Sunday, July 17, 2022

Stop Clutching Your Pearls: Books Don't Change Women's Behavior, Ovid, Tristia 2.285-316

 In his Tristia, Ovid laments that his poetry caused his exile, but cites numerous examples of other, much worse "influences" that aren't addressed by censorship:

Tollatur Circus; non tuta licentia Circi est:
     hic sedet ignoto iuncta puella uiro.
Cum quaedam spatientur in hoc, ut amator eodem
     conueniat, quare porticus ulla patet?
Quis locus est templis augustior? Haec quoque uitet,
     in culpam siqua est ingeniosa suam.
Cum steterit Iouis aede, Iouis succurret in aede
     quam multas matres fecerit ille deus.
Proxima adoranti Iunonis templa subibit,
     paelicibus multis hanc doluisse deam.
Pallade conspecta, natum de crimine uirgo
     sustulerit quare, quaeret, Erichthonium.
Venerit in magni templum, tua munera, Martis,
     stat Venus Vltori iuncta, uir ante fores.
Isidis aede sedens, cur hanc Saturnia, quaeret,
     egerit Ionio Bosphorioque mari?
In Venerem Anchises, in Lunam Latmius heros,
     in Cererem Iasion, qui referatur, erit.
Omnia peruersas possunt corrumpere mentes
     stant tamen illa suis omnia tuta locis.
Et procul a scripta solis meretricibus Arte
     summouet ingenuas pagina prima manus.
Quaecumque erupit, qua non sinit ire sacerdos,
     protinus huic dempti criminis ipsa rea est.
Nec tamen est facinus uersus euoluere mollis,
     multa licet castae non facienda legant.
Saepe supercilii nudas matrona seueri
     et Veneris stantis ad genus omne uidet.
Corpora Vestales oculi meretricia cernunt,
     nec domino poenae res ea causa fuit.

At cur in nostra nimia est lasciuia Musa,
     curue meus cuiquam suadet amare liber?

--Ovid, Tristia II.285-316 

The Circus Maximus should be shut down—it’s not safe for women!  You can see women hanging out with men who aren’t their husbands there (gasp!).

Why does any portico remain standing, when this is a place where a woman can meet with her lover? (gasp!)

What is a more sacred place than a temple? Women should avoid them too! They are also complicit in tempting women to stray. 

When she stands in Jupiter’s temple, a woman will realize how many lovers the god impregnated.

If she goes to the Temple of Juno next door, she will realize how many of Jupiter’s lovers upset the goddess.

When she sees Pallas Athena, she will think about Erichthonius, the child born from rape whom the goddess raised.

If she comes to the great temple of Mars that you made, she sees Venus hand-in-hand with the Mars the Avenger, standing together outside.

Sitting in the temple of Isis, she will wonder why Juno forced her [Io] to escape over the Ionian and Bosphorus sea?

In the Temple of Venus there’s a statue of her lover Anchises,

In the Temple of the Moon, there’s a statue of [her lover] Endymion,

In the Temple of Ceres, there’s the statue of Iasion.

There’s inappropriate stuff that can corrupt minds prone to dirty thoughts in all of the temples—and yet they are safe!

The first page of the book written by courtesans for courtesans warns well-born women not to read it.

If a woman leaves her designated area in a temple, and goes where a priest doesn’t allow her to go, it is her fault, not his.

Nor is it a crime to read sexy verses! Of course chaste women can read about stuff they aren’t supposed to do. [When they bathe publicly] often noble women with stern expressions look at naked women from every walk of life. Vestal Virgins look upon naked bodies of prostitutes, and this doesn’t get them in trouble. 

But yet why is *my* book too licentious, why does my book persuade others to love?



Name: Publius Ovidius Naso  

Date:  43 BCE – 18 CE

Works:  Ars Amatoria


              Tristia, etc.



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



Ovid was one of the most famous love poets of Rome’s Golden Age. His most famous work, the Metamorphoses, provides a history of the world through a series of interwoven myths. Most of his poetry is erotic in nature; for this reason, he fell into trouble during the conservative social reforms under the reign of the emperor Augustus. In 8 CE he was banished to Bithynia, where he spent the remainder of his life pining for his native homeland.



Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

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