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p. 966. Exile poetrylocked

  • Llewelyn Morgan


In 8/9 CE Ovid was sent by the emperor Augustus to the town of Tomi in modern Romania, at the time at the far edge of the Roman Empire. 'Exile poetry' focuses on the Tristia (Sad Songs) and the Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters from the Black Sea), in total nine books of laments in which Ovid begs to be restored to Rome, or at least to be moved to a more congenial location. The main development between Tristia and ExPonto is Ovid's formal adoption in the later series of a letter format natural to poems sent over a long distance. The circumstances of this poetry, and particularly the identification of the addressee in the Ex Ponto, allows a degree of poignancy rare elsewhere is his poetry. Certainly, for all his claims to the contrary, Ovid’s poetic powers do not abandon him on the Black Sea, and what has made Ovid's exile poetry one of the most influential parts of his oeuvre is the rarity of a classical poet offering an intimately personal account of estrangement and alienation. In turn, these poems provided perhaps unexpected inspiration for modern writers exercised by themes of separation.

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