Latin Literature: The Poetics of Civil War: Lucan's Bellum Civile


Course Objective


Course Content

What kind of epic would one write after Virgil's instant classic, the
Aeneid? One answer is given by Ovid's metamorphosis of the Aeneid and
the epic tradition in general. Lucan's epic on the Civil War between
Caesar and Pompey (mid first century BC) provides a dramatically
different answer. This epic, dedicated to Nero, about a historical
subject, in which the traditional gods are virtually absent, has been
called iconoclastic, an anti-Aeneid and even an anti-epic. Through the
ages, this post-Virgilian epic has always found a readership and can be
regarded a classic, but is has also evoked passionate and quite diverse
reactions in its readers. Dante was a great admirer, and Shelley thought
that the Bellum Civile was "of wonderful genius and transcending
Virgil". Others, however, found the poem too gruesome, rhetorical or
In this seminar, we will try to make sense of this unique epic by
studying several of its aspects, for instance its place in the epic
tradition and in the social and historical context of Neronian Rome, its
language, style and humour, and instances of its long and rich

Teaching Methods

Lectures and seminars

Method of Assessment

The final score for the course is based on (1) individual presentation
(30%), (2) written examination of individual reading list (70%).

Entry Requirements

BA in Classics or compatible expertise (with Latin)
Students admitted to one of the following Master’s programmes can take
this course: Classics and Ancient Civilizations (all three programmes).


An edition of Lucan’s Bellum Civile, for instance Duff 1928 (Loeb
Classical Library), is required. Other material will be made available
during the

Target Audience

Master students Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Custom Course Registration

This module is taught at the UvA by dr. M.A.J. Heerink (UvA) (UvA subject code 172411366Y). Module registration with a UvaNetID at the UvA is required. Please note that course registration periods at the UvA and VU differ. For a ‘step-by-step guide to course and exam registration’ and the ‘dates for course and exam registration’ please consult the ‘course and exam registration’-page via the ‘A-Z list’ of your MA programme on

General Information

Course Code L_AAMAOHS039
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator dr. M.A.J. Heerink
Teaching Staff dr. M.A.J. Heerink

Practical Information

You cannot register for this course yourself; your faculty's education office carries out registration

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

This course is also available as: