The fiction of History: recalling the past and imagining the future with Caesar at Troy.

Richard Alston


This essay considers the nature of historical discourse through a consideration of the historical narrative of Lucan’s Pharsalia. The focus is on the manner in which Lucan depicts history as capable of being fictionalised, especially through the operation of political power. The discourses of history make a historical account, but those discourses are not, in Lucan's view, true, but are fictionalised. The key study comes from Caesar at Troy, when Lucan explores the idea of a site (and history) which cannot be understood, but which nevertheless can be employed in a representation of the past. yet, Lucan also alludes to a ‘true history’, which is unrepresentable in his account of Pharsalus, and beyond the scope of the human mind. Lucan’s true history can be read against Benjamin and Tacitus. Lucan offers a framework of history that has the potential to be post-Roman (in that it envisages a world in which there is no Rome), and one in which escapes the frames of cultural memory, both in its fictionalisation and in the dependence of Roman imperial memory on cultural trauma.


Troy; Lucan; Tacitus; Caesar; Germanicus; ruin; historiography; trauma.

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