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Personification Allegory in the Aeneid and Ovid's Metamorphoses

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image of Mnemosyne

This article will show that Ovid's well-known innovations in the use of personification allegory combine closely with those of Virgil, to form a distinctive 'Augustan' phase in the development of allegory in classical literature. Both Ovid and Virgil make fictional abstractions concrete and ontologically ambiguous. Innovations common to both the Aeneid and Metamorphoses constitute an important stage in the emergence of 'compositional allegory', in the wake of the Roman adoption of Stoicising interpretative reading practices in the course of the first century BC. Both epics involve Furies as models for their major personified abstractions, both in narrative role and in concrete detail. Uniquely in and to Roman literature, Furies changed from supernatural beings into personified abstractions. This change, enabled by the semantic replacement of proper names such as Erinys or Eumenis with the word Furia ('frenzy'), produced new depth and complexity in the form and metaliterary function of personifications in Roman epic and later literary traditions.

Affiliations: 1: University of Reading, Department of Classics, Whiteknights, PO Box 218, Reading, RG6 6AA, United Kingdom;, Email:


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