Specifics regarding the life of Publius Papinius Statius (c.45 AD-96 AD) are for the most part derived from material in the Silvae. Scholars believe that Statius’ biography is recoverable. Perhaps, but most scholarly conclusions are of the speculative kind. The questions surrounding his date of birth and death have not resulted in secure answers. The birth dates vary widely over a decade long period. All statements that allege that ‘he probably did this or probably did that’ reveal little more than an author’s agreement or disagreement with certain passages or with a historian’s ingenuity with details: only in rare cases do the learned judgments bring us closer to the truth.
Indeed, the bare bones facts are these: he was born of Italian stock, educated well in Greek and Latin, won a number of prizes for his poetry, even married a widow with children, although he himself remained childless. Much else is debatable. His present fame now is attended by specific volumes of poetry yet extant: Thebaid, an epic poem based on the classic Seven against Thebes, another unfinished epic entitled Achilleid, and his Silvae, a five book series of verse compositions. Continue reading