From Georgics to Astronomica : Manilius’ ‘Contradiction’ and Poetic Tradition

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  • 『農耕詩』から『アストロノミカ』へ : マーニーリウスの「矛盾」と詩的伝統
  • ノウコウシ カラ アストロノミカ ヘ マーニーリウス ノ ムジュン ト シテキ デントウ

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In the past, Marcus Manilius, the author of Astronomica, was referred to as ‘a Stoic combating an Epicurean’ (Cruttwell); however, recently some scholars have shown that there are many poetic and intellectual traditions behind his didactic poem. Katharina Volk is one such scholar who has shed light upon some ‘contradictions’ of the poet in her paper (‘Pious and Impious Approaches to Cosmology in Manilius’): According to Volk, Manilius reveals himself as a pious agent of the universe (mundus or deus); his celestial travel is in harmony with heavenly bodies and the mundus rejoices in the poet’s songs (2. 142). Nevertheless, his attitude to the cosmos appears to be violent and impious sometimes, especially when he describes the progress of civilization and the superiority of human reason (ratio). In the proem of the first book, the 132 poet attempts to draw down (deducere) from heaven by using the metaphor of gigantomachy, which has its origin in Plato’s Sophist (246A). Consequently, Volk attributes this ‘contradiction’ to the eclecticism of the poet. Volk’s conclusion, prima facie, seems to be very convincing; however, such a tension between natura, the Stoic equivalent for deus, and human beings can also be found in Vergil’s Georgics. Although under the influence of Lucretius, the Mantuan poet looks at the progress of human civilization from a somewhat ambivalent point of view: the labor owes its origin to the will of Jupiter and it is necessary for the development of various arts. However, on the other hand, he does not forget to insert a negative adjective, namely, improbus. Vergil considers rustic life as Saturnian, that is, that of the golden age; at the same time, however, he depicts agriculture as a struggle against nature. If we take this complicated attitude into account, the ‘impious’ approaches in Astronomica could be interpreted in a different way: Manilius imitated and developed Vergil’s ambivalence between mankind and nature. As a consequence, it may turn out that the alleged ‘contradiction’ is not a result of eclecticism, but should be considered in itself as a poetic tradition, which Manilius inherited from his predecessor.


  • 神話学研究

    神話学研究 1 29-45, 2017-05-31

    The Society for Greek and Roman Mythology

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