THE conflict between the Stoics and the Roman imperialists is the most notable feature of the Ulysses tradition in Latin literature. It was never finally resolved. Some writers, classical, medieval, and modern, followed Horace's presentation of Ulysses as a noble exemplar of virtuous living, others believed Virgil Sinon that he was treacherous, cruel, and criminal. On the whole the more imaginative writers accepted the Virgilian portrait until the rediscovery of Homer's poems at the Renaissance re-established the original character of Ulysses.1
Many Latin poets, however, took neither side, preferring to follow the earlier classical tradition. Lyric and elegiac poets naturally tended to imitate the Greek lyrical attitude to Ulysses.2 Tragedians for the most part emulated Euripides.3 The comic dramatists, taking as their model Menander, who had nothing to say of Ulysses, generally ignored him.4 Orators frequently praised his eloquence and wrote contemporary exemplifications of its style.5 There is no need to survey all these multifarious conventional references here. But, when the Greek originals were inaccessible in Western Europe, writers drew much of their information about the Troy Tale from five Latin poets-Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Seneca, and Statius.6 It now remains to consider how Ulysses was portrayed in the works of the last three of these.
Ovid was particularly well endowed by nature and art to appreciate Ulysses's personality. He was the most cosmopolitan and versatile of the Augustan poets, and a superb rhetorician. In his public life he suffered much from envy and malice. He found the company of women congenial and sympathetic. Later in life he came to understand the sorrows of exile. It is not surprising, then, that he seems to have found a kindred spirit in Ulysses. With two exceptions,7 all his references to him are appreciatory.
Ovid's chief description of Ulysses is in some ways the least revealing. It is mainly a tribute from one skilful rhetorician to another. It emerges in a version of the celebrated, indeed, by that time hackneyed, contest for the arms of Achilles between Ulysses
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Publication information: Book title: The Ulysses Theme:A Study in the Adaptability of a Traditional Hero. Contributors: W. B. Stanford - Author. Publisher: Basil Blackwell. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1954. Page number: 138.
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