by Ovid

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Which of part of Ovid’s metamorphoses makes the strongest political point? In your response, be sure to identify what point the author is making through the story, the consequences for the behavior, and why you think it is more compelling than the other issues discussed in the selections.

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Ovid lived in a tumultuous time at the turn of the new millennium. He saw the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire under Augustus (the assassinated Caesar's adopted son and maternal grand-nephew). Scholars have gone back and forth throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century as to whether Ovid was pro-Augustan or anti-Augustan. Ovid was exiled for a period in 8 BCE, which scholars think has to do with his opposition to Augustus's moral legislation (which promoted monogamous marriage and encouraged people to have children).

Recently, scholars have begun to understand that there is a more complex relationship between Augustus and his contemporary politics. Though the interpretations of Ovid's Metamorphoses are at least as numerous as the stories the work includes, the episode of Apollo and Daphne is one of the more politically charged ones. Augustus has been linked with Apollo as early as the Battle of Actium. According to Paul Zanker (an authority on the age of Augustus), Augustus deliberately associated himself with the god for the social order and harmony he represented. So, in Ovid's episode of Apollo and Daphne, which describes how the former fails to catch the object of his affection (Daphne), Ovid is perhaps commenting on the moral legislation promoted by Augustus. Ovid has Apollo use words for "marriage" ("conubia") rather than "love," contrary to his language in other classical sources. Daphne, the nymph who competes with Apollo in a footrace, behaves contrary to Augustus's moral legislation by choosing perpetual virginity over marriage. This specific language, unique to Apollo's appearance in Ovid's text, suggests that Ovid is criticizing Augustus's moral legislation in this episode.

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