Monday, March 20, 2017

Born Today March 20: Ovid


Classical Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) was born on this day in the year BC 43 in Sulmo, Italy, Roman Empire, just one year after the murder of Julius Caesar. His birthplace is located in a valley east of Rome.  He was born into a an important and influential equestrian family.  He was later educated in rhetoric in Rome; with his father wishing him study the law.  When his brother died at the age of 20, Ovid abruptly abandoned the study of law and started traveling.  He went to Athens, "Asia Minor" (what is today Turkey) and wound up in Sicily.  During this time, he held several minor public posts.  Around the year 29 BC, he decided to dedicate his life to the writing of poetry.  It is a matter of record that he gave his first public recitation in the year 25 BC, when he was 18 years of age; he became an instant success.  He gained the patronage of Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus.  Along with Horace and Virgil, he is often listed as one the top three canonical Roman writers.  Where he differs from them, is in that he wrote much more about his own personal life.  This is how we know as much as we do about his exile later in life.  In the year 8 AD, Emperor Augustus single handily banished Ovid to Tomis on the Black Sea (it is now known as Constanta, and is the oldest continuously inhabited town in modern day Romania).  No one is completely sure what prompted this; Ovid himself wrote curiously that is was "a poem and mistake," and that his crime was worse than murder.  What is known for sure, it that his granddaughter's husband was executed around this same time for a conspiracy against the Emperor; and that she and and adopted grandchild of Ovid's were also exiled at this time.  It would seem that Ovid may have had some knowledge of this conspiracy; or at least the Emperor thought he did.  In exile, he continued to write, though the event had a profound impact on his writing style.  Only a handful of films have been made utilizing his poems as source material; but the first of these dates from the year 1918.  Il mistero di Galatea, was a full length feature, filmed on location in Rome.  It would take some 49 years to make another film based on his work.  The Spanish film Acteón was released in 1967.  Almost half of the films made from his poems were released after the turn of the millennium, with the latest coming in 2014 with Metamorphoses, a French film. It is thought that Ovid died in Tomis in either the year AD 17 or AD 18, that would have made him between the ages of 58 to 60, depending on the date--the precise time is year is not known.  There are some reports that he may have died in Britain, or possibly even Vienna, but these are not reliable.  Obviously with no precise date or location of his death, his funerary rites are equally unknown.

Memorial statue to Ovid in Romania

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