The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

OVIDIUS.

Gallus was followed by Tibullus, and he by Pro­pertius ; so that Ovid claimed to be the fourth who succeeded to the elegiac lyre. In this enu­meration Catullus is entirely omitted. In Pro-pertius, who was some years older than himself, Ovid not only found a ^ouo-cryeTrj^butalsoahiero-phant very capable of initiating him in all the mysteries of Roman dissipation. (Saepe suos so-litus recitare Propertius ignes, Trist. iv. 10.) Ovid was an apt scholar ; but his views were more am­bitious than his master's, whom he was destined to surpass in the quality, not only of the Muse, but of the mistress, that he courted. The Cynthia of Propertius seems to have been merely one of that higher class of accomplished courtezans with which Rome then abounded. If we mav believe the

*/

testimony of Sidonius Apollinaris, in the following-lines, Corinna was no less a personage than Julia, the clever and accomplished, but abandoned daugh­ter of Augustus: —

Et te carmina per libidinosa Notum, Naso tener, Tomosque missum: Quondam Caesareae nimis puellae Ficto nomine subditum Coriniiae.

(Carm. xxiii. 18.)

This authority has been rejected on the ground that it ascribes Ovid's banishment to this intrigue, which, for chronological and other reasons, could not have been the case. But, strictly taken, the verses assert no such thing. They merely tell us that he was sent to Tomi " carmina per libidi-iiosa," which was, indeed, the cause set forth in the edict of Augustus ; and the connection with Julia is mentioned incidentally as an old affair, but not by any means as having occasioned his banish­ment* Such hints of antiquity are not to be lightly disregarded; and there are several passages in Ovid's Amores which render the testimony of Si­donius highly probable. Thus it appears that his mistress was a married woman, of high rank, but profligate morals ; all which particulars will suit Julia. There are, besides, two or three passages which seem more especially to point her out as belonging to the family of the Caesars ; and it is remarkable that in the fourteenth elegy of the first book Ovid alludes to the baldness of his mistress, which agrees with an anecdote of Julia preserved by Macrobius. (Saturn, ii. 5.) Nor can the prac­tice of the Roman poets of making the metrical quantity of their mistress's feigned name answer precisely to that of the real one be alleged as an insuperable objection. We have already seen that Sidonius Apollinaris did not so consider it. In Ovid's case the great disparity of rank would have made it dangerous to adopt too close an imitation ; not to mention that the title of Corinna would convey a compliment to Julia, as comparing her for wit and beauty to the Theban poetess.

Be this as it may, it cannot be doubted that Ovid's mistress was a woman of high rank ; and as this circumstance dispensed with those vulgar means of seduction which may be supplied by money, and which the poet's moderate fortune would have prevented him from adopting, even had he been so inclined (Ars Am. ii. 165), so it compelled him to study those arts of insinuation which are most agreeable to the fair sex, and to put in practice his own maxim, ut ameris amabilis esto. It was thus he acquired that intimate know­ledge of the female heart, and of all the shades of

OVIDIUS. 69

the amatory passion, which appears in so many parts of his writings, and which he afterwards embodied in his Art of Love, for the benefit of his contemporaries and of posterity. His first attempts in verse seem to have been in the heroic metre, and on the subject of the Gigantomachia, but from this he was soon diverted by his passion for Corinna, to which we owe the greater part of the elegies in his Amores. How much of these is to be set down to poetic invention ? How much is to be taken literally ? These are questions which cannot be accurately answered. In his later poems he would have us believe that his life is not to be judged by his writings, and that he did not practise the pre­cepts which he inculcated. (Trist. i. 8. 59, ii. 354, &c.) But some of his effusions are ad­dressed to other mistresses besides Corinna ; and the warmth, nay the grossness of mere animal pas­sion, which breathes in several of them, prevents us from believing that_ his life was so pure as it answered his purpose to affirm in his exile ; though we may readily concede that he conducted his amours with sufficient discretion to avoid any open and flagrant scandal (Nomine sub nostro fabula nulla fuit, Trist. iv. 10. 68). On the other hand, something may doubtless be ascribed to youthful vanity, to the fashion of the age, and above all to his determination to become a poet. His love for his art was boundless. He sought the acquaintance of the most eminent poets of the day, and when they were assembled together he regarded them as so many divinities. Among his more intimate poetical friends, besides Macer and Propertius, were Ponticus and Bassus. Horace was consider­ably his senior, yet he had frequently heard him recite his lyric compositions. Virgil, who died when Ovid was twenty-four, he had only once seen ; nor was the life of Tibullus sufficiently prolonged to allow him to cultivate his friendship. It is re­markable that he does not once mention the name of Maecenas. It is possible, however, that that minister, whose literary patronage was in some degree political, and with a view to the interests of his master, had retired from public affairs before Ovid had acquired any considerable reputation.

How long Ovid's connection with Corinna lasted there are no means of deciding. Some of the elegies in the Amores are doubtless his earliest remaining compositions ; and he tells us that he began to write when the razor had passed but once or twice over his chin (Trist.iv. 10. 58). That work, however, as we now possess it, is a second edition, and evidently extends over a considerable number of years. But some of the elegies may have been mere reminiscences, for we can hardly think that Ovid continued the intrigues after he had married his third wife. His former marriages were matters of duty ; this seems to have been one of choice. The lady was one of the Fabian family, and appears to have been every way worthy of the sincere affection which Ovid entertained for her to the day of his death. She had a daughter by a former union, who married Suillius. At what time the poet entered on this third marriage cannot be as­certained ; but we can hardly place it later than his thirtieth year, since a daughter, Perilla, was the fruit of it (Trist. iii. 7. 3), who was grown up and married at the time of his banishment. Perilla was twice married, and had a child by each hus­band ; one of whom seems to have been Cornelius Fidus. Ovid was a grandfather before he lost his

f 3

Pages
About | First

67

68

69
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.