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Faith in Fate: Plot, Gods, and Metapoetic Morality in Valerius Flaccus



Professor of Classics


Antony Augoustakis

Claire Stocks

Emma Buckley


This paper examines fides as a literary term, and asks how metaliterary faith fits in with morality, intertextuality and trust in the gods. It begins by examining the phrase nec vana fides in situations related to prophecy and belief in the gods, including the prophetic contest of Mopsus and Idmon, and Valerius’ invocation of Bacchus at Callirhoe. The second section explores ideas of faith at Lemnos, used by Venus and in Hypsipyle’s tour of Lemnos’ divine landscape. The rhetoric of faith often accompanies deception. Faith is also used to reflect on the difficulties of working with (and living in) a traditional narrative: gods who cannot change the outcome of the story, and men whose trust in gods (and themselves) is misplaced. The section on the helmsman also investigates the connection between faith and narrative. The second half of the article focuses mainly on Jason and Medea, examining Jason’s use of the rhetoric of faith and trust, and Medea’s metaliterary trust in and rejection of her own past (literary and familial), in her negotiations with Aeetes, the dragon scene, the marriage scene and the final quarrel between Jason and Medea. This first examination of the language of metaliterary faith in Valerius Flaccus sets out an important nexus of ideas about intertextuality, authority, myth and power that is extendable not just to other Latin epics but also the use of fides in other mythological genres. The particular prominence of this language in Valerius’ Flavian Argonautica suggests that belatedness and political anxieties combine to make metaliterary fides a peculiar concern of Flavian epic.


LOVATT, H. (2019). Faith in Fate: Plot, Gods, and Metapoetic Morality in Valerius Flaccus. In A. Augoustakis, E. Buckley, & C. Stocks (Eds.), Fides in Flavian Literature (85-108). University of Toronto Press

Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 23, 2019
Publication Date 2019
Deposit Date Jan 11, 2019
Publisher University of Toronto Press
Pages 85-108
Book Title Fides in Flavian Literature
Chapter Number 5
ISBN 9781487505530
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