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of her mother. One of many lovers was Decius Julius
Silanus, member of a family which had been distin-
guished in Rome since the second Punic war. The

48 VID.

intrigue was too notorious to escape observation, and
Livia had the opportunity which she desired, Julia
was banished ; her paramour went into voluntary

So far we are on firm historical ground. It may
be added also, that the same year which saw the dis-
grace of Julia, witnessed also the banishment of Ovid.
Were the two events in any way connected ? We must
get our answer from considering the circumstances of
the political situation which has been described, from
the coincidence, and from the hints, which are indeed
sufficiently numerous, which Ovid himself gives us.
The fact that these hints do occur negative one sup-
position which has found some favour — namely, that
Ovid had become involuntarily acquainted with some
dark secret disgraceful to the character of Augustus
himself. Had there been such a secret, we can hardly
suppose that the jDoet would have alluded to it. Again
and again he makes his piteous supplications for the ter-
mination, or at least the mitigation, of his banishment.
But every mention of such a fact would have been an
additional offence. Indeed it is difficult to imagine
that the possessor of such dangerous knowledge should
have been suffered to live. Not a prolonged banish-
ment with unlimited opportunities for communication
with his friends, but the sword of the centurion, would
have been his doom. We may be nearly sure that
the secret, as far at least as it concerned Augustus,
must have been known already. Ovid was not ban-
ished for the purpose of keeping something concealed.
That purpose could have been far more easily and effec-


tually secured, and Eoman emperors were not accus-
tomed to be scrupulous about means. Let us see, then,
what Ovid actually says on the subject : —

" Why did I see something ? why did I make my eyes
guilty ? why did I become, all unknowingly, acquainted
with guilt?"

" Two faults overthrew me — my verses and my wrong-
doing ; but about the guilt of one of them I must keep
silence." *

" I am not worth so much as to renew thy wound,
Caesar ; it is far too much that you should once have felt
the pang."

" You [Augustus] avenged on me, as is right, a quarrel of
your own."

" Because my eyes unknowingly beheld a crime, I am
punished. To have had the power of sight — this is my

He protests that his fault had been an error rather
than a crime : —

" If mortal deeds never escape the knowledge of gods,
you know that there was no guilt in my fault. So it is —
you know it ; it was my mistake that led me astray ; my
purpose was foolish, but not wicked."

" You would say that this fault which ruined me was not
a crime, did you know how things followed one another in
this great trouble. It was either cowardice or fault of judg-
ment, but fault of judgment first of all, that damaged me."

" Had not my part of the guilt admitted excuse, banish-
ment would have been a trifling punishment."

* Masson appropriately quotes the words used by Tiberius
in allowing Silanus to return from exile : "I myself still feel
against hini as strongly as ever the quarrel of my father
Augustus. "

A.C.S.8., vol. ii. D

50 VID.

That he became acquainted with some crime which
touched nearly the honour of Augustus ; that he con-
cealed it; that in some sense he made himself an
accomplice in it ; that this crime was not an isolated
act, but a line of conduct pursued for some time ; that
Ovid was afraid or thought it better not to reveal his
knowledge of it, — are, it seems, inferences that may
fairly be drawn from the language which he uses.
They harmonise with the supposition that Ovid be-
came involuntarily acquainted with the intrigue of the
younger Julia with Silanus, — that he helped to conceal
it, possibly assisted in its being carried on. It is pro-
bable, at the same time, that he was one of the party
which supported that side of the imperial house. It
is not difficult to imagine that the result should have
been such as we know to have happened. The em-
peror, for a second time, is struck to the heart by the
discovery of the darkest profligacy in one very near to
himself. In his capacity as ruler he is terrified by the
corruption which his laws are powerless to stay. The
poems which the severer moralists of his court had
possibly criticised — and Livia really felt, while Tiberius
at least affected, such severity — comes to his recollec-
tion, and he finds that the author has actually abetted
the guilty intrigues of his granddaughter. Livia and
Tiberius, anxious to get out of the way a partisan of
opposite interests who might possibly be dangerous,
encourage the impulse, and the poet is banished.

Another part of the story remains to be related. If
the tale which Tacitus tells be true, all the art and
persistency of Livia had not succeeded in wholly


alienating the affections of Augustus from liis own
descendants. Even up to the last months of the old
man's life the interests of her son had to be jealously-
defended. Tacitus gives (Annals, i. 5), without say-
ing whether he himself believed or disbelieved it, a
report which was current shortly after the death of
Augustus. " A rumour had gone abroad that a few
months before, he [Augustus] had sailed to Planasia
on a visit to Agrippa, with the knowledge of some
chosen friends, and with one companion, Fabius
j\raximus ; that many tears were shed on both sides,
with expressions of affection, and that thus there was
a hope of the young man being restored to the home
of his grandfather. This, it was said, Maximus had
divulged to his wife Marcia, she again to Livia. All
was known to Caesar ; and when Maximus soon after-
wards died, by a death some thought to be self-
inflicted, there Avere heard at his funeral wailings from
]Marcia, in which she reproached herself for having
been the cause of her husband's destruction." *

To this Maximus Ovid addresses six of his ' Letters
from the Pontus.' He evidently looked to him as
one Avho might exercise a powerful influence on his
behalf. He appeals to him again and again to exer-

* Plutarch has added to this narrative an interesting anec-
dote to the effect that Falnus (he calls him Fulvius by mistake),
\vhen papng his respects as usual to the emperor in the morn-
ing, had his salutation returned with the ominous "Farewell,
Fulvius." "But he, comprehending the matter, forthwith
retired to his house, and, summoning his wife, said, 'Cresar
has learnt that I have not been silent about his secrets ; I
have therefore resolved to die.' "

52 VI D.

cise it. And at one time he seems to have hoped
that it would not be exercised in vain. " Augustus
had begun/' he writes in the sixth year of his exile,
" to grow more lenient to my fault of ignorance, and
lo ! he leaves my hopes and all the world desolate at
once." It is in the same letter that he significantly
deplores the death of Maximus. " I think, Maximus,
that I must have been the cause of your death."
This may have been a commonplace, — the fear lest the
cause of so unlucky a man might be fatal to any who
undertook it. Viewed in connection with the whole
story, it assumes a different aspect. That Maximus
had perished in an attempt to befriend Ovid may
have been so far true that his death followed an un-
successful effort to restore to the favour of Augustus
and to the succession the family in whose fall the poet
himself had fallen.



Ovid tells us that before he was banished he had
written, but not corrected, the fifteen books of the
'Metamorphoses,' and had also composed twelve books
(only six have been preserved) of the ' Fasti ' or Roman
Calendar. These are his chief surviving poems, and
it will be convenient to describe them in this and the
following chapter.

In the ' Metamorphoses ' we have the largest and
most important of Ovid's works ; and, if we view
it as a whole, the greatest monument of his poetical
genius. The plan of the book is to coUect together,
out of the vast mass of Greek mythology and legend,
the various stories which turn on the change of
men and women from the human form into animals,
plants, or inanimate objects. ISTor are the tales merely
collected. Such a collection would have been inevi-
tably monotonous and tiresome. With consummate
skill the poet arranges and connects them together.
The thread of connection is often indeed slight ; some-
times it is broken altogether. But it is sufficiently
continuous to keep alive the reader's interest ; which

54 viD.

is, indeed, often excited by the remarkable ingenuity
of the transition from one tale to another. But it did
not escape the author's jDerception, that to repeat over
and over again the story of a marvel which must have
been as incredible to his own contemporaries as it is
to us, would have been to insure failure. Hence the
metamorphoses themselves occupy but a small part
of the book, which finds its real charm and beauty in
the brilliant episodes, for the introduction of which
they supply the occasion.

How far the idea was Ovid's own it is impossible to
say. Two Greek poets are known to have written on
the same subject. One of them was Meander, of Colo-
phon, in Asia Minor, an author of the second century
B.C., attached, it would seem, to the court of Per-
gamus, which, under the dynasty of the Attali, was a
famous centre of literary activity. Of his work, the
'Changes' (for so we may translate its Greek title),
only a few fragments are presei'ved, quite insufficient
to give us any idea of its merits or methods. Parthe-
nius, a native of the Bithynian J^icaea, so famous in
ecclesiastical history, may be credited with having
given some hints to the Eoman poet, — to whom,
indeed, as a contemporary,* and connected with
the great literary circle of Eome, he was probably
kno\m. Parthenius, we know on good authority,
taught the Greek language to Virgil, who conde-
scended to borrow at least one line from his pre-
ceptor. His ' Metamorphoses ' have entirely perished.

* Parthenius died at au advanced age, about the beginning
of the reign of Tiberius.


We have only the probability of the case to warrant
us in supposing that Ovid was under obligations to
him. Of these obligations, indeed, no ancient au-
thority sj)eaks ; and it is safe, probably, to conjecture
that they were inconsiderable — nothing, certainly,
like what Virgil owed to Homer, Hesiod, and

It would weary the reader, not to mention the space
which the execution of such a task would require, to
conduct him along the whole course of the metamor-
phoses — from the description of Chaos, with which the
poet begins, to the transformation of the murdered
Cfesar into a comet, with which, not follomng the
customary adulation to the successor of the great
Dictator, he concludes. Specimens must suffice ; and
the book is one which, better than any other great
poem that can be mentioned, specimens may ade-
quately represent.

The first book begins, as has been said, with a de-
scription of Chaos. " Nothing," says Bayle, in his
satirical fashion, " could be clearer and more intel-
ligible than this description, if we consider only the
poetical phrases ; but if we examine its philosophy,
we find it confused and contradictory — a chaos, in fact,
more hideous than that which he has described." Bayle,
however, looked for what the poet never pretended to
give. His cosmogony is, at least, as intelligible as
any other ; and it is expressed Avith marvellous force
of language, culminating in one of the noblest of the
poet's efl'orts, the description of the creation of man,
the crown and masterpiece of the newly-made world.

56 VI D.

" Something yet lacked — some holier being — dowered
With lofty soul, and capable of rule
And governance o'er all besides, — and Man
At last had birth : — whether from seed divine
Of Him, the artificer of things, and cause
Of the amended world, — or whether Earth
Yet new, and late from iEther separate, still
Retained some lingering germs of kindred Heaven,
Which wise Prometheus, with the plastic aid
Of water borrowed from the neighbouring stream,
Formed in the likeness of the all-ordering Gods ;
And, while all other creatures sought the ground
With doAvnward aspect grovelling, gave to man
His port sublime, and bade him scan, erect.
The heavens, and front with upward gaze the stars.
And thus earth's substance, rude and shapeless erst.
Transmuted took the novel form of Man." *

The four ages of the world thus created are de-
scribed ; and to the horrors of the last of these, the
Age of Iron, succeeds the tale of its crowning wicked-
ness — the attempt of the giants to scale the heights
of heaven. Jupiter smites down the assailants, and
the earth brings forth from their blood

" A race, of Gods
Contemptuous, prone to violence and lust
Of strife, and bloody-minded, born from blood."

Jupiter calls his feUow-gods to council, and they pass
to his hall along the way —

" Sublime, of milky whiteness, whence its name."

Two lines of Dryden's version are here worth quoting

" Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes
Beholds his own hereditary skies."


He inveighs against the enormities of man, recounting
what he had himseK witnessed when he had —

^' Putting off the God,
Disguised in human semblance walked the world."

Many shameful sights he had witnessed, but the
worst horror had met him in the hall of Lycaon, the
Arcadian king, who, after attempting to murder his
guest, had served up to him a feast of human flesh,
Lycaon, indeed, had paid the penalty of his crime : —

" Terror-struck he fled,
And through the silence of the distant plains
Wild howling, vainly strove for human voice.
His maddened soul his form infects : — his arms
To legs are changed, his robes to shaggy hide ; —
Glutting on helpless flocks his ancient lust
Of blood, a wolf lie prowls, — retaining still
Some traces of his earlier self, — the same
Grey fell of hair — the red fierce glare of eye
And savage mouth, — alike in beast and man !"

But a wider vengeance was needed. The whole race
of man must be swept away. Thus we come to a
description of the deluge. Of all mankind, two only
are left, — Deucalion, son of Prometheus, and Pyrrha,
daughter of the brother Titan Epimetheus —

" Than he no better, juster man had hved ;
Than she no woman hoher."

Seeking to know how the earth may be replenished
with the race of man, they receive the mysterious com-
mand —

" Behind you fling your mighty Mother's bones ! "

58 OVID.

Deucalion, as becomes the sou of so sagacious a father,
discovers its meaning. The " mighty mother " is earth,
the stones are her bones.

" They descend
The mount, and, with veiled head and vest ungivt,
Behind them, as commanded, flmg the stones.
And lo ! — a tale past credence, did not all
Antiquity attest it true, — the stones
Their natural rigour lose, by slow degrees
Softening and softerung into form ; and grow,
And swell with milder nature, and assume
Eude semblance of a human shape, not yet
Distinct, but like some statue new-conceived
And half expressed in marble. What they hud
Of moist or earthy in their substance, turns
To flesh : — what solid and inflexible
Forms into bones : — then veins as veins remain : —
Till, in brief time, and by the Immortals' grace,
The man-tossed pebbles live and stand up men.
And women from the woman's cast revive.

So sprang our hard enduring race, which speaks
Its origin — fit fruit of such a stock."

But while man was thus created —

" All other life in various shapes the Earth
Spontaneous l)are, soon as the Sun had kissed
Her bosom yet undried, and mud and marsh
Stirred with ferment."

Among these creatures, equivalents of the monstrous
saurians of modern geological science, springs

" Huge Python, serpent-prodigy, the dread
Of the new world, o'er half the mountain's side
Enormous coiled. But him the Archer-God,
"With all his quiver's store of shafts, untried


Till now oil aught save deer or niiuble gout,
Smote to the death, and from a thousand wounds
Drained the black torrent of his poisonous gore ; —
And, that the memory of the deed might live
Through after-time, his famous festival
And Pythian contest, from the monster's name
So called, ordained."

Flushed with his victory over the monster, Apollo
meets Cupid, and asks him what right he has to such
a manly weapon as the bow. Cupid retaliates by a
shaft which sets the Sun-God's heart on fire with a
passion for Daphne, daughter of Peneus, fairest antl
chastest of nymphs. She flies from his pursuit, and,
when flight is ineffectual, is changed at her own
j^rayer into a laurel. The god makes the best of his
defeat ; —

" ' And if,' he cries,
' Thou canst not now my consort be, at least
My tree thou shcdt be ! Still thy leaves shall crown
Lly locks, my lyre, my quiver. Thine the brows
Of Latium's lords to wreathe, what time the voice
Of Eome salutes tlie trimnj)h, and the pomp
• Of long procession scales the Capitol.
Before the gates Augustan shalt thou stand
Their hallowed guardian, high amid thy boughs
Bearing the crown to civic merit due : —
And, as my front with locks that know no steel
Is ever youthful, ever lie thine own
Thus verdant, with the changing year unchanged ! ' "

The news of the strange event spreads far and wide,
and to Peneus

" Throng
The brother-Powers of all the neighbour-floods,

60 VI D.

Doubtful or to congratulate or condole
The parent's hap."

One only was absent, Inachus,

" Whom grief
Held absent, in his cave's recess, with tears
His flood augmenting."

(One of the frigid conceits with which Ovid often
betrays a faulty taste.) His grief was for his daughter
lo, whom he has lost, changed by Juno into a heifer.
The feelings of the transformed maiden are told with
some pathos.

" By the loved banks she strays
Of Inachus, her childhood's happy haunt,
And in the stream strange horns reflected views,
Back-shuddering at the sight. The Naiads see
And know her not : — nor Inachus himself
Can recognise his child, — though close her sire
She follows — close her sister-band,' — and courts
Their praise, and joys to feel their fondling hands.
Some gathered herbs her father profilers — mute,
She licks and wets with tears his honoured palm.
And longs for words to ask his aid, and tell
Her name, her sorrows."

She contrives to tell her tale in letters scraped by
her hoof. Then Argus, the hundred-eyed herdsman,
to whom Juno has committed her, drives her to
other pastures. Then Mercury finds him, charms
him to slumber with the song of Syrinx, transformed
into a reed to escape the love of Pan, and then slays


" So waned at once
The light which filled so many eyes ; one night
Closed all the hundred. But Saturnia's care
Later renewed their fires, and bade them shine,
Gem-like, amid the peacock's radiant plumes."

In Egypt, lo gives birth to her son Epaphus, and
Epaphus, growing up, has among his companions one
Phaeton, —

" Apollo's child, whom once, with boastful tongue.
Vaunting liis birth divdne, and claiming rank
Superior, the Inachian checked "

with the taunt that his divine parentage was all a fable.
The furious youth seeks his mother, and demands
whether the story is true. It is, she says; and she bids
him seek the Sun-God himself, and hear the truth from
his lips. The famous description of the Sun-God's
palace follows : —

" Sublime on lofty columns, bright with gold
And fiery carbuncle, its roof inlaid
With ivory, rose the Palace of the Sun,
Approached by folding gates mth silver sheen
Radiant ; material priceless, — yet less prized
For its own worth than what the cunning head
Of Mulciber thereon had -wTought, — the globe
Of Earth, — the Seas that wash it round, — the Skies
That overhang it. 'Mid the waters played
Their Gods cserulean. Triton with his horn
Was there, and Proteus of the shifting shape,
And old ^geon, curbing ^vith firm hand
The monsters of the deep. Her Nereids there
Round Doris sported, seeming, some to swim,
Some on the rocks their tresses green to dry,

62 viD.

Some dolphin-borne to ride ; nor all in face

The same, nor dilFerent ; — so should sisters be.

Earth showed lier men, and towns, and woods, and beasts,

And streams, and nymphs, and rural deities :

And over all the mimic Heaven was bright

With the twelve Zodiac signs, on either valve

Of the great portal figured, — six on each."

Phaeton begs his father to confirm his word by grant-
ing any boon that he may ask ; and, the god consent-
ing, asks that he may drive his chariot for a day.
Phaeton is the stock example of " fiery ambition o'er-
vaulting itself •" and the story of his fall may be passed
over, though it abounds with passages of splendid de-
scription. Eridani;s or Po receives the fallen char-
ioteer. His weeping sisters are transformed into
poplars on its banl^s.

" But yet tliey weep : — and, in the Sun, their tears
To amber harden, by the clear stream caught
And borne, the gaud and grace of Latian maids."

We have reached the middle of the second out of
fifteen books. We will try their quality at another

Perseus, son of Jupiter, is on his travels, mounted
on the winged steed Pegasus, and armed with the
head of the Gorgon Medusa. He comes to the house
of Atlas, " hugest of the human race " —

" To whom the bounds
Of Earth and Sea were subject, where the Sun
Downward to Ocean guides his panting steeds
And in the waves his cdowincf axle cools."


He asks shelter and hospitality ; but the Titan, mind-
ful of how Theseus had told him how a son of Jupiter
should one day rob him of his orchard's golden fruit,
refuses the boon. The indignant hero cries —

" ' Then take
From me this gift at parting ! ' and his look
Askance he tinned, and from his left arm flashed
Full upon Atlas' face the Gorgon-Head,
With all its horrors : — and the Giant-King
A Giant mountain stood ! His beard, his hair
Were forests : — into crags his shoidders spread
And arms : — his head the crowning summit towered : —
His bones were granite. So the Fates fulfilled
Their best ; — and all his huge proportions swelled
To vaster bulk, and ample to support
The incumbent weight of Heaven and all its Stars."

Perseus pursues his journey, and reaches the Lybian
shore, where the beautiful Andromeda is chained to a
rock, to expiate by becoming the sea-monster's prey
her mother's foolish boast of beauty.

" Bound by her white arms to the rugged rocks
The Maid he saw : — and were't not for the breeze
That gave her tresses motion, and the tears
That trickled do^\^^ her pallid cheeks, — had sine
Some marble statue deemed."

The reader may like to see how a modern poet has
treated the same subject. It is Perseus who speaks : —

" From afar, unknowhig, I marked thee,
Shining, a snow-white cross on the dark-green walls of

the sea-cliff ;
Carven in marble I deemed thee, a perfect work of the


64 viD.

Likeness of Amphitrite, or far-famed Queen Cytherea.
Curious I came, till I saw how thy tresses streamed in the

Glistening, black as the night, and thy lips moved slow in

thy wailing."

Mr Kingsley's hero delivers the maiden, trusting to
her for his reward. Ovid's Perseus, less chivalrous,
perhaps, but more in accordance with ancient modes
of thought, bargains "with her father and mother that
he shall have her for his wife, before he begins the
conflict with the destroyer. On the other hand, it may
be placed to his credit that he slays the beast with
his falchion, Avithout recourse to the terrible power of
the Gorgon head. Ovid's taste seems a little in fault
in the next passage. Perseus wraps up his dangerous
weapon in sea-weed, which freezes, and stiffens at its
touch into stony leaf and stalk. The sea-nymphs, in
delight, repeat the experiment, sow " th6 novel seeds "
about their realm, and so produce the coral. To us it
seems a puerile conceit, diminishing the beauty of a
noble legend. Ovid, probably, thought only of com-
pleting his work, by introducing every fable of trans-
formation he could find.

After victory comes due sacrifice to the gods, and
then Cepheus makes the marriage-feast for his daughter.

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