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The calendrical type of the poem Fasti by Ovid represents his clear intentions to highlight the features of feasts and festivals that are a major type of traditions and customs followed in the Ancient Rome. The Old Empire maintained the features of mythological type that were preserved to the characteristics of the moon and sun calendars. This paper will address the major relations between Ovid’s interpretations of the Roman festivals and mythological character of them that can be of great interest to readers with passion to artistically valuable faints of traditions in the form of historical analysis.
It is a well known fact that Ovid wrote his poem Fasti in exile at Tomis on the shores of the Black Sea. This place resembled him a territory of marine-based paradise lands, where the scenery created too much of his festive imagery. At the same time, Ovid felt nostalgia for his native Roman culture, traditions, and customs. For him, it was very significant to write down what he knew about traditions of his native land in the form of poetical expressions and impressions that were valuable for his mind as a deep thinker and poetical philosopher. Being written in exile, Fasti is a unique work with specific charm. For example, Ovid dedicated this poetical work to the Emperor Augustus who he praised, despite of being sent out of Rome. This feature of the poem is not the only one: exile character added even more significance to the literary work, as it was marked by comparative landscape and comparative features with the barbarian culture at Tomis. Ovid studied their customs and traditions, but he made an accent that, in comparison to the barbarian culture, his native Ancient Rome has a great significance in exemplary culture that is of much value to the rest of the world as well. This made Fasti the unique type of poem that despite of the nostalgic features preserved the degree of reminiscent notions.
It is explicable that Ovid used mythological material in his work. Particularly, he addressed to praising the gods and goddesses, as in most of cases, feasts were dedicated to them in personification to the rites and rituals. The example is the depicted feast of the Midsummer Eve, when Romans made offerings to Tibre, glorifying the river with the offerings of the symbolic bridges, to cherish the mystical beings for all human lives that were buried in this place underneath the water. Another custom described by Ovid is the feast of shepherds in the Ancient Rome called Festival of the Parilia, when contributors to the festive spirit made offerings to gods while smoking flames up to the heaven. The Festival of the Dead (Lemuria) was a good chance to commemorate those who gone with the spring wind and passed away from earthly pleasures. The type of depicting customs of Romans is similar in such cases with the way of displaying the features of the Saturn’s month offered by Statius. It was on the 17th of December, when the festival cycle turned to be over in the Ancient Rome, for people completed their harvests and were in good mood to celebrate the end of the year. However, in contrast with the Statius’ celebration of the last month of the year, Ovid did not depict December. The problem is that his cycle begins with the first day of January and ends with the last day of June, so the poem proceeds within the period of six months. However, due to some historical findings, there was a mention in some other poem by Ovid that his cycle contains all twelve months: “in one of his poems written in exile and addressed to Augustus, he expressively says that he had written the Fasti in twelve books, each book dealing with the separate month” (Ovid xvii, p. 21). However, this fact may be regarded just as expressive intention to complete the cycle by the end of the culmination of feasts on the 17th of December, similarly to the work Silvae by Statiuss. The majority and variety of gifts, offerings, blessing exchanges, oaths, etc, filled up the rhythm of life in this season of the year, for the festive mood was raised up to the highest rate.
Ovid explains the way of life led by Romans in the poetical form, for it is the most suitable for the readers to get to know about life style in the rhythmic form. The highly mastered poetical skills empower Ovid to share his positive impressions from the feasts and festivals of his native country. For instance, the offerings to gods are symbolic for the readers, as they are valuable for Romans being the substantial part of their culture. The offerings to the dead in May symbolize the way to commemorate the end of the revival of nature that is the sign of waiting for the new harvest to arise. If the shepherds know how to send smoke flames up to the sky, they should receive blessings back to the earth with healthy breeds. Each of the gifts and offerings to nature, as Romans believed, can become useful, if it is done correctly. The uniqueness of the offerings to the natural forces represented in personas of gods and goddesses is the type of glorifying the nature with festivals and feasts. Ovid’s book Fasti is an exemplary literary work for these purposes that can explain how Romans led their lives according to the cyclic measurement of day-to-day, month-to-month way.
Ovid’s Fasti represents the calendrical way to count significant events, including feasts and festivals that were popular in the Ancient Rome. Therefore, this poetical work presents interest both from cultural and historical point of view. The elements of the poem are arranged according to the calendar, to enable the readers to understand the style of life of Romans who praised gods and the divinity of nature, when making offerings, sacrifices, and other sacral blessings according to the yearly cycle.
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