Issues of Unity in Ovid’s <i>Tristia</i>

by Helena Dettmer (Author)
©2021 Monographs XVI, 190 Pages


In his 1995 Teubner edition, J. B. Hall separates Tristia 1.5, 1.9, 3.4, 4.4, 5.2, and 5.7 into two poems. One reviewer of Hall’s edition is highly critical of the editor for not justifying the separation of these poems despite the fact the divisions have manuscript support. Because of the sorry state of the textual transmission of Ovid's Tristia, it is sometimes difficult to determine the beginning and end of an individual poem if that poem resumes thematically and verbally where the previous poem concludes. The aim of this study is to show that definitive evidence can be offered to justify division of these six elegies into two poems. Structure combined with theme serves as an analytical tool that defines the beginning and end of the twelve literary pieces under consideration and highlights their artistry. Resolution of the issue of unity enhances our interpretation of the independent poems and our understanding of the complex interplay among poems within each poetry-book. The careful and often brilliant craftsmanship of the poems and of the books in which they appear reaffirms that Ovid’s repeated deprecation of the quality of his literary work composed during his period of exile in the Black Sea region is simply a pose to attract sympathy and support from his Roman audience.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Preface
  • chapter one Introduction
  • Background
  • Manuscripts of the Tristia
  • Ring-Composition Structure
  • Consecutive-Ring Structure of Tristia 5.10
  • Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 5.10
  • Ring Structures of Latin Poetry-Books
  • Linear Structure of Poems within Poetry-Books and Run-On Poems
  • chapter two Tristia 1.5 and 1.9
  • Tristia 1.5a (1–44)
  • Tristia 1.9a (1–36)
  • Tristia 1.5a and 1.9a as Thematic Counterparts
  • Tristia 1.8
  • Tristia 1.5b (45–84)
  • Tristia 1.9b (37–66)
  • Tristia 1.5b and 1.9b as Thematic Counterparts
  • Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia Book 1
  • chapter three Tristia 3.4
  • Tristia 3.4a (1–46)
  • Tristia 3.4b (47–78)
  • Tristia 3.4a and 3.4b as Consecutive Paired Poems
  • Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia Book 3
  • Verbal and Thematic Parallels Common to Books 1 and 3
  • chapter four Tristia 4.4
  • Tristia 4.4a (1–54)
  • Tristia 4.4b (55–88)
  • Identity of the Addressee of Tristia 4.5
  • Tristia 4.4a and 4.5 as Thematic Counterparts
  • Metaphorical Interpretation of Tristia 4.4b
  • Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia Book 4
  • chapter five Tristia 5.2 and 5.7
  • Tristia 5.7a (1–24)
  • Tristia 5.7b (25–68)
  • Tristia 5.7b.25–42
  • Tristia 5.7b.43–64
  • Tristia 5.7b.25–42, 64–68
  • Tristia 5.7a and 5.7b as Consecutive Paired Poems
  • Tristia 5.10
  • Tristia 5.7a, 5.7b, and 5.10 as Thematic Counterparts
  • Tristia 5.2a (1–44)
  • Tristia 5.2b (45–78)
  • Tristia 5.2b and 5.11 as Thematic Counterparts
  • Interlocking-Ring Structure of Tristia Book 5
  • chapter six Conclusion
  • Structural Analysis
  • Ovid’s Attitude toward Augustus
  • Multiples of Five in Latin Poetry-Books
  • Ovid’s Ordering Principles of the Epistulae ex Ponto 1–3
  • Appendix A: Catullus 8
  • Appendix B: Text and Translation
  • Index

←viii | ix→

List of Illustrations

Figure 1.1:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 5.11

Figure 1.2a:Ring Structure of Tristia 5.10.1–14

Figure 1.2b:Ring Structure of Tristia 5.10.15–28

Figure 1.2c:Ring Structure of Tristia 5.10.29–38

Figure 1.2d:Ring Structure of Tristia 5.10.39–52

Figure 1.3:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 5.10

Figure 2.1:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 1.5a

Figure 2.2:Consecutive-Ring Structure of Tristia 1.9a

Figure 2.3:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 1.9a

Figure 2.4:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 1.5b

Figure 2.5:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 1.9b

Figure 2.6:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia Book 1

Figure 3.1: Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 3.4a

Figure 3.2:Consecutive-Ring Structure of Tristia 3.4b

Figure 3.3:Interlocking-Ring Structure of Tristia 3.4b

Figure 3.4:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia Book 3

Figure 4.1a:Ring Structure of Tristia 4.4a.1–8

Figure 4.1b:Ring Structure of Tristia 4.4a.9–20

Figure 4.1c:Ring Structure of Tristia 4.4a.21–26

Figure 4.1d:Ring Structure of Tristia 4.4a.27–40

←ix | x→

Figure 4.1e:Ring Structure of Tristia 4.4a.41–46

Figure 4.1f:Ring Structure of Tristia 4.4a.47–54

Figure 4.2:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 4.4a

Figure 4.3:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 4.4b

Figure 4.4:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia Book 4

Figure 5.1:Ring-Composition Structure of Tristia 5.7a

Figure 5.2:Ring Structure of 5.7b.25–42

Figure 5.3:Ring Structure of 5.7b.43–64

Figure 5.4:Ring-Composition Structure Framing the Center of Tristia 5.7b

Figure 5.5:Double Ring Structures of Tristia 5.2a

Figure 5.6:Double Ring Structures of Tristia 5.2b

Figure 5.7:Interlocking-Ring Structure of Tristia Book 5

Figure 6.1:Froesch’s Proposed Ring-Composition Structure of Epistulae ex Ponto 1–3

Figure 6.2:Interlocking-Ring Structure of Epistulae ex Ponto Book 2

Figure 6.3:Ring-Composition Structure of Epistulae ex Ponto Books 1 and 3

Figure A.1:Consecutive-Ring Structure of Catullus 8

Figure A.2:Ring-Composition Structure of Catullus 8

←x | xi→


I have been interested in the structure of Latin poems and poetry-books for many years. This monograph that addresses the question of whether Tristia 1.5, 1.9, 3.4, 4.4, 5.2, and 5.7 constitute run-on poems, therefore, truly has been a labor of love. Ovid’s exilic poetry has not received the attention it deserves because the poems are perceived as monotonous. For example, Ovid regularly complains about the site of his exile, equates his exile with death, and pleads with friends to intervene on his behalf with Augustus so that he might be granted a full pardon or a commuted sentence. There is no question that Ovid repeats certain themes, but the quality of the poetry is high. The poet’s ingenuity is evident in his depiction of himself as an epic hero harassed by a vengeful god, or in his humorous suggestion that his own story of catastrophe could be added to the Metamorphoses, or in identifying himself and his poetry with Iphigenia and the cult statue that need to be rescued from the Black Sea region, to mention a few instances. His consummate craftsmanship is reflected in the detailed organizations of his poems; the structures of many poems discussed in this volume are miniature works of art. One cannot help but admire Ovid for standing up to Augustus by subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, criticizing him for his lack of clemency, a quality in which Augustus took great pride. Ovid’s defiance is commendable, too. He asserts that it is his love poetry ←xi | xii→that will grant him fame and immortality even though his erotic verse was partly responsible for Augustus’s banishing him to an outpost of the empire.

The Tristia is largely a work of fiction. Ovid’s depiction of life in Tomis offers illustrations of this point. The population was not composed mainly of barbarians; the town and countryside were not under constant tribal attack; and Ovid did not need to learn Getic or Sarmatian or to resort to gestures to be understood by the inhabitants. Ovid’s muse is inventive; she wants to convey that life in Tomis is intolerable. Ovid writes the Tristia so that the public will not forget about him or the cruelty of his punishment. He is anxious to enlist the support of friends (and his wife) to help him ameliorate his situation.

This monograph contains many diagrams that demonstrate the unity of individual poems. In the interest of simplicity and clarity, most structural organizations are illustrated on a single page. For Ovid’s longer poems, I had to omit lines that did not participate in the integrative ring patterns. I exclude a few lines here and there as judiciously as possible so that the context of the passages is still comprehensible. For the convenience of the reader, the entire poems accompanied by literal translations can be found in Appendix B.

The structure of a poem is often complex. On the line drawings, I sometimes use both the left and right sides of a poem to show relationships between verbal parallels. In addition to this strategy, I may place repeated language on separate lines or in small caps or occasionally in italics in order to the make connections clear. Although I support J. B. Hall’s separation of Tristia 1.5, 1.9, 3.4, 4.4, 5.2, and 5.7 into two poems, I use the Latin text of G. Luck. I do not always follow Luck’s punctuation, however.

My study greatly benefits from the excellent work of Betty Rose Nagle, Peter Green, Gareth Williams, Samuel Huskey, and Jennifer Ingleheart. I am grateful to the Office of the Vice-President for Research at the University of Iowa, as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of Classics, for funds that assisted with the publication of this manuscript. I wish to thank David Davison for permission to reprint my article on Ovid Tristia 5.7a and 5.7b that appeared earlier in At the Crossroads of Greco-Roman History, Culture, and Religion: Papers in Memory of Carin M. C. Green. The University of Iowa library was swift in fulfilling many requests for books and articles through interlibrary loan. Kenneth Elliott and Robert Morley helped me proofread the manuscript. Eileen Bartos copyedited the final version. Jonathan Burke and Adam Jaschen are responsible for the beautiful illustrations of the structure of the poems and poetry-books discussed in this volume. Adam Jaschen, Daniel Khalastchi, John Finamore, ←xii | xiii→and Craig Gibson assisted with formatting and editorial questions. My husband, Terry Stone, my son Zach, and my friend and mentor Bill Bassler provided moral support. This monograph is dedicated to the memory of my son Alexander Daniel Stone, who during his brief life helped me understand, and empathize deeply with, the challenges faced daily by individuals with disabilities.

Helena Dettmer

←xiii | xiv→


XVI, 190
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVI, 190 pp., 37 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Helena Dettmer (Author)

Helena Dettmer received her PhD from the University of Michigan. She serves as Professor of Classics at the University of Iowa. Her previous publications include: Horace: A Study in Structure and Love by the Numbers: Form and Meaning in the Poetry of Catullus.


Title: Issues of Unity in Ovid’s <i>Tristia</i>
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