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Title: The divinity of Augustus in the poetry of Vergil, Horace, and Propertius
Author: Xinyue, B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 7591
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This doctoral dissertation investigates poetic representations of Augustus as divine during the formative stages of the Roman imperial cult. The dissertation takes the form of a philological study of poetry, but the intersection between literature and material culture (such as coinage, art, and architecture) runs through the project. Methodologically, this thesis falls within the framework of new historicism – finding meaning for poetic images in their relation to the world outside the text; and the thesis seeks to make connections between poetic texts and political and religious history. This dissertation, in short, challenges the prevalent view of White (1993: 169- 70) and Gradel (2002: 110) that poetry does not meaningfully engage with the development of the divine status of Augustus. I argue that the works of Vergil, Horace, and Propertius provide important insights into the way Octavian/Augustus fashioned divine images for himself, and that poetry elicits near-contemporary discussions of the prospect of Augustus’ deification. This dissertation does not purport to be a study of the textual sources for the cult of Augustus, but rather an attempt to reassert the full integration of poetry into political debate and cultural activity. In this reading, poetry itself becomes a cultural technology for, or a challenge to, deification. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on Octavian’s various divine personae during the civil war period through the lens of Vergil’s Eclogues and Georgics. Chapters 3 and 4 concentrate on Horace’s Odes 1-3 and Propertius 1-3, and argue that the poets in the early years of the Principate continued to conceptualise Augustus’ power in divine terms, even though the practice of depicting Augustus as divine came to a halt in official art. Chapters 5 and 6 study the dynamic between Aeneas, Apollo and Augustus in Vergil’s Aeneid and Horace’s Carmen Saeculare. Finally, Chapters 7 looks at book 4 of Propertius, examining in particular the elegist’s response to the connection between Apollo and Augustus in contemporary literature and elsewhere, as well as the poet’s anticipation of the formal deification of Augustus.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available