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Metamorphoses,' I will not presume so far upon myself, to think I can add any thing to Mr. Sandys his undertaking. The English reader may there be satisfied, that he flourished in the reign of Augustus Cæsar ; that he was extracted from an ancient family of Roman Knights; that he was born to the inheritance of a splendid fortune; that he was designed to the study of the law, and had made considerable progress in it, before he quitted that profession for this of poetry, to which he was more naturally formed.
The cause of his banishment is unknown, because he was himself unwilling further to provoke the Emperor, by ascribing it to any other reason than what was pretended by Augustus, which was the lasciviousness of his ELEGIES, and his Art of Love. It is true they are not to be excused in the severity of manners, as being able to corrupt a larger empire, if there were any, than that of Rome; yet this may be said in behalf of Ovid, thạt no man has ever treated the passion of
Holiday, had fixed the judgment of the nation; and it was not easily believed that a better way could be found than they had taken, though Fanshaw, Denham, Waller, and Cowley, had tried to give examples of a different practice.”
* By George Sandys; first published in folio, in 1626,
3 The place of Ovid's banishment was Tomos, (now Tomeswar) a maritime town in Lower Mæsia, on the coast of the Euxine or black-sea; about thirty-six miles from the most southern mouth of the Danube,
love with so much delicacy of thought, and of expression, or searched into the nature of it more philosophically than he. And the Emperor who condemned him, had as little reason as another man to punish that fault with so much severity, if at least he were the author of a certain epigram * which is ascribed to him, relating to the cause of the first civil war betwixt himself and Mark Antony the Triumvir, which is more fulsome than any passage I have met with in our poet. To pass by the naked familiarity of his expressions to Horace, which are cited in that author's Life, I need only mention one notorious act of his, in taking Livia to his bed, when she was not only married, but with child by her husband, then living. But deeds, it seems, may be justified by arbitrary power, when words are questioned in a poet.
There is another guess of the grammarians, as far from truth as the first from reason ; they will have him banished for some favours, which they say he received from Julia, the daughter of Augustus, whom they think he celebrates under the name of Corinna' in his Elegies. But he
4 Vide Martial. lib. xi. epigr. 21.
s This notion, as Bayle has observed, is very ancient, being suggested by Sidonius Apollinaris, who lived in the fifth century. But that this conjecture is unfounded, is proved, (as Aldus Manutius has shewn) by Ovid's saying that his exile was owing to two causes, his writing amorous verses,
who will observe the verses which are made to that mistress, may gather from the whole contexture of them, that Corinna was not a woman of the highest quality. If Julia were then married to Agrippa, why should our poet make his petition to Isis, for her safe delivery, and afterwards condole her miscarriage; which for ought he knew might be by her own husband? or indeed how durst he be so bold to make the least discovery of such a crime, which was no less than capital, especially committed against a person of Agrippa's rank? or and his having been an undesigned spectator of the guilt of others; by his banishment not having taken place till he was fifty years old, though his acquaintance with Corinna commenced when he was about twenty ; and by his avowed attachment to Corinna, eyen in those verses in which he deplores his misfortune and disgrace: circumstances utterly inconsistent with the suggestion, that he had a criminal intercourse with Julia, and that Julia was shadowed under the name of Corinna. • Perdiderint cum me duo crimina, carmen et error,
Alterius facti culpa silenda mihi est : “ Nam non sum tanti, ut renovem tua vulnera, Cæsar,
Quem nimio plus est indoluisse semel.” It
may be added, that Julia had incurred the displeasure of Augustus A. U. C. 752, nine years before Ovid's banishment, which took place in the year of Rome, 761. From her daughter indeed, the younger Julia, who was banished in the same year with Ovid, and died twenty years afterwards, (Tacit. Annal. iv. 71.) heinight have received favours; but she could not be shadowed under the name of Corinna, being not born, when Corinna was first celebrated by Ovid, A.U.C.731.
if it were before her marriage, he would surely have been more discreet, than to have published an accident, which must have been fatal to them both. But what most confirms me against this opinion is, that Ovid himself complains that the true person of Corinna was found out by the fame of his verses to her : which if it had been Julia, he durst not have owned ; and beside, an immediate punishment must have followed.
He seems himself more truly to have touched at the cause of his exile in those obscure verses :
Cur aliquid vidi ? cur noxia lumina feci?
Cur imprudenti cognita culpa mihi est?
Prada fuit canibus non minus ille suis. 6 Namely, that he had either seen or was conscious to somewhat, which had procured him his disgrace. But neither am I satisfied that this was the incest of the Emperor with his own daughter ;? for
6 Trist. lib. ii. el. 1.
7 That Ovid had detected Augustus committing incest with his daughter, was long since suggested by the Jesuit Brièt, and the Abbé Marolles ; and Bayle informs us, that this circumstance is mentioned in a Latin fragment of Cecilius Minutianus Apuleius, quoted by Rhodiginus, professor at Milan, who was born in 1450 : “ -pulsum quoque in exilium, quod Augusti incestum vidisset.” The silence of Suetonius, however, with respect to any such charge against Augustus, (for the opprobrious invective of Caligula, recorded by him, does not amount to a charge,) and Ovid's frequent allusions to the fact, of which he had been an eye-witness, whatever it was, (particularly the
Augustus was of a nature too vindicative to have contented himself with so small a revenge, or so unsafe to himself, as that of simple banishment, and would certainly have secured his crimes from publick notice by the death of him who was witness to them. Neither have histories given us any sight into such an action of this Emperor': nor would he, (the greatest politician of his time,) in all probability, have managed his crimes with so little secrecy, as not to shun the observation of any man. It seems more probable, that Ovid was either the confident of some other passion, or that he had stumbled by some inadvertency upon the privacies of Livia, and seen her in a bath : for the words sine veste Dianam, agree better with Livia who had the fame of chastity, than with either of the Julias, who were both noted of incontinency, The first verses which were made by him in his youth, and recited publickly, according to the custom, were, as he himself assures us, to Corinna: his banishment happened not until the age of fifty; from which it may be deduced, with probability enough, that the love of Corinna did not occasion it : nay
he tells us plainly, that his offence was that of errour only, not of wickedness; and in the
words above quoted, ut renovem tua vulnera, Cæsar,) strongly militate against this solution of the mysterious cause of his disgrace.
8 Julia, the daughter of Augustus, by his second wife, Scribonia ; and Julia, his grand-daughter, the daughter of the former Julia and her second husband, Marcus Agrippa, to whom she was married A. U. C. 733.