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Historical reality and poetic representation

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Chapter Summary

When he was banished, Ovid was at the height of his fame, having completed the sixth book of his Fasti and nearing the end of the Metamorphoses. When Ovid was about fifty years of age and the most popular poet in Rome, the emperor Augustus banished him to the city of Tomis. Understanding Ovids exile as a poetic place, a literary construct deeply informed by an actual reality, is crucial to seeing the way in which the poet uses a coincidence of history to his own rhetorical advantage in these poems. The historical place of his exile allows Ovid to establish an empowering poetic identity whereby the poet on the edge of civilization comes into contact with what is specifically not known in Rome. No other poem in Latin literature is more concerned with adapting the Greco-Roman mythic tradition to the historical reality at Rome than the Aeneid.

Keywords: Aeneid; Greco-Roman mythic tradition; historical reality; Latin literature; Ovid; poetic representation



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