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The name having been thus accounted for, astro-
nomical occurrences, religious ceremonies, matters of
ritual, the anniversaries of the dedications of temples
and altars, and the like, are duly recorded, the poet
availing himself of every opportunity to introduce
some historical or mythological legend. They are the
most attractive part of the work, for Ovid is always
happy in narrative. Among the most noticeable of
the historical class is the tale of the three hundred and
six Fabii who fell on the plains of Veii, in the battle
of the Cremera, fighting with an heroic courage, in
which Eoman patriotism found a match for the great
deed of Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans at
Thermopylre. Indeed, though it would be rash to
deny altogether the genuineness of the narrative, there
is something suspicious about the Eoman legend. The
historians of Eome had indeed a singular power of
embellishment and invention, and it is not doing
them any injustice to suppose that the original story,
whatever it may have been, grew somewhat beneath
their hands. The legend, to which the reader may
give such credence as he pleases, runs thus : —

In the early days of the Commonwealth, Eome was
troubled much by dissension at home, and by the
attacks of her Etruscan neighbours on the north. The
great house of the Fabii had fallen into disfavour
with their countrymen. What could they do better
than at once rid the city of a presence which was no


longer welcome, while they served their country by
attacking its enemies abroad 1 So they go forth, a little
band, wholly composed of men of the Fabian race.
" One house," says the poet, " had taken on itself
the whole might and burden of Eome : any one of
them was worthy to be a commander." They cross
the Creraera, one of the tributaries of the Tiber, a
little stream then swollen by the melting of the snows
of winter. The enemy fly before them ; they pene-
trate into a wooded plain well fitted for the treacher-
ous ambuscade. " "Whither do ye rush, noble
house] to your peril do you trust the foe. Simple-
hearted nobility, beware of the weapons of treachery !"
All in a moment the enemy issue from the woods, and
escape is utterly cut off. " "What can a few brave
heroes do against so many thousands ? "What resource
is left them in so dire a crisis 1 " But the Fabii did
not die unavenged : " as the boar in the forests of
Laurentum, when at last brought to bay, deals havoc
among the hounds," so these intrepid warriors fall
amid a multitude of slain foes. " Thus," as the poet
says, " a single day sent forth all the Fabii to the
war; a single day destroyed them all." But one of
the family was left, a stripling, who could not as yet
bear arms. This was a special providence. The gods
took care that the house descended from Hercules
should not be utterly extinguished. It had a great
destiny before it. " The stripling was preserved," the
poet says, " that he who was surnamed Maximus, as
Hannibal's formidable antagonist, might hereafter be
born," the man who, by his policy of delay {cundando,
A.C.S.S.. vol. ii. G

98 OVID.

whence his surname of Cunctator), was to restore the
fortunes of Rome.

Another well-told legend is that of the translation *
and deification of Eomulus, " When his father,
mighty in arms, saw the new walls of the city com-
pleted, and many a war ended by his son's prowess,
he uttered this prayer to Jupiter : ' Rome's power now
is firmly planted; she needs not my child's help.
Restore the son to the father ; though one has per-
ished, I shall still have one left me in his own stead
and in the stead of Remus. There will be one for
thee to raise to the azure vault of heaven : thou hast
spoken the word ; Jove's word must be fvdfilled.' "
The prayer was at once granted, and, amid parting
clouds, the king, while he was in the act of adminis-
tering justice to his people, was carried up with peals
of thunder and lightning-flashes into the heavens, on
his father's steeds. The grief of Rome was solaced
by a vision of the departed hero, who appeared to one
of the Julii as he was on his way from Alba Longa.
" Suddenly, with a crash, the clouds on his left hand
parted asunder ; he drew back, and his hair stood on
end. Romulus seemed to stand before him — a grand
and more than human figure, adorned with the robe
of state. He seemed to say, Forbid Rome's citizens
to mourn ; their tears must not insult my divinity.
Let them offer incense and worship a new god, Quiri-
nus, and pursue their country's arts and the soldier's

* Book ii. 481.


Sometimes the poet takes his readers into the ob-
scurer bypaths of the old Italian mythology. These
portions of the ' Fasti ' have an interest for scholars,
though it Avould appear that Ovid had by no means a
profound or philosophical acquaintance with the reli-
gion of his ancestors. We meet with the names of
divinities which, to the ordinary reader, are altogether
unfamiliar. Such a name is that of Anna Perenua, a
deified sister of the Phoenician Dido, according to the
accounts both of Virgil and Ovid. She was a river-
nymph, and to this her name Perenna (everlasting)
was meant to point. Her story * is related at great
length by Ovid. Her yearly festival, it appears, was
celebrated on the Ides of March, and was a somewhat
grotesque ceremony. The populace had a sort of pic-
nic on the grassy banks of the Tiber, and indulged
themselves very freely. Indeed there was a distinct
motive to drink without stint, as it was the custom to
pray for as many years of life as they had drunk cups
of wine. The connection between the two is not to
us very obvious ; but, if we may trust Ovid, there
were those who wovdd drink out the years of the long-
lived ^Jfestor in the hope of attaining that worthy's
age. Some, too, to judge from the number of their
cups, deserved to rival the Sibyl in longevity. There
they sang all the songs they had heard at the theatre,
and having drunk and sung to their heart's content,
they had a merry dance. One is not surprised to hear
that many of them cut sorry figures on their return

* Book iii. 523.

100 OVID.

home. " I lately met them," says our poet ; " a
drunken old woman was dragging along a drunken
old man." Let us hope their prayer for a long life
was answered. He ends his account of this Anna
Perenna with an amusing little story about her.
When she had been made a goddess, Mars paid her a
visit, and had some private conversation with her.
" You are worshipped," he said, " in my month ; I
have great hopes from your kind assistance. I am on
fire with love of Minerva ; we both of us bear arms,
and long have I been cherishing my passion. Contrive
that, as we follow the same pursuit, we may be united.
The part well becomes you, good-natured old
woman ! " Anna professed her Avillingness to help
the god of war, and undertook the delicate business of
arranging a meeting. However, for a time she put
him off with promises ; but at last the ardent lover
was, as he thought, to be gratified. So the god hur-
ried off' to meet the object of his affections ; but when
in his impatience he raised her veil, and was about to
snatch a kiss, he found that Anna had played him a
trick, and had dressed herself up as Minerva. He was
naturally angry and ashamed of himself, all the more so
as the new goddess laughed him to scorn, and as his
old flame Venus thoroughly enjoyed the joke. It ap-
pears that this legendary hoax, which Ovid tells in
his best way, gave occasion to a number of sly and
humorous sayings among the merry people on the
banks of the Tiber. It was, no doubt, great fun for
them to think of the august deity to whom their city


owed its founder and first king, having been " sold "
in such a fashion.

It will be seen from this instance that Ovid knew
Iiow to relieve what might seem a dry subject with a
feAv light touches. His ' Fasti ' have many amusing as
well as beautiful passages, and strikingly illustrate his
consummate skill in versified narrative.



A WELL-KNOWN paragraph of Gibbon's great work de-
scribes the hopeless condition of any one who sought
to fly from the anger of the man who ruled the Komau
world, and to whom, in right of that rule, all human civ-
ilisation belonged. The fugitive could not hide himself
within its limits ; and to seek escape among the savage
and hostile tribes which lay beyond them was an idea
too horrible, if it had not been too preposterous, to
entertain. The historian illustrates his remarks by
the example of Ovid. " He received an order to leave
Home in so many days, and to transport himself to
Tomi. Guards and jailers were unnecessary." But a
culprit visited with the severer forms of the punish-
ment of exile would have been more carefully watched.
Such persons were commonly escorted to the selected
spot by a centurion whom, in more than one instance,
we find privately instructed to inflict the capital pen-
alty which the name of exile had only veiled. But
the concession which, in the case of the milder sen-
tence, mitigated the harshness of the punishment,
rendered such custody needless. The banished person


■was then permitted to retain the income of his pro-
perty, and the permission was an effectual tie to the
place in which alone that income M-ould be paid to

Another proof of what has been urged in a pre-
vious chapter, that Ovid had no dangerous secrets in
his keeping, may be found in the prolonged period
which was allowed him to prepare for his banishment.
So prolonged was it, he tells us in his own account of
his final departure from his home, that he had suffered
himself to forget the inevitable end, and was at last
taken by surprise. The whole account is eminently
graphic and not a little pathetic, and it shall be given
as nearly as possible in the poet's own words : —

" When there starts up before me the sad, sad picture of
that night which was the last of my life in Eome, when
I remember the night on -which I left so many of my treas-
ures, even now the tear falls from my eyes. The day had
almost come on which Caesar liad bid me pass beyond the
farthest limits of Italy. But I had not had the thought of
preparation. Nay, the very time had been against me : so
long the delay, that my heart had grown slothful at the
thought of it. I had taken no pains to select my slaves,
or to choose a companion, or to procure the clothing or
the money that a banished man required. I was as dazed
as one who, struck by the bolts of Jupiter, lives, but is all
unconscious of his life. But when my very grief had
cleared away the mist from my soul, and I was at last my-
self again, I addressed for the last time ere my departui-e
my sorrowing friends, — there were but one or two out of
all the crowd. My loving wife clasped me close ; bitter my
tears, still bitterer hers, as they ever poured down her inno-
cent cheeks. My daughter was far away on African shores,

104 OVID.

iind could not have heard of her father's fate. Look where
you would, there was wailing and groaning, and all the
semblance of a funeral, clamorous in its grief. !My fune-
I'al it was ; husband and wife and the very slaves were
mourners ; every corner of my house was full of tears.
Such — if one may use a great example for a little matter —
such was the aspect of Troy in its hour of cajiture. And
now the voices of men and dogs 'were growing still, and the
moon was guiding high in heaven the steeds of night. As
I regarded it, and saw in its light the two summits of the
Capitol, — the Capitol that adjoined but did not protect my
home, — ' Powers,' I cried, ' who dwell in these neighbouring
.shrines, and temples that my eyes may never look upon
again, and ye gods, dwelling in the lofty city of Romulus,
gods whom now I must leave, take my farewell for ever !
Too late, indeed, and already wounded, I snatch \\\\ the
shield ; yet acquit, I i^ray, my banishment of an odious
crime ; and tell the human denizen of heaven * what was
the error that deceived me, lest he think it a crime rather
than a mistake ; tell it that the author of my punishment
may see the truth which you know. My god once propi-
tiated, I shall be wretched no longer.' These were the
prayers that I addressed to heaven ; my wife, with sobs that
stojipcd her words half-way, spoke many more. She, too,
before our home-gods threw herself with dishevelled hair,
and touched with trembling lips our extinguished hearth.
Many a prayer she poured out in vain to their hostile deity,
words that might avail naught for the husband whom she
mourned. And now night, hurrying down the steep, for-
bade further delay, and the Bear of Arcady had traversed
half the sky. Wliat could l! do ? Tender love for my
country held me fast ; but that night was the last before
my doom of banishment. Ah ! how often would I say,
when some one would bid me haste, ' Why hurry me ?
think whither you would hasten my steps, and whither I

* Aiwiistus.


must go ! ' Ah ! how often did I pretend to liave settled on
.some certain hour which woukl suit my jnirposed voyage !
Thrice I touched the threshokl,* thrice I was called back ;
my very feet, as if to indulge my heart, lingered on their
way. Often, farewell once spoken, I said many a word ;
often, as if I was really departing, I bestowed my last kisses.
Often I gave the same commands ; I cheated my own
self, as I looked on the pledges so dear to my eyes. And
then, ' Why do I hasten l It is Scythia to which I am
being sent ; it is Eome which I have to leave ; both jus-
tify delay. My wife is refused to me for ever, and yet
we both live; my family and the dear member of that
faithful family; yes, and you, my companions, whom
I loved with a brother's love, hearts joined to mine
\\\i\\ the loyalty of a Theseus ! while I may, I embrace
you ; perchance I may never do so again ; the hour that
is allowed me is so much gain.' It is the end : I leave
my words unfinished, while I embrace in heart all that
is dearest to me. While I speak, and we all Aveep, bright
shining in the height of heaven, Lucifer, fatal star to us,
had risen ; I am rent in twain, as much as if I were
leaving my limbs behind; one joart of my very frame
seemed to be torn from the other. Sucli was the agony of
]Mettus when he found the avengers of his treachery in the
steeds driven opposite ways. Then rose on high the cries
and the groanings of my household, then the hands of
mourners beat uncovered breasts, and then my wife, cling-
ing to my shoulder as I turned away, mmgled with her
tears these mournful words : ' You cannot be torn from
me ; together, ah ! together will we go. I will follow you ;
an exile myself, I will be an exile's wife. For me too is
the journey settled ; me too that distant land shall receive ;
'tis but a small burden that will be added to the exile's bark.
'Tis the A\Tath of Caesar that bids thee leave thy country —

* To touch the threshold with the foot in crossing it was
considered unhieky.

106 OVID.

'tis love that bids me ; love shall be in Caesar's place.'
Such was lier endeavour, — such had been her endeavour
before ; scarcely would she surrender, overpowered by ex-
pediency. I go forth ; it was rather being carried forth
without the funeral pomp ; I go all haggard, with hair
drooping over unshaven face ; and she, they tell me, as in
her grief for me the mist rose all before her, fell fainting
in the midst of the dwelling ; and when, her hair all
smirched with the unseemly dust, she rose again, lifting
her limbs from the cold ground, she bewailed now herself,
now her deserted hearth, and called again and again the
name of her lost husband, and groaned, not less than had
she seen the high-built funeral pile claim her daughter's
body or mine. Gladly would she have died, and lost all
feeling in death ; and yet she lost it not, out of thought for
me. Long may she live ; live, and ever help with her aid
her absent — so the Fates will have it — her absent hus-
band.''— The ' Sorrows,' i. 3.

It was in the month of December that the poet left
Rome. One faithful friend, the Fabius Maximus of
whom we have heard before, accompanied him. Fol-
lowing the Appian road to Brundusium, then, as after
many centuries it has become again, the usual route of
western travellers bound eastward, he crossed the
Adriatic. A fearful storm, not unusual at this season,
encountered him on his way ; and the indefatigable
poet describes it in his most elegant verse — too elegant,
indeed, to allow us to suppose that it was written, as
it claims to be, in the very midst of the peril. One
god was hostile to him. He does not forget his flat-
tery, and asks might not another (he means Augustus)
help him] So Minerva had helped Ulysses, while
Neptune sought to destroy him. But it seems vain


to pray ; the winds will not allow the prayers to reach
the gods to whom they are sent. How dreadful is
the sight ! — these waves that now reach the heavens,
now seem about to sink to hell. He can only be
thankful that his wife is not with him, and does not
know of his peril : —

" An exile's fate her pious tears deplore,
This is the woe she mourns, and knows no more ;
Knows not her spouse the angry waters' prey,
Tossed by wild winds, and near his latest day.
Kind Heaven, I thank thee, that she is not here,
Else death had chilled me with a double fear.
Now though I perish, this the Fates will give —
Still in my spirit's better half to live."

His terror did not prevent him from observing or ima-
gining that each tenth wave was especially formidable
— a fact which he states in an ingenious phrase that,
if it was really invented in the midst of the storm,
does special credit to its author : —

" Tlie ninth it follows, the eleventh precedes."

The tempest abated, and the poet reached his destina-
tion, Lechajum, the eastern harbour of " Corinth on
the two seas." Traversing the isthmus to the western
port, Cenchrea, he embarked again. This time he tells
us the name of his ship. The passage is notable as
one of the many instances in which our poet's felicitous
minuteness of description increases our knowledge of
antiquity. Nowhere else is the distinction drawn so
clearly between the union of the tutelary deity under
whose protection the ship was supposed to be, and the

108 OVID.

representation of the object from which, it got its
name. In tliis instance the vessel was called The
Helmet, and bore on its deck an image of '* Minerva
of the Yellow Locks." It took him, he tells us,
straight to tlie Troad, or north-western corner of Asia
Minor. Thence it sailed to Imbros, and from this
island again to Samothrace. It seems to have con-
tinued its voyage to the place of the poet's destination,
and to have conveyed thither his effects. Ovid him-
self took passage in a coasting vessel to tlie neighbour-
ing shore of Thrace, and made the rest of his journey

Tomi, or, as Ovid himself caUs it, Tomis, was a
city of Greek origin (it was a colony of Miletus),
situated on the western coast of the Black Sea, about
two hundred miles to the north of Byzantium. The
name may be rendered in English by The Cuts. Pos-
sibly it was derived from a canal or fosse cut to the
nearest point of the Danube, which here approaches,
just before making its last bend to the north, within
the distance of fifty miles. The so-called Trajan Wall
may be the remains of such a work, which probably
was intended for purposes of defence rather than of
commerce, though the project of a ship canal between
the two points has been mooted more than once.
The lively fancy of the poet found in the legend of
Medea a more romantic origin. The wicked princess,
who embodied the poet's conception of the Avild un-
scrupulous passion of the oriental character, had re-
sorted, when closely pursued in her flight, to a terrible
expedient. She slew her young brother Absyrtus, the


darling of the angry father who was following her.
His head she fixed on a prominent rock where it could
not escape the notice of the pursuers. His limbs she
scattered about the fields. She hoped, and not in
vain, that the parent's heart would bid him delay his
voyage till he had collected the human remains. It
Avas said that Tomi was the place where the deed was
done, and that its name preserved the tradition of its
horrible details.

The town is now called Kostendje, a corruption of
Constantina, a name which it received for the same
reason which changed Byzantium into Constanti-
nople. It was situated in the province of Lower
Mcesia. Though not exactly on the frontier, which
was here, nominally at least, the Danube, it was practi-
cally an outpost of the empire. The plain between it
and that river, a district now known by the name of
Dobrudscha, was open to the incursions of the unsub-
dued tribes from the further side of the Danube, who,
when they had contrived to effect the passage of the
river, found nothing to hinder them till they came
to the walls of Tomi.

Ovid describes the place of his exile in the gloomi-
est language. Such language, indeed, was natural in
the mouth of a Eoman. To him no charm of climate,
no beauty of scenery, no interest of historical asso-
ciation, coidd make a place endurable, while Eome,
the one place in the world which was worth dwelling
in, was forbidden to him. It might have been sup-
posed that travel in Greece would have been attractive
to Cicero, profoundly versed as he was in its philo-

110 OVID.

sophy and literature ; but he found it no consolation
for his banishment from Italy. And the younger
Seneca, whom we may almost call a professional philo-
sopher, found nothing to compensate him for enforced
absence from the capital in the exquisite scenery and
climate of Corsica, But Tomi, if its unfortunate in-
habitant is to be believed, combined in itself every
horror. It Avas in the near neighbourhood of savage
and barbarous tribes, and was safe from attack only
while the broad stream of the Danube flowed between
it and the enemy. The climate was terrible ; the
snow lay often unmelted for two years together. The
north wind blew with such fury that it levelled
buildings with the ground, or carried away their
roofs. The natives went about clad in garments of
skin, with their faces only exposed to the air. Their
hair, their beards, were covered Avith icicles. The very
wine froze : break the jar and it stood a solid lump ;
men took not draughts but bites of it. The rivers
were covered with ice ; the Danube itself, though it
was as broad as the Xile, was frozen from shore to shore,
and became a highway for horses and men. The sea
itself, incredible as it may seem, is frozen. " I," says
the poet, " have myself walked on it."

" Had such, Leander, been the sea
That flowed betwixt thy love and thee.
Never on Helles' narrow strait
Had come the scandal of thy fate."

" The dolphins cannot leap after their wont : let the
north wind rage as it will, it raises no waves. The
ships stand flrmly fixed as in stone, and the oar can-


not cleave the waters. You may see the very fish
bound fast in the ice, imprisoned but still alive. But
the worst of all the horrors of winter is the easy
access which it gives to the barbarian foe. Their
vast troops of cavalry, armed with the far-reaching
bow, scour the whole country. The rustics fly for
their lives, and leave their scanty provisions to be
plundered. Some, more unlucky, are carried off into
captivity ; some perish by the arrows which this cruel
enemy dips in poison. And all that the enemy cannot
carry or drive off, he burns."

It is difficult to suppose that some of these state-
ments are not exaggerated. The climate of Bulgaria
(the name which Lower Moesia has had since its inva-
sion by the Bulgarians in the seventh century) bears
little resemblance to that which Ovid describes. Ac-
cording to Humboldt's maps of the isothermal lines of
the world, it should have a temperature not unlike
that of northern Spain. Its soil is described as fer-
tile, and the vine is mentioned as one of its chief
products. The Danube is not frozen over in the
lower as it is in the upper parts of its course ; and
though the harbours of some of the Black Sea ports —
as, for instance, of Odessa — are sometimes blocked for
a part of the winter, the phenomenon is not known in

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