Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study

By Geraldine Herbert-Brown | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

A STUDY of the cultural and political background to the Fasti as illustrated how the Roman calendar as a subject for 'epic' was a viable option for an elegist trying to adapt his talents to the service of the late Augustan regime. Ovid turned the technical difficulties inherent in the task to advantage by creating a new genre, a new elegiac medium which could accommodate both a Callimachaean spirit and a celebration in a lighter vein of 'magna', hitherto the preserve of heroic hexameters. The calendar also gave him the opportunity to imitate in poetry the episodic and decorative techniques of Augustan architectural sculptors. Their example demonstrated how it was possible to avoid the dangers implicit in narrating the career of Augustus and still find a balance between catering to the ambitions of the ruler and to the artist's own individual style.

The study of the Fasti itself has elicited much information about its author. The portraits which adorn Ovid's calendar indicate that, before his exile, he was finely attuned to the political and cultural currents of his times. His protagonists are portrayed in roles which were complementary to their individual functions within Augustus' political and religious programme. After his exile and the death of Augustus, his treatment of Tiberius and Livia shows the poet's understanding of the political realignments effected by the terms of Augustus' will in so far as it mirrors that of the Roman senate--and of Livia herself. At the same time, that treatment is the work of an author ill-informed about the temperament and style of government of the new ruler, an author led by his situation as suppliant into making tactless errors about the relative status of Tiberius and the Augusta. Ovid's decision to rededicate the Fasti to Germanicus exposes the exile who somehow knew that Tiberius would ignore his pleas, yet an outcast who had enough faith in the power of imperial patronage to entertain a hope of returning to Rome. It has been posited that

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Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • OXFORD CLASSICAL MONOGRAPHS ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xi
  • Contents xiii
  • I- Why Fasti? 1
  • 2- Augustus 32
  • 3- Julius Caesar 109
  • 4- Livia 130
  • 5- Germanicus 173
  • EPILOGUE 213
  • APPENDIX Omissions in the Fasti 215
  • Bibliography 234
  • INDEX OF PASSAGES CITED 243
  • GENERAL INDEX 245
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