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Alexander, Scipio and Octavian: Serpent-Siring in Macedon and Rome

From: Syllecta Classica
Volume 20 (2009)
pp. 31-52 | 10.1353/syl.2010.0000



The earliest categorical evidence for the myth of Alexander's serpent-siring derives from the Latin tradition of the ages of the Second Triumvirate and the principate of Augustus, who was also attributed with serpent-siring. This obliges us to ask whether the myth may have originated with or for Octavian, the future Augustus. An accumulation of indirect evidence does indeed suggest that Alexander's myth originated in or close to the king's own age. It remains likely, however, that these first explicit sources of the Latin tradition nonetheless engage directly or indirectly with the notion that Octavian-Augustus had a serpent sire of his own, and the pairing of Alexander's serpent-siring with that of Scipio Africanus, itself not attested prior to the age of the Second Triumvirate either, is particularly suggestive of this.

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