Abstract

This paper argues that Mezentius, the contemptor divum ("scorner of the gods") in Virgil's Aeneid, can be read as an allegorical Epicurean. His Epicurean element helps to explain his dramatic transformation from a symbol of impietas to one of pietas in Books 7–10, as well as pius Aeneas' reverse transformation into an impious Giant figure. These transformations parallel the inversion of the traditional meanings of pietas and impietas in Lucretius and other Epicurean writers; in addition, the Giant-like Mezentius evokes the subversive Gigantomachy of Lucretius, which celebrates the archetypal scorners of the gods as positive symbols of Epicureanism. The "redeemed" Mezentius allows for an Epicurean reading of the Aeneid, in which impietas is redefined as true piety.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2575-7199
Print ISSN
2575-7180
Pages
pp. 403-431
Launched on MUSE
2005-11-16
Open Access
No
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