Classics Statius
Elaine Fantham, Emily Fairey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0064


Publius Papinius Statius was born in Naples around 45 CE. Very little is recorded about his life; most of what is known is gleaned from his own writings. For example, he was victorious in poetic contests many times at his native Naples, and thrice at Alba, where he received the golden crown from the hand of the emperor Domitian and was promoted to the coveted post of court poet. His wife, Claudia, appears in his poetry as a character and an addressee. Finally, we gather from the final poem of the Silvae, which expresses his sorrow at the death of an adopted child, that he had no children but wished for them. Statius had many patrons, and although not wealthy, he did not live in poverty. He lived in Rome most of his life as a court poet under Domitian. He is one of the principal epic and lyric poets of the Silver Age of Latin literature. After listing a few general studies of Statius’s context and inherited epic tradition, this bibliography treats his three works, the Thebaid, the incomplete Achilleid, and the five books of Silvae.

General Overviews

On Domitianic literature, see Coleman 1986, Coleman 1990, Boyle 2003, and Nauta, et al. 2006, which includes six articles on Statius, mostly on the Silvae. On Statius and patronage, see Nauta 2002 and White 1978. On the epic tradition, see Hardie 1992. See also Boyle 2003 on Roman epic. On the manuscript traditions of Statius’s different poems, see Reeve 1982.

  • Boyle, Anthony James, William J. Dominik, eds. 2003. Flavian Rome: Culture, image, text. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    The importance of Domitianic literature is emphasized in this critical overview. The studies are by twenty-five scholars from five countries.

  • Coleman, Kathleen. 1986. The emperor Domitian and literature. In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 32.5 (Literatur der Julisch-Claudischen und der Flavischen Zeit). Edited by Hildegarde Temporini and Wolgang Haase, 3087–3115. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter.

    See p. 3112 for Domitian’s imperial literary censorship.

  • Coleman, Kathleen. 1990. Latin literature after AD 96: Change or continuity? American Journal of Ancient History 15:19–39.

    Although Domitian’s two immediate successors may have established a less repressive tone in their regimes, no drastic change in literary practices or content (in prose or verse) can be observed.

  • Hardie, Philip R. 1992. The epic successors of Virgil: A study in the dynamics of a tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Hardie examines the anxieties and problems facing post-Virgilian writers of epic and their attempts at finding solutions for novelty and meaning through a continuing process of what he calls “creative imitation.”

  • McNelis, Charles. 2002. Greek grammarians and Roman society during the early Empire: Statius’ father and his contemporaries. Classical Antiquity 21:67–94.

    DOI: 10.1525/ca.2002.21.1.67

    On the influence of teachers of grammar in establishing and maintaining social distinctions between the educated elite and the rest of the Empire’s population.

  • Nauta, Ruurd R. 2002. Poetry for patrons: Literary communication in the age of Domitian. Mnemosyne Supp. 206. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    A study of Martial, Statius, and Juvenal in their literary and social contexts, particularly their relationships to patrons, that combines traditional philological/historical practice with reader reception theory.

  • Nauta, Ruurd R., Harm-Jan Van Dam, and Johannes J. L. Smolenaars, eds. 2006. Flavian poetry. Mnemosyne Supp. 270. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    Revised versions of twenty-one papers from an international colloquium held at the University of Groningen in August 2003. Six articles on Statius: Bruce Gibson, “The Silvae and epic”; Van Dam, “Multiple imitation of epic models in Silvae”; Philip Hardie, on Atedius Melior’s tree; Smolenaars on Silvae 4.3; and Mariscal on satirical aspects of the Silvae.

  • Reeve, M. D. 1982. Statius. In Texts and transmission: A survey of the Latin classics. Edited by L. D. Reynolds, 394–397. Oxford: Clarendon.

    This handbook presents concise accounts of the manuscript tradition and transmission of Latin texts.

  • White, Peter. 1978. Amicitia and the profession of poetry in early imperial Rome. Journal of Roman Studies 68:74–91.

    DOI: 10.2307/299627

    White maintains that amicitia between poets and their wealthy friends can be seen as a very Roman sort of code of behavior that provided the poets with advantages such as material support, an audience, publicity, and a boost to social standing.

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