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Weather Predictions in Lucan’s Bellum Civile

Anne-Sophie Meyer

(University of Basel)

Lucan’s epic poem has always risen attention because of his large use of themes and scenes belonging to the natural world. Indeed, the narrator avoids the staging of the traditional epic gods to motivate and explain natural phenomena and relies instead on the tradition of natural history and didactic poetry. However, within the narrative, many characters express opinions about their natural environment which do not always fit together.
In this paper, I want to explore the ways characters make predictions about the weather: which frame of reference do the speakers use (scientific, mythologic, ethic)? How does the audience react? Are the predictions fulfilled within the narrative? How do the characters' frames of reference relate to that of the narrator?
To answer these questions, I will examine some passages where characters make predictions about the weather: Caesar arguing about the hibernal wind conditions of the Adriatic Sea in order to convince his soldiers to cross over to Ilyria (5,407–423); Amyclas (a fisherman) warning Caesar of an impending storm (5,540–576) and Caesars own weather predictions in this scene (5,578–593); Cato forecasting the winter climate in Libya (9,371–377. 382–403). Combining a narratological and an intertextual analysis, it will be possible to clear the function of these meteorological passages and to show that the use of different frames of reference make in some cases communication impossible. The mastery of a (scientific) argumentation about meteorology will prove itself to be a central point of these passages, by conferring a power that can be misused.

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