World's False Subtleties
During the previous chapters, the importance of certain literary or meta-literary themes, such as the conflict between East and West or the effect of Romanization on conventionally Hellenic characters, has become apparent. This chapter will look at another of the Argonautica's central thematic concerns, dissimulation, which functions on both a literary and a meta-literary level, and which also helps to position the work within its historical context. By examining various instances of dissimulation, I will chart the emerging pattern of its uses and abuses within the epic, and at the conclusion of the chapter I will suggest that this pattern can also be applied more broadly to the epic itself. But before turning to the Argonautica itself, I want to focus on two trend-setting epic deceptions, and the important questions which they provoke.
One of the most celebrated attempts at dissimulation in Latin literature, and one which becomes paradigmatic for Valerius' Argonautica, occurs in Aeneid 4. Following the apparition of Mercury, Aeneas instructs his men to make preparations secretly for their departure --
Mnesthea Sergestumque uocat fortemque Serestum, classem aptent taciti sociosque ad litora cogant, arma parent et quae rebus sit causa nouandis dissimulent
he summons Mnestheus and Sergestus and strong Serestus: they are to get the fleet ready in silence and to bring together their companions on the shore and to prepare the gear, and to dissimulate what the reason is for making these changes (Aen. 4. 288-91)
-- only to be confronted almost immediately by Dido's outburst: dissimulare etiam sperasti, perfide, tantum | posse nefas tacitusque mea