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ROME'S ARMS AND BREAST: CLAUDIAN, PANEGYRICVS DICTVS OLYBRIO ET PROBINO CONSVLIBVS 83–90 AND ITS TRADITION

  • Neil W. Bernstein (a1)
Extract

Claudian's panegyric for Olybrius and Probinus, the young consuls of 395, includes a passage describing Rome armed in the image of the goddess Minerva. Lines 83–90 read as follows:

      ipsa, triumphatis quae possidet aethera regnis,
      assilit innuptae ritus imitata Mineruae.
      nam neque caesariem crinali stringere cultu 85
      colla nec ornatu patitur mollire retorto;
      dextrum nuda latus, niueos exserta lacertos;
      audacem retegit mammam laxumque coercens
      mordet gemma sinum; nodus, qui subleuat ensem,
      album puniceo pectus discriminat ostro. 90

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bernsten@ohio.edu
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1 Text from W. Taegert, Claudius Claudianus. Panegyricus dictus Olybrio et Probino consulibus (Munich, 1988), 68.

2 M.J. Dewar, Claudian: Panegyricus de Sexto Consulatu Honorii Augusti (Oxford, 1996), 237, on 299.

3 For further discussion of Claudian's adaptation of Virgil in this short poem, in particular Eclogue 4 and Aeneid 8, see S. Wheeler, ‘More Roman than the Romans of Rome: Virgilian (self-)fashioning in Claudian's Panegyric for the consuls Olybrius and Probinus’, in J.H.D. Scourfield, Texts and Culture in Late Antiquity: Inheritance, Authority, and Change (Swansea, 2007), 97–133.

4 Examples include Verg. Aen. 1.492 aurea subnectens exsertae cingula mammae, Sen. HO 1546–7 et comas nullo cohibente nodo | femina exertos feriat lacertos, Stat. Ach. 1.346 mater et ipsa umeros exsertaque bracchia uelat. See further TLL 5.2.1856.6–26.

5 Taegert (n. 1), 138, on 87–9.

6 For discussion of Silius’ recombination of models in his portrait of Asbyte, see A. Augoustakis, Motherhood and the Other: Fashioning Female Power in Flavian Epic (Oxford, 2010), 117–28; Uccellini, R., ‘Soggetti eccentrici: Asbyte in Silio Italico (e altre donne pericolose del mito)’, GIF 58 (2006), 229–53.

7 Contrast the very different use of exserere at Sen. Tro. 87 paret exertos turba lacertos with the note of A.J. Keulen, L. Annaeus Seneca: Troades (Leiden, 2001), ad loc.

8 See Ov. Am. 2.16.29 tu nostris niueos umeris impone lacertos; for niuei artus, see e.g. Catull. 64.364, [Verg.] Ciris 399, Stat. Silv. 1.2.20, etc. Silius applies the phrase to a young warrior: Pun. 14.496 arma puer niueis aptarat picta lacertis ; see Sanna, L., ‘Partenopeo e Podeto: due pueri dell'epoca flavia e l'ossimoro arma-puer’, Prometheus 30 (2004), 261–8.

9 C. Ware, Claudian and the Roman Epic Tradition (Cambridge, 2012), 29. The tradition after Claudian continues to adapt these elements. Taegert identifies an echo in Prudentius’ image of Fides: Prud. Psych. 22–3 pugnatura Fides agresti turbida cultu | nuda umeros intonsa comas exerta lacertos . Corippus’ Rome recalls Claudian's, but transforms the Amazon's breast to a nourishing mother's breast: Panegyricus in laudem Iustini Augusti 1.288–90: addidit antiquam tendentem bracchia Romam, | exerto et nudam gestantem pectore mammam, | altricem imperii libertatisque parentem. For the wider context of this transformation of the imagery of Rome, see M. Lavan, Slaves to Rome: Paradigms of Empire in Roman Culture (Cambridge, 2013), 205–10.

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The Classical Quarterly
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