BMCR 2003.09.34

Ovid’s Fasti: Historical Readings at its Bimillennium

, , Ovid's Fasti: Historical Readings at its Bimillennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. xvi, 327. $80.00.

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The suggestion embedded in the subtitle of this book, that the Fasti has just celebrated its bimillennium, is purely notional: as its editor, Geraldine Herbert-Brown, acknowledges in her introduction (3), the bimillennial anniversary of the restoration of Cybele’s temple on the Palatine in AD 3 is only one of may datable events commemorated in Ovid’s calendar poem. The real reason for this book’s existence is, as the editor quickly notes, its timeliness: the past 15 years or so have seen the appearance of a remarkable wave of new and creative scholarly interest in the poem, and this collection celebrates the fact.

The result is a collection of widely differing approaches and interpretations, with no attempt at cohesion or harmony. In strong contrast to her previous work, espousing an straightforwardly historicist-realist method,1 H.-B. is here at pains to assert the democratic validity of all the approaches essayed in this book — all readers and all readings are equally welcome. H.-B. explicitly notes that there are tensions and inconsistencies from one essay to another in the treatment of a given episode or occasion, and she has made no attempt to smoothe the multi-textured surface that results (v-vii). (In my comments on the individual essays below, I point to a few occasions when such editorial intervention might have been productive.) While some readers may prefer a collection with a more focused vision of the Fasti, H.-B.’s laissez-faire approach ensures that this is not a “clubby” book, in which all of the contributors subscribe to a particular set of fondly-held beliefs about how Ovidian studies should be conducted and what sorts of work should be promoted (and conversely, what sorts should be suppressed); indeed, one might make a case for seeing in this collection an extended metaphor for the Fasti itself, with its variety of moods, tones, and narratorial perspectives, and surprising juxtapositions. The twelve essays here parallel in number the twelve months of the Roman calendar; and the abecedarian arrangement of the essays (following the alphabetical order of the contributors’ surnames) is just as logical, and just as transparently meaningless, as the sequencing of the twelve months and the events juxtaposed therein (but see below).

1. In the first essay, “Martial Arts. Mars Ultor in the Forum Augustum: A Verbal Monument with a Vengeance,” Alessandro Barchiesi inaugurates this collection with a bullet, so to speak. Readers familiar with his earlier work on the Fasti will find vintage B. here, in his signature combination of finely nuanced close reading, bold free association, and far-reaching hypothesis. Here B. focuses on the episode in which Ovid celebrates the dedication of the Forum of Augustus in 2 BC ( F. 5.549-98) and provides the fullest extant description of the forum’s contents and architecture, especially the centerpiece temple of Mars Ultor. The stimulus for this essay2 seems to have been B.’s desire to adjust the focalization of those who would see in the Ovidian episode nothing more (or less) than an objective if florid description-cum-panegyric to celebrate the princeps and his new controlled environment. (I frankly am a little uncertain who those readers might be, but that is beside the point.) B. is particularly good in drawing attention to the ways in which Ovid uses this episode to reinstate, both in his poetic world and in the topography of Rome, the centrality of Mars, who had been virtually excluded from the world of the Aeneid except as the disembodied presence of war itself (“a Virgilian ‘missing god’,” as B. puts it [20], presumably in allusion to Fantham’s discussion of Flora,3 but without noting her). B. makes a compelling argument for seeing Mars Ultor as “the symptom of an increasing ‘militarization’ of urban landscapes and public architecture, a crucial aspect of the discourse of the early Principate” (19). B. also points out that, in making his forum the place for the commissioning of generals and the starting point of new campaigns, Augustus in effect moved the Gates of War from their association with Janus in Aeneid 7 to a new home in the new forum, and so associated their powerful (and double-edged) symbolism with Mars (and with himself). Ovid, according to B., has highlighted this move by making Mars himself the viewer through whose eyes we readers “see” the forum Augustum: “… poetry is … able to defer the closural stabilization suggested by Augustan ideology, and teaches readers of the monument to beware of the Avenger exactly when they accept his martial protection” (22).

B.’s discussion is stimulating but is also marred by a choppy sequencing of ideas (in moving from one paragraph to another on p. 3, I briefly wondered whether several pages had fallen out of the proofs unnoticed) and a general feeling of haste: I can’t help but think that this essay could have been improved by revision (or by a firmer editorial hand). B.’s allusions to various scholars (John Scheid, Paul Zanker, Carole Newlands, and the editor herself, to name a few) and their work presume an encyclopedic familiarity on the part of his readers not only with everything each of these scholars has written on this topic but also with the contexts in which these discussions are located; in other words, this paper is directed (and fully accessible) only to a very small circle of people currently working on the Fasti. This having been said, members of this circle have much to gain from B.’s contribution to this collection.

2. Elaine Fantham, by contrast, presents very much an overview of her subject in the book’s second paper, “The Fasti as a Source for Women’s Participation in Roman Cult.” F. surveys the Fasti, book by book, to determine what (if any) evidence can be gleaned from Ovid about the role played by women in Roman religious practice, especially public cults. The results of her investigation are essentially negative since in the first place there were few public roles for women (aside from the exceptional Vestals) in Roman religion; secondly, as F.’s discussion illustrates, the “evidence” found in Ovid is nether complete nor entirely reliable. For F., Ovid’s religious episodes are fundamentally literary in character: “Women’s rites find their way into the Fasti because they are good elegiac material, offering colourful or emotionally appealing vignettes” (24). Fantham sees Callimachus as playing just as important a role in the formation of the Fasti (and its intended audience) as Augustus — indeed, perhaps greater (see the fine suggestion at 35). Readers already familiar with F.’s many valuable contributions to scholarship on the Fasti will recognize here a continuation of her prudent if good-natured resistance to the poetry-as-political discourse practitioners of Fasti criticism. This does not mean that F. is entirely apolitical in her reading: indeed, the main positive results of her investigation are to highlight the degree to which Ovid has taken advantage of Livia’s exceptional religious prominence to give the six books of the Fasti that we possess a definite shape and to link the most important episodes about women’s religious activity in the poem into a coherent whole. In the process, F. also touches on many episodes and events in the calendar worthy of further study by scholars of gender in ancient religion.

3. In her previous work on the Fasti,4 Emma Gee made a solid case for the integral importance of the astronomical material in the Fasti to the poem as a whole. She continues in the same vein in this volume’s third contribution, ” Vaga Signa : Orion and Sirius in Ovid’s Fasti.” G. now concerns herself less with the role played in Ovid’s didactic poem by Aratus than by Virgil, especially the Georgics, and makes a suggestive case for reading Ovid’s misrepresentations of the astronomical facts regarding Sirius and Orion as signposts of an intertextual relationship with Virgil’s poem. The resulting interpretation of this relationship leads, according to G., to a new awareness of martial imagery in the Fasti as a revision of several important scenes with military associations in the Georgics, especially the description of the plow ( G. 1.160-75) and the apocalyptic close of Georgics 1.

G.’s valuable comments could, however, be made more effective by a combination of structural and stylistic effects now absent from the essay. There is first of all a hermetic quality about her treatment of both Fasti episodes — no reference is made, for example, to the possible role played by Eratosthenes’ Erigone in Ovid’s references to the Dog star (the story is ascribed to Hyginus by G., at 54 n.17), nor does G. note the important predecessor for the association of robigo with the Golden age (i.e., its end) in Catullus 64.38-42. Secondly, G. has a tendency to resort to very tentative statements of possible interpretation: e.g., “There is another point at which the end of Georgics 1 may underlie Ovid’s Mars episode, and this may help us to show how the passages we have looked at in Fasti 4 and 5 are linked with one another by a common model and a common ethical concern, … ” etc. (63-64); or again, “The ‘otium’ of Fasti 4.926, a celebration of the Pax Augusta which follows the catastrophe of civil war, may be complicated by the opening and closing motif of the passage, the violent and vacillating star Sirius” (67). In both of these passages, and on numerous other occasions, G. uses verbs like “may”, “might”, or “could” in ways that simply undermine her own argument. While there is much to be said for allowing the reader to reach his/her own conclusions and for not foreclosing alternative interpretations by means of a totalizing discourse, Gee’s practice errs excessively on the side of the indeterminate and sometimes leaves her reader wondering exactly how strongly she herself feels about her own claims and conclusions. Finally, I note that G. appears not to have had the opportunity to read Barchiesi’s contribution to this volume; her discussion of Mars Ultor (esp. 59-60) thus both repeats some of his conclusions published in earlier works and does not have the benefit of his current essay. This circumstance has resulted presumably through no fault of her own; I note it simply as a missed opportunity to give the volume greater cohesion.

4. In the fourth essay, “Varro’s Three Theologies and their Influence on the Fasti,” C.M.C. Green returns to a consideration of the religious character of Ovid’s poem. G.’s earlier publications have been studies of the expression of religious idea in literary texts;5 here, her starting-point is the observation that Ovid did not approach the Fasti‘s “true subject, Roman religion” (71), in a vacuum. Rather, according to G., his approach to the divinities in the Roman calendar shows evidence throughout of an intellectualized approach informed first and foremost by the theological framework provided by Varro in his Antiquitates rerum divinarum (of which only fragments now remain, primarily as preserved and digested by Augustine, and somewhat confusingly referred to here as, by turns, Antiquitates and RD). After a brief description of what we know of Varro’s tripartite classification of religious thought and expression into the theology of the poets, the theology of the state, and the theology of philosophers (72-78), G. devotes the remainder of this essay to an examination of Fasti 4, focusing on the ways in which the major mythological narratives (Cybele, Ceres, and the Parilia) and the descriptions of the month’s other festivals are integrated into a pleasing whole through Ovid’s exploitation of philosophical/scientific discussions of generation and growth, here represented by Venus as, as it were, tutelary divinity. G.’s discussion of the poetics of generation in Book 4 is insightful, incorporating many fine observations about details in the book; and her analysis of the odd aetiological narrative about the foxes at Carseoli, in whose ritualized punishment we can see an attempt to mediate the balance between wet and dry, fertile and sterile, in Venus’ month (95-96), is quite helpful. Nonetheless, G. has not fully sustained her intention to make sense of Fasti 4 through Varro — allusions to aspects of his theological theorizing, periodically inserted into the larger discussion, are often more distracting than germane, and I can easily imagine Ovid wilfully resisting at every turn G.’s attempts to fit him and the Fasti into an ill-fitting Varronian straightjacket. Perhaps most important, it was never entirely clear to me as I read this whether G. believes that Ovid’s views on Roman religion were informed exclusively by Varro, or whether she imagines the poet himself creatively intervening in the shaping of the religious record; among other things, it might well be wondered whether the focus here on Varro as religious teacher is not anachronistically exclusive — isn’t he simply one (an important one, of course) of many writers and intellectuals whose ideas about religion invited Ovid’s attention and response?

Finally, I note again here the need for editorial intervention. Some of G.’s modes of expression are very strange indeed, e.g.: “Augustus, Germanicus, are the ‘viri fortes’ of whom so much is expected that they are, as it were, from the creation of the calendar, entitled to appropriate divinity to themselves” (82 — a full sentence!), or “There follows the discussion of Robigo, with its message of weapons peacefully rusting” (97 — another full sentence). Style and content combine here to make this reader wish again for a more rigorously wielded blue marker.

5. The fifth essay in this collection, “Ovid and the Stellar Calendar,” is by the book’s general editor, and returns to a familiar (and I fear insoluble) problem, the completion/condition of the Fasti as we have the poem. H.-B. does not belabor the old arguments, but works from the (nowadays unfashionable but certainly valid) premise that the second six books of the Fasti did in fact exist, in some form, at some point in the past. The focus of this paper is the status of the stellar calendar, astronomy, astrology, and astrologers in both the Augustan regime and Ovid’s poem. Readers may recall that, in her review of Newlands’ monograph on the Fasti,6 H.-B. had already drawn attention to this material and promised an article on the subject: voilà.) H.-B. begins with a question about Ovid’s encomium of the felices animae who discovered the stellar calendar (1.295-310): why are the stars and constellations, and those who understand them, featured so prominently here? As H.-B. observes, interpretation of the stars was not a central feature by any means of Roman religious practice, nor was there a priesthood charged with this task; furthermore, although the constellations are given sporadic attention in the Fasti, these episodes hardly seem to live up to Ovid’s promise at 1.1-2 to make the Fasti into a stellar as well as an annalistic and festival calendar. H.-B. ingeniously suggests that the interest in astrology and its practitioners evinced to some extent by both Ovid’s and Manilius’ didactic poems is attributable in large part to Augustus’ long-standing attraction to the Chaldaean discipline. Yet the culminating event indicative of this interest, Augustus’ publication, in an edict of AD 11, of his own horoscope (117), was also compromised by Augustus’ simultaneous “empire-wide legal curb of astrological and other divinatory practices” (120; the basis for this claim is Dio 56.25.5). In other words, H.-B. sees Ovid and his “first edition,” so to speak, of the Fasti caught together between a rock and a hard place: while Augustus’ actions in AD 11 validated astrology, they also stringently regulated its practitioners. Thus, the abundance of astrological material that originally filled the poem, especially its hypothetical second half, had in great part to be jettisoned: in his last-ditch effort to gain pardon and recall from the aging princeps, Ovid transferred the commemoration of events properly celebrated in the second half of the year to his first six books, with the goal of “papering over large gaps created by the removal of inappropriate material in an effort to salvage as much of his poem as he could” (128).

This is a difficult essay to read, in part because so much of it is devoted to a rather circuitous summary of how Manilius and others represented astrology in their work, and in part because of (untestable but) built-in assumptions about what the second half of the Fasti looked like. The real point of the discussion, as described above, is only revealed in the last few pages of the paper, and in hurried fashion. Furthermore, I suspect that, in spite of all her efforts to win over believers to the existence of the second half of the Fasti, H.-B. will gain few converts as a result of this discussion; her argument is convoluted and messy, and relies too much, in my opinion, on the solitary evidence of Dio. Then again, reality, especially historical reality, is often convoluted and messy, and even the slenderest thread can be evidence in the right place and at the right time; readers should not be surprised, therefore, that I prefer to endorse here as elsewhere a “case-not-yet-closed” approach to the subject, and to encourage further consideration of H.-B.’s timely discussion. I also note the valuable contribution H.-B. makes in this essay by drawing our attention to the changing political atmosphere during the last decade of the first principate; as Peter Knox has recently argued,7 the ascendancy of Tiberius in this period has not yet been fully understood and appreciated vis-à-vis Ovid’s relegatio, and H.-B.’s essay suggests a possible route for others hot on this trail to follow. (See also her tantalizing hypotheses on this subject in the introduction, vii-x: is a new book on Tiberius in the works?)

6. And now for something completely different: the next item is Peter Mark Keegan’s “Seen, Not Heard: Feminea lingua in Ovid’s Fasti and the Critical Gaze.” The author, a recent Ph.D. from Macquairie University, attempts a bold entrance onto the professional stage with this audaciously executed exhortation to a gendered reading of the Fasti. K.’s essay is divided into five main sections, in four of which a counter-model of scholarly praxis is poised in tension with K.’s own approach. The four scholars featured here, as well as the larger methodological trends in the criticism of Latin poetry that they represent, are fair game: Barchiesi, whose deconstructive reading of Ovidian and Augustan discourses of power in tension can itself be deconstructed as “phallologocentric”; Fantham, whose exhortation to other scholars to locate the Fasti in its historical, literary-historical, and editorial contexts omits gender from the agenda; Hinds, whose monograph on Ovidian poetics foregrounds the importance of the Homeric Hymn of Demeter for Ovid’s mythical narratives in both Fasti and Metamorphoses while ignoring the “sexualizing formations” (142) of both the Homeric poem and the cultic reality it reflects; and Newlands, whose comparison of the regifugium narratives in Livy 1 and Fasti 2 is implicitly but thoroughly critiqued as under-theorized in its treatment of the discourses of power and gender in the two authors.8 Around these four sections K. locates a framework invoking as alternative models several feminist classicists.

All fair game, then, as I have said, and a very tidy package to boot — yet I could not help feeling by the end of this that K. has not in fact played entirely fair. Much of his critique, in fact, boils down to “scholar X (or Y, or Z) has not written the monograph on Ovid that I would write if I were s/he, because s/he does not have the totalizing approach to gendered reading that I do.” Furthermore — or is it just my gendered imagination? — Fantham and Newlands seem to come in for far more biased and negative treatment at K.’s hands than do Barchiesi and Hinds (and cf. K.’s Freudian slip [or is it?] inter alia at 146). In regard to K.’s critique of Newlands on Lucretia and Lara, furthermore, I wondered repeatedly why Denis Feeney’s influential article on the Fasti 9 would not have been a better target. K. does indeed know the article but relegates it to a bare mention in a footnote, describing it with the neutral phrase “non-gendered treatment” (153 n.47). I also confess to a sense that this essay amounts to a sum that does not quite equal the total of all its parts — i.e., when all is said and done, K. makes some nice individual observations (e.g., on the metaliterary meaning of per inane at F. 2.41 [137]), but otherwise is basically reactive; and his opportunistic focus on Book 2 makes him overlook some crucial qualifications to his own discussion, e.g., the parthenogenesis episode involving Juno and Flora in Fasti 5 vis-à-vis the aetiology for the cult of Juno Lucina in Book 2, only the latter of which is discussed here (and made to represent in toto a gendered discourse about women’s inability to reproduce alone: 143).

And then there is K.’s style. The essay is laden thickly with the most fashionable critical jargon, to such an extent that even now I wonder whether some intentional self-parody is (supposed to be) at work here. E.g.: “By calling these things (that is, the scopophilic fragments comprising Lucretia’s (re)presentation) to mind, the pleasure principle of anticipated possession is intensified. Therefore, Tarquin rehearses the constellated matrix of his masculinist cupidity” (150). Or again: “The preceding narratives of Fasti 2 transmit many of the established social-cultural topoi associated with the active male-passive female binarism via multiple divine and supernatural female voices. On the other hand, Lucretia’s speech encodes a deviant gendered discourse depending only partially on the revolutionary use of elegiac verse as the vehicle for res Romanae” (148). K. has a particular fondness for parentheses, especially doubled parentheses and punning parentheses, parentheses that incorporate self-consciously clever questions, and “air quotes,” e.g., “The historical contingencies and aesthetic dependencies delimiting Ovid’s chosen (required?) oeuvre were indelibly rooted in a kyriarchic and explicitly reactionary cross-cultural ‘reality’ “(129-30). I hereby take the opportunity provided by this review to exhort my fellow classicists to restrain themselves when tempted to incorporate a third (or fourth, or fifth) self-conscious parenthesis in a paragraph, especially when its purpose is to demonstrate the author’s (incontrovertibly clever) wit. As the paragraph you are now reading is intended to (cannot help but?) demonstrate, it a most tedious form of writerly self-indulgence.

7. It is with a sense of real pleasure deferred, therefore, that one turns to the seventh contribution, Peter Knox’ “Representing the Great Mother to Augustus.” As the title suggests, the primary focus of the paper is the Cybele episode in Fasti 4; but K. uses this single episode as a focal point upon which to refract a larger issue, the importance of Callimachus to the conceptualization and execution of the Fasti both as a whole and in its individual parts. Readers familiar not only with K.’s 1986 monograph on the Metamorphoses 10 but with many of his more recent reviews and articles will recognize Callimachean poetics as a longstanding preoccupation. K. makes his case both clearly and, to a great extent, successfully: “In short, we should consider the possibility that the Fasti is more than a simple nod in the direction of Callimachus, employing the Hellenistic background to undermine the ideology of Augustan Rome and Augustan epic; it is a complex intertextual play on the Aetia, and as a cultural commentary it has more to offer on the fusion of Greek and Roman elements than on contemporary Roman politics” (158). Following this statement of purpose, K.’s discussion of the development and treatment of the Attis myth in Hellenistic thought and literature, and of its Romanization, both cultural and literary, through the intervention of Claudia Quinta in the Cybele story (167-71) is a salutary reminder both of how pitiably fragmentary (and arbitrary) the extant literary record is and of how much remains to be done with and through its close study. At the same time, I am unsure why K. has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, in rejecting Catullus 63 as an important model for parts of this narrative (167) — is it simply to heighten the contrast between his own chartae doctae et laboriosae and Barchiesi’s breezy assertion of Catullan primacy (1997: 195)? Similarly (though more peripherally), K.’s comments on Ovid’s Orion narrative in Fasti 5 (162 n.14) have been amply (if not conclusively) anticipated by this reviewer.11

8. Well over two decades ago R.J. Littlewood produced a triad of essays that not only anticipated in many respects the current boom in Fasti scholarship, but set a very high standard for her successors.12 It is a pleasure, therefore, to see the inclusion of this scholar’s work here, heralding her return to this area.13 L.’s contribution, ” imperii pignora certa : The Role of Numa in Ovid’s Fasti,” is formally reminiscent of studies of other individuals in the Fasti, such as Fantham on Evander14 and numerous studies focusing on Romulus; but it is also much riskier, since Numa is generally much less prominent in the Fasti (and in surviving Latin literary tradition generally) than are the others.15 L. attempts an interconnected examination of Numa’s complementarity to Romulus in Augustan iconography, Ovid’s Numa as precursor to Augustus templorum restitutor et conditor, the literary context for the story of Numa and the ancile, and the function of the Aristaeus episode in Georgics 4 as an intertext for the Numa episode in Fasti 3. The first three of these puzzle-pieces are reasonably easy to put together, and L.’s Numa-centric treatment of Augustan themes is welcome; I nonetheless regretted, while reading the first section of this essay, the unfortunate absence of any opportunity for cross-fertilization with Barchiesi’s opening essay, and the resultant treatment of the decoration of the forum of Augustus as an entirely uncontroversial matter (esp. 177-78). The relationship posited here between Virgil’s Aristaeus and Ovid’s Numa, on the other hand, is both difficult to follow (perhaps more citation of the relevant texts would have helped) and not on the face of it immediately convincing. Yes, indeed, Numa, like Aristaeus, is assisted by a powerful divine female (Egeria in Numa’s case, Cyrene in Aristaeus’) to discover rituals that overcome the destructiveness of civil war (among the Romulean Romans in the first instance, and among the bees in the second) and that restore peace and prosperity; yet the pattern L. focuses so much attention on here is (as she recognizes, 183) so pervasive in heroic literature that her specific identification of the Aristaeus episode as primary intertext is undermined at every step by other viable candidates. Most important, L.’s exclusive focus here on Book 3 prevents her from incorporating any notice of Ovid’s own version of the Aristaeus epyllion in Fasti 1, with its evident parallelism to the relationships between first Evander and Carmenta, and then Tiberius and Livia, in the same book. (A disclaimer: this is in part the subject of a work in progress by this reviewer.) Thus, while L.’s discussion is in the event not entirely unconvincing, it is crucially incomplete. I hope that L. will have the opportunity in the near future to return to this aspect of her study and devote to it both the development and the number of pages it really requires.

9. Another familiar name appears as the author of the ninth paper, John Miller. His essay, “Ovid’s Liberalia”, continues a tradition begun with M.’s first publication on the Fasti,16 and continued in numerous studies since; and although this essay has fewer methodological gimmicks than do several others in the collection, it offers both a very clear focus (a central episode in Fasti 3) and important suggestions for how to read the rest of the Fasti, and beyond. Indeed, M. is one of the few contributors to this volume to look beyond the Fasti to Ovid’s other work; in this case, M. makes several valuable comparisons between the Bacchus/Liber episodes in Fasti and Metamorphoses (esp. 207-8), demonstrating among other things that Liber in the Fasti is thoroughly Romanized in the course of his activities in the poem. M. also pays due attention to the placement of Liber in the topographical landscape of Augustan Rome and offers a highly plausible explanation for Augustus’ apparent exclusion of the temple of Liber, Libera, and Ceres on the Aventine from the list of those needing restoration until quite late in his principate (indeed, the restoration was only completed under Tiberius) on the basis of “Antony’s notorious identification of himself with Dionysus” (205). Much of M.’s discussion turns on relatively small matters of style and focalization; but at every turn he demonstrates that the implications of these seemingly minor differences can in fact be great, as for example in the episode in which Bacchus “invents” honey after coming to the aid of a drunken Silenus stung with bees (213-16). M. uses a pair of renaissance depictions of this episode by Piero di Cosimo to show how different emphases can have important implications for the meanings intended by their makers. While Piero moves Bacchus to the sidelines in his visualizations of the episode and gives Silenus center stage, Ovid has clearly done just the opposite; indeed, Silenus is not even mentioned by Ovid during the honey-making passage, and his Bacchus is primus inventor.

This essay is also one of those that seem to me to deserve more pages than they are allotted, since a number of topics developed here merit much fuller discussion. I note in particular the role of wordplay in the Liberalia episode: M. is generally very good on the topic, but has had to relegate the wonderful play on libet/Liber at 3.723 to a footnote (209 n.723); in fact, the implications of libet in this passage are worthy of much fuller development, as is the potential wordplay between Liber and liberi“children”, unnoticed throughout the essay (but see T.P. Wiseman’s comment, 293 n.106). M. provides a valuable analysis of the relationship between Liber as divinity and a major event celebrated at the Liberalia, the assumption of the toga virilis by Roman youth on this occasion (217-23). As M. observes, “Reflection on the togate Roman has taken us a world away (and irrevocably) from Bacchus in India …” (222). Surprisingly, however, given M.’s focus, no mention is made here of the facts that Augustus particularly cultivated the integration of aristocratic youth into the ranks of the powerful elite at Rome (cf., e.g., his revival of the lusus Troiae) and that the location for the assumption of the toga virilis was moved by Augustus to his new forum (Dio 55.10). In spite of these qualifications, however, this essay should quickly become basic to discussions of Bacchus in Augustan poetry.

10. The tenth essay likewise is from a scholar who has played an important role in the recent Fasti revival, Carole Newlands. In her 1995 monograph on the Fasti,17 N. focused on how Ovid exploits the discontinuous narrative framework provided by the calendar to undermine the totalizing control of both time and space asserted by the princeps. The essay she offers here, “Contesting Time and Space: Fasti 6.637-48″ is more of the same: N. looks at a brief scene in Book 6 in which Ovid describes the razing of the house of Vedius Pollio to make way for the Porticus of Livia and the aedes Concordiae, and arrives at (what some readers might consider) a predictable conclusion, viz., that beneath (so to speak) the harmonious politics underlying the foundation of the Portico of Livia lies a less-than-harmonious history that calls the current foundation into question. This essay falls into two major sections, one of which is far more successful than the other: the first half, while packed with all sorts of interesting detail regarding the literary and historiographical traditions surrounding the career of Vedius Pollio and his spectacular domus, meanders for far too long in and around the relatively simple idea that “Competing notions of time and space run throughout the entire discussion of 11 June and are embedded in the short passage at the end through the tension between Porticus and mansion” (230). After the strongly-argued assertion of a meaningful relationship between Ovid’s use of the phrase opus orbis to describe Vedius Pollio’s house at F. 6.641 and Virgil’s use of the same phrase to describe the ship Chimaera at Aen. 5.119 (237-40), N. herself is unable to be entirely clear about how to interpret the phrase in the Ovidian passage (“A house ‘as big as a city’ is an exaggeration, of course, …,” 241); instead, she falls back on tendentious rote, continuing the sentence whose quotation I have just interrupted with the all-too-predictable conclusion, “but that one phrase suggests the implicit contest Augustus had to wage with the elite for control of the city of Rome and the right to imprint its space with his own values and memories.” It is not that N. is necessarily wrong; but her single focus here leads her to conclusions that, frankly, would work better as points of departure (Barchiesi’s essay in this volume illustrates how this can be done).

The second half of this essay is more interesting and, perhaps as a result, more coherent and successful. N. provides a good overview of the history of Concordia at Rome, and then looks at the ways in which this divinity’s promotion can be correlated to historical discordia, figured both as female violence and as dynastic strife, in both the literary tradition — her comments on Ino and the “pious mothers” of Fasti 6 vis-à-vis the maddened women of the Aeneid are especially good, if tantalizingly brief (245-46) — and the historical record. I wish more of this essay’s space had been allotted to this topic, and less to the tendentious and moralizing conclusion that “Augustus may have triumphed now in Rome, but the history on display for 11 June teaches that no political trajectory is predictable or certain” (249); in response, I would suggest that not even the dark implications of this assertion are, in spite of N.’s own totalizing discourse, entirely predictable or certain, at least not in the world of the Fasti.

11. The eleventh essay here, “Added Days: Calendrical Poetics and the Julio-Claudian Holidays,” is by M. Pasco-Pranger, who recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Pasco-Pranger has already published several articles derived from or otherwise related to her dissertation;18 the present essay nonetheless stands well on its own and indeed is one of the most refreshing here. Contiguous as it is by coincidence with the essay by Newlands, P.-P.’s paper illustrates clearly an alternative and — to me at least — more productive approach to features of the Fasti that have long puzzled scholars. Rather than positing a simple (or subversive) oppositional relationship between Ovid’s calendar and Augustus’, P.-P. demonstrates that, in “expand[ing] or reinterpret[ing] the explicit meaning of a given holiday, rather than simply undercutting it” (273), Ovid both takes advantage of connections that were innate, as it were, in the calendar structure and follows a procedure very similar to that of Augustus (and later, Tiberius) in calendar reform. P.-P. uses a series of Julio-Claudian innovations known to have occurred with the holidays commemorated in October but, obviously, not treated in the Fasti as a “control” (255-60) against which to measure the character of Ovid’s descriptions of series of changes to the calendar clustering in mid- to late January, i.e., in Fasti 1 (260-73). In the process, P.-P. provides a nice solution for the apparent discrepancy between Ovid’s treatment on 13 January of Octavian’s assumption of the name Augustus and the date of 16 January recorded in the Julio-Claudian calendars: Ovid develops the connections between the Carmentalia and the new anniversary to evoke the meanings embedded in this juxtaposition, exploiting as it does both the dynastic imagery of Roman foundational myth and the social agenda of Augustan politics.

Given the attractiveness of this interpretation, I once again wish that there had been more cross-fertilization in this volume: both Newlands and P.-P. touch on the prominence of Concordia in the Fasti, for example, but each is unaware of the other’s perspective (cf., e.g., 267-68). Since I find my own reading of the Fasti to be very much in sympathy with (and enriched by) that of P.-P., I also have what may well be a heightened sensitivity to those places where she pushes the envelope just a bit too far. In her discussion of Ovid’s treatment of the Ara pacis at the end of Fasti 1, for example, P.-P. effectively argues for seeing the Ara pacis as a “replacement” of sorts for the temple of Janus, and also notes that the date for the altar’s anniversary may well have been fixed as a sort of unofficial celebration of Livia’s birthday: “The intentionality of this familial association with the date is made more likely by the prominence of the imperial family, and particularly of Livia, on the reliefs of the altar enclosure” (272). The prominence of Livia? The figure most frequently identified as — maybe — Livia bears no identifying label; and surely one of the features of the processional friezes that give them their great power is their ability to evoke both the imagery of dynasty and the tradition of processions in relief sculpture, and so to promote the themes of continuity and renewal surpassing any one individual (with a singular exception, of course). But this attempt at an all-too-neat packaging of the month does not after all vitiate the rest of P.-P.’s accomplishment in this chapter, well worth a second reading.

12. The serendipitous arrangement of contributions in this volume results in the perfect envoi: the twelfth and last essay is T.P. Wiseman’s “Ovid and the Stage.” Scholars who have followed W.’s many enduring contributions to the field of Roman studies are well aware that, beginning with Catullus the mimographer, W. has long been concerned with those forms of theatrical activity in Rome that, for better or worse, have not been directly preserved in scripted form, especially mime and satyr play. During the past decade in particular, W. has published abundantly on the many ways in which the theatrical interests of the Roman people can teach us about everything from historical memory, to the dynamics of myth and politics, to levels of literacy, and to popular mores in the Roman republic. The current essay brings together material from a number of these studies19 in a demonstration of the likelihood that several of the narratives in Ovid’s verse (W. does not limit himself to the Fasti) are adaptations of material that was originally staged. The outcome of this altogether engaging discussion is the proposal that both the Peleus and Thetis narrative of Metamorphoses 11 and the Flora narrative of Fasti 5 should be added to the list of Ovidian episodes heretofore identified by scholars as likely to have been directly influenced by Roman theater. While one might wish that W. had said more here about the Fasti per se, I found the light touch and humor of this paper and its subject-matter a welcome reminder of the fact that pleasure and entertainment are central components of Ovid’s poem. Finally, W.’s work here should be read as an auspicious harbinger of his current project, a translation of the Fasti.

The volume concludes with an index locorum, an adequate general index, and a generally useful bibliography (the last of which however again shows signs of inadequate editorial supervision: e.g., M. Beard, D. Potter, and T.P. Wiseman are all listed by name twice, and μδαι ) is sometimes identified by the alternative Röm. Mitt.). All in all, most if not all of the contributions in this volume will become mainstays in future discussions of Ovid’s Fasti.


1. Ovid and the Fasti: An Historical Study (Oxford, 1994).

2. Essentially an outgrowth of concerns already noted in The Poet and the Prince (Berkeley, 1997) 67 n.40, 126-27, and 204 n.28 [cf. Il poeta e il principe (Bari, 1994) 57 + n.34, 116, and 192 + n.27].

3. PCPhS 38 (1992) 39-56.

4. Ovid, Aratus and Augustus: Astronomy in Ovid’s Fasti (Cambridge, 2000).

5. CA 13 (1994) 203-34; Arion 7 (2000) 24-63.

6. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.10.11.

7. Maecenas 1 (2001) 151-81.

8. A. Barchiesi: see above, n.2; E. Fantham: Antichthon 29 (1995) 42-59; S. Hinds: The Metamorphosis of Persephone (Cambridge, 1987); C. Newlands: Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti (Ithaca, 1995).

9. In A. Powell (ed.), Roman Poetry and Propaganda in the Age of Augustus (Bristol, 1992) 1-25.

10. Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Traditions of Augustan Poetry (Cambridge, 1986).

11. Phoenix 54 (2000) 64-98.

12. ( Latomus 34 (1975) 1060-72; in C. Deroux (ed.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, 2 (Brussels, 1980) 301-21; and CQ 31 (1981) 381-95.

13. See also Latomus 60 (2001) 916-35; MD 49 (2002) 191-211.

14. ( Arethusa 25 (1992) 155-71.

15. Though interested readers should now see M. Pasco-Pranger in D.S. Levene and D.P. Nelis (eds.), Clio and the Poets: Augustan Poetry and the Traditions of Ancient Historiography (Leiden, 2002) 291-312.

16. CJ 75 (1980) 204-14.

17. See above, n.8.

18. CW 93 (2000) 275-91; and in Levene and Nelis (above, n.15).

19. In B. Bergmann and C. Kondoleon (eds.), The Art of Ancient Spectacle (Washington, DC, 1999) 194-203; and in C. Bruun (ed.), The Roman Middle Republic: Politics, Religion and Historiography, c. 400-133 B.C. (Rome, 2000) 265-99.