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The Poetics of Late Latin Literature$
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Jas' Elsner and Jesús Hernández Lobato

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199355631

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199355631.001.0001

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Lactantius’s Phoenix and Late Latin Poetics

Lactantius’s Phoenix and Late Latin Poetics

(p.373) 12 Lactantius’s Phoenix and Late Latin Poetics
The Poetics of Late Latin Literature

Michael Roberts

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the poem De aue phoenice of L. Cae(ci)lius Firmianus Lactantius and demonstrates how it foreshadows many of the features of subsequent late Latin poetry: generic indeterminacy, an increased emphasis on description at the expense of narrative, and the prominence of ceremony. In particular, despite the absence of overt Christian references, its treatment of the bird’s liturgical service to the sun carries a metapoetic significance for Christian poetry; the account of the miracle of the phoenix’s rebirth, with which the poem ends, anticipates stylistically later Christian verse miracle texts. Claudian’s poem on the same subject, in hexameters rather than Lactantius’s elegiac couplets, provides in some respects a useful point of comparison.

Keywords:   ceremony, Claudian, description, elegy, genre, Lactantius, narrative, phoenix

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