Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study

By Geraldine Herbert-Brown | Go to book overview

I
WHY FASTI?

'To versify and adorn an almanac was not a sound proposal.'1 Many critics have concurred with this verdict on Ovid's decision to compose the Fasti. Yet it is a judgement based on criticism of the artistic results of the half-finished work without reference to the environment which produced it. It is time the verdict was reconsidered in the light of the options available to a Roman poet trying to adapt his talents to the service of the ruler in the highly politicized climate of the years immediately prior to AD 8.

In those years Ovid was at the height of artistic maturity, at the peak of a successful career, keenly desirous of maintaining his claim to immortal fame through his art ( Met. 15. 875-9). It is difficult to believe that he would choose something as problematic and unwieldy as the Roman calendar to set to verse unless extraneous pressure were being applied. For this reason it is more feasible that Ovid's decision to produce a major work as a tribute to Caesar Augustus came first; his decision to versify the calendar was the result.

This chapter will be concerned with a consideration of the cultural influences working on Ovid which prompted him to create the Fasti as a tribute to the ruler, and gave him reason to believe in its potential success, both artistic and practical.


Technical Difficulties of the Enterprise

The technical difficulties confronting a poet in versifying the Roman calendar were not inconsiderable.2 The scope of the subject would mean a major work: twelve months to be separated

____________________
1
Fränkel ( 1945) 148. Also Syme ( 1978) 105: 'Not a good idea.'
2
Fränkel ( 1945) 148 believes Ovid was well aware of the difficulties involved in versifying an almanac, but displays no curiosity as to why the poet still went ahead with it.

-1-

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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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