Hippolytus and Virbius: Narratives on “Coming Back to Life” and Religious Discourse in Greco-Roman Literature
This paper concentrates on the plethora of stories about Hippolytus’s gruesome end and his coming back to life. I trace these stories through their many iterations from classical through Roman times, beginning with Euripides and moving on to the versions told by Pausanias, Virgil, and Ovid. Each telling of these tales provides a different way to think about the borders between life and death, as well as between gods, heroes, and mortals—and about politics, religion, and poetry. In relation to all these topics, the story about Hippolytus’s coming back to life was good to think with. For Euripides, Hippolytus provides an example of polis-related discourse in late fifth-century BCE Athens. In Hellenistic times, Hippolytus became attached to Italian mythology, probably already by Callimachus. Finally, the versions told by Virgil (Aeneid) and Ovid (Fasti and Metamorphoses) demonstrate sophisticated ways of dealing with the new phenomenon of apotheosis in Roman religion and its meaning for Augustan poetry.
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