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Lucan's Hesiod: Erictho as Typhon in Bellum Civile 6.685-94

Stephen Sansom

Although the reception of Hesiod has gained considerable attention in recent scholarship, be it in the Greek tradition (e.g. Hunter 2014, Koning 2010, Schroeder 2006) or Roman (e.g. Rosati 2009, Sider 1988, Ziogas 2013), Hesiod's presence in Lucan's Bellum Civile has not been sufficiently recognized beyond a few brief remarks (e.g. in Martindale 1977). In this paper, I argue that not only is Lucan concerned with Hesiodic poetics, but he closely models the Thessalian witch, Erictho, and her diabolical incantation (BC 6.685-94) on Hesiod's depiction of the polyglossic monster, Typhon (Theogony 829-41). First, I outline the specific intertextual similarities between the two passages. I then propose that Hesiod's Typhon—the “sovereign of disorder” (Detienne and Vernant 1991)—serves not only as an especially appropriate model for Lucan's Erictho but for the discordant poetics of the Bellum Civile.

The two passages share numerous semantic, syntactic and structural similarities. Both begin with descriptions of voices (uox...cunctis pollentior herbis [685] ~ φωναὶ...ἐν πάσῃσιν...δεινῇς κεφαλῇσι [829]) that are followed by their relationship to the gods (Lethaeos...excantare deos [685-6] ~ φθέγγονθ᾽ ὥς...θεοῖσι συνιέμεν [831]) and to mortals (murmura...dissona et humanae multum discordia linguae [686-7] ~ παντοίην ὄπ᾽...ἀθέσφατον [830]). Moreover, both voices at times include identical animal sounds (e.g. canum [688] ~ σκυλάκεσσιν [834], sibilat anguis [690] ~ ῥοίζεσχ᾽ [835]). Lucan also reproduces Hesiod's triadic cosmos within Erictho's all encompasing voice: undae...silvarum...tonitrua nubis (BC 691-2) ~ οὐρανὸς...πόντός...γαίης (Theog. 840-1). Moreover, throughout the passage Lucan explicitly places many of the semantically related words in the same metrical sedes as Hesiod (e.g. BC 6.685 ~ Theog. 829; BC 6.686 ~ Theog. 830-1; BC 6.687 ~ Theog. 830; BC 691-2 ~ Theog. 840-1). Syntacially each catalogue of sounds is structured similarly by a series of anaphoric connectives (primum...quod...quod...quod...quod [686, 689-90] ~ ἄλλοτε μὲν...ἄλλοτε δ᾽...ἄλλοτε δ᾽...ἄλλοτε δ᾽...ἄλλοτε δ᾽ [830-1, 833-5]). Furthermore, both passages occur in a analogous sequence of events in their respective narratives: the catalogue of sounds is preceded by a description of the physical components of bodies (Typhon's at Theog. 823-7 and Erictho's preparition of a corpse at BC 670-84) and followed by a confrontation with the gods (the Typhonomacy and Erictho's demands and threats to the gods [BC 693f.]).

Yet even though Lucan closely patterns Erictho's voice on Typhon's, he uses Typhon differently than Hesiod. In the Theogony, Typhon functions as a foil to Zeus' rule and divine order; he is the “acosmia incarnate” (Clay 2003) that ultimately must succumb to Zeus' ordederd cosmos (cf. Goslin 2010, Lonely 2014). Conversely, Lucan appropriates and valorizes Typhon as a model for Erictho and her successful confrontation with the divine. As Johnson (1987, 25) has argued, Erictho embodies the discors machina (BC 1.79-80) of the Bellum Civile, a poetic that proposes “an entirely different divine order that parodies and challenges the conventional order.” Moreover, it has already been suggested that Erictho may allude to Typhon in an earlier catalogue of chthonic dieties as an unnamed god (deum certum 497-8) who could overthrow the Olympians (qui mundum cogere, quidquid / cogitur ipse, potest, 498-99) (Fauth 1975; Johnson 1987). Thus this paper demonstrates that Lucan chooses Typhon not only as an intertextual predecessor for Erictho but more importantly as the paradigm par excellence for a dominant theme in the Bellum Civile.

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Latin Hexameter Poetry

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