Study Question 6

This topic contains 63 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  Lea Perrino 4 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #811

    Lea, I like your depiction of the contrasting perspectives in Calpurnius Siculus and Seneca: young versus old, city versus countryside, naïve versus wise. You are right to compare Seneca’s perspective in de Clementia with his perspective in the letter, and you make a good distinction between violence for the sake of violence and violence for some greater purpose.

    #812

    Taylor, good reading of Seneca’s Ep. 7. You make a compelling case regarding the dangers of pleasure and the sneakiness of vice. Seneca is out for a day of fun, and even he is susceptible – this certainly doesn’t bode well for the fortitude of everyone else. I also agree that Seneca is presenting a powerful spectacle in his Thyestes, and this makes me wonder still about the potential and intended effects of the depiction of violence, both in the genre of tragedy in general and for Seneca in particular.

    #813

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    Great post, Aidan. I completely agree with your points regarding the distinctions between Seneca in Ep. VII and Corydon in Ecl. VII. Based on his description of the wondrous animals he saw in the arena, Corydon certainly seems quite impressed by the exoticism of the entertainments of Rome. Seneca’s emphasis on the violence inherent in the spectacles, on the other hand, perhaps stems from his social standing among the Roman elite. The fictional Corydon and the historical Seneca represent very different social classes. Their relationship to the emperor demonstrates their different standing (cf. Seneca’s familiarity with Nero in Clem. and Corydon’s despair at not being able to get a good look at the emperor in Ecl. VII.79-84). I think the difference in their backgrounds relates to your point about Seneca being more objective. Corydon observes the animals, Seneca—by writing about the crowd of which Corydon is a member—observes Corydon. Seneca, therefore, stands above Corydon in the observational hierarchy, so indicating his superior position in another way.

    #814

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    I enjoyed reading your post Mayra. You point out the arrogant attitude Corydon adopts upon returning to the country from Rome. This arrogance, in my mind, seems to harmonize Calpurnius’ message with Seneca’s. The Senecan character Thyestes, as you observe, is coming back to city, deserting the simple joys of humble living (cf. Thy. 446-470), and leading his progeny to destruction. He has indeed infected himself with a “lingering disease.” The symptoms of this disease in a much milder form can perhaps be observed in Corydon when he rebukes the pleasures of country life (Ecl. VII.13-18). Corydon has seen the spectacles of Rome and the life he is used to is no longer good enough for him. We see in both Seneca and Calpurnius Siculus a dichotomy between the stratified and crowded city and the idyllic peace of the countryside.

    #815

    Aidan Walsh
    Member

    Great response. The complete absence of human violence in Corydon’s account certainly gives a sense that there is either some difference in experience or some serious omission on Corydon’s side. I wouldn’t, however, call the comparison “unfair,” because whether or not Corydon saw actual fighting in his visit to the arena, Corydon is a fiction, and his account is an account of a fictional trip to the games. Calpurnius Siculus seems to have made a conscious choice not to mention the violence, so comparison between his character’s and Seneca’s experiences is not unfair.

    #816

    Aidan Walsh
    Member

    I like what you’ve pointed out about the contrast in foci for Seneca and Corydon. Seneca’s focus is almost exclusively on the gladiatorial violence, whereas Corydon omits this part of the games entirely. Perhaps it can be said that these two biased, selective accounts, taken together, approximate a more accurate picture of the games and the spectators’ experience.

    #817

    Lina Nania
    Member

    I particularly like your reading of Calpurnius’ text, mainly for its contrast to Seneca’s distaste of spectacle. You describe Corydon as enthusiastic about the games, whereas Seneca is so stirred by what he sees in the events recalled in his Epistula that he no longer holds the same disposition he once had. Though I feel that if Corydon was truly enthusiastic about spectacle, he would have shown at least some optimism toward the gladiatorial games, as they are still part of the spectacle as a whole. Therefore, perhaps Corydon’s deliberate ignorance of blood sport reveals a more subtle distaste. However, in the eyes of a crowd like Seneca’s, ignorance can be taken as assent.

    #818

    Lina Nania
    Member

    William, your focus on the audience of each writer is definitely relevant, and sets apart the scenes of death in Seneca’s Thyestes and Epistula VII. one’s reaction to death may be impacted by the subject’s name and history. We see the deaths of unnamed gladiators and children from the royal Tantalids differently; the only backstory of the gladiators is that they served as criminals at some point, whereas the Tantalids are a name anybody in the audience must have known.

    #819

    Mary Smith
    Member

    Leslie-I think you make an interesting point! We all would agree that crime should be looked upon as a horrible matter regardless of the situation (i.e. as spectacle or as revenge in Atreus’ case). However, the Thyestes presents Atreus’ crime as much worse than that of murder disguised as spectacle in the Ep. Morales 7. The crowd retorts: “Kill him! Lash him! Burn him; Why does he meet the sword in so cowardly a way? Why does he strike so feebly? Why doesn’t he die game? Whip him to meet his wounds! Let them receive blow for blow, with chests bare and exposed to the stroke!” In the Thyestes, however, the Chorus has the opposite effect, urging Atreus to reconsider his crime, and questions: “Does piety not move you?” (Theyestes, 248). Perhaps, we must also take into consideration that killing one’s nephews is localized within the family whereas a murder at a spectacle distances the public from the victim. This also underlines the fact that we know Atreus’ lineage in that he descends from a “cursed family history.” Thus, it is only inevitable that Atreus will eventually succumb to wicked crime, as “the feeling of evil things increased by day” (Theyestes, 306).

    #820

    Mary Smith
    Member

    I think the Thyestes has to be violent in form given the history of violence in Atreus’ family. The use of violence is, indeed, contrary to Seneca’s Stoic teachings. I would like to look to Seneca’s Phaedra, which narrates the tragedy of a woman who finds her crime inevitable (similar to Atreus who finds “ferrum and “ignis” to be “parum est” as a form of revenge (257-59). Phaedra states, “I recognize the fatal curse/evil of my miserable mother: Our love learned to sin in the woods.”(“fatale miserae matris agnosco malum peccare noster nouit in silvis amor. 114). The Nurse, functioning as the Chorus of the Thyestes, urges her to avoid shame (pudor, 141) and sharing in her mother’s infamy (quid domum infamem aggrauas superasque matrem, 142). Although Phaedra presents a different tragic story, it too grapples with violence as the ultimate portrayal of human passion (i.e. whether it be an appetite for love as seen in Phaedra’s longing desire for Hippolytus or Atreus’ need for revenge against his brother in the Thyestes).

    #821

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    William, I thought your post was effectively succinct and intriguing- especially your first discussion on the power of spectacle (as William B. also commented on). I hadn’t considered the effect of Seneca and Calpurnius’s age on their perception of the gladiatorial games, and I find it even more interesting, now, that Calpurnius is able to capture a more beautiful and positive aspect of them than Seneca- since he would have seen them in less violent form. Perhaps, though, it was more of each author’s choice to highlight what they wished, in which case it would be interesting to learn of their motives for doing so.

    #822

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    Really interesting thoughts, William. Yes, Calpurnius mostly describes the beauty of the ampitheater, but I think he also sees the animals fighting as beautiful in a divine sense, too. His viewing lens of the games differs from Seneca’s, but given this I’m not sure that it entirely disqualifies the two from comparison. I completely agree with your statement confirming the similarity between violence’s depiction in the Thyestes and the Epistulae Morales– it especially reminds me of when Seneca, perhaps more subtly, warns Atreus against his murderous plot because of its ability to influence his crowd (namely his relatives) to enact the same towards him.

    #823

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    Looking back at that last paragraph I realize I was not as clear as I had hoped. What I was trying to convey was that Seneca uses the violence to express emotion and his philosophy and that his Thyestes is unlike the violence he describes in Epistulae Morales. The bloodshed in the arena he describes has nothing to it beyond the bloodletting. It is has nothing of skill or emotion, it is mere baseless entertainment. The violence of the Thyestes carries and illustrates Seneca’s ideas of anger and clemency. It does not tell but shows someone acting on their anger with no regard for mercy. The passage repeatedly mentions anger, ferocity, and repeatedly compares and names Atreus as a beast. Atreus is the antithesis of Seneca’s philosophy and he skillfully displays this through his violence and crimes. I think this is the meaning I was going for but I felt I had written too much already. I hope this clarifies.

    #824

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    I agree with your distinction between the violence in Epistulae Morales and the Thyestes. You note that they are hard to reconcile when the one seems to revile violence and the other has it as the gruesomely vivid climax of the play. Seneca’s violence in the butchery of Thyestes’ children conveys an additional meaning that is missing in the utter bloodshed of the arena. Atreus makes an excellent example of exactly what Seneca warns against in De Clementia and he drives the point home with his graphic descriptions.

    #827

    nsatkovich
    Keymaster

    I think the difference between Corydon and Seneca’s experiences at the arena are truly telling how different people experience the same event in differing ways. You noted that the unregulated fighting was “teaching Romans cruelty” which certainly Seneca was worried about. I completely agree with your point that this violence is the one Seneca uses in the Thyestes to use as mirror for the reader. Atreus shows what emotion and chiefly anger can turn people into and through the his depravity and crimes he becomes an excellent example of what to avoid. I would also not that the Flavian Amphitheater was built by the Flavian dynasty that followed after Nero. In fact, it was built on his Domus Aurea. However the arena Corydon describes, though not the Colosseum we know, is certainly one worthy of praise from his descriptions.

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