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City council of Rome reversed exile of Ovid

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Ovid | Photo: Kurt Wichmann/Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, the city council of Rome decided to recall the famous Roman poet Ovid from 2000 years ago from exile. Thus, the decision of Emperor Octavian Augustus was annulled.

In the year 8 CE, Ovid was banished to the town of Tomis (now Constanta in Romania). The decision of Octavian Augustus to banish the poet to such remote areas (it was said that these were the borders of civilization) is unclear to this day. The author of the Roman poems himself claimed that the reason for the banishment was carmen et error, that is, the poem Ars Amatoria (“The Art of Loving”) and “error”. While the work itself could indeed be in conflict with the “moral renewal” of the empire, which was carried out by the extremely conservative emperor; we do not fully know what mistake Ovid made.

Discussions continue to this day, which ultimately resulted in the banishment of the well-known poet at the time. It is suspected, among other Ovid about an affair with Julia the Elder – Octavian’s daughter, and even with Julia the Younger – granddaughter. It is also rumoured that the poet was involved in some conspiracy.

Regardless of the reasons for the decision, there were voices saying that the famous inhabitant of Rome should be rehabilitated. Italian political party M5S (“The Five Star Movement”), which has a majority in the city council, has been seeking for some time to correct many past “wrong” decisions of the city administration, including reversing the decisions of Octavian Augustus from 2000 years ago. However, it is worth noting that only representatives of the M5S party took part in Thursday’s vote on Ovid’s “fate”.

As Luca Bergamo, the councillor for the cultural development of the city of Rome, notes, this decision is aimed at confirming society’s belief that artists have a fundamental right to express themselves through creativity and reversing the trend of repressing artists for their works, which we are seeing more and more often. Interestingly, Ovid had already been acquitted by the court in Sulmona in Abruzzo (Italy), where he was also supposed to have been born in 43 BCE. The court’s verdict was forwarded to the authorities of Rome.

Returning to the fate of Ovid in exile. He wrote during his exile that there was no Latin speaker in the city. The poet was so broken that he repeatedly asked the emperor to revoke the punishment and allow him to return to his homeland. Eventually, Ovid died in 17 or 18 CE in exile.

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