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Latin Poetry: Studies in Intertextuality

Applicant Nelis Damien Patrick
Number 126527
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Département des sciences de l'antiquité Faculté des lettres Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Other languages and literature
Start/End 01.06.2010 - 31.05.2013
Approved amount 498'084.00
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Keywords (10)

Latin Poetry; Intertextuality; Source criticism; Literary theory; Literary history; Greek Literature; Latin Literature; Genre Theory; Allusion; Imitation

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
The study of Latin poetry has always involved the investigation of its imitative nature or, to use a modern term, its intertextuality. Whatever the nature of the earliest Latin song culture, it is Livius Andronicus' Odusia which marks the beginning of a literature written in the Latin language. And this beginning takes the form of that quintessentially intertextual act, a translation, in this case from the Greek of the Homeric original. Subsequently, all Latin poets set out in a most self-conscious way to create a literature to engage with and rival that of the Greeks. Author by author and genre by genre, Latin poets relate their creativity directly to its Greek sources, as a number of often-cited texts explicitly declare. Ennius, considered by the Romans as the father of their literature, opens his epic Annales with a dream of poetic initiation in which he sees Homer, presenting his poem as a Latin version of the Iliad and Odyssey and himself as Homer reborn. Perhaps the most famous of such passages is to be found in the prologue of the Andria of Terence, where he talks openly about his adaptation of Menander and the similar imitative techniques of Naevius, Plautus and Ennius. Later, Vergil refers to the 'Sicilian Muses' in order to make explicit the connection beween his pastoral poems and the Idylls of his model Theocritus. Similarly, he describes his Georgics as an 'Ascraean song' invite comparison with Hesiod. And, as a final example, in his Ars Poetica, Horace famously gives this advice to would-be Latin writers : 'spend your days and nights studying the Greek models'. A full list of similar passages in Latin poetry would go on for many pages, but there is little need to labour the point. Subsequently, of course, as Latin literature develops its own histories and trajectories, later poets come under the influence of a double heritage, that of both the Greek and Latin classics. As the poetry of the Augustan age quickly assumed canonical status, so the Latin poets of the first century AD and after become involved in complex forms of bilingual intertextuality involving simultaneous reaction to both Greek traditions and to earlier Latin reworkings of that same Greek heritage. The intertextuality of Latin poetry is indeed a profoundly complex, multi-layered phenomenon, and one with a fascinating history which evolves over time in very interesting ways. It is also a most important and influential feature of many of the foundational texts of the western literary tradition
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Lucan and Claudian: Context and Intertext,
V. Berlincourt L. Galli Milić D. Nelis (2016), Lucan and Claudian: Context and Intertext,, in Lucan and Claudian: Context and Intertext, , HeidelbergWinter Verlag, Heidelberg.
“Commenting on Claudian’s ‘Political Poems’, 1612 / 1650”,
V. Berlincourt (2014), “Commenting on Claudian’s ‘Political Poems’, 1612 / 1650”,, in K.A.E. Enenkel (ed.), Brill, Leiden, 125-150.
“Dea Roma and Mars: Intertext and Structure in Claudian’s Panegyric for the Consuls Olybrius and Probinus.
V. Berlincourt, “Dea Roma and Mars: Intertext and Structure in Claudian’s Panegyric for the Consuls Olybrius and Probinus., in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 110.
Poétique du furor et intertextualité dans le Bellum ciuile
L. Galli Milic, Poétique du furor et intertextualité dans le Bellum ciuile, in Rémy POIGNAULT et Fabrice GALTIER
 (ed.), Les Belles Lettres, Paris.


Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
TESSERAE, CUNY University at Buffalo, USA United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
146976 Intertextuality in Flavian Epic Poetry 01.06.2013 Project funding
148064 Réécriture et auto-référence dans les poèmes politiques de Claudien 01.01.2014 Ambizione


The aim of the project is to build on recent advances in the interpretation of Latin poetry by combining the virtues of old-fashioned source criticism with the insights offered by modern theoretically sophisticated approaches to the phenomenon of literary imitation. Over the last fifty years, the study of the intertextuality of Latin poetry has been renewed by two quite different scholarly methods. On the one hand, G.N. Knauer’s monumental study of Vergil and Homer (1964) brought to a peak of near-perfection the methods of nineteenth-century Quellenforschung. In turn, J. Farrell adapted Knauer’s techniques in his influential study of Vergil’s Georgics, I have applied Knauer’s approach to the study of Vergil’s Aeneid and Apollonius Rhodius. At the same time, the application of modern literary theory to Classical texts has led to some brilliant theoretical work by, among others, G.B. Conte, A. Barchiesi, D. Fowler and S. Hinds. Their efforts have had an enormous impact on the ways in which Classicists think about the whole question of the relationships between literary texts and about literary history. The time is now ripe for the combination of both approaches in a new series of studies of Latin poetry. I propose to bring together young scholars, at both doctoral and post-doctoral level, and to work with them in the preparation of detailed philological studies of the connections between chosen texts (à la Knauer) which at the same time take into account the questions raised by modern theoretical analysis (à la Conte, Barchiesi, Fowler, Hinds). These approaches, which are often presented as being mutually exclusive, are in fact perfectly compatible, and together they offer the possibility of a complete renewal of the methods of literary Quellenforschung which have for so long provided the methodological basis for the study of Latin literature.