Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica opens with a declaration of primacy:
prima deum niagnis canimus freta peruia natis fatidicamque ratem, Scythic quae Phasidis oras ausa sequi mediosque inter iuga concita cursus rumpere flammifero tandem consedit Olympo.
We sing of the sea first penetrated by the great sons of gods, and the prophetic ship which dared to seek the shores of Scythian Phasis and to burst through the Clashing Rocks with a middle course, and finally settled in the fiery heavens (1. 1-4).
Not only does the first word, prima, point to the Argo's status as the first ship, but its meta-narrative resonance also seems to mark out the work as a first of some kind as well. Yet by stressing the notion of primacy, the proem calls attention to the epic's belated status, to the fact that this is not the first poem to deal with the Argonautic enterprise. Poetic accounts, epic and otherwise, of the Argo' voyage existed from pre-Homeric times onwards. Valerius could not even claim to be the first Roman epicist to compose on the subject.
The Flavian Argonautica's belatedness in the literary tradition is further signalled in the proem by echoes of several of these previous versions. Among other texts, Davis1 has noted how the importance of the concepts of the Argo's novelty (prima) and daring (ausa, rumpere) in the opening lines is anticipated by Catullus. 64,2 Horace's Odes 1. 3, and____________________