179. Fasti by Ovid (c. 8 AD)

Plot:   An unfinished register of festival days in the Roman calendar, set in poetry.  My copy is the Loeb Classical Library volume, translated by James Frazer and revised by G. P. Goold (ISBN 0434992534)

My thoughts : This one already had two strikes against it before I picked it up : being an incomplete work (only January through to June are covered, the second half of the year is lost), and also consistently spoken of as Ovid’s least accomplished work (at least in Goodreads 🙂 ) Even putting aside Frazer’s annoying archaic English ‘thee’s, ‘thou’s, ‘wast’s and ‘haply’s, Ovid’s work is distinctly sub-par. His forays into the myths behind the holy days are scanty, vague and obscure, completely unlike his Metamorphoses. Half-written at the time of Ovid’s exile, perhaps it was only a draft, intended to be fleshed out and polished. Like Caesar I only reached the ides of March.

Favourite lines/passages:

Ovid asks Janus why the New Year doesn’t start in Spring when all other things are renewed, when “all things flower, then time renews his age, and new from out the teeming vine-shoot swells the bud … birds with their warblings winnow the warm air, the cattle frisk and wanton in the meads. Then suns are sweet, forth comes the stranger swallow and builds her clayey structure under the lofty beam”   I, lines 151-160

and a little more mercenary…

Janus to Ovid : “Oh, how little you know about the age you live in if you fancy that honey is sweeter than cash in hand!”   I, lines 191-192.

and when Pan lustfully tries to enter Hercules’ current squeeze Omphele’s bed, unaware that they have switched clothes in play, and the flimsy nightwear Pan can feel in the dark is about to lead him to a huge mistake.

Digressions/diversions:  Trivia was the Roman goddess of crossroads (Tri-via = three-ways).

Personal rating: 3/10 (just)

Next :  The tragedies of Seneca.


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