Imperii pretium : cultural development and conceptual transformations in the myth of Eteokles and Polyneices from Aeschylus to Alfieri
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This thesis contextualises and explores the reconceptualization of the myth of Eteokles and Polyneices in Greek, Latin and Italian tragedy, the literary genre that more than any other offers the opportunity to trace its progressive transformation across a series of relatively continuous and consistent phases. Within these limits, this study represents the first comprehensive, systematic and detailed comparative analysis of the cultural development of this myth, charting the shaping of its key themes: war and rivalry, autochthony and patriotism, the connection between incest, parricide and fratricide, the effects of predestination/family curse, the clash between private and public interests, and the legitimate limits of power. By means of a close examination of the thesis’ main corpus (constituted by Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes, Sophocles’ Antigone, Oedipus Tyrannos and Oedipus at Colonus, Euripides’ Phoenician Women, Seneca’s Oedipus and Phoenissae, Dolce’s Giocasta and Alfieri’s Polinice) this dissertation demonstrates that the brothers are not merely two stereotypical types whose characterisation as mortal enemies remains static and unvaried. Although their rivalry never stops, the meaning, dynamic and purpose of their struggle are progressively but profoundly transformed throughout the centuries. In particular, I argue that the martial component that initially defined this myth, admittedly important throughout its legacy, is variously adapted to accommodate either a warning against the horrors of violence and subjugation, a cautionary appeal against overly aggressive foreign policy, a denunciation of the unbearable price of civil strife, or an aspiration to pacifism. In parallel, I analyse how the reflection on power and power struggle becomes increasingly predominant, eventually displacing the war theme as the main focus of this myth with a warning against the dangers of tyranny.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2021-03-30
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 30th March 2021
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