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Cast in the form of an epic poem, Pharsalia—Lucan’s account of Rome’s civil wars in the first century bc and his only extant poem—attributes the death of the republic to the murderous rivalry between Pompey and Julius Caesar. In 65 Emperor Nero ordered the poet, then age twenty-five, to commit suicide, and the poem did not appear in full until after Lucan’s death.

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War has silenced all laws.

—Lucan, c. 65

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