Fasti by Ovid.
Fasti, or Fastorum Libri Sex ('Six Books of the Calendar' or 'The Book of Festivals') is a poem by Ovid that was written around 8 A.D., around the same time as his most famous work Metamorphoses. It's either half finished or half lost. It begins,
Times and their causes, arranged through the Latin year,Stars sunk beneath earth and risen, I'll sing.View this work peacefully, Caesar Germanicus,And direct the course of my timid ship.Do not refuse a trifling honour. Be presentTo support service vowed to your godhead.You will recognise sacred rites unearthed from ancientAnnals and how each day deserved its mark.You will discover here the feast-days of your house,And often read of your grandfather and father.The glories they have stamped on the painted FastiYou, too, will win with Drusus, your brother.Let others sing of Caesar's arms, me of Caesar's altarsAnd all the days he added to our rites...
Caesar Germanicus was part of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the father of Agrippina the Younger, Empress of Rome, who married Claudius. To flatter Germanicus would perhaps, in Ovid's mind, release him from his exile to Tomis. It did not, however - Ovid died in Tomis in 17 or 18 A.D. and his exile was not actually officially revoked until 2017! Whether he abandoned it or whether it was lost, as I say, is uncertain, but what we have is a calendrical poem from January to June, inspired perhaps by Hesiod's Works and Days and Aratus' Phaenomena. It's divided into six books - January, February, March, April, May, and June; January begins,
Jᴀɴᴜᴀʀʏ 1 (Kᴀʟᴇɴᴅs)
Look, Germanicus, Janus proclaims a happy yearFrom here Ovid writes on a variety of myths and legends: the creation of the calendar by Romulus and Numa, the creation of the world, Hercules, and others. In February he writes, among many other things, on Lucretia and Callisto; March is dedicated to Mars in which he writes on Silvia, Romulus and Remus; April begins with Venus chastising Ovid for abandoning his erotic poetry (which may well have got him exiled in the first place); in May he writes on the etymology of the name "May" from the Muses, as well as the goddess Flora and the death of Castor and Pollux. Finally, in June he writes on Vesta, and the murder of King Servius Tullius, a legendary king of Rome.
For you and is present to start my song.
Two-headed Janus, source of the silent-gliding year,
Who alone of the gods see your own back,
Be present for our leaders, whose labours secure
Peace for the teeming earth, peace for the ocean.
Be present for your senators and Quirinus' folk;
Unlock our gleaming temples with your nod...
It is a treasure trove of myths, many of which I was already familiar and have already written about in other posts, but some were new. It's criticised as not being particularly accurate, some even regard it as a failure, however even so it's an interesting read though not his finest by far. The politics of it, however, is what make it remarkable and worthy of reading - the parts on Germanicus, for example, and his family, as well as Venus' discussion with Ovid on his erotic poetry. It's a book I may well revisit, but I would admit I wasn't terribly excited by it.
And that was my 26th title for the Deal Me In Challenge - the half-way point! Next week - Cures for Love by Ovid. This is most fortuitous because I was hoping very much for that and as luck would have it it came up (I promise I would admit it if I'd cheated: the truth is in the next few weeks I fully plan to cheat on this challenge and bring The Phoenician Women and Oscar Wilde's The Sphinx forward to finish other challenges).
Now on a different note: Ovid's Fasti is the 140th title on my Ancient Greek and Roman Challenge, which now with only ten remaining is drawing to a close. Here's what's left:
- On the Good Life by Cicero (I'm nearly finished this).
- Cures for Love by Ovid.
- The Letters of Pliny the Younger (I've finished this and will be writing about it in the next few days).
- Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger.
- The Phoenician Women by Seneca the Younger.
- Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (I'm planning on reading this over the weekend).
- Apollodorus' Library (this is on myths and legends, my most favourite part of this challenge. I'm saving this until last).
- The Enneads by Plotinus.
- On Christian Teaching by St. Augustine.
- The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine by Eusebius of Caesarea.
So it looks possible I may finish this by early autumn! I'm still enjoying this challenge so I won't be punching the air when I finish, but I do have my next challenge all lined up, so I am looking forward to revealing that...