Ovid's Text as a Spiral of Meanings


Ovid's Text as a Spiral of Meanings
 05/25/2017 11:31 PM

Every word matters:

It is time every word in our ancient texts is considered to have been chosen for a good reason. When academics use phrases like 'Alexandrian epithet' or 'merely gnomic' they are using shorthand for 'I haven't the time to work out what is really going on here'. Ovid is not ostentatiously displaying learning when he describes Perseus as Abantiades at Met 4.673.

The speculator and Tomitan Ovid's physical and literary milieu

In a later blog we will have cause to discuss Ovid's Look-Out Man (Tristia 3.9.12). The Latin term for him is 'speculator' ('spy'). In the meantime, and not uncoincidentally, the word 'speculator' occurs in three inscriptions from Tomis in which a more technical sense of the term is intended. In the imperial army 'speculatores' acted less as spies and rather as special adjutants, or messengers, on the staff of a particular general (Mark 6:27). It was also the term for a member of the emperor's bodyguard on attachment from the praetorian guard (Res Gestae 74). In any event, alongside (and even in tandem with) any narratological concerns Ovid might have in Tristia 3.9, we suggest that the author will also be anxious to authenticate his presentation of Tomis by ensuring that the aspects of life most commonly represented in the city's epigraphical record should find their way into his texts. On the one hand, the subject matter of these inscriptions characterises Tomis as a city of ex-army cadres such as Ovid himself may be thought to be in his capacity as a 50-year-old 'eques', 50 being the age at which we know Romans commonly retired (Gaius Iulius Mygdonius CIL 11.137). On the other hand, the sepulchral genre of these inscriptions also aligns them with Ovid's text in the sense that both emanate from the literary context of an Underworld-in-Waiting. Ovid's monumentum is a textual mausoleum constructed by the author during that semi-deceased period when retired Romans provided a last resting place not only for themselves, but also for their wives, children and freedmen and freedwomen, and their descendants.

Ovid's 'familia' contextualised by his Monumentum

This explains certain poetic postures adopted by Ovid. At the close of the Tristia, (5.14.1) he dons a Horatian mask in reminding his wife of the size of the poetic memorial with which he has furnished her.The critic would be satisfied if Ovid were simply exploiting the pyramidical dimensions of Horace's own literary 'mausoleum' (Odes 3.30.1f) in order to exaggerate his Tristian achievement. However the etymology of 'monumenta' is most often thought to consist in 'quod mentem moneat' (Servius Ad Aeneid 12.945; Isidore Origines 15.11.1). That is, the monument serves as 'a warning to the mind'. On the face of it, this warning will relate to the individual's glorious achievements which the monument brings to the onlooker's mind. However, given Ovid's repeated reminders to his wife to be more proactive in addressing Augustus in the matter of her husband's restoration, the etymology in Tristia 5.14.1 could be thought to relate to the inordinate lengths to which Ovid has gone in 'warning his wife of her duty'. Ovid's monumentum could even be thought to constitute a protracted 'admonishment' of his wife's 'mental dilatoriness' or a litany of reminders to to one who is forgetful (Servius 3.486: 'monumentum memoria; monumenta autem a mentis admonitione').

Ovid's Monumentum as the receptacle of literary 'liberti'; The Tristia

It will be instructive to explore the exile poems through the prism of a monumentum designed to accommodate blood-kin as well as slave or ex-slave members of Ovid's wider 'familia'. On a prosaic level, Ovid has included mention of his slaves in his monumentum. The presence of slaves of all ages in Ovid's household is clear from Tr. 1.3.23 ('femina virque meo, pueri quoque funere maerent') whlst the preponderance of children may be suggested both there and at Tr. 1.3.60 ('respiciens ... pignora cara'). Certain slaves seem to have contributed to Ovid's downfall (Tr.4.10.101). On a more literary level, the status of, specifically, the exile libelli within Ovid's 'familia' may not be as Ovid's genealogical children. When the libellus at Tr. 3.1.74 says 'patimur nati' it may be saying 'we [Tristia 1 & 2 and myself] have suffered from birth', rather than 'we have suffered as his sons'. Furthermore, rather than Ovid's misfortune spilling over onto his 'blood family' ('in genus ... redundat': 3.1.73)' we suggest the book is referring to Ovid's misfortune affecting 'my [i.e. the libellus'] 'class of people' ('genus') namely 'freedmen and women'. Even when the libellus calls Ovid 'nostro parente' (3.1.57) we cannot assume this 'parens' is not intended to mean 'our paterfamilias', particularly given the royal plural. When at 3.1.65 the libellus seeks 'brothers', excepting those their father wished he had not begotten (these being the 'Ars Amatoria'), we may interpret 'brothers' as meaning 'brothers of each other', not 'brothers of the libellus'. Similarly at Tr.1.1.107 the brothers whom the libellus will find at Ovid's house will be brothers of each other. Nor may the 'parens' of 1.1.115 be more than an honorary title for Ovid viz-a-viz the libellus. Meanwhile, Augustus calls Julius Caesar his 'parentem' despite the latter being his adoptive father (Res Gestae: 1.10). The emperor himself is contextualised in Tr.3.1 as the 'dominus' of his house (37) and Rome's 'pater optime' (49) without any implication of parenthood. 

Meanwhile, lending support to the alternative identification of exile libelli as 'slave-boys/liberti', is the behaviour of Tristia 3, along with that of its counterpart Tristia 1. Tristia 3.1 ('erubui domino cultior esse meo': 3.1.4) presents its tome as respectful of the feelings of its 'dominus' the paterfamilias. This deference is an aspect of the 'obsequium' ('dutiful respect’)  and 'reverentia' towards one's former master that was expected of liberti (Digest 37.15.9). In practice this translated into a self-effacing attitude on the part of the libertus towards his patron's peers. This quality is highly marked in the presentation of Tr.1.1. and Tr.3.1 (1.3.19: ‘dicite, lectores, si non grave, qua sit eundum’). 'Obsequium’, that is, consisted principally in the negative virtue of abstaining  from any pursuit that might harm one’s old patron. This avoidance of faux pas is best illustrated in Tr.1.1 where the book is 'warned away from' ('caveo') a series of  steps that could impact negatively upon Ovid's suit (‘ne quae non opus est  loquare forte cave… cave defendas, / quamvis mordabere dictis … /  cave’). The message comes through most starkly at Tr.1.1.101 (‘tantum ne  noceas, dum vis prodesse, videto’). In general, the behaviour of the libelli Tristia 1 and 3 betrays an understandable nervousness deriving from their new-found status as the 'obsequious' representative of one who was 'persona non grata' in Rome. At the same time, the first word of Tristia 3 ('missus') implies the freedman's obligation to carry out 'operae' ('tasks') for his patron.

The Fasti, Ovid's 'child', in the keeping of the Tristia, Ovid's 'freedmen'

We can learn much about the different classes in Roman society from a study of Roman Law. The Senatus Consultum Ostorianum of 46 AD (Gaius Institutiones 3.8) may reflect existing practice in allowing a libertus to be assigned to a specific child of the patron. On the patron's decease, this child (if still a minor) would become the patron of the liberti concerned. This legal backcloth may shed light on the dynamics of Tristia 3. It is entirely naturalistic that the 'soon-to-be-deceased' Ovid should have assigned a Tristian libellus to one of his natural children. If so, the libellus' journey to Rome will have the specific purpose of assisting this child. As we shall see, the principal thesis of this article will be that the 'libertus' Tristia 3 has been charged with escorting to Rome a revised edition of the Fasti, which is presented as Ovid's blood child. Not only that, but Tristi 3 will also be found to interact with the Fasti within its own contents. Tristia 3 lies at the disposal of the Fasti.

In Tristia 3.1.9 the contents of the libellus are predictably described as 'nothing but triste' ('sad'). But the word also means or perhaps 'harsh' or even 'savage'. In this nuance it is a synonym of 'rudis' ('wild'), a word used twice to describe what we will argue is the Fasti (Tristia 1.7.22 & 39). That is, if the the Fasti are part of Tristia 3's baggage ('inspice quid portem'), then both poems must share a 'savage' quality. Of course the poem usually thought to be described as 'rudis' (in the nuance 'unpolished') is the Metamorphoses. However we should consider the import of the line Tr.3.1.10 before arriving at such a conclusion. The words 'carmine temporibus conveniente suis' ('the [sad] poetry of Tristia 3 reflecting his own [sad] predicament') could instead mean 'poetry fitting or dovetailing with Ovid's Fasti'. Ovid's 'Times' ('his own 'Times') can be interpreted as Ovid's Fasti since 'Times', as the Fasti's first word, is the book's alternative title. Moreover, 'first word' titles of Roman works are consciously foregrounded in the Tristia (Tr.2.161-262: 'Aeneadum genetrix' = De Rerum Natura) and alluded to implicitly in the Fasti (1.18: 'Caesaris arma' = the Aeneid). It may therefore be the case that the libellus contains material that complements the Fasti, and that such material will have something 'triste' ('savage') about it. This inclines us to seek passages in Tristia 3 that create intertextuality with the Fasti.

Intertextuality between Fasti 2.728-756 and Tristia 3.3.1-28: the word 'Fastidium'

First of all, Ovid suffers from ‘fastidium’ throughout the  exile poems. The principal meaning of the word is the ‘distaste for  food and drink’ a malaise which leads to the associated condition of ‘fussiness’ towards one’s environment. This emerges - alongside the nuances of ‘languour’ and ‘lack of strength’ - in Ex Ponto 1.10  which is addressed to Ovid's friend Flaccus. On the one hand there is clearly an attempt in Ex Ponto 1.10 to flatter Flaccus by playing on the etymology of his name. The  verb  ‘flacceo’ means ‘I languish’ or ‘droop’ ‘lack strength’ and these nuances characterise Ovid's physical condition at the start of the poem (‘longus … / non  patitur vires  languor habere suas’: 1.10.3-4). It is true that the suffering of a debilitating frailty is nothing unusual for Ovid in the exile poems, and this leads us to suppose there may be other, perhaps equally etymological, reasons for Ovid's 'obsessiveness' besides the urge to write large his fastidiousness. The most mentioned barbarian tribe in the exilic texts are the 'Getae’ . Their name is arguably the creative root, and the antonym of, the word ‘ve-getes’ ('vigourous') which very precisely deconstructs as 've-' ('not') and 'getes' ('Getes'). That is, to be 'vegetes' is the opposite of what it is to be a Getan. The Getans are therefore 'lacking in strength'. Ovid has been etymologically infected by close contact with his fellow inhabitants of Tomis.[6] He must therefore be expected to be doubly 'languourous' in a letter to a friend called 'Flaccus'

Ex P.1.10 soon focuses specifically on Ovid’s aversion to food and drink ('fastidia': 7). Ovid’s appetite is not to be stimulated by either nectar or ambrosia, even were these divine nutriments to be served by Hebe. meanwhile, the phrase 'formosa Iuventa manu' effectively characterises Hebe as beautiful ('Hebe with her lovely hand'). This constitutes a latent pun on the word ‘hebes’ used earlier of Ovid’s ‘dull appetite’. That is, the nexus ‘os hebes est’ comes to convey in this context both 'my appetite is dull’ and ‘it is the character of Hebe to be beautiful’. This insinuates that even the gods' ‘beautiful waitress' on Olympus stirs nothing but 'indifference to food'. The twofold failure of 'hĕbĕs' ('dull') to correspond metrically with 'Hēbēs' ('of Hebe') does not preclude such paranomasia as Rhetorica ad Herennium (4.29-30) demonstrates in the case of 'vĕnit' ('comes') and 'vēnit' ('is sold'). In any case the poetics of the Tristia are founded upon Ovid's failing powers of poetic competence. When the poet tells the reader to excuse his 'solecisms at Tr.4.1.1('vitiosa'), he adds the rider that these solecisms not 'might be' but 'will be' found ('ut erunt') in the text. 

This should encourage us to seek further 'shortcomings' in the form of, for instance, incorrect metrical quantities. One example can be extracted from the same passage in Ex P.1.10. If the letters of 'oshebes' were redivided, taking account of the Roman indifference to the aspiration in common speech, one could aver 'o! sebes' to be a viable reading. This must mean 'O may you dip [your candle/wick] in tallow'. This process of creating a candle from the repeated immersion of a wick in hot tallow is highly likely to have become a figurative expression in Latin for the hardening of 'soft' or 'pliable' tissue. This has clear relevance to the 'drooping' etymology of Ovid's addressee, 'Flaccus'. The phallic shape of a candle along with the coyness of the figure of speech suggest Ovid is hoping his friend will develop an erection. Furthermore, given that the contemporary English expression 'to dip one's wick' has developed into a euphemism for 'male penetration of the female', there must be a possibility that the semantic history of 'sebes' had, as it were, followed suit.

Ovid's aversion  to food and his resulting languor are recurrent features of the exile poems. At Tristia 3.2 Ovid   is ill (‘aeger eram’) and finds fault with  the weather (‘nec caelum patior’), the water, and the food (‘non ..  cibus utilis’). He is predictably ‘lassus’ (‘tired’ 'low in spirits'). However his  aversion spills over into a generalised ‘fussiness’ (‘terraque nescio  quo non placet ipsa modo’). In fact in Ex Ponto 1.10 he is very concerned that his readership should not consider that his complaints  about the diet and conditions in Tomis amount to mere ‘daintiness’  (‘delicias … deliciis  …delicias’). Yet the reader's objective impression of one who harps on the word for 'daintiness' or 'preciousness' will certainly be that the person is obsessively concerned with minutiae. The reader will conclude that Ovid protests too much and proves himself 'fastidiosus' by his very denials. Even by Tristia 3.8  Ovid's  ‘languor’ has become  'long-term’ while the climate, air, water, and  land all remain uncongenial.  Once again the food does not please him  (‘nec ora iuvat cibus’). Later, in the Ex Ponto it seems to be the bitter  water  that offends his sensibilities (Ex  Ponto 2.7.73-74 and 3.1.17: ‘nec tibi sunt fontes, laticis nisi paene  marini’).

Thus the pervasiveness of the theme of 'fastidium' is, as it were, a result of the author's own obsessiveness which expresses itself through repeated fault-finding (or denials of 'daintiness').  However Ovid’s insistence on the unconducive character of his environment may be considered to have a metapoetical basis. By keeping the trait of 'fastidiousness' before the reader's eye the poet is seeking, we contend,  to allegorise the etymological roots of the  word ‘fastidium’ which could creatively be considered to consist in 'Fastorum' and 'taedium' namely ‘boredom with the Fasti'.  The evolution of the word 'fastidium' from these roots of follows Varronian principles with words losing letters (DLL 7.6 'littera missa') and some letters being changed into other letters. Thus from 'Fast[orum] taedium' we arrive at 'Fast-taedium'. From there the double 't' becomes single, thereby conforming with the practice of former generations of Romans who did not double their consonants. Finally the diphthong 'ae' is resolved into an 'i' as in the compounds of the verb 'caedo'. Through his descriptions of chronic ‘fastidium’, Ovid, as it were, proclaims the side effects that ‘boredom with the Fasti’ has had upon him. 


Thus the metapoetics articulated by the deconstruction of the word ‘fastidium’ serve to interlock the Fasti and the Tristia as two halves of one whole. Boredom with one leads to engagement with the other. However, although the etymology may be thought to mediate the transition, it is not clear which 'Fasti' Ovid means. We shall see that Tr.1.7 concerns the fate of the Fasti, not the Metamorphoses. In that letter Ovid expects the Fasti to please those with the leisure to read it (‘otia delectent’: Tr.1.7.25). This implicitly excludes the permanently occupied Augustus. However it also suggests that Ovid was not wearied by or bored with his Fasti.  Clearly the subject matter of the Fasti, 'the annotations on parapegmata' or 'the annual round of calendrical festivals' could have prompted the boredom rather than the specific book called 'the Fasti'. The large number of new 'Holy Days (and holidays) exclusively honouring members of the royal  house made January and early February particularly busy but also repetitive in this respect[3]. Ovid was faced with unpalatable subject-matter and, having started the Fasti in January, he must have felt the surfeit of jejune material very quickly.

Another  meaning of Fasti relates to the historical lists of consuls that were  recorded on the Fasti Consulares, these being columns set up by Augustus  for public scrutiny in the Forum. The envy these created is reflected in Seneca’s Letters (104.9). After 1 AD the accession of the suffect  consuls on July 1st became regularised both reflecting and  stimulating the widespread concern with attaining to ‘honours’ (notwithstanding the relative lack of substance behind the office of the  consul under the Principate). The Christian era saw many more men  determined to carve out a six-month consulship to the ennoblement of  their families. However the stimulus this gave to the ‘adulatoriness’ of  Roman culture is the element that catches in Ovid’s throat. Alongside  these Fasti were the Fasti Triumphales which recorded the triumphs  accorded to the generals that had made Rome so powerful. It is  significant then that Ovid spends much time on describing triumphs and  accessions to the consulate in the exile poems. This should be seen as  his bodying forth of the etymological ‘fastidium’ that overtakes him in  Tomis. He bores the reader with repetitions of the same generic event in  order to write large the regimentation of Roman worship-centred culture (and in doing so inducing ‘weariness with the Fasti’)[4].

Another reading of ‘fastidium’ would see it deriving from ‘fastus’ (‘haughty’) and ‘taedium’ (‘aversion’ ‘distaste’ and also 'haughtiness'). One  would have to concede that Ovid’s tone in the exile poetry betrays a  lofty   distaste for that which is around him. In the first instance,  Ovid insinuates his aversion to the hide-clad, hairy barbarians he sees around him (Tr.5.10.31-32: ‘possis odisse videndo / pellibus et longa pectora tecta coma’). His sense of infra dignitatem often surfaces when he considers   the  unworthiness of the material to which his talent must now be  turned   (‘Bessique Getaque / quam non ingenio nomina digna meo’:  Tr.3.10.3-4)[5].   Meanwhile the verb ‘fastidio’ is used of the ‘scornful’ attitude towards his verse adopted by his associates in Rome.

As we shall see, Tr.1.7  presents a positive picture of the Fasti, to the extent that an aversion to the extant books of the Fasti is not the message we  should necessarily draw from Ovid’s ‘fastidium’.  Instead Ovid pokes fun at the  hollowness of the Fasti Consulares and Triumphales by depicting himself as a major poet,  who is yet anxious to describe a repetitious triumph or consular induction he has not seen. This guarantees that the (‘dull’) round of  procession and sacrifice that took place at a triumph constituted an  almost wholly generic event. Ovid could make it all up without fear of  getting it wrong. At the same time he writes large the adulatory cast of  the Roman mind by affecting to be excited and agog at the imminent news  of a less-than-momentous triumph or consular inauguration.                            

The examples of etymologised versions of 'fastidium' reveal a throughoing attempt to exhaust the etymological  potential  of the word'. Such assiduousness argues for the version 'boredom in the Fasti' as well as any other (assuming evidence can be  found). This brings us to a possible intrusion or encroachment of the Fasti into the Tristia in Tr.3.3. Firstly, the squeamishness of the ailing poet viz-a-viz the food, water, and  conditions in Tomis is heavily underscored. As we have seen, this will be allegorical of a deeper malaise relating to the Fasti, one which we suggest has more to do with 'boredom in the Fasti' than anything else. One episode that springs to mind in this context is the story of the Rape of Lucretia, a tale of much cruelty, viciousness, and pathos ('triste'), but also one that can be 'blamed on' the  Romans' siege of Ardea and the idleness and boredom this imposes on the soldiery. 

Before analysing this text we should note the similarities between the Scylla of the Metamorphoses and the nobles outside Ardea. Both are the victims, we suggest of extreme boredom brought on by a protracted siege. Both parties become fixated with their spouses or would-be spouse and both eventually succumb to the temptation of hastening to their side. Indeed Scylla's temperamental outburst against the unresponsive Minos may open a window on the unrecorded reactions of the nobles at Ardea when they discover their wives' laxity. However of greater import is the adjective 'nitidum' ('bright') which stands sentinel over the story in marking the end of Cephalus' tale with dawn ('nitidum ... diem') and the appearance of bright stars in the Corona episode  ('ignes ... nitidos'). The word counterpoints the 'purple' but also  'bright' lock of Samsonesque hair on which KIng Nisus of Megara pins his hopes of preserving the city's walls intact. It seems likely enough to us that the word 'nitidum' was creatively etymologised by Ovid to reflect the roots of 'Ni[sus] and 'taedium'. Scylla's 'boredom' is with her father 'Nisus' who, like the Ardeans in Lucretia's view, are prolonging an unwinnable war to spite the speaker's wishes. 

Returning to Tr.3.3, we will  start with some fundamental parallels between Ovid's predicament and  that of the nobles at Ardea. Neither party has permission to return to Rome. One is banished, the others are forbidden to return their arms to  their native gods (F 2.728). Ovid's judgement is impaired by what must be a fever since he raves in speech ('aliena locutum'). His fever may also have an etymological, Fastian, basis given that February, the  Fastian month in which the Lucretia story is narrated,  bids fair to be  derived (creatively) from 'febris' or 'fever'.  Meanwhile 'febris' itself  is said to derive from 'ferveo' ('I seethe,  am hot') and Ovid's dehydration is obvious in lines Tr.3.3.21-22. However 'ferveo' also characterises the nobles' behaviour. For, at  F.2.732, the nobles  over-indulge in wine ('multo ... mero'), which  makes their 'tongue' and  'passions' seethe' ('fervet'). Later Sextus  Tarquinius, still suffering the effects of wine and overcome with desire for  Lucretia is likewise said to  'burn' ('ardet'). Here we also find  ourselves in the presence of Ovid's  creative etymology of Ardea  ('burning'), an etymology that ironically  counterpoints another  candidate for the word's roots, namely 'ἀρδομαι'  ('I water'). Meanwhile, on a  metapoetic level, the phrase 'aliena locutum' is a well-known etymology  of the word 'allegory' (Isidore 1.37.22: 'allegoria est alienoloquium').  This is of fundamnetal importance as a metapoetic indictator that the discourse is an allegorical one. Nevertheless here again we find Ovid tampering with the 'syntactical  relationship of the two etymological roots  (as in 'Fastorum taedium'). For the word 'allegoria', if its roots are 'alienus' and loquor', can be legitimately etymologised as 'the speaking  [of words] through another person' (in this case Ovid's amanuensis), as opposed to (metapoetically) 'the speaking of other things'.

In both  Ovid's case and in the case of the nobles we are dealing with 'equites'  though Ovid belongs to the Equestrian social class while the nobles are horsemen. Meanwhile, whilst the  nobles can flaunt the rules about returning to Rome at least temporarily  (F.2.735-737), the 'horseless' Ovid is by contrast firmly relegated to Tomis ('cum  patriam amisi ...': Tr.3.3.53). Through the same verb 'iaceo', Ovid is  characterised as being both 'prostrate' but also 'prostrated'  ('iacenti': Tr.3.3.5; 'iaceo': 3.3.13). He lies in bed in sore need of  distraction from his illness and associated 'depression' ('lassus': 13).  Meanwhile the nobles also 'recline' on their 'clinia' during their  endless round of 'feasting and toping'. In reclining both parties can be considered 'idle' ('iaceo). In Ovid's case he lacks a  friend to 'make the slowly passing hours' pass more quickly. This will  remind readers of Patroclus' concern for Euryylus in Iliad 11 and 15.  Achilles' friend both assuages Eurypylus' wound with a simple and  diverts him with conversation. However there is also a multi-aspected metapoetic meaning within 'labentia tarde / tempora ... narrando fallat' and the allusion to Eurypylus. Ovid has no one to impersonate his 'Times '('tempora ... fallat') that is his 'Fasti', by telling a story (the Fasti being replete with stories). He therefore has to do it himself. This allusion to  intertextuality between the Fasti and  Tristia is another aspect of the  metapoetic discourse that supports our thesis. 

It seems as though in  Tr.3.3 we are in the presence of a Fastian episode in disguise.Firstly Ovid's 'times' are regularly 'slow' in exile. particularly at Tr.5.10.5-10 where his 'cares' ('problems' such as ill-health) make the times appear subjectively protracted. From an allegorical perspective however, Ovid's 'slow times' are 'slow syllables' which only appear to the viewer to be the regulation 'short' metrical length. However, to the Ovid who sees a differently divided text, these syllables become 'producti' or 'lengthened' as dictated by the natural syllabic lengths of the new text that is unearthed. The schema metricum is ignored in the interests of the new words that appear. Secondly Eurpylus had a wounded thigh. This reinforces the role of Ovid's own lacerated body (and that of for instance Absyrtus in Tr.3.9) in allegorising the 'redividing' of the body of the text. On another level Eurypylus' 'pes' ('foot' or 'leg' but also 'metrical unit') is impaired (as is Ovid's schema metricum). It is also worth mentioning that importing into the Tristia the 'taedium in the Fasti' will render the Tristia's 'times' subjectively even slower. Since the episode of Eurypylus, the slowing of time through despondency ('tristitia') and boredom will have been associated with injury or illness (Iliad 15.393: 'τὸν ἔτερπε λόγοις' = '[Patroclus] cheered him with conversation'). Tristia 3, already the scene of 'tempora labentia tarde', now receives another layer of boredom from the Fasti. At the same time of course if 'Tempora' here means 'the Fasti', Ovid is characterising its contents as 'slowly passing'. 


One aspect of Ovid's allegorical technique consists in  allowing words descriptive of the allegorising Ovid to be applied to the allegorised nobles, though with a change of meaning, or 'kat'antiphrasin'. Thus the nobles will have all too many of their own 'friends' leading each other into 'error' through spinning anecdotes about their unimpeachable wives ('qui ... narrando fallat / amicus adest'). In particular it is Lucretia's husband Collatinus who makes the fateful suggestion to ride to Rome

The nobles, fuelled by wine, are unstinting in their declarations of their wives'  supposed loyalty  to the 'sexual couch'. Yet the 'mutua cura' ('reciprocal concern') the men crave does not acknowlege that their 'cura' (effectively meaning 'sexual abstinence') is imposed on the men by circumstances. Ovid too is prolix as a result of the fever (Ulpian Dignitates 12.1.4.1: 'si propter febrem aliena loquatur') but his words are 'irrelevant or 'wide-of the target'. This reminds us that the nobles' effusive praise of their wives is 'inapposite' in the light of the scene that meets their eyes in Rome. Ovid seems to address his wife unceasingly in his rambling speech which continues (as in the case of the nobles) by night as well as day. Meanwhile, whilst the subject of wives is the means by which the nobles calibrate their standing in each other's eyes, Ovid calibrates his 'sadness' by 'affirming categorically' that his wife cannot be other than sad in his absence. This relates to the 'mutua cura' mentioned by the nobles. Ovid, being 'sad' 'knows' how sad his wife must be in his absence. Similarly the nobles expect their wives to reflect their 'abstemiousness'.

The underlying thread that binds the two episodes is 'absentia'. Ovid sees his wife as being 'absent', yet it is he who is not in Rome ('absentia' = 'absence from Rome'). Here again we find the male-centric perspective appropriating the discourse. The etymology of 'absens' must be the opposite of 'praesens' which to Isidore means 'coram oculis' ('in front of the eyes/senses'). The five senses can be stretched to incude 'feelings' in general ('ab' and 'sentio' = 'not feeling'). This is the root of the males' concern. Are the 'absent-from-them' women forgetful of their husbands ('nostri nescia')? It seems that what the eyes cannot see, the heart wlll pore over.

'Absentia' in fact is a form of 'mental praesentia'. The absent party 'steals into the mind' and becomes firmly fixed if it meets an obsessive host. All things absent occur to Ovid but the image of his wife routs the rest. She becomes the equivalent of Virgil's 'Amor' ('omnia vincit amor': Eclogues 10; 'vincis tamen omnia': Tr.3.3). However 'Love' is also 'Eros' against whom no man is proof least of all Sextus Tarquinius. It is significant that his passion is described in Eros' terms ('stimulis agitatus'). Meanwhile the scene between Sextus and Lucretia is dominated by the verb 'to conquer'. Much as Sextus overcomes Lucretia, he is effectively conquering himself given the dethronement of the Tarquinii after this episode.As his absent wife possesses Ovid ('plus parte tenes'), so Sextus is all the more enraptured by Lucretia when she is 'absens'. He becomes 'crazed ('carpitur') as to his 'thunderstruck senses' by her image. Here another etymological nuance of 'absens' comes into play, that of 'having been driven out of one's senses'. The more Sextus reflects ('recordanti plura') the deeper his passion becomes. Meanwhile Ovid's 'maddened mouth' ('in amenti ... ore') utters his wife's name. There is a verbal play here on 'aliena'. The word could mean 'those things that do not pertain to one's wife'. Thus despite 'speaking things other than relate to his wife' ('aliena')  Ovid nevertheless has her name on his lips, to the exclusion of all others ('te ... unam'). Meanwhile the word 'recordanti' also carries a charge. At its heart is 'corda' ('heart'), whilst the outer members constitute the word 'renti' meaning 'thinking'. In recalling apsects of Lucretia's beauty, Sextus 'thinks' with his heart not his head.

Ovid's hymnic anaphora 'te ... te' gives a flavour of the words used by the nobles of their spouses. Both parties are  passively vulnerable to, and carried away by, external influences  (alcohol, fever), both becoming fixated on their wives' fidelity. Ovid  persuades himself that his wife depends on him for 'passing a pleasant  time'. On one level, this again reflects the importation of the Fasti into the Tristia for his wife is experiencing Tristia Tempora ('sad times'). The two titles of the works combine to characterise Ovid's wife. Meanwhile the nobles find that all of  the wives are making themselves available to callers (there is no  guard), and they are partying hard into the night at a symposium.  Ironically, through exhibiting the same behaviour as their husbands, the wives are demonstrating the lack of 'mutual concern' towards their  symposiastic partners as (in fact) the latter had shown to them in their  self-regarding cups. Now Ovid's words at Tr.3.3.35-26 precisely express  the thoughts that course through the nobles' minds as they become  further and futher obsessed by their absent wives  ('tu forsitan istic / iucundum nostri nescia tempus  agis '; 'are you there perhaps enjoying a pleasant time oblivious of  me?'). Both sets of wives are at home in Rome though 'absentem' (17)  suggests it is Ovid's wife who is abroad. Similarly when Ovid says 'I am  almost in doubt whether I shall live' we may take this as expressing  the conceitedness of the nobles. They will tell themselves that in  besieging Ardea they are risking their lives for their spouses. In  contrast to the nobles, Ovid has to make assumptions about his wife's  behaviour, the sort that all Roman men will feel bound to make when  evidence is lacking. Whilst the verb 'adfirmo' betrays his insecurity, nevertheless Ovid constructs his ideal conjugal world. 

Ovid's wife is his Lucretia. By terming his wife conventionally 'carissima' he engages with  a Roman sepulchral poetics which characterised the wife as 'bene  merenti' ('well-deserving' = 'praiseworthy' = 'carissima'). He also  ascribes a permanent state of low-spiritedness to his wife which will  last as long as Ovid's absence from Rome. Ovid's Tristia tempora are  also his wife's Tristia tempora. Here the Tristia feed back its defining  characteristic onto the figure of Lucretia who is thus retrospectively  characterised as 'sad'. This helps to contextualise Lucretias  'spinning'. It must be to some extent the case that the lowness of spirits caused by the absence of her  husband, prevents her sleeping. Her 'faithful' marriage bed is defended'  as it were ('ante torum') by the raw material of her work in progress.  She has deliberately given herself as much raw wool to spin as her  maids. She will be sitting bolt upright on her bed to work on the loom.  The royal wives will recline on their bed. Unlike Odysseus' Penelope, Lucretia is determine to finish the  cloak by night rather than unravel it. Her thriftiness is suggested  bythe 'small light' accompanying each maid. This contrasts with the  lavishness of the royal wives at their cups. 

Lucretia's  quiet ('tenui ... sono') voice suggests concern for others in the house. In contrast, one imagines gales of laughter emanating from the royal daughters-in-law. Lucretia's address to the maids seems to distract their attention  initially which impels Lucretia to remind them of the urgency of the  work ('nunc, nunc, properate'). Like Scylla in Metamorphoses 8, Lucretia  is convinced that the outcome of the war is assured. In her  husband-centric world. Ardea is only holding out to spite the men's  wives ('Ardea ... improba'). At this point the Tristia letter reengages  with the Fasti's text with Lucretia now affording a parallel for Ovid's suffering. The image of Lucretia's husband stealing up on  her ('me subit': F.2.753-754) echoes the vision of Ovid's wife appearing  to him, to the exclusion of all else ('et subit ... quidquid absens est  / omnia cum subeant ... vincis, coniunx': Tr.3.3.14-15). The effect of  her embattled husband's image on Lucretia is to drive her out of her  wits ('mens abit'). Meanwhile Ovid's mental distraction is more a  function of his fever expressed through the incessant repetition of his  wife's name ('amenti ... in ore'). Yet this phrase just quoted reminds  us that Lucretia's own words are themselves 'crazed' ('mens abit ..  morior'). Her words put flesh on the bones of Ovid's 'dilatory chatter' ('aliena locutum'). Lucretia 'dies' ('morior') thereby  reminding us not only of Ovid's impending corporeal death which occupies the rest of the letter ('vitae dubius') but also his 'exilic death' ('non tibi nunc primum, lux mea, coniunx, raptus ero':  Tr.3.3.53). Yet Lucretia also echoes aspects of Ovid's wife in the  latter's 'desire to die' on Ovid's departure ('et voluisse mori ...':  Tr.1.3.101). The chill in Lucretia's chest when she imagines her  husband's figure counterpoints the domination of Ovid's wife over his  chest ('feelings'). 

At Fasti 2.755-760 and Tr.3.3.21-24  there is particularly clear interplay between the two texts under  discussion here. Ovid suggests he could succumb to weakness and  tiredness (he is avowedly 'lassus') to such an extent that a medicinal  dose of wine would not revive his tongue. This is counterponted by  Lucretia's actual physical disintegration. Weakened, she drops the wool  and buries her face in her lap ('voltum deposuit'). This is the moment  when she is no longer able to speak just as Ovid's mantra of his wife's  name is about to fall silent. Neither Ovid nor Lucretia have any more  power to speak. Here again we have a form of intextuality between the Fasti and Tristia as oeuvres. The word 'fasti' we suggest will have constituted an abbreviation of the word 'favisti' (as influenced by Catullus' 'tristi' for trivisti). However there is also movement in the opposite direction. For 'fa[vi]sti' can means 'you have become silent'. This is a fate suffered by many of the Fasti's dramatis personae such as Lara, Tacita, Philomela, all of these appearing significantly in Book 2 from where the Lucretia episode derives. Thus the silence of the 'Fasti' now affects the Tristia, the Tristia which carries within it the same missing number of '6' ('tri[vi]sti a') as that carried by the 'Fa[vi]sti'. The fasti and Tristia are two sides of the same coin.

To return to the analysis of our allegory, Ovid would revive ('resurgam') if he were to  hear a report that his wife had arrived ('venisse'). He would enjoy  renewed vigour merely through the 'hope' that the report were true.  Similarly Lucretia does revive ('revixit') when her husband Collatina  announces his own entry into the house ('veni'). Clearly she will  'arise' if her head has been buried in her lap. Ovid will only  metaphorically 'rise' ('resurgam') since he is 'lying' in bed. Lucretia  drapes herself around Collatinus' neck, an act which seems to  etymologise the name Collatinus as deriving from 'colla' and 'onus'  ('neck burden'). At the same time 'a sweet burden' around one's neck is also a 'garland' and this reminds us that Lucretia was the only one of the women and (presumably) men who had not been garlanded during the night's symposia (F.2.739; 760). She becomes an ornament (a 'garland') to her husband in an ironic or even satirical realisation of the nobles' general attitude to their wives. The women's  function is to make the men 'look good'.

Meanwhile Ovid's  resuscitation is, one must presume, the equivalent of having his tongue  loosened by wine. His wife is the equivalent of a more-than-usual  administration of wine. Wine lends 'vigour'. The problem with  medicinally-administered wine however is that it can always lead to  over-indulgence and garrulousness (see Tr.3.5.47-48: 'non aliquid dixive, elatave lingua  loquendo est, lapsaque sunt nimio verba profana mero', the first line of which we would emend to 'non aliquid dixive, relatave lingua bibendo est’).  In a sense the arrival of both Ovid's wife and Collatinus represents  the arrival of a heavy dose of wine. These are hardly good omens. 

Indeed  Ovid's conceptualisation of his wife as a quasi-intoxicant allegorises the problem with the  story of Lucretia. Tongues have been loosened. Talk oiled by wine has led to the excitement of male  competitiveness, leading utimately to tragedy in the subsequent rape of  Lucretia by the royal son who soon 'seethes' with a passion initially  fuelled by wine. This leads to a 'tempus nil nisi triste'. Tellingly, Lucretia's only response is to fall silent before and after the rape. Meanwhile Ovid is reduced to a single word by the end of his letter, his tongue still rooted to his palate. However in the meantime Ovid has been exploiting another meaning of 'absens' namely 'absence of sensation' or 'non-existence'. He sees himself becoming a daemon following his imminent death. The unburied, like Elpenor in the Odyssey, posed a threat to their family whom they hounded like a Fury until proper inhumation rites were accorded. Such souls crowded around the outer bank of the Styx. In Ovid's case he will 'flit amid Sarmatian souls'. Not only does Ovid impose on his wife 'fussy' ('fastidious') funeral and commemorative directions, including an inscription that underlines his early life (the 'Amores') at the expense of his wife, he also leaves his wife under the implied threat of being hounded by his 'fury' should she be remiss.

The etymology of manumission:

We will argue below that Tr.1.7 concerns the Fasti above all else. In the meantime, in 'sending' Tristia 3 to find a welcoming 'hand' (Tr.3.1.1-2) Ovid is, we suggest, creatively exploring the etymological import of 'manumitting' or 'freeing' the 'slave-book' to become a 'libertus'. The word 'manumitto' can be creatively etymologised in several ways. For instance, any literary production may be said to be 'produced by the author's hand' ('manu missus') before being 'forwarded by hand' through the cursus publicus ('manu missus'). Ovid bookends Tr.3.1 with 'missus' and 'manus'. He thereby highlights the possible meanings of the deconstructed form of 'manu-mitto' and also makes manumission the alpha and omega, as it were. of the letter's subject matter. At the same time too, in being 'freed' ('missus') from [Ovid's] 'power' ('manus'), the poems are 'manumitted' in the creatively etymological sense of being 'instructed to approach [other] hands' ('plebeias ... manus') on behalf of their patron. Indeed, in a punning, allegorical sense the libellus may even be thought to be manumitted 'per epistolam'. The bearer of letters is freed 'through his letter'. The letters Tr. 1.1 and 3.1, treat the libelli as effectively free to make extraneous contacts. They implicitly confer the status of liberty 'by [the contents of] a letter'. 

Thus 'per epistolas Tristia 1.1 and 3.1' ('by dint of letters 1.1. and 3.1') Ovid renders each liber ('book') 'liber' ('free') to be, as it were, 'itself' ('liber/liber' metrical quantities notwithstanding). Ovid etymologically expresses his manumission of these liberti, freeing them to be his 'clientes' in Rome. However only one citizen steps forward to help in 3.1 and tellingly this Roman's first action is 'to obey' the instructions of the libellus ('paruit'). This adds further interest to the letter's etymological backcloth. The new 'sponsor' is a 'parens' ('parent') to the libellus in the sense that it 'obeys' ('pareo'). This 'parens' ('obeyer') throws into relief the fact that, as we shall see below, the Fasti are 'orba parente suo' or 'bereft of their own parent' (not of another 'parente').

The freeing of slaves and children: the etymology of 'Publipor:

On the one hand it is not surprising that the engagement of Ovid's 'liberti' with Rome and the Romans is expressed in terms of family relationships. On the other hand, as we have already seen, this creates much blurring of terminological boundaries between 'blood relatives' and the servile 'familia'. Further examples of this are not hard to seek. Thus, at 1.7.14 the word 'domini' ('paterfamilias') relates to the poem's 'blood father' since the poem at issue is about to be murdered by its author in the same way as the mythological Meleager is despatched by his mother Althaea. Indeed the [attempted] killing of the child-poem by Ovid-the-dominus demonstrates the lengths to which 'patria potestas' actually stretched. Effectively, the lives of both the blood-child and the slave-child lay in the hands of the paterfamilias. At the same time when Ovid says he 'put' this poem in the fire with his own hand (1.7.16) he is exploiting a further creative etymology of 'manumitto' ('I place by hand') though in relation to a 'liber' that is nevertheless 'a child' not a 'libertus'. This 'freeing of a child' is designed to make us confront 'manu [e]mittere' not just as a formula of manumission but also as a term meaning 'to release [legitimate] sons from one's power'. This in turn reminds us that the 'freeing' of a son ('emancipatio') involves a form of legal 'passing through hoops' which, at one stage of the process, reduces the blood-child to the status of a slave (Gaius Institutiones 1.134). In brief the procedure involved the father selling his child twice after which the (same) buyer manumitted the child as he would a slave. The child now reverted to being under the father's 'potestas'. A third sale of the child then ensued after which the child was deemed to be free of the father's 'potestas' (in accordance with Gaius Institutiones 1.132). The child was then free to be adopted by a third party. Ovid's blurring of boundaries within his familial relationships reflects the realities of legal nicety in Rome.

This brings us to Ovid's genealogical offspring, one of which is 'without a parent'. As we have mentioned, in Tr.1.7, one of the author's works (usually considered to be the Metamorphoses) is belatedly given a new proem which effectively retitles the work as 'orba parente [suo]' ('parentless': 1.7.35). Now, Isidore informs us that the same words (‘orba parente’) define ‘pupilli’ as specifically ‘those entrusted to the care of a guardian’ when orphaned. Such ‘pupilli’, according to Libanus (Praenomina 5), will eventually assume the name Publius on the basis that ‘prius pupilli facti erant quam praenomina haberent’ ('they had been made wards before they bore the praenomen 'Publius'). That is, all citizen orphans (‘pupilli’) will assume the name ‘Publius’ when they attain to civic status at the age of 14. In the meantime any citizen children of Publius Ovidius Naso will inevitably be described casually as ‘Publii pueri’. At the same time ‘Publii pueri’ is also the up-to-date denomination, according to Priscian (quoting Probus in his Grammaticus II 236 11), of the old-fashioned term ‘Publipori’ (‘slaves of Publius’). Such slaves will take on the praenomen 'Publius' when freed.

There is much to digest here. One the one hand there is a legal route open to Ovid by which he can continue 'to be' Publius Ovidius Naso in Rome in the guise of his books. Any books that are liberti (the exile libelli, we suggest) will automatically take on Ovid's praenomen on being 'released from Ovid's power' and 'sent by hand' to Rome to be 'delivered to [other] hands' (all = 'manumissi'). Most interestingly however, once Ovid has declared himself 'deceased' in exile, any of his surviving 'offspring-poems' that are aged 13 or under stand to acquire the praenomen of 'Publius' on attaining the age of majority (14) as long as they are the 'pupilli' of a guardian.  Of course, the younger poems whether 'orphaned of their father' or not, are no less 'Publii pueri' either as Ovid's legitimate children or as his slaves ('Publipori'). Nevertheless the 'relegatus' Ovid will wish his underaged children to become as it were 'legitimised' not so much as his progeny but as 'himself'. This legal route by which his children  may come to bear Ovid's praenomen by dint of being adopted by a guardian, will enable the 'deceased' Ovid to ensure both 'he' and 'his name' remain in Rome over the longer term (Tr.3.10.1-2). In a few years time (qua Publii) these orphaned children will individually constitute Ovid's legitimate and personal 'presence' in Rome, assuming their parent remains exiled or deceased in Tomis. 

The Fasti as Ovid's child: Tristia 3.14 and 1.7:

The arrival of Tr.3 at the private library of the poets' patron in Tr. 3.14 shows that the libertus-libellus has successfully found the 'sedes' ('abode') which it sought at  Tr.3.1.30. Having been rejected from state libraries it has found the 'privato ... loco' envisaged at 3.1.80. The finding of a footing in Rome will have been part of the 'opera' devised for it by Ovid ('missus' Tr.3.1.1.). When Ovid wonders whether his librarian friend is taking precautions that Ovid should not be wholly absent from Rome, we are to suppose that Ovid sees his books as part of himself (Tr. 3.14.4). This is confirmed through Ovid's injunction that as much as possible of his body (= 'physical self' and 'works of literature') be 'obliged to remain' in the city ('retine': 8). These works spring Athene-like from Ovid's head indicating that they are part of no-one else's flesh and blood but his. This notion of the child-book as part of the physical body of the author will become important when we discuss the status of the Fasti as Ovid's 'arm'.

Ovid's pre-existing works that bear no blame for his exile will be already ensconced within this private library. In fact Tristia 1 & 2 must have succeeded in being admitted ('hoc ... nostris appone libellis'). However it seems that the libellus Tristia 3 has brought a new addition to the family. At line 14 Ovid underlines the fact that he is dealing with poems that are his natural children ('stirps' 'progenies'). Yet just as importantly he uses two deictics 'haec' and 'hanc' (14-15) in order to underscore the fact that Tr.3 is delivering this poem to the librarian's hands ('manu ... mitto' = 'commendo') 'Commendo' should be understood in a literal 'plebeian' sense. This nuance contrasts with the root verb 'mando' at Tr.1.7.12 which constitutes an injunction to the readers to read copies of the poem (in our view, the Fasti) that are already circulating through Rome. Returning to Tr.3.14 the book entrusted to the 'cultor' is now defined as 'orba parente' which must, on one reading, constitute the title of the book which had been renamed in accordance with the first words of the new proem appended to it at Tr.1.7 (noting in passing that 'suo' is not included). Of course the non-technical meaning of 'orba parente' will still be felt. In other words Ovid is saying (a) 'here is my offspring which in so far as it is more correctly/properly [entitled] 'Orba Parente' is for this reason a heavier burden on you their guardian') (b) 'here is my offspring which, the more deprived of a parent it is, the heavier will be the burden for you its guardian'. In terms of (a) there is an obvious sense in which the poem with the new proem appended is longer & therefore 'weightier' than its original version which had been circulating in Rome.  Of course, as in (b), the mere fact of the book's loss of its parents also makes the libarian not just a custodian of books but a potential legal guardian ('tutor'). However of overriding interest is the fact that a 'libertus-libellus' (Tr.3) has escorted an under-aged 'liber' (the Fasti) to Rome in the search for a guardian. We have suggested above that such a procedure was likely to form part of Ovid's strategy, given that, in becoming a legal ward, the Fasti would acquire the cognomen 'Publii' upon reaching the age of majority. The Fasti would then constitute Ovid Redivivus in Rome. Meanwhile in terms of (b) above, the Fasti in being born of a single parent will be 'all the more' orphaned once that single parent dies. At the same time, given that 'orba parente' is the etymology of 'pupillus', the more descriptive 'orba parente' becomes in giving a 'true account' ('etymos logos' = 'etymology') of 'pupillus' (i.e there is no surviving parent at all) the more the 'tutor' will feel obliged to accept the etymological omen and adopt the child. 

As we have seen, it is generally assumed that the 6-line alternative proem contained in Tristia 1.7 is intended to re-preface the Metamorphoses. That is the Metamorphoses are to be considered 'orphaned'. Now Tr.1.7 is written en route to Tomis. The author does not know if he will survive the journey. Indeed every letter of Tristia 1 is written in a time of anxiety ('sollicito ... tempore': Tr.1.11.1-4). Bearing this in mind, nothing prevents the closing pentameter of Tr.1.7's 'proem' being translated as follows: 'I am going to / intending to /about to change [whatever is infelicitous] if it will have been allowed' ('emendaturus, si licuisset, eram'). The epistolary imperfect mediates Ovid's current intention of emending the text. Meanwhile the phrase 'si licuisset' seems most naturally to refer to Ovid's survival of whatever danger is currently making his 'tempore' 'sollicito'. We will argue that he turns to writing when a Boreas springs up on the last leg to Tomis. 'Si licuisset' effectively means that,'if the weather gods allow him to reach Tomis', Ovid has every intention of revising his text. This could be interpreted as a slight aimed at Augustus. It will not be in Augustus' power to allow or forbid Ovid to revise a text in Tomis. On the other hand the word 'licuisset' has another meaning as a tense of the veb 'liqueo'. It is possible therefore that 'si licuisset' means 'if guilt is established' (i.e. 'if the vitia exist'). or 'if I find my way to doing so'. Ovid has built 'escape clauses' into his 'meaning' of which 'licuisset' is not the least challenging. As we shall see it may be the case that the new proem may add to the Fasti the 'summa manus' which Ovid claims is missing.

How many books of the Fasti did Ovid write? Did he revise his text, if so, when?

It is often thought that Tristia 2.549 demonstrates that Ovid had written all twelve books of the Fasti but this is not the case. The words 'sex ego Fastorum scripsi totidemque libellos' seem to us to mean 'I wrote six of the Fasti and the equivalent number of 'libelli' (= I composed six of the Fasti and each one got a book to itself'). The mistake that is made is to take 'sex' with 'libellos'. The following line clarifies Ovid's meaning. He tells us that the end of each Fastus coincided with the end of a volume. Both lines are saying the same thing. A Fastus relates to a month of 'tempora'. There is no compulsion for each month to coincide with the end of a volume of verse. But Ovid's procedure is to align months with books. 

Now there are at least two additions to the Fasti that date from the period following Ovid's voyage into exile, suggesting that, if the text at issue in Tr.1.7 is the Fasti, Ovid was continuing to work on the text thereby making it more burdensome for the recipient ('sarcina maior': 3.14.15). At Fasti 4.82-83 we hear Ovid bemoan the distance from his home town of  Sulmo to Scythia whither he has been exiled. At 1.389-390 he claims to have seen at some stage in the past the dog sacrifices of the Sapaeans who lived west of Tempyra, a port he had been determined to visit on foot en route to Tomis  (1.10.22). No such Tomitan additions are detectable in the Metamorphoses. Moreover other factors plead for the Fasti as the subject of Tr.1.7. The elegiac couplets of the new proem sit uneasily alongside the epic hexameters of the Metamorphoses. Meanwhile the frequency of the phrase 'si licet' (= 'si licuisset') in the Fasti makes the nexus totemic of that text (1.25, 3.167, 5.370 [bis]; 'dum licet': 4.18). 

Of course additions to the text (including the new proem) are not corrections but they do show Ovid was rewriting the Fasti in Tomis. Meanwhile the message of Tr. 1.7 is that imperfections in the Fasti will remain as they were when Ovid was exiled pending subsequent revision. Now it is generally assumed that a major revision of the Fasti's proem was conducted after Augustus' death when the original dedication to the emperor (Tr.2.552-552) was replaced by one to Germanicus (Fasti1.3f). Yet nothing prevents this alteration (of a 'vitium'?) being dated to the first year of Ovid's exile. In other words, Ovid, having survived the journey to Tomis, fully revises the Fasti in time to send it care of Tristia 3 to Rome to be adopted by a 'cultor'. Most will point to 3.14.23 ('nunc incorrectum populi pervenit in ora') as clear evidence that the book 'arrives unrevised onto the lips of the people' However the first point is that the book arrives 'now'. That is, it is currently being delivered by Tristia 3 to the 'antistes'. Secondly the word 'incogitatus' means 'not thought through' whereas 'incogito' means 'I think through'. On that basis, a hapax legomenon such as 'incorrectum' has no history of usage to which one can appeal. It is left to the reader's discretion which one to choose. Does it mean 'thoroughly revised' or 'unrevised'? In a sense it is both. The 'verbal vitia' which Ovid bemoans in the rest of 3.14 as afflicting Tristia 3 are still extant today as we shall see. But the new proem to Germanicus had replaced the old one to Caesar thereby replacing a 'bad omen' ('vitium') with a good one.

The 'summa manus' and 'corona':

Ovid's concern to rectify any shortcoming in his text keys into to the repeatedly-mentioned absence from the 'Fasti' (as we would hold) of the finishing touch. The Latin phrase is 'summa manus'. In the hands of plebeians (with whom Ovid is content as potential recipients of the Tristia 3 libellus) or in the hands of Ovid's candidi lectores (if indeed these constitute a separate category), the phrase 'summa manus' risks being taken literally, as though one such as Aristophanes' Dikaiopolis were Ovid's ideal reader. We should therefore examine the text through Dikaiopolis' eyes. The 'ima manus' and the 'summa manus' were the two halves of the whole hand, the 'summa' being the 'palma'. Now a 'manus' such as a poem ('manus' = 'product of artistic labour') that lacks its 'upper half' can be considered a 'half-finished poem' rather like the Fasti. It is also a work that has failed to 'win the race' ('the 'summa manus' considered as a [metaphorical] 'palma') in the sense of attaining recognition for its 'finished' quality. The Fasti, far from reaching the last meta, signally fails to progress beyond half way. This point chimes with Tr.1.7.4 where the honorary garland of 'victory' is not considered by Ovid an appropriate decoration for his 'temples' (= 'intellect' and 'brow') as represented on a statue bust. Yet these 'Temples [of Ovid's]' could also be '[his] Times' a word which could stand for the 'Fasti' (given, as we have seen, that the Fasti's first word and alternative title is 'tempora' or 'Times'). 

Thus the text now declares the Fasti as being undeserving of recognition ('temporibus non est apta corona meis': Tr.1.7.4), specifically because it is unfinished. This looks forward to the new proem contained in the same letter which, as we would hold, should be attached to the Fasti. So undeserving is the 'Tempora' of recognition for its 'finality' that its [i.e the Fasti's] new title (omitting 'parente') is to be 'Orba' ('lacking' 'deficient'). The neuter plural 'orba' could be initially related to 'carmina' by the reader, and the word 'carmina' is very obtrusive in discussions of this text, appearing at Tr.1.7.11 & 13. It also appears twice (at Tr.3.14.14 & 20) in a passage where the Fasti as 'orba parente' is again at issue. We have laboured this point because the etymology of 'carmen' was thought to consist in the nexus 'careo [mentem]' meaning 'I lack' (sanity) [Varro DLL 7.27; Plutarch Quaestiones Romanae 56; Isidore Origines 1.39.4], a fact which aligns 'carmina' very closely with 'orba' as an indicator of the signally 'lacking' Fasti.

The Half-Way point of an ancient epic:

On yet another level, the Doric Greek transliteration of 'corona' namely 'κορωνα' also alludes to 'summa manus' in the sense that it means the 'tip of a bow' ('the final flourish'). Another nuance of  'κορωνη'  derives from Aratus who uses it of the 'stern' of a ship. The stern is related to 'corona' itself by Virgil who twice speaks of 'coronae' ('garlands') being hung from sterns when a ship makes land successfully. Meanwhile, the fact that Greek ships reached land stern first is significant of a journey that is half over. Such a ship lies with its prow facing seawards ready for reembarkation. 

Indeed a literary tradition seems to have begun from the moment when, half-way through the Odyssey (13.113-115), Homer's Phaeacian ship beaches stern first on an Ithacan beach before setting sail again. In later authors, the mention of (or allusion to) the stern of a ship becomes highly diagnostic of the half-way point of an epic. The Aeneid reaches half-way with the hero's fleet 'coming to rest' with their sterns 'on the shore'. Even the second last line of Book 2 of the Georgics feigns to suggest the libellus is a boat that has travlled a long distance ('Sed nos inmensum spatiis confecimus aequor,/ etiam tempus equum fumantia solvere colla'). At 3.9.9-10, half-way through Ovid's own elegiac epic, the Tristia, Medea applies her oars to the shoals off Tomis. Here we suggest Medea's oars are steering oars and that she is holding them upright waiting for them to come into contact with the sands below the surf. This will constitute the point when the anchors should be dropped since the backing ship is now close to grounding. Thus Medea is on the stern, closest to land, preparing the ground for the Argonauts to carry out a mooring. Other half-way allusions to the stern come in Aratus' Phaenomena (proving the Phaenomena is a separate work to the 'Diosemeia') and Apollonius' Argonautica where unusually the anchors hold the ship without the hawers being deployed at the stern. The Argo is riding unheroically at anchor in a marsh. The Argonauts' prayer, namely that the river should receive the cables propitiously ('ἐναίσιμα πείσματα') refers to the anchor cables not the hawsers. The word πείσμα can refer to either type of rope as Odyssey 9.136-137 makes clear. We suggest however that the stern is also anchored in such a mooring in order to stabilise the boat. Certainly when Agamemnon proposes a mooring 'out at sea' (Iliad 14.77) the requirement for 4 anchor stones per ship will be paramount. 

Meanings of 'summa manus':

Thus the garland to mark the half-way point of Ovid's Fastian voyage is not either 'fitted on' or 'appropriate'. Interestingly, this will indicate that the work is not going to be continued, or that the ship has foundered, or both. Meanwhile, the  word 'κορωναalso means the 'crowning point' or 'acme of an artist's career'. This prompts the thought that the unsuitability of the Fasti to be declared the 'culminating point' of Ovid's career may be because there is a work, the Tristia, which will more adequately cap a glittering literary career. Now, the 'summa manus' or 'flat of the hand' also has its Greek equivalents, including ‘ἂγοστος’ (‘agostos’), a term that has a morphological claim to be considered the creative etymology of 'Augustus'. Pollux however (Onomasticon 2.141) defines 'ἂγωστος’ (sic) as 'το δε κατωθεν ['του πηχεως']'. Since Pollux is concerned in this passage with what is above the 'πηχuς' ('elbow') and what is below, his definition of 'ἂγωστος’ seems to focus on the arm from the elbow downwards (as far as the end of the fingers) . The fact that the upper arm ('ἐπιπηχυ') is 'the part [of the arm] above the elbows' in Hesychius, lends further weight to this view. However, this 'ἂγωστος’ is also the 'πηχuς' understood in another sense, namely 'the cubit' or the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. This consists in 6 subdivisions namely 'palms' which themselves are constituted of 4 finger-widths each. We will return to the implications of this below.

The absence from the Fasti of the 'summa manus' - either as the 'agostos' meaning the opposite of the back of the hand or as the 'agostos' meaning the cubitum - relates, on one reading, to the Fasti's entire second half, the half which would have dealt with the festal days closest to Augustus' heart, such as August 13-15, the dates of his triple triumph. This part of the Fasti would have been replete with the 'palmae' or 'coronae' the symbols of victory, just as the Fasti will be lacking the 6 palmae of the cubitum. Meanwhile, as a tag representing the roots of 'Augustus', the semantic richness of the phrase 'summa manus' provides a wide berth for the contextualisation of the emperor. Thus viable translations include 'the last battle' (Actium, omitted from the Fasti as we have seen) and [with 'summa' optionally considered as a noun and 'manus' in the genitive] the 'acme of or utmost degree of 'patria potestas' (= the murder of one's children'). The latter interpretation may suggest Ovid's attempted murder of the Fasti' in Tr.1.7 is emblematic of, for instance, Augustus' effective 'murder' of his daughter Julia by exiling her to Pandateria. Certainly Augustus had 'patria potestas' ('manus') over Julia having fathered her 'in connubium' with her mother Scribonia. The death of Agrippa Postumus is a clearer case. Augustus adopted him through the process of adrogatio which had the effect of bringing the adoptee under the patria potestas of the adopter (Gaius Institutiones 1.99; 1.107). Simultaneously, the adoptee ceased to be sui iuris. Augustus will therefore have exercised his overriding 'ius viae necisque' in having Postumus executed in the same year as, we suggest, Ovid was banished. 

Essentially Ovid relates 'the murder of children' to Augustus by using an unconsidered nuance lurking within 'summa manus'. Of greater interest however is the point that Ovid is committed to ironing out the 'vitia' from his existing text. There is something 'rude' about the Fasti as it stands. In part this relates to its minority in being not yet full grown ('adhuc crescens'). This will qualify it to be entrusted to a 'tutor' as we have seen. However, like the Tristia it contains 'vitia'  ('vitiosa, ut erunt, ...': Tr.4.1.1). These we suggest are the 'mala' that afflict the exile poems even more profoundly. They constitute the textual ineptitudes (metrical flaws, spelling mistakes ) that arise from a redivision of the letters of a passage to produce a quite different text. These, as we shall see, remain in the text despite Ovid's claim that he is 'about to emend them'.  Just as the 'summa manus' qua six 'palms' will always be missing from the Fasti so too the final touch will never make the Fasti perfect. Yet whilst Ovid's path to the Fasti's perfection may be lined with unrealised good intentions, that does not mean that a non-metrical 'vitium' has not been emended. As we have seen this may concern the expunging of Augustus as the dedicatee.


There are many other ways however to interpret 'summa manus'.Thus 'the most important workman' or 'the highest-placed secretary' ('summa manus') are also valid readings and serve to belittle the emperor's desire to leave the city monumentally and administratively more sophisticated. Further versions such as 'the most important gang' ('the inner circle of power'), 'the acme of power' relate to the grip of Augustus on the levers of empire. Lastly the translation 'the highest stake' [at dice]' must be accorded some importance. Firstly the nuance of 'manus' here is specific to the emperor (Suetonius 71: 'nam si quas manus remisi'). Secondly the emperor was much addicted to dicing as witnessed by the satirical verses preserved by Suetonius ('postquam bisclasse uictus naues perdidit / aliquandout uincat, ludit assidue aleam':70). He was nothing loth to lose large sums of money. He not only covered the losses of his co-gamers but also sustained large deficits 'in his own name' (Suetonius 71: 'ego perdidi uiginti milia nummum meo nomine'). The absence of 'the highest stake' from the Fasti could feasibly relate to the failure of the Fasti to describe the greatest of Roman festivals, the Saturnalia held over 17-19 December when dicing was legaally countenanced. Suetonius specifically alludes to Augustus' behaviour during the Saturnalia (75) when lottery tickets were auctioned by the emperor, being sold through 'bidding' (a form of 'stake'). It is entirely conceivable that Augustus had taken some pride in waging the highest ever stake on the throw of the dice, or on buying the most expensive lottery ticket. Whether he lost or won may have been a matter of some indifference to him, judging by Suetonius' account. However the likelihood must be that he had lost since Ovid's ommision of this particular 'summa manus' will have been intended to dent the emperor's sense of his own generosity of spirit and congeniality.

As we have seen, 'summa manus' could be considered a pair of nouns, with 'manus' now in the genitive and freed from its metrical straitjacket. Thus the translation 'the total sum of the stake' presents itself as does 'the numerical value of 'a hand'' or the 'full amount of a hand'. Meanwhile 'the full extent of the hand' or 'the hand taken as a whole' is another interpretation that should give us pause for thought. In Ancient Greek and modern Romanian (the purest of all Romance languages) an extreme interpretation of the word for 'hand' will include the whole arm up to the shoulder. Clearly the fact that the Fasti lack the full extent of the arm and the arm taken as a whole will give us some encouragement in this direction. Now, given (a) that 'ἂγωστος’ means both 'elbow' and 'palm' in Hesychius but also 'forearm and hand' in Pollux, it can be defined as  'summa manus' in the sense of 'the [lower] extremity of the arm'. Meanwhile 'summa manus' and 'ἂγωστος’ are also synonyms in the sense of 'palm'. To make matters even more complex 'summa manus' with the word 'summa' understood as a neuter plural (a form much affected by Ovid) will mean 'the extremities of the manus' ('the 6 fingers' as 'the maximum tally of the hand'). Here Met.4.343 lends some support since 'summa pedum' there must mean 'the toes'. However the 'ἂγωστος', qua the specific 'summa manus' that refers to the forearm and hand, will also constitute the 'cubit' of measurement namely the '6 palms' which is the number of books missing from the 'totality' of the Fasti. This may imply that each month of the missing Fasti related to 'a military victory'. 

Now, as a corollary of the 'summa manus' constituting the 'elbow-to-middle-finger-tip cubitum', the existing Fasti must be, on one reading, commensurate with 'the rest of the arm' or the arm above the elbow. This is the 'humerus' to which the 'κορωνα', in Ovid's case, are not fitted (as they should be in medical terms). Nor of course are any of the six palms (equivalent to the 'summa manus' individually and collectively) to be found connected to the 'humerus'. This simultaneously disqualifies the six 'ἂγωστοi' ('palms of military victory') from inclusion in Ovid's own Fasti. Here we cross paths with a different Fasti, one that is other than Ovid's [my] Fasti or 'times'.The Fasti Triumphales recorded all of Rome's military victories or 'palmae'. They were permanently displayed in the Forum. They did nothing but advertise the connection between 'palms of victory' and the Fasti (Triumphales) from January to December. In short and from a multitude of perspectives neither the corona ('garland of victory') nor 'κορωνα' are  'bound to' or 'connected specifically to Ovid's Fasti. Indeed Ovid may even be suggesting that the period in which the Fasti were written (Ovid's 'tempora') may have been devoid of military victories ('corona non apta temporibus').

Meanwhile then as now, owing to a recessive gene, the 'maximum numerical sum of a human hand' ('summa manus') will be 6 fingers. At the same time the 'summa [neuter plural] manus' will also equate to the six fingers. Moreover the Egyptian cubit rod in Turin represents the closed fist as the number 6. A fist may reasonably be said to convey 'the essence of power' ('summa manus'). It may also suggest the tout ensemble of the hand (that is, as an integrated unit, not as a disparate collection of palm and fingers). 

An overview of 'summa manus' is long overdue. Most readers will assume that the half-sized Fasti are lacking rather more than their 'final touch'.They will discount the Fasti as being the recipient of the new proem of Tr.1.7 despite both being in elegiac couplets. Are they right? On the one hand, like 'ἂγωστος', the 'summa manus' means 'palm' (and hence [the absence of] 'victorious completion'); on the other hand, again like ἂγωστος', it also means 'the forearm and hand' (the 6 palm-measurements of the missing 'Fasti'). On another view it also means 'the extremities of the hand' which are the [6] fingers. In many ways the 'summa manus' applies to the Fasti above all other works of Ovid. It is the only phrase one could think of that expresses the 'halfness' of a work whilst at the same time suggesting that the existing half is nearly but not quite whole. 

The Greek behind the Latin:

References to the Fasti in Tr.1.7 are highly cryptic, but pervasive, and sit alongside references to Ovid's 'pretomitan' journey into exile, to which we will turn first. In line 1 Ovid mentions an ‘imago’ which we presume to be a statue bust. In Greek this would be termed ‘προτομηι’ in the corresponding dative singular. Now ‘προ τομηι’ when divided in two (rather like the Fasti), produces the etymology ‘before / in front of Tomis’ which could allude in general to the period of the Fasti or more specifically to the end of Ovid's journey to Tomis. In Ovid's hands the word Tomis may well decline as 'πολιϛ' (Tr.3.9.32). This will render 'τομηι' a provincialised form of 'τομει'. In fact Aratus (Phaenomena 322) had abbreviated the Greek for 'a bust' to the root word 'τομη'. This allows us to formulate 'in imagine' in Greek as 'ἐν τομηι' which also means 'within reach of Tomis' or 'by Tomis'. Meanwhile the integrated form of 'ἐντομηι' translates as 'in the narrow gorge'. Tempyra, where Ovid had planned to disembark en route to Tomis is, according to Livy a perfect example of 'a small gorge' (38.41.5) 'within reach of Tomis'. As we have argued elsewhere the word 'Tempyra' etymologises as a 'diminutive Tempe' or 'small gorge'. That '-yra' was considered a diminutive termination is demonstrated by the entry under 'ἀστυρον‘ ('small town') in the Etymologicum Magnum

Even the comparison between Ovid's burning of this poem and Althaea's telepathic burning of her son Meleager, betrays cryptic references to the 'pretomitan' period when Tristia 1 was composed. The simile of Althaea is somewhat odd since Ovid did not burn his works by proxy. However the phrase 'sub stipite' ('under the form of a log') is amenable to a quite different interpretation if seen through the prism of Greek. A 'log' or 'stump' in Greek translates as 'τομη' while 'sub' could mean 'immediately before' or 'on the approach to' 'below the walls of'. Startlingly, Ovid shows himself capable of bringing his narrative spiralling back to the same point namely the end of his journey to Tomis ('sub stipite' = 'ὓπο τομηι' = 'below the walls of Tomis'). 

Ovid's Journey into Exile: the Saturnalia:

Ovid travels to Tomis in December (Tr.1.11.2). In a separate work we have argued that, following the storm of 1.2 & 1.4, Ovid finds himself in the Halcyon days when there was a flat calm across the Aegean for 7 days. This explains his brisk progress in Tr.1.10 and to the lack of 'worried times' during which the author would customarily put pen to paper. Nevertheless the seas turn very rough again during Tr.1.11 when, as we would argue, Ovid's ship was approaching Tomis. At this point the helmsman is reduced to praying to the stars showing that it was dark and cloudless. A Boreas is blowing ('Aquilone': 19) which notoriously drives the clouds ahead of it. A north wind, suddenly rising against a ship heading north along the west coast of the Black Sea, will fill the sails from the bows. The sails will wrap themselves around the mast creating the sort of intense pressure which leads to the mast's collapse at Odyssey 12.405f. However we know Ovid's helmsman has reefed his sails before resorting to prayer. This is because in line 19 the ropes are 'tautened' ('contenti') producing, as it were, musical strings which the wind transforms into an Aeolian harp.  Since the Aquilo blows into the bow side of the sail it will have the effect of slackening not tautening the brailing lines. It is therefore helmsman not the Aquilo that tautens the strings.The brailing lines are only taut when they are gathered in by hand to their full extent and attached to a cleat. In this position they will have automatically drawn the sail upwards to lie concertinaed along the yardarm. There is no canvas exposed to the Aquilo on Ovid's ship. He and the ship reach Tomis through the teeth of the gale.

The day of Ovid's arrival in Tomis is defined as 'brumali ... luce' (Tr.1.11.39). Whilst this could be 'any winter's day' (a) it is not daylight in Tr.1.11 (b) 'brumali ... luce' is just as likely to mean 'the solstitial 24-hour period'. This will be the 17th-18th December according to Columella who conveys the view of Hipparchus that the entry of the Sun into Capricorn on 17th December coincides with the solstice. Other parapegmatists record the 17th as the beginning of the Sun's occupation of Capricorn (Paris, Madrid) without however dentifying it as the solstice. Pliny meanwhile dates the solstice to the 25th December. 

The narrative of Tr.1.7 needs to be investigated in order that the date of Ovid's arrival in Tomis can be narrowed down. The reason Ovid's bust was wearing a Bacchic garland is likely to be connected to a Bacchic festival. In view of the December date of Ovid's journey, the Saturnalia is the most likely occasion. Meanwhile, Bacchus' association with the winter solstice is confirmed by the biennial Greek festival held on the 'bruma' (Fasti 1.393). In the Augustan period the Saturnalia were held on the 17th-19th December. Meanwhile Ovid can only be writing this poem during a 'sollicito tempore' which should locate Tr.1.11before or after the Halcyon Days (given that the immediate cause for concern is the weather). The likelihood must be that Ovid betakes himself to write on December 17th as his ship is pummelled by Boreas' sudden re-emergence. As he writes he is conscious that this is also the first night of the Saturnalia and he falls to discussing the appropriateness of his statue being crowned with ivy. 

Ideally we would wish to establish a reason for the garlanding of specifically a poet during the Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was associated with new poetic output. Catullus’ friend Calvus appears to be abiding by tradition in sending the poet a volume of verse during the Saturnalia (14). The fact that Catullus is keenly disappointed by the dross he finds inside suggests he was expecting something of exceptional quality. Meanwhile Martial’s friend Macer (10.7) demands of the poet a Saturnalian ‘tribute’. This is to contain no solemn jokes or ‘tristia carmina’. Clearly amusing jokes and poems were expected over the Saturnalia which reminds one that in Tomis Ovid, being sad, sings only sad songs. This illuminates Tr.1.7.3 where it is implied that the Saturrnalia brings forth 'happy/witty poets ('laetos poetas') more deserving of a garland. The more general point is that poets became the focus of attention over the Saturnalia, and their productions, if well received, would no doubt be considered worthy of recognition not least through the garlanding of the poet's brows. 

Corona and Greek textual 'Imagines':

Here we have returned to the issue of the Fasti's 'unfinished' quality as the reason for doffing from Ovid's brows the garland, the symbol of artistic completed-ness'. However, the source of this vignette, the first lines of Tr.1.7, contain so many strands of meaning that a more 'finished' poem would be hard to imagine. In the following discussion we return to the concept of the existing Fasti as corresponding to the upper arms and shoulders of a human body. By transliterating 'corona' (Tr.1.7.4) into Greek we produce not only 'κορωνη /'κορωνα' but also 'κορωνα' which, as a neuter plural means 'the coronoid processes of the mandiblle'. Now these terminate just forward of the earlobe and connect the mandibles to the 'temporalis'. In other words they are 'joined to' ('apta > apio apere') one's temples' but not it seems to Ovid's ('temporibus non est apta 'κορωνα' meis').  The singular verb 'est' can be excused grammatically as a nod towards the Greek rule that neuter nominative plurals take a singular verb. As parts of osteal arms intended to connect muscles to bones these 'κορωναenable the lower jaw to be raised. Ovid is therefore by implication 'slack-jawed' and mute. The rest of the world speaks. We are back with the Fastian Tristia and the 'silent' nuance of 'favisti'.

However 'κορωνα' can also define the 'coronoid processes of the ulna'. These are the tips of the ulna's lateral extensions which receive the humerus. Thus the humerus should be the equivalent of the 'temporalis' to which the mandibular processes were attached. In suggesting that his 'corona' do not fit his 'humeri', we resume our thesis that the existing Fasti correlate allegorically to the upper arm in Greek, leaving the part below the elbow to be represented by the 'summa manus'. The equivalent of '[fitted] to the humeri' is 'ὦμοις’. However this could also be understood as an adjective of 'times' ('ὦμοις χρονοις' = 'in hard times'). By a deft, entirely implicit, sidestep within the Greek 'shadow' narrative (the textual 'imago'), Ovid manages to suggest that only Saturnalia-inspired 'happy poets' (those who do not suffer his synonymous-with-humeri 'dura [tempora]') are deserving of indicators or statues ('signa') of 'laetitia'. The phrase 'tempora dura' occurs five times in the exile poetry (Tr.1.5.26; 3.4.1; 5.10.12; Ex Ponto 2.6.29, 4.9.88) and 'dura' or 'ὦμα' can therefore be taken as an indicator of 'my' [Ovid's] particular 'times'. Meanwhile 'felicia signa' ('well-starred signs') reminds us that Corona is a constellation ('signum') which will constitute a specific category of 'signum' unsuited to the 'times of Ovid'. In the Metamorphoses Ovid had traced the origin of Corona to Ariadne's 'crown' which Liber (Dionysos) had set among the stars following his discovery of the heroine abandoned and resentful on the shores of Dia. Thus Ariadne's crown, as a garland appropriated by Dionysos, can be counted amongst the 'Bacchica serta' ('Dionysian wreaths') of Tr.1.7.2. By being assimilated into this category of garlands, the constellation becomes tarred with the same Tristian brush. It becomes, along with the rest, an image of Saturnalian vinousness and the production of joyful, funny poetry quite out of keeping with Ovid's exilic woes.

We return to the shoulders of the existing Fasti. Besides being 'ὦμοι' they are also the 'Fasti' as 'tempora' ('χρονοι') an combination which produces Ovid's 'Hard Times' ('ὦμοι χρονοι'). The Fasti  are also Ovid's 'Unripe Times' in the sense that they are the Fasti which are 'adhuc crescens' ('still growing':1.7). They are also the 'rude' (1.7) or 'underage' Fasti who require a tutor to protect them in Rome. Of course they are also the 'coarse' Fasti which lack the 'summa manus' or the final polish. The adjective 'ὦμοι' is the equivalent of 'dura' but also 'tristia' ('harsh'). This is one more hint that the Fasti intrude on the 'Tristia'. Meanwhile another Latin 'imago' of 'ὦμοι' is 'bruti' ('raw' 'cruel' 'uncooked'). The Fasti may be the 'Tempora Bruti [now a genitive singular]', a period when the tyrannical rule of Tarquinius was finally brought to an end with the institution of the Republic. 

The first line of the Fasti contains a curious word, namely 'digesta'. It means that Ovid's 'Times' are distributed, scattered or disseminated across the year. We would contend that in view of 'ὦμοι' meaning 'undigested', Ovid's 'Times', which should have been dispersed like food through the body have become constricted to within the first six months leaving Ovid's 'χρονοι' undigested. Meanwhile Ovid himself suffers from indigestion (Ex Ponto 1.10). In so doing he allegorises the condition of the Fasti. The indigstiable text is one that should have been arranged methodically (by chronology) but has become confused and shapeless just like Chaos in the Metamorphoses ('rudis atque indigesta'). The implication here is that the material that should have been presented in Books 7-12 has been forced into Books 1-6. Rather as our examination of Tr.1.7.1-4 has suggested, it seems that Ovid's 'materia' is heavily concentrated.

The word 'ὦμοι' has another relationship with the Tristia. As an integral word, or even when separated ('digesta') it means 'Alas'! Woe is me'. This Tristian cry for help is unexpected but not to be ignored. In a separate work we have suggested that 'ὦμοι' is to be seen as the 'imago of 'o mihi' in Tr.1.5 and 3.4. This overspill of the semantic range of 'ὦμοι' into Tristian territory ('harsh, cruel, alas!') may be more pervasive than we think. The story of Brutus from Fasti 2 is we suggest revisited at Tristia 3.4. Meanwhile Tristia 3.3 can be read intertextually with the story of Lucretia in Fasti 2 (see above where we also consider the 'fastidium' evident in the Tristia and Ex Ponto to be an etymological extrapolation of 'boredom with the Fasti' ('Fastorum taedium' = 'fastidium').

The concept of Greek 'imagines' lying behind the Latin text can be pressed further. The new title of the Fasti according to Tr.1.7 is 'Orba'. In Greek this would translate as 'χηρα'. This is homonymous with 'χηρα', an 'arm' or 'forearm' in the accusative case. As we have seen the fully fledged Fasti of 12 books would have constituted an allegorical 'arm'. We deduce from this ('orba' = 'χηρα' = χηραχηρα') that in some sense the whole arm of the Fasti is extant in the Fasti as we have it. It is this that causes Ovid his literary indigestion. Certainly one could also maintain, on the basis 'χηρα' χηραof χηραχηρα'χηρα' χηραχηραχηραχηραχηραχηραχηρ 'χηρα', that there is now a 'hand' ('manus') 'at the top' ('summa') of the Fasti . That is, through 'orba', the new proem to the Fasti has gained its 'summa manus'. In allegorical terms, this would seem to suggest that the revision of the Fasti ('emendaturus ... eram') was carried out during, as early as the 'times'  of Tristia 1. 

The emphasis on Ovid's 'imagines' has an allegorical aspect. Clearly as one of his family's deceased members Ovid now qualifies for a wax effigy of himself. This is an 'imago' which extends its metapoetic reach to articulate the ghostly imprint of Greek behind Ovid's Latin. At the same time the wax image of Tristia 1.7 now itself alludes to Ovid's exilic death, leaving aside the fact that 'imago' itself means 'ancestral image'. This is a small 'image' compared to the 'maior imago' of the Fasti. Such an 'imago' may have its own imagines lurking in the word's shadows. That is 'maior' could mean 'rather May-ish' ('maius -a-um') which would be a humorous allusion to one of the defining months of the work. Simultaneously one could view 'maior imago' as a double substantive construction not uncommon in Greek. This would mean 'ancestor image' which ironically takes us back to the wax image. Meanwhile,  the status of the Fasti as a 'minor' or 'pupillus' puts pressure on the same double substantive encouraging it in the direction of a 'resemblance of civic maturity' ('maior imago'). 

On the level of  another linguistic 'imago', the word 'χηρα' could also be considered from an unaspirated point of view. One might compare Simonides' 'χορωνος' (174) in its role as a synonym of 'κορωνηηηηη'  ('crown') . In any event, the Scythianised pronunciation of 'κηρα' renders it a Greek 'imago' of the Latin 'cera' meaning both 'an oeuvre' and 'a wax image'. Thus, yet another manifestation of the first word of the Fasti ('cera') defines the work as a poetic book ('a wax tablet' writ large) and (self-definingly) as an 'imago' (which as an 'ancestral bust' it is).

Corona / κορωνα: Fasti / 'favisti'

The relationship of the 'ulna' to the hand suggests one can consider the ulna's coronoid processes as having much to offer Ovid's discourse in Tr.1.7. These 'κορωνα' lie at the elbow end of the Fasti's 'summa manus' (interpreted as 'the lower arm and hand'). Meanwhile since this 'lower arm and hand' is avowedly 'missing' from the of text of the Fasti, logically the 'κορωνα', will also be missing and hence unattached to Ovid's particular 'Times' otherwise known as the Fasti. The lower arm and hand also defines Pollux's 'ἂγωστος' which in being coterminous with the six palms of the measurement from elbow to middle finger ('cubitum') will be equally as 'missing'.  

The 'κορωνα' are also a term for the 'elbows'. Meanwhile, in Hesychius, the word ‘ἂγοστος’, which we have identified as a deep-lying etymological code for 'Augustus', is repeatedly defined as meaning 'elbows'. In sum, when 'κορωνα' is identified with 'the bend in the arm' and is the equivalent of 'ἀγκαλη' in Theocritus, it effectively constitutes a synonym of Hesychius' ‘ἂγοστος, defined' as 'ἂγκων'. This convergence of ‘ἂγοστος' with 'summa manus' and 'κορωνα' insinuates that Augustus does not suit / is not fitting for / is unfavourable to / is unconnected to / is not inserted into ['apio apere'] the Fasti. In regard to the specific lack of 'favour' extended to the poet we argue below that the word 'Fasti' could be considered an abbreviation of 'favisti' (just as 'tristi'' abbreviates 'trivisti'). The 'favour' shown the Fasti derives from Germanicus ('fa[vi]isti' = 'you [singular] have shown favour') not from Augustus. Meanwhile the inappropriateness of Augustus to the Fasti may suggest a moral or ethical uncongeniality between the two. The word '‘ἂγοστος' also means 'dirt' or 'filth' and this may be seen as  a perjorative term for Augustus' sexual licentiousness. Also missing from the Fasti will be 'ἂγκων' in its meanings of 'a treasure' 'a mistress' and 'wormwood'. If this last nuance can be insinuated into the wider lexical pool of the word 'κορωνα'  then one may assume the conventionally bitter 'wormwood' plant is only fitting for the 'bitterness' of [and lexical meaning of] the 'Tristia' where it occurs for the first time in Tristia 5. Wormwood had once constituted the prize at Roman Latinae games. Finally Hesychius preserves the word 'ὑψηλα' as a meaning of 'κορωνα'. This, as a neuter plural, most obviously refers to the high, lofty, panegyric style of poetry affected by imperial-age poets but (perhaps as a reaction) not considered appropriate by Ovid to the elegiac, low-key, domestic atmosphere of the Fasti in which the 'divinities of state', as subject matter, are considered 'out of place'. Nor are such poems suited to Ovid's creative talents (his 'temples'). Nor are they appropriate to the difficult 'times' through which he lives. Lastly such poetic effusions do not fit Ovid's 'metrical quantities' ('temporibus'). As we have seen Ovid's subversiveness consists in the capacity of his words to redivide which gives rise to new passages of text which flaunt the metrcal 'certainties' of the elegiac couplet. Panegyric, by contrast, follows the high-pitched montone of conformity.

One further, tantalising connection arises from Hesychius work on 'κορωνα'. the singular 'κορωνον' is said to be 'ὁ πονηρ'. This substantive does not exist in this form in any text. However its male gender and the association of the crow ('κορωνη') with cleverness (Aesop's story of the Crow and the Pitcher) and duplicity (as in the Fasti's story of the crow, hydra, and snake) points in the direction of 'πονηρ' as a synonym of 'πονηρος' ('rascal' 'scoundrel' 'wicked' 'clever' 'evil-working'). Such people, whether they include Augustus or not, are 'unfavourable' to the Fasti and to Ovid's 'genius' ('temples').

Imagines:

Tr, 1.7 contains further indications that the Fasti is the work that is uppermost in Ovid’s mind. His friends also carry about ‘anuli’ which are technically both ‘rings’ and ‘little years’. A ‘little year’ is a reasonable definition of the Fasti (a ‘half-year’). Meanwhile the toing and froing of the rings on the fingers allegorises the coming and going of the Fastian year (‘ani’ / ‘anni’= 'circuits' ‘years’ ‘rings’) in accordance with the orientation of the circling sun which turns at the meta of Capricorn during the Saturnalia. Moreover the Fasti break off in June just after their 'little year' has negotiated its solstitial 'meta'. Thus the ring is itself an 'imago' of the Fasti and in containing an 'imago' of Ovid it imagises the identification of Ovid's person with his literary blood-line. 

There is a powerful riddle operative here. In sending his exilic books to Rome, Ovid renders them 'liberti ('freed')'. Whilst Tristia 3 enters into society with equites who traditionally wear 'the golden ring', some of these equites will be former 'liberti' who have attained the status of 'eques' through the 'legal fiction' ('imago') of being allowed to wear the ring. The ring is an 'imago' of their status just as the 'imago' of Ovid, which the ring bears, represents the fiction that Ovid is still an 'eques' in Rome. Ovid is carried to and fro in Rome (as though he were 'free' to move about), yet in the author's mind there is a self-delusory 'imago libertatis' consisting in a pictorial 'imago' that is inserted into a ring which is a legal 'imago libertatis' born by liberti who are themselves 'carried about' as literary 'imagines' in the pages of the libellus as it is represented as 'wandering' through Rome. This Chinese box of imagines is not finished. The libellus will in reality be carried and flaunted around Rome as an 'imago libertatis' by the eques who has obtained the book to assert his (illusory) 'freedom' (always assuming that the book can be trusted to reach Rome, and that, like Tristia 3, it finds a friendly reader, and that Ovid has represented the books' destiny accurately). As Ovid points out, 'imagines' are only approximations to reality in any case ('nostris similes ... vultus'). 

If the libellus is aware that it has been 'written' it will be acutely conscious in two senses that, viz-a-viz his patron, his own 'libertas' is an 'imago'. As Ovid's client he is not 'free', nor is he 'free' of being merely a literary evocation ('imago') of freedom. Indeed he is Ovid's representation in literature of the 'appearance of freedom'. Meanwhile the fact that the libellus is able to access the social circle of these equites in order to transmit Ovid's message proves that he is performing 'operae' for his patron. Or so Ovid would have us believe from his imagined vignette of the beringed equites' 'imago ingenuitatis' ('appearance of being 'free-born') which is itself allegorised by the author's frankness and modesty ('ingenuitas') in desiring his status be actually reflected in the unadornment of his 'imagines'.Ovid's text is a palace of mirrors in the sense that mirrors produce 'mirror images' of themselves when reflected in other mirrors. 

Further reasons why the Fasti is the book under consideration in Tr.1.7:

The epic status of the Fasti (and the use of the word ‘Fasti’ to describe the work) appears clearly from Tr.2.547-549. This supports the impression of 1.7.11 which speaks of his work as a ‘maior imago’. Furthermore, the phrase ‘maior area' is used at Fasti 4.10 of Ovid’s undertaking and indeed nothing prevents Tr. 2.63 being a reference to the unfinished Fasti (‘maius opus … adhuc sine fine’) given that ‘in non credendos corpora versa modos’ (Tr.2.64) could mean ‘poetic works rendered differently in not-to-be-trusted [or believed] ways’. And indeed no-one has hitherto believed that it is the Fasti that has been re-presented in Tr.1.7. However the same words at Tr.2.64 could also mean 'texts re-rendered in untrustworthy metres'. This alludes to the redivision and reconfiguring of the texts into ametrical sense units, a procedure we will demonstrate in full in relation to 'fastiditus'. However our last 'rendering' of these words brings us to the subject matter of the Fasti ('bodies transformed into not-to-be trusted forms'). The Fasti contains the story of Faunus (2.331f) who in the dark of a cave is duped into thinking the feminine attire he touches is worn by its owner Ompahle, Heracles’ wife. In fact the couple have cross-dressed prior to a festival of Bacchus on the next day. Faunus’ priapism is short-lived as the hairy Heracles makes himself known. Here we have two bodies changed in ways that 'ought not to have been trusted' [by Faunus]. The relationship of Bacchus to sexual ambivalence is well-known in his manifestation as Sabazios. Meanwhile the effects he has on Pentheus in Euripides’ Bacchae reveal a darker side to the god of comedy. Similarly at 3.675 the story of Anna Perenna’s imitation of Minerva to dupe the amorous Mars depends on the aged Anna being dressed as a bride. Here is an example of bodies being changed in ways that are not ‘to-be-believed’. Dionysios’ own transformative powers over a crew of pirates is a story Ovid threatens to tell in the Fasti. Thus the transformational aspect of Dionysios is relevant to Tr.1.7 where it is the garlands specifically in honour of Dionysios ('Bacchica serta') that are to be doffed from Ovid’s temples.

This analysis contextualises the contents of line Tr. 1.7.13 (‘carmina mutatas hominum dicentia formas’), the linewhich most convinces readers that the Metamorphoses are under discussion here. However the ‘changed outward appearances of men’ is a phrase that could equally well apply to the Fastian stories about Faunus and Anna Perenna which we have outlined in the previous paragraph. Yet 1.7.13, like 2.64, is also subject to a metapoetic interpretation. 1.7.13 will remind readers of the proem to the Metamorphoses and the phrase ‘mutatas dicere formas’ (1.1). Now ‘to speak’ is not ‘to sing’. And when one ‘utters the changed forms of men’ as in Tr. 1.7, one could be ‘pronouncing an altered version of [specifically, the word] men’. That vocal alteration may consist in pronouncing the word 'hominum' without its aspiration. In  the Metamorphoses, in a reverse of this procedure, the poetic strategy encourages the application of aspiration where none exists. It is well known that from  the Late Republic onwards, Romans were increasingly prone to  pronouncing their aspirations. Catullus’ poem 85 on Arrius reflects its  subject’s pretentiousness in aspirating promiscuously but, in overaspirating, it also reflects a general uncertainty over (and inclination towards) aspiration. In the Metamorphoses when Ovid exhorts the gods to ‘blow on’ his undertakings (‘coeptis’) or, as we would have it, ‘on what he has fitted together’ (‘co-aptis’), he can be read metapoetically as promoting the addition of the letter ‘h’ (the aspirate) to his vowels, particularly those that emerge from the redivision of the text ('coeptis' = 'co-aptis') [1]. Thus, for instance ‘ora’ could be read as ‘hora’.  If we apply this rule in reverse at Tristia 1.7.13. we can deaspirate 'hominum' to produce the 'changed forms' of ominum’ (‘omens’). Given the amount of sacrificing in the Fasti (and in Augustan Rome), omens (principally derived from an examination of entrails) will have been a ‘motif’ that Ovid could not have ignored. Indeed all first words or actions were thought to be ominous according to Janus (1.178: ‘omina principiis … inesse solent’), who then goes on to discuss the subject in terms of oionomancy. The presence of the word ‘sceme’ buried within Janus’ own first words (‘di SCEME = disce me…’; ‘ye gods, the tropes’) proves the truth of what he says, in the sense that ‘sc[h]eme’ like ‘formae’ itself and ‘figurae’ were defined as ‘indirect modes of expression’ or ‘cryptic fissures of speech’. Such definitions perfectly suit the nature of omens. The appearance of ‘sceme’ itself through an indirect mode of poetic analysis only goes to prove the truth of this. This should make the reader much more concerned to explore the word ‘tempora’ as the first word of the Fasti’[2]

[1] See on ‘pulcher’ in the OLD for a summary of the state of the aspirate in Late Republican Rome.

[2] This creates much room for discussion. One may need to explore the ways in which the ‘tropes’ involved in omens have been changed under Augustus. A self-serving totalitarian leader will wish to keep the meaning of such omens to within limits. Multivalent language beloved of omen-devisers will inevitably tend to subvert a monolithic political programme. Moreover the ‘changed configurations’ of ‘hominum’ may also allude to anagrams such as ‘omnium’ ('carmina ... formas' = ‘poems prescribing /declaring / referring to the changed configurations of all [words’]) or, [without integrating the anagram into the sentence] ‘O nummi’ (‘Ah! Money!’).

Ostensibly, however, the subject matter of the Fasti revolves around the ‘Caesaris aras’ (Fasti 1.19). Now the mention of 'arma Caesaris' as the subject matter dealt with by other authors both brings Virgil's 'arma virumque' forcibly to mind and insinuates that 'aras' is another alternative title of the Fasti. This brings us back to the word 'ὦμοι' which as well as evoking the 'rawness' of the sacrificial victims, also means both 'incense' and even 'altars' itself ' (Hesychius s.v 'ὦμος, ἀμωμος, ἀμφωμος, = ὁ λιβανωτος; s.v 'ὦμος = βωμος). Meanwhile in the phrase 'Caesaris aras' the ‘cutting’ etymology of the word ‘Caesar’ reminds us of the sacrificial focus of ‘the altar’. Altars entail a welter of entrails and the Fasti, we suggest, as well as being the product of Ovid's loins are described in terms of sacrifical entrails (‘viscera nostra’: 1.7.20). It would make much sense if Ovid’s own self-mocking subtitle for the Fasti was ‘viscera’ (‘viscera nostra’). Meanwhile the death of Meleager (to which the destruction of the Fasti is compared in Tr.1.7) is amply described in the Metamorphoses. There the hero feels his innards being roasted as if he were a sacrifice on a Caesarian altar (‘uritur et caecis torreri viscera sentit’: Met 8.516). The word ‘exta’ (etymologically deriving from ‘ex-secta’ ‘cut out’) occurs 15 times in 6 books of the Fasti. Meanwhile in the much longer Metamorphoses the word occurs 5 times.  This brings us to the word 'sexta' which describes the last month of June. The 'cutting' of this word produces 'S exta' or '6 x exta' or '6 innards'. The digamma had become remarkably similar to a sigma in Roman times, with the  former being retained for the numerical alue of 6. The word 'sexta' therfore has a metapoetic value in underlining the 'six months of entrails'. The obsolete nature of the digamma letter meanwhile also points metapoetically to the discontinuity of the 'entrails'. 

Moreover, there is another subtextual, highly cryptic, indication of entrails in 1.7. Line 27 can be reconfigured to include a transliterated reference to the Greek word for ‘entrails’ namely ‘ἐντερα’. That is, the letters of ‘nec tamen illa legi potuerunt patienter ab ullo’ may be recast (with the elision of the termination of ἐντερα) as ‘nec tamen illa legi potuerunt pati ἐντερ' ab ullo’. The word ‘legi’ meanwhile has to redefine itself as the dative of ‘lex legis’ in order to accommodate itself to a particular nuance of the infinitive which has emerged to take its place, namely ‘pati’. The nexus ‘pati legi’ would be readily understood as ‘to be subjected to the scrutiny of the law’ (compare ‘iudicio pati’ in Cicero). Meanwhile ‘illa’ will agree with ‘entera’ (‘those innards’). The line now means ‘nor however will those innards [= the Fasti] be able to be subjected to legal examination at the hands of anyone who does not know that they lack the finishing touch’. Here the cryptic text reaffirms the message emerging from the superficial text. But it does it in a highly engaging way. For innards qua innards are always ‘subjected to legal examination’ by the haruspices as part of the sacrificial procedure. Ovid creates a naturalistic image in order to point out the unfairness of judging his ‘innards’ (another subtitle of the ‘the Fasti’) by normal standards[1]. Meanwhile, the first letters of the line also spell out a metapoetic instruction to the reader. The phrase ‘nectam en’ emerges from the words ‘nec tamen’. By the verb ‘nectam’ Ovid is telling us that he will ‘interweave’ or ‘interconnect’ the letters of the line. This he proceeds to do with a call for attention (‘en’ = ‘behold’, or, as we might say, ‘let us weave as follows’). The ‘Fasti’ then, we are warned, should be considered more and more akin to ‘exta’. And of course these entrails will be 'raw' or 'uncooked' ('ὦμα'). Further indications of the presence of the Fasti in Tr.1.7 are not hard to seek. The description of the work as ‘adhuc crescens’ suggests that there is more to do than to add the final touch. In a similar vein the work is said to have been dropped or prevented from continuing ‘[when] in the midst of the anvil’ (1.7.29) which can only suggest that it was half-finished. However by interpreting ‘mediis’ metapoetically we arrive at the middle letters of the anvils (‘incudibus’) which are constituted by ‘udi’ which could fairly be said to describe the state of the Fasti when in mid-course. That is, the work (the wood of the ‘materia’) will have been ‘full of sap’ (‘udi’). One source comments that ‘for optimum pliability, spruce bark had to be stripped from the tree in June when the tree had the most sap’[2]. Thus, in Tr.1.7, in myriad different ways Ovid is trying to direct the reader’s focus away from the Metamorphoses and onto the Fasti.

The elegiac inscription with which Tr.1.7 concludes itself plays a role in convincing us that it is to the elegiac Fasti to which Tristia 1.7 refers. As we have noted, the elegiac couplets of lines 1.7.35-40 will sit uncomfortably as a proem to the hexameters of the Metamorphoses. Moreover, one part of the inscription seems to allude to a particular reading of the word ‘Fasti’. Thus in line 37 the words ‘quoque magis faveas’ (in order that you might show further favour’) read as a rejoinder to a possible reading of the word ‘Fasti’ understood as an abbreviation. As we have pointed out elsewhere, our deconstruction of the word ‘Tristia’ will depend on a single word in Catullus, the perfect tense of the verb ‘tero’ reduced by a syllable (‘tri[vi]sti’). Certainly within conversations on Roman street corners nothing will have prevented ‘favisti’ suffering the same fate and being reduced to ‘fa[vi]sti’ that is,‘fasti’. This meaning of ‘fasti’ will not only dovetail with 1.7.37 (‘you [s.] have shown favour … & so that you [s.] should show further favour …’) it will also conceal the number 6 (VI) within the unspoken terms of its contraction. This accurately allegorises the fate of the ‘Fasti’ in its loss of 6 books. In using the verb ‘fasti’ everyone will be subliminally conscious that the letters ‘VI’ are missing, and are notionally integral to the meaning, which nevertheless does not escape us. Similarly we are made aware by Ovid that the missing 6 books at one time existed but that nevertheless the remaining 6 books convey the full meaning of the author. That is, the ‘missingness’ of the 6 books is part of the meaning of the ‘Fasti’. It is no less part of the meaning of the ‘Tri(vi)sti/a’.

An emendation in Tr.1.7: 'fastidio' in place of 'fastiditus':

When Ovid says in lines Tr.1.7. 15-16 that as he left he consigned ‘these’ poems to the flames, he adds the words ‘just as I did with very many of my poems’. Thus the reference to the burning of the Metamorphoses at Tr. 1.1.118 and 3.14.20 may be subsumed under ‘the other poems’ that Ovid here burns along with the Fasti. There is therefore no obligation on the reader to assume that the principal books burnt in Tr.1.7 are the Metamorphoses. This brings us to the fate of the surviving poems of the Fasti in Rome. Line 32 is of particular interest. Here we suggest the text has become corrupt. The word ‘fastidium’ is just the sort of word that feels at home in a predicative dative construction. Seneca uses the word ‘fastidio’ in this construction (‘hic concupivit quod illi fastidio fuit’; ‘this man hankered after what that man found repugnant’: Dialogues 12.7.10). If therefore we were to read not ‘non fastiditus si tibi, lector, ero’ but ‘non fastidio si tibi, lector, ero’ a much more fluent line (and one with a more polyvalent meaning) is produced. Thus we now translate as follows:’

(A) ‘Laudatus abunde, non fastidio si tibi, lector, ero’

[I will have been showered with praise] if, reader, I shall not be repugnant to you’. 

This is the new but superficial meaning of the line. The Fasti are not just 'tempora' but 'ὦμοι' [χρονοι]' ('harsh or savage' 'times'). They are not to every reader's taste. 

As we move into the cryptic discourse, the word ‘Fasti’ can be first  extricated from among the letters. This will lead to the following  reconfiguration of the letters by a process of obeying the ‘mutatas  ominum formas’.

(B) ‘Laudatus abunde / (non Fasti di! osi tibi, lector, ero)’ = ‘I have been praised beyond measure (ye gods! the Fasti are not hated by you, O reader, their master’)

Here the public are treated as a discerning audience. They are also be the aort of amiable 'master' that the libellus Tristia 3 had been hoping to find as a 'tutor' to the ‘pupilli’ Fasti. As we have seen, Ovid’s new proem points out that the Fasti are fatherless (‘orba parente’) having been seized from their master’s funeral pyre (‘de domini funere rapta’), a fate which also ‘broke off their [old] master’s work’ (‘infelix domini quod fuga rupit opus’). 

(C) ‘laudatus abunde, non fastidio si tibi, lector, ero’ ['I, having been praised beyond measure] if I am not wearisome to you, oh reader, their master’

(D)  ‘laudatus abunde / non fastidio sit ibi lector, ero’ = ‘should there not be there (in  Rome) a reader with aversion [to it], then I will have been praised abundantly’.

We note here that the use of ‘non’ with the potential subjunctive is good Latin. We now resume the redivisional approach to the text.

(E) ‘non Fasti di! osi tibi lector ero’ = ‘ye gods! I will not be the reader to you of a hated ‘Fastus’ [Fastus = festival day, or an entry on the roll of consuls]’. Here Ovid eschews any further description of the tiresome round of festivals (Fasti) or of the Who’s Who among consular appointments (Fasti). Or the words mean that none of Ovid's monthly Fasti will attract hatred

(F) ‘non fastidio, siti, bil[e], [H]ector ero’ = ‘I will not be Hector with his nausea, thirst, and bile’.

The last version, we suggest, refers to Iliad Books 14-15 where Hector is struck by a rock in the chest. We hear of him vomiting black blood which can be interpreted as bile. Meanwhile his nausea is equivalent to an aversion to food (‘fastidium’: see Iliad 14.435f). In vomiting Hector displays this aversion through his physical reactions. However the nausea must have been induced in part by the fact that he had spun round like a top when first struck. Thus it is Hector’s (effective) vertigo that causes him to fall to the ground. He is also doused in water by his entourage, and later we hear that he is no longer gasping for air and sweating profusely. He must therefore have slaked his thirst. Here Ovid allegorically declares he will not cede ground in the struggle to overcome ‘fastidium’ which one may etymologise as ‘fastorum taedium’ namely ‘weariness’, ‘disgust’, ‘boredom’ with 'the Fasti' or ‘disagreeable nature of the Fasti’. Unlike Hector Ovid will not withdraw from the struggle against the effects of 'Fastorum taedium'.

Now Ovid suffers from ‘taedium’ and indeed ‘fastidium’ throughout the exile poems. However his pride in the Fasti and its reception in Rome (‘otia delectent’: Tr.1.7.25) suggests that the ‘taedium Fastorum’ relates less to his poem than to the other types of Fasti. One such manifestation of the word is the annual round of (by now) interminable calendrical festivals the number of which had greatly increased during the Principate, all these latter being in honour of members of the royal house. January and early February was particularly clogged with such days[3] We have noted above another retranslation of the line which alludes to this same issue. Ovid was faced with unpalatable subject-matter.

Another meaning of Fasti relates to the historical lists of consuls that were recorded on the Fasti Consulares, these being columns set up by Augustus for public scrutiny in the Forum. The envy these created is reflected in Seneca’s Letters (104.9). After 1 AD the accession of the suffect consuls on July 1st became regularised both reflecting and stimulating the widespread concern with attaining to ‘honours’, notwithstanding the relative lack of substance behind the office of the consul under the Principate. The Christian era saw many more men determined to carve out a six-month consulship to the ennoblement of their families. However the stimulus this gave to the ‘adulatoriness’ of Roman culture is the element that catches in Ovid’s throat. Alongside these Fasti were the Fasti Triumphales which recorded the triumphs accorded to the generals that had made Rome so powerful. It is significant then that Ovid spends much time on describing triumphs and accessions to the consulate in the exile poems. This should be seen as his bodying forth of the etymological ‘fastidium’ that overtakes him in Tomis. He bores the reader with repetitions of the same generic event in order to write large the regimentation of Roman adulatory culture (and in doing so inducing ‘weariness with the Fasti’)[4]. His allegorical fastidium (aversion to food, daintiness about his diet, feeling to ill to eat) will be discussed below and is intended to embed this Fastian motif in the exile poems. However it seems from Tr.1.7 that an aversion to the extant books of the Fasti is not the message we should draw from Ovid’s ‘fastidium’.  Instead Ovid pokes fun at the hollowness of these public Fasti by depicting himself as a major poet, who is yet anxious to describe a repetitious triumph or consular induction he has not seen. This guarantees that the (‘dull’) round of procession and sacrifice that took place at a triumph constituted an almost wholly generic event. Ovid could make it all up without fear of getting it wrong. At the same time he writes large the adulatory cast of the Roman mind by affecting to be excited and agog at the imminent news of a less-than-momentous triumph or consular inauguration.

Thus the metapoetics articulated by the deconstruction of the word ‘fastidium’ serve to interlock the Fasti and the Tristia as two halves of one whole. An etymological trope mediates the change from one to the other. This is because the word ‘fastidium’ on one reading derives from ‘fastus’ (‘haughty’) and ‘taedium’ (‘aversion’ ‘distaste’). One would have to concede that Ovid’s tone in the exile poetry betrays a lofty distaste for that which is around him. In the first instance, Ovid insinuates his aversion to the hide-clad, hairy barbarians he sees around him (Tr.5.10.31-32: ‘possis odisse videndo / pellibus et longa pectora tecta coma’). His loftiness often surfaces when he considers the unworthiness of the material to which his talent must now be turned (‘Bessique Getaque / quam non ingenio nomina digna meo’: Tr.3.10.3-4)[5]. Meanwhile although the verb ‘fastidio’ is used of the ‘scornful’ attitude of his associates in Rome, the principal application of the word ‘fastidium’ to ‘distaste for food and drink’ and to the associated condition of ‘fussiness’ towards one’s environment emerges - alongside the themes of ‘languour’ and ‘lack of strength’ - in Ex Ponto 1.10 which is addressed to one Flaccus. On the one hand this is clearly an attempt to flatter Flaccus by playing on the etymology of his name. The verb ‘flacceo’ means ‘to languish’ or ‘droop’ ‘lack strength’ and this is the malaise affecting Ovid at the start of the poem (‘longus … / non patitur vires languor habere suas’: 1.10.3-4). Indeed this theme is a development of the etymology of ‘Getae’ which, as we have seen, is arguably the root of (and the antonym of) the word ‘ve-geti’ meaning ‘not at all languid’. Ovid has been etymologically infected by his environment[6].

However the poem to Flaccus soon focuses specifically on Ovid’s aversion to food and drink. Neither nectar nor ambrosia, even if served by Hebe, could awaken Ovid’s appetite. In fact the name Hebe - here conveyed through an alternative name, Iuventa - constitutes a latent pun on the word ‘hebes’ used earlier of Ovid’s ‘dull appetite’. That is, ‘os hebes’ (= ‘dull appetite’ but also ‘the face of Hebe’) insinuates that even the ‘beautiful’ god’s waitress in heaven stirs nothing but indifference to food.

This aversion to food and the ensuing languor are recurrent features of the exile poems. At Tristia 3.2 Ovid is ill (‘aeger eram’) and finds fault with the weather (‘nec caelum patior’), the water, and the food (‘non .. cibus utilis’). He is predictably ‘lassus’ (‘tired’). However his aversion spills over into a generalised ‘fussiness’ (‘terraque nescio quo non placet ipsa modo’). In fact in Ex Ponto 1.10 he is very concerned that his readership should not consider that his complaints about the diet and conditions in Tomis amount to mere ‘daintiness’ (‘delicias … deliciis …delicias’). Such an impression is strengthened by Ovid’s harping on these same sources of dissatisfaction. At Tristia 3.8 the same ‘languor’ is now long-term’ while climate, air, water, and land are again uncongenial. Once again the food does not please him (‘nec ora iuvat cibus’). Later in the Ex Ponto it seems to be the bitter water that offends him (Ex Ponto 2.7.73-74 and 3.1.17: ‘nec tibi sunt fontes, laticis nisi paene marini’).

Not only is this theme pervasive in the work, the author also pours over the details on each occasion thereby ‘accidentally’ convincing us that the fussiness and obsessiveness he disclaims is a major contributor to the problem.  However Ovid’s insistence on his fastidiousness towards his environment springs, as we have seen, from a desire to allegorise an etymological aspect of the word ‘fastidium’ (the integral word ‘fastidium’ being creatively considered to derive from the roots ‘an aversion to’, or ‘boredom with’ the Fasti). By keeping the various nuances of the word ‘fastidium’ before our minds throughout the exile poems, Ovid, as it were, proclaims by proxy the effects that ‘boredom with the Fasti’ has had upon him. He is a sufferer of a ‘fastidium’ that is chronic. Whichever type of Fasti has induced this boredom or aversion, the consequences for the book called the Fasti will be the same. It will remain unfinished.



[1] There may also be a sense in which the praetor may not declare civic business (such as, for instance, the cross-examination of the Fasti) legal (‘do, dico, addico’) until the Fasti are completely ‘fasti’ (legal)

   

[2] See Dominique Legros Occasional Papers in Yukon History No. 3(2) Oral History as History: Tutchone Athapaskan in the period 1840-1920 part 2 p.256

 

[3] See http://www.attalus.org/docs/cil/add_8.html: 7th Jan: Augustus [first took up the fasces], when Hirtius and Pansa [were consuls] 8th Jan: [Tiberius Caesar dedicated] the statue of Augustan Justice . . . [when Plancus] and Silius were consuls. 10th Jan: Tiberius Caesar…. 11th Jan [Imp. Caesar Augustus put an end to all wars, for the third time] since Romulus, and closed the gate of Janus, [when he was consul for the fifth time, with Sex. Appuleius]. 13th  Jan [The senate decreed] that a chaplet of oak should be placed [above the door of the home of Imp. Caesar] Augustus, because he restored [the republic] to the Roman people. 14th Jan: By [decree] of the senate an unlucky day: [the birthday of Antonius]. 16th Jan: Imp. Caesar was called [Augustus], when he was consul for the 7th time and Agrippa [was consul for the 3rd time]. 16th Jan: The temple of Concordia Augusta [was dedicated] when P.Dolabella and C.Silvanus were consuls. Tiberius Caesar [dedicated] it when he returned from Pannonia. 17th Jan: The pontifices, [the augurs, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, and the septemviri] epulonum sacrificed victims to the [the godhead of Augustus at the altar] which Tiberius Caesar dedicated. 29th Jan: A public holiday, by [decree of the senate, because on this day . . .] by Imp. Caesar [Augustus the pontifex] maximus [. . .] of the sea . . . The deified Caesar added [this and the following day] in order to increase the number of days in the year. 30th Jan: Public Holiday. A public holiday, by decree of the senate, because on [this] day the Ara Pacis Augustae was dedicated [in the Campus] Martius, when Drusus and Crispinus were consuls 5th February: Public Holiday. To Concordia on the Capitol. A public holiday, by decree of the senate, because on this day Caesar Augustus the pontifex maximus, when he held the tribunician power for the 21st time and was consul for the 13th time, was given the title pater patriae by the senate and people of Rome.

[4] If we find these passages wearying then we are ‘bored with’ the Tristia not the Fasti

[5] See Tr.4.1.67-68 for the same refrain. See also Tr. 5.1

[6] See also Ex Ponto 1.2.26-28 (‘fatigat hiems … stupor … torpor’).


As we have seen, in Tr.3.14, Ovid's libellus has succeeded in finding a 'private' patron-librarian to 'keep in Rome' Ovid's 'corpus' (= 'texts' but also 'Ovid's physical person' in the shape of the 'pupillus' of the Fasti which as we have seen will grow to maturity as 'Publius' in a few years time). We recall that Ovid's works have been debarred from public libraries. Ironically, as 'works of art' isolated from the public by being housed in private collections, the exile poems will constitute 'exilia' a term normally applied to sculptures and paintings in private collections. Apropos of 'collections', the textual difficulty at 3.14.5 can be resolved by substituting 'colligis' ('are you amassing a collection') for the unsatisfactory 'conficio' or 'suscipis'. After all the couplet following 3.14.5 envisages Ovid's collected oeuvres being 'kept' within the confines of Rome. 

The dynamics of Tristia 3 seem much clearer now. The Tristian libellus is a libertus freed by an allegorical form of manumission per epistolam and charged with the mission of finding a guardian for Ovid's orphaned blood-line descendant, the Fasti. At this point we should investigate the words 'orba parente [suo]' in more detail. Nothing prevents them alluding to the Fasti as being 'bereft of its own parens patriae'. That is 'orba' describes the lack of Augustus' presence in the work as we have it. Little wonder that the task of its guardian will be 'maior'. On the other hand if the letters were configured as follows 'orb' aparente' we would be in the presence of the word 'orbis' meaning 'heavenly belt' or 'regular succession'. Here the provincially spelt word 'ap[p]arente' comes to mean 'visible' or 'perceptible' or 'coming into view'. The nexus ('the heavenly belt / regular succession [of stars] coming into view') successfully encapsulates the visibly revolving nature of the regularly returning stars and the zodiacal constellations that rise month by month. This is an important aspect of the Fasti, not least in the fact that the heavenly belt being 'his' ('Augustus'). As a divinity the sky would be 'of his kind' but it would also perhaps be the emperor's to manipulate as he wishes. However there is also a more subversive angle from which to view these words. 'Orbe ... suo' could mean 'his [Augustus'] circle of men'. These men would be best described as 'attending' or 'obedient' ('apparente'). The nexus now disparagingly seems to ascribe a role in the Fasti to the servile courtiers who fawned on Augustus. These same courtiers figure prominently in the exile poems but they should perhaps also be sought in an astronomical allegory of the stars of the Fastian night. At the same time the nexus 'orbe ... suo' also means 'his world' (Met 8.98) and it is not hard to see tags such as the 'servile earth' having relevance to the global deference to the emperor ('his obedient world'). Meanwhile 'his world being clearly visible' is a version that implies Augustus' world has been laid bare in the Fasti. 

Perhaps we are also to see Augustus' '[his] clearly visible eye' ('orb' aparente suo') peering through this text. Suetonius mentions the emperor's radiant gaze as as being as hard to meet as Helios himself (79: 'He had clear, shining eyes, in which he liked to have it supposed that  there was a cetain divine energy and it pleased Augustus, whenever someone lowered his gaze before his over-intense stare, as if before the radiance of the sun,  but in his old age he could but poorly with his left eye'). We note that the singular 'eye' of Ovid's text corresponds to the still-functioning right eye of Augustus. Meanwhile, the singularity of the  'eye' also points towards the Sun and its association with Apollo, Augustus' favourite divinity. On a metapoetic level, the Sun represents the 'temporal' ('Fasti = 'tempora') basis of the Fasti which trawls day-by day through Rome's 'altars' and festivals. The all-visible Augustan sun is also one suspects, like Helios, all-seeing, and provides a touchstone of the extent (and surveillance) of the Res Romana, stretching from the known East to the known West.

It remains to explain some apparent anomalies in Tr.3.14. Having handed over to the librarian a copy of the revised Fasti complete with new proem (14-16) Ovid next runs through his 'children'. The Ars has been exiled with Ovid and cannot be expected to form part of the collection (17-18). At 19 we are introduced to the numerically-defined Metamorphoses (5 volumes). However rather than comment further upon them, Ovid continues down the list. The word 'carmina' (20) reintroduces the Fasti (there are also the Metamorphoses ... there are ...).This is confirmed by the detailed reference in (a) line 20 to 1.7.38 ('de domini funere rapta sui') (b) the lack of a 'summa manus' meaning inter alia the lack of the 'entirety of the hand' which we suggest evokes the lack of the 'cubitum' Augustus (= 'ἂγωστος’) (c) the Fasti's lack of a 'more settled name' (22) is not just a figurative condition for a 'reliable reputation' but a stark reminder of its name change ('orba ...'; 'tempora') (d) the fact that it now comes to the lips of the people 'incorrectum' gives us pause. In relation to the meaning of 'in' as a verbal prefix, we would point to the words 'incogitatus' ('not thought through) and 'incogito '('I think through') as an example of the capacity of this prefix to mean two different things. Ovid's 'incorrectum' is a hapax legomenon and therefore lies at the mercy of the reader's interpretation. Nothing prevents the word bearing the opposite of 'unrevised', namely (as promised in Tr.1.7) 'emended'. One is tempted to say the Fasti are both emended and not emended however. The 'mala' and 'vitia' remain because they are the centrepiece of Ovid's strategy of word dismemberment. The change of dedication meanwhile from Augustus to Germanicus meanwhile, if that is a correction of a 'vitium', must be accounted a biting snub to the emperor.

Ovid's Inoculatio:

The libellus itself (Tr.3.1.) is likely to be full of defects as the rest of the poem warns. It is introduced to the 'cultor' as an embarrassing afterthought (3.14.25f). Its presentation is preceded by a short joke on the word 'ore'. at 3.14.24. The word means not just that Ovid will be recited on the 'lips' ['ore'] of the people, but that Ovid is himself already 'on the face ['ore']' of the people in the shape of his nomen namely 'Naso' ('nose'). At line 37 one of the longest passages of 'sub-versive' redivided text makes its appearance. The words 'non hic librorum per quos inviter alarque / copia ...' may be reconfigured as follows: 'non hic; libro rumper quo sinui tera larque copia'. The punctuation after 'hic' is not arbitrary. The preceding passage concerns Ovid's diminishing 'font of inspiration'. The lines 33-36 translate as follows: 'my woes have broken my talent; even before the font of my inspiration was infertile and its vein but thin; now, whateve the nature of that vein, with nobody to stimulate it, it has shrunk back; it has perished having become desiccated through its long stagnation'. Meanwhile the lines we have redivided originally related to the lack of kindred material in Tomis: 'nor here is there a plentiful supply of books by which I might be regaled and nourished'. The lines that follow the passage ('pro libris arcus et arma sonant. / Nullus in hac terra, recitem si carmina, cuius / intellecturis auribus utar, adest. / Non quo secedam locus est': 3.14.37-40) bemoan the lack of appropriately educated listeners to give ear to his poetry. In Tomis the sound of literature has given way to the sound of weapons and arrows. Ovid has no nook to where he can retire for the otia he requires.


Returning to 'non hic'


We return to the more parochial but no less important issue of the exile poems as reflections of contemporary Tomitan epigraphic culture. Alongside epigraphical content there is epigraphical style. One particular Greek inscription dedicated to a 'speculator' shows off the composer's knack of transliterating Roman names into Greek (Inscriptiones Scythiae Minoris II. 327: 'Οὐειβίῳ Σευήρῳ, σπεκλατόρι ποντικῷ ἐτῶν κϛʹ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ Ἀλέξανδρος καὶ Ἵπαρχος μνήμης χάριν' = 'Vibio Severo, speculatori Pontico, 26 [annos vixit] fratres Alexander et Hipparchus memoriae causa [hoc posuerunt]'). There is much of passing interest here. The Greek word 'σπεκλατόρι' should represent the fully fledged, but provincialised, loan word which finds its way more orthographically into the Vulgate as 'σπεκουλάτωρ' (Mark 6.27). Given the amount of transliteration to be found in this inscription however, there is also the possibility that 'σπεκλατόρι' is a transliteration of 'spec[u]latori'. On a different tack, it would be interesting to know the thought processes of the fatbher of Vibius Severus in the matter of naming his children. The dead Vibius has a Roman praenomen whilst his brothers' praenomina are Greek.

We  turn now to etymology which is Ovid's declared theme in Tristia 3.9.  The 'speculator' stands on a 'high mound' ('tumulo ... ab alto') because  etymologically he (at least creatively) derives from 'specula' ('a small  hill'). The 'agger' from which the  ship's stern cable is released, may be a mole or breakwater of some sort but it is also 'a small hill and a funeral mound'. The relationship of 'agger' to a funeral mound is made explicit at Aeneid 7.7 where the 'hill' of the funeral mound for Caieta is 'put together' ('aggere composito tumuli'). Now, in the Aeneid, as in the Tristia, the work has just turned its own 'meta' or half-way point, and is heading for home. In the Iliad meanwhile a 'tumulus' is used as a 'meta' for the chariot race in the games held for Patroclus.  These connections will be explored further as we proceed.

At this point we engage with a more cryptic source of Ovidian etymologies. The word for 'heap' 'pyre' in Greek is  'θωμις' ('thomis') which, in the hands of a Scythianised Ovid, fast losing the purity of his Latinitas, is the equivalent of 'Tomis'. To explain this we should first adopt the premiss that Ovid's references to his pronunciation problems at Tr.5.7.52 ('Getico ... sono') and 59 ('Sarmatcio ... more') have an allegorical import. They contain a metapoetic  imperative to the reader anxious to situate  themselves as closely as possible to the Scythianised Ovid. This reader  will give ear to Ovid as though he were one of those Scythian archers  in, for instance, Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae'. That is, the reader should be prepared to countenance the dropping of the aspiration and the  omitting of letters from the ends of words. By this form of allegorical  alchemy, the reader migrates from 'θωμις' to 'Tomis'.  Indeed in Greek  the word for 'half', namely τὸ ἥμισυ, becomes by crasis 'θὤμισυ' namely 'Thomisu'. A Scythian would deaspirate and drop the last letter. He would therefore pronounce the word as 'Tomis'. 

Thus 'Tomis' is a very acculturated term for (a) 'half-way' and (b) for 'heap' or 'mound'. It is not a coincidence that 'half-way' from Rome to Tomis lies the isthmus of Corinth where Ovid boards a new ship, the Minerva, a symbol of woven artistry. The word 'isthmos' in Greek produces the 'woven' anagram 'Thomiss'. Here again by dropping the last letter and by deaspirating,  one arrives at 'Tomis'.  For a Scythianised Ovid, the  'half-way point' of/to 'Tomis' is located both geographically and as an anagram at the 'isthmus' of Corinth.

This brings us circuitously back to the 'ships' of Ovid's Tristia and Virgil's Aeneid. Part of Tristia 3.9  describes an abbreviated (or 'elegiac') entering of a ship into harbour & the crew's reembarkation. The 'agger' or 'mole' will represent the fixed 'mooring' point from which the ship will set out anew. At the half-way point of the  Aeneid, Aeneas' ships ground stern first (at the end of book 6) before setting out to sea again at the start of book 7. Here too there is an 'agger', Caieta's 'tumulus', which however is not an actual 'mole' but rather symbolical of a 'half-way mooring point'. Indeed Aeneas' text itself stands at the half-way point between the Homer's use of 'tumulus' as a 'meta' and Ovid's metapoetic meta of the 'agger' ('mole'). This metapoeticising of the half-way-ness of the 'agger/tumulus' is also a development of Apollonius' vignette of the Argo anchoring offshore amid the reeds  of a river at end of Book 2 (of 4). Here the  ship remains, whilst Jason  makes his way to the city of Aeetes. Meanwhile in Aratus' Phaenomena  348-350, the astral Argo beaches stern  first half-way through the Phaenomena. As in Apollonius, it  remains where it is whilst the Dog Star  (Sirius, elsewhere in Apollonius  used as a simile for Jason) betakes  itself elswhere. This use of a ship's coming to rest as marking the  halfway point of the work, strongly  suggests that Aratus saw the  Phaenomena (ending at 734) as a separate  work from the Diosemeia  (starting at 735).

In Tristia 3.9, whilst it is clear that the words, 'tumulus' and 'aggere' do not simply add a funerary flavour to the description  of Tomis, there were nevertheless, and still are, Getic tumuli around Constanta, which contextualise the funerary key in which Ovid writes. He is ever anxious  to sail away from the 'Styx' which represents Tomis, his effective  funeral pyre. Indeed the seasoning of Ovid's text with epigraphical terms  such as 'speculator' serves to embed the author in a literary and  existential 'after life' where allegorically much of the text, and much of what we know about Ovid, 'lies buried'. Thus when Ovid puts the question 'requiris quid agam' ('Perhaps you are asking how I am?') into the mouths of his correspondents, he is in fact prompting them to ask 'What is Ovid doing?' ('quid agam'). 

On a wider literary level however Ovid creates intertextuality with the 'half-wayness' of Virgil's 'tumulus-cum-agger' which ultimately owes its inspiration to the Iliad. By segueing from Virgil's 'agger' ('funeral mound') to hs own 'agger' ('mole') Ovid successfully ties up his textual ship at the half-way point of his mini-epic. He also intrudes mini-aitia of the pre-scythianized versions of the word 'Tomis' ('half-way' 'mound').

A further 'buried' reference to 'tumulus' in Tristia 3.9 serves to subtextually underline the etymology of Tomis as deriving from 'θωμις'. Located in the word 'coloni' in line 3, this is the poem's most deeply interred sepulchral allusion. Superficially, 'coloni' means 'colonists', but if Vibius'  brothers transliterated from one language to another then a Tomitan  epigraphical imperative should impel us to do likewise That is, the ways in which the dedicators to the dead apply their Latinitas gives us a  template for 'reading' Ovid's own Latin texts. From 'coloni' we migrate letter-by-letter to 'κολωνη' which in Greek is a 'hill' or a 'funeral  barrow'. 

In general, Ovid expects the reader to read him as an ex-honorary  cavalryman, the counterpart of the retired mounted archers that made up much of the population of Tomis. As a member of the  Tomitan Home Guard, Ovid mans the walls amid times of great uncertainty.  With death ever on his doorstep the poet's construction of his monumentum-this-side-of-the-grave is more than a conventional measure taken by retired Romans. Nevertheless, whilst the next alarum call could always be Ovid's last, the conventions of funerary inscriptions will inform Ovid's text until that moment comes.

The presence of mounds in Tristia 3.9 amounts to a heap of mounds. The dismembered  Absyrtus has his hands and head put on a 'high rock' which will become an impromptu funeral mound for him (3.9.29). The word used for 'rock' 'scopulo' is  yet another word meaning 'little eminence' 'hillock'. Its etymology  derives from the verb 'σκεπαζω' ('Servius In Aeneid 1.45) meaning 'I protect [ships, by providing a mooring station].  Alternatively it is also linked to 'speculare' ['I look out, examine,  consider'] which brings us back to the 'speculator'. Whilst, as we shall see in a later blog. the eyes of the speculator see what they want to see, it is the unseeing eyes in Absyrtus' head that are most forcibly elicited 'kat'antiphrasin' by this etymology. Meanwhile however, the reference to the 'protective' mooring of ships from 'rocks' should not be ignored. The metapoetic 'tying-up' of the 5-book Tristia project half-way through Book 3 is a constant undercurrent in the text and one which reaches back initially to the Aeneid, as we have seen. In that epic, the grounding of Aeneas' ships stern-first both contrasts with and is inspired by the violent Phaeacian beaching which also occurs half-way through the Odyssey. The casting of an anchor in the Aeneid suggests that the landing is sedate and controlled. In dropping anchor the men at the prow will be guided by signals from the helmsman at the stern. When the anchor bites the sea floor there will be sufficient length in the cable to allow the ship to continue on to ground on the sands (Aeneid 6.901: 'stant in litore puppes' = 'the sterns come to rest on the shore'). By contrast the Phaeacians drive half the ship on the sands both to display their flamboyant oarsmanship and (metapoetically) to signal that half of the ship of this particular poem is complete (Od. 13.113-115). Aratus' Argo likewise remains half out of the water (Phaenomena 348f). By contrast the landing and mooring of Ovid's ship is as 'secure' as the above etymology of 'scopulum' suggests. 

Allegory is the key concept which has not been fed into the debate about the meaning of Ovid's exile poems. Certainly Ovid's metapoetic strategy will bear further discussion. Meanwhile we know that Ovid's superficial version of the name 'Tomis' is unaspirated and begins with a short vowel (Tr.3.9.31). But the 'buried' version (one that should be prioritised in the land of living death) emerges intertextually from the words 'Mileto missi' (Tr.3.9.3). Here we can extract TOMIS with a long first vowel from the middle of two other words  which not coincidentally provide an 'ab re' etymology  for Tomis. Tomis consists of 'those sent from Miletus' ('MileTOMISsi'). The buried text is the real text which can be accessed through an unmetrical reading of the superficial text. Even here an allegorical approach can assist. The uncertain times through which Ovid lives allegorise the 'doubtfulness'  of all of Ovid's metrical lengths ('times'). Essentially, all of Ovid's  vowels are 'ancipites'. Whether the Scythian pronounces his Tomis with a long or short first vowel is of little consequence. 

The speculator speaks in heavily chiasticised Latin (again a very sepulchral feature): 'hospes, nosco, Colchide, vela, venit' ('a stranger is coming from Colchis, I recognise the sails'). A well-known stranger is not a stranger however, a fact which encourages us to adopt the alternative meaning of 'hospes', namely 'a guest-friend'. This prompts the speculation that this Colchian 'hospes' is a guest-friend of the speculator who may therefore be spying on the Argonauts on behalf of the Colchians rather than vice versa. We explore this theme fully in a separate blog.

The words of the 'speculator' begin in a typically sepulchral key. He calls out 'Hospes!' ('Guest! Stranger!') ... Many actual inscriptions which begin with 'hospes' continue by saying 'read through my inscription to the end' ('perlege!'). That is what Ovid's poem implies: 'Stop a while, read, and don't leave anything out'. This encouragement to read to the end is important for, as we have seen, the thrust of Tristia 3.9 is that the work is still only 'half-read'. In conclusion, Ovid had read the inscriptions of Tomis, he knew the topography of the place. Either he was exiled there or he researched the place at first hand or he had access to libraries containing its inscriptions.

[1] There may also be a sense in which the praetor may not  declare civic business (such as, for instance, the cross-examination of  the Fasti) legal (‘do, dico, addico’) until the Fasti are completely  ‘fasti’ (legal).

[2] See Dominique Legros Occasional Papers in Yukon History No. 3(2) Oral History as History: Tutchone Athapaskan in the period 1840-1920 part 2 p.256

[3] See  http://www.attalus.org/docs/cil/add_8.html: 7th Jan: Augustus [first  took up the fasces], when Hirtius and Pansa [were consuls] 8th Jan:  [Tiberius Caesar dedicated] the statue of Augustan Justice . . . [when  Plancus] and Silius were consuls. 10th Jan: Tiberius Caesar…. 11th Jan  [Imp. Caesar Augustus put an end to all wars, for the third time] since  Romulus, and closed the gate of Janus, [when he was consul for the fifth  time, with Sex. Appuleius].    13th  Jan [The senate decreed] that a  chaplet of oak should be placed    [above the door of the home of Imp.  Caesar] Augustus, because he    restored [the republic] to the Roman  people. 14th Jan: By [decree] of    the senate an unlucky day: [the  birthday of Antonius]. 16th Jan: Imp. Caesar was called [Augustus], when  he was consul for the 7th time and Agrippa [was consul for the 3rd  time]. 16th Jan: The temple of Concordia Augusta [was dedicated] when  P.Dolabella and C.Silvanus were consuls. Tiberius Caesar [dedicated] it  when he returned from Pannonia. 17th Jan: The pontifices, [the augurs,  the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, and the septemviri] epulonum  sacrificed victims to the [the godhead of Augustus at the altar] which     Tiberius Caesar dedicated. 29th Jan: A public holiday, by [decree of    the  senate, because on this day . . .] by Imp. Caesar [Augustus the  pontifex] maximus [. . .] of the sea . . . The deified Caesar added  [this and the following day] in order to increase the number of    days  in the year. 30th Jan: Public Holiday. A public holiday, by decree    of  the senate, because on [this] day the Ara Pacis Augustae was     dedicated [in the Campus] Martius, when Drusus and Crispinus were  consuls; 5th February: Public Holiday. To Concordia on the Capitol.    A  public holiday, by decree of the senate, because on this day Caesar     Augustus the pontifex maximus, when he held the tribunician power for  the 21st time and was consul for the 13th time, was given the title  pater patriae by the senate and people of Rome.

[4] If we find these passages wearying then we are ‘bored with’ the Tristia not the Fasti

[5] See Tr.4.1.67-68 for the same refrain. See also Tr. 5.1

[6] See also Ex Ponto 1.2.26-28 (‘fatigat hiems … stupor … torpor’).


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