Through Vergil’s Eyes: the Certamen Hoeufftianum and the Revival of Figures from Antiquity in the Latin Poetry of the First World War

Nicholas De Sutter


This article explores a particular subset of the overlooked body of Latin poetry related to the First World War, in which figures from antiquity – either fictional or historical – are brought back to life during or shortly after the war. This literary technique combines two central aspects of contemporary Latin poetry: its fascination for everything modern and its Romanticist penchant for harking back to ancient times. Instead of escaping from the war into the past, these poems – selected predominantly from the vast corpus of poetry submitted to the Hoeufftianum competition, the centre of this literary microcosm – transported the past into the present and used classical characters as a prism through which to critically analyse the unprecedented war. Often critical of modernity’s myth of progress, the Latin poets under discussion mainly sought to target instruments of modern warfare as the epitome of technological progress run amok.

Parole chiave

First World War; War Poetry; Neo-Latin; Certamen Hoeufftianum; Classical Reception

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