Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Statius, Publius Papinius

(circa AD50-circa AD95) Italian Latin epic poet. His Thebaid (circa AD91; trans A D Melville 1992), modelled on Virgil's Aeneid (19BC), recalls its structure – travel and adventure followed by warfare. But PPS learned also from other writers: Ovid's wit and flexibility, Seneca's horrific vision and Marcus Annaeus Lucanus's (> Greek and Latin Classics) political passion. His own voice was sentimental, descriptive and insistently subjective. As noted by J H Mozley and C S Lewis, he prefigures the medieval, at once deeply emotional (notably for wives and children) and curiously intellectual in his coolly ordered treatment of battle and personification, and using such devices as Dragons and dark Forests. The unfinished Achilleid (circa AD96; trans J H Mozley 1928) was even more romantic.

The Thebaid is modern fantasy's first true analogue. In it the Gods, even Jupiter (> Zeus), are either helpless dolts or bloodthirsty fiends; though Theseus finally brings justice, only corpses and widows remain to receive that balm. It is a story of holocaust, and to write it he subjected his entire fictional world to the dictates of a consistent, intentional fantasy. He was the first Western writer to do so. [JB]

Publius Papinius Statius


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.