Ham, Charles Tyler

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  • Publication
    Empedoclean Elegy: Love, Strife and the Four Elements in Ovid's Amores, Ars Amatoria and Fasti
    (2013-01-01) Ham, Charles Tyler
    In this dissertation, I examine Ovid's use in the Amores, Ars Amatoria and Fasti of the concepts of love, strife and the four elements, which were closely identified with the philosopher-poet Empedocles in antiquity. My dissertation has two parts: in the first I demonstrate that in the Amores and Ars Amatoria Ovid connects themes fundamental to his elegiac poetics, such as the interaction of love and war, to the Empedoclean principles of love and strife. This is a means for Ovid of relating his elegy to the epic tradition, in which Empedocles was an important figure. At the same time I argue that Ovid suggests that there are certain features of the form and content of elegy that render it uniquely "Empedoclean," such as the "cyclical" alternation of the hexameter and pentameter verses of the elegiac couplet, which are identified with war and love respectively in Ovidian poetics. This conception of elegy's form serves as the foundation of Ovid's use of the interaction between elegy and epic, amor and arma as the building-blocks of much of his poetry. Ovid's creative use of Empedoclean themes is most extensive in the Fasti, which is the elegiac poem of Ovid's whose relation to epic is the most intense. In the programmatic Janus episode in book 1 of the Fasti Ovid has the god Janus describe an Empedoclean cosmogony that encourages us to interpret subsequent features of the poem against the background of an Empedoclean cosmos: in this light, the centrality in the poem of Mars and Venus (i.e. the months of March and April) and its interest in the concepts of concordia and discordia acquire a new significance. I demonstrate, furthermore, that Ovid's use of Empedocles illuminates not only our understanding of the poetics of the Fasti, but also its politics. Ovid uses Empedoclean physics as part of his representation in the Fasti of cyclical or non-teleological time and the pattern of ceaseless change. These representations of time and history complicate the poem's treatment of key Augustan tropes such as the pax Augusta, the Golden Age and the urbs aeterna.