My thesis deals primarily with one text – Lucan’s Pharsalia – an epic poem written in the first century under Nero (you remember, he played the fiddle while
One of the things I most love about Lucan’s epic is that, as expected, he rails against the leaders of the civil war – Caesar and Pompey – but his purest expressions of loathing are reserved for the Roman people.
When Caesar enters
“So he speaks and enters a
This is what I mean about the contemporary relevance of the ancient texts. This passage reminds me all too well of the fear-mongering that goes on in my own terrified country: the war on terror, anthrax, communists – you name it – if the politicians and the media are able to whip up enough fear, people are all too willing to give up their civil rights.
Lucan delivers a stinging reprimand against the people for such cowardly behaviour and, as the ultimate dressing-down, suggests that ultimately the people of
As Lucan says of the Romans, it’s not enough to blame the sender of the message when the recipient is equally culpable. Like Caesar and Pompey, some of our civil leaders may be dirty bastards, but who lets them get away with it?
*Loathe to say so as there exists a breed of classicist who feels the need to belittle our subject matter by constantly undermining it in ‘justifying the contemporary relevance of the ancient texts for the modern world’. We’re academics interested in knowledge, not in increasing profit margins, I don’t understand why there’s any need to forge bonds of contemporary relevance. That they exist is both happy coincidence and proof of the extraordinary nature of the quality of the writing and the subject matter of the texts.