Romans Paper #2 (Ovid) - Male-Female Power Dynamics in...

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Male-Female Power Dynamics in Ovid’s The Art of Love Richard Page Classics W0 FQ 2015 Discussion 1K, Thursday 3:30-4:45 P.M. Brandon Braun November 18, 2015
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In Book One of Ovid’s The Art of Love , there is tension between conventional Roman values of masculinity and sexuality and the new mores and attitudes of Ovid’s modern era. The unbridled passion and power of traditional Roman men, as evidenced and applauded in stories like the rape of the Sabine women, is replaced in modern Rome by a more balanced interplay between male and female which Ovid frequently describes in terms of warfare. Men and women are positioned if not as equals then a t least as individually powerful opponents, and women have dominion in the realm of love. Nevertheless, Ovid frequently depicts men as hunters and women as their prey: whatever control women might have, they are still subordinate to the men who pursue them. In this arrangement, Ovid grants women potent, dangerous power over men while still maintaining his culture’s rigidly masculine power structures. Thus the tension: between traditional Roman cultural values emphasizing the primacy of men and their urges, whereby men have effortless, dominating control over women without effort or consequence, and a frightening new world in which women are more influential, prized, and independent than ever. The Art of Love is absolutely a work of its time, and it was deeply influenced by its historical context. Written in the early days of the Roman Empire, the work is representative of changing cultural values and the increased liberality of Rome under Augustus and his successors. By 2 CE, when the work was written, women were more powerful in the culture than ever. Laws like the Oppian Law and the Voconian Law had been passed in attempts to contain women from increasing social power, and the former was repealed due to overwhelming unpopularity with women. These laws, while already historical by Ovid’s time, suggest the ways in which women’s social station was changing and developing from ancient mythological Rome to Ovid’s present day. In addition, Augustus’s social legislations introduced new protections for women as well as 1
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incentivizations for marriage, increasing the value of women in absolute monetary terms. Perhaps most important was the Right of Three Children, fulfillment of which allowed a woman full independence in her own legal affairs. Women still had nothing resembling the rights or powers of men, but times were changing. In fact, politically and socially powerful women began to emerge before and in Ovid’s time: Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt as queen and whose political acumen was widely admired; Fulvia, who was incredibly involved in her husband’s political career and to whom various acts of authority are attributed; and Livia, who had extraordinary influence and can be largely credited with elevating her son Tiberius to the throne. Of course,
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