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

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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


Lectures and seminars


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

Vereiste voorkennis

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


Master students Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Afwijkende intekenprocedure

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

Algemene informatie

Vakcode L_AAMAOHS039
Studiepunten 6 EC
Periode P4
Vakniveau 400
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
Vakcoördinator dr. M.A.J. Heerink
Docenten dr. M.A.J. Heerink

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