Female agents of Hell, Stoic luxury, and failing leaders: Erictho, Tisiphone, and the female gaze in Lucan, Statius, Dante, and Boccaccio

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Abstract

The Underworld imagery developed by Lucan (BC 6.507–830), Statius (Th. 4.345–645), Valerius Flaccus (Arg. 1.827–50), and Silius Italicus (Pun. 2 and 13) to reprove Rome’s power-hungry leaders, accused of the death of thousands in civil war battles, excited the imagination of Christian writers such as Lactantius, Ausonius, Jerome, and the Spanish Presbyter Iuvencus. The article explores the investment of this imagery with the Stoic notion of excess (luxury) and its impact on defining the Christian concept of sin as received and further developed by Dante and Boccaccio. So far, scholarly discussion has tended to focus on the Homeric overcoat of pietas and its opposite furor, which under the influence of Posidonius (135–51 BCE), came to be associated with traditional Roman virtues. Instead, I here focus on Erictho (Lucan) and Tisiphone (Statius) as symbols of sinful temptation and effeminizing excess (luxury), typically gripping its victims through the eyes. In response to these infernal female figures, Dante and Boccaccio attributed epic proportions to ethical life, turning it into a canvas on which they debated the Christian moral code of their times. The gendered principles underpinning sinful excess in both pagan and Christian authors are discussed, alongside the role of poetry in counter-proposing the figures of Piety and Clemency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-142
Number of pages26
JournalClassical Receptions Journal
Volume16
Issue number2
Early online date8 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Author Accepted Manuscript Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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