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The role of death in ancient Roman mythological epic: exploring death and death scenes in Virgil's Aeneid and Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica

Hassell, Sian Angharad (2014) The role of death in ancient Roman mythological epic: exploring death and death scenes in Virgil's Aeneid and Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis explores and analyses the narrative and thematic uses of death in two Latin mythological epics, in order to investigate the ways in which various deaths reflect or highlight the ideology inherent to each epic. Death is one of the fundamental realities of life, yet can occur in many different ways and be used for many different purposes in fiction. Its application and significance in epic is accordingly complex, reflecting both its literary and socio-historical contexts. Each chapter covers a different type of death (such as murder or war injury, for example), and, in each case, begins by concentrating on Virgil's Aeneid, before moving on to Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica. In doing so, the thesis explores how each author approached and utilised various forms of death for their various thematic, narrative and structural purposes within the poem, and then the extent to which the attitudes and thematic significance surrounding the deaths were affected by the contemporary social, historical and political landscape. Finally, how each author's use of death compares with the other is considered. I demonstrate that some of the similarities and differences between the depictions of death in the two epics are linked primarily to their respective thematic and narrative requirements. Other elements, however, such as a heightened focus on the (generally negative) consequences of absolute power in Valerius and Virgil’s thematic warnings against the assumption of too much power, can instead be traced directly to shifting socio-political and cultural influences within Roman society. It further becomes clear that, while both epics were written shortly after turbulent eras in history, the wider context of those periods ensures that each epic displays different approaches to the ideology and realities of death while nevertheless belonging to the same genre of mythological epic.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Death, Roman Literature, Virgil, Valerius Flaccus, Epic
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > Classics (Leeds)
Depositing User: Miss Sian A Hassell
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 15:24
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2015 15:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7245

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