Iustitium in Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Lucan’s Neronian epic of civil war introduces iustitium (‘cessation of the legal’) at key moments throughout the work. The various iustitia of the Bellum Ciuile suspend the normative functions of the legal, political, poetic, and prophetic spheres. A textual standstill drives characters to seek understanding of a world in suspension through novel and often shocking means. This chapter shows how the Bellum Ciuile explores and expands iustitium’s distinctly republican and imperial meanings, which include the official period of mourning after the death of an emperor or an heir apparent. It argues that the epic’s anachronistic treatment of iustitium tells the story of the Republic’s domination by an imminent dynasty. The poem narrativizes the historical emergence of a centralized sovereign power in Caesar, a dynamic transformation that represents later Augustan and Julio-Claudian developments. The epic may suggest that the Roman Empire is a permanent iustitium, a continual state of exception. If this is so, the Republic remains on standby. Any optimistic outlook is destabilized, however, by the poem’s paradoxical presentation ab initio of Caesar as sovereign, as an emperor avant la lettre.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoman law and Latin literature
EditorsIoannis Ziogas, Erica M. Bexley
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781350276642, 9781350276666
ISBN (Print)9781350276635, 9781350276673
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022

Publication series

NameBloomsbury classical studies monographs


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