Ovid's Poetry Facing the Augustan Regime
Among Augustan poets, Ovid was the most conspicuous in his dissident attitude towards Emperor Augustus and his autocratic regime. Vergil, for instance, changed the ending of his second book of the Georgics, erasing his laudes Galli, after Cornelius Gallus had been sentenced to damnatio memoriae. Ovid, on the other hand, failed to refrain from praising Gallus and his merits in establishing Roman elegy. One can see this in his early poetry, in Amores, as well as in his elegies from exile, Tristia. Therefore it is no wonder that Ovid himself became a victim of a certain damnatio memoriae: all of his books, not only the infamous Ars amatoria, were banned from public libraries (Tristia, 3.1.63–80). Nevertheless, some witty and inventive anti-Augustan remarks are scattered through his central masterpiece, the Metamorphoses. Such asides, already visible in one of the first episodes about the transfiguration of Lycaon, became more explicit in the last episode about the catasterism of Julius Caesar and a similar transfiguration that awaited Augustus after his demise. Ovid added a pointed declaration that after his own death, his poetic name will ascend even further, high above (super!) the stars, and therefore higher than the stars of Caesar and Augustus: super alta perennis / astra ferar (Metamorphoses, 15.875–6).