Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature

By William J. Dominik | Go to book overview

12

Eros and eloquence: modes of amatory persuasion in Ovid's Ars Amatoria

Peter Toohey

When eros is unconsummated (whether intentionally or merely through circumstance) one has recourse first to persuasion, 1 then, if that is unsuccessful, to rape. 2 Only in some situations are neither persuasion nor rape useful. The very old must endure their lack of consummation (Ibycus 287 or Anacreon 358). 3 Lovers permanently separated, through death, 4 distance, 5 conclusive rejection, 6 or even physical infirmity (impotence as in Ov. Am. 3.7) must also endure. This enforced endurance may lead to a melancholic lovesickness-anorexia and eventual death-of the sort taken for granted in mrodern literature and in experience. 7 Or it may lead to acts of violence, anger, and crime. This is especially likely if it is a woman who is subject to the frustration. 8

In this chapter I do not want to talk about the use of rape as a means of remedying frustrated eros, nor about enduring, nor even about the emergence of a melancholic or a violent reaction to the frustration of love. Rather, I would like to look at one of the most fundamental of means by which unfulfilled eros may be treated. This is by persuasion. 9 Pindar, in a very neat formulation, gives us what may be a typical insight into the relationship between eros and persuasion. He has Chiron state that 'secret are keys by which wise Persuasion unlocks the shrines of love' (Pyth. 9.39). In this chapter the aim will be to make apparent some of the secrets of this link between eros and persuasion. 10

First some preliminaries. Most ancient love poetry (and most of what is best of ancient love poetry) was composed on the theme of erotic frustration (see Ov. Ars Am. 2.515: 'for lovers there's much pain and little pleasure'). Ann Carson has stressed the link between blocked eros and the literary presentation of self. 11 Blocked eros, she indicates, highlights not just how benighted is the individual, but it highlights

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