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Seeing Marcellus in Aeneid 6*

  • Kirk Freudenburg (a1)

This paper will examine the claims of the excudent alii (‘others will hammer out’) priamel of Aeneid 6.847–53 within the immediate context of the parade's end, where Marcellus, parading the spolia opima, is used to exemplify the claims made about fine and speculative arts belonging to the Greeks, and war and the arts of empire to the Romans. It will be shown that certain, highly specific memories of the elder Marcellus are cued by the priamel that run directly counter to Anchises’ claims. The paper will look at how these claims are spoken in character, and driven by specific narrative motives, and it will relate the mismatch of exemplified to exemplifier to certain larger patterns within the Aeneid of things being left unsaid only to stand out all the more by being left unsaid. The paper concludes with a speculative essay on the necessary reductions and revisions that go into the making, and reading, of culturally instrumentalized monuments.

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This paper was first presented as a lecture at an international conference on ‘Augustan Poetry: New Trends and Revaluations’, held at the University of Sao Paulo, 8–10 July 2015. I wish to thank Paulo Martins for organizing (yet another) stellar conference, as well as all those who provided helpful criticisms and encouragement in response to the talk (Andrea Cucchiarelli, Andrew Feldherr, Stephen Harrison, Andreas Michalopoulos, and Gianpiero Rosati). My Yale colleagues, Christina Kraus and David Quint, were tremendously helpful in reading the entire first draft and providing incisive comments and encouragement. In addition, Niek Janssen offered fresh insights and provocations that caused me to rethink some of my assertions and produce a better paper. Bill Metcalf, the Ben Lee Damsky Curator of Coins and Medals at the Yale University Art Gallery, arranged for the purchase of the Marcellus denarius that is pictured in the article below. He is to be thanked for generously sharing his numismatic expertise, and for going the extra mile in procuring a particularly fine example of the coin itself.

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