Doctrine, polemic and literary tradition in some hexameter poems of Prudentius
The thesis, the topic of which is restricted to the polemical didactic poems, Apotheosis, Hamartigenia and Contra Symmachum 1-2, aims to establish the attitudes of Prudentius to the literary tradition and argues for his relationship with the Latin classical poets. Its main argument is that the hexameter poems as a group can be profitably studied from a stylistic angle, since they show how Prudentius combined, and used with innovation, the styles of several poets, namely Lucretius, Virgil and Juvenal, and in many cases engaged with the literary tradition as a whole. Chapter I surveys, as reflected in the poems, Prudentius' awareness of the political, religious and literary milieu in the Christian Empire of the West in his day. Chapter II examines how Prudentius employed the style of argument and imagery in the D.R.N. to present Christian doctrines on the body and the soul, and to reject pagan superstition. Chapter III shows how with much imagination and respect Prudentius adapted Virgil's phraseology and techniques to give new Christian interpretations of some mythical and historical themes in the Aen., such as the 'Golden Age' and the battle of Actium, and of topics on agriculture from the Georg. Chapter IV argues that, like other fourth century Christian writers, the poet entered into the spirit of Satire and alluded to Juvenal's themes and language in his treatment of the topics of sin and sexuality. Finally, in Chapter V Prudentius' adaptations of the biblical accounts in Gen. 19 and of Ps. 136 are used to demonstrate how allegory, which is a main feature of his poetry, was combined successfully with different classical techniques. In conclusion, the hexameter poems demonstrate that Prudentius did not reject classical poetry on the basis of its content, but used both its themes and poetic techniques in order to merge the ancient with the Christian literary tradition.