Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study

By Geraldine Herbert-Brown | Go to book overview
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THE present study of Augustus begins with book 2 of the Fasti. After the death of the Princeps in AD 14, Ovid redesigned the proem and Julian entries to book 1 for the purpose of incorporating into the calendar the poem's new dedicatee, Caesar Germanicus. Ovid's Augustan anniversaries for January, written in exile, contain themes and ideas more reflective of the early Principate of Tiberius, so these have been reserved for study in the section on Germanicus (Ch. 5).

Ovid ceased his overhaul of the Fasti in favour of Germanicus after book 1 (except for an isolated allusion to Sulmo at 4. 81), with the result that the original Augustan passages for the subsequent books remain as they were while Augustus was still alive. It is these passages which provide a unique documentation of how a contemporary interpreted and publicized the function of Augustus in the last decade of the Princeps' long life. The proem of book 2 (lines 3-18), paired with the excised original exordium to book 1 and fortunately evoking echoes from the original dedication to Augustus,1 provides Ovid's given programme for Augustus' place in the Fasti. For example ( 2. 15-18):

at tua prosequimur studioso pectore, Caesar, nomina, per titulos ingredimurque tuos. ergo ades et placido paulum mea munera voltu respice, pacando siquid ab hoste vacat.

Nevertheless with zealous heart we pay court to your honours, Caesar,
and proceed through your titles. Lend your presence, therefore, and
consider for a while with gentle mien my tribute, if you find time to
spare from pacifying the enemy.

The proem of bk. 2 ( ll. 3-18) has commonly been regarded as the original dedication to the Fasti, transferred from bk. 1; see Frazer ( 1929) ii. 227; Bömer ( 1957-8) i. 19; Syme ( 1978) 21. But Braun ( 1981) 2351 n. 33, and Fantham ( 1985) 257-8, have demonstrated that it in fact belongs to and is needed in its present position.


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