Augustus the Imperator. When you have a standing army of 300,000 men you can call yourself just about anything and people will agree with you. In 2 B.C. he had been given the title pater patriae, Father of the Nation, which recalled to Roman citizens the despotic authority of the Roman pater at least as much as paternal benevolence. It was the time of Pax Augusta, and great hope for the future, both for Rome and for the Empire. With renewed greatness would come moral regeneration. This last was a favorite theme of Augustus , expressed in a stream of legislation designed to curb excessively wasteful living, licentiousness, and depravity in the upper classes. They were to be called back, these upper classes, not to the freedom and power they had had in the Republic, but to responsible participation in the army and the civil administration under the Princeps.
Moral crusades are never easy to judge: standards, motives, and realities are too much like icebergs. Certainly the visible part of contemporary behavior looked rotten enough, even allowing for differences between ancient and modern values. In the same year he became pater patriae, Augustus banished his own daughter Julia, mother of Gaius and Lucius, for sexual depravity, and a number of men of high rank were exiled as her accomplices. Ten years later her daughter, also called Julia, wife of L. Aemilius Paulus who had been the second consul in the Year One- was exiled to a barren island on similar charges.
Aemelius was executed, either at that time or earlier, and there is something altogether mysterious about both affairs. There is no particular reason to whitewash either of the Julias, but it is hard to avoid the implication that dynastic palace plotting was a more important element in the picture. Conspiracy was henceforth endemic in the Empire , and it is not unimportant that it touched the heart of the regime as early as the reign of the founder himself.
One of the younger Julia’s co-victims was the poet Ovid, sent off to Tomi on the Black Sea, where he was forced to live out the remaining ten years of his life, grumbling, whining, and begging in the most toadying terms for a reprieve which never came. In a sense Ovid sums up in his own career the great paradox of the Rome of his day. What had he done to warrant such severe punishment? As far as we know, nothing, or at worst something trifling.
But ten years earlier Ovid had written the Art of Love,and throughout his brilliant career in which he enjoyed enormous popularity, he belonged to a circle of poets and intellectuals who gave only lip service to the glories of the new reign while they exulted in their own individuality and, sin of sins, in the delights of love when the Emperor was demanding moral regeneration. The pax Augusta was enforced by a military despotism; the literary renaissance was expected to stay pretty much in line; the rule of law could be broken at the ruler’s whim.
Ovid’s life in the years after his liberation was that of a poet and man-about-town. He moved in the best literary circles, although never forming part of either of the major coteries of the time, those around Messalla and Maecenas. He had attracted notice as a poet while still in school and in time came to be surrounded by a group of admirers of his own. Ovid’s early work was almost all on the theme of love; the residue of this early production, after he had destroyed many poems which he considered faulty, formed three short books of verses known as the Amores (Loves): the earliest poem of this collection seems to be a lament for Tibullus, who died in 19 B.C., and the latest assignable date for any of these poems is about 2 B.C. Most of these poems concern Ovid’s love for a certain Corinna, who is generally considered an imaginary figure: the poems addressed to her form an almost complete cycle of the emotions and situations which a lover might expect to undergo in a love affair. This interest in the psychology of love is also exemplified in his Heroides, which dates from roughly the same period and is a series of letters from mythical heroines to their absent husbands or lovers. Read More:http://hoocher.com/Publius_Ovidius_Naso//Publius_Ovidius_Naso.htm
…In the Renaissance, Ovid was easily the most influ
al of the Latin poets. Painters and sculptors used him for themes; writers of all ranks translated, adapted, and plundered him freely. In English literature alone Edmund Spenser and John Milton show a deep knowledge and use of Ovid. William Shakespeare’s knowledge of him is also great, for example, his use of the Pyramus and Thisbe legend in the play within the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
After the Renaissance, Ovid’s influence was most often indirect, but among many authors and artists who used him directly, one must mention John Dryden, who translated (with assistance) the Metamorphoses, and Pablo Picasso, who illustrated this work.( ibid.)