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love with so much delicacy of thought, and of expression, or searched into the nature of it more philosophically than he. And the Emperor who condemned him, had as little reason as another man to punish that fault with so much severity, if at least he were the author of a certain epigram* which is ascribed to him, relating to the cause of the first civil war betwixt himself and Mark Antony the Triumvir, which is more fulsome than
any passage I have met with in our poet. To pass by the naked familiarity of his expressions to Horace, which are cited in that author's Life, I need only mention one notorious act of his, in taking Livia to his bed, when she was not only married, but with child by her husband, then living. But deeds, it seems, may be justified by arbitrary power, when words are questioned in a poet.
There is another guess of the grammarians, as far from truth as the first from reason; they will have him banished for some favours, which they say he received from Julia, the daughter of Augustus, whom they think he celebrates under the name of Corinnas in his Elegies. But he
4 Vide Martial. lib. xi. epigr. 21.
s This notion, as Bayle has observed, is very ancient, being suggested by Sidonius Apollinaris, who lived in the fifth century. But that this conjecture is unfounded, is proved, (as Aldus Manutius has shewn, by Ovid's saying that his exile was owing to two causes, his writing amorous verses,
who will observe the verses which are made to
Alterius facti culpa silenda mihi est :
Quem nimio plus est indoluisse semel.”
if it were before her marriage, he would surely have been more discreet, than to have published an accident, which must have been fatal to them both. But what most confirms me against this opinion is, that Ovid himself complains that the true person of Corinna was found out by the fame of his verses to her : which if it had been Julia, he durst not have owned ; and beside, an immediate punishment must have followed.
He seems himself more truly to have touched at the cause of his exile in those obscure verses :
Cur aliquid vidi ? cur noxia lumina feci?
Cur imprudenti cognita culpa mihi est?
Præda fuit canibus non minus ille suis. 6
Namely, that he had either seen or was conscious to somewhat, which had procured him his disgrace. But neither am I satisfied that this was the incest of the Emperor with his own daughter ;? for Augustus was of a nature too vindicative to have contented himself with so small a revenge, or so unsafe to himself, as that of simple banishment, and would certainly have secured his crimes from publick notice by the death of him who was witness to them. Neither have histories given us any sight into such an action of this Emperor: nor would he, (the greatest politician of his time,) in all probability, have managed his crimes with so little secrecy, as not to shun the observation of
6 Trist. lib. ii. el. 1.
* That Ovid had detected Augustus committing incest with his daughter, was long since suggested by the Jesuit Brièt, and the Abbé Marolles ; and Bayle informs us, that this circumstance is mentioned in a Latin fragment of Cecilius Minutianus Apuleius, quoted by Rhodiginus, professor at Milan, who was born in 1450 : " -pulsum quoque in exilium, quod Augusti incestum vidisset.” Th silence of Suetonius, however, with respect to any such charge against Augustus, (for the opprobrious invective of Caligula, recorded by him, does not amount to a charge,) and Ovid's frequent allusions to the fact, of which he had been an eye-witness, whatever it was, (particularly the
any man. It seems more probable, that Ovid was either the confident of some other passion, or that he had stumbled by some inadvertency upon the privacies of Livia, and seen her in a bath : for the words sine veste Dianam, agree better with Livia who had the fame of chastity, than with either of the Julias, who were both noted of incontinency, The first verses which were made by him in his youth, and recited publickly, according to the custom, were, as he himself assures us, to Corinna: his banishment happened not until the age of fifty; from which it may be deduced, with probability enough, that the love of Corinna did not occasion it : nay he tells us plainly, that his offence was that of errour only, not of wickedness; and in the
words above quoted, ut renovem tua vulnera, Cæsar,) strongly militate against this solution of the mysterious cause of his disgrace.
8 Julia, the daughter of Augustus, by his second wife, Scribonia ; and Julia, his grand-daughter, the daughter of the former Julia and her second husband, Marcus Agrippa, to whom she was married A. U. C. 733.
same paper of verses also, that the cause was notoriously known at Rome, * though it be left so obscure to afterages.
But to leave conjectures on a subject so incertain, and to write somewhat more authentick of
That he frequented the court of Augustus, and was well received in it, is most undoubted: all his poems bear the character of a court, and appear to be written, as the French call it, cavalierement. Add to this, that the titles of many of his elegies, and more of his letters in his banishment, are addressed to persons well known to us, even at this distance, to have been considerable in that court.
Nor was his acquaintance less with the famous poets of his age, than with the noblemen and ladies. . He tells you himself in a particular account of his own life, that Macer, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and many others of them, were his familiar friends, and that some of them communicated their writings to him ; but that he had only seen Virgil.o
If the imitation of nature be the business of a poet, I know no author who can justly be compared with ours, especially in the description of the passions. And to prove this, I shall need no other judges than the generality of his readers ; for all * “ Causa mea cunctis nimium quoque nota ruinæ
“ Indicio non est testificanda meo.” 9 Trist. I. iv. Eleg. 10.
Ovid was born in the year of Rome, 711, and consequently in 735, when Virgil died, was twenty-four years old.