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Title: Prudentius, poetry and Hispania
Author: Hershkowitz, Paula
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The thesis focuses on the martyr poetry of Prudentius. It argues that we cannot fully understand his verses without contextualising the poet within his physical environment, in particular that of Hispania, his homeland. Although literary sources can provide information about Prudentius and his work, it is only by accessing evidence from the archaeological and visual record when studying his poetry that its purpose can be fully understood. Chapter I serves as an introduction to Prudentius. It examines the information he gives us about himself in his poetry and discusses the historical context and background of his work. Chapter II identifies the audience of Prudentius and proposes a role for him as villa-poet to the elite of Hispania. It questions the extent to which this audience were, during his lifetime, committed to the Christian religion. Chapter III analyses the martyr poems in detail, especially those located in Hispania. By examining the material evidence for martyr worship in the locations mentioned by Prudentius it assesses whether the cult of the martyrs played a significant role in the lives of the Spanish. Chapter IV examines two poems set in Italian martyr tombs which show the emotional involvement of the poet in martyr worship and highlights the influence which Christian iconography could have on a susceptible viewer such as Prudentius. Chapter V argues from extant material evidence that the fourth and early fifth-century visual backdrop of Hispania remained substantially non-Christian. It proposes that in order to envisage the Christian art presented by Prudentius’ Italian poems his audience would need to mentally access these local ‘pagan’ images. In conclusion, the physical and literary evidence from Hispania indicates that Prudentius’ audience at home was largely lacking in commitment to Christianity and confirms the significance and necessity of his poetry as a vehicle for proselytism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available