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of his banishment, therefore, would be drawing to a
close in March, a.d. 12, when he was about to com-
plete his fifty-fourth year.



CHAPTEE VIII.

T HE POEMS OP EXILE : THE LETTERS FROM THE P0XTU3
DEATH OF OVID.

The * Letters ' number forty -four in all, aud are con-
tained in four books. They are arranged in chrono-
logical order — an order, however, which is not abso-
lutely exact. The earliest of them dates from the same
year to which the fifth book of the ' Sorrows ' is to
be attributed. In the prefatory epistle, addressed to
Brutus — a relative, it is probable, of the famous tyran-
nicide — the poet teUs his friend that he will find the
new book as full of sorrows as its predecessor. It
contains, however, not a few indications that his posi-
tion had been somewhat changed — and changed for
the better. He had not ventured to prefix to the
various poems of which the ' Sorrows ' were made up
the names of those to whom they were addressed.
This he does not now scruple to do ; and we find ac-
cordingly that, instead of the two or three who, he
complains in the earlier book, had alone been left to
him out of a crowd of companions, there was no in-
considerable number of friends who were wilHng to
remember, and even, if it might be, to help him. "We
may count as many as twenty names ; not reckoning
A.C.S.S., vol. ii. I



130 OVJD.

Germanicus Caesar, to whom Ovid addresses a com-
plimentary letter, and Cotys, a tributary king, the
boundaries of whose dominions were not far from
Tomi. While the revival of these old friendships
consoled the poet, and even buoyed him up with
hopes that his banishment might be terminated, or
at least mitigated, by a change of scene, the place itself
was becoming (though, indeed, he is scarcely willing
to allow it) less odious to him : its semi -barbarous
inhabitants were not insensible to the honour of having
so distinguished a resident among them ; and his own
behaviour, as he tells one of his correspondents, had
made a favourable impression on them. " They would
rather that I left them," he says, " because they see
that I wish to do so ; but as far as regards themselves,
they like me to be here. Do not take all this on my
word ; you may see the decrees of the town, which
speak in my praise, and make me free of all taxes.
Such honours are scarcely suitable to a miserable fugi-
tive like myself; but the neighbouring towns have
bestowed on me the same privilege." The sympathis-
ing people might well complain that their kindness was
repaid with ingratitude, when their fellow-townsman
continued to speak with unmitigated abhorrence of the
place to which he had been condemned. " I care for
nothing," he says, still harping on the constant theme
of his verse, to one of his distant friends, " but to get
out of this place. Even the Styx — if there is a Styx
— would be a good exchange for the Danube ; yes,
and anything, if such the world contain, that is below
the Styx itself. The plough-land less hates the weed,



THE LETTERS FROM THE PONTUS. 131

the swallow less hates the frost, than Naso hates the
regions Avhich border on the war-loving Getfe. Such
words as these make the people of Tomi wroth with
me. The pubHc anger is stirred up by my verse.
Shall I never cease to be injured by my song? Shall
I always suffer from my imprudent genius ? Wliy do
I hesitate to lop off my fingers, and so make writing
impossible 1 why do I take again, in my folly, to the
warfare which has damaged me before 1 Yet I have
done no wrong. It is no fault of mine, men of Tomi ;
you I love, though I cordially hate your country. Let
any one search the record of my toils — there is no
letter in complaint of you. It is the cold — it is the
attack that we have to dread on all sides — it is the
assaults that the enemy make on our walls, that I com-
plain of. It was against the place, not against the
people, that I made the charge. You yourselves often
blame your own country. . . . It is a malicious in-
terpreter that stirs up the anger of the people against
me, and brings a new charge against my verse. I
wish that I Avas as fortunate as I am honest in heart.
There does not live a man whom my words have
wronged. ISTay, were I blacker than Illyrian pitch, I
could not wrong so loyal a people as you. The kind-
ness with which you have received me in my troubles
shows, men of Tomi, that a people so gentle must be
genuine Greeks.* My own people, the Peligni, and
Sxilmo, the land of my home, could not have behaved
more kindly in my troubles. Honours wliich you

* This was a compliment wliich would be certain to please a
half-bred population like that of the old colony.



132 OVID.

would scarcely give to the prosperous and unharmed,
you have lately bestowed upon me. I am the only
inhabitant — one only excepted, who held the privilege
of legal right — that has been exempted from public
burdens. My temples have been crowned with the
sacred chaplet, lately voted to me, against my will, by
the favour of the people. Dear, then, as to Latona
was that Delian land, the only spot which gave a safe
refuge to the wanderer, so dear is Tomi to me — Tomi
which down to this day remains a faithful host to one
who has been banished from his native land ! If only
the gods had granted that it might have some hope
of peace and quiet, and that it were a little further
removed from the frosts of the pole ! "

The poet, though he could not restrain or moderate
his complaints about the miseries of liis exile, did his
best to make a return for these honours and hospitali-
ties. " I am ashamed to say it," he writes to Carus,
a scholar of distinction, who had been appointed tutor
to the children of Germanicus, " but I have written a
book in the language of the Getse ; I have arranged
their barbarous words in Eoman measures. I was
happy enough to please (congratulate me on the suc-
cess) ; nay, I begin to have the reputation of a poet
among these uncivilised Gettc. Do you ask me my
subject 1 I sang the ijraises of Caesar. I was assisted
in my novel attempt by the power of the god. I told
them how that the body of Father Augustus was mor-
tal, while liis divinity had departed to the dwellings
of heaven. I told them how there was one equal
in virtue to his father, who, under compulsion, had



THE LETTERS FROM TUE POST US. 133

assumed the reigns ol" an empire which he had often
refused.* I told them that thou, Livia, art the A^'esta
of modest matrons, of whom it cannot be determined
whether thou art more Avorthy of thy husband or
thy son. I told them that there were two youths,
tirm supporters of their father, who have given some
pledges of their spirit. "When I had read this to the
end, written as it was in the verse of another tongue,
and the last page had been turned by my fingers, all
nodded their heads, all shook their fidl quivers, and a
prolonged murmur of applause came from the Getic
crowd ; and some cried, ' Since you write such things
about Csesar, you shoidd have been restored to Caesar's
empire.' So he spake ; but, alas, my Carus ! the sixth
winter sees me still an exile beneath the snowy sky."
It is to this subject of his exile that in the ' Letters,'
as in the ' Sorrows,' he returns Avith a mournfid and
wearisome iteration. The greater number of them

* Tacitus describes with scorn tlie assumed reluctance of
Tiberius openly to accept the power which he really possessed,
and which he had no intention of abandoning, or even in the
least degree diminishing. Any attempt to take him at his word
was at once fiercely resented. He had said, for instance, that
though not equal to the whole burden of the state, he would
undertake the charge of whatever part might be intrusted to
him ; and one of the senators committed the indiscretion of
saying, " I ask you, Csesar, what part of the state you wish in-
trusted to you]" This embarrassing (juestion was never forgotten
or forgiven, and was ultimately, if we may believe the histo-
rian, punished with death. Tiberius's final acquiescence is thus
described : ""Wearied at last by the assembly's clamorous im-
portunity and the urgent demands of individual senators, he
gave way by degrees, not admitting that he undertook empire,
but yet ceasing to refuse it and to be entreated."



134 OVID.

belong to the fifty-fifth and fifty-sixth years of the
poet's life. The fifth of the last book, for instance, is
addressed to " Sextus Pompeius, now Consul." Poni-
peius, who was collaterally related to the great rival of
Caesar, entered on his consulship on January 1st, a.d.
14. " Go, trivial elegy, to our consul's learned ears !
take words for that honoured man to read. The way
is long, and you go with halting feet.* And the
earth lies hidden, covered with snows of winter.
When you shall have crossed frosty Thrace, and
Hsemus covered with clouds, and the waters of the
Ionian Sea, you wiU come to the imperial city in less
than ten days, even though you do not hasten your
journey." t The letter marks the time at which Ovid's
hopes of pardon had risen to their highest. Powerful
friends had interceded for him ; with one of them ad-
vanced to the consulship — a token of high favour,
though nothing but a shadow of power — he might
hope for the best. And it is probable, as has been
before explained, that Augustus was at this very

* This is a favourite witticism with Ovid. The elegiac
couplet was made up of two feet of unequal length — the hexa-
meter or six-foot, and the pentameter or live-foot verse. Hence
it was said to halt.

+ This means that the letter would be somewhat less than
ten days in travelling from Brundusium (the port of departure
and arrival for travellers to or from the East) to Home. The
distance rnay be roughly stated at about 300 miles. Cicero
gives us to understand on one occasion that a letter addressed
to him had travelled the same distance in seven days. Horace
occupied about double the time in the leisurely journey which
he describes himself as making (Sat. i. 5) in company with
Maecenas, Virgil, and other friends.



THE LETTERS FROM THE PONT US. 135

time meditating nothing less than another dispo-
sition of the imperial power, — a disposition which
would have reinstated in their position his own direct
descendants, and with them have restored the fortunes
of Ovid. These hopes were to be disappointed. On
the 29th of August in the same year, Augustus died
at !Nola, in Campania. There were some who declared
that his end was at least hastened by Livia, deter-
termined to secure at any price the prospects of her
son Tiberius. As the emperor had completed his
seventy-sixth year, it is unnecessary thus to account
for a death which, though it may have been oppor-
tune, was certainly to be expected. On Ovid's for-
tunes the effect was disastrous. The very next letter
is that which has been already quoted as deplor-
ing the death of Augustus at the very time when
he was beginning to entertain milder thoughts, and
the ruin which had overtaken his old friend and
patron, Fabius Maximus. Ovid, however, did not
yet abandon all hope. To address directly Tiberius
or Livia seemed useless. His thoughts turned to the
young Germanicus, Tiberius's nephew, whose wife was
Agrippina, daughter of the elder and sister of the
younger Julia. Among the friends of this prince,
who was then in command of the armies of the Rhine
— and, though an object of suspicion to his uncle and
adopting father, high in popular favour — was P. Suil-
lius Rufus. Suillius was closely connected with Ovid,
whose step-daughter (the daughter of his third wife)
he had married. He must then have been a young
man, as it is more than forty years afterwards that



136 OVID.

Ave liear of liis being banished by Nero ; and he
tilled the part of quaestor (an office of a financial
kind) on the staff of Germanicus. " If you shall feel
a hope," he writes, " that anything can be done by
prayer, entreat with suppliant voice the gods whom
you worship. Thy gods are the youthful Caesar ;
make propitious these thy deities. Surely no altar is
more familiar to you than this. That does not allow
the prayers of any of its ministers to be in vain ; from
hence seek thou help for my fortunes. If it should
help, with however small a breeze, my sinking boat
will rise again from the midst of the waters. Thou
Avilt bring due incense to the devouring flames, and
testify how strong the gods can be." The writer then
addresses, and continues to address throughout the rest
of the letter, Germanicus himself, for whose eye it
was of course intended, and before whom Suillius is
entreated in the concluding couplet by his "almost
father-in-law," as Ovid quaintly calls himself, to bring
it. Another friend, whose intercession in the same
quarter the poet entreats, is Carus — tutor, as has been
said before, to the sons of Germanicus. This letter
Avas written in " the sixth winter of exile" — i.e., about
the end of a.d. 14 or the beginning of 15 — the time
to which we are to ascribe the poem in the Getic
language, on the death and deification of Augustus.
Shortly afterwards must have been written a letter
addressed to Graicinus, who filled the office of consul
during the second half of the latter year. Here we
see the most humiliating phase of Ovid's servility. It
is difficult to understand how little more than fifty



THE LETTERS FROM THE POXTUS. 137

years after the republic had ceased to exist, an Italian
of the Italians, one of that hardy Sanmite race -which
had so long contended on equal terms with Eome
itself, could be found descending to such depths of
degradation. The servile multitudes of Egypt and
Assyria had never prostrated themselves more ignobly
before Sesostris or ^Ximrod than did this free-born
citizen before the men who were so relentlessly perse-
cuting him. He tells his powerful friend that his
piety was known to the whole country. " This stranger
land sees that there is in my dwelling a chapel to
Csesar. There stand along with him, his pious son
and his priestess spouse, powers not inferior to the
already perfected deity. And that no part of the
family should be wanting, there stand both his grand
sons, the one close to his grandmother's, and the
other to his father's side. To these I address words
of prayer with an offering of incense as often as the
day arises from the eastern sky."'"' Two years before,
we find him thanking his friend ]Maximus Cotta for
a present of the statues which this chapel enshrined.
He mentions three as the number which had been
sent. (The images of the two young princes had since
been added.) In this letter he seems to lose himself
in transports of gratitude. " He is no longer an exile
at the ends of the earth. He is a prosperous dweller

* It may be as well to explain that by Caesar is meant
Augustus (who was now dead), and by the " pious son " Tibe-
rius. Livia, as the widow of the deified prince, was the priest-
ess of his worship ; the two grandsons are Dnisus, son of Tibe-
rius, who stands by his grandmother Livia — and Germanicus,
who stands by his adopting father Tiberius.



138 OVID.

in the midst of the capital. He sees the faces of the
Caesars. Such happiness he had never ventured to
hope for." And so he treads the well-Avorn round of
customary adulation. A short specimen will he enough
to show to what depths he could descend. " Happy
they who look not on the likenesses but on the reality ;
who see before their eyes the very bodies of the god. !
Since a hard fate has denied me this privilege, I wor-
ship those whom art has granted to my prayer — the
likeness of the true. 'Tis thus men know the gods,
whom the heights of heaven conceal ; 'tis thus that
the shape of Jupiter is worshipped for Jupiter him-
self" And then, anxious not to forget the practi-
cal object to which all these elaborate flatteries were
directed, he goes on : " Take care that this semblance
of yours which is with me, and shall ever be with me,
be not found in a hostile spot. My head shall sooner
part from the neck, the eye shall sooner leave the
mangled cheeks, than I should bear your loss,
Deities of the Commonwealth ! you shall be the har-
bour and the sanctuary of my banishment. You I
will embrace, if I be surrounded by Getic arms. You,
as my eagles and my standards, I will foUow. If
I am not deceived and cheated by too powerful a
desire, the hope of a happier place of exile is at hand.
The look upon your likeness is less and less gloomy ;
the face seems to give assent to my prayer. I pray
that the presages of my anxious heart may be true,
and that the anger of my god, however just it is,
may yet be mitigated." It is difl&cult to conceive a
more pitiable sight than that of the wretched exile



THE LETTERS FROM TEE PaXTUS. 139

day after day going through, with sinking hopes and
failing spirits, this miserable pretence of worship ;
prostrating himself before men whose baseness and
profligacy no one knew better than himself, and, while
he crushed down the curses that rose naturally to his
lips, reiterating the lying prayer, for which he must
have now despaired of an answer. That he should
have performed this elaborate hypocrisy, not in public
but in the privacy of his own home, merely for the
sake of being able to say that he had done it, and with
but the very dimmest hope of getting any good from
it, is inexpressibly pitiable ; and that it should be pos-
sible for a man of genius to stoop to such degradation,
and for great princes, as Augustus and Tiberius cer-
tainly were, to be swayed in their purposes by such an
exhibition — and that they miglit be swayed by it Ovid
certainly believed — is a warning against the evils of
despotic power such as it would not be easy to match.
One or two other letters may be briefly noticed.
One addressed to Tuticanus, a brother poet, who had
been distinguished by a translation of the Odyssey, re-
lieves the gloomy monotony of complaint and entreaty
by a faint spark of humour. Whether Tuticanus had
hinted annoyance at not having received any of the
poetical epistles with which other friends had been
honoured, or whether, as is more probable, there was
a hope that some help might be got from him, Ovid
apologises for not having written before. The hu-
mour of his excuse is not very brilliant ; and it is not
easy to explain it without a reference to the principles
of Latin versification, which would be here out of place.



UO VID.

Tuticanus, in fact, was a name which " might be said,
but never could be sung." " There is no one," says
the poet, " Avhom I should have more delighted to
honour — if, indeed, there is any honour to be found
in my poetry. But your name will not come into my
verse. I am ashamed to split it into two, and put
' Tuti ' in one line and * canus ' in the next. Nor
Avliile it is properly pronounced Tiiticanus, can I pre-
vail upon myself to shorten the third syllable and call
you Tuticanus, or to shorten the first and call you Tuti-
canus, or make all three long and change it into Tiiti-
canus." It has been said that the ancients, and espe-
cially the Romans, were easily amused, and Ovid's
friend was apparently no exception to the rule.

Another letter introduces us to a personage of wbom
we would gladly know more, Cotys, one of the tribu-
tary kings of Thrace. Cotys was a name of consid-
erable antiquity in this region. Among those who
had borne it was a prince who had played a part in
the struggle between Philip of Macedon and Athens.
Atbenseus tells a strange story of his insane extrava-
gance and cruelty, indicating the barbarian nature
thinly veneered with Greek civilisation, or rather
luxury. The Cotys to whom Ovid writes was, if the
poet is to be believed, of a different temper. Claim-
ing descent from Eumolpus, a Thracian bard, who
figures in the early legends of Attica, his tastes were
such as became his genealogy. He wrote verse, pro-
bably in the Greek language ; and Ovid declares that,
had they not had the name of their author prefixed
to them, he could not have supposed them to have



THE LETTERS FROM THE PONT US. 141

been written by a native of Thrace, Orpheus, adds
the practised flatterer, was not the only poet whom
that region had produced. It had now good reason
to be proud of the genius of its king. It is a curious
circumstance that a semi-barbarous prince — for such
Cotys must have seemed to any Eoman who had no
special reason for complimenting him — should have
been the occasion of the famous lines which have be-
come the standing apology for a liberal education :
" Diligently to acquire a liberal education, softens
men's manners, and forbids them to grow rude."* From
what we hear of Cotys elsewhere, we find that his
culture was not exactly in the right place among the
savage tribes of Thrace. Augustus divided between
him and his brother Ehescuporis the kingdom which
had belonged to his father Ehoemetalces. " In this
division," continues Tacitus, to whom we are indebted
for the facts, " the cultivated lands, the towns, and
what bordered on Greek territory, feU to Cotys ; the
wild and barbarous portion, with enemies on its fron-
tier, to Ehescuporis. The kings, too, themselves dif-
fered — Cotys having a gentle and kindly temper, the
other a fierce and ambitious spirit, which could not
brook a partner." Open hostilities, provoked by Ehes-
cuporis, broke out. The temporising policy of Tiberius,
who had by that time succeeded to the throne, pre-
vented him from rendering due assistance to Cotys,
who, in the end, was treacherously seized by his
brother, and put to death.

* " Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes

EmoUit mores iiec sinit esse feros. "



142 OVID.

Of the literary merits of the ' Letters from the
Pontus ' there is little to be said. The monotony of
its subject was fatal to excellence. Ovid knew, at
least as well as any man who ever wrote, how to say
the same thing over and over again in different ways ;
but even his genius could not indefinitely vary his
constant complaint that he was living among savages,
and under an inhospitable sky ; his constant prayer
that he might be released from his gloomy prison, or,
at least, transferred to a more genial spot. Nor does
he vary his subject with the episodical narratives in
the telling of which he so much excelled. The story
of Orestes and Pylades is the only specimen of the
kind that occurs in the four books. Ovid puts it
into the mouth of an old native of the country, who
speaks of having himself seen the temple where the
incident happened, towering high with its vast
columns, and approached by an ascent of twelve
steps.* The versification is somewhat languid, and
occasionally careless. The poems are not exactly un-
worthy of their author, for they are probably as good
as the subject admitted. To a Latin scholar, Ovid's
verse, even when his subject is uninteresting, is al-

* The story is so well known that a very few words may
suffice for it. Orestes and Pylades land at Tauri, and, according
to the custom of the place, are seized and taken to the temple
of Diana.- There one of them must be offered to the goddess.
Each is anxious to be the object of the fatal choice. While
they are contending, they find that the priestess is the sister of
Orestes, Iphigenia, who had been transported hither from the
altar at Aulis, where she had been about to suffer a similar fate.
By her help they escape.



THE LETTERS FROM THE PONTUS. 143

ways pleasing ; an English reader would certainly
find them exceedingly tedious.

- The ' Ibis ' is a poem of between six and seven hun-
dred lines in length, containing almost as many impre-
cations, displaying in their variety an amazing fertility
of imagination, which are directed against a personal
enemy who had spoken ill of the poet in his banish-
ment, had persecuted his wife with his attentions, and
liad endeavoured to snatch some plunder from his pro-
perty. It is modelled, as Ovid himself states, on a
poem of the same name which Callimachus wrote
against a poet who had been his pupil, and afterwards
became a rival — Apollonius Ehodius. Callimachus' s
quarrel with his brother poet seems to have been a
purely literary one. ApoUonius preferred the simpli-
city of the epic writers to the artificial style of his
master. The censure was bitterly felt, and resented
with a vehemence which transcends anything that
has been recorded in the history of letters. The
person whom Ovid attacked under the name of
Ibis is said to have been one Hyginus, a freedman
of the Emperor Augustus, and chief of the Palatine


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