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declaimer, but a bad pleader. He studied finally, like so many of the educated Romans of the time, at Athens, where he became an accomplished Greek scholar; and afterwards travelled in Asia and Sicily. He tells us himself that his bent was all for poetry; and his chief friends were the poets of the time. He was acquainted with Propertius, Gallus, Ponticus, Bassus, Macer, and Horace. Vergil 'he only just saw' (Trist. IV. 10. 51): for Vergil spent his last years either at Naples or abroad, and died when Ovid was only 24. He was appointed a judge after his return to Rome, and ultimately became one of the decemviri or Bench of Ten who presided over certain trials. He divorced two wives and appears to have married a third time more happily. He lived in the best literary society at Rome, and enjoyed for several years the friendship of Augustus. In A. D. 8 however, he offended the court and was banished for the rest of his life to Tomi, a Greek colony on the Euxine, in the Dobrudscha, that dreary region S. of the Danube-mouths. The ostensible ground for this exile was said to have been the immoral Love-poem (Ars Amatoria) which he had published 10 years before. The real ground is unknown: and in the absence of information has been supposed to be some profligate intrigue. In his banishment he wrote the Tristia and Letters from the Pontus, in which he gives the most piteous account of the dangers and discomforts of his life in that wretched country, interspersed with servile flattery of Augustus and plaintive entreaties to his friends to get him recalled.. They, however, either did not try, or failed; and he died in exile A. D. 18.
§ 2. Ovid's works: Date of the Fasti.
Ovid began his poetic career with poems of love, in the Elegiac metre, in which the elder poets Tibullus and Propertius were already famous. But his chief model is said to have been a Greek Parthenius, who was taken prisoner as a child in the war with Mithridates (ended 63 B.C.) and who was set free at Rome on account of his talents. Ovid's first works were the
Amores, the Heroides (or 'Love-Letters of the Heroines,' Medea, Sappho, &c.) and the Art of Love.' Then came the Remedia Amoris and Nux. Then the Metamorphoses, a long work of 15 books in hexameters: it consists of Legends of Transformations, without any special connection. It may have been effective to recite to a Roman audience, in parts: but it is not to be called an epic, though apparently aspiring to be one. Then the XII books of Fasti, or 'Versified calendar,' a book for each month: of which only six, however, remain. In exile, as we have said, he wrote the Tristia, or 'Elegies of Lament' and 'Letters from Pontus.' There are besides one or two minor works extant, and some which are lost of the latter a tragedy on 'Medea' is the most famous.
As to the date of the Fasti, it is probable that the six books we have were all written before he left Rome: for even if he could have had the necessary materials at Tomi, he could scarcely have had the desire or the energy to continue a work intended to glorify the Rome which he had lost and the Emperor whom he had grievously offended. One or two passages, it is true, must have been written at Tomi, as IV. 82 (me miserum! Scythico quam procul illa solo est! &c.): but both the general tone, the absence of any mention of the Fasti in the Epistles from Tomi, the language used about Caesar, and many minor indications (cf. VI. 666), shew that the work was practically written before, and no doubt dedicated to Augustus, to whom allusions are frequent.
However in A. D. 14 Augustus died. Ovid had no hope from Tiberius, his successor, of being suffered to return from banishment.
But in 16 the jealousy of Tiberius recalled the victorious Germanicus (his adopted son) from Germany, and sent him to the East. Germanicus was known to be a cultivated man: and it was then probably that Ovid recast his first book into its present shape, and prefaced it with a laudatory address to Germanicus. The passage in IV. 80, alluded to above, was then probably written. But most of the allusions to Augustus are left unaltered.
§ 3. On the subject of the Fasti.
This is not the place to treat of the extraordinary burst of literature which appeared in the reign of Augustus, nor to discuss the question how far the enthusiasm for the court and the new epoch, which the poets of the time express, was servile and artificial, or how far it was a genuine belief that 'a good time was come.' Probably both the true and the false were there, and different men felt to a different degree what it was the fashion for all to enlarge upon. After the desolating civil wars of the last century, it may well be that the imagination of all Rome was really stirred by the spectacle of a universal peace, and the hope that a new period of national greatness and prosperity had begun.
There is no doubt that it was the aim of the sagacious Emperor to revive on all sides as much as possible the national sentiment, which had been much impaired by the breakdown of the senatorial government, latterly so corrupt and incapable, and by the class bitterness which the civil strife and frequent proscriptions had evoked and exasperated. And to nothing did he pay more attention than to a revival of the national religion. He rebuilt and restored the temples: revived the old worships: encouraged the celebration of the various games, always originally in honour of some god: devoted large treasure to the various shrines; increased the number and dignity of the priests; and put himself at the head of the movement by permanently accepting the office of Pontifex Maximus.
The official register of the holy-days and festivals was the calendar, which, hitherto under the exclusive control of the priests, now became part of the emperor's care. Nothing could better help the policy of Augustus than the work of popularising the calendar and adorning it with poetic treatment. This was the task which Ovid undertook in the Fasti. The calendar moreover was the especial glory of the Caesarian house. It was
one of the greatest works of Julius Caesar, (as is explained fully in the next section), to reform the errors and confusion into which the priestly management had brought it. To the completion and establishment of this reform Augustus himself had contributed. The poet's subject was therefore in two ways appropriate to the time. It was also eminently suited to his genius. He was incapable of a sustained poetical effort, or a grand conception, like Vergil's Aeneid: his 'Metamorphoses' are clear proof of this. His strength lay in neatness of expression, in light and graceful writing, in simple clear and rapid narrative. The desultory nature of his subject, requiring ingenuity to avoid tedious repetition, and giving scope to his story-telling faculty, was therefore not merely no obstacle, it was an advantage to him. And this is why, in spite of the seemingly unpromising subject, no work of his has been more read, or more famous.
The Fasti is accordingly a ‘versified calendar.' Each Book treats of one month; and our book being the sixth contains the account of June. Ovid as far as possible explains the calendarsigns attached to each day: gives a narrative of the events commemorated, the founding of temples, the thanksgiving for victories, the stories of the gods or heroes worshipped, and the ceremonies in use. He is especially fond of tracing back the origin of names and usages: such explanations giving scope to his ingenuity and inventiveness, for of scientific antiquarian research he of course has no idea. He also gives astronomical information; and relates the rising and setting of different constellations on different days. Presumably this is done with the view of being useful, as such a calendar would be, to farmers and sailors. It may however have been simply that a calendar would not have been complete without it1; and that it was a kind of subject well adapted to his purpose, as it enabled him to bring in the endless legends, chiefly of Greek origin, connected with the stars. Anyhow, the astronomy was not a scientific success; as will be explained below, (§ 6).
1 Julius Caesar's Calendar apparently contained some astronomical notices.
$4. The Reformation of the Calendar.
One of the greatest services rendered by Julius Caesar to the Empire and the world was the reformation of the Calendar. Before his time the year consisted of 355 days, and every two years an intercalary month was inserted (between the 23rd and the 24th of February) of 22 or 23 days. This process made the year too long, and as the error of course mounted up it became observable that the nominal seasons no longer coincided with the actual ones. The regulation of the calendar was in the hands of the pontifices, and they accordingly exercised their right of altering the intercalation to suit the solar year. But during the later years of the republic their administration, like every other, became incapable and corrupt; and they used to lengthen or shorten the calendar to serve or spite some magistrate or taxfarmer who chanced to have won their favour or hate. Add to this the complete disorganization of everything during the civil wars; and by the time of Julius Caesar we find the nominal year was more than 2 months in advance of the solar seasons. Thus Caesar in his history of the civil war after describing (III. 6) how the fleet set sail on the 31st of December says three chapters further on (III. 9) 'the winter was now approaching'! We are not surprised to be told by Suetonius, (Caes. 40) that 'the harvest festivals did not coincide with the summer nor the vintage with the autumn.'
Caesar having obtained supreme power set himself, among other reforms, to put this confusion straight. He had mastered some knowledge of astronomy, sufficient for his purpose, and obtained the aid of the philosopher Sosigenes. In B.C. 46, which had already received the intercalation of 23 days in February, he added 67 days in two intercalary months inserted between November and December. Cicero writing to Ligarius (Fam. VI. 14) refers to this arrangement, when he says he visited Caesar 'a. d. v. Kalendas intercalares priores,' i.e. Nov. 26, or 'five days (we should say four) before the first of the first