Names and naming in Ovid's exile poetry

Emlen Smith, University of Pennsylvania


This thesis considers Ovid's use and avoidance of personal names in his poetry written in exile. Names and naming are seen as part of the way Ovid defines his relationships with the addressees of his poems, his readership as a whole, and the emperor and imperial family. The Introduction will discuss the ways that previous critical responses to the exile poetry have, to a large extent, followed tracks deliberately laid down by Ovid, and introduce a central claim: that the responses and interpretations of readers are part of the subject matter of the exile poetry. Chapter 1 deals with the Tristia, where Ovid addresses only anonymous figures. Attempts to find “real identities” of the poems' addressees are shown to be largely pointless; those identities are left deliberately open, to be determined by readers of the poems. This is part of a general theme in the Tristia, where Ovid effectively gives control over his poetry to his readers, allowing them to determine the meaning of his work. The poet makes a move to reclaim his poetry, however, in the Epistulae Ex Ponto, discussed in the second chapter of this thesis. Here, addressees' names appear, and the etymological and historical connections of different names support a series of attempts to manipulate their reactions to the poetry. The third chapter considers the different names for Augustus and his family in the exile poetry. Ovid uses the connections of Augustus' different names to suggest a paradoxically close relationship between poet and emperor, as if the disgraced poet were a semi-official representative of the Augustan regime. Finally, a conclusion will consider the general status of names in the exile poetry, and their relationship to the exilic and epistolary qualities of that poetry. Ovid attempts to make names stand in for people, allowing the poet, even in his absence, to act directly on readers in Rome. And the success or failure of these attempts is part of a general examination of poetry's ability to influence the actions of its readers.

Subject Area

Ancient languages|Classical studies|Classical Studies

Recommended Citation

Smith, Emlen, "Names and naming in Ovid's exile poetry" (2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3542845.