University Of Tasmania
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Rape or romance? : sexual violence and the lust for power in Ovid's Fasti

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:06 authored by Mckay, A
Until the late Twentieth Century Fasti was arguably Ovid's least favoured extant work. Fasti was extensively compared with Ars Amatoria and Metamorphoses and in light of these comparisons was considered to be stylistically and artistically weak. This text has been interpreted as a jumbled compilation of history, astronomy and quasi-Callimachean poetics. From an historical and anthropological point of view, the work is a failure; for despite purporting to deliver reliable and thorough information on Roman cults and festivals (Fast. 1. 1-2), the information is often convoluted and inaccurate. Critics condemned the work as one that fails artistically. Fasti had consistently been interpreted as a badly written pro-Augustan poem. Such readings significantly over-simplified the text. These interpretations saw Fasti reduced to its alleged purpose. Ovid's Fasti is a calendar unlike any other. It is a poem written in six books corresponding to the first six months of the Julian calendar. Within this work Ovid engages in a dialogue with Augustus to contest the emperor's manipulation of time. Fasti is not simply a day by day commentary on Roman rituals and festivals. There are complex social and imperial implications found within this text. Recent scholarship began to embrace the poem's eccentricities and intricacies. Newlands suggested Fasti experienced something of a 'critical renaissance'. No longer is Fasti viewed as a failed literary calendar. The text has been opened up to reveal layers and depth of literary allusion and subtlety, allowing a deeper understanding of the poet's critique of the Augustan political regime. The position taken in this thesis is that Ovid's Fasti is a poem about Rome. It is my opinion that Ovid wrote Fasti as much more than a historical and mythological treatise on the events of the Roman calendar. This thesis will show that Fasti was written as a commentary and critique of Ovid's contemporary Rome and of its ruler Augustus just as much, or perhaps even more so, than it was a description of the nation's aetiological past. The Fasti contains a wealth of history, legend, astronomy and some historical fact. It also contains allusion and at times blatant observations about the current state of Roman politics. Fasti is a poem about Rome. It is a poem about the Rome of the poet's past and that of his present.


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