Flavian culture and invention of landscape. Statius' Silvae

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The course is intended for PhD students. It requires a good knowledge of Latin.


Along with Martial’s epigrams, the Silvae of Statius, a collection of 32 poems in five books, is the main document of occasional poetry of the Flavian age, that describes and celebrates ceremonies and rituals of social elite under Domitian. Long neglected as poor document of flattering poetry, this work has in recent years attracted the attention of scholars not only for its highly sophisticated literary quality, but also as valuable evidence of new cultural consumption, but above all as a precious witness of the new cultural consumptions and of the social life in which they take shape. Particular attention will be paid, also through the comparison with some texts by Pliny the Younger, to the phenomenon of country villa life (Statius is the inventor of 'villa poetry', a genre destined to great fortunes in European literature) and to discover the pleasures of landscape. A new sensitivity towards nature emerges, and a conceptualization of space through an aesthetic filter that inserts it into its historical and cultural context.

Educational aims

The course aims to consolidate the knowledge of Flavian poetry and to deepen the analysis especially through its contextualization in the tradition and tastes of the coeval socio-cultural elite.

Bibliographical references

An updated overall work on Statius is W.J. Dominik – C.E. Newlands – K. Gervais (edd.), Brill’s Companion to Statius, Leiden-Boston 2015. The standard critical editions of the Silvae are E. Courtney (Oxford 1990) and D.R. Shackleton Bailey (Cambridge, Mass. 2003). The only complete commentary is quite old but but still useful: F. Vollmer, P.P. Statius. Silvarum libri, Leipzig 1898. The most important commentaries to single books are H.J. van Dam, P. Papinius Statius. Silvae Book II. A Commentary, Leiden 1984; C.E. Newlands, Statius. Silvae. Book II, Cambridge 2011; K.M. Coleman, Statius. Silvae IV, Oxford 1988; B.J. Gibson, Statius. Silvae 5, Oxford 2006. For Italian translations cfr. A. Traglia (Torino 1980) and L. Canali (Milano 2006). Among the essays on the Silvae, cfr. H. Cancik, Untersuchungen zur lyrischen Kunst des P. Papinius Statius, Hildesheim 1965; A. Hardie, Statius and the ‘Silvae’. Poets, Patrons and Epideixis in the Graeco-Roman World, Liverpool 1983; C.E. Newlands, Statius’ Silvae and the Poetics of Empire, Cambridge 2002; N.K. Zeiner, Nothing ordinary here: Statius as creator of distinction in the Silvae, New York and London 2005;C.E. Newlands, Statius, Poet between Rome and Naples, London 2012. There are many, often excellent, contributions in articles from recent years, which will be indicated in class.