Bellum civile
 book III, a commentary

by Vincent Hunink
Gieben, Amsterdam 1992

In my first major research project I studied Lucan's fascinating epic (or anti-epic) on the civil war between Caesar and Pompeius. The poem was written during the reign of Nero (about 60 to 65 A.D.) This was my main research project in the period 1988-1991. It resulted in a PhD dissertation (1992).




The epic Bellum Civile of the Roman poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (39-65) deals with the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompeius in 49-47 B.C. Their conflict is elaborately described in powerful verses full of paradox, witty maxims, and strong pathos.

This study is a commentary on the third book of Lucan's epic, on which no separate, modern commentary was available as yet. The most important parts of Lucan's book are a long catalogue of Pompey's troops, and a highly original account of a naval battle near Marseille.

Bellum civile is a complex text, which confronts its reader with countless problems, both textual, and linguistical and thematic. The commentary attempts to identify the most important of these problems and, wherever possible, formulate solutions to them. At many points the Latin text is explained and interpreted first. This interpretation is made on the basis of a general concept of the poem as, above all, a rhetorical poem. The poet does not fully concentrate on matters of history and science, on philosophical or political aspects, but always strives after maximum rhetorical effect.

The lemmata of the commentary focus on literary and rhetorical functions given to the material in the poem. Special interest is paid to Lucan's transformations of traditional epic material, from predecessors like Vergil and Ovid.

The commentary is destined for several groups of readers, ranging from professional Latinists to students of classics. Therefore, compromises had to be found on many points. Throughout, the main aim of the commentator has been to facilitate access to Lucan's text.




latest changes here: 17-09-2017




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