Assignment 4 - Ovid - Deirdre Mulligan Todd Clary Classics...

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Deirdre Mulligan Todd Clary Classics 132 03 March 2007 Julian Laws, Shmulian Laws! Caesar Augustus, not long after his rise to power in Rome, instituted a series of laws that monitored and restricted the sexual activities of married and non-married couples within the empire. These Julian Laws were especially harsh on cases of adultery and barren marriages; their aim was to promote childbearing within marriages so that families could raise children to serve Rome as soldiers, officials, and other such necessary duties. This utopian dream for and view of Rome was completely unrealistic, as can be seen in the love poems of Ovid. Ovid’s odes to his many affairs with adulterous mistresses, in particular Corinna, show that the act of sex for pure pleasure was thriving, and that the threat of the Julian Laws did not deter everyone, or perhaps not even most. Although it is not clear whether Ovid was speaking from experience, desires, or pure imagination, or whether he purposely challenged Augustus’ laws instead of, as he claimed, simply writing within his genre, his poetry proves that what the Julian Laws regarded as sexual misconduct is, perhaps, simply human nature. It also provides evidence that the Julian Laws may not have been upheld as strongly as Augustus would have liked. The Julian Laws dictated that adultery be punishable by exile or the seizure of property, but that did not seem to phase the speaker in Ovid’s poems. In poem 4 of Book I of the Amores, he gives instructions to his lover in order for her to hide their affair from her husband at a dinner party while still flirting and communicating through it. He says, “Stealthily touch my foot, and look at me, watching my nods, my eyes, my face’s language; catch and return my signals
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Mulligan 2 secretly. I’ll send a wordless message with my eyebrows; you’ll read my fingers’ words, words traced in wine” (Ovid 7) 1 . He even goes so far as to tell her to drug her husband so that they can sneak off together: “When he’s not looking try to lace the brew. If wine and sleep have got him nicely settled, the time and place will tell us what to do” (8). Ovid and his mistress did not go to great pains to hide their affair, and were willing to risk communicating with each other through the dinner and perhaps even meeting later that night. He even tells her what to do if she happened to be caught and questioned by her husband: “…Whatever lot the night may send, next day maintain you didn’t - to the end” (9)! Although the Julian Laws technically dictated harsh
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course CLASS 132 taught by Professor Toddclary during the Spring '08 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Assignment 4 - Ovid - Deirdre Mulligan Todd Clary Classics...

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