Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (November 3, AD 39 - April 30, 65), better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman poet, and is one of the outstanding figures of the Silver Latin period.

Lucan was born in Cordoba in present-day Spain, and was the nephew of Seneca the Younger. He mentioned Mevania, and may have spent time there. There is reason to believe he studied under the Stoic philosopher Cornutus .

He found success under Nero, and won a prize for poetry in AD 60. His epic poem, Pharsalia (but labeled Bellum civile in the manuscripts), which told the story of the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, was much acclaimed. However, he soon fell out of favor, and was lured into the conspiracy of Piso. His treason having been discovered, he was obliged to commit suicide by opening a vein.

[Adapted from Wikipedia]


As with Virgil's masterpiece, Lucan's epic poem was unfinished at the time of his death, and its untidy condition is reflected in its 400 complete and partial copies. As A.E. Housman stated in the preface to his edition of 1926, "the manuscripts group themselves not in families but in factions; their dissidences and agreements are temporary and transient . . . and the true line of division is between the variants themselves, not between the manuscripts which offer them." Pharsalia was perhaps most celebrated during the Middle Ages, but his work had tremendous influence in the poetry and drama of the 17th century.

[Adapted from Wikipedia]

Isidore quotes from the Pharsalia, as do some bestiary versions. Book 9 is quoted as a source for many of the serpent legends, in a section on a march through the Libyan desert: "Ye serpents too / Who in all other regions harmless glide / Adored as gods, and bright with golden scales, / In those hot wastes are deadly..." (9, 853-856). The cause of this deadliness is also given: "Malevolent nature from [Medusa's] body first / Drew forth these noisome pests; first from her jaws / Issued the sibilant rattle of serpent tongues; / Clustered around her head the poisonous brood..." (9, 739-741).

[The quotes from Pharsalia used on this site are from the 1896 Edward Ridley translation.]

Lucan mentions the following beasts: