Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica: Abbreviated Voyages in Silver Latin Epic

By Debra Hershkowitz | Go to book overview

1
Incompleteness: me talia uelle?

ET IAM FINIS ERAT

Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica comes to a sudden stop. The Argo is at Peuce, where Jason and Medea have celebrated their marriage, but Medea begins to suspect that the Argonauts plan to abandon her to her pursuing brother and to the wrath of her betrayed father, and harangues Jason with threats and entreaties, whipping herself up into a maenadic frenzy in the process (8. 408-63). Jason, in turn, is thrown into confusion:

maestus at ille minis et mota Colchidos ira haeret et hinc praesens pudor, hinc decreta suorum dura premunt. utcuinque tamen mulcere gernentem temptat et ipse gemens et †tempera† dictis: 'mene aliquid meruisse putas, me talia uelle?'

But unhappy from the threats and the agitated anger of the Colchian, he hesitates; on this side present shame, on that side the harsh decisions of his companions press him. Yet he tries as best as he can to soothe the groaning woman, himself groaning, and [calms her] with his words: 'Do you think that I deserved this, that I wish for such things?' (8. 463A-467)1

And so, in the middle of a speech, or, even in the middle of a sentence, depending on how the final line is punctuated,2 Valerius' text comes to a screeching halt.3

This sort of ending in medias res is, of course, not unprecedented in epic poetry.4 The Iliad concludes not with the fall of Troy or

____________________
1
All Valerius citations come from Ehlers ( 1980) except where indicated. All translations are my own.
2
Cf. Kramer ( 1913), where the final line is punctuated 'merie aliquid meruisse putas? me talia uelle . . .'
3
The state of the end of the Argonautica is an object of textual contention: Langen ( 1896-7) and Kramer ( 1913) insert a lacuna after line 463, and Mozley ( 1934) and Courtney ( 1970) insert lacunae after both 457 and 463. Ehlers ( 1980), who inserts neither of these lacunae, is alse the only modern editor to accept 463A into his text, which he defends (along with rejecting the lacuna after 457) in Ehlers ( 1970), 63-6; cf. contra Poortvliet ( 1991a), 40-1.
4
Cf. Masters ( 1992), 251 n. 82: Either by coincidence or design, incompleteness (and its symptom, the sudden end) is almost a characteristic of the genre . . .'. On the many critical issues arising from the notion of closure itself see Fowler ( 1989) and ( 1997) with bibliography.

-1-

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Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica: Abbreviated Voyages in Silver Latin Epic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preace vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • 1 - Incompleteness: Me Talia Uelle? 1
  • 2 - Belatedness: Silver Linings 35
  • 3 - Recuperations: Better, Stronger, Faster 105
  • 4 - Digressions: the Road Not Taken 190
  • 5 - Dissimulation: Unlearnèd in the World's False Subtleties 242
  • References 275
  • Index of Passages 289
  • General Index 298
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