Authors: Statius

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Roman poet

Author Works


Thebais, c. 90 (Thebaid, 1767)

Silvae, c. 91-95 (English translation, 1908)

Achilleid, c. 95-96 (English translation, 1660)


Publius Papinius Statius (STAY-shuhs) was a poet of the court of the Emperor Domitian (81-96) and wrote adulatory poetry for that ruler, who had no taste for verse. Statius’s father had been a poet, and the son began early and competed frequently, and usually successfully, in poetic contests in Naples. One clue to his success may be that the public never saw his verse until it had been approved by the Divine Emperor.{$I[AN]9810000349}{$I[A]Statius}{$S[A]Publius Papinius Statius;Statius}{$I[geo]ROMAN EMPIRE;Statius}{$I[tim]0045 c.e.;Statius}

Victor at Domitian’s festival at Alba, where he was awarded the coveted gold wreath from Domitian’s hands, he entered the quinquennial Capitoline competition in 94, but failed to win the oakleaf crown. Discouraged, he returned to Naples, where he died in about 96.

It took Statius twelve years to complete the twelve books of his Vergilian poem Thebais, which tells of the battle between the sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, for the throne of Thebes. Although it is at times marked by a certain turgidity, Thebais is a rich tapestry of the dark side of human ambition, murderous violence, and the mutability of fate. Only fragments remain of his epic about the early life of Achilles. Silvae is a collection of pleasant occasional verse about his friends, the emperor, and his wife, Claudia. He also wrote a birthday ode to Lucan, which is valuable because of its comments on earlier writers.

BibliographyDominik, William J. The Mythic Voice of Statius: Power and Politics in the “Thebaid.” New York: E. J. Brill, 1994. Examines in detail the thematic design of the Thebaid and explores the poem’s political undercurrents.Dominik, William J. Speech and Rhetoric in Statius’s “Thebaid.” New York: Olms-Weidmann, 1994. Presents a critical analysis of the stylistic, narrative, and thematic functions of the characters’ speeches in the Thebaid.Geyssen, John W. Imperial Panegyric in Statius: A Literary Commentary on “Silvae.” New York: Peter Lang, 1996. Examines Statius as a panegyrist working within an accepted poetic tradition, focusing on the first of the Silvae.Hardie, Alex. Statius and the “Silvae”: Poets, Patrons, and Epideixis in the Graeco-Roman World. Liverpool, England: Francis Cairns, 1983. Considers Statius’s performance as a Latin poet against the context of contemporary social and literary history.Vessey, David. Statius and the “Thebaid.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Provides a critical analysis and evaluation of Statius’s epic, placing the work in its historical and literary context and surveying its form, style, and content.Vessey, David. Statius: “Thebaid.” Translated by A. D. Melville. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1992. Provides a general introduction to the Thebaid as well as a summary of the poem and a list of principal characters.
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