Added: July 7, 2018 – Last updated: July 7, 2018


Speaker: Alicia Matz

Title: Rape, apotheosis, and politics in Metamorphoses 14 and 15


Conference: Rape in Antiquity: 20 years on (June 22-23, 2017)

Place: University of Roehampton, London, United Kingdom

Date: The abstract was submitted to the call for papers, and accepted. However, the speaker did not have the opportunity to attend the conference.

Language: English

Keywords: Ancient History: Ancient Rome | Cases: Offenders / Vertumnus; Cases: Victims / Pomona; Offenders: Biological Status / Gods; Representations: Literary Texts / Ovid; Types: Attempted Rape; Victims: Biological Status / Gods




Abstract: »Sexual violence is a key plot device in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Present in 52 out of 104 tales, sexual violence accounts for half of the poem. The last amatory tale, Vertumnus and Pomona, occurs in Book 14 and contains an attempted rape; however, Pomona is won over by Vertumnus’ beauty before he is able to accomplish his rape. As Ovid transitions from Greek themes to Roman at the end of the poem, tales involving love and sexual violence slowly give way to historical stories devoid of sex, and metamorphosis in conjunction with rape is replaced with a flurry of apotheoses. While other tales of apotheosis are scattered throughout the poem, the great concentration in books fourteen and fifteen sets these apart from the others, especially since all of the men being apotheosized are members of the Julio-Claudian line. I argue that two of the three male apotheoses that occur in the last two books are modeled after the rapes of the earlier books and should be interpreted in the context of Ovid’s many rape scenes in his epic.
There are similarities in the diction used to describe the apotheoses of Romulus and Caesar and the rape of Proserpina. For instance, at 14.818, in the apotheosis of Julius Caesar, Ovid uses rapina to mean ‘deification’, and at 5.492, in the rape of Proserpina, and at 10.28, when Orpheus is talking to Hades about Hades’ most famous deeds Ovid uses rapina to mean ‘rape/forceful snatching.’ Similar language of snatching also occurs in the deification of Romulus, in which forms of rapio are used twice.
I then compare the apotheoses of Romulus and Caesar to that of Aeneas, the only other Augustan apotheosis in the poem. By contrasting the diction of snatching from the apotheoses of Romulus and Caesar to the diction of purification found in the deification of Aeneas, I show that the later apotheoses were intentionally crafted to have the undertones of sexual violence, as the apotheosis of Aeneas does not have any of these elements.
Finally, I claim that by turning apotheosis into rape, Ovid potentially demeans Augustus and his family, since the men being deified, Romulus and Caesar, are both related to him (and it is suggested that Augustus himself will be deified when he dies). Depicting apotheosis as rape both emasculates the “victim” and suggests incest. Since each of these apotheoses is enacted by a divine relative, these rapes might point to the rumours that Octavian became Julius Caesar’s heir due to sexual favours. They might also pick up on the metaphorical use of incest in poets like Catullus (Skinner 1979, 1982) to suggest the Augustan family is keeping Roman political power to themselves.« (Source: Conference Booklet)

Wikipedia: Ancient history: Ancient Rome | Literature: Latin literature / Ovid | Mythology: Roman mythology / Pomona (mythology), Vertumnus | Rape in fiction: Metamorphoses