[lit-ideas] The execution of Lucan

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2015 08:54:05 -0500

"a wounded soldier dying a similar kind of death" -- Tacitus. 
In a message dated 2/25/2015 1:56:42 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes in "Prince Otsu before his execution", a  
brilliant poem: "Prince Otsu experienced fleeting/Glimpses of what he would  
Wikipedia, but I'm sure Palma has better sources, reads that Otsu "was  
forced to commit suicide after false charges of rebellion."
And it's a good exercise for philosophers of 'action' (so-called) to  
consider how 'forced' "forced" can be!
It all reminded me of my favourite Roman poet. 
Lucan's treason discovered, he was obliged, at the age of 25 (at  Otsu's 
age, if you think of it -- "and even if you don't", as Geary would  retort), 
to commit suicide by opening one vein on his left arm, but not before  rather 
cowardly incriminating his own mother (whom he found 'wicked'), among  
others, in the hopes of a pardon by Nerone (or "Nero", if you must use  the old 
According to the Roman historianTacitus ("Annals XV", 70.1), as he  (Lucan) 
bled to death: "Lucan recalled some poetry he had composed in which  he had 
told the story of a wounded soldier dying a similar kind of death and he  
recited the very lines."
-- in Latin. It was all pretty moving, if you were on Lucan's side (For the 
 Establishment, he was a mere traitor, and 'high traitor' at that). 
Alas, P. Asso (in "A commentary on Lucan's "De Bello Civili IV") has  so 
far vainly tried to locate Lucan's last words in his work but no passage  in 
Lucan's extant poem exactly matches Tacitus's description.
"Lucan wrote so much that to find the lines means one would have to go  
through his enormous body of poetry."
Lucan's father was involved in the proscription, for the record -- and  
died without any recitation -- but his mother ("wicked" in her son's words)  
miraculously escaped (from Rome). 
Statius's poem about Lucan was addressed to Lucan's (not  Statius's) widow, 
who was called Polla Argentaria, upon the occasion of  Lucan's birthday 
during the reign of Domitian (Silvae, ii.7, the Genethliacon  Lucani).

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