J-M. Claassen


Ovid's artistry with words has been called "logodaedaly", creative word magic.2 His
"painting with words" lies partly in a controlled use of synonyms.3 The poet's
originality in creating new words has also been much commented upon.4 His artistry
with words when in exile offers continued pleasure. Words were of paramount
importance for an exiled poet who was reaching out to his friends and to the enemy
who exiled him. In the process he created a word-portrait of himself as suppliant; as
Downing (1993:13) puts it: "The author makes a self, while the self makes a book of
the self." Ovid's readership in Rome would have been familiar with the whole of his
earlier oeuvre as context for a particular diction. In the context of his exile, the poet's
choice of words and the uses to which he put his vocabulary were a powerful means
of influencing public thought. Augustus, as very particular member of the more
general readership, had to be persuaded that his previous works were innocuous, if
ever the exile were to be allowed to return. At the same time the poet seems to have
sought a means of criticizing the emperor without antagonising him.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/43-0-184


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