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Two Roman Epic Fragments: "The Achilleid" of Publius Papinius Statius and "The Rape of Proserpine" of Claudius Claudianus

Edited and translated by David R. Slavitt. Afterword by David Konstan

104 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper 1997 | ISBN 978-0-8122-1630-1 | $21.95s | £14.50 | Add to cart

"With unerring instinct Slavitt has juxtaposed two witty and ironic post-Ovidian tales of coming of age, Statius's unfinished Deeds of Achilles and Claudian's Rape of Proserpina. Those were the mythical days when teenagers were charming and rape consensual (for Deidamia) or at least (for Proserpina) the path to queenly power. Epic was never the same after Ovid, whether in Statius's sentimental comedy of love and war or in Claudian's darker divine intrigue sacrificing a mother's love to avert an infernal coup d'etat. Slavitt's versatile idiom makes vivid the personalities of Statius's drama and updates Claudian's self-conscious poetics in versions that are both free and true to the poets' art."—Elaine Fantham, Princeton University

"Slavitt does a real service by putting into English verse for the first time this century two poems of great grace and charm. . . . Konstan's afterword itself is a gem. . . . I would urge anyone who thinks that Statius only wrote gruesome epic and Claudian only dull panegyric to read this slim and sprightly volume."—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"David Slavitt appears to be fluent not only in Latin but also in hexameters. His translation seems to flow effortlessly from his pen. His speech and vocabulary are contemporary and easy to read. . . . This slim volume is further enhanced by the brilliant essay by David Konstan that is appended to it. The essay is reminiscent of the introductions written by R. C. Jebb in his editions of the plays of Sophocles—a combination of a scholarly discussion of the underlying myth in the text interspersed with perceptive literary criticism."—American Book Review

There is more to classical literature than just the classics. Here David Slavitt expands the canon by presenting vivid, graceful, and amusing translations of two neglected fragmentary works of Latin literature. The first is Publius Papinius Statius's first-century epic Achilleid, an extraordinary fusion of epic and New Comedy sentiments and humor that may represent the earliest literary imagining of the charm of adolescence. It relates the story of the education of Achilles under the centaur Chiron, his adopting the disguise of a girl during his sojourn at the court of Lycomedes in Scyros, his love affair with Deidamia, his detection by Ulysses and Diomedes, and his departure for Troy. The second work is Claudius Claudianus's unfinished fourth-century epic version of the rape of Proserpine. The two works together make a delightful pair. The afterword by David Konstan explores the traditions in which—and against which—Statius and Claudian composed their versions of these well-known stories.

David R. Slavitt was educated at Andover and Yale and has published dozens of books: original poetry, translations, novels, critical works, and short stories. He worked for seven years as a journalist at Newsweek and continues to do freelance reporting and reviewing. With Palmer Bovie he coedited the Penn Greek Drama series and the Complete Roman Drama in Translation.

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