family history is an abyss.121


4. 'HIPPOMEDON' / Bathos / Thebais

I have seen the writing on the wall
Don't think I need anything at all
Tear Down the Wall122
Tolstoy's epic showed, by proving its own theory, that Narrative can only betray
modernity to false consciousness:
The ancients have passed down to us examples of epic poems in which the
heroes furnish the whole interest of the story, and to this day we are unable to
accustom our minds to the idea that history of that kind is meaningless for our
'A Disimprisoned Epic' - the tale that knows it lodges in the Mess this side of
History - could only tear itself into post-revolutionary fragments if it meant to
transcend the pre-social individualist fetishism of a Napoleonic, a 'Caesarian', a
Theban, (anti-)romance.124 But, whether or not our (democratic?) History has
found its media, imperial Rome could only find its present in 'the master-
narratives which define and delimit what is known and what is valued.' For
'There is a close relationship between power and meaning. Despotic regimes have
always attempted to take control of meaning, to fix it in their own interests,
outlawing alternatives by making them literally unthinkable.'125 Absolutist,
centripetal, hierarchizing Caesarism could hardly be thought otherwise than in
and through its monological double and ape, Epic narration's crushing power to
impose meaning. How else to hand down/on a cosmology? It is in this sense that
Statius' Thebaid enacted its central role in the representation to itself of its
culture, feeding on a marginalised fake-Tragedy, the pseudo-dialogic image-
repertoire of Seneca's play-script re-makes, but reinstating Epic form's demand
to bespeak Power for social practice.
A full-blooded wallow in Statius requires -/ A responsive reading of Statius
calls for (- what it has generally missed -) that 'form of attention' which we
habitually lavish upon the genre offifth-centuryAthenian Tragedy, the presump-
tion, that is to say, that in its struggles to tell us its world and its own contestation
that this is necessarily and importantly an incomplete, suspect, partial, represen-
tation, Thebais resounds with political intelligence. / Let's not deny that / without
such a critical frame the poem fumbles between cack-handed completion of its
assignation of meaning through deaths to life and a patchily fragmented, nervy
re-run of para-Homeric cameos.126 Whereas, within the grandiose frame, the
narrative most especially exploits all that seemed otherwise to enforce its power
to mean. For a reader's alienation from its 'far-fetched' material actually acquires
the motivation of readerly antipathy toward the very (very real) structures of
Power. Then the very unnaturalnesses of hyperbolic Thebes are the 'message': '/s
this not how things areT - and apprehended confusion about the narration's
ability to master its own priorities will speak loudly of the impossibility of

commandeering the body politic, rail-roading the mind. Narrative magisterially

shatters the Tradition it re-makes.127 Come along, why deny it?
Look into Thebaism. 'Thebaism' is . . . opiate poisoning, it is venomous
Oedipod polymerism: Zeitlin (n. 24) reads for us the topology and tropology of
'Thebes' for the demos of Athens. Undeniably. She finds Identity - coincidence of/
with the Self- barred in alterity, annulment of the Family enforced in dissemina-
tive heterotaxy, a City of Negation and Negativity, a system closed to articula-
tion and locked onto both kinds of entropy - para-communicational over-kill in
information; wind-down shrinkage into a black punctum of wasting energy:128

Thebes is the place . . . that makes problematic every inclusion and exclusion,
every conjunction and disjunction, every relation between near and far, high
and low, inside and outside, stranger and kin. . . . When he . . . alternates
between a condition of self-referential autonomy and involvement in too dense
a network of relations, Oidipous personifies in himself the characteristics that
Thebes manifests in all its dramatic variants, through all its other myths, and
through the extant work of all the tragic poets of Athens. . . . Thebes, the
other, provides Athens, the self, with a place where it can play with and
discharge both terror of and attraction to the irreconcilable, the inexpiable,
and the unredeemable, where it can experiment with the dangerous heights of
self-assertion that trangression of fixed boundaries inevitably entails, where
the city's political claims to primacy may be exposed and held up to

No meaning - the meaning 'No Meaning?' - is shielded under the originary sign
'Thebes'. Here through dire catatony of autochthony and incest,130 Father is
Brother. Father is Brother. Brother beyond - beyond remediation. No sum will
ever add up more.131
Internecine hatred rolls back the stemma upon itself, collapsing and dissolving

Hatred does not divide the two brothers. . . . (I)t brings them closer together;
they need each other in order to live and in order to die, their hatred is the
expression of a complementarity and derives its force from this very unity:
they hate each other for being unable to tell each other apart. . . . What the
brothers seek in order to vent their hatred is not battle, the abstract, strategic
annihilation of the enemy: it is the individual clinch, the physical conflict and
embrace; and this is how they die, in the lists. Whether it is womb, throne, or
arena, they can never escape the same space that confines them, a unique
protocol has ordained their birth, their life, and their death. And the effort
they make to tear themselves away from each other is merely the final triumph
of their identity.132

Zeitlin shows how powerful a scenario 'Thebes' was for Tragedy: the very

dimensions within which any thinkable relations must be negotiated, any story
must be /?/-e-patterened - temporality, space, generational linearity133 - implode
into re-cycled repetition and the con/fusion of condensation, an offensive freight
of 'understanding' 134 - repugnant respect, finally, for ignorance, for necessary
limitedness135 - presented as the dialogic constructedness of the Other with which
Athens, The West, Our (First World's) 'We', must think out a distance for the
Self, this side of xenophobia.136 An engaged reading of Statius risks 'the safe
fortified heavily defended walls of whatever Thebes each of us inhabits.'137 / Or:
disdains to. You see only the pre-made, the cliche of 'Cadmean Victory', don't
deny it: 'A ruler of Thebes cannot hope to escape disaster, cf. .. ,'138
Strengthened to live, strengthened to die for
medals and positional victories?
They're fighting, fighting, fighting, the blind
man who thinks he see - 139

5. 'CAPANEUS' / Epostasy / Epicstasy

Explorer: But your victim here feels just like all other victims everywhere -
they all share the pain -
Officer: We are the same - the victim and the oppressor are part of each other

Thebaid has its moments. Searches for synecdochic leverage, thirsts after amplifi-
cation for its narrative of excess in a staggered series of'delays' 141 and 'forebod-
ings', wound up by authority-figures in a spiral of 'inventions', and (above all) in
a . . . cool-to-frigid 'poetic wood' called Nemea. The emblem-like scenes there on
the edge of battle call up the Epic Tradition, as throughout the text, in a manifold
panoply of'combinatorial imitation':142 pathetic tale told by its victim; innocent's
death, elaborate ceremonial, 'heroic mockery' of souped-up funeral games, the
heart of the poem - / Some heart.143 The proportions become ludicrous and the
mechanics gross; drooling sentimentality jars with violent flurry. / Perfect
preparation and prefiguration of he hotted-up stakes to come. Along with the
Argives we warm to the persecuted d.p., baby-minder Hypsipyle, and return her
two sons.
/As we melt over her: 'No Jocasta this!', the poem fuses our negligence with
hers and, all ears, we've dumped the kid in the way of a passing (post-Ovidian)
Dragon's fatally clumsy tail-swish.144 This 'Epic' re-makes the games for
Patroklos and for Anchises into a literally infantile procession: its knowing
reader chuckles to see such a self-consciously out-of-place reply to ludibund
Callimachus, the Nemean Games originated, courtesy of Euripidean Romance,
at the baby's incineration, not in Theban Hercules' immortalizing Labour of
uirtus, his strongarm strangling of the Nemean lion .. .145 Statius fiddles.
/No, don't deny this. The botching is, / to exaggerate,'Statius' plot: its 'High

Noon' will, after all, eventally top its bill with its ultimate mismatch, a 'Hector'
vs. a Turnus'... For our instruction, that post-Phaeacian 'Nausicaa' Hypsipyle,
not Aeneas in Dido's Carthage or Odysseus before Arete, will, before battle is
joined, know and bespeak misery.146 Sign of interrogation - re-making - of
maleness, uirtus, this promotion of the woman's voice to narrate Epic marks an
(anciently incipient) abhorrence from the civic naturalisation of Warfare within
the classical polis: the 'martial' heroism of Thebes will (have to) be Freitod, the
defiant suicides - Maeon, bearer of bad news to a tyrant;147 Menoeceus, (good-as)
last of autochthons, self-sacrifice to save the city148 -; and beyond that, there is,
precisely, the 'marital' narrative of sisterhood149 forged in defence of Human
Rights between Bride and Sister, the (Callimachean) alliance between Argia and
Antigone, an 'alternat(iv)e' 'battle-line' to defy Creon, 'fraternize' with the
Enemy, bury Polynices.150
Woman, this last time, the Bride, wades through Thebaid Killing Fields:
dum funus putat omne suum, uisuque sagaci
rimatur positos et corpora prona supinat
incumbens, queriturque parum lucentibus astris. (12.288-90)
('She comes upon the dead - each one she assumes is hers.
Eagle-eyed she rummages through the fallen,
rolls over corpses face-down, leans down, wails:
"The stars won't" shine')
Argos' Wife of Wives, Juno, floods those fields with light (infuso lumine, 312).
Until Argia:
... uidet ipsum in puluere paene
calcatum. fugere animus uisusque sonusque,
inclusitque dolor lacrimas; turn corpore toto
sternitur in uultus animamque per oscula quaerit
absentem ... (316-20)
('... She sees her man. In the dust. About flattened.
Mind, sight, sound. All left her.
Pain imprisoned epic tears.
Every fibre of her body.
She spreads her Self on his face.
She hunts his life. His breath.
Kiss upon Kiss.
It is gone.')
She, Aghia, wails:
hue adtolle genas defectaque lumina ...
sed bene habet, superi, gratum est, Fortuna ...
... totos inuenimus artus.

ei mihi . . .
. . . hoc frater? (325-41)
(' "Here. Lift your cheeks.
Those sockets. Dead, dead eyes . . . "
Still. Praise be to Heaven. Thank you, Fortune.
. . . I have found him. All of him. His body checks out.
AA A A A A G H ...
This thing.
This -?
A BROTHER - . . . ' )

Next, Wife will be joined by Sister, out combing the corpses too, for the age-old
unison of antiphonal lament {quaeris ... quaesitura, 366, 375) . . . 'Andromache'
and 'Juturna', joined in Humanity's Sisterhood. A Humanity pre-made by that
successful failure Eteocles, by Polynices' failed success. Nightmare:

She was out in the darkness, out in some black waste strewn with corpses, and
she was going from one to another, looking, peering, yet dreading to see; she
was looking for Eliot. There were bodies lying on their faces, . . . bodies on
their backs with faces ghastly upturned, bodies twisted terribly. They were
everywhere. She had to go to them all, with the other ghosts that wandered like
herself in that black waste. Killed . . . blown to pieces, a voice was saying in her
head, but still she had to go on looking and searching and wandering.151

The narrative voicing of the entire Epic loathes the killing it is obliged to
sanctify as the Warrior's Destiny: uirtus for losers. It disfigures and mocks its
fighting, brutalized throwback, pointlessness: 'The Thebaid', as you will recall,
'cannot be said to be about anything'.152 You've got it. The (Man's, Arms') World
is sick, beyond one hundred tongues to lament, if it could prefer to celebrate a
Septem - the terrain marked out by Thebes' 'Dirty Dozen' - above one innocent's
cot-death.153 Is(n't) this Thebais" anamorphic T-view on Epos' values? Ecstatic
desertion of Epic Ideology, Civic heresy: 'Epostasy'? Indeed, I'm not about to
deny it.
These Women. Their grief for those Men. Words must fail.154
Long since, Hypsipyle's tale - wholesale massacre on Lemnos - has ecstatically
subtended the import of this warfare to come, both by its shortfall: wives hugging
their men onto their blades in bed, not scenes of uirtus; and also by its
extravagance: the dire stake here is the base of Human Society. Image of total
crisis - modulator of Thebes 'and Argos'155 - as gender-assignments go topsy-
turvy so that we 'brothers' can feel apostate chaos in our political order, victims
all, for once, of Power.156

6. 'TYDEUS' / Papinian opinion

Let me eat off his head
so you can really see - 157
Thebaid is seriously contemptuous of its own showcased valour. Das Hauptwerk
des Statius must be his story of Tydeus, its denouement.158 This boarish
Calydonian one-man plague and brother-killer159 arrives upon the scene outcast
and in need, to play beggar Irus vs beggar Odysseus upon Argos' threshold; from
'alternation1 of verbal abuse,160 he proceeds to a 'duel' of feral clawing for basic
needs, Shelter from the Storm, before he is taken up to play his opponent's
'Pylades',161 the perfect brother-in-law, that brother you never had, the 'other and
better brother it will hurt to lose' (alius misero ac melior mihi frater ademptus,
9.53), his partner for a double royal wedding, his diplomatic representative,162 his
fly-weight champion and pocket-general; the one-man army,163 the mobile Wall
and Human Shield. Tydeus is to be Statius' answer to The Epic Tradition of Ajax
/ Aelius / Turnus / Scaeva .. .m Already in hs scrap with Polynices, the Thebaid
fighting is pre-cultural, Oedipally regressive - homing in on the eye-sockets:

... scrutatur et intima uultus

unca manus penitusque oculis cedentibus intrat. (1.426-7)
('digging right inside the face / some pre-human claw
passes inside / and the eyes give ground')
This is typologically prefigured by and textually prefiguring the mythological
song-within-the-song of Adrastus' aetiological and poetically paradigmatic hymn
to 'Poetry', to Phoebe parens, which shuts the book opened by Oedipus' gouged
eyes, where the 'pre-human claw ... and ironclad rippers' (unca manus ...
ferratique ungues) of Apollo's post-'Cacus' monster suffers when his 'Hercules',
Coroebus, comes to 'rummage in the dark' (scrutatus latebras) before the folk
come to 'ogle the eyes bruising in death' (uisere ... liuentes in morte oculos ...,
This 'Man"s, Tydeus's, charisma just survives / - Does it? - / his own ferocious
savagery, but only for the / direly / chalcenteric. Entree scrap prepares,
prefigures, anticipates the brothers' showdown:
. . . coeunt sine more, sine arte,
tantum animisque iraque, atque ignescentia cernunt
per galeas odia et uuttus rimantur acerbo
lumine . . .
ueluti . . .
sues . . .
igne tremunt oculi, lunataque dentibus uncis
ora sonant . . . (11.524-33)

('Come together, right now:

bare of skill, bare of style,/
pure mental drive plus hate; ablaze, they eye/
loathing through helm, through helm loathing;
and faces rifle faces with acid/sight . . .
like . . . boars . . . quivering optic fire,
and crescent, claw-toothed,/mouths din')166
Now for Father Oedipus, 'that face far-away inside, / its cheeks/sockets, slag-
heap of filth tracing lights out' (ora genaequejintus et effossae ... uestigia lucis,
11.584—5).167 It's his turn to join in: 'he feels his way round those helmets, searches
out the hiding faces' (tractat galeas atque ora latentia quaerit, 603), wishes his
'sight would return for a second dig, so he could do his thing, blitz his face' (o si
fodienda redirent/lumina et in uultus saeuire ... potestas, 614-5). He swears
himself blind, 'That curse. It wasn't my fault, it wasn't, it wasn't':
. . . furor ilia et mouit Erinys
et pater et genetrix et regna oculique cadentes;
nil ego . . . (619-21)
('Put it down to:
Madness/The Fury/
Pa/Ma/Power-Mania/My eyes, falling;/
- NOT ME.')
Look. The gaze of Oedipus' Guilt detaches itself, with inexorable logic, from the
retina of his (Agamemnon/Turnus) Ego .. .m
But, however you readers manage this bombard of 'brothers' sharp eyes-vs.-
eyes' (fraternas acies ...), you'll have had to be a Polynices if you didn't find his
mate's, Tydeus', last martial feat literally emetic. Recall first that Achilles was
verbally smeared, by Hector's mother, uniquely smeared, as a bestial outsider
with 'omestes'' ('Eater of the Raw', //. 24.207). Once the worst that could be said
on how people out not to (tr)eat.169 Thebes' narrative has its 'Patroclus', Tydeus,
fetched the head of his killer and, just as his admiring patron Athena comes to
award him Herculean divinity,170 she sees him expire thus:
. . . ilium effracti perfusum tabe cerebri
aspicit et uiuo scelerantem sanguine fauces
- nee comites auferre ualent . . . (8.760-2)
('Her eyes met Tydeus
drowned in brain-pulp smithereens,
pervert jaws wicked with lifeblood still alive.
The comrades can't get it away from him')171

This is 'ultimate' social deconstruction to set alongside incest and fratricide,

approaching the Platonic Tyrant's endocannibalistic filicide.172 This is the way
'Thebes' must see its feast of uirtus. Eating into the brain. (As it does in reading:
ingestion through the eyes . . . Tydeus' last memory and memorial.) It vomits,
reviles, its own story-patterns: only in primitivist excess can it find convincing,
convincingly masterful - truly striking - figures for human Violence. The
guardian angel, soldier Athena of the flashing eyes, had managed her fighter
Tydeus so far. But finally, even she must "turn away' and 'purge those luminous
eyes, with mystic fire, with an epic river-flow of ablution' (8.764-6). In this she
anticipates her Almighty Father's 'imperative aversion' from the brothers'
showdown, auferte oculosl (11.126)173
We Oedipuses must burn out the sight - it is the sight of the Sphinx's
'Thebes'174 — or else blot Tydeus out with tears of derision.175
Why, how terribly self-conscious you are!176

7. 'PARTHENOPAEUS' / The Epic of stasis

I fought with my twin
That enemy within
Till both of us fell by the way - 177
Thebaid revises, improves on, poor Virgil's fumbled Abbruch. Statius makes Epic
work again: 'The epic ends on a note of uplifting optimism.'178
/ Or. Thebaid fumbles to a halt, closure, like Ovid's, all too neat, and Theseus (-
Oedipal son of Aegeus -) all too violent a deus ex machina, venomous, flawed,
cure:179 'Theseus' victory provides a chance for tears rather than a cessation from
tears; the "Thebaid" ends with lamentations for the dead, not with paeans
celebrating Theseus' victory.'180 - Besides, the Epigoni have always already
waited, to 're-make' Thebes, so survivor Adrastus can get to play Oedipus, lead
his heir to oblivion at Thebes (7.219-21).181
Crushed into the piddling stretch of the Isthmos, eclipsed in Nemean shade,182
Epic shrunk to a drably inconclusive, inter-hamlet, family show. Roman re-make
of 'Greece' as nostalgia.
. . . unius ingens
bellum uteri, coeuntque pares sub casside uultus (11.407-8)
('One huge
War. One huge
Womb. Come together,
Face, in your helmet, / Face, in yours. You are
The Same')
/ Or alternat(iv)ely: tumid stretching, fit to bust 'swelling' of an Oedipus'

/ Thebaid's writing sees its own 'knowing', digs out those sockets, along with the
mental cataracts that have blinded humans to the form of their existence in and as
the heaving breast of Warrior Pride. This Swollen T-View. This 'Oidipous'.m
The reader is left on this one last New Mourning, with the women of Argos and
of Thebes, to find their very own lament - since the Epic cannot find breath more
(12.797-809. '20 km of corpses, burning like dead leaves, does rather put one out
of focus, I dare say').185 Yet on reflection all that the Brothers have meant, all they
have stood, fought, love/hated for, all they have done to their peoples, has not not
been rehearsed by the text.186 We could say, only the very coollest reaction to
Thebaid could accept the writing's parting instruction, to 'Cut the breast-beating
and pass on to some more Roman Epic-in-decline - Now this poem is safely
docked' (12.809). Whereas reading that has engaged in Theban Textual Politics
can but join the keening, just as it must speak and have spoken the warring voices
of its antagonists, and their brethren.
/ Does Epic Narrative here re-found the authority of a teleology, the respite
and retrieval of some 'vision': Aristotelian 'stasis"! (So 'Eteocles - and Theseus'.)
/ Does Epic Narration founder, undecided, on the blinded despair of 'Thebes'
('and Argos . . . ?'): Thucydidean lstasis"?m (So the various 'Polynices' - and
'Adrastus', 'Creon' . . . )
This essay has wavered / - Where it could - / to release these alternat(iv)es to
view. And, (if) we can feel, this chilly/fetid text sees reflected in our eyes the
inadequacy of our customary valuations of life, in the (epic) form of the
insufficiency to the pain of bereavement of social rituals for the disposal of the
dead, and the inadequacy of art-writing as one such collective ritual, in Thebaid's
panoply of exsequies for its (- Eurydice's / Hypsipyle's -) Nemean Innocent:188
one sick prelude to a (Theban) other. Recognize the paradigm in Nemea:
Nurse put down her droopy child, heavy-eyed and tired-faced (graues oculos
languentiaque ora, 5.502). Along crept Snake, glare, swollen venom, claw-teeth
and all (liuidafax oculis, ... tumidi... ueneni, ... adunci / dentis, 508-9). And
then, the boy's eyes opened only for death (in solam patuerunt lumina mortem,
540). Nurse comes a-hunting, runs through his little vocabulary, then runs
through it again (ingeminans ... uisu ... quaerens, 546-7); she leans down
{incumbens), doubles her kisses (ingeminat), searching limbs for warm life,
(quaerii) to find sinew-bindings awash with blood (nexus): 'No body, all
wound' (totum ... in uulnere corpus, 595-8). She grieves - for his lovely face
(heu ubi siderei uultus?, 613). Mother, Eurydice, burns to throw herself on the
remains (super prorumpere nati / relliquias, 6.35-6), her women re-double their
keening (congeminant), mother screams she is ready to die, share a pyre, with
Hypsipyle - so long as she can feast her eyes (exsaturata oculos) on the revenge
(175-6). At the epic funeral, the soldiers stage their military-style rite of
aversion (prospectu uisus interclusere nefasto, 204—5).

Our sockets sense the gap between human experience and cultural practice in
the poem's final paralipsis of (infinite) grief:189 the entire text, twelve accomplished
books, has not not voiced the grief it must gesture to defer, it offers itself up as the
strangled 'mutation' of what beggars description, it is the flip-side of Arma
uirumque, the Valorisation of Valour, located as its blinding other, 'The Body in
Pain'.190 'Man' twinned with 'Woman', all is in place again for a dir(g)e re-make,
an eternally renaissant, end-less, 'Lamentation over the dead (anti-)Christ(s)'.191
Statius saw his epic figure, / figure for epic, / in the blinding of Senecan
Oedipus, knew him for Epic Dis-figured, the mockery of Flavian excess:
'fodiantur oculi!' dixit atque ira furit;
ardent minaces igne truculento genae
oculique uix se sedibus retinent suis . . .
. . . manus in ora torsit. at contra truces
oculi steterunt et suam intenti manum
ultro insecuntur, uulneri occurrunt suo.
scrutatur auidus manibus uncis lumina . . . (Sen. Oed. 956-65)
('In the end, the crazed voice of Wrath said:
"Eyes. Must dig out my eyes."
Ablaze, menace, inferno. From cheeks glower sockets,
Eyes. All but slip past the retina . . .
. . . Yanked his hands into his face. Lowering back,
Eyes. No recoil. Follow their hand. Ready, keen.
Charge their wound. On the offensive.
He rummages. Glutton.
Human claws. Eyes')192
Beyond the confused murk inside this spectral skull, Thebaid's narration offers
the antipolitics of Thebes,m a mythomorphic invitation, beyond psychomachy,
to explore or to resist exploring the criss-crossed domain of civic order. Statius
could write of his ultimate cityscape, with Calvino:
From my words you will have reached the conclusion that the real Berenice is a
temporal succession of different cities, alternately just and unjust. But what I
wanted to warn you about is something else: all the future Berenices are
already present in this instant, wrapped one within the other, confined,
crammed, inextricable.194
' . . . And Argos?'/And Argia?

1. 1988 graffito + scholion on the Berlin Wall, H. Waldenburg, The Berlin Wall book (1990) 67. This
essay is for Robin Nisbet, who introduced me to Statius' poetry, and for Phil Hardie, welcome to

Cambridge Classics Faculty. The essay's '/' will appear, in A. J. Boyle (ed.), The Roman epic: critical
essays, as: 'Form remade/Statius' Thebaid.
2. R. Barthes, S/Z (1974) 27. 'The narration is always contested.' (D. Leith and G. Myerson, The
power of address, Explorations in rhetoric (1989) 160.)
3. P. Hardie, 'Ovid's Theban History: the first 'Anti-AeneidT, CQ n.s. 40 (1990) 224-35 shows just
how Ovidian 'Theban History' anticipates Statius'.
4. This like all summaries is loaded - and trained on you. Apollod. 3.5.7-7.1 is the fullest ancient
5. We post-republican Romans can join democratic Athens in wincing at the savage sarcasm of this.
Thus the play's invention, tyrant Theseus as 'founder of democracy', insists: demos d'anassei
diadochaisin en merei / eniausiaisin (Eur. Suppl. 406-7, 'Power to the People is effected through
succession between its representatives / in yearly rotation'). Absolutism precisely can't work this way -
alternation can only be a Theban foedus. Tisiphone's present to Oedipus, the treaty as Munich

6. So most readers, e.g. D. Vessey, Statius and the Thebaid (1973) 315, '[I]t is through (Theseus) that
evil and madness are finally eradicated when he slays first Haemon (747ff.) and then Creon (774ff.),
last representatives of the gens profana of Thebes.' The text only says: 'Theseus' spear stuck through
two horses into Haemon's chariot-pole and . . . he homed in on Creon alone' (12.747-53). Is this one
of those narrative 'Gaps' that 'contribute! ] to the reader's dynamic participation in making the text
signify' (S. Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative fiction, Contemporary poetics (1983) 127-9)? / Or: Is it
Incompetence's 'Gash"! / Well, my Haemon's no survivor - is yours?
7. More simply, the due? re-makes its origin, the due/: alterna furentes (7.640), alterna gementes
The silence of Thebaid is marked {or the eyes - spoken silence, then - in its paralipses. (As Yun Lee
Too has made me 'see'.) 'For now, press on' (praeteriisse sinam, 1.16).
8. See T. Le Clair, The art of excess, Mastery in contemporary American fiction (1989), esp.
'Introduction. Excess, mastery, and systems', for contemporary, 'post-modern', reawakening to the
'Big Book', its outplay of force. / Pynchon, huh? / This essay's gross topic must be:' (What) Can
Thebaid meanT I try to explain why. / Beckett, then? Huh.
9. D. W. T. Vessey, 'Pierius menti calor incidit: Statius' epic style', ANRW 2 32.5 (1986) 3006. See
Petron. Sat. 89, Troiae Halitosis, 119—24, Bedlam Ciuile, ingenti uolubilitate uerborum, with F. I.
Zeitlin, 'Romanus Petronius: a study of the Trojae Halosis and the Bellum Ciuile', Latomus 30 (1971)
10. Alternation between Thebes and Argos weaves text of books 1-4 (Vessey (n.6) 136); later the two
armies, the two brothers, intertwine - past extinction.
11. 'To the hilt' and 'hilt and all' are favourite body-blows from Statius: Laius (2.8), Maeon (3.88),
Lemnians (5.253), Dymas (10.435-6), Eteocles/Polynices - thinks Oedipus (11.631) -.
12. F. M. Ahl, 'Statius' "Thebaid": a reconsideration', ANRW212.5 (1986) 2898. This is the point of
the excessive narrative of mastery, cf. F. M. Ahl, 'Homer, Vergil, and complex narrative structures in
Latin epic: an essay', in M. Marcovich, (ed.), Silver & Late Latin poetry, (= ICS 14 1-2) (1989) 31, Le
Clair (n. 8) passim.
Duality/the duel/binarism opens out to septenary, myriad dialectic in epic Thebes: no 'hero'; no
'(anti')hero + (anti-)hero', but acies = 'lines, a host, division on the field of battle/antagonism in the
field of vision: the principle, or "puncept", of "Di-vision" '. Such is the nature of 'Narrative', that it
intrinsically pits <One> True Report ('Eteo/cles') against Poly<valent> Contestation ('Poly/
nices'). Dub this crisis, (of) criticism, 'Di/'Vision'.
13. Early 1970s Button after W. Burroughs.

14. Lucky Wilbury, 'Tweeter and the Monkey Man', on The travelling Wilburys Vol. I (1988).
15.1 shan't/couldn't/per/orm it, either. My English can give no semblance of the substitutive volatility
of Statius' Latin, epic in-breeding; my attention was monopolized in writing by the-The-Thebaid's
teeter across its Amphiaraean gorge of risibility.
/ Or. Read Statius' entire poetic in the absurd, ecstatic, apostasy from Virgil sported in his conceit,
galeas ... rotat per nubila plenas ('Tydeus rockets helmets full through the clouds', 8.699): fair
comment on the absurd commentary that continues ever to be written on Virgil's galeam ante pedes
proiecit inanem ('Ascanius threw down before his feet his empty helmet', Aen. 5.673. E.g. R. D.
Williams, P. Vergili Maronis, Aeneidos Liber Quintus. Edited with a commentary (1960) 169-70,
quoting Servius and Henry, 'concauam, sine capite ... "(I)t had been trivial, if not absurd, to remind
the reader that the helmet which Ascanius took off and threw down on the ground had not his head in
it . . . " (O)n the whole Servius' explanation seems the best; it is not "absurd" unless it is forced to
appear so.' (Dutiful Silius explains himself: 'helmet plus contents: one dead face', 'galeam atque
inclusa perempti ora uiri, 4.219, 'one warhead: helmetful of decapitation', plenam . . . abscisi galeam
capitis ... iacit, 10.146-8; the models for all this excess are //. 20.482, tel' autei peleki kare bale, Aen.
9.771, cum galea longe iacuit caput, H. Juhnke, Homerisches in romischer Epik flavischer Zeit (1972)
131 n. 338.)
/ But no, this risible writing is 'absurd;.?*': Statius cumulates throughout his poem, as here, the
telling nexus of'helmet' (galea, cassis) with 'face' (uultus. uultu- + gale-, 5.355, 8.541, 11.526; casside
uultu-j, verse-phrase from Lucan 7.586, cf. Val. Flacc. 6.760 (an echoing book-end), Sil. 10.648),
9.541, 879, 11.408, cf. 8.449, 9.700-1, 11.172; genis ... cassis, 2.716-7, etc. In this nexus we feel the
Person we must 'feel for' inside the Warrior, that feeling of'no longer a man, but from head to foot...
noisy, glaring, rending metal' (H. H. Bacon, 'The Shield of Eteocles' in E. Segal (ed.), Oxford readings
in Greek tragedy (1983) 33. In the Virgilian tradition, this is envisaged as that 'Kiss through the
Helmet-visor', Aen. 12.423, per galeam ... oscula, cf. Theb. 4.20, galeis ... oscula.).
To write/read Oedipal 'Thebes' is to fixate on the visage - its Senecan language, trux, toruus, etc. -
and tear the eyes from their face-sockets/cheeks, (genae mass through the text. Except in dictionaries,
there is no segregating OLD s.v. (1) 'cheek', from (2) 'region about the eyes, . . . eyes'. For ora +
genae, cf. 1.437-8,2.231-2, 11.226, 372-3, 584; cf. 1.538. For the Propertian verse-phrase ungue genas/
(Prop. 4.5.16), beloved tongue-twist of Ovid's 'amatory' elegy ( x 7 in Am., Ars, Her.; elsewhere only
in inevitable Claudian), see Theb. 10.818, / ungue genas (cf. 2.130. Any genae are scarce in pre-Statian
epic: x 5 in Aen., x 9 in Met., x 7 in Lucan; Sen. Phaedr. has an abundance.)

16. Key contributions and reference-points: Ahl (n.12), G. Arico, Ricerche Staziane (1972), W.
Schetter, Untersuchungen zur epischen des Statius (1960), P. Venini, P. Papinii Statii Thebaidos
Liber XI: introduzione, testo critico, commento e traduzione (1970), Vessey (n. 6), D. W. T. C. Vessey,
'Flavian epic. 2. Statius. The Thebaid', in E. J. Kenney and W. V. Clausen (edd.), The Cambridge
History of Classical Literature Vol II: Latin Literature (1982), Vessey (n. 9).

17. Cf. Vessey (n. 6) 184-7, 265 for Argo/Argos et sim.

18. K. Quinn, Texts and contexts. The Roman writers and their audience (1979) 57. The once standard
view, this. When Quinn 115, goes on, without discussion, to call Statius 'dull' and claims that the
'Thebaid is a curious anachronism, a century and a half out of date, the sort of thing, it is to be
supposed, people were writing in Virgil's youth' he achieves idiosyncrasy. More representative the
discussion of F. Copley. Latin literature. From the beginnings to the close of the second century A.D.
(1969) 324: '(A)ffected, shallow, and mannered . . . (T)he subjects are worn-out and hackneyed and all
Statius' ingenuity cannot bring them to life again . . . Almost equally undistinguished as a writer . . . is

19. For the most part from Germany, for some reason / masked as another.
20. For the scholarship see new essays by W. J. Dominik, P. Hardie, D. E. Hill, D. T. McGuire in A. J.
Boyle (ed.), The imperial muse, vol II; Flavian epicist to Claudian (1990: too late for this essay),
bibliography to Vessey (n. 6), Ahl (n. 2); E. Burck, 'Die > Thebais< des Statius', in E. Burck (ed.),
Das romische Epos (1979) 300-51 is a reliable survey essay (to late 70s). Par for course, the ample

collection devoted to Silver Latin criticism in Marcovich (1989), which can find but one space for
(textual/exegetical) notes on Statius. CQ once even began a year with the words: 'I have not read the
Thebaid more than three times, nor ever with intent care and interest' (A. E. Housman, 'Notes on the
Thebaid of Statius', CQ 33 (1933) 1). We must try to make out the forcelines marked out in this dis-
taste, why it was quite so important to be quite so clear about this, what was (/ is) at stake.
21. Prop. 2.8.10, cf. Lucr. 5.326, bellum Thebanum etfunera Troiae, Corneille, Rodogune 171-2, Ces
deux sieges fameux de Thebes et de Troie, / Qui mirent I'une en sang, I'autre aux flammes en proie.
22. Thebaid's night-attack in Book 10 is to recover Tydeus' corpse. In //. Book 10, Tydeus' son is
abroad (Ahl (n. 12) 2867). You will recognize Thebaid's pattern as their squires 'rummage, locate, (fail
to) retrieve' Tydeus' and Parthenopaeus' corpses (scrutari campum, 359, quaeritur, 370). Floodlighting
from the Moon/Diana helped (monstrauit funera, 371), but Hopleus dies hugging Tydeus (tenens, 403),
and then, like a cornered mother lioness (414-19), Dymas invokes the Theban paradigm of/no and
Palaemon for pity (425) before falling upon Hopleus' body by way of 'burial' (pectus / iniecit puero,
440): a la Aen. 9's Nisus and Euryalus, but re-doubled, as the foursome hugs death {complexibus, 442).
/ Eat your heart out, Virgil.
23. M. Davies, The epic cycle (1989) 23-9: 'The Thebais'.
24. F. I. Zeitlin, 'Thebes: theater of self and society in Athenian drama', in J. J. Winkler and F. Zeitlin,
(edd.), Nothing to do with Dionysos? Athenian drama in its social context (1990) 145-7: 'The Middle
Term: Argos'.
25. Referential void, so mytho/logical arena.
26. New tatters in H. Lloyd-Jones and P. Parsons, Supplementum Hellenisticum (1983) frr. 52-79.
27. See K. Ziegler, Das hellenistische Epos2 (1966) 20-2.
28. Propertius 1.7, 9. See H.-P. Stahl, Propertius: 'Love' and 'War'. Individual and state under Augustus
(1985) 48—71, esp. 63—5. When the elegist's project, his second book, works with a suicidal Thebes
over against a heroic Troy in caricatural dejection of Vergil's 'Iliad re-make, do we hear most
proximately ex Pontico as well as from Accian/Attic tragedy? (Cf. Stahl 182: 'Will the same lasting
praise be granted to the Aeneidl Or will it suffer the fate of Ponticus' or Lynceus' or Homer's
29. See F. M. Ahl, 'The Rider and the horse: politics and power in Roman poetry from Horace to
Statius', ANRW 232.1 (1984) 40-100. Theb. 1.156-7 makes explicit a la Lucan the cosmic
amplification it will work upon Thebes, cf. Ahl (n. 12) 2827.
30. Ahl (n. 12) 2814 rightly stresses that the War of 69 was bloodshed in vain for most everyone, (miser
heu bellorum terminus! illi [sc. Creon] /pugnauerant fratres..., 'Aaagh! Sick Armistice! Brother fought
brother - and HE collects!', 11.651-2).
31. Cf. A. Lee, Realism and power. Postmodern British fiction (1990) 83, quoting Schechner, '"All
effective performances share this 'not - not not' quality .. . inbetweenness." . .. [Narratives] "act
inbetween identities" themselves, and also textualize this in the performance of their characters and
examinations of subjectivity.'
32. See W. Schetter, 'Die Einheit des Prooemium zur Thebais des Statius', MH 19 (1962) 204-17,
Vessey (n. 6) 60-7, (n. 9) 2971^1.
33. Marked at 1.6 (praeteriisse sinam, 'By-pass. I'll let be'. Cf. Ahl (n. 12) 2821 n. 25, 'The entire epic is
as conscious of the Cadmean past as the Roman future').
34. At 4.553-78 Manto roll-calls the Cadmean stemma.
35. For the ins-and-outs of Thebes' all-pervasive (re-)productivity, see S. Goldhill, 'Exegesis: Oedipus
(R)ex', Arethusa 17 (1984) 177-200.

36. No more than anyone else can I omit mention of Statius pater, the Neapolitan teacher-poet.
Because Statius^/u« could not: he writes of his authority-figures, / his writing is figured as the trace of
their authority. (See Silu. 5.3, A. Hardie, Statius and the Silvae: poets, patrons and epideixis in the
Graeco-Roman wor/rf (1983) 5-14.)
37. For Cadmus' return (- his notorious 'over-valuation of blood relations' -) 'as' Oedipodionides, cf.
e.g. 1.182-3 (iussus . . . quaerer 'Cadmus / exul ... 'Cadmus directed to search in exile') with 1.312
(patriis ... uagus exsul ab oris, 'Polynices wandering from his fathers' shores in exile').
Oedipus' 'quest for The Father' led him to 'probe his sockets' (scrutatus lumina, 1.46). This, as
our reading eyes will register, introduces the gestural figuration of the poem's assault on the reader's
gaze. / To exaggerate, / the poem is this acid attack.
/ Statius sows the words for 'delving' and 'rummaging', scrut- and rim-, with the sack (e.g. 3.564,
scrulari penitus superos, 7.761, rimantur terras, 8.253, sceleris ... rimatur semina, 724, rimatus ...
Astaciden, 9.451, scrutatur uiscera, 10.530, scrutantur ... turres, scrutari x 0 in Virgil, x 1 in Ovid, x
6 in Lucan (a miscellany like Statius' just listed; see esp. 8.556-7), x 1 in Val. Flacc. rimari x 3 in
Aen., x 1 in Ovid, x 0 in Lucan, x 0 in Val. Flacc. Cf. M. Dewar, Statius Thebaid IX, edited with an
English translation and commentary (1991) 106 on 9.244).
/ This / - like any - / epic attacks its eyes: e.g. decapitated 'wide eyes search for their trunk' (hiantes j
truncum oculi quaerunt, 7.645-6); the trampled dying 'see chariots coming over their faces' {super ora
uident, 7.765); the trampling war-horse 'mashes helmet into face, shield into chest' (in uultus galeam
... calcat, 8.541); one victim, 'shot by the self-burying point of a barb with triplet claws, pulls out the
arrowful of left eye' (luminius orbe sinistro . . . callida tergeminis acies se condidit uncis . .. oculo plenam
labente sagittam, 9.751) before the re-doubled wound perfects his darkness' (alio geminatum lumine
uulnus I expleuil tenebras, 753—4): he hunts from memory before 'falling over a corpse' {prolapsus in
Idan I decidit, 755-6); on Thebes' Killing Fields, corpses show 'arrows sticking straight up, stuck
straight into eyeballs' (mediis ... sagittae / luminibus stantes, 12.30).
/ Contemptible theatrics. / How does it compare, then, with the unerringly-named King Harold of
The Poet, Virgil's 'Saces', aduersa sagitta / saucius ora ('enemy arrow in face-wound', Aen. 12.651-2),
come to tell Turnus he's blind (cf. 670-1) to his men's imploring 'gaze' {ora ... oculos, 656-7)?
/ Contemptibly. / Perhaps. But how does it compare with the obscenities of War! It's very
restrained, surely. (For attempts to verbalize Killing Fields see V. D. Hanson, The Western way of
war. Infantry battle in classical Greece (1989). For the view of War's Divisions from the Women's field
ambulance, cf. J. Marcus, 'Corpus/corps/corpse: writing the body in/at war', in H. M. Cooper, A.
Auslander Munich, and S. Merrill Squier (edd.), Arms and the woman. War, gender, and literary
representation (1989) 124-67: e.g. 128, a quote from Mary Borden's 'First War' faction 'The
Forbidden Zone':

It is impossible to be a woman here. One must be dead,.. . There are no men here, so why should I
be a woman? There are heads and knees and mangled testicles. There are chests with holes as big
as your fist, and pulpy thighs, shapeless; and stumps where legs once were fastened. There are eyes
- eyes of sick dogs, sick cats, blind eyes, eyes of delirium; and mouths that cannot articulate; and
parts of faces - the nose gone, or the jaw. There are these things - but no men.

Hexameters can hardly show us past the perimeter fence of repression round any Warzone: it says on
any such Wall, 'Official: Art-Writing Keep Out.'
38. Vessey (n. 9) 3006. Some featured concatenations: 1.125-30, 154-5, 591-2, 3.564-5, 7.216-7,
12.504. (Now this is a list, (like all lists.) a list of lists.) / Alternat(iv)ely, you face, again and again, 'a
mannerism discussed by Curtius and termed by him "verse-filling asyndeton"; often used . . . merely
as a proof of logodaedaly . . . ' (Vessey (n. 6): 148).
39. Last and prima facie least here, the echoes of Cadmean Ino's grief for her little toddler Palaemon
will re-double through the text (1.122, 2.381, 4.59, 562, 6.10, 7.421, 9.331, 402, 10.425. Cf. Dewar (n.
37) 122 on 9.328ff., 133^4 on 9.401ff., 'For Statius, the myth seems to have symbolized the universal
pathos of bereavement').
40. S. Cohan and L. M. Shires, Telling stories. A theoretical analysis of narrative fiction (1988) 1, q.v.

41. Aonia spells 'Thebes', as it spells 'epic' - genre and material self-originating as one. (Cf. 1.314, and
passim. Thus Eteocles is 'Aonides', 9.95.) In Northern Greece, the Muses sing their own, cf. 7.285-9,
628-31 - their own dirge, 8.552-3.
42. R. Ogilvie quoted by Ahl (n. 12) 2808.
43. This programme sentence says what it does, 'straining' 'enough' to run through its seven limbs and
so to pile hexameters into a 'huge heap' that culminate in its self-enacting last word through a three-
verse clausal flourish, / caerula cum rubuit.. . Dirce / et Thetis . .. / horruit ingenti uenientem Ismenon
aceruo, / (rogi ~ regum makes a punceptual point.)
44. uatis hiatus, 42, means 'a (single) chasm gobbled the seer'; exemplum sui, the phrase tells of 'the
bard's sublime sonorities' - Only an epicist could stretch his throat round these strains . . . If you read
on, you will come to see your Amphiaraean Self engulfed, along with your entire text, in the 'hell-deep
maw of wound down into the warrior's corpse' (ei mihi, sed quanto descendit uulnus hiatul, 12.340).
45. (I accept the old suggestion of alto, for alio, at 1.45). The catalogue of the Seven returns, inflated,
as the Argive Catalogue, 4.32-308. 1.41 parades its quotation from Horace's Pindaric tag, Odes
1.12.1, reminding us that Statius' discussion of his epic poetic is not confined to its text. His Horatian
alterity, as the Flavian lyricist of Siluae, serves as an interpretative matrix, developed from Horace's
lyric comments on the Virgilian project. An important part of the rhetoric of humility in Proem and in
Epilogue is this colouring of Thebaid as a poem which chooses to be other and less than itself (cf.
Schetter (n. 16) 20-1, Vessey (n. 6) 41^t, 'The "Thebaid" in the "Silvae").
46. Cf. Cinna fr. 11.1-2, haec ... multum inuigilata ... / carmina, R. O. A. M. Lyne, Ciris. A poem
attributed to Vergil, edited with an introduction and commentary (1978) 120-1, on Ciris 46.
47. On the epilogue see Vessey (n. 9) 2974-6. The last line looks forward to the poet's own memorial,
deferred but promised, like his poem's.
48. Juvenal 7.82-7. This comically exploits the personification in Theb. 12.810-9 and other points of
Statius' poetic statements are incorporated elsewhere through the satire. See S. H. Braund, Beyond
anger, A study of Juvenal's third book of Satires (1988): Index s.v. Statius.
49. Hor. Odes. 2.20.19-20, noscent . . . dicet, cf. Theb. 12.814-15, noscere ... discit. This is imposed
onto the 'humble' epilogue prosopopoeia of Hor. Epp. 1.20.
50. Ovid, Am. 1.15 and esp. Met. 15.871-9 (Vessey (n.9) 2974-6). In particular, cf. Theb. 12.819, /
occidet, with Met. 15.879, uiuam / and, in the insert Lucan 9.980-6, 986, / uiuet (Ahl (n. 12) 2835 n. 36,
for Ovid/Statius bibliography).
51. Lucr. 3.4, etc. Cf. D. Clay, Lucretius and Epicurus (1983) 40, 'On first impression it appears that he
considered himself a follower, but it is also clear that in relation to his reader he regarded himself as a
leader and that in terms of Roman poetry he viewed himself as taking a path taken by none before
52. 11.579, soli memorent haec proelia reges. But -
53. Vessey (n. 6)61.
For evasive deferral, sublation, with a nondum, 'not yet', cf. Virg. Georg. 3 Proem, Prop. 2.10,
Calpurnius' first word, so whole auvre; so Theb. 12.1,firstword, so programme for its book: / nondum
cuncta ('Light at the end of the tunnel, dear reader. Nearly there. A book of totalization to cap even
the eleven you've just known.')
55. See Callim. Aet. fr. 1.25—8. limes, favourite edge of Statian meaning: cf. 1.25, 136, confundunt
limite, 157, 322, 390, 2.61, 3.502,4.2, 413, 450, 5.286, 7361, 6.629, 7.595, 747, 8.326,9.183, 364, 10.298,
611, 11.473, 12.241. (The nexus with trames, semita, orbita, callis et sim. programmes Statian

56. For Nachleben see Dewar (n. 37) Introduction 3 7 ^ 8 ; cf. the refs. in AM (n.12) 2807 n. 5, Vessey (n.
6) 2 n. 3, Venini (1970) 7 n. 1. / This could be disputable. Christine de Pizan can model for the
problem: in Book of the City of Ladies 2.17 she presents the exemplum 'Argia', to show Augustinians
how woman's nature has the potential to match all man can do', as ever - ex hypothesi - h e r materials
are courtesy of the 'misogynist' tradition (Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus 27). Does this count as
57. Preface to La Thebaide: La catastrophe de ma piece est peut-etre un peu trop sanglante, en effet, il
n y parait presque pas un acteur qui ne meure a la fin.' 'Too' much for what"! For whom"! (On the play see
T. Cave, Recognitions, A study in poetics (1988) 327-33: a tiro's Oedipal rivalry with Corneille.
Apolitical script and/or depoliticized critique?)
58. Ahl (n. 12) 2900, 'Soldier princes ruled Rome as they had ruled Thebes. The rights of conquest and
of family inheritance . . . were still the rule of the day'; Ahl (n. 12) 2806 n. 4 points us toward Pope's
translation, with J. M. Aden, 'The change of sceptres, and impending woe: political allusion in Pope's
Statius', PhQ 52 (1973) 728-38.
59. Tell a text by what it laughs 'at', its derision, e.g. 5.357, 6.697, 825, 9.820, 10.648, 908, 11.91, 12.35,
768 ...? Thebaid shapes / and shares / the disgust of a traditional reading of Thebaid (such as G.
Williams', Change and decline, Roman literature in the early Empire (1978) esp. 258—9, 262—3).
60. Playing Virgil's second is, then, a Roman appropriation of Hellenic urbanity's topos, with
'Homer'. It means: 'Roll over, Beethoven'.
61. Next most self-adverting moment in Thebaid is 10.445-8, where the poet hopes his tenth book
'Doloneia' will, inferiore lyra or no, last, on a par with Virgil's Euryalus and Nisus. (See Vessey (n. 9)
2966-7; on the episodes' intertextuality, between mea carmina, Aen. 9.446, and mea carmina, Theb.
10.445, cf. B. Kytzler, 'Imitatio und Aemulatio in der Thebais des Statius', Hermes 97 (1969) 209-19.)
The figure of (Lucan's) Thessalian Witch is waved at us as a deceptive 'trailer' for what prove to be
Tiresias'/Manto's necromantic antics (esp. 2.32, 3.142, 559, 4.504). We could say / by way of
exaggeration: / Thebais hates her imitatio. - All those Valerian Medeas and Virgilian Troys that litter
the text -
The same self-consciously disfiguring poetic is at work at every level of Statian textuality. For
example, epic's zoomorph, the War-Horse, hyper-tropes in Statius (face lumina surgunt, 'eyes lit up',
6.396) when the fathers' (Ennius'/Virgil's/ .. ,'s), perfect sound-sense rhy(th)me, summo / quadrupe-
dante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum, goes out of synch, before Thebaid's chariot-race can begin:
pereunt uestigia mille/ante fugam, absentemque ferit grauis ungula campum ( / 'Before the off, a
thousand paces are lost. / On the spot, We're still in the paddock, but the hooves are giving the race-
course a hammering." / Or: 'This plexity of Silver intertextuality, a thousand poet's blooms, so much
lost to us: so many momentary traces, they elude our grasp and then they are gone. Weigh Poetry,
what can it count for? Art - mimesis, representation - is at most what you feel happening as you read,
that beating of the verse on its generic domain, the noise in your ear. Always somewhere else, ever too
soon, topology of the present absence', 6.400-1. / See A. J. Gossage, 'Virgil and the Flavian Epic', in
D. R. Dudley, (ed.), Virgil (1969) 88 for amiable sarcasm. S. von Moisy, Untersuchungen zur
Erzahlweise in Statius' Thebais (1971) 100-3, 102 n. 2. shows how the markers of referential absence
intensify the experience of the text by psychologising, emotionalising, the experience in the text, cf.
amissos longo del ordine tauros, shepherd can't believe his bulls are lost, 'he counts the long line where
they are - gone', 3.52, excitus ira / . . . in absentem consumitproelia fratrem, 'ecstatic wrath exteriorises
him to himself, he devours battles against his brother - wherever he may be', 2.132-3, stant ueteres
ante ora metus campique uacantis / horror, 'ingrained fear faces them with resistance, the past. The
Killing Fields bristle still - they are empty space: for horror, horror uacui', 12.11-2)
As we have seen, Thebaid knows its 'limit': namely, 'confusion'. (Ahl (n. 29) 95-6 explains how
Arion the Wonder Horse's saddling with Polynices stands emblem for crashed Power-relations,
Flavian disjunction: esp. aurigam fugit. 'They're off. The horse is up and running— from it own driver',
62. W. H. Auden, 'Epitaph on a Tyrant' in S. Heaney and T. Hughes (edd.), The rattle bag (1982) 142.
63. M. Holub, 'A history lesson' in Heaney and Hughes (n. 62) 191.

64. Think of it as that space that keeps your ears apart. For instance, 'Thebes, by the way, was
Dryden's irreverent name for Cambridge' (Swinburne: in O.E.D.: s.v. Thebes. Ahl and Vessey,
Henderson and Hardie - ) .
65. See J. T. Irwin, Doubling & incest/repetition & revenge. A speculative reading of Faulkner (1975)
passim and esp. 120 for 'revenge' as a self-perpetuating, feedback loop of alternation. Oedipus runs
Creon through 'Success-ion at Thebes' at 11.681-705; his curse makes, has made, 'Creon = Oedipus'
(12.85—6, et nunc Oedipodi par est fortuna doloris / ac mihi? quam similes gemimus ... umbras).
66. Markers of latecoming proliferate, e.g. 3.179-80, 8.52-3, 11.615, 12.506.
67. o iustissime diuum ('Just the Justest God of them all, hey!', 1.250), calls Juno to pater omnipotens,
248 - in (impassioned; convincing?) reproach -: 'How far back is far back enough" (retro ... sat,
1.268-9, cf. W. Schubert, Jupiter in den Epen der Flavierzeit (1984) passim, esp. 253-60 for Thebaid
and theodicy, Ahl (n. 12) 2839: this essay, exp. 2834-50, is a sustained impeachment of The White
House in the Sky, 7e Pluton de I'Olympe' (R. Lesueur, Stace, Thebaide Livres I-IV (1990) 40). In this
ultimate merger of brother's lines, Jupiter/Pluto overdetermine Eteocles/Polynices to the infernal
infinity of a cosmic/Karnak 'Thebes'.
On Statius' Capitol Hill, Jupiter mentions 'universal peace' just the once - as a 'Peace Dividend'
threat to put General Gradivus out of a job, i.e. to encourage him to encourage his men, 7.32.
68. 1.214-82. For the 'Tantalid' Argive connection, cf. the synchrony at 4.308, el hie alii miscebant
proelia fratres. (At 10.785, Argive women just are Tantalides.)
69. E.g. Vessey (n. 9) 2969.
70. Cf. 4.436, consanguineas acies sulcosque nocentes ('blood-lines, ploughed Guilt').
71. So 4.631-2, quisemet in ortus / uertit, etc. Cf. 1.316, recursans, for Oedipodionid psychic recursion:
Obsession. One way, and another, war is remeabile, a recursus / (6.946, an echoing book-end) - like
Adrastus' Oedipal/'Freudian' 'boomerang arrow' (uenit harundo retro versumque a fine tenorem/
pertulit, et notae iuxta ruit ora pharetrae, 6.940-1; back to the quiver-womb, as I would misread the
hidden riddle of the book's outcome: penitus lalet exitus ingens, 'Deep is the secret. What is the "end"?
The question dwarfs us', 944). Cf. J-P. Vernant, 'From Oedipus to Periander: Lameness, Tyranny,
Incest in Legend and History', Arethusa 15 (1982) 23:

Like a boomerang, the return [sc. of Oedipus] occurs not in the proper time, under the required
conditions, in the Tightness of a succession respecting the order of generations, but in the violence
of an excessive indentification . . . (H)e goes back too far . . .
On the transferential uncanniness of 'Narrative recursion' see D. P. Spence, 'Narrative recursion', in
S. Rimmon-Kenan (ed.), Discourse in psychoanalysis & literature (1987) 187-210).
Statius' 'end' of the first half of his epic with recursusj , buries the secret that his books of war to
come are (pre-)destined to repeat their preparations past, text-deep (cf. B. Kytzler, 'Beobachtungen zu
den Wettspielen in der Thebais des Statius', Traditio 24 (1968) 14-15, Juhnke (n. 15) 113 and n. 264.
Book Seven will start with an 'And . . . ' , atque ea cunclanles Tyrii primordia belli ..., 'And (so),
reverting to type, Thebaid will continue to defer its first battle-action').
72. Ann. 174, oras euoluere belli, Aen. 1.262, uoluens fatorum arcana mouebo.
73. The Bacchic Odes 2.19, 3.5 lie behind nourishes like Theb. 1.3 in the Siluae.
To stoke the 'heat' of Thebais, cf. the priming of'Bellona's War-Torch', 4.6, by 1.249, 422,426, 631,
662, 2.391, 411, 571, 673, 685, 3.124, 260-1, 338, 383, 406-8, 595 . . . 'Madness' is unleashed to open
the narrative, its narrative (1.126 and passim; cf. Schetter (n. 16) 5-20, ' 1 . Die zentralen Motive. 1.
'Thebes" blind darkness, the place (where) we hide from ourselves, is (to be) experienced inside the
head, it re-plays the mind's T of Oedipus: saeua dies animi ... in pectore Dirae ('mental day-light
turned sadist', 1.52. Cf. floodlit Tiresias, desiste canendo / . . . externae satis est mihi lucis, inertes /
discedunt nebulae, et uultum niger ex [.. Jit aef, 'Stop the song. I have plenty of light coming in my

window, the clouds that block an artist evaporate and black fog [blank]-s my face', 4.583-5; so
P(olynices) respicit Argian; haec mentem oculosque reducit coniugis ('looks back to Argia; she returns
his gaze inside to the conjugal', 4.91), anticipates 9.40, where nox oculos mentemque rapit has P. 'faint
inside over Tydeus', and 12.187, where dead P. is for Argia ante oculos omni manifestus in actu
('palpably there in every move'); Creon, too, over Menoeceus: ilium quaeritque tenetque, ... ilium ...
aspicit ... semper de turre cadentem ('hunts for him, hugs him, watches him forever falling forever
down from his turret', 11.265-7.
The boys' mens will follow in the wake of their poet's (1.87; P's does, 1.322, but it can't speak . . . its
. . . his . . . [paternity], 1.466. For the epicist as uates, see D. O'Higgins, 'Lucan as Vates\ CA 7 (1988)
208-22: thus Statius bonds with Amphiaraus as his hypostasis, with eight addresses to him, Moisy (n.
61) 9; and the poet calls to his Muses at 10.830-1 for maior ... a-mentia, for his hyperbole of
hyperbolae, that maius opus, mad-Capaneus. Cf. Schetter (n. 16) 19-20).
74. Cf. Tiresias, 4.583-5, above, and esp. 12.494, where icon-free Cle-mentia just loves to habit(u)ate
mentes - like Thebais.
75. For the Senecan in Thebaid, cf. Vessey (n. 6) 57, 70.
76. Cf. F. L. Moreland, 'The role of darkness in Statius: a reading of Thebaid I', CJ 70 (1974-5) 20-31,
Vessey (n. 6) 9 2 ^ .
77. / deserit.j praeterit,/ linquit, 329, 332, 335.
78. Notice Scirone ... Scyllaea 'equalizing' petras ro rura, 333. These landscape details 'suggest the
frenzy and thirst for blood in Polynices himself (Moreland (n. 76) 23). 'The old man of Megara and
Corinth the even-tempered', seni milemque, 334, ready us for reception by the lobotomized fogey of
Argos, Adrastus (cf. sen-, 391, 434, 474, 491, mit-, 448, 467).
79. limite, 332, litora, 335. pendens / keeps us hanging through a 'purple-passage', the two-verse
tricolon of mythography, that rises to the Greek termination Corinthon / , before we leave it with/
linquit, 332-5. Statius is a writer. He really / nearly / is.
80. Cf. Moreland (n. 76) 24.
81. Moreland (n. 76) 24: the 'black night' here is the mental darkness wished by Oedipus on his son.
82. percussa sonant... rauco / ore minatur .. .frementes / confligunt. .. uellunt /, 347-9. Feel Theban
Brothers in Auster's struggle with Boreas.
83. Boreal hiatu /, 352, figures this glacial Epic's magnum os.
84. For Statius' Taenarus Hell, cf. 1.96, 2.32^14, etc. alta ... agmine magno ... surgens concentrates
epic markers (to find in Erasmus a nicely (un)Callimachean muddy river to go with the unavoidably
recurrent Inachus, Statius thinks here, as he does elsewhere, of Sen. Agam. 315-23, with lnachia ...
Thebais ... Erasini gelidos fontes . . . Ismenos ... Manto / sata Tiresia . . .).
85. The river scene tells us Thebais is a re-make, no-holds-barred, churning up the dregs, putting the
froth of Myth back on the narration of Evil (esp. prius . .. refusa ... funditus ... ueteri, 358-60).
86. The mountain scene tells us Thebais is a re-make, total hybris, the 'Strong Poet's' improvisational
attack on the past, originary display of Madness in Summer (esp. frangitur o-m-n-e n-e-m-u-s . . .
antiqua . .. nullis . .. per aeuum, 361-3.
87. Hear aural revelation in what follows: patuere ... pauens p&ssimque ... pastorum pecorumque,
363-7. Pan, Everywhere.
88. Cf. Moreland (n. 76) 25, / woefully exaggerating, / 'For him (P.), Eteocles is the storm.'
Don't miss that 'in-betweenness' in a-mens, the veiling of the absence leaving on display, where it
cannot be missed, the cancelled trace of what it denies: we can think no full disjunction from 'mind'.
Amens here is a key textual 'punctum', the 'gash' in reading where we are opened to ourselves.

89. N. MacCaig, 'After his death', in Heaney and Hughes (n. 62) 22.
90. J. Henderson, 'Lucan/The world at war', in A. J. Boyle (ed.), The imperial muse, Vol. I: To Juvenal
through Ov/a?(1988) 149. Moisy (n. 61) 1—39, 'A) Subjektive Erzahlelemente', reports 68 apostrophae,
splendidly isolating the chief techniques of this the style of the C.lst C.E. / showing how to feel its
91. So-called loci philosophumenoe, e.g. 1.144-51, nondum crasso laquearia fulua metallo ... ('Not yet
ceilings gilded with precious crust .. .': outdoing Lucan, Moisy (n. 61) 17-9, q.v.), 3.551-65, 4.408,
6.934-7, 10.629-30. For political doxa, cf. qui mospopulis, uenturus amatur ('People do love their next-
but-one rulers, don't they?', 1.170). Thus the anonymous voice of Thebes' Country Joe spouts safe
treason sous rature, rising to: hie imperat, Me minatur ('Yin commands/Yang menaces', 1.196, Ahl
(n.12) 2829; cf. 10.586-7, with Menoeceus' mother, ut alterni ... Oedipodionii mutent diademata
fratres ('All this. Just so those princes can play crown-swapping, brother-to-brother', 10.800-1); folk
'curse the foe out loud, mentally their ruler', 2.481 (cf. 8.615, 11.755-6); libertas = speaking out
before the tyrant, 3.214-5 (Ahl (n. 12) 2830-1); Statius asks: 'When will they ever learn?' at 11.656-7,
numquamne priorum j haerebunt documenta nouis?
92. F. Meltzer, Salome and the dance of writing. Portraits of mimesis in literature (1987) 197. On the
pivotal force of the epic proem's interrogation, cf. G. B. Conte, La 'Guerra Civile'diLucano (1987) 13-
14. L. Thompson and R. T. Bruere, 'Lucan's use of Virgilian reminiscence', CPh 63 (1968) 2B accept
the echo. (Agonized epic speeches, however, regularly begin somewhat thus, e.g. Aen. 5.670-1,
11.732-3, Met. 3.531, Theb. 2.212-3, 548, 3.607, 10-804 . . . 'Laocoon's style of oratory . . . in its
deliberate artlessness . . . is reminiscent of the oratory of early Republican Rome . . . specifically the
prototype of the old Roman, Cato the Elder,' J. P. Lynch, 'Laocoon and Sinon: Virgil, Aeneid 2.40-
198', G & R 27 (1980) 171.)
93. So in Pluto's curse, where he thinks he determines the Theban narrative, fratres .. .fratres alterna
in uulnera ... ruant ('Brothers . . . Brothers can go dive into wounds for each other', 8.70. Cf.
Tisiphone's non solitas acies . . . sedfratrum ..., 'war gone strange - lines of brothers', 11.97-8, and
Polynices' fratri concurro, quid ultra estt, 'I invade Brother. The absolute LIMIT', 11.185).
94. Cf. H. Bardon, 'Le gout a Pepoque des Flaviens', Latomus 21 (1962) 732-48: esp. 741-3, with
Lesueur (n. 67) 'Introduction' 49-51, 'Une esthetique baroque?'.
95. Robustly deconstructed by W. R. Johnson, Momentary monsters. Lucan and his heroes (1988)
96. Schetter (n. 16) 122-5, 'Die Thebais als manieristisches Kunstwerk', Vessey (n. 6) 8. G. K.
Galinsky, 'Was Ovid a Silver Latin poet?', in Marcovich (n. 12) 70-1 shows how in the beginning
Curtius named 'mannerism' for the pile of the 'un-, non-, pre-, post-, anti-classical': the abject, then
(cf. Ahl (n. 12) 2809-10; Vessey (n. 9) 2974 re-makes 'mannerism' into 'poetry', deferral, resistance to
and protection from paraphrase).
97. Vessey (n. 16) 572.
98. See for what follows J. P. Euben, The tragedy ofpolitical theory. The road not taken (1990) passim,
esp. Chs. 1-2.
99. M. Foucault, Discipline and punish (1979) 217, cf. Euben (n. 98) 298, 'Nor do we live in anything
approaching a Greek polis.' (Contrast Gilbert Murray in 1915, quoted in P. Buitenhuis, The great war
of words. Literature as propaganda 1914-18 and after (1989) 48: 'England is "a community in which
one man dies for his brother . . . It is for us that these men are dying, for us the women, the old men,
and the rejected men." ').
100. J. A. Boon, Other tribes, other scribes. Symbolic anthropology in the comparative study of cultures,
histories, religions and text (1982) 230-1.
101. Hanson (n. 37) 'Introduction' 13. See passim for what follows: he soon proves that literary
carnage cushions us from the realities.

102. E.g. //. 11.426-55, Aen. 10.338-^14, Juhnke (n. 15) 74-5.
Statius, then, runs true to 'form': twin brothers regret killing twin brothers, 'helmet-masked'
(occultos galeis, 8.448-55, para-Homeric dual duel, after //. 16.317-29, cf. 326-7, hos to men doioisi
kasigneloisi damente / beten eis Erebos ... Juhnke (n. 15) 128 n. 316.); a true brother sooner dies than
deserts his brother (9.272-5); one twin spared and one speared - so mum and dad won't have any
more trouble telling them apart (9.292); Menoeceus and Haemon fight side by side, '100% proof
brothers by blood' (consanguinei ... atque omnia fratres, 10.654(; Theseus kills triplet brothers
So Tydeus looks around for 'Anyone with a brother', to kill (8.668-9); Piety appeals 'Calling all
parents and brothers' (11.478); and at centre-stage; Polynices 'wants to die in his brother's blood'

103. For the 'confusion' of una in urna, cf. Ovid, Met. 4.166, the end of Pyramus/Thisbe, quodque
rogis superest, una requiescit in urna.I ('The pyre-remains. R.I.P. At one in one, earned, urn' and
Lucan 9.1003, unam ... urnam /, 'one whole in one hole') with Theb. 3.148-9,/e//ce.s quos una dies,
manus abstulit una. / peruia uulneribus media trabe pectora nexi ('Lucky Sons! Lost to one day, one foe,
and joined for ever - by a dirty great pole stuck right through your medals, a Highway for wounds.'
See Vessey (n. 6) 125 on this self-enacting verse).

104. Cf. Juhnke (n. 15) 35 and n. 79 and Dewar (n. 37) 126-34 for Ismenis' para-Homeric search.

105. Cf. esp. 3.151-3 (Ide), hosne ego complexus . . . quae uulnera tractem?
Thebaid's Oedipal pattern of 'brother + brother; add: father' is recurrent, e.g. erecta genas
aciemque offusa trementi j sanguine ('Cheeks/sockets erect and eyesight suffused with pulsating blood',
5.95-6), Polyxo sets the Lemnian stakes at 'four sons, plus Pop', uulnera fratrum / miscebopatremque
simul spirantibus addam ('My recipe calls for brothers - and a dash of dad; add before all the
ingredients go flat', 5.125-6. Cf. M. Gotting, Hypsipyle in der Thebais des Statius (1969) 75-7, Vessey
(n. 6) 175); twin snake-shaking Tisiphone/ra/rem huicfratrem ingerit Mi, / aut utrique patrem ('piles
brother on x, brother on y, or daddy z on x + y', 7.467-8).

106. Cf. Oedipus' behest to Tisiphone, i media in fratres ('Go get between the brothers', 1.84); so e.g.
Polynices will face brother 'even if mother and sisters interpose themselves' (in media arma cadant,
11.170-1); Argia and Antigone threaten to 'jump in the pyre to separate the warring brothers' shades'
(mediae in ignes ueniemus, 12.446).

107. J. Henderson, 'Not "Women in Roman satire" but "When satire writers 'Woman'", in S. H.
Braund (ed.), Satire and society in ancient Rome (1989) 97.

108. 3.151, complexus . .. oscula. As we saw, birth is relative/ly loose relationship compared with the
comradeship of the trenches.

109. Drool, as brother watches brother die, closes the other's oculos etiamnum in luce natantes
('swimming, still, in light', 2.638-9. Cf. Atys expiring in romantic mutual gaze on his fiancee Ismene's
lap, uisus defeclaque ... ora / sustulit; Mam unam neglecto lumine caeli / aspicit et uultu non satiatur
amato /, 'lifting the eyes in his dead face, he focussed on her, on her, on her, and for the first and last
time can't get enough, gazing in her gaze - LOVE!', 8.648-50. She gets to 'close his eyes and flooding
tears pass through eyes onto eyes' (declinare genas ... lacrimasque in luminafudit, 653—4). Creon's are,
fittingly, the \ast in the Vine of those needing 'eyes - no mote wandering ?oi them, you've made your
last big mistake - closed' (oculis extremo errore solutis, 12.777).

110. Cf. Hanson (n. 37) 11.

111. Capaneus at 6.737, the text's sole use of ciuilis, denies that Thebes-Argos conflict counts as 'civil
bloodshed'. Contrast Ahl (n. 12) 2869, 'It is the archetypal civil war in which noone triumphs.' Z.
Petre, 'Themes dominants et attitudes politiques dans les Septs Contre Thebes d'Eschyle', StudClas 13
(1971) 24, explores with insight the half-truth of her formulation: 'Cette lutte fratricide est iimage
mythique de la guerre civile'

112. P. Vidal-Naquet, 'Les boucliers des heros. Essai sur la scene centrale des Sept contre Thebes,
Oedipe entre deux cites. Essai sur iOedipe a Colone\ in J.-P. Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, Mythe et
tragedie en Grece ancienne II (1986) 186.
113. Vidal-Naquet (n. 112) 144, 'II y a fusion entre la guerre etrangere et la guerre civile, entre les deux
cotes du fronton? This ambiguity about who is really an enemy and an outsider, and about where he is,
is the ambiguity of the house of Laius itself (Bacon (n. 15) 27; cf. W. G. Thalmann, Dramatic art in
Aeschylus's Seven Against Thebes (1978) 3 8 ^ 2 , 'The city's walls: inside and outside').
Theb. 8.353-7 is a trace of the old Seplem schema; otherwise, Menoeceus' jumping, Capaneus'
blasting and Theseus' storming from the (very same) ramparts survive to tell of the siege's symmetries,
10.765-82, 875, 882, 12.706.
114. Cf. Ahl (n. 12) 2880-1, 'Is [P.] an Argive or a Theban prince?' (At 2.426-7, brother calls him regi /
Argolico: cf. 4.91-2, 7.457; Creon becomes Eteocles, Oedipodionesque Tyrant, when he gives the
'Order of the Day: henceforth, that brother is Argive' (Argiuus haberi \ frater iussus, 12.58-9; P.
himself addresses Adrastus reverentially us pater, then referentially as socer, 11.156—63).
115. Cf. 7.689, parcior ad dues Polynicis inhorruit ensis ('Polynices' sword brought, and betrayed,
horror to his fellow Thebans with less gusto.' Not, then, quite abstaining, just less busy than brother?
Cf. Vessey (n. 6) 141).
116. With 'grim eyes, bloodless cheeks/sockets' (7.474), Jocasta's topic prompts aversion: fratrem . ..
quid aufers lumina ? -fratrem ... ('your brother . . . why turn your eyes away ? - your brother ...',
508-9. In book 11, she must try to stop the 'Coriolanus' within, Eteocles: she is sardonically/stupidly
'compared' with mother Agave, head-in-hand (11.318-20. Cf. Vessey (n. 6) 273—4, on 'These twin
episodes . . . ) .
117. G. Wills, 'Critical inquiry (Kritik) in Clausewitz', in W. J. T. Mitchell (ed.), The politics of
interpretation (1983) 160-1.
118. Before Thebaid, Eur. Suppl. was the classic switchback between 'the rhetoric of eulogy' and 'the
ugly facts of blood, wounds, and bodily decay, the pathos of loss . . . unabated, and . . . unassaged by
the physical contact for which the mothers have longed (cf. 69-70, 815-18)' (P. Burian, 'Logos and
Pathos: the politics of the Suppliant Women', in P. Burian (ed.), Directions in Euripidean criticism. A
collection of essays (1985) 149, q.v.).
119. Lucan 8.407, cf. 1.551-2,4.549-51, E. Narducci, 'Sconvolgimenti naturali e profezia delle guerre
civili', Maia 26 (1974) 103-5, Ahl (n. 12) 2812-6, 'The theme of civil war'.
120. The slogan of F. Dupont, L'Acteur roi: le theatre dans la Rome antique (1985), cf. J. Henderson,
'Tacitus/The world in pieces', in Boyle (n. 20) 190.
121. J. F. Federspiel, The Ballad of Typhoid Mary (1984) 137.
122. R. Waters, 'Another brick in the wall Part 3 . . . The trial', on Pink Floyd, The Wall (1979).
123. L. N. Tolstoy, War and peace (1957) Book 3 part 1.19, Vol. 2. 987; cf. M. Cumming, A
disimprisoned epic, Form and vision in Carlyle's French Revolution (1988) 65 for Hegelian 'regret' at
the passing of the epoch of epic.
124. Cumming (n. 123) 113, 'the variegated and troubled form of phantasmagory'.
125. C. Belsey, John Milton. Language, gender, power (1988) 36, 8.
126. It is only in the culturally salient, determinative, instance that critique of the 'warring' forces in
the text can proceed: hence the self-inspiring effectivity of the canon: 'If tragedy is a negation of the
possibility of a systematic order of knowledge, how is it that it is itself one of the finest examples of
this supposedly impossible order?' presumes to be a pressing question precisely because it is asked of
(fifth-century Athenian) tragedy (T. J. Reiss, Tragedy and truth. Studies in the development of a

renaissance and neoclassical discourse (1980) 21). / For Statius' 'nervosite, ... des tensions spasmodi-
ques, des mouvements convulsifs', cf. Lesueur (n. 67) 'Introduction' 50-1.
127. Cf. Euben (n. 98) 292 on DeMan: 'Every [text] contains not just a view of the world, but the view
that its view cannot be a fully accurate representation of the world.' The view 'of the Thebaid: 'Surely
it doesn't even contain a "view", any view?', fights one corner / over against epic's threat to totalize.
128. Cf. Euben (n. 98) 133, '. . . the closed entropic society of Thebes . . . literally a trope for
imprisonment, exile and death.' On the two 'entropies', cf. D. Porush, The soft machine. Cybernetic
fiction (1985) esp. 56-7.
129. Zeitlin (n. 24) 134, 145. You must read this essay (earlier version in J. P. Euben (ed.), Greek
tragedy and political theory (1986) 101^1; Vidal-Naquet (n. 112) and Euben (n. 98), esp. 99-100,
explore further).
130. Euben (n. 98) 149.
131. Euben (n. 98) 139-40. For a Theban' sky, cf. 6.241, Evening/Morning Star known to be 'one,
through alternating risings' (atterno ... unus in ortu); for 'Theban' maps, cf. races 'which Isthmus
catches up inside, this side; and [races] which Isthmus shoves away below, away down there, with this
rim, then that, in alteration' (quas . .. alligat intus / Isthmos et alterno quas margine submovet infra,
2.182-3), and 'Corinth on high, sheltering a double sea, with shadow here, then shadow there, in
alternation' (Acrocorinthos ... alterna geminum mare protegit umbra, 7.106-7).
132. R. Barthes, On Racine (1977) 61, 62-3 (see 61-6; cf. Zeitlin (n. 24) 140); F. I. Zeitlin, Under the
sign of the shield. Semiotics and Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes (1982) 25—6:
Two sons must 'fight not so much to settle the differences between them . . . but instead to establish
through violence a definitive difference - victor-vanquished - by means of which they can be
distinguished each from each' [Fineman . . . on Girard]. But Eteokles and Polyneikes, by their
mode of death, which I have termed reciprocal and reflexive, fail to establish that difference
between victor and vanquished, for each is victor over the other but each is also vanquished by the
other. This is exactly the meaning of their conflict, unlike other conflicts between brothers . . . ,
namely, that issue from an incestuous union cannot establish any difference between its offspring,
but can only produce sons who embody the principle of difference, unreconcilable except through
their inevitable identical end.

Aeschylus' play works especially clearly toward assimilating Eteocles to his brother, esp. Sept. 679 (cf.
Petre(n. 111)23-4).
But cf. Theb. 11.408, coeunt ... pares sub casside uultus, 'Come together: visage + visor:: visor +
visage, end of'DijVision". This is logo/(syn)tactically self-enacted at II.539, fratis uterque furens cupit
adfectatque cruorem / et nescit manare suum ('Brother-to-brother past sanity, lust and body-lurch for
brother's blood, / mind the other side of knowing the flow's its own'. Along with the Fury-Sisters,
admire and be choked, 537-8, at the poetic 'work', opus, 537, performed here by uterque, '2-into-l'; by
the verse-hinge alter(n)ation 'apo koinou - of / fratris ... cruorem j . .. suum that boundaries the
sense-unit; and by the Silver 'agglutination' of que . . . et which presses home the Cartesian paradox).
133. For (arguments over) these arguments see P. D. Tobin, Time and the novel. The genealogical
imperative (1978) / J. L. Beizer, Family plots. Balzac's narrative generations (1986); Zeitlin (n. 132) 2 3 -
8, 'Genos: system of family/system of language'. The triad, family phalanx, of Laertes-Odysseus-
Telemachus to close the Odyssey stands as the model collapsed by the a\\-too-fraternal line Laius-
Oedipus-Eteocles/Polynices. Statius points up that Hypsipyle's twins, the model brothers 'Euneos'
and 'Thoas' - geminis eadem omnia ('Identical twins. Totally', 6.343, cf. 345, 434—5, 477) - spell
respectively a 'good' omen for the ('Ship' of) State and the correct generational pattern of reversal:
grandad's name renewed by grandson (5.464-5, 6.343^. Cf. Irwin (n. 65) 64). These sons are all
Jocasta could want, as they are recognized and 'tear mum in half with greedy hugs taken turn by turn'
(complexibus . .. alterna . . . pectora mutant, 5.722.
134. Cf. Zeitlin (n. 132) 15-22. 'Narrative, time, and repetitive form'.

135. Cf. Euben (n. 129) 'Introduction', 40.

136. Euben (n. 129) esp. 150-5.
137. Devereux quoted by Segal quoted by Euben (n. 98) 62.
138. J. G. Fitch, Seneca's Hercules Furens. A critical text with introduction and commentary (1987)
226, q.v. for refs.
139. 'In distrust of merit', M. Moore, The complete poems (1968) 136 (from 'Nevertheless', 1944).
140. 'In the penal colony', S. Berkoff, Three theatre adaptations from Franz Kafka (1988) 139.
141. A. J. Gossage,'Statius', in D. R. Dudley (ed.), Neronians and Flavians, Silver Latin I (1972) 226 n.
35, Vessey (n. 6) 167. See esp. 5.744, utinam plures innectere pergas, / Phoebe, moras, where
Amphiaraus 'prays for lots of lovely Nemean poetry from Statius'. (For Callimachus' wet-look
nymphettes of Nemea, Vessey (n. 6) 168 n. 4.)
142. See Hardie (n. 3) for this. The chief, paraded, inter-textual episodes are listed, e.g., by Lesueur (n.
67) 'Introduction' 18-25; Juhnke (n. 15) 315-70 tabulates 'Homerparallelen zu Statius' Thebais' in full
('Son of Knauer on Aen.).
143. F. H. Sandbach, 'Anti-antiquarianism in the Aeneid, in S. J. Harrison (ed.), Oxford readings in
Vergil's Aeneid (1990) 461-2 itemizes / and accounts sardonically / for the 'modernity' - the absurdity
of absurdum - of Opheltes' funeral, nine-day's-wonder of a poetic temple and all, in book 6: "There
can be no doubt that it is deliberate, and it would hardly be rash to suppose that he was deliberately
following Virgil's example, when he remembered it.'
144. 5.538-9 (after Ovid, Met. 3.31-4, cf. Vessey (n. 6) 187).
145. See R. F. Thomas, 'Callimachus, the Victoria Berenices, and Roman poetry', CQ n.s. 33 (1983)
esp. 103-5, for Roman poets' play with Callimachus' Victoria Berenices and its Nemean inset juggling
Hercules with Adrastus, Molorchus with Archemorus (cf. P. R. Colace, 'II Nuovo Callimaco di Lille,
Ovidio e Stazio', RFIC 110 (1982) 140-9; and see 6.368 for 'Herculean Nemea').
146. Cf. Gotting (n. 105) 50-62 for comparison with Homer and Virgil.
Politically, Hypsipyle speaks volumes: 'Why does Miss Clean form a government? This is Sin City',
her people grumble (quid imperat urbe nefanda!, 5.492). She must be banished as 'the innocent ruler of
a guilty people', Ahl (n. 12) 2886-7.
147. A 'Theban' death, (even) this: alternus . . . sanguis (3.91. Cf. Vessey (n. 6) 107-16. Ahl (n. 12)2889
finds in him confusing shades of Turnus).
148. Schetter (n. 16) 41-2, Vessey (n. 6) 116-31, 131-3. His mother convicts him of mortis amor,
glossed as sacra insania menti ('Sacred/cursed schizophrenia', 10.804): no man escapes the sour furore
of'Thebes', once Gradiuus implants 'Killing's Death-Wish: in a split-second they shot off to headlong
action, get shot of delay' (mortis amor caedisque:. . . praecipitant redimuntque moras, 7.138-9. Further
skewing ironies in Ahl (n. 12) 2888).
149. Cf. the simile of the sorores who bury Phaethon, 12.413-15, for Polynices' sister and wife:
shoulder to shoulder under his weight (anticipated at 3.173; cf. Vessey (n. 6) 133). We have seen their
dark 'doubles': soror Tisiphone calls upon germana Megaera, consanguineos ... anguis and all, to help
share her grande opus, 11.61-113. (These snakes are, all of them, the snakes that make Thebes
'Thebes' - from Cadmus and Harmonia on down, cf. J. K. Newman, 'De Statio epico animadver-
siones', Latomus 34 (1975) 86-7, Ahl (n. 12) 2846 n. 40.)
150. 12.385—8, 'they drop together for an embrace a trois, split the limbs 50/50 and with a groan from
her and a groan from her (alterna) go back to his face and take turns for the pleasure of their favourite
neck'. Blackest humour, though, at 12.452—63, where the Sisters of Mercy compete manically for
Creon's punishment, in a 'Me, choose me!' stasis, a mock Thebaid (alternis . .. uerbis; cf. 448, rogi

discordis, with 462, discordat); 'you'ld have thought it was the usual Theban wrath 'n' hate'./Really, is
this not the poetic pits ...?
151. R. Holland, The lost generation (1932) 171, quoted in C. M. Tylee, The Great War and woman's
consciousness. Images of militarism and womanhood in women's writings, 1914-64 (1990) 230-1.
152. Cf. Ahl (n. 12) 2887, 'In short, the war itself is a most unecessary digression.'
153. So 6.69-70, 'as if big, epic, limbs were pyre-bound'; 6.122-23: a special Service for Dead Babies,
as previously used, a dozen times, by Niobe (cf. 6.517: 'If Polynices had died before book Seven, he
could had an Opheltes' funeral', Vessey (n. 6) 192).
For suffering innocence in Thebaid cf. Gossage (n. 61) 225 n. 32, Ahl (n.12) 2886—8, 'The innocent
and well intentenioned'. Statius' babes-in-arms include Argia's 'Astyanax', Thessander, 3.683, and
the mythic paradigms, Ino/Leucothea's Palaemon/Melicertes (6.10-11), and Linus, featuring at
Opheltes'/Archemorus' funeral as embroidery: his mother 'abominated it to aversion (oculosflectebat
ab omine, 6.66. Cf. Vessey (n. 6) 104, Ahl (n. 12) 2853).
Infanticide, 'the killing of children', always spells, or threatens to spell, the suicide of narration, 'the
killing of story-telling' (B. Simon. 'Tragic drama and the family: the killing of children and the killing
of story-telling', in Rimmon-Kenan (n. 6) 152-75).
154. So, eternally, we must imagine widow Evadne's 'search' (for a bolt in her breast, too, quaesierit,
12.801-2) and widow Deipyle's 'lying on her corpse's kisses' (iacens super oscula saeuijcorporis, 802-
3): this, for Capaneus. This, for Tydeus. And for 'the bloodless face' of Parthenopaeus, Every
Mother's Son, lovely in death' (consumpto seruantem sanguine uultus), the poem can but treble
(Arcada ... j Arcada . . . / Arcada ... 805—7) the double mourning of its 'double armies' (geminae . ..
cohortes, 807). - Just a gesture to its 'Hyacinth', no more. Ad inf.
155. So D. W. T. C. Vessey, 'Notes on the Hypsipyle episode in Statius, Thebaid 4-6', BICS 17 (1970)
esp. 46-7, Gotting (n. 105) esp. 63-79, 81-6. 'Lemnos' figures Thebes and Argos, so every/stinking/
polis. (Every state, every state of being?)
Recognize The Pattern: one Lemniad probes where to wound her man (uulnera rimatur, 5.210); one
hugs hers (oculis uigilantibus hostem j occupat amplexu) and as he gets aroused for his knifing he feels
for her (oculis ... tremens . .. murmure Gorgen j quaerit..., 216-7); mother forces a sister to see herself
in the face offratricide (heu similes ... uultus j aspiciens): she falls on his corpse (iacenti j incidit, 226-
35); the escape is floodlit by Bacchus (285—6), Sun averts light from Lemnos (297).
'Lemnos' is Myth's showplace to show (epic) gender its place, island stocked with armisque uirisque
(305), when men left women/home/re-productivity/ploughing's furrow-line, non arua uiri (309), until
the women took up arma ... uirum and dared faces in helmets (for shame: uultu galeas intrare, 353-5);
but pre-made order is re-made soon, / arma aliena cadunt, rediit in pectora sexus (397) for Venus and
Amor insinuate into their minds the Argonauts' / arma habitusque uirum (447), the Isle is full of
instant baby-noises (462) - and the women tire their eyes when these men leave them (lassauit euntes /
lux oculos, 483).
/ Statius turns Virgil's opening, titular, phrase over and over again, one of the best/worst cases
when battle is first joined: / plena armenta uiris ... jarma loco ... (8.403-4. Dire's not the word.
'Theban Epic whirls epic away in epic flourish' is, in 'Statian': rapidus torrens ... j arua, armenta, uiri
= alterna ducum, 3.675-7).
156. M. R. Higonnet, 'Civil wars and sexual territories', in Cooper, Auslander Munich, and Merrill
Squier (n. 37) 81, q.v.
157. B. Dylan, '10,000 men', on Under the red sky (1990).
158. See W. S. Bonds, 'Two combats in the Thebaid, TAPhA 115 (1985) 225-35; on 'The death of
Tydeus', see Vessey (n. 6) 283-94.
159. See 2.469-75, with Ahl (n. 12) 2876, Bonds (n. 158) 232 for Tydeus' boars and others'; for
fratricide, cf. 1.397, 402, fraterni sanguinis, 2A\1,fraterno sanguine.
160. 1.410, alternis ...

161. 1.401-77. Parody of Apollonius' Big Fight, Castor vs. Amycus (Arg. 2.1-97): with 1.426 contrast
the boxers' sizing each other up' (sese permensi oculis, at 6.760).
162. Cf. 7.540, necfrater eram (T. treated by E. as if P.); Vessey (n. 6) 141-7.
163. So 2.491, 8.701-2 (cf. Williams (n. 59) 199-200 for the topos). Tydeus re-fights Ovid's
(Calydonian hunt + ) Lapithocentauromachy, cf. 2.563-^i, 5.262, etc. (He is, ominously, 'full of spoils
and blood', spoliis et sanguine plenus, already at 2.682.)
164. Cf. Henderson (n. 90) 157 n. 26, Schetter (n. 16) 37-9, O. Zwierlein, 'Statius, Lucan, Curtius
Rufus und das hellenistische Epos', RhM 131 (1988) 68-70.
165. See D. W. T. C. Vessey, 'The myth of Linus and Coroebus in Statius' Thebaidl, 557-672', AJPh
91 (1970) 315-31, B. Kytzler, 'Zum Aufbau der statianischen 'Thebais'. Pius Coroebus, Theb. I 557-
692', ANRW 2.32.5 (1986) 2913-24 for the reverberations of this episode that encompass the
including text. (Myth is as always anamorphic to meaning, through displacement and condensation,
cf. Python's 'hug', amplexum, 564, the rabid pack's, and the monster's, 'blood-baby-munch', morsu
depasta cruento / , morsu cruento / deuesci, 589, 603—4.)
/ Adrastus plays Alcinous/Latinus/Dido/Evander here: his hymn a fix of Aen. 8 with the end of Aen.
1. / As we have now seen, the dark in Statius is the side of out there in the world, it is what fills the
holes in your head, where you should look out and see (e.g. 1.78, 240, 2.441).
166. Note the simile's altema, 528. Oral dentition here picks up on Tydeus' last mouthful and when
Polynices 'fell and crushed brother with his panoply' (/concidit et totis fralrem grauis obruit armis,
11.573), recall that earlier, as if a la Nisus, corpse upon dear corpse, (Aen. 9.444), he 'disarmed naked,
fell on the now void corpse of his best of friends' to lament Tydeus (abiectis ... armisjnudus in . ..
corpus amicilprocidit, 9.48). Recognize the pattern next 'when daughter's cry located the bodies
Oedipus groped for, he spread his every limb over their every cold limb' (ut quaesita diu monstrauit
corpora clamorjuirginis, insternit totos frigentibus artus, 11.599-600). Eteocles' 'trick death-blow'
(erigit occulte ferrum, 565) returns when father's suicidal grief has him 'hunt the dagger(s)' in the
corpses, but quick-thinking daughter already spoiled his trick (occulte telum ... quaerebat, 628-9. For
'killing your scalper as a martial topos, see Zwierlein (n. 164) 76-8).
167. Avatar Oedipus is Thebaid- is Tisiphone: 'Enthroned in eyes sunk deep in the skull: iron light'
(sedet intus abaclis / ferrea lux oculis), venom-swollen skin, 'Wrath's double gesticulation' (geminas
qualit iramanus, 1.104-12). The epic sets out, the way Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, all set out, to up its volume
by cumulating its figures for Power: 'Oedipus + Tisiphone', re-made as 'pater omnipotens (1.248) +
Ahl (n. 12) 2844 shows how the text puns ab alto/(2.115) between 'from (Virgilian) Olympian
heights of sublimity' / 'from (Senecan) Hellish depths of abjection'. / (So already at 1.421,435, ab alto
I , per alta / , deep, high.)
/ Meantime, Statius' 'Bathais' fools around with Tisiphone's hairwash and snake-conditioner
(1.90-1), with court etiquette 'Fun' on High (203^1), with Mercury's travelling-kit (304-5). ( /
Schubert (n. 67) 76-7, 101-2, shows how the latter passages work to show the alienated power-
relations between Jupiter and his universe of minions and to structure their episode - e.g. against their
re-make to start book seven.)
168. Schetter (n. 16) 16 compares esp. //. 19.86: ouk aitibs eimi.
169. Cf. C. Segal, 'The theme of the mutilation of the corpse in the Iliad, Mnemosyne Suppl. 17 (1971)
61. As Achilles had threatened to eat Hector raw (22.347), so Hecuba will wish to eat Achilles' liver
170. For Tydeus (and all the 'Seven') as Hercule manque, cf. Vessey (n. 6) 198—9 and n. 3. They are,
like him, like his bestial victims, too (Vessey) (n. 6) 204).
171. Manic vision, as ever, contours the scene: Tydeus uultu ... occurrit, uidit / ora trahique oculos,
spectat atrox ... gliscilque lepentisjlumina torua uidens et adhuc dubitantia figi ('met him face-on, saw

his face, eyes a-trailing, grimly watched the sight... grew expansive, seeing the eye-lights grim, not yet
decided to get fixed', 8.751-6).
/ A sick sight for a sick Tisiphone's eyes (All my own work, she crows, 11.86-91).
172 Rep. 571c, 619b. For the 'Oedipal' constructedness of Greek tyranny, whether Cypselid or
Labdacide, see esp. Vernant (n. 71). On the 'place' of cannibalism a la grecque, see M. Detienne,
Dionysos slain (1979) 53-67, 'Gnawing his parents' heads'. On Tydeus' hyper-Dacian head-hunting,
see esp. J. D. Beazley, 'The Rosi Krater', JHS 67 (1947) 3-5, Dewar (n. 37) 57.
/ Tydeus' lion-simile is, we find, hors d'ceuvre, 2.675-80 (His lip-smacking sheep-gorge).
173. Cf. 119-35, . . . w( . . . uidit pater . .. / 'uidimus .. . licitas . . . acies, ... lateant . . . Iouem; sat . ..
sontes ... uidisse, . .. turbanda dies . . . Ledaei uideant neu taliafratres.' / Sic pater omnipotens uisusque
nocentibus aruis / abstulit . . . ('When the Father saw . . . he said, "We have seen lines of regular war.
. . . Let the brothers hide from Jupiter; enough to have seen the guilty . . . I must smog the day . . . And
they mustn't see, Leda's twin boy brothers." Thus the Almighty One. And he tore his gaze from the
fields ploughed with guilt.' See Vessey (n. 6) 162.)
Aversion of the gaze, as we have been noticing, is the Theban pattern: e.g. 7.789, 10.502, and 12.562,
where 'Dawn backs up over the Killing Fields'.
174. Sphinx is always already the epic('s question), she is / in excess / the Thebaid: 'cheeks/sockets
erect and eyes suffused with old blood' (erecta genas suffusaque tabo / lumina), hugging human remains
(amplexa), gnawed bones (semesa ... ossa premens) clutched to her naked breast, hideous parody of
Woman's grief carrying out the dead, she dominates the visual/battle-field (uisu ... frementij
conlustrat campos), ready for all-comers with her 'cursed tongue, claws a-sharpening, bite drawn'
(dirae ... linguae,... acuens .. . ungues, / . . . strictos ... denies / , 2.505-15). Sphinxes emblazon both
Polynices' sword (4.87) and Haemon's helmet (7.251-2) Cf. J.-M. Moret, Oedipe, la Sphinx et les
Thebains. Essai de mythologie iconographique. Tome I (1984) 4 n. 8).
Arma antiqua manus ungues dentesque fuerunt (Lucr. 5.1283): recognize in Sphinx the Throwback
Pattern of Thebaid's 'claws/talons/hooks', including along with Tydeus' and Polynices' scrapping
'claws' (unca manus, 1.427), Tydeus' 'human claws' (uncas ... manus) as he climbs dire Sphinx's ledge
(2.555-8), and Tydeus' 'clawed gnawing' (morsibus uncis, 9.13): Coroebus' hellish monster's 'claws'
{unca manus, 1.610); man-eating tigress' 'jaws . . . and claws' (geneaset. . . ungues, 2.130); Calydonian
Boar's 'claw-jaw' (aduncae ... maleae, 2.470); the 'claw-bird' owl (auis unca, 3.507)'; 'claw-beaked
face-mouths' (ora recuruo / ungue) of 'cursed birds' (dirae ... uolucres that imitate planctus, 3.513);
eagles with 'claw mouth-faces and sword talons' (unca .. . ora ... et strictis unguibus, 3.534-5); a
human 'claw-hand' (unca ... dextra) clutching a twig over a brink (9.495-6: a la cliff-edge Palinurus,
Aen. 6.360, uncis ... manibus; cf. Dewar (n. 37) 153 ad loc); rabid wolves' marks on the fold-doors,
red in 'tooth and claw' (ungues / . . . denies / , 10.47-8); pigs-o'war 'claw tusks' (dentibus uncis, 11.532);
'bloody Argive fingernails' (cruentis / unguibus inplanctus, 12.109-10); corpses awaiting 'clawed birds'
(uncis I alitibus, 12.212-13).
In the first place, Oedipus, become his victim's revenge, left his eyes on poor mother 'with slashing'
or 'collaborating fingers' (digitis caedentibus, or cedentibus, 1.71—2; cf. 1.427), and used 'bloody nails'
(cruentisI unguibus) on his diadem (1.82-3). Senecan Oedipus was, already, the Sphinx's form re-made
(See D. J. Mastronade, 'Seneca's Oedipus: the drama in the word', TAPhA 101 (1970) 321-2 on 100,
her unguis, 968, his unguibus. 'The night-time revenant/Fury/Madness traditionally promises to go for
the face with Flo-Jo claws', nocturnus ... Furor / petam ... uultus umbra curuis unguibus, Hor. Epod.
175. In the Oedipodionids' duel, the scopic drive is also fetishized to/as the end: our stand-in within
the 'boars' simile, the blenched hunter turns spectator and stills his hounds to listen, while the sister
Furies play the admiring arena-crowd (11.533-8); prematurely exultant Polynices tells dying Eteocles
'you see, you've let yourself get out of shape', proclaims victory, 7 see Dido's heavy eyes, a face
swimming in death (graues oculos atque ora natantia lew, cf. Aen. 4.688) - someone go fetch sceptre
and crown, fast, while he can see' (551, 558—60); the bard prays 'but one day shall ever see this
abomination, anywhere, any age' (577-8), 'Not finished yet', Ecce iterum fratres: brotherly hatred
outlives brothers, 'flames stream up with halved head and flash one crest, then flash the other crest
(alternos), torn-off chunks of light' (12.429-32).

176. Offending the audience and self-accusation', P. Handke, Offending the audience and self-
accusation (1971) 27.
177. 'Where are you tonight? (Journey through dark heat)', on B. Dylan, Street legal (1978).
178. Vessey (n. 16) 575. / Courageously dis/rupted by Vessey (n. 9).
179. See P. J. Rabinowitz, 'End sinister: closure as disruptive force', in J. Phelan (ed.), Reading
narrative. Form, ethics, ideology. (1989) 120-31 for this phenomenon.
180. Ahl (n. 12) 2897, q.v. 2892-8.
181. Adrastus gallops off to hide, to find darkness for living death as if an Amphiaraean Oedipus, as if
down to Hell (11.443-6, cf. Ahl (n. 12) 2858).
182. Constrast the trajectories of Caesar's Lucan, cosmic Ovid, Odyssean Virgil: no broadening of the
mind, travelling with Statius. Just 'cool' Nemea's 'Herculean . . . thickets' (4.646-7), too small to
deploy/catalogue (euoluere) a host (5.43-7).
183. Thebaid is, / says Hyperbole, / Tisiphone's skin, suffusa ueneno / tenditur ac sanie gliscit (1.106-7),
'suffused with venom, stretched and puffing putrid'): here 'swelt Polynices (1.299), Tydeus (2.114),
Eteocles (2.346), Capaneus (3.600), Hippomedon (9.442), Parthenopaeus (9.781), Oedipus (11.378,
676), Creon (12.174); Wrath (1.411-2), War-Horses (6.418) and armies (7.528), venom (5.508),
Ganges and Ismenos (4.387, 9.459).
184. J.-P. Vernant, 'Ambiguity and reversal. On the enigmatic structure of Oedipus Rex', in J.-P.
Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, Tragedy and myth in ancient Greece (1981) 96-7, 'Oida; I know: this is
. . . Oedipus triumphant,... the tyrant. Pous: foot:... to end up as he began,... as one excluded like
the wild beast... The eminently knowledgeable master of Thebes,... the accursed child, the Swollen
Foot rejected by his native land.' Cf. S. Goldhill, Reading Greek tragedy (1986) 199-211, 'Blindness
and insight'.
185. 'Dead yesterday', M. Hamilton, Dead yesterday (1916) 309.
186. Repetitious proliferation of siblings is the overt intensifer of the text: Eteocles/Polynices,
Menoeceus/Haemon, Jupiter/Neptune/Pluto, Mars/Apollo, Hercules/Bacchus/Apollo, Mars/Mer-
cury, Sleep/Death, Castor/Pollux, Boreads, Belidae, Minos/Rhadamanthys, Ismenus/Asopos,
Amphion/Zethus; Cadmus/Europa, Jupiter/Juno, Apollo/Diana, Athena/Hercules, Cydon and sister;
Argia/Deipyle, Antigone/Ismene, Furies, Fates, Muses, Nymphs . . . / Kinship terms mass through
these lines.
187. For the paradigmatic 'scrapping over corpses', cf. 12.34 (where Lucretius' universe falls silent,
the end of his text). Stasis on Olympus, 10.883-97.
188. See R. Rosaldo, 'Death in the ethnographic present' in P. Hernadi (ed.), The rhetoric of
interpretation and the interpretation of rhetoric (1989) esp. 177, for devastating critique of ethnogra-
phy's coldness to the pain after death, after the wake.
189. Thebaid often gestures beyond its power to describe: 'Le maltre des silences est Stace: il en
presente la gamme la plus variee, la plus riche' (H. Bardon 'Le Silence, moyen d'expression' REL 21
(1943^1) 120, cf. 110-14, e.g. 2.163, 3.102-3, 4.145, 7.452, 10.273^1, 815-16. The speech 'broken-ofF
in aposiopesis is a special colour of the poem, e.g. 1,465, 3.87, 291, 4.517-18, 12.380).
190. Read E. Scarry, The body in pain. The making and unmaking of the world (1985).
191. 'Thebes' is, as we saw, a Mother's Lament (cf. Dewar (n. 37) 126 on 9.351-403, 130-1 on 376ff.):
Ino; Ide; Eurydice; Jocasta; Ismenis (Crenaeus' last gulp: 'Mother -', 9.340); Atalanta: the super-
'Camilla/Pallas/Lausus-in-one' gorgeousness, her Parthenopaeus, sexy gold-tunic from mum's needle
(9.691-2), lengthily talks his book out to curtains, with 'Poor mama' refrain (9.885-907); the 'clawed
cheeks/sockets' of Menoeceus' mother (ungue genas, 10.818): her lament, after Aen. 9's Euryalus'
mother, 792-814.

192. Cf. C. Segal, 'Boundary violation and the landscape of the self in Senecan tragedy', in C. Segal
(ed.), Interpreting Greek tragedy. Myth, poetry, text (1986) 321-2, on the 'uterine and visceral'
imagery here, 'Aside from the grim, even grotesque physical horror, Oedipus' language depicts the
feelings of guilt, remorse, emotional suffering, the physical as well as the psychological wrench of
anguish, through images of somatic violation, images of being trapped within himself (322).
'Next time', Oedipus' readers will know worse: nunc manum cerebro indue ('This time, dip your
hand right in your brain!', Phoen. 180. Outdoing Hecuba's attack on Polymestor, Ovid, Met. 13.561-
4, digitos in ... lumina condit / expellitque genis oculos ... / immergitque manus ... / non lumen .. . loca
luminis haurit, 'She buries fingers in eye-lights, pops eyes from sockets/cheeks, plunges hands in, wipes
out, not the light, but the place for the light').
For a sane attempt to see into the dark madness of this Senecan Oedipus, see J. P. Poe, 'The sinful
nature of the protagonist of Seneca's Oedipus', in A. J. Boyle (ed.), Seneca Tragicus, Ramus essays on
Senecan drama (1983) esp. 154-6 (Poe knows the bind we are in: 'knowing a meaning' in this regard
can only be a failure of our nerve, mocked by the act of Oedipus' body).
193. Euben (n. 98) 99.
194. 'Hidden cities 5', I. Calvino, Invisible cities (1974) 125.


1. l-45/34ff.; 1-3/36,41; 3/34; 3-6/34ff.; 7-14/36; 16-7/39; 17-8/37, 39; 32/40; 33^1/37; 34-^0/37; 41-
5/38; 41/n.45; 45-6/38; 46/n.37; 184-5/41; 233-5/41; 312-89/42ff.; 367-9/42; 426-7/57; 610-17/57;
2. 267/35; 505-15/n. 174; 642-3/50;
3. 126-32/48; 148-9/n. 1031 165-8/48;
5. 210-483/n. 155; 502-6, 205-60;
6. 396, 400-1/n. 61; 940-4/n. 71;
8. 699/n. 15; 760-2, 764-6/58f.;
9. 351^105/49;
10. 350-442/n. 22;
11. 126/59; 407-8/59; 524-33/57; 539/n. 132; 584-621/58; 624-6/49;
12. 288-90/55; 316-20, 325^tl/55f.; 809/60; 811-9/38; 814-5/n. 49; 819/n.50.

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