Octavia: A Play Attributed to Seneca

By Seneca; Rolando Ferri | Go to book overview

Very little is known of fabulae praetextae, or praetextatae, the historical 'dramas in purple-bordered toga' performed under the Republic.4 They may have been anything from simple historical pageants, celebrating a triumph, to full-scale dramatizations of significant historical episodes along the lines of Greek tragedy. Ancient critics did not recognize significant differences between praetextae and cothurnatae, dramas in Greek dress dealing with mythological characters. At any rate, the influence of Greek tragedy, alongside that of Seneca, is very important in Octavia, and, as far as can be seen, more significant than that of early Roman drama.5

In Republican praetextae the celebration of important military andpolitical events, andeven of eminent aristocratic individuals, seems to have been prominent.6 The genre remained productive in the first century of the Empire, but topicality andthe reference to contemporary events is unlikely to have been so direct as in early praetextae. To judge from some of the extant titles, celebration of Republican heroism playeda central part (Maternus wrote a Cato anda Domitius; Pomponius Secundus an Aeneas), sometimes in an anti-imperial key. This element may partly account for the progressive disappearance of praetextae from the stage.7 Political caution, a propensity for themes increasingly irrelevant to popular audiences at large, and a long-term process of 'gentrification' of literature at Rome8 made praetextae more

____________________
4
On praetextae in general cf. R. Helm, praetexta, in RE 22.2 (1954), 1569–75;for an exhaustive collection of the testimonia cf. Klotz, 358.
5
The genre of Octavia has often been discussed, especially as regards its kinship to the Republican praetextae: for a survey of the relevant bibliography cf. Schmidt (1985), 1425; Manuwald (2001), 95, n. 86. A recent monographic issue of Symbolae Osloenses hosts a debate on praetextae in the imperial age: cf. SO 73 (2002), 5–105; see also infra, 61–2.
6
On the occasions for performance of Republican praetextae andon subsequent restagings of some of them cf. H. I. Flower, CQ n.s. 45 (1995), 175.
7
For a discussion of the staging–recitation debate specifically with reference to praetextae cf. the SO issue citedin n. 5, passim.
8
See infra, chapter 5, n. 137.

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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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