Roman de Thèbes reoriented ending of Statius’s Thebaid

The Thebaid, which Statius wrote early in the 90s GC, highlights women’s power and women’s unity in lamenting beloved men killed in civil war. Although built upon the Thebaid, the twelfth-century Roman de Thèbes gives women’s laments over dead men less political importance. The Roman de Thèbes concludes by imploring respect for nature. Men’s lives don’t naturally have less value than women’s lives. While the ending of Statius’s Thebaid acknowledges a man’s natural beauty, the ending of the Roman de Thèbes radically challenges epic’s vastly disproportionate violence against men.

In the Thebaid, women’s laments spur men leaders into war. For example, Polynices in exile in Argos fumed because his brother Eteocles repudiated their agreement to rule Thebes in alternate years. Eteocles insisted that he would rule Thebes perpetually. Polynices’s wife Argia, daughter of King Adrastus of Argos, went with torn hair and tear-stained cheeks to her father. She brought at her breast her little boy. Tears and grandchildren are tools with which daughters dominate their fathers. Argia said to her father, the king of Argos:

Why, in tears and without my grieving husband, I cross
your threshold at night, a suppliant, you know, Sire, though words
should fail me. But, by wedlock’s holy bonds I swear,
and by you, Father: he didn’t send me. Wakeful anguish
did. Ever since Hymen and inauspicious Juno first
waved the wedding torch left-handed, my sleep’s been disturbed
by the tears and groans beside me. I couldn’t bear it — not
if a tiger’s hackles or looming sea-girt crags rose hard
within my heart. You alone can help, your power to heal
reigns supreme. Start the war, Father!

I for one never filched Venus’s fires in secret,
the steal-away wedding torch — no! I followed your advice,
observed your august commands. Should I now turn on him, scorn
his grievous woes? You don’t know, best Father, you don’t know
what love a chaste woman feels, wed to an unhappy man!

{ cur tua cum lacrimis maesto sine coniuge supplex
limina nocte petam, cessem licet ipsa profari,
scis genitor, sed iura deum genialia testor
teque pater, non ille iubet, sed pervigil angor;
ex quo primus Hymen movitque infausta sinistram
Iuno facem, semper lacrimis gemituque propinquo
exturbata quies, non si mihi tigridis horror
aequoreasque super rigeant praecordia cautes,
ferre queam; tu solus opem, tu summa medendi
iura tenes; da bella, pater

non egomet tacitos Veneris furata calores
culpatamve facem: tua iussa verenda tuosque
dilexi monitus, nunc qua feritate dolentis
despiciam questus? nescis, pater optime, nescis,
quantus amor castae misero nupsisse marito. }[1]

As fathers typically do, King Adrastus responded sympathetically to his daughter. He said she deserved praise for urging him to take Argos into war against Thebes. As a leader, however, he feared for his men and felt the weight of responsibility for sending them into war. He comforted his daughter by declaring that the war would come. He told her that judicious delays in starting the war increased the odds of the war’s success.

U.S. Civil War, dead men, Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

The Roman de Thèbes closely linked the start of the war to the Thebans’ egregious ambush of Adrastus’s messenger, his son-in-law Tydeus. Polynices had proposed to go to Thebes himself:

When the time had passed
by which he should have been crowned,
Polynices realized he was totally betrayed
and he made strong threats against his brother.
He couldn’t laugh or joke,
nor could he sleep or rest at night,
and he said he would go to Thebes in anger
and claim his kingdom.

{ Des que li termes est passez
qu’il deüst estre coronnez,
Pollinicés s’en tint a mort
et menaça son frere fort.
Ne puet pas rire ne jouer,
par nuit dormir ne reposer;
et dist qu’a Thebes s’en ira
et son regne chalengera. }[2]

According to Argia in the Thebaid, Polynices’s morose restlessness was causing her distress in bed. King Adrastus, however, persuaded his son-in-law not to go to Thebes. Instead, Adrastus advised sending a messenger to Eteocles with a demand that he adhere to the reign-sharing agreement. When no one else dared to convey that message, Tydeus, husband to Adrastus’s daughter Deipyle, volunteered to go. Tydeus returned from Thebes exhausted and terribly wounded:

He said to everyone: “Arm yourselves quickly!
Let the king send for his army
and summon his knights,
because the messenger is wounded.”

{ A touz leur dist: “Armez vos tost!
Li rois face banir son ost
et semoingne ses chevaliers,
car navrez est li mesagiers.” }

The messenger being wounded implies that Eteocles refused to uphold his agreement to share the Theban crown with his brother Polynices. Moreover, wounding a messenger was a grave insult to a king. King Adrastus in response immediately went to war with Thebes. He neither needed nor received supplication from his daughter to persuade him to start the war.

Adrastus’s war against Thebes produced massive slaughter of men. Sybaris by sword, Periphas by spear, Itys by arrow — the means differed, but the results were the same: dead men. Caeneus was suddenly decapitated, and his startled eyes sought out his torso’s heart. Abas was killed as he seized another man’s shield. Capaneus flung a spear at Eunaeus:

But first, “Why, in your last moments, make men wince with your
womanish trills? I just wish the god you rave for would
show up! Sing this to your Theban mothers!” Jeering, he hurled
his spear.

{ ante tamen ‘quid femineis ululatibus’ inquit,
‘terrificas. moriture, viros? utinam ipse veniret,
cui furis! haec Tyriis cane matribus!’ et simul hastam
expulit }

That spear pierced Eunaeus front to back and he bled out, dying like multitudes of men, almost never women, do in epic. Amphiaraus killed the men Phlegyas and Phyleus with javelin throws. Then his scythed chariot cut down the men Clonis and Chremataon. The men Chromis, Gyas, Lycoreaus were killed, and also Alcathous, who had a wife and children. Men being killed continued:

They shut out the light of day with their weapons, iron clouds
hung in the heavens, the choked air could not hold all their spears.
Some men died by enemy javelins, some by their own flung
back. Spears collided in empty air, a wasteful exchange
of wounds. Staves collided, slingshot hissed and fell
like rain, flying pellets mimicked lightning bolts, as
did arrows — much to be feared, dealing no single death.
No weapon made it to earth — each piece of steel sank
into flesh. Men hit home, dropped dead — all unawares!

{ exclusere diem telis, stant ferrea caelo
nubila, nec iaculis artatus sufficit aer.
hi pereunt missis, illi redeuntibus hastis,
concurrunt per inane sudes et mutua perdunt
volnera, concurrunt hastae, stridentia funda
saxa pluunt, volucres imitantur fulgura glandes
et formidandae non una morte sagittae,
nec locus ad terram telis: in corpora ferrum
omne cadit; saepe ignari perimuntque caduntque. }

Menalcas, Phaedimus, Iphis, Argus, Daphneus, Aon, Pholus, Cromis — these men were then killed. The massive violence against men continued:

Herculean Haemon whipped through thousands with sword unsated,
wasting now Calydon’s crack regiments, now Pylene’s
grim ranks, now men in gloomy Pleuron’s foster care
until, spear grown weary at least, he encountered Olenian
Butes — attacked him just as he turned to forbid his men
to retreat. A boy, that one, a child with beardless cheeks and
baby curls. The hefty Theban axe cleft his casque:
he never knew what hit him. Temple was split off from
temple, his hair — parted! — fell down around his elbows.
He departed this life without fear, by way of a trap door.
Haemon next slew Hypanis (blond) and Polites (blond):
one grew his beard for Phoebus, one his hair for Iacchus.
Both gods were cruel. Hyperenor he joined to his victims, also
Damasus, who’d turned to flee when the hero’s spear, stabbing
between his shoulders, came out through his chest, struck the buckler
out of his grip. On flew the spear, his shield pinned to its nose!

{ Nec minus Herculeum contra vagus Haemona ducit
sanguis: inexpleto rapitur per milia ferro,
nunc tumidae Calydonis opes, nunc torva Pylenes
agmina, nunc maestae fundens Pleuronis alumnos,
donec in Olenium fessa iam cuspide Buten
incidit, hunc turmis obversum et abire vetantem
adgreditur; puer ille, puer malasque comamque
integer, ignaro cui tunc Thebana bipennis
in galeam librata venit: finduntur utroque
tempora dividuique cadunt in bracchia crines,
et non hoc metuens inopino limine vita
exsiluit. tunc flavum Hypanin flavumque Politen —
ille genas Phoebo, crinem hic pascebat Iaccho:
saevus uterque deus — victis Hyperenora iungit
conversumque fuga Damasum; sed lapsa per armos
hasta viri trans pectus abit parmamque tenenti
excutit et summa fugiens in cuspide portat. }

Tydeus with spear-throw pierced Prothous and his horse, which then trampled Prothous’s face and chest. The horse died with its neck across Prothous’s corpse. Tydeas killed Atys with a spear to the groin. That blow eviscerated delusions and truly indicated castration culture. After Tydeus had killed many more men, Melanippus, the son of Astacus, struck Tydeus lethally. Tydeus returned a mortal hit before he fell. As he lay dying, Tydeus had his companions sever Melanippus’s head and bring it to him. He proudly watched its grim eyeballs grow cold. Then he drank the fluid brains from Melanippus’s shattered skull.

U.S. Civil War, dead men, Battle of Antietam

The brothers Polynices and Eteocles eventually faced off. They fought like wild boars, furious to shed each other’s blood. With great effort, Polynices thrust a sword into his brother’s groin. Eteocles retreated, growing weaker. He then fell to the ground in final treachery. Polynices, thinking he was victorious, came to strip Eteocles of his armor and weapons. But Eteocles clung to his life with vengeful anger. When Polynices loomed over him, Eteocles thrust his sword into his brother’s chest. Polynices fell on top of his brother, crushing him while dying.

Massive killing of Argive men in their attack on Thebes didn’t end epic violence against men. The women of Argos lamented the deaths of their men. They grieved that Creon, the new king of Thebes, refused to allow anyone to cremate the dead Argive men. Telesilla of Argos had organized Argive women to defeat Cleomenes, King of Sparta.[3] Following the tradition of Telesilla, the Argive women might have formed an army of women to attack Thebes.

The Argive women instead formed an army of women mourners. They went to Athens to plead to the Athenian King Theseus. Evadne, wife of Capaneus, who had enthusiastically sought to fight Thebes and did so impiously, pleaded to Theseus for help:

Warlike son of Aegeus, for whom — through our downfall —
Fortune discloses her mightiest seeds of sudden glory,
no foreign-born women we, nor is ours a group
guilty of vile crime. Argos was our home, our husbands brave
kings — would they had not been! For what need was there to raise
a sevenfold host to set the House of Agenor to rights?
Our complaint is not that they’re slain — such are the rules of war,
the fortunes of arms. But those who fell in battle were not
monsters sprung from Sicilian caves, not Ossa’s half breeds.
Their births, their famous sires I omit — they were men, renowned
Theseus, flesh and blood of men, born to the same stars, same
mortal destinies, nourished on food and drink like yours. Yet
these Creon bars from the fire and the Stygian portal’s threshold.

Seven times now, Aurora, rising with trembling team,
has skirted the unburied. The star-spangled sky in all
its splendor shudders and draws back its light. Now even
wild beasts and birds nearby loathe this disgusting fare
and the field that freights the air and breeze with its fetid stench.
Realistically, how much would remain? Bare bones, putrid
muck — he should let us scoop this up! Make haste, honored
offspring of Cecrops! Decency bids you exact vengeance before
Emathians mourn, and Thracians, and any race at all
that hopes to burn atop a pyre and receive last rites.
For what will curtail his savagery? True, we made war. But
enmity’s slain. Death’s put an end to sullen wrath.

{ belliger Aegide, subitae cui maxima laudis
semina de nostris aperit Fortuna ruinis,
non externa genus, dirae nec conscia noxae
turba sumus: domus Argos erat regesque mariti,
non utinam et fortes! quid enim septena movere
castra et Agenoreos opus emendare penates?
nec querimur caesos: haec bellica iura vicesque
armorum; sed non Siculis exorta sub antris
monstra nec Ossaei bello cecidere bimembres.
mitto genus clarosque patres: hominum, inclyte Theseu,
sanguis erant, homines, eademque in sidera, eosdem
sortitus animarum alimentaque vestra creati,
quos vetat igne Creon Stygiaeque a limine portae,

septima iam surgens trepidis Aurora iacentes
aversatur equis; radios declinat et horret
stelligeri iubar omne poli; iam comminus ipsae
pabula dira ferae campumque odere volucres
spirantem tabo et caelum ventosque gravantem.
quantum etenim superesse rear? nuda ossa putremque
verrere permittat saniem, properate, verendi
Cecropidae; vos ista decet vindicta, priusquam
Emathii Thracesque dolent, quaeque exstat ubique
gens arsura rogis manesque habitura supremos,
nam quis erit saevire modus? bellavimus, esto;
sed cecidere odia et tristes mors obruit iras. }[4]

Men throughout history have perceived glory in serving women. Evadne and other women knew that and used it to their advantage:

She was done. All the women, with pleading hands outstretched,
loudly took up the cry. Neptune’s heroic son flushed, much
moved by their tears. After a moment, stirred by righteous rage,
he exclaimed: “What Erinys has brought on this madness,
so strangely unkinglike? No such hearts did I leave behind
when I set out for Scythia’s Black Sea snows — where does
this strange frenzy originate? Did you, dread Creon, think
Theseus conquered? Well, here I am, and not — trust me! —
exhausted by slaughter. This spear thirsts yet for guilty blood.
No hesitation here! This instant, trusty Phegeus,
wheel your charger and, riding hard to the Tyrian towers,
proclaim, “Either pyres for Danaans, or war for Thebes!”

{ Dixerat; excipiunt cunctae tenduntque precantes
cum clamore manus; rubuit Neptunius heros
permotus lacrimis; iusta mox concitus ira
exclamat: “quaenam ista novos induxit Erinys
regnorum mores? non haec ego pectora liqui
Graiorum abscedens, Scythiam Pontumque nivalem
cum peterem; novus unde furor? victumne putasti
Thesea, dire Creon? adsum, nec sanguine fessum
crede; sitit meritos etiamnum haec hasta cruores.
nulla mora est; verte hunc adeo, fidissime Phegeu,
cornipedem, et Tyrias invectus protinus arces
aut Danais edice rogos aut proelia Thebis.” }

Men thus again assembled to wage violence against men. Grief for men and proper handling of men’s dead bodies doesn’t end epic violence against men.[5]

In the Roman de Thèbes, Theseus is solicitous of the women’s laments. Threatening non-participants with exile, he ordered all fighting-fit men to serve in his army. He explained to them why they must wage war against Thebes:

“My lords,” he said, “I shall tell you this,
without lying to you in any way.
A piece of news has come to me —
that is the reason why this army is on the move.
These ladies you see here,
these are the daughters of Adrastus —
Deipyle and Argia.
You have heard talk of Adrastus,
who was born in Greece and became its lord.
He took his great army to Thebes
and found a very great multitude there.
All except three Greeks are dead.
Three hundred thousand men died there,
men of great fame and of great strength.
King Adrastus is still alive.
He and two other men have survived, but no more.
His daughters have come here
with these other women to beg for mercy.
They have suffered great hardship,
and for the love of their lords,
I shall in truth go and avenge them.
For this I have summoned my troops.”

{ “Seingnors,” fet il, “je vos dirai,
que ja ne vous en mentirai:
unne nouvele m’est venue
par quoi ceste ost est esmeüe;
ces dames que veez la sus,
ce sont les filles Adrastus,
Deyphilé et Argÿa,
qui sieent o ces autres la.
D’Adrastus avez oÿ dire,
qui de Gresce fu nez et sire,
a Thebes sa grant ost mena
et mout grant gent dedenz trova.
Mort i sont trestuit li Grejois,
n’en y a remés que seul trois;
trois cent mile houmes y a mors
de grant pris et de grant esfors.
Encore est vis rois Adrastus,
soi tierz s’en estort et non plus.
Ses filles sunt venues ci
et ces autres crier merci;
mout ont souferte granz dolors,
et pour l’amour de lor seingnors
les irai vengier voirement,
et pour ce ai mandé ma gent.” }

Tearful women can prompt violence against men. Theseus, however, claimed that he will wage war “for love of their lords {pour l’amour de lor seingnors}.” In a significant detail, the Roman de Thèbes remade Theseus from King of Athens to a duke of Athens. When Theseus met the defeated King Adrastus of Argos, Theseus dismounted from his horse, came to him on foot, bowed to him, and kissed him. Theseus then clearly declared his obligation:

I must help you in this time of need,
and I can surely tell you why:
I am your vassal and I must do so.

{ Aidier vous doi a cest besoing,
et vous sai bien dire por quoi:
car vostre hom sui, faire le doi. }

In the Roman de Thèbes, feudal obligation, not pleading, weeping women, ultimately motivated Theseus’s war against Thebes.

U.S. Civil War, dead man soldier

For ending epic violence against men, the most significant closure in Statius’s Thebaid is shared appreciation for the young Arcadian Parthenopaeus’s physical beauty. The beauty of men’s bodies jars against the sadness of men’s deaths in war. So it was for Parthenopaeus:

No man setting out for hazard’s grim game had face
more fair, none was more indulged for his peerless beauty.

{ pulchrior haud ulli triste ad discrimen ituro
vultus et egregiae tanta indulgentia formae }

Statius declared his words unable to do justice to the lamenting of Parthenopaeus’s mother for Parthenopaeus’s death in the war:

how the Arcadian’s Erymanthian mother loudly bewailed him —
the Arcadian, who kept his looks though he lost his lifeblood,
the Arcadian, equally mourned by soldiers on both sides.

{ Arcada quo planctu genetrix Erymanthia clamet,
Arcada, consumpto servantem sanguine vultus,
Arcada, quem geminae pariter flevere cohortes }

A man’s beautiful dead body is no substitute for the living man. Soldiers on both sides of the war saw that war destroys the living beauty of a man.[6] While Spartan mothers lamented the loss of their sons in war, they nonetheless encouraged their sons to fight to death. Statius himself declared: “Beautiful still is the face of war {pulcher adhuc belli vultus}.” Statius’s Thebaid offers no compelling end to epic violence against men.[7]

The Roman de Thèbes has much clearer closure than Statius’s Thebaid. It emphasizes respect for Nature:

And so the war came to an end.
All of their land and their country
was destroyed and wasted.
Many wretched pains and great hardships
and curses came down on their children
because their fathers had brought down this destiny
and Fortune confirmed their fate.
They were born contrary to Nature,
and for this they were destined
to be filled with wickedness.
In their lives they could do no good.
By God, my lords, pay heed to this:
do not do anything against Nature
in order to avoid coming to an end
such as those whose story here I bring to an end.

{ ainsint la guerre se define.
Destruite en fu et degastee
toute lor terre et lor contree;
mout chaï paine et granz ahanz
et maudiçons sor les enfanz,
car li peres leur destina
et Fortune leur otroia:
contre Nature furent né,
pour ce leur fu si destiné
que plains furent de felonie;
bien ne porent fere en lor vie.
Pour Dieu, seignor, prenez i cure,
ne faites rien contre Nature
que n’en veingniez a itel fin
com furent cil dont ci defin. }

No other animal organizes the massive, gender-based violence of war. Epic violence against men is unnatural. Read as reflexive meta-commentary, the ending of the Roman de Thèbes points to ending epic violence against men.

Now regarding themselves as masters of Nature, modern humans pride themselves on constructing their own orders. Within a liberal, democratic order, each individual has equal civic value. Treating men as relatively disposable humans renders incoherent that and other personal, civic, and cosmic orders. Epic violence against men is a social injustice. The Roman de Thèbes and Statius’s Thebaid can help in teaching the social injustice of epic violence against men.

* * * * *

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Notes:

[1] Statius, Thebaid 3.687-96, 701-5, Latin text of Mozley (1928), English translation (modified insubstantially) of Joyce (2008). For freely available English translations, Mozley (1928) and A. S. Kline (2013).

Subsequent quotes from the Thebaid are similarly sourced. They are 7.676-80 (But first…), 8.412-20 (They shut out the light of day…), 8.481-96 (Herculean Haemon whipped…), 12.546-58, 563-74 (Warlike son of Aegeus…), 12.587-98 (She was done…), 4.251-2 (No man setting out for hazard’s grim game…), 12.805-7 (how the Arcadian’s Erymanthian mother…), 8.402 (Beautiful still is the face of war).

[2] Roman de Thèbes vv. 1185-92, Old French text from Raynaud de Lage (1968), English translation (modified slightly) from Burgess & Kelly (2021).

Roman de Thèbes was composed about 1150. It has survived in five complete manuscripts. Id. pp. 2, xi. Raynaud de Lage’s Old French text and Burgess & Kelly’s English translation are based on MS. C: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 784, f. 1ra-67ra, written in the middle of the thirteenth century. Ferrante & Hanning (2018) translates MS S: London, British Library, Additional 34114 (formerly Spalding), f. 164ra-226vb, written at the end of the fourteenth century. MS C has 10562 verses compares to 12059 verses in MS S.

The most extensive analysis of the Roman de Thèbes in relation to its sources is Clogan (1990). Clogan observed:

From the Thebaid, medieval commentaries on Statius’ epic, and other medieval sources the Thèbes poet created a real work of art, balanced and structured, and full of human interest and inventions of his own. The new love stories are not only interludes designed to provide variety between the long battle scenes, but have become a subplot of chivalry, introducing new kinds of scenes into courtly medieval romance, and revealing new directions in twelfth-century courtly narrative.

Id. p. 66. Clogan noted that the author of the Roman de Thèbes introduced two new heterosexual love relationships: Salemandre and Etheocles in the episode concerning Daire le Roux, and Antigone and Parthenopaeus.

Subsequent quotes from the Roman de Thèbes are sourced as previously. They are vv. 1851-4 (He said to everyone…), 10141-64 (“My lords,” he said…), 10336-8 (I must help you…), 10548-62 (And so the war came to an end…).

[3] Plutarch, Moralia, The manliness of women {Mulierum Virtutes}, 4. Women of Argos; Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.20.8-9. Cf. Herodotus, Histories 6.76-84.

[4] Theseus had just returned from defeating the Amazons in Scythia on the Black Sea. Theseus brought back many Amazon women as captives, including the Amazon leader Queen Hippolyte. Statius implies that the Amazons were guilty of a crime. Some authorities reported that the Amazons killed their male children to preserve their female-only society. Theseus may have rightly regarded such gendercide as a serious crime. In any case, Theseus planned to marry Hippolyte, who was willing to enter into the privileged status of queen consort. No man leader of a hostile group could receive such a privilege. The “conquered” Amazons and the lamenting Argives display different aspects of women’s privilege. Cf. Braund (1997) pp. 12-3, which suggests that the Amazons’ crime was to “resist the ‘rules’ of patriarchal Roman society.”

Creon became king of Thebes when Polynices killed Eteocles. Creon forbid funeral rites for the dead Argives / Greeks / Danaans.

[5] Statius recognizes women’s moral agency, values their emotion of grief for dead men, and takes seriously the social relatedness of individuals. Voigt (2016). That has no more relation to ending epic violence against men than it does to ending men-only conscription for war. The same is true for the question of whether Theseus is a good king within his Roman context. For an argument that Theseus is a good king, Braund (1997).

[6] Putnam perceives Statius replacing the Aeneid’s Dido and Pallas with Parthenopaeus. That signals an end to particular epic violence against men:

as the Thebaid ends, mourning for a single comely warrior functions as further indication that fratricidal fighting is over and that both belligerent entities can unite in sorrow and in peace. … he {Statius} has us envision how Atalanta’s personal bereavement, a mother grieving for her dead son, expands into a universal act of lamentation that serves to unite opposing forces and bring an end to conflict.

Putnam (2016) pp. 104, 111. More appreciation for men’s physical beauty, including men’s penises carrying men’s seminal blessing, could help raise the value of men’s lives. However, lamenting a beautiful man killed in epic violence against men scarcely seems sufficient to end the epic tradition of massive violence against men.

[7] Scholars have established that Statius in writing the Thebaid was deeply engaged with the epic tradition, particularly its leading exemplars the Iliad and the Aeneid. Some scholars have seen closure in Argive and Theban women’s unity in lamenting dead men. Braund (1997), Dietrich (1999), and Voigt (2016). Voigt went as far as to claim, “Statius proposes to us a utopian female alternative to the male dominated epic genre.” Id., Abstract, similarly at p. 61. Lovatt (1999) more plausibly points to competing endings for the Thebaid. Coleman doesn’t regard the competing endings as having overall significance:

The close of the epic demonstrates that this is a story that cannot really end: male violence and, especially, female mourning are without limit.

Coleman (2004) p. 21. By “male violence,” Coleman means “male violence against men.” By “female mourning,” Coleman means “female mourning for dead men.” None of these scholarly works squarely faces the gendered problem of epic violence against men. Scholars scarcely recognize in epic the massive slaughter of men — the slaughter of distinctively gendered male human beings. Men’s deaths are recognized only peripherally through women’s laments. See, e.g. Augoustakis (2010). This literary problem is like global elites today ignoring highly disproportionate violence against men and emphasizing violence against women.

[images] (1) Dead men soldiers from the U.S. Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863. Source image from Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, vol. 1, p. 36, photograph by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Reproduction number LC-B8184-7964-A (b&w film neg.) from U.S. Library of Congress. More on this and closely related photos. (2) Dead men soldiers from the U.S. Civil War, Battle of Antietam, September-October 1862. Source image from reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpb-01093 (digital file from original neg. of variant) from U.S. Library of Congress. (3) Dead man soldier from the U.S. Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg, June-July, 1863. Source photo from reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpb-00915 (digital file from original neg. of left half) from U.S. Library of Congress.

References:

Augoustakis, Antony. 2010. Motherhood and the Other: Fashioning Female Power in Flavian Epic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Review by Tracy Deline and by Randall Ganiban.

Braund, Susanna Morton. 1997. “Ending epic: Statius, Theseus and a merciful release.” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. 42: 1-23.

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