PUTTING THE EMPIRE IN ITS PLACE: OVID ON THE GOLDENNESS OF ROME
Longard, Bradley J.
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This study explores the relationship between poetry and politics in Books 1 and 15 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Vergil had refashioned the concept of the golden age to better resonate with Roman values, and Ovid in turn responds to Vergil by making his own golden age free from law, seafaring, and warfare (Met. 1.89-112). Ovid’s golden age clearly foils his ‘praise’ of Augustus in Book 15 (819-70), and thus challenges Vergil’s innovations. Ovid closely connects his demiurge (opifex, 1.79), who created the conditions necessary for the existence of the golden age, to himself (15.871-9); they together display the potency of poetic power. Poesis is different than the power of empire, which is inherently destructive: Jupiter terminates the golden age (1.113), and Augustus’ accomplishments are only ostensibly ‘peaceful’ (15.823, 833). Ovid suggests that the power of poesis remains beyond the destructive reach of Augustus, since Rome’s power is limited to the post-golden, chaotic world, and that poesis enjoys the status of eternality which Rome and Augustus claimed to possess themselves.