Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 26.

A. J. Boyle, Ovid and the Monuments: A Poet's Rome. Bendigo: Aureal Publications, 2003. Pp. xvii + 318. ISBN 0949916137. US$49.00, UKú32.00.

Jo-Marie Claassen,
Department of Ancient Studies, University of Stellenbosch

Tony Boyle has compiled a collection of all passages in which Ovid refers to either Rome or its monuments. He offers these in an edition based on the work of well-known predecessors, but with his own suggestions and emendations. These are provided with fairly literal, but idiomatically sound, English translations, either new and by the author, or adapted slightly from the Penguin translation of the Fasti that he published together with R. D. Woodward in 2000.[[1]] To this are added an introduction and a commentary.

Such a catalogue could perhaps run the danger of being no more than a mechanical compilation of place names occurring in a variety of Ovidian texts, but in Boyle's able hands it is much more than that, and could serve as a valuable reference text, a capable review of the latest theories on the relationship of Ovid with the emperor Augustus, or even a handy guidebook to the splendours of ancient Rome for the eager traveller. It can also serve as a bed-side book, a fascinating source for random dipping into at idle moments.

The book falls into three parts: Part I, a long introduction entitled 'Ovid and Rome' (pp. 1-63); Part II, an arrangement of passages by topographical situation, entitled 'The Monuments, Texts and Translation' (pp. 64-173); and Part III, detailed historical information as well as concise literary criticism on each passage quoted, called 'The Monuments: Commentary' (pp. 174-279). Four maps depict, respectively, the hills and regions of Augustan Rome, the major monuments of Ovid's Rome, the Forum Romanum and surrounds, and the Campus Martius and vicinity. Four indices list, in turn, Roman monuments and sites, passages quoted from Ovid, passages from other ancient authors, and, in a general index, names and topics that range from Accius (a single entry), to Augustus Caesar (almost two columns), to the artist Zeuxis (three entries). A ten-page select bibliography lists some five hundred individual articles or books. The table of contents lists chapter headings for each part, including, in Part II, the separate areas of occurrence of the monuments discussed. It also gives a list of the thirty-odd black and white plates that complete the volume.

No work on Ovid's Rome can escape also being a work on the Rome of Augustus Caesar. The thorough fifty-page essay that serves as Boyle's introduction gives (together with nine pages of detailed notes) a good overview of the relationship between the two men, including the Augustan building programme, the puzzle of what Ovid was eventually punished for, Ovid's rewriting of imperial Rome into a romantic setting for the kind of dalliance that his praeceptor amorum was encouraging young Romans to enjoy, and, finally, what Boyle calls the 'ideology of place', the locus of the clash between emperor and poet. Boyle makes the point (p. 36) that 'topography is a generator of meaning.' The meaning that Ovid ascribed to the monuments of Rome was a far cry from the meaning with which Augustus hoped to imbue his renovated city.

The introductory essay is liberally illustrated by means of quotations from our poet (Latin, followed by English). This is the only point on which one could quibble. There is a degree of repetition, as these passages recur in the topographical listing. In the body of the work, however, a neat system of cross-referencing refers the reader either forward to a passage that will recur under the name of another topographical feature in that passage, or back to one that has already been quoted. The Latin passages occur on the left hand pages, under Latin headings, and are faced on the right by English translations of both headings and text. Headings and sub-headings (in different font sizes and cases) further clarify the set-up. So, on page 102, the reader will find under 'C. MONTES ET COLLES', first 'I. CAPITOLINUS MONS' in smaller type, and below that, '1. Mons Totus', followed by two cross-references (in English) to the numbers and headings of other sections where the texts occur of two quotations from the Metamorphoses. The section then quotes one passage from the Tristia, before providing two more cross-references to other sections that feature passages from Ex Ponto 3 and Fasti 1. All this is paralleled on page 103 with: 'C. HILLS', 'I. CAPITOLINE', and '1. General' and the same combination of cross-referencing and quotations, but in translation. The next sub-sub-heading on page 102 is, predictably, '2. Aedes Iouis Optimi Maximi (Capitolini), with its appropriate translation on the opposite page. For the Capitoline temple of Jupiter ten passages are either quoted or cross-referenced (pp. 102-9). The same system of headings is used in the commentary in Part III, with the addition, where appropriate, to references to various illustrative plates. Hence the commentary on the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (pp. 212-16) covers the same ten passages, preceded by a general description of the building and its origins.

Boyle's erudition is both deep and wide-ranging. The historical, cultural and architectural information he provides on each monument is backed by appropriate references to historical and / or contemporary sources. A comfortable, readable style in some sense disguises the depth of scholarship that the book represents. Perspicacious comments offer the author's own insights on aspects often considered axiomatic. So Boyle points out (p. 42) that Augustus' vaunted building programme was 'in a sense a form of architectural "catch-up" with the rest of Italy', where axial layout and monumental temple and bath buildings had long since been the norm. Boyle coins the term 'palimpsestic city' (p. 48) for the phenomenon of architectural and cultural layering that has obtained in Rome since the time of Augustus to the present day. The author does not scruple to take issue with the opinions of other established critics such as Kennedy (p. 55, n. 22) and Galinsky (p. 56, n. 28) on the vexed question of Ovid's 'anti-Augustanism' (a view that he convincingly supports against their opposition of the concept).

In all, Boyle's monumental work (if I am allowed the pun) is a useful addition to any Classical library and a sine qua non for Ovidian scholars. I have seldom enjoyed a reference work more.[[2]]


[[1]] A.J. Boyle and R.D. Woodward (edd.), Ovid: Fasti (London 2000). Textual deviations from the standard texts are listed on pp. 174f.

[[2]] I found very few typographical errors. On p. 40 (line 14) the word 'time' is omitted. I find rather disconcerting the author's idiosyncratic use of lower case, unpunctuated 'bce' and 'ce' to denote dates. I tend to read 'bee' for the first (especially in dim light). Also, a consistent application of the same system of numbering by heading, sub-heading and section (as used in the texts and commentary) for those monuments depicted on the various maps and plates, would have facilitated further cross-referencing. Agreed, the exact placement of certain monuments (now lost) is, in some cases, impossible, but as the maps do still indicate the conjectured location of some of these, it would not have been an insurmountable obstacle.