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Title: Astronomy as a literary device in the Fasti of Ovid
Author: Gee, E. R. G.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1997
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The astronomical material in Ovid's Roman calendar, the Fasti has been inadequately treated in past scholarship, and is neglected by contemporary scholars. In my dissertation I deal comprehensively with this material, which forms between one quarter and one third of the total volume of the poem. My approach to the Fasti through its stars aims to combine recent genre-based or "programmatic" reading with a broad culture-historical perspective. I do not study Ovid's stars using the technical methods of mathematical astronomy. The importance of astronomy to the Fasti is not so much scientific as generic. The stars serve to tie the Fasti with hexameter didactic poetry as much as with elegiac models. A primary didactic ancestor is the Phaenomena of Aratus, an astronomical poem written in the C 3rd BC. The main task of my thesis is to test the scholarly assumption, never fully explored, that the astronomy in the Fasti is influenced by Aratus' Phaenomena. The first four chapters take up this task. My findings, gained through a comprehensive comparison of the astronomical material in the Fasti with corresponding material from the Phaenomena, indicate that the connection between the two poets is not readily quantifiable in terms of direct echo, but inheres in a broader symbolic relationship. Aratus is a poet of Stoicism and of order, Ovid of mythology and shifting political ground. Comparison of these two different entities produces meaning by both their similarity to and divergence from one another. In the final two chapters of my thesis I take the Fasti and its Aratean model out of the purely literary frame and into contemporary politics. The astronomy in the Fasti can be seen to be in keeping with ideas of cosmic empire, in which Greek learning was appropriated to express Roman political domination. At the same time, the stars bring the Fasti into line with the universe of the Metamorphoses, in which catasterism (translation to the stars) is amoral and part of a fluid world-view which is not consonant with political determinism. Through its astronomy, the Fasti both takes on and resists the impulse towards Augustan universalist panegyric.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available