Statius was raised in the Greek cultural milieu of the Bay of Naples, and his Greek literary education lends a sophisticated veneer to his ornamental verse. The role of the emperor and the imperial circle in determining taste is also readily apparent: the figure of the emperor Domitian permeates these poems.
Statius’ Silvae, thirty-two occasional poems, were written probably between 89 and 96 CE. Here the poet congratulates friends, consoles mourners, offers thanks, admires a monument or artistic object, and describes a memorable scene. The verse is light in touch, with a distinct pictorial quality. Statius gives us in these impromptu poems clear images of Domitian’s Rome. Statius published his Thebaid in the last decade of the first century. This epic, recounting the struggle between the two sons of Oedipus for the kingship of Thebes, is his masterpiece, a stirring exploration of the passions of civil war. The extant portion of his unfinished Achilleid is strikingly different in tone: this second epic begins as a charming account of Achilles’s life.