Orestes, Pylades, and Roman Men

Edith Hall

in Adventures with Iphigenia in Tauris

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392890
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979257 | DOI:

Series: Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture

Orestes, Pylades, and Roman Men

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In the second century BCE, a version of the play by the great Roman Republican author Pacuvius, which has not survived, put the Black Sea adventures of the Atreids on the Latin literary agenda. Iphigenia's own importance as a heroine seems to have diminished as the relationship between Orestes and Pylades struck resounding a chord in a culture where passionate friendship between young males of elite houses—amicitia—was a key constituent of the socio-political infrastructure. From Cicero to Martial and St. Augustine, and on numerous frescoes painted on the walls of houses at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the Bay of Naples, the bond instantiated in the play became one of the most commonly cited examples of idealised male friendship. Ovid transformed the versions of the story he found in Euripides and almost certainly Pacuvius to help him write poetic epistles to friends who he hoped would help him to be recalled from his own Black Sea exile at Tomi (now Constanta). His beautiful reading of the myth in his Epistulae Ex Ponto 3.2.39-102, addressed to his close friend Cotta, is the finest as well as the longest surviving Latin reception of Euripides' play.

Keywords: Pacuvius; friendship; Roman; Fresco; Pompeii; Ovid; Tomi; Cicero; Martial; Augustine

Chapter.  7496 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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