Latin Poets and Italian Gods

Latin Poets and Italian Gods

ELAINE FANTHAM
Copyright Date: December 2009
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442685802
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  • Book Info
    Latin Poets and Italian Gods
    Book Description:

    Latin Poets and Italian Gods reconstructs the response of Roman poets in the late republic and Augustan age to the rural cults of central Italy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8580-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Elaine Fantham
  4. PART I Honouring the Italian Gods

    • CHAPTER ONE Rustica Numina: The Country Gods of Italy and Their Reception in Roman Poetry
      (pp. 3-33)

      Early in Ovid’s great history of the world, the Metamorphoses, Jupiter loses patience with the human race; but he still hesitates to consume the world in fire, because he wants to preserve it for a different and more innocent kind of creation. He explains to a dutiful and unquestioning divine senate, ‘There are my demigods, those spirits of the countryside, Nymphs, Fauns and Satyrs, and the mountain-dwelling Silvani: since we don’t yet think them ready for promotion to the sky, we should at least let them occupy the lands we assigned them!’

      sunt mihi semidei, sunt rustica numina, Nymphae

      Faunique...

    • CHAPTER TWO Virgil’s Gods of the Land
      (pp. 34-62)

      We might expect that no Latin poet would pay more affectionate attention to the rustic gods than Virgil, the farmer’s son from fertile Lombardy, who began his career with pastoral poems modelled on the idylls of Theocritus and continued with a poem truly devoted to farming the land of Italy, his unprecedented and inimitable Georgics. Certainly it was my reading of Virgil, above all of the ‘Italian’ books of the Aeneid, which prompted me to explore the role played by these country gods and demigods in Latin poetry during and after the principate of Augustus. Although Varro invoked neither Faunus...

    • CHAPTER THREE Ovid’s Fasti and the Local Gods of the City
      (pp. 63-92)

      The influence of the Aeneid seems to have spread even before Virgil’s death and its posthumous publication. And Virgil’s portrayal of the communities of early Latium and Rome is reflected not only in Tibullus, especially the fifth elegy in his second book, but in Propertius, who heralded the coming to birth of ‘something greater than the Iliad’ as early as the mid-twenties BCE (Prop.2.34.61–6).¹ It is significant that in the poet’s tribute to Virgil the Eclogues are privileged over the Georgics, earning ten lines (2.34.67–76) by their erotic content, while the Aeneid is identified not by narrative elements...

  5. PART II Counter-Examples, and the Triumph of Artistry over Fading Devotion

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 93-96)

      One confirmation of the special sentiment, even reverence, with which Roman poets treated the country gods of Italy comes from studying deities treated with less respect. Ovid, for example, presents local nature gods from Greece and Asia Minor as more violent and undisciplined than Latin rivers and Roman nymphs. So I move in chapter 4 from his sympathetic representation of three Italian country deities, Flora in books 4 and 5 of theFasti, and the lesser divinities Vertumnus and Pomona in theMetamorphoses, to his depiction of angry and lustful rivers and wanton nymphs in earlier books of theMetamorphoses. As we shall...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Ovidian Variations: From Friendly Flora to Lewd Salmacis and Angry Acheloüs
      (pp. 97-132)

      According to Ennius, King Numa, the traditional founder of Roman religion, created special priests called Flamines (kindlers of the fire?) for nine deities.¹ These are not the mainstream Olympians we might have expected. Ennius’ text is reported by Varro (LL 7.45), who first cites Martialis and Quirinalis as being etymologically obvious priests of Mars and Quirinus, then adds that

      this same created the flamens called:

      Volturnalem,

      Palatualem, Furrinalem Floralemque

      Falacrem et Pomonalem.

      (Enn. Ann. 116–18, ed. Skutsch)

      He explains that the original divinities were Volturnus (another name for the Tiber god), the goddesses Palatua, Furrina, and Flora,...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Gods in a Man-made Landscape: Priapus
      (pp. 133-159)

      Here we leave behind strictly Italian gods, but follow our Latin poets into the (mostly Italian) landscape, as they offer Priapus a sacred grove or invoke his active protection for an existing garden or orchard. This is a man-made god in a man-made environment, with an absurd conventional form that fosters comic bravado and invites mockery. My introduction to his personality will concentrate on the collection called Priapea, the size of which permits a wide range of jokes and poetic styles, mostly in the form of addresses by the god to thieves or passers-by. I shall set examples of these...

    • CHAPTER SIX Gods in Statian Settings
      (pp. 160-186)

      Recent years have seen a multiplication of studies on the Roman pleasure garden.¹ Increased Roman wealth and acquaintance with Hellenistic luxury in the second century BCE brought the development of both private estates and public parks that provided shady, well-watered spaces for walking and resting. Cultured and well-travelled Romans like Cicero aimed to create gardens in the grounds of their villas that would reflect their Hellenic and philosophical tastes, with generic or specific Greek names like xystus (a covered walkway), gymnasium or palaestra, and Amaltheum, a grove honouring Amaltheia, the nymph who nurtured the baby Zeus and was associated with...

  6. Notes
    (pp. 187-212)
  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-224)
  8. General Index
    (pp. 225-226)
  9. Index of Principal Passages Discussed
    (pp. 227-229)