The Candidus Lector


The Candidus Lector

Ovid in exile, sad, morose, not well, cold, appealed to the 'candidus lector' (Tristia 1.11.35; 4.10.132: 'the open, frank reader') to be his ideal reader. But what is a 'candidus lector'? Someone who only sees the bright surface sheen of the Tomitan ice and takes it as being the only land there is? Until it melts? First of all, even the words 'candidus lector' will have to be read by a 'candidus lector'. This wide-eyed person will I presume actually take his or her very concrete view. They might choose 'the dressed-in-white reader' who might be a slave in a tunic. Or should we go for the of-sunny-disposition-reader or the 'l'm-disposed-to-always-seeing-the-best' reader.

To be serious and 'candidus', I like the white-dressed option. Ovid or Ovid's white-dressed people are involved in a holy ritual (Tristia 5.5.8; Fasti 4.906; Amores 2.12.23). They are in holy register. In Rome these types were especially prominent in January and early February with the addition of so many more feast days in honour of the royal house.

To enter the spirit of 'candidus lector', we don our own white robes to fry the incense. We're looking for favourable omens. The smoke starts drifting towards our noses. There's the omen. We make a wish: 'Please, please let us know how to sniff out Naso like a 'candidus lector'. A muffled reply from the bowels of the earth. 'Get the wrong end of Dikaiopolis' stick'. Gosh that was clear, not. How do we know which is his right one. And was that scatological? He's a one that Dikaeopolis.

'Ye gods and, Oh, the city' What do we do? DI-KAI-O-POLIS! Stop plucking all your hairs out & come here. How, Dikaiopolis, would you interpret Tristia 3.9.9-10: 'impia desertum fugiens Medea parentem / dicitur his remos applicuisse vadis' ('the undutiful Medea fleeing her deserted dad / is said to have brought her oars against these shoals')?'

'Ooh a shoal of anchovies. Great. show me the way.'