City of marble, a city of song: Roman monuments and the poetics of space in Ovidian poetry
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Longley-Cook, Dorothy Ann
This thesis explores the interaction between place and poetry in Ovid’s poetic corpus. Throughout his works, the poet’s repeated depictions of Roman urban space and monumental architecture confirm the fundamental importance of the city as a source of inspiration and a place of readership. Taking into account the strong connection between text and architecture, encoded within the word monumentum, with its associations with memorialisation and lasting presence, this thesis questions what Ovid’s poetry can tell us about Roman architecture and urban space, as he ‘writes up’, reconstructs and memorialises them in his poetry. Equally, it explores how the Roman architectural structures depicted by the poet can themselves appear as texts, which shed light on and help to preserve Ovid’s literature. In light of recent critical interest in space in ancient literature, this thesis provides an overview of Ovid’s career arc in spatial terms. It examines the poet’s changing relationship with, and depiction of, the city of Rome over the course of his career, as the genre and subject matter of his poetry alters and the location of his poetic composition changes. After establishing the firm connection between Ovidian love elegy and the city in the introduction, a different text is considered in each ensuing chapter. The different monuments and urban spaces depicted in Ovid’s corpus are analysed in order to consider how and why the poet’s relationship with the city remains at the forefront of his poetry, raising questions about the purpose of this poetry, the development of genre, the poet’s interaction with other literature about Rome, and his relationship with his readers. Chapter 1 explores how, in the Metamorphoses, the poet’s urban interest, which was established within elegy, is translated to his new epic and global ambitions. As he punctuates his poem with monuments which, though mythological, also have Roman features and similarities, this chapter investigates how Ovid explores on a cosmic scale the concepts and events memorialised in Augustan architecture, eliding urbs and orbisin a way which suggests that the foundation of the universe anticipates the foundation of empire. Chapter 2 discusses how, in the Fasti, the poet explores the relationship between urban architecture and his own text, as he responds to the Augustan building project in extended, aetiological elegy. As the poet writes about buildings and monuments in Rome which are associated with the calendar, constructing his own version of the city within his text, this chapter examines how Ovid’s Fasti becomes a text which can be likened to the monuments which it describes. At the same time, it considers how, as his own text celebrates, and can be compared to, Roman monuments, the poet negotiates the well-established opposition between monumental architecture and poetry. Chapter 3 examines how, in the Tristia, the poet’s relationship with Rome and his readers there can be sustained when he is no longer physically present. As the poet ‘returns’ to Rome by means of his personified poetry book in Tristia 3.1, visiting monuments which evoke descriptions from previous texts, this chapter considers how Rome has become a space which is inscribed with literature including Ovid’s earlier works, perpetuating his presence in spite of his exile. Although rejected from these literary monuments of Rome, the book’s pleas to private readers for reception in their homes leads to questions as to whether the success of a poet’s work is dependent on the libraries and literary monuments of the city or whether an alternative readership can be found elsewhere. Chapter 4 analyses how, in the Epistulae ex Ponto, the poet uses the familiar monuments and urban landscapes of Rome as a means of persuading his addressee that his exile must be mitigated. As Ovid writes to Cornelius Severus in Epistulae ex Ponto 1.8, recalling the peaceful leisurely life in Rome which he once enjoyed, in contrast with the harsh reality of Tomis, this chapter considers how Ovid adapts his landscape descriptions specifically to impress and persuade his addressee. It also questions the effects which Ovid’s new Rome-less existence has on his poetry and how important an existence in Rome is for poetic production. Before concluding, one further monument is considered in a final coda. Ovid’s house of Fama in the Metamorphoses is one of the most frequently discussed monuments in Ovid’s poetic corpus and its Roman nature has been established, despite its fictional status and its placement in the Metamorphoses before the foundation of the city. This final discussion will consider how, in the case of the house of Fama, as in his other texts, Ovid explores the architectural and textual nature of a monument. At the same time, as the poet creates an architectural space which allegorizes the production, circulation and memorialization of texts, it explores how the poet presents the house of Fama as similar to Rome as a whole, indicating that it is the city itself, rather than one specific monument, which helps to inspire, disseminate and preserve literature. Throughout Ovid’s literature and over the course of his career, Rome is the most prominent and constant feature. As the poet maps his poetry onto the urban landscape, imperial Rome becomes an Ovidian space. Yet, ultimately, it is the existence of Rome which perpetuates the existence of Ovid’s poetry.