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A perfect murder : the Hypsipyle epyllion.

Heslin, Peter (2016) 'A perfect murder : the Hypsipyle epyllion.', in Family in Flavian epic. Leiden ; Boston: Brill, pp. 89-121. Mnemosyne supplements, Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, volume 394. (394).


This piece builds upon two well-established approaches to Book 5 of Statius’ Thebaid: Hypsipyle as a sophisticated and potentially unreliable narrator of her own experiences and Nemea as a place of particularly Callimachean resonance. I argue that Statius provides hints of a possible interpretation of events in which Hypsipyle is deeply implicated in the violence on Lemnos and in which she repeats this proclivity to wantonly murder young men by deliberately abandoning Opheltes to a cruel fate she has carefully designed for him. This is more or less the charge the boy’s furious mother, Eurydice, subsequently hurls at Hypsipyle. That accusation fails to gain any traction in part because of the sympathy that Hypsipyle has carefully cultivated with the Argives, but mainly because it seems on the face of it utterly implausible. What motive could Hypsipyle possibly have had for murdering an infant to whom she was clearly attached by a close mutual bond of affection? But Hypsipyle knows that Nemea is fated to give the first victim of the Argive expedition, and she sees that she is in danger of recapitulating the fate of Callimachus’ Hecale, the elderly hostess whose life is forfeited at the outset of a heroic expedition. So she has to find a substitute.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Date accepted:30 September 2015
Date deposited:No date available
Date of first online publication:01 August 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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