Although I have yet to find a compelling use for Twitter, someone has set up a Daily Thebaid twitter promising one line translated each day. By my calculations that project should last, oh, about 14 years. If you’re interested, the opener Fraternas acies… comes July 1st.
And while we’re at it, if you haven’t see the Aeneid Facebook Page, well, where have you been?
Over the past two months I’ve been posting a commentary as I read the first book of Statius’ Thebaid. Though I’ve enjoyed a lot of Latin poetry over the years, I had never studied more than a line or two of this work. Statius has been largely dismissed in a modern classical canon that favors originality and thematic complexity; he’s overly-cute, demonstrates all the vices of the Silver Age, and revels in obscurity (I learned more mythology in studying the allusions of book I than from the Latin I read over the past 10 years). Still, I thought I’d approach the work fresh and give Statius a fair chance. I found that posting my thoughts was an excellent way to organize an interpretation–my opinions changed as I wrote each post, and I think Latin students would benefit from writing personal interpetations of lengthy texts.
Summary: Polynices sheepishly reveals his identity as Oedipus’ son. Adrastus admits to recognizing him, sympathizes with his family’s misfortune and closes the book with a prayer to Phoebus.
Summary: Adrastus tells the story of Psamathe. She bore a son by Apollo but fearing her father abandoned the babe in the woods. The child was torn apart by wolves and Psamathe put to death by her father for her impurity. In vengeance, Apollo first sent a child-killing monster which is slain by the hero Coroebus. Then he rained pestifera arma on Argos, prompting Coroebus to offer himself as a sacrifice and save the town. Moved to pity, Apollo ended his hostilities.
Summary: Adrastus hosts the feast, summons his daughters, and pours a libation from an ornate patera. This ceremony has a divine origin, and the king begins to tell its tale.
Summary: Adrastus diffuses the quarrel and invites Tydeus and Polynices into the palace. The king discovers these two will fulfill a prophecy regarding his house and draws up a celebratory banquet.
Summary: Tydeus arrives at the palace; he and Polynices begin to fight on the doorstep. Adrastus intervenes and Tydeus introduces himself.
If you liked the Scrambled Vergil game I put up a few months ago, how about a few more to test your knowledge of the Dactylic Hexameter. But this time, I’m going to use lines from the readings of Statius (I’ve been dissecting the first book of his Thebaid here for the past month).
Summary: Polynices makes his way to Argos, where king Adrastus worries about a portent from Apollo.
The feelings of the exiled Polynices as he waits for his brother’s end-of-year abdication.
Interea patriis olim vagus exul ab oris
Oedipodionides furto deserta pererrat
Aoniae. iam iamque animis male debita regna
concipit, et longum signis cunctantibus annum
stare gemit. Tenet una dies noctesque recursans
cura virum, si quando humilem decedere regno
germanum et semet Thebis opibusque potitum
cerneret; hac aevum cupiat pro luce pacisci.
Nunc queritur ceu tarda fugae dispendia, sed mox
attollit flatus ducis et sedisse superbus
deiecto iam fratre putat: Spes anxia mentem
extrahit et longo consumit gaudia voto.
I decided to feature this brief passage in an isolated post because I thought it was just brilliant, the first really good selection I’ve come across in this epic.
Summary: Juno reproaches Jove’s decision to bring Argos and Thebes to war. Jove brushes aside her plea and orders the shade of Oedipus’ father Laius be summoned up for his plan, and Mercury flies down to earth.
Summary: Polynices is denied his turn at rule, and a Theban peasant delivers a complaint about the ruler of Thebes. Meanwhile, Jove hosts a council of the gods and promises to punish the descendants of Cadmus.
Summary: Tisiphone sews emnity between the brothers Eteocles and Polynices; Statius laments the paltry stakes they will fight over.
Summary: The story picks up with Oedipus–father of Eteocles and Polynices–calling on the fury Tisiphone to curse his two sons. Tisiphone grants his wish and wings her way to Thebes.
Fraternas acies alternaque regna profanis
decertata odiis sontesque evolvere Thebas
Pierius menti calor incidit. (I.1-3)
I’ve read a lot of Latin in my twoscore-plus years, but I have never touched Statius’ epic Thebaid, not even a single line.
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