Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ancient revisionist …

When a Love Poet Writes an Epic: Catullus’s “Poem 64” - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Many ancient poets would have seen Theseus’ act of desertion as the necessary sacrifice of a hero. Catullus took the kind of revisionist view that perhaps feels more natural to us than it did to earlier readers. Theseus is the Lesbia to Catullus’s Ariadne. The princess suffers in a way that was all too familiar to the lovelorn poet. Ariadne has become “a stone sculpture of a bacchant.” She is frozen in frenzy. When she speaks, she rages. “With the kind of heart Theseus had when he left me,” she prays, “may he destroy himself and his family.” Theseus had promised his elderly father that he would raise white sails on his way home if he survived the labyrinth. He forgets. His father throws himself from the cliffs. Theseus, “Forgetful, ah.” So this was heroism.

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