Versions of Actium

  • Quint D
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Abstract

Analyzes Virgil's representation of the Battle of Actium as an ideologically significant and influential writing of history.Argues that Virgil's description of the Battle of Actium on Aeneas's shield (Aeneid 8: 675–728) represents a military, political, and ideological victory of West over East. Virgil's description of Augustus's victory over Antony and Cleopatra presents a series of binary oppositions (e.g., political and linguistic unity versus disunity, patriarchy versus effeminacy, Olympian versus monstrous deities, fight versus flight) that redefines Augustus's civil war victory as a triumph to validate Roman imperial ideology. Quint shows how Virgil's validation of Western over Eastern values was anticipated by Homer and was variously continued in the Renaissance epics of Ariosto, Tasso, Camoens, Ercilla, and even Milton. Shows how Virgilian unified epic narrative not only creates a unified plot but identifies it with history itself in contrast to the antithetical formal and ideological features of romance, from the Odyssey and Lucan's Pharsalia through Bioardo and Ariosto. Shows how Tasso transformed Italian romance epic into quasi-Virgilian epic by Tasso. Claims that Milton follows Virgil's epic form and teleology in the Battle in Heaven (PL Books 5 –6) but rejects his imperial ideology. Appendices discuss Milton's borrowings from Homer in the War of Heaven episodes and Spanish representations of the Battle of Lepanto as re-presentations of Virgil's Actium.

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  • David Quint

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