Emma Hilliard, "Dreams, Ghosts, and Gods: The Apparition Topos in Roman Epic"
In the world of epic poetry, supernatural apparitions loom large. Traditionally these episodes are sorted into three major literary topoi: the dream topos, the ghost topos, and the divine messenger topos. Such categorization, however, denies the complex and highly syncretistic model of ancient thought on supernatural beings. I propose a new “apparition topos” as a more flexible means of interpretation, one which allows space for different types of manifestation more clearly to inform one another. The utility of this topos is demonstrated in a discussion on the Neronian poet Lucan and his complicated relationship with Virgil, Latin literature’s most important epicist. My findings show the merits of applying a new, holistic way of looking at epic apparitions that situates ghosts, dreams, and gods as related phenomena worthy of close comparison.