Dracontius the African and the Fate of Rome
This chapter discusses that what is distinctive in the poetry of Dracontius, and to understand this not as an eccentric deviation from the classics, but as the hallmark of a time in which the poet, his audience and the world's great cities all appeared to a pagan eye to have crushed on the wheel of fate. It describes the Romulea, a sequence of ten poems so conspicuously in debt to pagan models and so empty of explicit Christian teaching. The chapter argues that they express, and may have been designed to parody, the popular conviction that the tale which people call history is a shadow-play devised for the entertainment of unfeeling and inexorable gods. A sorry abortion, some might say, if the poem stood alone. But in the Romulea, this ousting of human agents by their overlords is so frequent that it must bespeak a view of the world or at least a view of poetry's function in it.