Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Ronnie Ancona

Committee Members

David Eric Petrain

Philip Thibodeau

Subject Categories

Classical Literature and Philology | Classics


Roman Epic, Imperial Epic, Nero, Cognitive Classics


This dissertation argues for the importance of fear in the Bellum Civile, Lucan’s Neronian epic narrating the civil war between Caesar and Pompey (49 – 48 BCE). Previous scholars have acknowledged the centrality of fear in Lucan’s poetic program, having related it to the Aristotelian theory of pity and fear (catharsis) and to the use of affective rhetorical devices in historiographic writing. However, there has been no extended analysis on the programmatic role of fear in Lucan’s historical epic. I examine therefore how Lucan represents fear in its multifaceted forms and analyze how the representation of these forms complicates Lucan’s goals for his work. My dissertation also investigates reasons for the aesthetic and thematic prioritization of fear in the Bellum Civile to promote a psycho-political reading of the text, one that Lucan’s engaged, affective style might have guided an ideal reader to accept. My conclusion emphasizes the epic’s innovative representation of fear as a domineering human emotion, one intimately tied to the cycles of violence and civil strife that underlie Roman history.