(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Born in the Greek city of Naples, Publius Papinius Statius (PUHB-lee-uhs puh-PIHN-ee-uhs STAY-shee-uhs) moved to Rome in about 65 c.e. By 83 c.e., he had became well established in Roman literary society, as shown by the public performance of his pantomime libretto Agave and the publication of an epic on Domitian’s Germanic campaigns in or around this year; except for a fragment of the latter, these works and others that Statius composed for poetry competitions, in which he enjoyed varying degrees of success, have not survived.

The major work of his life, the Thebaid (c. 91 c.e.; English translation, 1928), a mythological epic consisting of twelve books, was begun in about 79 c.e. and published in about 91 c.e. This was followed by the publication of the first four books of occasional poems known as the Silvae (93-c. 96 c.e.; English translation, 1928) in about 93 and 95 c.e. Statius retired to Naples in 94 c.e. and died in 96 c.e., after which his Achilleid (c. 96 c.e.; English translation, 1928), an unfinished epic in two books, and the fifth book of the Silvae were published.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Statius fashioned a new type of poetry in the Silvae by combining features of Roman friendship poetry with elements of Greek encomiastic poetry. In the Thebaid, he created a mythic cosmos that provocatively reflects his contemporary Rome in political and cultural terms. Statius was much admired in the Middle Ages for his poetic achievements, and of all the Roman epic poets after Vergil, he is the most likely to appeal to modern readers.