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In the first poem of Tristia 1, Ovid claims me mare, me uenti, me fera iactat hiems (‘the sea, the winds, the savage winter storm harass me repeatedly’, 1.1.42). This is no mere rhetorical flourish: the immediacy of the present tense becomes apparent in the second poem in the collection, which purports to be the poet's words as he faces a storm at sea. Critics tend to treat this poem as a literary exercise, focusing upon Ovid's exploitation of epic descriptions of the sea as a vast elemental force, subject to the machinations of the gods. In particular, interest has centred upon Ovid's debt to the storms which face Aeneas and Odysseus in Aeneid 1, 3, and 5 and Odyssey 5, as well as the relationship between this poem and Ovid's own version of an ‘epic’ storm in the story of Ceyx and Alcyone at Metamorphoses 11.410–748.

However, this poem contains much more than the sum of its various epic models: 1.2 is programmatic for the rest of Tristia 1, not least because it can be seen as the first ‘proper’ poem of the collection, given that 1.1 is addressed to Ovid's new book of poetry as he sends it to Rome, and as such, self-consciously stands apart from the rest of the book.

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Greece & Rome
  • ISSN: 0017-3835
  • EISSN: 1477-4550
  • URL: /core/journals/greece-and-rome
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