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Ovid: Heroides

4. The Politics of the Heroides

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this lecture we think about the politics of the Heroides, focusing in particular on whether Ovid’s poetry conflicts with or is supportive of the ideology of the Emperor Augustus. As we move through the module, we consider: (i) the extent to which Ovid’s mythological heroines provide a “convenient mask from behind which inconvenient truths might be safely uttered” (Drinkwater 2022); (ii) the connection between Ovid’s heroines and Augustus’ moral legislation, in particular the fact that almost all the heroines we meet in the Heroides are faithful and committed to the idea of marriage, whereas their male lovers are faithless and marriage-avoiding; (iii) the political turmoil that characterised the age in which Ovid was born, including the mass disenfranchisement of Rome’s political elite as Augustus consolidated his position as princeps; (iv) the challenge presented by the Ovidian Dido to Aeneas’ plan to found a city in Italy, and by extension to the Aeneid as a whole; (v) the extent to which the destruction of Ulysses’ household in Heroides 1 evokes the destruction meted out the elite households across Italy in the civil wars of the 1st century BC; (vi) the extent to which Briseis’ status as a slave disenfranchised by war also evokes the civil wars of the 1st century BC; and (vii) the extent to which Ovid saw himself a victim of Augustus’ rise to power.

Suggested reading:
– P. Davis, Ovid and Augustus: A Political Reading of Ovid’s Erotic Poems (2006)
– M. Desmond, ‘When Dido Reads Vergil: Gender and Intertextuality in Ovid’s Heroides 7’, Helios 20.1 (1993), pp. 56-68
– M. Drinkwater, Ovid’s Heroides and the Augustan Principate (2022)
– P. Rosenmeyer, ‘Ovid's Heroides and Tristia: Voices from Exile’, Ramus, 26.1 (1997), pp. 29-56

Course

In this course, Professor Sharon Marshall (University of Exeter) explores Ovid’s Heroides. In the first module, we think about the relationship between Ovid’s version of the myths of Penelope, Briseis and Dido, and the ‘original’ versions found in Homer and Virgil. After that, in the second module, we think about the self-presentation of Penelope, Briseis and Dido as authors, with a particular focus on the relationship between gender and power. In the third module, we consider the Heroides as a text that spans the literary genres of epic, elegy and the letter, before turning in the fourth module to think about the politics of the Heroides, focusing in particular on it relation to Augustus’ moral legislation. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the relationship between space and gender in the Heroides, and the extent to which the heroines live up to the ideal of the Roman matrona.

Lecturer

Dr Sharon Marshall is Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter, specialising in Roman epic, love elegy and the Roman novel.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Marshall, S. (2022, August 08). Ovid: Heroides - The Politics of the Heroides [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/ovid-heroides/the-politics-of-the-heroides

MLA style

Marshall, S. "Ovid: Heroides – The Politics of the Heroides." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Aug 2022, https://massolit.io/courses/ovid-heroides/the-politics-of-the-heroides

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