It is the argument of this paper that many aspects of Lucan's characterization in the Bellum Civile of Caesar and Pompey, and of the conflict itself, reflect a ritual combat for kingship such as the combat and murder codified in the myth of Romulus and Remus. It was a well-established convention by Ennius's time, further developed in the late Republic, that the conflict between the founding brothers over control of Rome was the ultimate cause for the Civil Wars. The religious (and possibly the historical) basis of this myth can be found in the rites of the priest of Diana at Aricia, the rex nemorensis, which were still extant in Lucan's time. The evidence for Lucan's use of this paradigm is reviewed, and Book 3 of the Bellum Civile is then reassessed in the terms that it suggests. The themes of sacred place (especially the sacred grove), scared combat, and the necessary murder are most clearly presented in Book 3. It is further argued that seeming inconsistencies in the nature of the gods in Lucan's epic can be at least partially resolved if we understand that the gods must remain aloof and outside the action while the ritual takes place, even though they themselves have instituted the ritual of kingship murder, and will, when it is completed, receive the murderer as their ritually validated priest-king. In the conclusion, ways are suggested in which this paradigm, if accepted, begins to clarify various puzzling choices Lucan has made elsewhere in the epic regarding his narrative of events, his development of character, and the recurrent images of lightning, tree, and blood-sacrifice owed to the gods.
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