Augustus and Domitian: Political Allusions in Statius' Thebaid


Statius explores the limits and potential of examining allusions in epic between literary characters and historical personalities. An examination of Augustus' self-identification with Apollo and Domitian's self-identification with Jupiter results in an allusive comparison between the two emperors in epic, by which Domitian's superiority over Augustus is proclaimed. In the Thebaid, Vergil's Apollo is transformed by Statius into a rash and impious god subordinate to Jupiter, who himself becomes a remorseless partner of irrefutable Fate and supremely authoritative of human affairs. The characters of Jupiter and Theseus work as literary allusions to the emperor Domitian, and evoke a subversive comparison to the Augustan Apollo, an allusive response to the god found in Vergil's Aeneid. Statius uses the characters of Jupiter and Apollo in the Thebaid to show the superiority of Jupiter over Apollo, and thus Domitian over Augustus.

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