The Death of a Poet: Ovid’s references to Horace in Amores 1.15 and Tristia 3.3

by Matthew Nelson

Faculty mentor: Dr. Angela Pitts

References to poets immortalizing themselves by writing poetry is a frequent trope of classical literature. It appeared in Greek literature thanks to the lyric poets Sappho and Theocritus and the philosopher Plato. The Greeks passed down the tradition to the Romans, where it featured in the collections written by Horace, Gallus, Tibullus, Propertius, and, eventually, Ovid. Ovid’s claim to immortality in Tristia 3.3 is an interesting poem to study, given he references his earlier claim to immortality in Amores 1.15 and Horace’s claims in Carmina 2.20 and 3.30. My paper examines his attitude in both of his poems, analyzing the connections he makes to his prior work and to Horace’s. Drawing upon this research, I argue the sequence of claims by Ovid demonstrates his lack of repentance for his exile. Rather than truly admit guilt, I believe Tristia 3.3 reveals he continues to take pride in erotic poetry – a revelation visible when the poem is placed in contrast against Amores 1.15.

The Death of a Poet: Ovid’s references to Horace in Amores 1.15 and Tristia 3.3

7 Replies to “The Death of a Poet: Ovid’s references to Horace in Amores 1.15 and Tristia 3.3”

  1. Loved your paper and presentation, Matt, and your conclusion brings to my mind Tr. 3.3.1-10, wherein the book itself is given voice, claiming that it was sent by its exiled author (exsulis) to sneak back into Rome, promising not to be a danger to its reader (“missus in hanc venio liber exulis urbem/da placidam fesso, lector amice, manum. neue reformida, ne sim tibi forte pudori” etc.). You point out really well the dual voice that Ovid cultivates–one voice expressing a kind of abject grief that the author has offended a god (the emperor), and another that nourishes a belief in the immortality of those very works that did offend. You have shown how Ovid continues a programme of intentional allusions (both internal and external) that seem to say for him what he cannot say publicly. Fine work, Matt–your research certainly contributes to the discipline.

    1. Thank you Professor Pitts!

      Reading Tristia 3.1 the last couple classes has really given me a little bit more insight into Tristia 3.3. I really enjoyed writing this paper and drawing from what I already learned about poetic immortality while taking Horace. I’m starting to think immortality might be my favorite literary trope :).

  2. Matt, I found this presentation fascinating. Very well reasoned and informative to a retiree who hasn’t thought of Ovid in decades.

    Thank you.

  3. Amor is powerful, isn’t he? That’s the trope from Catullus to Gallus, Propertius, Tubules, to Ovid. Good eye and a great foundation for your future contributions. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Professor Romero!

      I really enjoyed being able to build off of my paper from Horace in the fall. Combining my research from both classes makes me even more excited to take Lyric and Elegiac poetry in the fall.

  4. Thank you, Matt. Of the four Classics papers at UMW’s R&C Day this year, yours was the one I hadn’t already read, so it was the unexpected and delightful treat. You really nailed Ovid’s tongue-in-cheek approach to poetry. I am looking forward to your contributions to Lyric & Elegiac poetry next fall. A terrific job!

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