Parodies of Hope: Resurrection, Redemption, and Jewish Religious Thought in Lucan's Bellum Civile
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Wheeler, Jamie K.
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This thesis presents the case for the influence of Jewish religious thought, especially as transmitted through the Septuagint, on Lucan’s epic Bellum Civile. Certain textual and conceptual parallels demonstrate both that Lucan artfully alludes to specific passages from the Septuagint and that his thought is influenced by Jewish religious concepts such as messianism and apocalypse. Given this literary and cultural context, new insights into Lucan’s characterization of two of his most memorable figures—Erictho and Cato—become evident. The witch Erictho, who brings a dead man back to temporary, miserable life as part of her nefarious rites, represents a grim parody of the concept of resurrection. The noble Cato, leader of the republican troops, is a Mosaic and messianic figure whose passionate desire to sacrifice himself for the welfare of his people ultimately does them no good. Lucan alludes to these potential sources of redemptive hope as he does to others, only to snatch them away, whether through Erictho’s twistedness or Cato’s gallant failure. Lucan’s interaction with Jewish religion only goes to confirm his own outlook: that ultimately, there is no philosophy or system of values that can provide hope for the universe, plunging to its own doom.