The dead who are piled up in the literary worlds of Seneca’s Oedipus and Lucan’s Civil War are not very different than those of modernity. In their anonymity and silence, they speak so much about the atrocities and traumatic events of the societies in which they live. In Oedipus, nameless citizens claustrophobically are joined to one another in death, and, in Civil War, heaps of dead rot as Caesar looks on. One cannot help being reminded of the mass graves on Hart Island, the refrigerated morgue trucks, and the mass funeral pyres in India. This essay explores how the dead in these two ancient texts reverberate through time to the dead of our current pandemic, and, though anonymous and silent, haunt the living through their suffering, alienation, and absence. Through sheer numbers and the spaces, they leave behind, these ghosts gain a collective voice they never had while living.
"Plagues, Oblivion, and the Anonymous Dead Echoes from Seneca’s Oedipus and Lucan’s Civil War to COVID-19."