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Abraham as Epic Exemplar in Late Antique Latin poetry

Date & Time:
January 18, 2019 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
SS 541
Cillian O’Hogan is an Assistant Professor of Medieval Latin at the University of Toronto, where he specialises in the Latin poetry of Late Antiquity, the transmission and transformation of classical literature in the early Middle Ages, and late antique and medieval manuscripts. He has published a number of articles on Latin poetry and its reception, as well as a monograph on the Latin poet Prudentius and an edited volume on Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete manuscript of the New Testament in existence. He is currently writing a book on the history of reading in the Late Antique Latin west.

The story of Abraham was a popular topic for Christian poets in late antiquity. Poems dealing with incidents from his life survive in a range of languages, including Latin, Greek, Syriac, Hebrew, and Aramaic. In this paper, I look at how Abraham appears in three fifth-century Latin poems: the preface to Prudentius’ Psychomachia (c. 405), Marius Victorius’ Alethia (c. 430), and Dracontius’ De Laudibus Dei (c. 490). Each of these poems makes use of the conventions of Roman epic poetry to present Abraham as an exemplary figure: a model for contemporary behaviour who is simultaneously biblical and Roman. Above all, Abraham is paralleled to Aeneas, hero of Virgil’s epic Aeneid. Study of how Abraham is depicted in this way provides an opportunity to see how Christian Latin poets differ from their classical predecessors.