[Milton-L] Re: Stella Revard, Rose Williams, and God as tyrant

rose williams rwill627 at cox.net
Sat Jul 22 09:57:49 EDT 2006

Two outstanding modern books in this field are: 

Beard, Mary, North, John and Price, Simon. Religions of Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 

Dumezil, Georges. Archaic Roman Religion. 2 vols. Trans. Philip Krapp. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

As for ancient sources, Milton was surely acquainted with Cassius Dio's history of Rome, with Gellius, with Livy and the fragments from Ennius, in addition to the well-known works of Ovid, Martial, Petronius, Horace, Pliny and Vergil.The ancients seldom set out to highlight the differences between Greek and Roman deities -- in fact, Ovid does much to equate them. The differences are seen in two ways: the chance descriptions in the Roman writers which certainly would not fit the Greek counterpart, and in the discussions of temples and festivals that are a far cry from those of Greece.
I am writing a book for which the publisher is pressing me, so I have to no time right now to look at Milton beside the ancients extensively, but I think the Puritan God owes more to Jove Pater than to Zeus. A quick example which comes to mind is Aeneid X.111-113 
"sua cuique exorsa laborem
fortunamque ferent. rex Iuppiter omnibus idem."
"His own works shall bring to each man hardship and fortune. 
Jupiter is the same king to them all"
Rose Williams

>wonder if Milton's portrayal of the Father derives morefrom the pre-Etruscan numinous god ("majestic, extremely powerful, andslightly dull") than from Zeus. Are there relevant literary sources,and could Milton have known them? Does the text of PL bear upassertions of their relevance? Of course, apropos Prof. Revard's pointabout the war in heaven and the overthrow of Cronos, Milton probablywould have seen the influence flowing the other way, i.e., that the"pagan" gods were shadowy remnants of the "true" God. But I think thequestion is a fair one to ask if its terms are limited to literaryrepresentation.
Jason A. Kerr
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