Octavia: A Play Attributed to Seneca

By Seneca; Rolando Ferri | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

1. OCTAVIA AND ITS GENRE

Octavia is the only complete Latin drama of historical subject which has come down to us. The title of the play given by the MSS is simply Octavia, but the drama is often referred to in modern secondary literature as Octavia praetexta, a practice which should be abandoned.1

The title heroine, Claudia Octauia, was the daughter of the emperor Claudius and of Valeria Messalina. Born in 40, she became Nero's wife in 53,2 reportedly after being adopted into an unknown family to avoidrumours of incest within the imperial family. In legends of this period, her name always appears without the patronymic Claudia.3 The name Octauia, however, was hardly that of an adoptive gens. Rather than a gentilicium, itmust have been an inherited cognomen of the imperial family; like her older sister's name, Antonia, it was probably given to stress the link with a previous generation of Julio-Claudian women.

The play dramatizes the events of three days in June 62 (a chronological fiction: see next section), culminating in Nero's divorce from Octavia, his subsequent marriage to Poppaea, and, lastly, Octavia's deportation to Pandateria.

____________________
1
The normal way of quoting dramatic titles is, e.g., Accius (in) Bruto or Aeneadis. Titles in the form (proper noun) +tragoedia, comoedia, fabula, in either order, are found: cf. Plin. Nat. 18.65 Sophocles poeta in fabula Triptolemo (other instances of this appositive use in titles are given in TLL vi. 1, s.v. fabula, 33.67–9; 34.3–6, also with a genitive); Don. GL Keil IV 375.24–5 sunt … sono masculina, intellectu feminina, ut Eunuchus comoedia, Orestes tragoedia. On the forms of Latin comic and tragic titles in the ancient sources, mainly grammatical, cf. Jocelyn, Ennius, 58–63.
2
Cf. Brassloff in RE 111.2 (1899), s.v. Claudius, 428, coll. 2893–98; PIR2 C 1110.
3
In inscriptions andcoin legends, her name seems to appear simply as Octauia (so, for instance, in Acta fratrum Arualium, Henzen (Berlin, 1874), 67.16; 71.41; 77.26). There are only three exceptions, one inscription (IGRR 4.969) and two coin legends (cf. Roman Provincial Coinage (London, 1992), 1033 (Crete); 2341 (Methymna)).

-1-

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Octavia: A Play Attributed to Seneca
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Text 83
  • Commentary 119
  • Appendixes 407
  • Appendix A - Imitations of Senecan Traged Y 408
  • Appendix B - Imitations of Augustan Poets 411
  • Appendix C - D Isjunctions of Demonstratives in Augustan Poetry 413
  • Bibliography and Abbreviations 417
  • Indexes 436
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