Monday, August 10, 2009

Some brief further thoughts on Lucan.

It occurred to me this past week, after my previous post, that Lucan was extraordinary in one way (many, actually, but this post is related to just the one) - he died extremely young (age 25 - 39-65 C.E - as a result of the Pisonian Conspiracy against Nero).

This means, in contrast to most of our other extant classical authors (Cicero, Caesar and Vergil, among many others), that he wrote such a mature work, The Pharsalia, as such a young man. Vergil composed the Aeneid in his later life, most of Cicero's great writing comes from his later years, and the same with Caesar (indeed some of his youthful compositions were suppressed by Augustus). That Lucan composed the Pharsalia before his 25th year was a remarkable achievement.

This is furthered when one realises the possibility that the work may have been published in parts, and thus begun that publication well before Lucan's 25th birthday. In this respect Lucan really is unique in the classical corpus.

Typically, writing was the concern of older senators with time on their hands or political ends in mind, which may explain why our extant work usually comes from writers in their "golden" age and not when they are much younger.

Back to Lucan, there is, of course, the question of whether, had he lived, would he have produced a "greater" work (or works) that would have eclipsed the Pharsalia, and as a result reduced the status of the latter to a more immature work. That said, the Pharsalia is a wonderful piece of poetry, and regardless of the work an older Lucan may have produced, but never could, it still stands high among the extant works for content and style, perhaps moreso for the fact that it was completed not by a Cicero, Caesar or Vergil at the height of his powers, but by a young man who had many years of artistic development ahead of him.

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