AbstractsAstronomy & Space Science

Always look on the bright side of death: violence, death, and supernatural transformation in Ovid's Fasti

by Anna Everett Beek

Institution: University of Minnesota
Year: 2015
Keywords: Apotheosis; Astronomy; Deification; Latin poetry; Metamorphosis; Ovid; Classical and near eastern studies
Record ID: 2057908
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11299/170898


Ovid's Fasti, in its elaboration of mythic stories and the aetia of Roman religious practices, exhibits a marked correlation between violence and supernatural transformation: people who experience acts of intense violence such as rape, assault, and bodily mutilation are transformed by the experience into gods or other supernatural beings. In fact, within the Fasti, nearly all apotheoses have an episode of violence as a catalyst, and moreover nearly all violence results in transformation. Although rape (and some other forms of violence) in the Fasti has been examined extensively by other scholars, previous studies have focused on the perpetration of violence, while this dissertation examines the consequences of the event, how the victims fail to re-integrate to society and are removed by being ostracized, exiled, killed, transformed, or even apotheosed because a return to their former lives is impossible. Some of the prominent examples treated are Romulus, Anna Perenna, Ino, Callisto, and Lara. Special attention is paid to how this overarching pattern differentiates the Fasti from Ovid's best known collection of mythic transformation stories, the Metamorphoses. The Metamorphoses does provide several episodes of apotheosis (such as those of Hercules, Aeneas, Romulus, and Julius Caesar), and those episodes share certain structural elements that recur in similar episodes in the Fasti: in many cases, the character in question is put in life-threatening danger, which is averted at the last minute by divine intervention and transformation into divinity. Nevertheless, the Fasti, unlike the Metamorphoses, has almost no episodes of humans being transformed into plants, birds, stones, or geographic features as salvation from a threat or punishment for transgression. On the contrary, transformation is almost exclusively a vehicle to divinity or catasterism. The Fasti's strong association of violence with apotheosis and vice versa enshrines violence within the Roman calendar and even celebrates it as a path to a greater destiny.