Statius: “Achilleid”

This 1st-century AD Latin poet died after writing a book and a half of his epic on Achilles; intended no doubt to build on the success of his Thebaid, about the civil war between the sons of Oedipus Polynices and Eteocles.

This is another one of those books I’ve been trying to read for months, originally attempting to read it in Latin. Now completed, in English: Statius’ Latin is, and Wikipedia agrees, elaborate and mannered, and highly allusive.

The Achilleid tries I guess to fill a gap in the epic tradition of Homer and Virgil (“what else can I write about?”). It tells of Thetis’ attempts to keep her son from Troy, knowing his doom to die there; this anticipates well Madeline Miller’s treatment of the Trojan story in The Song of Achilles, which tells the story at some level from Thetis’ point of view, the tragic immortal mother with mortal son. She disguises him as a woman and hides him in a harem on Scyros, where he falls in love with the top princess, Deidamia, rapes her, and that’s Book 1. Lots of gender stuff going on here…

What there is of Book 2 is Achilles’ arrival in Troy, and his wonderful long speech detailing his life training under the centaur Chiron. Total man stuff.

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One Response to Statius: “Achilleid”

  1. Reblogged this on Psychology & Statistics Tutor:Mentor and commented:
    Myths of our culture~

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