chapter  VII
18 Pages

FORM EMPOWERED: LUCAN’S PHARSALIA

Lucan is something of a Byronic figure, and his popularity as a poet in the similarly youthful poetic (and politically conscious) circles of Byron and Shelley should reassure readers that scholarly doubts about his poetry have not always been shared by his fellow poets. Shelley judged Lucan ‘a poet of great genius and transcending Virgil’.5 Even when Quintilian, writing a generation after Lucan’s death, describes Lucan as a writer ‘magis oratoribus quam poetis im itandus’ (‘someone orators [i.e. men in public life], rather than poets, should im itate’), he both praises and chastises (Inst. Orat. 10.1.90). His innuendo is that Romans in political life could take their cue from Lucan even if poets should not.4