Refractions Of Rome: The Destruction Of Rome In Lucan'S "Pharsalia"
Lucan repeatedly uses images, metaphors, rhetoric, and historical, mythological, literary, and geographical allusions that evoke the physical destruction of cities. He even implies at the beginning of the Pharsalia that Caesar's armies may annihilate the city of Rome itself. Nevertheless, Caesar enters the city in Book 3 without spilling blood and no conflicts occur at Rome during the remainder of the epic's narrative. It is tempting but simplistic to interpret Lucan's portrayal of the civil war as the destruction of Rome as mere metaphor, pathos-imbued hyperbole, or development of the traditional epic topos of the urbs capta (captured city). In this dissertation, I argue that the theme of Rome's self-destruction must be understood in light of the progressive separation of the Roman civitas (polity) as embodied in Pompey's republican army from the Urbs (physical city of Rome) over the course of the poem. Pompey leads his army away from Rome in order to save the city from Caesarian violence, but this choice tragically results in the destruction of the republic at Pharsalus. First, I establish that Lucan characterizes the Caesarians as ready and willing to destroy the Urbs. They do not do so because the republicans abandon Rome, a choice Pompey later justifies as an attempt to protect the city from Caesarian violence. Pompey's identification of his army as the armata urbs ("Rome under arms," 2.574) foregrounds the deep rift in Roman identity Pompey's retreat occasions; the republicans have permitted Caesar to occupy the city they claim to represent. The republicans' desire to return to Rome ultimately leads to their defeat at Pharsalus, which Lucan blames for the physical decline of the Urbs at the same time he compares the battle itself to the destruction of Troy. After Pharsalus, the imagery of the physical destruction and reconstruction of cities pervades Lucan's description of both Cato and Caesar's attempts to rebuild the Roman state. Particularly striking are Lucan's allusions to Caesar and his successors' physical reconstruction of the Urbs in accordance with decadent imperial mores; albeit indirectly, the civil war finally does destroy the republican city Pompey had tried to protect.
Fontaine, Michael Scott
Ahl, Frederick M; Pucci, Pietro
Ph.D. of Classics
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis