Roman frieze

“Theogonic elements in Statius’ description of Vulcan’s necklace (Theb. 2.265-296)”
Christopher Chinn (Pomona College)

Scholars have often noted the highly metapoetic character of Statius’ description of Harmonia’s necklace at Thebaid 2.265-296. Statius’ reference to the Telchines as assisting in the creation of the necklace seem to evoke the poetic controversy in which Callimachus found himself embroiled in the introduction to his Aitia. I would like to add to the discussion of the metapoetics of this passage by examining the features of the necklace itself. Statius’ references to Venus’ cestos and to the Grace Pasithea (2.283-4; 286) allude to the story of Hera’s seduction of Zeus in Iliad 14. In this episode Hera convinces Aphrodite to lend her the cestos by alluding to an apparently Orphic Theogony focused on Oceanus and Tethys. By looking at the details of the necklace made by Vulcan in the Thebaid we can discern a pattern of Orphic and theogonic elements. For example, the various metals and stones used by Vulcan in the creation of the necklace allude to stories involving the Telchines, Daktyloi, and other primeval daimones. Like Hera’s lie in the Iliad, Vulcan’s “orphic” necklace constitutes an attempt by characters within the poem to hijack the narrative. All this contributes to the poetic conflict of the Thebaid.

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