The Latter Days of a Love Poet
Ovid in Exile
There survive from antiquity five books of Ovid's Tristia, (or Poems of Sadness), his Ibis, and four books of his Ex Ponto, (or Letters from the Black Sea). These works purport to have been written when Ovid was in banishment at the town of Tomis (modern Constantza) from AD 9, when he arrived there, to AD 16, the latest date that can be assigned to one of his poems. The probable date of Ovid's death is AD 17.(1) Some modern scholars have advanced the view that the poems are an elaborate pretence and were in fact written in Rome.(2) I disagree with them, but it will not be possible for me to discuss the question in this paper.
My main purpose will be to try to establish as clear a picture as possible of what life was like for Ovid during that period. As Edward Gibbon, the great historian of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, said, The nine Books of Pontical Epistles, which Ovid composed during the seven first years of his melancholy exile, possess, besides the merit of elegance, a double value. They exhibit a picture of the human mind under very singular circumstances; and they contain many curious observations, which no Roman, except Ovid, could have had an opportunity of making (Vol. ii 216 Bury).
Tomis is roughly as far north as Florence, but it is curious that Ovid constantly refers to it as under the constellations of the Greater and Lesser Bear.(3) We may ascribe this to the fact that Tomis lay in Thrace to the North of Greece, and Greek poetry considered Thrace an icy Northerly region. Such misconceptions are common enough, even in modern times when globes and atlases are plentiful: to many it comes as a surprise to find how far south New York lies. Ovid tells us that he had no suitable house. The town he resided in had some natural strength for defence.(4) In fact it was situated, like so many early Greek colonies, on a naturally defensible promontory on a high coast,(5) surrounded on three sides by the sea. It is curious that Ovid never mentions this. Of course, when the sea was frozen, the defensive properties of the site would have been reduced.
His drinking water was bad, since what the only springs gave was marshy and mixed with sea water, indeed it was almost salt water. Outside the town the soil was not tilled, so that there was no leaf or tree, no fruits or grapes, no willows or oaks, only bare uninhabited plains stretching in all directions in that deserted corner of the world.(6) The plains were covered with wormwood and looked as featureless as another sea. The odd tree one might find was infelix.(7) He lived in the most repellent place in the world. Was it the howl of wolves impelled him to claim that everywhere was filled with the cries of wild animals? The land had no metals, the sea no purple-shell. One passage mentions walking on the brownish-yellow sand (presumably of the sea-shore). We are told that, because so many rivers flow into the Black Sea, the fresh water, being lighter since it contains no salt, floats on top of the salt water, so that the sea both loses its blue colour and freezes more easily. Ovid is correct in these observations on the Black Sea.(8)
In 1878 when Rumania acquired from the Turks the Dobruja region, where Tomis once stood, it was a 'land of mountains, fens and barren steppes,' but it is now fertile and an important region for cultivating the vine.(9)
The climate made this unattractive place much worse, and was bad for Ovid's health. It was so cold as virtually to make the land uninhabitable. The inhabitants fought the cold as much as they fought the attacking barbarians: the barbarians attacked with arrows, the winter with hail. In winter the snow fell and remained on the ground constantly frozen; indeed in many places it lay on the ground for two years. The winds were a special trial. Fierce North winds demolished towers and carried the roofs off buildings.(10) Icicles tinkled in the hair and beards of the people, wine froze solid and was served in chunks shaped like the containers that held it. The frozen water had to be dug from the ground. The Danube froze over: it was trampled by horses and by oxen drawing wagons, and men walked where the boats had sailed. Incredible as it might seem to the Romans, the sea froze over, and Ovid had walked on it. The dolphins could not leap, the wind could raise no waves: ships were frozen fast, and fishes were found in broken ice: some of them still alive.(11)
Although Ovid says that the snow was perpetual and that the climate was always cold, and that the ground was always frozen, and that winter followed winter without a break, so that there was no spring with flowers, no summer with harvest, and no autumn with the vintage, he also admits that in spring-time, when the warm breezes came and the ice melted, the Danube once more was a barrier against invasion, and ships began to arrive at Tomis again. The sea was always dark and stormy. Ovid believed that the proximity to the North was the reason for the excessive cold. The climate was one of the features he seems to have found most unpleasant in Tomis.(12)
One must allow for the impression Tomis made on one used to the mild climate of Italy, but still Ovid's language is excessive, even if one accepts that the climate may have been colder in ancient times, and that he may have arrived to experience freak weather. The most exaggerated claims seem to have been made shortly after Ovid's arrival, but towards the end of his stay, when he appealed to Vestalis and Pomponius to bear him out in his descriptions, he silently dropped the claims that snow lay for two years and that one winter was continuous with another.(13)
Constantza is now an 'internationally famous health resort area' because of its maritime climate and therapeutic muds, according to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. The winter climate of the North West Black Sea coast has an average air temperature of -3(o) C, but in the North the thermometer may drop to -30(o)C. The coast of Rumania averages 0(o)C in January, but in July the plains reach an average of 20(o)-23(o) C. Annual rainfall varies from 300-400 mm., say 12-16 inches. Little snow falls on the plains, but snow may remain on the high mountains from three to five months. A bitterly cold North-East wind blows for about 155 days a year, and a scorching West or South-West for about 126 days.(14)
Ovid names many of the wild tribes living in the region: Scythians, Getae, Sarmatians, Bessi, Coralli, Iazyges, Ciziges and others. The names often seem to be used loosely for their poetic effect, and little or no effort is made to distinguish them.(15) The people, even when they were not dangerous, were odious: clothed in skins and trousers, with only their faces visible - faces covered, as Ovid claims, in icicles. They were more like wolves than men: with them might was right. The Greek they spoke was barbarous and no one knew even common Latin words.(16)
In Tomis the Getic element predominated over the Greek: Sarmatian and Getic barbarians rode through the streets, each armed with a club or his bow and poisoned arrows; their voice was savage, their glance truculent, a very true image of their mind.(17) Their unkempt hair flowed down to chest-length, and their beards were untrimmed; they were quick to stab with the dagger each carried. The sword was the law-giver, and there were often woundings in the Forum itself. Even the descendants of the Greeks wore Persian trousers.(18) The women had no skill at working wool, but carried water in jars on their heads, and ground grain. When sending a present to Rome Ovid had to pick a quiver of arrows and explain that quivers were the books, and arrows the pens, used in Tomis.(19)
However, the barbarians were not quite devoid of human feeling: they were moved, he alleges, by the faithful friendship illustrated in the story of Orestes and Pylades, and when Ovid wished to emphasise his misery he exclaimed: 'even the Getae have pity for me!'(20) It seems that some of the Tomitans were annoyed by the evil reports Ovid gave of their town: in two of his latest poems he admits that the citizens were kind, as was only to be expected from Greeks, that they knew he would like to leave them, but wished him to stay, and that they had even voted him exemption from taxes, a concession unique for one not holding official status, and had presented him (against his will) with an honorary garland.(21) In ancient art the Scythians are shown with long hair hanging behind to shoulder length, and they have unkempt beards: they wear hoods, jackets and trousers. The Scythian bow was famous in ancient times.
A constant preoccupation was the menace of the barbarians, who consisted of many warlike races, not ashamed to live by plunder. The area of Roman influence reached to the Danube, which was a useful natural defence. When the river froze in winter, however, invasion could be expected. Mounted bowmen using poisoned arrows came and devastated the land, plundering the meagre wealth of the peasants, setting fire to their huts and then taking into captivity those they had not killed. The fear of such raids was constant, and they came suddenly like great flocks of birds.
In Tomis Ovid felt he was surrounded by warlike foes who almost touched his side. Only the guards on the low walls and by the barred gates stood between him and death or captivity.(22) As Ovid claims the barbarians practised human sacrifice, capture was a terrifying fate.(23) Outside, the enemy rode their panting horses along the walls, like wolves encircling a pen of sheep; within, the citizens picked up the poisoned arrows from the middle of the streets, and the roofs bristled with arrows stuck fast in them. Since more than half the houses in Tomis were occupied by barbarians, Ovid feared treachery within the town. The few who risked ploughing outside the walls kept one hand on the plough and one on their weapons: the shepherds sang their songs while wearing a helmet, and watched not for wolves but for raiders. Countermeasures against the raids were difficult: the barbarians fled away on their hardy horses, were able to put up with hunger and thirst, and the lack of water made it impossible for the Romans to follow.
In AD 12 things seem to have been particularly difficult: the barbarians had stormed the fortified town of Aegissos on the Danube, and Ovid claimed that in Tomis they lived constantly under arms, and that he was the only exile who was also a soldier. The Romans had to call in troops to recover the city: P. Vitellius brought legionaries down the Danube, and a brave attack through the showers of poisoned arrows was gallantly led by the chief centurion, Vestalis, who was descended from the family of a Gaulish chieftain who ruled in the Alps. The town was safely recovered, and Ovid wrote a poem to celebrate the bravery of Vestalis. In an elegy of AD 16 we are told how Pomponius Flaccus (consul AD 17, the probable year of Ovid's death) recaptured the town of Troesmis, which had fallen into barbarian hands.
In the learned poem on the freezing of the Black Sea, there is reference to the piracy of the Heniochae and the Achaei, but it is not clear that Ovid is speaking from personal knowledge. It is interesting to note that the family of the brave Gaul, Vestalis, is attested by a Latin inscription found in the Alpine region where his family were client-kings. During the Augustan period there was trouble with the Daci (Ovid never uses the name, found in Horace alone five times [Serm. II vi 63 etc.]; presumably, like Pliny [Nat. IV 80] and [Strabo VII iii 12-13 = C 304-305], he considers them a branch of the Getae). It was Augustan policy to make the Danube a frontier of the Roman rule. Augustus made Cotys II king of the coastal part of Thrace in AD 12, and Ovid addressed a letter to him as a fellow poet.(24) It was not until AD 46 that the Romans formally made Thrace a province.
Ovid's Physical Health In the second letter of the third book of the Tristia Ovid expresses satisfaction with the toughness by which he had survived the hardships of his journey into exile.(25) However, in the very next letter we find he has become ill. He blames aspects of life at Tomis we have already considered: the climate, the water, and his unsatisfactory house, but he also says the food is bad and that he has no medical attention.(26) He has been delirious, and has a dry tongue: thoughts of death haunt him. About the same time he describes other symptoms: languor, a yellow colour, lack of appetite, depression, a desire for death, and disturbing dreams.
In autumn of AD 10 he complains that his strength is deteriorating, his colour is bad, and he is very thin, but that his mental condition (to be considered in the next paragraph) is even worse. In the next letter he says that his temples grow white, he is sunk in inactivity, and his gait is feeble. In the next book he refers to his physical health in more optimistic terms and says it is bearing up, but that his mind is ill. In a later epistle, he expresses the view that his mental illness is affecting his body: the phrase, lateris cruciatibus, 'torments of his side(s),' suggests pleurisy, and he thinks the violent cold of winter was the direct cause.
In the first book Ex Ponto he remarks on his changed appearance making him unrecognisable with white hair and wrinkles, and says that the sports of his youth no longer delight him. About the same time he complains of illness again: the phrase os hebes suggests dulled appetite, he has a distaste for food, is sleepless, and has a pallor.(27) He protests that his correspondent knows how lightly he drinks (28) and eats, and that sexual excess is not the cause of his illness either, but rather the bad water, the locality and anxiety. Surprisingly in the remaining books there is little said about his health. Either he felt the topic would best not be followed further, or his constitution rallied.
Ovid's Mental Health
In the very letter in which Ovid was remarking on his toughness during the voyage to Tomis he admitted to feeling sadness, and regret. When he did fall ill, he lamented the absence of anyone to console him or help him to pass the time. Significantly he began to yearn for burial at home. He also for the first time touched on a topic that was to recur: the thought that he would be buried in Scythia, and his ghost (29) would be condemned to that horrible region.
With recovery, however, his courage returned and he remarks on the power of hope to keep mortals struggling in the most desperate circumstances. About this time too he remarks how those whose lot is hard, like the slaves in the chain gang, sing to keep up their spirits. Elsewhere he says that when he wrote verses he burned them in rage. When describing his physical illness in AD 10, we saw how he thought his mental condition was worse than his physical. He thinks weariness is taking its toll, and says that early death will be a release for him. We also saw (in the previous section) that he thought that, though his body was bearing up, his mind was ill, and that he believed illness of the mind affected his physical condition. In the first book Ex Ponto Ovid remarks that worry is eating him away, and in the following letter describes his condition more fully: he alternated between weeping and apathy, and his condition was deteriorating with the passage of time.
Even in his sleep he was terrified by dreams of Sarmatian arrows or of captivity. If, however, he dreamed of his wife or friends, those reminders of his happier life made his waking state worse. The theme of hope recurs again when Ovid thinks over the time when the sentence of banishment was passed. A hint of claustrophobia is conveyed by Ovid's complaint that he is pent up in the city, while the enemy harass it from the outside. In the seventh letter of the second book Ex Ponto he says that pain had become a way of life for him, but that his courage, his hope and his friends kept him from succumbing. In the same collection he remarks that he had forgotten how to be cheerful. In another letter about this time he claimed he would bravely face his fate, unless Caesar's anger could prohibit that too.(30) Just as the complaints about his physical health ceased, at about the same time Ovid no longer related his symptoms of depression, and the cause of the cessation is no clearer. There does seem to be a certain consistency in Ovid's account of his health.
Ovid's communication with the natives
Shortly after arrival he complains that he has no communication with the people amongst whom he lives. Even in AD 11 he says he has to use sign language talking to the Getae, and that they laugh at his Latin words. He suspects that they deride him when he misunderstands them, and that they think he is mad. Very soon after, however, he claims to have learned both Getic and Sarmatian! A little later he repeats the claim, and tells how he informed the Getae and Sarmatians of the uprightness of his friend Cotta Maximus, and was told the story of Orestes and Pylades by one of the bystanders as an exemplum of true friendship.
As we shall see in a later paragraph, soon after the death of Augustus in AD 14 he claimed to have written a poem in Getic praising the dead and deified princeps. Again in this account there seems to be an inner consistency, and it seems Ovid gained an increasing facility in what he called Getic and Sarmatian. One may suspect some kind of Greek based lingua franca is meant. I doubt that Ovid was actually told the story of Orestes and Pylades, as he alleges. It is also hard to understand what really lay behind his claim that he had written a poem in Getic on the apotheosis of Augustus: any sustained poem in a barbarous language seems very improbable: perhaps he might have managed a brief epigram.(31)
How did Ovid spend his time?
In considering his mental health above, we have noticed Ovid's complaints of boredom. He claims he had no books to read.(32) Things must have been particularly bad when the enemy were outside the walls of the small city where he was pent up. In a wistful passage he accepts that he cannot expect a beautiful garden like he once possessed at Rome, but he would like to become a shepherd and carry a shepherd's crook, or drive an ox-cart and learn the Getic words to give orders and threats to his Getic oxen, or else to plough, sow, weed, and water.(33) Many Roman gentlemen would have thought such tasks suitable only for slaves.(34) Others might seek refuge in idleness, drinking or dice-playing, but these were distasteful to Ovid.(35) Archery, so popular with the Getae, was beyond his strength. The Scythian composite bow, it must be remarked, required skill and strength to use.(36)
How much credence should be given to Ovid's description of himself as a soldier is hard to decide.(37) But there does seem to have been a serious crisis in or about AD 12, and in an emergency he may have played some useful part that he liked to consider as military service. Sentry duty and signalling suggest themselves as requiring intelligence, but no great physical strength. Once in a poem written after the intervention of Roman forces to recapture Aegissos and Troesmis, when no doubt the environs of Tomis had become safer, he incidentally wrote of walking on the brownish-yellow sand. As he then describes hearing an imaginary supernatural message, we may suspect that he is merely using a conventional poetic setting.(38)
More convincing is his description of his running to harbour when the first ship arrives in spring and his eager questioning to find out the news, and inviting any messenger to his house so that he may get a full account.(39) Ovid acknowledged receiving a present of silver statues of Augustus, Livia, and Tiberius from Cotta Maximus about AD 12. In AD 16 he claims to have made a shrine with an image of Augustus flanked by images of Livia and Tiberius, in turn flanked by images of Tiberius' two sons (Drusus natural and Germanicus adopted). To these every morning he offers incense and prayer.
Each year he celebrates the birthday of Augustus by holding games known to all the region. Visitors from as far away as the Propontis are aware of Ovid's action. He appeals to Graecinus to verify this from his brother Pomponius Flaccus, who had been governor in that region. If he were wealthier, he would do more.(40) His wife's birthday was the one day on which he wore white clothing.(41)
In Ovid's isolation letters became particularly important, and he reproached correspondents who seldom wrote. How quick was the transmission of letters? It is surprising to be told that a letter can reach Rome from Tomis in ten days. One may suspect that that was a summer delivery, and that, as Ovid was writing to a consul-elect, governmental facilities were used. At the other end of the scale it is also surprising to be told that to send a letter to his friend Gallio and to receive a reply could take a whole year. Even if Gallio were at the other end of the Roman dominions, and a fairly tardy correspondent, and even if several months of winter weather interrupted communications, this seems a very long time. Similarly to get news of an event at Rome, to write a hurried poem about it, and to send the poem to Rome, will take a year.(42)
Some have doubted that Ovid held games in Tomis, and the text has been emended to get rid of the games.(43) It may be that the exemption from taxes was in recognition of Ovid's largess. One must not think of the endless expenses involved in modern sport.(44)
I have not yet considered Ovid's main occupation during his long period of banishment: the writing of poetry. This will be treated in the next section.
Ovid and Poetry
Early in his exile Ovid wrote that he feared he was losing his command of Latin; if he gave a true picture of Tomis when he stated that no one understood common Latin words, this is understandable. He must speak to himself and write to resist the loss of his Latin. Poetry helped Ovid to revisit Rome in his imagination and so forget his present troubles. He is proud of the power of his imagination, and tells a friend how he can summon him from Rome to the Black Sea all unaware.
In some poems he envisages what is happening, or has recently happened , or is about to happen in Rome: signs of spring not to be seen in Tomis are returning to Rome; the poets are holding their annual celebration of the festival of Bacchus; Tiberius has splendidly celebrated his triumph over the Dalmatians and Pannonians; Ovid's friends are about to be invested with the consulate. More than once he represents his letter or book of poetry as a living messenger that will arrive in Rome. He recalls the pleasant scenes in the city from which he was debarred: the fora, the temples, the theatres, the porticoes, the Campus Martius, the gardens, the ponds, the Euripus in the circus, and the Aqua Virgo aqueduct. But he knows imagination lacks the vividness of reality, and he apologises for his inability to describe the triumph of Tiberius with the vigour he could have displayed, had he actually seen it with his own eyes. The remembrance of happy days with his friends must have whiled away many an hour, and he dwells on recollections of happy days with Atticus in Rome, and with Pompeius Macer when he and the young Ovid travelled by carriage in Sicily.
Another kind of escape is to be found in legend, the field he so richly exploited in the Metamorphoses: he tells the story of how Tomis got its name, and the tale of Orestes and Pylades meeting Iphigenia among the Tauri, two legends of local interest. He develops a theme from the anonymous love poems known as the Anacreontea, when he describes a dream, in which Cupid visited him in Tomis and consoled Ovid with the assurance that Caesar's anger would be assuaged. A local reference is worked in by stating that Cupid first visited that region when he caused Medea to fall in love with Jason. He compares himself writing poetry to the slave in the chain gang that sings to alleviate his miseries. Indeed, it is only because of his poetry that Ovid continues to live. Ovid is proud of his poetic talent, which even Caesar cannot rule, and his work is read in all the world, and will live to future times.
He regrets having written his Ars Amatoria, because that was a reason for his banishment, but never admits that the book caused any harm, and never expresses any regret about his other poems treating of love. He explains that he writes partly from habit, and partly to pass the time, but lacks an audience in Tomis, and hence cannot aspire to gloria which inspires great poetry. To write a poem that you will not read to a listener is the same as displaying your dancing in the darkness. Lacking that stimulus he cannot be bothered to revise his verses to raise them to first class quality, for, he explains, revision is a more wearisome labour than composition.
He sardonically remarks that his poems impress the Sarmatians, and he has the distinction of being the best poet on the Danube! Yet he explains that he really writes them not for the Sarmatians, but to secure some human contact with his friends at Rome. He is pleased to hear his poems are used for stage performances, but he writes not for fame, but for relief and oblivion, that is, to forget his sorrows. He is relying on his poetic gift for life itself. He cannot expect to write good poetry, for it is the product of cheerful minds. As he is confined in the city he has no secluded place such as poets frequent to compose their verses. Gloria means nothing to him now, and all his troubles have arisen from writing poetry. He has no books to inspire him, and no listener to provide an audience, or to supply him with forgotten words or names.
These two points mark a great difference between modern and classical poets. The ancient poets wrote in a very clearly defined tradition and considered their predecessors as models which they should imitate and improve. Their poetry was intended for reading to an audience, and the criticism of a select audience was taken seriously. Ovid claimed he burnt much that he wrote, and that he wished he had done so with his Ars. He wondered whether his poetry would get safely to Rome, and, if it should, whether it would please the public. Despairingly he expressed the belief that even successful poetry would do nothing to secure his return, and that he was dead to Rome.
Elsewhere he lamented that because of delays in communication he was out of touch and out of date. Naturally he wondered whether he was remembered in Rome at all. He was conscious that his poetry was monotonous, as fundamentally it consisted of accounts of his hardships and pleas for a change of abode. He apologised for his inferior poetry, and said that as he had written a poem in Getic praising Augustus, one must expect his Latin to be affected.(45)
My impression of the works in exile is that they convey a picture that is substantially true, but that allowance must be made for poetic liberties and conventions, for Ovid's interest in exaggerating his hardships, and for the difficulty he must have had in ascertaining what truth there was in the information he received from the local inhabitants.
1. This date depends on an entry in St. Jerome's Chronica (a. Abr. 2033), which probably derives from Suetonius' lost work de Poetis. The format of Jerome's work made it easy for scribes to get dates slightly wrong.
2. Cf. A. D. Fitton Brown, LCM 10 (1985) 18-22. Topics touched on in this paper (originally read to the Classical Society, University College Dublin), are discussed with a wealth of learning by A. Podossinov in his Ovids Dichtung als Quelle für die Geschichte des Schwarzmeergebiets (Xenia 19), Konstanz l987, and innumerable other papers, among which I may mention R. Vulpe
"Ovidio nella città dell' esilio
" Studi Ovidiani, ed. F. Arnaldi and others, Rome 1959, 41-62, and, most recently, R. M. Batty
"On Getic and Sarmatian shores
" Historia 43 (1994) 88-111.
3. Trist. III iv 47-48 and many other passages. The Hippocratic de aere (19 = 61,10 Kü) remarks that the Scythians lie under the constellations of the Bears.
4. References: Ovid on his house - Trist. III iii 9; situation of the town - Trist. V x 17-18.
5. Great Soviet Encyclopedia, ed.. 3 English Translation, vol. 13 (New York 1976) 92a (I shall refer to this work simply as GSE in subsequent notes), and Vulpe (cf. n. 2 supra), who provides a plan of the site.
6. References: quality of the water - Pont. III i 17-18, and II vii 74; lack of trees and fruits - Pont. I ii 23 and I iii 51-52; land uninhabited - Trist. III x 67-76; V ii 71, Pont. I iii 55-56 and I iii 49.
7. Pont. III i 20; Pliny (Nat. XXVII 45) states that Pontic wormwood is inferior to no other. The term infelix has ritual connotations; of ill-omen, cf. Nisbet-Hubbard on Hor. Carm. II xiii 11.
8. References: repellent place - Trist V vii 43-44; cries of animals - Trist. V xii 55-56; lack of metals and purple - Pont. III viii 5, 8; walking on sand - Pont. IV iv 11; water of Black Sea - Pont. IV x 59-64. The Aristotelian Problems (932a21 - 38) discuss the pale colour of the Euxine, and how salt water underlies fresh. C. M. Danoff, in his excellent article
" (RE supp. IX [l962]), 931-932, seems to have the view that the ancients were unaware that fresher water and salter water lay in two strata in the Euxine. He gives the figures of salt content as 1.7 - 1.8% and 2.25 - 2.26% respectively.
9. Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. 11, London 1911, 8, 352 (I shall refer to this work as EB in subsequent notes); GSE (cf. n. 5 supra) 29 (1982) 15; GSE 13 (1976) 92 and 29 (1982) 15. The marshes to which Strabo refers (VII v 12 = C318), were probably chiefly near the mouth of the Danube.
10.. References: unhealthy climate - Trist. III i 7: nec caelum patior; intolerable cold - Trist. III iv 51; fighting cold and barbarians - Pont. I ii 25 and I vii 12; snow for two years - Trist. III x 16 (cf. the Hippocratic de aere [19 = 61,20 Kü) which paints a gloomy, if illogical, picture:
"it is always winter; summer [lasts] for a few days and those not much
"); the winds - Trist. IV i 22; destruction of buildings - Trist III x 17-18.
11. Trist. III x 19-50; for the sea freezing cf. also Pont. III i 15-16, IV vii 7, and IV x 31-33 - Danoff (n. 8, supra), 944-945, describes the sea freezing to the South of the site of Tomis in the very cold spell of 1928-1929, and refers to an investigation of a later period of extreme cold in the winter of 1954; for wine and Danube freezing, cf. Pont. IV vii 8-10. Wine freezes at about - 4(o) F (- 20(o)C), cf. Fitton Brown (n. 2. supra) 19; Xenophon (Anab. VII iv 3) reports the freezing of wine in jars when the Greek mercenaries were in Thrace.
12. References: perpetual snow - Pont. I iii 50; ground always frozen - Trist. V ii 65-66; winter the only season - Pont. I ii 24 and III i 11-13; arrival of spring - Trist. III x 7; dark and stormy sea - Pont. I iii 53-54; cold North - Pont. IV x 37-44; climate worst affliction - Pont. IV xiv 27 - 28, first item in a list of complaints.
13. Pont. IV vii 3-10; IV ix 81-86: R. Vulpe (cf. n. 2 supra), p. 54, claims that some sunless ravines in the Carpathians have year-long snow. Ovid may have heard accounts of this.
14. GSE (cf. n. 5 supra) 22 (l979) 337; EB (cf. n. 9 supra) 23, 827. In the Aristotelian Problemata (938a37 - b4) both the excessive cold and excessive heat of the Euxine are discussed.
15. Batty (n. 2 supra) 96-101 does his best to reconcile Ovid's references with what we know from other sources; I am sure the metrical convenience of a name often guided Ovid's choice.
16. References to passages describing the inhabitants (in the order used above): Trist. V x 31, III x 32, V vii 49, V vii 51-54, V ii 67-68.
17. Trist. V vii 17. Thracian names are seldom found in the surviving inscriptions from Tomis. They are listed on p. 383 of the corpus edited by D. M. Pippidi and I. I. Russu (cf. n. 40, infra). Ovid, it would seem, is exaggerating (but cf. Batty [n. 2 supra] 91-92).
18. References: unkempt hair - Trist. V x 32, V vii 18; and V vii 50; daggers - Trist. V vii 19-20; affrays -Trist. V x 43-44; trousers - Trist. V x 33-34.
19. Pont. III viii 11-12. The resemblance of arrows to pens is brought out by the use of the term calamos; it is hard to see how quivers could resemble books, and Professor E.J. Kenney has ingeniously suggested reading locellos ('ink-wells' for libellos ('books').
20. References: appreciation of friendship - Pont. III ii 100; sympathy of savage Getae - .Pont. II vii 31-32.
21. Pont. IV xiv 15-16, IV ix 97-104 (A.D. 16) and IV xiv 51-56. Garlands are sometimes mentioned in the surviving honorific inscriptions from Tomis; ijsotevleia (tax equality) only once (cf. D. M. Pippidi and I. I. Russu [n. 40 infra] 5, 28); ajtevleia (exemption from tax) never.
22. References: living by plunder - Trist. V x 15-16; Danube as frontier - Trist. III x 7; sudden onsets - Trist. V x 19; walls of Tomis - Trist. III xi 14 and V x 1; nearness of enemy - Trist. III xiv 41-42, IV i 69, and V ii 70.
23. Pont. IV ix 84; Herodotus (IV 62 and IV 71) had described human sacrifice among the Scythians.
24. References: barbarian horsemen patrolling - Trist. IV i 77- 78 and Pont. I ii 16; hostile arrows in the city - Trist. V x 21-22, Pont. I ii 21, barbarians living in Tomis - Trist. V x 29-30 (however, cf. n. 17, supra); defence and its difficulties - Pont. I ii 83-87; Ovid's situation in A.D. 12 - Pont. I viii 5,7; Roman intervention - Pont. IV vii (for the background, cf. R. Syme, History in Ovid, Oxford 1978, 81-91); events at Troesmis - Pont. IV ix 75-80; Heniochae and Achaei - Pont. IV x 25-28 (at Arist Pol. 1338b22 they are mentioned together, and Strabo [11.2.12 = C 496] claims that because of the negligence of Roman magistrates the areas under Roman rule were especially exposed to their sudden raids); family of Vestalis - CIL 5, 2, 7231; letter to Cotys II - Pont. II ix.
25. Trist. III ii 13-14.
26. Trist. III iii 7-10. If multitudes of arrows stuck in the roofs of the houses, one may assume the houses were not tiled, cf. n. 24 supra.
27. References to Ovid's physical symptoms:Trist. III iii 19-22, III viii, IV vi 41-44, IV viii 1 (his hair was greying already at Rome according to Trist. IV x 93), V ii 3-8, V xiii 3-6, Pont. I iv 1-6, I x 7-13 and 29-34.
28. Usually only water: Pont. I x 30.
29. References to Ovid's mental symptoms: Trist. III ii 19-22, III iii 11-12, III iii 37-44 (for the topic of burial, cf. Trist. IV iii 41-48, V vii 23-24; Pont. I ii 58 and 109-112), Trist. III v 25-28, IV i 5-14 (cf. IV x 115-118), IV i 101-102, IV vi 43-50, Pont. I i 73-74, I ii 27-28 and 43-52, I vi 27-46, I viii 51-62, II vii 39, 75-76, III iv 50.
30. Pont. III vii 39-40.
31. References: Ovid's difficulties in communication: Trist. III xi 9,. V.x 27-42, V. xii 58, Pont. III ii 40-96; his alleged poem in Getic - Pont. IV xiii 17-32, and n. 44 infra.
32. Trist. III xiv 37-38; already in the fourth century Xenophon had remarked how a shipwreck in the Euxine threw a cargo that included many written books on the shore of Thrace (Anab.VII v 14). No doubt there were very few Latin books in Tomis, and the Greek books may not have been to Ovid's taste.
33. Pont. I viii 51-60; his inability to engage in gardening is also lamented in Pont. II vii 69-70. See also the next paragraph.
34. Sall. Cat. iv 1.
35. Pont. I v 43-48.
36. Pont. I v 49-52 - a full description of bows known to the Greeks is given in H. L. Lorimer, Homer and the Monuments, (London l950), 276-250; cf. A. Snodgrass, Early Greek Armour and Weapons, (Edinburgh 1964), 141-144.
37. Cf. n. 24 supra: an inscription, probably from the second century B.C.(Dittenberger3 731 = Pippidi - Russu [cf. n. 40 infra] 2) describes emergency provisions for manning the town wall: cf. also R. Vulpe (n. 2 supra), p. 46.
38. Cf. n.8 supra.
39. Trist. III xii 33-34 and 37-50.
40. References for Ovid and the imperial cult: Pont. II viii 1-4, IV ix 105-122, (Tomis held an important position among the neighbouring cities, and under the Romans it held the title mhtrovpoli
" tou' Eujwnuvmou Povntou (D. M. Pippidi and I. I. Russu, Inscriptiile antice din Dacia si Scythia Minor, vol. II, Bucharest l987, 82 A, l5; 92, 11; 97, 5):. a festival there could be expected to draw visitors from neighbouring cities).
41. Trist. V v 7-8; in Trist. III xiii 13-14 he tells us that he did not wear the usual joyful white garment on his own birthday.
42. References to communication by letter: Trist. IV vii 3-4 (cf. V xiii 15-16), Pont. IV v 2, Trist. IV xi 15-16, Pont. III iv 59-60
43. At Pont. IV ix 116 Professor J. B. Hall suggests libis (birthday 'cakes') for the ludis ('games') of the manuscripts
44. It is sometimes claimed that the ancient athletes were expected to help in making the grounds ready (e.g., by B. Schröder, Der Sport im Altertum, Berlin 1927, 97-98). This would have effected a useful economy. The passages from the ancient authors collected by A .S. F. Gow in his note on Theocritus IV 10 do not seem to put the matter beyond doubt. The suggestion has been made that Ovid was made an ajgwnoqevth
" by the Tomitans. The office is mentioned in two inscriptions only of the imperial age (D. M. Pippidi and I. I. Russu [cf. n. 40 supra] 52, 28 and 69,7).
45. References: danger of loss of language - Trist. III i 17-18, V vii 53-64; power of imagination - Pont. II x 50 (cf. Trist. III iv 55-64, IV ii 57-58, Pont. III v 45-49, IV iv 45-46 and IV ix 41-42); envisaging spring at Rome - Trist. III xii 5-24; the poets' festival - Trist. V iii; triumph of Tiberius - Pont. II i (the triumph is anticipated in Trist. IV ii); coming consulates - Pont. IV iv and v (Sextus Pompeius, cos. A. D. 16), and ix (C. Pomponius Graecinus, cos. suff. A. D. 17); book as messenger - Trist. III i, V iv 1-4, Pont. I i 3-10, IV v; advantages of autopsy - Pont. III iv 21-22 (it is interesting to compare Ovid's recollections of Rome with the descriptions of Strabo (V iii 8 = C 235-236) and Pliny (Nat. XXXVI 101 - 123); happy days with friends - Pont. II iv, II x 21-42; name of Tomis - Trist. III ix; story of Orestes - Pont. III ii 41-96 (Ovid alleges it was related to him by a local inhabitant); cf. Trist. IV iv 63-82; Cupid's visit - Pont. III iii 5-94 (inspired by Anacreontea 33 West); Medea's visit - Pont. III iii 79-80; singing in chain gang -Trist IV i 5-14, (cf IV x 111-118, V vii 39-42, Pont. IV x 67-68); poetry reason for living - Trist. IV x 115 (cf. Trist. V vii 65-69); Ovid's fame - Trist. III viii 47-48, IV x 115-130, Pont. III ii 29-36; regrets for Ars - Trist. V i 8, and many other passages; defence of Ars - Tristia II (which must have been infuriating to Augustus; whether Ovid was appealing to the public against the princeps, or trying to convince him, he would have been wiser not to publish it); need of an audience - Trist. V i 74, Pont. IV ii 35; labour of revision - Pont. III ix 19-26; local fame - Trist. V i 74, Pont. I v 63-64, (cf. IV ii 37-38); writes for Rome - Trist. V i 79-80; writes to forget sorrows - Trist. V viii 25-26 and 67-68; poetry gives him life - Pont. III v 34; good poetry needs tranquil mind - Trist. V xii 3-4, Pont. III iv 33-34 and 45-50; lacks solitude - Trist. III xiv 41-42; aid from audience - Trist. III xvi 37-40 and 43-44; destroyed work - Trist. IV i 101-102; forgotten at Rome - Trist. III x 1-2, III v 37-42, Pont. I v 75-78; out of date - Pont. III iv 51-64; poetry monotonous - Pont. III vii 1-6, III ix 1-2 and 33-34; alleged poem in Getic - Pont. IV xiii 17-32.