27. Imperial Rome I
Ovid, Julio-Claudians, Silver Age Literature, Lucan

“So vast was Rome’s dominion and so powerful its influence that until the eighteenth century, Rome was the exemplar of power and wealth, one that the nations of Europe could only dream of equaling.” (MP, 109)

Ovid’s Background
A late Augustan poet, Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 17) had not experienced civil war and turmoil to the same degree that writers such as Livy and Vergil had
took the prosperity and peace of the Augustan Age for granted did not feel the same obligation towards Augustus, but, on the other hand, knew no other kind of government

Wrote primarily elegiac love poetry such as the Amores, the Ars Amatoria, and a work on mythological heroines Scandal and Exile
Ovid’s often racy works on love did not accord well with Augustus’ moral program Nevertheless he became the leading poet in Rome and was increasingly popular In A.D. 8 he was exiled to a small town on the Black Sea because of carmen et error (a poem and a mistake)
Both the identity of the offending poem and the nature of the mistake (some have suggested an improper relationship with the emperor’s daughter or even political conspiracy) are unknown

Although he repeatedly asked for permission to return to Rome, Ovid died while in exile
10/31/2005 27. Imperial Rome I 2

27. Imperial Rome I


10/31/2005 The Metamorphoses: An “Unorthodox” Epic Some time shortly before his exile. Ovid completed an epic composed of 15 books Epic only in form: written in dactylic hexameters Un-epic in content: a collection of Greek. Roman. others include: Psychological changes Changes in the myths themselves Changes in the structure of the poem and in the use of motifs 10/31/2005 27. Imperial Rome I 3 Ovid’s Theme? Metamorphoses is Greek for “changes” The common element throughout the work is an interest in changes. Imperial Rome I 4 27. Imperial Rome I 2 . and even Near Eastern myths Often playful and even iconoclastic in tone at times mocks the deeds of the gods challenges traditional stories and perhaps even some aspects of the Augustan regime Frequently influenced by Ovid’s interest in love poetry 10/31/2005 27. particularly physical transformations Changes in bodily shape are not the only changes.

Imperial Rome I 5 Representative Stories Apollo and Daphne (MP—R. .” a new telling of Roman history 10/31/2005 27.M.” —M. . Imperial Rome I 3 . spin an unbroken thread of verse from the earliest beginnings of the world down to my own times” One story leads into another in rough chronological order Divine Comedy Divine Vengeance Romance and Pathological Love Ovid’s “Little Aeneid. 125-126) The original Romeo and Juliet! Caesar becomes a star (packet.10/31/2005 Organization of Metamorphoses “Heavenly powers . providing a source from which the whole of western European literature has derived inspiration. 123-125) Pyramus and Thisbe (MP—R. but are they serious. . Imperial Rome I 6 27. The result is a treasure-house of myth and legend which has continued to charm succeeding generations. few have appealed to a wider public or had more effect on later literature than the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Innes The Metamorphoses was influential throughout the Middle Ages and served as a great source for Renaissance Art 10/31/2005 27. . or flattery? Ovid’s influence “Among all the writings of Latin authors. 115-117) “epic” setting for the astrum Caesaris Aeneid-like prophecies of Augustus. ironic.

all of the powers and many of the honors that he held. but the main provinces were rarely affected Civil wars marked the transition between some ruling dynasties. his stepson Tiberius. Imperial Rome I 4 . making him his personal heir Over the course of more than a decade Augustus gave Tiberius.10/31/2005 The Roman Peace Augustus’ propaganda regarding peace and prosperity was largely realized After Augustus periodic upheavals did not affect the vast majority of the empire’s inhabitants Military activity on the border. his adoptive grandson Gaius (or “Caligula”) had no political experience but received all of the honors and powers at one time as an act of inheritance (heir = successor) The principate thus effectively became a monarchy 10/31/2005 27. Tiberius already held all of the powers of “emperor” Tiberius’ successor. and prepared him to rule Augustus adopted Tiberius. but there were relatively contained Fairly constant court intrigue for the most part affected only the imperial family and prominent members of the senatorial class Otherwise the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) established by Augustus lasted for almost two hundred years 10/31/2005 27. Imperial Rome I 7 From Principate to Monarchy Augustus carefully groomed his successor. making him his political successor When Augustus died. an experienced military commander and politician. Imperial Rome I 8 27.

most of the common people liked even these “bad” emperors 10/31/2005 27. Imperial Rome I 5 . Imperial Rome I 9 The Julio-Claudian Dynasty 27.10/31/2005 Julio-Claudian Emperors The first five emperors were all connected to the Julian family of Augustus or the Claudian family of Livia and Tiberius Augustus Tiberius Gaius (also known as “Caligula”) Claudius Nero Some of the Julio-Claudian emperors—such as Tiberius and Claudius—seem to have been good administrators and reasonably acceptable rulers Others—such as Gaius and Nero—were either mad or selfabsorbed These were hated by many senators and portrayed in Roman historiography as tyrants Motif of the young. rash emperor whom absolute power had corrupted absolutely Nevertheless.

was a noted Stoic philosopher and an important minister to the emperor Nero had been a personal friend of Nero and had begun both a political as well as a literary career became disaffected from the erratic young emperor and was later executed for his part in a failed conspiracy 10/31/2005 27. Imperial Rome I 6 .D. 39 lived after the old Roman Republic was just a memory like many of the aristocratic class. the younger Seneca. literary conceits Boundaries of the period elastic Beginning point debated: Late Augustans? Tiberius’ reign? Neronian Age? Extends into the Flavian Period and the High Empire 10/31/2005 27. Imperial Rome I 12 27.10/31/2005 Silver Age of Latin Literature “Patriotic style” of Augustan literature gives way to a more critical approach Roman state and society frequently satirized Rhetorical ideal of education frequently leads to more concern with form than content Moral concerns give way to aesthetics. Imperial Rome I 11 Lucan and Epic Born in A. Lucan affected an admiration and love for the old oligarchy that they idealized as a free state Well-connected politically His uncle.

you alone are sufficient to give strength to a Roman bard. an anti-hero Pompey. Imperial Rome I 14 27. Rome owes much to civil war. even such crimes and such guilt are not too high a price to pay. . 118-119) “Still. Caesar’s victory shows that they do not have Rome’s interest at heart Apotheosis of Pompey (packet. Let Pharsalia heap her awful plains with dead . the imperial system) Drawn not from myth/legend but recent history Sometimes mocks epic conventions and heroes (see Caesar and Amylcas. because what was done was done for you. and Peculiarities Not one but three heroes Caesar. generally elevated in style Innovative in content Concentrates on Rome’s self-destruction at Pharsalus and the evils which were born there (sc. 120-122) If there are gods. I would not care to trouble the god who rules mysterious Delphi . if Fate could find no other way for the advent of Nero . Imperial Rome I 13 Heroes. Themes. . even witches are more influential (see Erictho.” 10/31/2005 27. and if my breast receives you to inspire my verse.” “to me you are divine already. packet. Caesar. long. packet. continuous narrative. . 119-120) Little role for gods. contra the deification of Julius Caesar) 10/31/2005 27. . a philosopher-hero (although Lucan does not seem to like him) No one man is the center of this epic! Concentrates on Rome’s self-destruction at Pharsalus and the evils which were born there (sc. . a would-be hero Cato.10/31/2005 The Pharsalia An epic about the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great Takes its name from the battle at Pharsalus in which Caesar defeated Pompey “A quirky epic” Standard epic in form: dactylic hexameter. Imperial Rome I 7 . 122-123. . the imperial system) Dedication to Nero is clearly ironic (packet.

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