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THE LIFE OF OVID.
PUBLIVS OVIDIVS Nasol was born at Sulmo?, now Solmona, a little town situated amongst the cold, well-watered hills of the Paeligni, one of the Sabine races of ancient Italy 8, in A.V.c. 711 (B.C. 43), the year in which the consuls C. Vibius Pansa and A. Hirtius defeated Antony at Mutina ; though Hirtius was killed in the battle, and Pansa died not long afterwards from his wounds 4. The self-consciousness of Ovid has furnished the biographer with very full materials for writing his life'; and we are enabled to fix March 20th as the precise day of the month on which his birthday fello.
· The praenomen and nomen gentile are well established by the authority of both (a) MSS. and (6) ancient authors; the cognomen occurs frequently in his writings. T. iv. 10. 3:
Sulmo mihi patria est, gelidis uberrimus undis,
milia qui noviens distat ab urbe decem.' 3 See Am. ii. 1.1; 16. 37 ; iii. 15. 3; P. iv. 14. 49; F. iv. 81. 4 T. iv. 10. 5:
editus hinc ego sum ; nec non, ut tempora noris,
cum cecidit fato consul uterque pari.' 5 See especially T. iv. 10, which is a brief autobiography. 6 T. iv, 10. 13:
'haec est armiferae festis de quinque Minervae,
quae fieri pugna prima cruenta solet :' i. e. the second day of the festival Quinquatrus maiores in March, which began on the 19th, and lasted for five days; and was the chief
His father belonged to an old and respected equestrian family; and though not in the possession of enormous wealth, enjoyed a tolerable competency". The poet's frequent complaints of poverty in the youthful Amores., coupled with the confession that the father restricted the allowance of the naturally too luxurious son®, lead to the inference that he was a man of careful habits, who by saving and management increased his property, which must have been worth a million sesterces or upwards, the amount of a Senator's qualifying estate *. For the poet tells us that along with the toga virilis he assumed the latus clavus, the broad purple stripe down the front of the tunic, which originally distinguished Senators from Equites, who wore the angustus clavus, but which was conceded by Augustus to the sons of Equites, who possessed a senatorial census.
Ovid, the second of two sons, was exactly a year junior to his elder brother. The two were educated together at Rome under the best masters ; and the elder of the pair entered with enthusiasm upon the career of a barrister, for which he was by nature well fitted; but unfortunately died in his twenty-first year?. Ovid himself had no liking for the law, but from childhood was devoted to poetry. But in obedience to his father's advice he endeavoured to devote himself to more serious subjects, and
? i. 3. 9;
holiday of the Roman year (Mayor, Iuv. x. 115). This feast was celebrated with gladiatorial contests, which began on the second day (F. iii. 811 ff.), the day of Ovid's birth. 1 T. ii. 110 ff.; iv. 10. 7–8.
ii. 17. 27; iii. 8. 1 ff.; A. A. ii. 165. 3 Am. i. 3. 10:
' temperat et sumptus parcus uterque parens.' • Becker-Marquardt, ii. 3. 219–220. 5 T. iv. 10. 29:
'induiturque umeris cum lato purpura clavo.' 6 T. iv. 10.9:
'genito sum fratre creatus, qui tribus ante quater mensibus ortus erat. Lucifer amborum natalibus adfuit idem ;
una celebrata est per duo liba dies.' 1 T. iv. 10, 15 ff., 31-32.
attended the rhetorical schools of the two chief teachers of declamation, Arellius Fuscus and Porcius Latro. To this influence is due the strong rhetorical colouring which tinges his style'; and which is interestingly illustrated by the elder Seneca .
In the meantime, however, he had composed some at any rate of the Amores ; for these he recited in public in his twenty-first year, and at once established his claims to be considered among the leading poets 8. At some period early in his life he travelled on a 'grand tour' in company with his friend and fellow poet Macer, visiting Greece and the famous cities of Asia Minor, and staying for nearly a year in Sicily in the course of his return 4.
Having thus finished his education after the approved mode he settled down at Rome. For public life he had little aptitude ; though we find that when quite a young man, probably before his Asiatic tour, he held some of the minor judicial offices which preceded the quaestorship, and are often collectively described as the vigintiviratus. Thus he tells us that he was one of the tresviri capitales, whose business was to execute capital sentences, burn books, &c.; that he was a decemvir stlitibus iudicandis ®, a board who acted as presidents of the centumviral courts ; that he was one of the centumviri iudices", a court which adjudicated upon civil actions, chiefly affecting property
1 See especially the celebrated speeches of Ajax and Ulysses in M. xiii. init.
* See M. Seneca, Controv. ii. 10. 8 ff.
• Deque viris quondam pars tribus una fui.'
"inter bis quinos usus honore viros.' ? T. ii. 93:
nec male conmissa est nobis fortuna reorum,
lisque decem deciens inspicienda viris.' P. iii. 5. 23. For the centumviral court see Wilkins on Cic. de Or. i. $ 173.
and inheritances; and lastly, that from time to time he acted as a private arbitrator',
But he soon abandoned all thoughts of public ambition, and of entering the Senate, for which he felt himself unfitted both by inclination and physical weakness *; and lived in quietness and ease, passing his time partly at Rome, and partly in the retirement of his gardens on the Via Clodia: His lot was now indeed a fortunate one ; he had attained during his life-time to that immortality, which is rarely conceded until after death. His reputation was such that after Gallus, Tibullus, and Propertius, he was publicly acknowledged to be the fourth in the series of Roman elegiac poets. He enjoyed the patronage and friendship of many powerful men; the circle of his personal friends and acquaintances was a very wide one. He was the centre of a brilliant literary society, which numbered in its ranks all the poets of the day of any consideration. Vergil he had only seen ; but with Tibullus and Horace he was acquainted, and Propertius was joined to him by the close tie of sodalitium?. A host of younger poets clustered round him, most of whom are unfortunately scarcely more than names to us. Amongst these, besides Cornelius Severus, Albinovanus Pedo, Celsus, Macer, Tuticanus, and Carus, who will be spoken of later, there were Montanus, Rabirius, and L. Varius Rufus, who sang the glories of the Empire in epic verse®; there was
1 T. ii. 95:
res quoque privatas statui sine crimine iudex,
deque mea fassa est pars quoque victa fide.' T. iv. 10. 35 ff. 3 xi. 37 n. 4 T. iv. 10. 121 :
'tu mihi, quod raram est, vivo sublime dedisti
nomen, ab exsequiis quod dare fama solet.' 6 T. il. 463 ff. ; iv. 10. 51 ff. . See inf. & III. T. iv. 10. 46 ff.
8 Inf. § III. • Rabirius wrote a description of the Battle of Actium and the flight of Antony and Cleopatra into Egypt; Hennig, De P. Ovidii Nasonis poetae sodalibus, p. 11, to which admirable monograph I am indebted for the particulars about the writers here mentioned.
Valerius Largus, whose poem on the wanderings of Agenor united Greek and Roman legend after the manner of Vergil ; there were adapters of the Greek epos,-Lupus, who' sang the wanderings of Helen and Menelaus ; Camerinus, who wrote a Latin continuation of the Iliad in imitation of the Cyclic poets ; Tuscus, whose Phyllis dealt probably with the legend of Phyllis and Demophoon; Ponticus, who wrote a Thebais; and Domitius Marsus, whose Amazonis told the famous story of the fight between Theseus and the Amazons. There were the didactic poets-Aemilius Macer, and Gratius ; Macer an imitator of Nicander, who composed an Ornithogonia on the habits of birds, a Theriaca upon serpents, and a De Herbis about poisons; and Gratius, the 541 surviving lines of whose Cynegetica are a dry and uninteresting metrical treatise on the chase. There was Sabinus, whose heroic epistles were cast in the same manner as those of Ovid?; the epigrammatists Bassus and Capella ; Proculus, the imitator of Callimachus; Fontanus, who sang of the Loves of the Nymphs and the Satyrs ; Titius Rufus, who attempted to transplant the lyric of Pindar into Latin; the tragedians Gracchus and Turranius; and the author of many comedies (togatae), C. Melissus, the learned freedman. of Maecenas, and librarian by the Emperor's appointment of the Porticus Octavia.
Nor was Ovid less fortunate in his domestic circumstances. His father reached the ripe age of ninety, and his mother must have lived to a great age, for both died a few years only before his exile %. Though three times a husband, in the first two cases the union was of short duration. To his first wife, whom he naively describes as unworthy of himself, he was married
1 The three letters sometimes found ascribed to Sabinus at the end of Ovid's Heroides are a forgery by a sixteenth century Italian named Angelus Sabinus.
T. iv. 10. 77–80. 3 T. iv. 10. 69-70:
paene mihi puero nec digna nec utilis uxor
est data, quae tempus per breve nupta fuit.'