Religious Studies

Ulrike Egelhaaf-Gaiser

Giving the Gift of Eternity, or: The Medium is the Message in Statius' Silvae 3.3

Volume 2 () / Issue 1, pp. 38-71 (34)

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The present contribution seeks to investigate, through a close textual analysis of one exemplary case, how the occasional poems of Statius define their position in comparison and combination with non-literary cult media. For this claim the poem 3.3, motivated by the death of the father of the addressed Claudius Etruscus, is an especially instructive candidate: In the mode of a mimetic hymn, it recollects not only the whole funeral ceremony, but also showcases the poetic ability to integrate on a verbal level all alternative media of commemoration – including even the prestigious media of the Roman élite, to which the deceased, as born from a slave, de facto was not entitled. In the end of the poem, the reader is even encouraged to imagine Etruscus as the inventor of a new type of funerary cult, by which he can honour his father as a Lar of his private home. In analogy to this (fictive) cult invention, Statius adds with his occasional poem a new literary component to the canon of religious commemorative media: its specific strength lies in a more personalised style of remembrance and in the personal affection it is able to express.

Ulrike Egelhaaf-Gaiser Geboren 1967; 1987–94 Doppelstudium der Griechischen und Lateinischen Philologie und Klassischen Archäologie in München und Tübingen; 1994–95 Wissenschaftliche Assistentin am Institut für Klassische Philologie in Tübingen; 1998 Promotion; 1998–99 Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin an der Akademie der Wissenschaften Berlin; seit 1999 wissenschaftliche Assistentin am Institut für Klassische Philologie Gießen.