Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study

By Geraldine Herbert-Brown | Go to book overview
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4
LIVIA

THE consort of Augustus is invoked four times in Ovid's Fasti, twice in the pre-exilic edition (5.157-8; 6. 637-8) and twice in the post exilic (1. 536; 1. 649-50). Her pre-exilic image is that of ' Livia', model Roman wife and paragon of female Roman virtue. Her post-exilic image is that of Julia Augusta, mother of the new ruler, consort of Jove and herself a goddess-in-the-making.

Before the Fasti Livia had hardly figured in Augustan poetry. Her name is not invoked at all in the extant works of Ovid's predecessors, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, or Tibullus, although it is true that Horace had once made a move in that direction. In Ode 3. 14. 1-10 he invokes the 'mulier' and 'soror' of Caesar as public sacrificial celebrants to the gods after the victorious return of Augustus from Spain ( 24 BC).1 In the quarter century that separates that Ode from Ovid's calendar, we hear of no poetic tribute to the consort of Augustus.

The inscribed calendars appear to have been even more reticent than the poets. Our extant copies never mention Livia at all until after the death of Augustus, when she had become Julia Augusta.2 It is true that the dates upon which Ovid incorporates his first image of Livia into his calendar, 1 May and 11 June, are both infrequently and poorly represented in the surviving fragments.3 Yet the present study will show that it is most improbable that Livia was represented on those days in the calendrical inscriptions, the very nature of which dictated a very abbreviated form. That improbability arises from the fact that Ovid's incorporation of Livia into the calendar was not as a celebration of a

____________________
1
Horace, the personal friend of the ruler, had shown the proper tact and reserve. He nowhere names Livia' ( Syme ( 1978) 44).
2
Praen, 23 Apr.: 'Signum divo Augusto patri ad theatrum Marcelli lulia Augusta et Ti. Augustus dedicarunt.' Verul 17 Jan.: 'Feriae ex s.c. quod eo die Augusta nupsit divo Augusto.' Acta Frat. Arv. 30 Jan.: 'Natalis Iuliae Augustae.'
3
1 May: Ver, Esq; 11 June: Ver. Maff., Tusc., in Degrassi ( 1963).

-130-

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