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Chiara Battistella, “Medea reaches maturity: on Ovidian intertextuality in Seneca’s Medea 905-915”

tl;dr some language in Seneca’s Medea may indicate that he is placing himself in agonistic relation with Ovid’s Medea. I guess.

I would not recommend this to an undergraduate audience.

stakes: ? unclear

Sorry to have been silent; Carleton term has been finishing up. Summer soon to begin! But also this was just a difficult piece to get through, and I’ve had to read it a number of times. The author’s abstract starts “This article offers some thoughts on Seneca’s Medea…” and that’s pretty telling; it is not easy to extract a unified argument here.

Disregarding the “thoughts” for the moment, the title refers to what I take to be the main idea of the paper: that (part of) the speech in which Seneca’s Medea declares her intention to kill her children evokes Ovid’s Amores 2.18, in which Ovid makes reference to his (lost) tragedy Medea. The key line in Seneca is Medea nunc sum; crevit ingenium malis (“Now I am Medea; my talent has grown by means of evils” 910); Ovid also uses the words ingenium and (separately) crevit in Amores 2.18 11-16.

Your mileage may vary on this; I am convinced by the artful use Seneca makes of elegiac language (outlined by Chris Trinacty) and it would be odd if Seneca were not writing his tragedy with Ovid’s in mind along with Euripides’ (and Ennius’, for that matter). But ingenium and cresco are both reasonably common words. Sometimes I feel like our extended focus on the few surviving texts makes us a tad myopic about seeing references. On the other hand Seneca’s working memory for Latin letters will have been massively larger than our own. So maybe my skepticism is misplaced!

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