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feebled by morbid conditions of the body, was pro-
bably sincere. We can hardly believe as much of
what Ovid tells us of his own intentions about the
' Metamorphoses : ' "As for the verses which told
of the changed forms — an. unlucky work, which its
author's banishment interrupted — these in the hour of
my departure I put, sorrowing, as I put many other
of my good things, into the flames with my own
hands." Doubtless he did so ; nothing could have
more naturally displayed his vexation. But he could
hardly have been ignorant that in destroying his
manuscript he was not destroying his work. " As
they did not perish altogether," he adds, "but still
exist, I suppose that there were several copies of
them." But it is scarcely conceivable that a poem
containing as nearly as possible twelve thousand lines



THE METAMOBPHOSES. 81

should have existed in several copies by chance, or
Avithout the knowledge of the author. When he says
that the work never received liis final corrections,
we may believe him, though we do not perceive any
signs of imperfection. It is even possible that he
employed some of his time during his banishment in
giving some last touches to his verse.

However this may be, the work has been accepted
by posterity as second in rank — second only to Yirgil's
epic — among the great monuments of Eoman genius.
It has been translated into every language of modern
Europe that possesses a literature. Its astonishing
ingenuity, the unfailing variety of its colours, the
flexibility with which its style deals alike with the
sublime and the familiar, and with equal facility is
gay and pathetic, tender and terrible, have well en-
titled it to the honour, and justify the boast with
which the poet concludes : —

" So crown I here a work that dares defy
The wrath of Jove, the fire, the sword, the tooth
Of all-devoiu'mg Time ! — Come when it will
The day that ends my life's uncertain term, —
That on this corporal frame alone hath power
To work extinction, — liigh above the Stars
My nobler part shall soar, — my Name remain
Immortal, — wheresoe'er the might of Rome
Cerawes the subject Earth my Verse survive
Familiar in the mouths of men ! — and, if
A Bard may prophesy, while Time shall last
Endure, and die but yath. the dying World ! "



A.C.S.S., vol. ii.



CHAPTEE V.

THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR.

In a ricli and leisurely society the antiquarian has
usually little difficulty in gaining a hearing. So it
was at Rome, in the Augustan age. The study of the
national antiquities seems to have been a particularly
fashionable pursuit. Augustus, indeed, himself did
his best to encourage it. It was the dream of his life
to reawaken the old Eoman patriotism, and to kindle
in the men of his own day something like the senti-
ments of the past. The age might be frivolous and
luxurious ; but he knew well that the Eoman mind
was profoundly religious. There was all the machin-
ery of an elaborate ecclesiastical ritual, and it still
commanded respect. Augustus not only swayed the
armies of Eome — he was also supreme pontiff; and
no doubt any arrangement in which such a title had
been omitted, would have been felt to be imperfect.
In this capacity'' he could satisfy the vague and widely-
diffused popular notion which connected Eome's great-
ness with her rehgion. The gods had been neglected,
and their temples had fallen into decay during the
civil wars ; and we may Avell believe that Horace ex-



THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 83

pressed what was in the minds of many when he pro-
phesied dire judgments on the State unless the sacred
buildings were restored.* To this work the emperor
assiduously applied himself. He built temple after
temple, established priesthoods, and revived old reli-
gious ceremonials. Everywhere in the capital were
now to be seen the outward signs of piety and devo-
tion. Eeligion, in fact — its history, its ritual, all its
ancient associations — became subjects of popular inter-
est; and, as might be expected, a fashionable poet
could not do otherwise than recognise in his verses the
growth of this new taste among his countrymen. Nor
would he find any difficulty in doing so. A Eoman
could seldom be original, but, on the other hand, there
was scarcely anything for which a model could not be
found in Greek literature. Alexandria had long been
a famous Hterary centre, and its scholars and authors
had handled every conceivable subject, human and
divine. There, in the third century B. c, in the reigns
of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Ptolemy Euergetes, had
flourished CaUimachus, specially distinguished by his
attainments as a grammarian and critic. He was at
the head, as he no doubt well deserved to be, of the
great library of Alexandria, Unfortunately, of his
more learned works, which were on a vast scale, noth-
ing but the titles and a few meagre fragments have
come down to us. He was, however, a poet as well
as a scholar, and some of his poems, hymns, and epi-
grams have survived. It appears that they were
singularly popular, though, it must be admitted, they
* Odes, iii. 6.



84 VID.

remind us of the familiar proverb, " A poet is "bom, not
made." However, it is certain that the Roman poets
of the Augustan age liked them, and thought it worth
their while to imitate them. Catullus has done this in
his famous poem on the " Hair of Berenice." Propertius
even made it his aim to be a Eoman Callimachus, and
sometimes became intolerably obscure and affected in
the attempt. It need not surprise us that Ovid fol-
lowed in the wake of two such eminent men. He knew
the public for whom he was writing ; he knew, too,
what sort of poems would be approved by the emperor
and the court. A learned poem, dwelling on the old
worship of his country, and commemorating the glories
of its great families, would appeal successfully to a
wide circle of readers. For such a work he had a
model ready to his hand in an epic of Callimachus,
which appears to have given in detail a multitude of
myths and legends, with some account of old customs
and religious rites. This poem, which has not come
down to us, was entitled " Causes," and was, it may
be supposed, a learned poetical dissertation on the
cause or origin of the various beliefs current among
mankind, and of the outward forms in which they had
embodied themselves. It was this elaborate work
which Ovid undertook to imitate, and perhaps to
popularise. The result is the poem commonly known
as the * Fasti.'

We may describe this work as a sort of handbook
of the Eoman Calendar, or as a poetical almanac, or as
a ritual in verse. It gives, as Dean Merivale says,
" the seasons and reasons " of every special religious



THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 85

worsliip and ceremonial. The mythology of old Eome
and the legends of her heroes are worked, and worked
with wonderful success, into the texture of the
poem. "What in the hands of a mere Dryasdust
would have been intolerably wearisome and dull, be-
comes under Ovid's treatment the lightest and pleas-
antest of reading. The marvellous ease and dexterity
Avith which he turns his not always very plastic
materials into the smoothest and most graceful verse,
perpetually strikes a scholar with amazement. He
takes a story or a legend from some old annalist, and
tells it with a neatness and a finish which, in its
own way, has never been rivalled. This was a charm
which a Eoman must have appreciated better than we
can, but there were many other things which tended
to make the ' Fasti ' a thoroughly popular poem. It
must have been pleasant to an ordinary reader to
have picked -up a good deal of antiquarian lore in a
few hours of easy and delightful reading. The book
would continually have been in the hands of the
fashionable lady, who would tliink that it became her
position to know something about the meaning and
rationale of her religious observances. And we may
take for granted it would please Augustus. Anything
which familiarised the people with old beliefs and
traditions would be certain to have his hearty sym-
pathies. The poet too, of course, took care to extol
and magnify the great family of the Julii, and to hint
every now and then that Roman grandeur was provi-
dentially connected with their supremacy.

Such is the general idea and purpose of the poem.



86 VI D.

That it was begun, and in a great measure completed,
while the poet was still living at Eome, is beyond a
doubt. His misfortune (he is speaking of his banish-
ment) had, he says, interrupted his work. Like the
' Metamorphoses,' it was in an unfinished condition
when he was driven into exile, and it is probable that
he found employment and consolation in giving the
finishing touches to both works. Some portions were
certainly added during the last year of his life. In
one passage he deplores the remoteness of his Scythian
abode from his native Sulmo. In another, he speaks
of the triumph which had been granted to Caesar Ger-
manicus for his victories over the Cherusci, Chatti, and
Angrivarii — a triumph voted in a.d. 15, but not actu-
ally celebrated till two years afterwards. And a third
passage seems to aUude to a great work of temple res-
toration which the Emperor Tiberius brought to an
end in the latter year.

The poem, as we have it, is in six books ; originally
(of this there can hardly be a doubt) it consisted of
twelve, each month of the Roman calendar having a
book devoted to it. The calendar, like our own week,
had a religious basis. Some of the months took their
names from Roman divinities, March had been the
first month in the old calendar, according to which the
year was divided into ten months. The first Caesar,
who laid his reforming hand on everything, brought
his universal knowledge to bear on this intricate sub-
ject, and introduced a new arrangement by which the
year was henceforth to be made up of twelve months,
January being the first. Ovid represents the god Janus



THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 87

as visibly appearing to him, and explaining his origin
and attributes. A key is in his left hand, as a symbol
of his august office as the Beginner and Opener of all
things. He addresses Ovid as the " laborious poet of
the Days," and then unfolds his various mysterious
functions, and the meaning of the two faces which
were regarded as his appropriate representation.

The poet describes himself as encouraged to con-
tinue the dialogue. He wants to know why the year
should begin with cold, rather than what might seem
a more appropriate commencement, the warmth of
spring. He is told that it follows the sun, which now,
gathering strength and lengthening its coui'se, begins
a new existence. " "Why should not Kew-y ear's day
be a holiday ? " " We must not begin by setting an
example of idleness." Then, after other questions,
" What is the meaning of the customary gift of palm,
and dried figs, and honey in the white comb ? " " It is
well that the year, if it is to be sweet, should begin
with sweets." *' But why presents of money?" —

" He smiled. ' Strange fancies of your time you hold,
To think that honey is as sweet as gold !
Scarce one I knew in Saturn's golden reign,
Whose master-passion was not love of gain.
And still mth time it grew, and rules to-day
So widely, nothing can extend its sway.
Not thus were riches prized ia days of yore,
When Eome was new, and scant its people's store.
Then Mars' great son, a cottage o'er his head,
Of river-sedges made his narrow bed.
So small his temple, Jove could scarcely stand
Upright, his earthen thunder iu his hand.



88 VI D.

Undecked the shrines which now with jewels blaze ;
Each lord of council led his sheep to graze :
And felt no shame that sleej) should lap his head
With hay for pillow and with straw for bed.
Fresh from the plough the consul ruled the state,
And lined the OAvner of a j)ound * of plate.' "

And so the god goes on inveighing against the univer-
sal greed of gain, though he owns himself in the end
not averse to the more sumptuous manners of modern
days : —

" Bronze once they gave ; now bronze gives place to gold,
And the new money supersedes the old.
We too — we praise the past, yet love a shrine
Of gold ; — gold suits the majesty divine."

Janus then explains the significance of the emblems
on the coins that were given on his festival. The double
head on one side was his own likeness ; the ship on
the reverse was the memorial of that which in old
time had borne Saturn, expelled from the throne of
heaven, to his kingdom in Italy. A description of his
happy reign follows, and then an antiquarian explan-
ation of the situation of his temple, opening, as it did,
on the two market-places of Rome — the cattle-market
and the Forum properly so called. The last question
which the curiosity of the poet suggests refers to the
well-known custom which kept the temple open when
the State was at war, and shut it on the rare occa-
sions (three only are recorded as having occurred dur-

* The real quantity allowed was five pounds; but the trans-
lation fairly represents the exaggeration of the original.



THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 89

ing the time of the Commonwealth) when it was at

peace : —

" ' In war, all bolts drawn back, my portals stand,
Open for hosts that seek their native land ;
In peace, fast closed, they bar the outward way,
And stUl shall bar it under Caesar's sway.'
He spake : before, behind, his double gaze
All that the world contained at once surveys ;
And all was peace ; for now with conquered wave.
The Khine, Germanicus, thy triumph gave.
Peace and the friends of peace immortal make,
Nor let the lord of earth his work forsake ! "

Under the same day, the first of January, is recorded the
dedication of the temples of Jupiter and ^sculapius.
Under the fifth is noted the setting of the constellation
of Cancer — information which the poet tells us he
means to give whenever occasion demands. Five other
days of the month are similarly distinguished. On
the eleventh of January occurs the festival of the
Agonalia, and Ovid takes the opportunity to display
his etymological learning in accounting for the name.
"Was it given because the priest, as he stood ready
to smite the victim, said, " Shall I strike 1 " (Agone ?)
or because the beasts do not come of their own
accord, but are driven (aguntur) to the sacrifice ? Or
is the word Agnalia {the sacrifice of lambs) with the
" o" inserted 1 or does it come from the agony with
which the victim sees the shadow of the sacrificial
knife in the water 1 or is it derived from the Greek
word for the games {agones) which formed part of
the festival in old times] Ovid's own view is that



90 VID.

agonia was an old word for the animals which it was
customary to sacrifice. "With characteristic ingenuity,
he digresses into an elegant history of the growth ot
sacrifice. Meal and salt sufiiced for the simple offer-
ings of early days. No spices then had come from
across the sea. Savin and the crackling bay-leaf gave
perfume enough ; and it was only the wealthy who
could add violets to the garlands of wild flowers.
The earliest victim was the pig, which was sacrificed
to Ceres, in punishment for the injury that he did to
the crops under her protection. Warned by his fate,
the goat should have spared the vine-shoots ; but he
offended, and fell a victim to the wrath of Bacchus.
The pig and the goat were guilty. But how had the
ox and the sheep offended 1 The ox first suffered
at the bidding of Proteus, from whom the shepherd
Aristteus, disconsolate at the loss of his bees, learnt
that a carcass buried in the ground would furnish him
with a new supply.* The sheep was guilty, it would
seem, of eating the sacred herb vervain. What animal
could hope to escape, when the ox and the sheep
perished? The Sun-god demanded the horse, swiftest
of animals ; Diana, the hind, which once had been
made the substitute for the maiden Iphigenia.t " I

* This notion that the corruption of animal matter would
produce bees seems to have been a serious belief among the
ancients. Virgil, who writes about bees as if he really knew
something of the subject, recommends the process with ap-
parent seriousness, though it is possible that he used it as a
convenient inti'oduction for the legend of Aristaius, with its
beautiful episode of Orpheus and Eurydice.

t The feeling of later times revolted against the legend which



THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 91

myself," says Ovid, "have seen the wild tribes who
dwell near the snow of Haemus sacrifice the dog to
Hecate." Even the ass falls a Adctim to Silenus, who
could never forgive him for an untimely bray. Birds
suffer, because they reveal the counsels of the gods by
the indications of the future which soothsayers detect
in their movements and their cries. The goose is
not protected by the service which he did to Eome
in wakening the defenders of the Capitol. And the
cock, who summons the day, is made an offering to
the Goddess of Night.

The thirteenth of the month introduces the story of
Evander, one of the graceful narrations with which
Ovid relieves the antiquarian details of the 'Fasti.'
Evander is indeed a conspicuous personage in Italian
legend. An Arcadian prince, banished in early youth
from his native land, but not for any fault of his own,
he had settled in Italy many years before the Trojan
war. He was in extreme old age when ^neas, carry-
ing with him the fortunes of the future Eome, landed
on the Latian shore ; and he gave to the struggle the
support of his first alliance. Virgil in his great epic
has made a copious use of the story. The voyage of
the Trojan chief up the unknown stream of Tiber to
the homely court of the Arcadian king, his hospitable
reception, the valour and untimely death of the young
Pallas, who leads his father's troops to fight by the

represented Iphigenia as really sacrificed to appease the powers
■whicli hindered lier father's enterprise. Just so we find the
story of Jephthah's vow softened down to something less bar-
barous.



92 viD.

side of the destined heirs of Italy, furnish some of tlie
most striking scenes in the '/Eneid.' Ovid, in describ-
ing Evander's arrival in Italy, puts into his mouth a
prophecy of the future greatness of Eome, which with
characteristic dexterity he turns into elaborate flattery
of Tiberius and Livia, the emperor's mother. This
passage, which, it is evident, was written after the
death of Augustus, is one of the many proofs that
the Fasti were kept under revision until close upon the
end of the poet's life. To the legend of Evander is
attached the story of Hercules and Cacus. Eoman
"writers were anxious to make their own country the
scene of some of the wondrous exploits of the great
"knight-errant" of antiquity. The tale ran as fol-
lows : —

Somewhere near the strait which joins the Atlantic
to the Inner Sea dwelt Geryones, a hideous monster
with triple body, master of a herd of oxen of fabulous
beaut3\ Him the wandering Hercules slew, and driv-
ing the cattle homewards to Argos, found himself —
having, it would seem, somewhat lost his way — near
Evander's city, on the banks of Tiber. He was hos-
pitably entertained by the Arcadian ; and his cattle
meanwhile wandered at their will over the fields.
Next morning he missed two of the bulls. It seemed
in vain to search for them. They had been stolen,
indeed, but the robber had dragged them tail-foremost
into his cave, and the device was sufficient to puzzle
the simple-minded hero. The robber was Cacus, the
terror of the Aventine forest, a son of Vulcan, huge of
frame, and strong as he was huge, whose dwelling was



THE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 93

in a cave, which even the wikl beasts could hardly
find, its entrance hideous with limbs and heads of
men, and its floor white with human bones. Hercules
was about to depart, when the bellowing of the im-
prisoned oxen reached him. Guided by the sound,
he found the cave. Cacus had blocked the entrance
with a large mass of rock, which even five yoke of
oxen could scarcely have stirred. But the shoulders
that had supported the heavens were equal to the
task. The rock gave way, and the robber had to fight
for his prey and his life. First with fists, then with
stones and sticks he fought, and finding himself worst-
ed, had recourse to his father's aid, and vomited forth
fire in the face of the foe. All was in vain ; the
knotted club descended, and the monster fell dying
on the ground. The victor sacrificed one of the cattle
to Jupiter, and left a memorial of himself in the ox-
market, the name of which was traced, not to the
commonplace explanation of its use, but to the animal
which the victorious son of Jupiter had there sacrificed
to his sire.

What remains in the book may be passed over with
brief notice. The thirteenth of the month was dis-
tinguished as the day on which Augustus had amused
the Eoman people, and gratified his own passion for
veiling despotism under republican forms, by restoring
to the senate the control of the provinces in which
peace had been restored. On the eighteenth was com-
memorated the dedication of the Temple of Concord,
first made when Camillus had reconciled contending
orders in the State, and renewed by Tiberius after



94 viD.

completing liis German conquests. A memorable holi-
day, that of the " sowing day," was fixed at the dis-
cretion of tlie pontiff, near the end of the month. The
thirtieth commemorated the dedication of the altar
to Peace, and afforded the poet yet another oppor-
tunity of offering his homage to the house of Au-
gustus : —

" Her tresses hound with Actium's * crown of bay.
Peace comes ; in all the world, sweet goddess, stay !_
Her altar flames, ye priests, with incense feed,
Bid 'neatli the axe the snow-white victim bleed !
Pray willing heaven, that Csesar's house may stand,
Long as the peace it gives a wearied land ! "

It would weary the reader, even did space per-
mit, to go in like detail through the poet's account
of each month. He begins each with an attempt
to determine the etymology of its name. That of
February, he tells us, was to be found in the word
fehrua, a name given by the Eomans of old to certain
offerings of a purifying and expiatory nature used at
this time. The purification of the flocks and herds,
as well as of human beings, was a very important
element in the religious life of Rome ; and the words
lustrum and lustratio, which denote certain forms of
purification, are well known to every student of
Roman history. February is therefore the " purifying "

* At the battle of Actium (fought B.C. 31) the civil wars
which liad raged at intervals for more than sixty years were
brought to a final close by the victory of Octavius Cffisar over
his rival Antony.



TEE FASTI, OR ROMAN CALENDAR. 95

month; and its name thus testifies to a widespread
belief in the need of cleansing and expiation. !March,
of course, takes its name from the god Mars, the
father of Rome's legendary founder. For April the
poet gives a fanciful etymology. " Spring," he says,
"opens" {ciperit) "all things;" and so, he adds, "April,
according to tradition, means the ' open ' time " {aper-
tum temjms). It is the time of love ; and Venus dur-
ing this month is in the ascendant, " the goddess who
is all-powerful in earth, in heaven, in sea." For the
next month, May, Ovid confesses that he has no
satisfactory theory to offer as to its name. He sug-
gests that it is formed from the root of 7najor and
majestas. " May," he says, " is the month for old
men; and its special function is to teach the young
reverence for age. " Majestas," indeed, was regarded,
after Eoman fashion — which delighted in real personi-
fications — as a divinity, whom Eomulus and INuma
worshipped as the upholder of filial reverence and
ohedience, and also as the rightful disposer of the
offices and honours of the State in their due order.
"With this divinity the month of May was associated.
June is Juno's month, though Ovid admits that the
explanation is doubtful. He represents the goddess
as appearing to him in a secluded grove when he was
pondering within himself on the origin of the name.
She tells him that, as he has undertaken to celebrate
in his verse the religious festivals of Rome, he has
thereby won for himself the privilege of beholding
the divine essence. As she Avas both the wife and
sister of Jupiter, her month would speak to the public



96 OVID.

of Eome of the marriage-tie and of family- bonds.
"With the sixth book the Fasti, as we have them,
come to an end.


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