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Ovid's «Metamorphoses»

A classical author, if he truly has all the trappings of classicism, raises “a monument more enduring than bronze”, according to the proud assertion of Horace (Ode 3.30.1). He is contemporary in every age, and therefore also our contemporary. He might even be considered, citing an acute reflection by Giuseppe Pontiggia, a “contemporary of the future”.

One such auctor and an opus magnum of Latin literature that has solidly settled within the dimensions of our present, and is projected into our future, is Publius Ovidius Naso (Sulma, 43 BC – Tomis, Ponto Eusino, 17/18 AD) and his masterpiece, Metamorphoses . Having crossed the threshold of another decade in the 21st century, we see today concretized in the intensity of philological studies and publications in abundance the prophetic intuition of the insatiable reader-hermeneutic of the Classics, Italo Calvino. In his now legendary Lezioni americane (Garzanti, 1988), accompanied by the meaningful subtitle [which is the title it was published under in its English translation] Six Memos for the Next Millenium , Calvino favoured, since Latin works were fated to influence the cultural climate of the Third Millenium, Lucretius’ De rerum natura , and with warmer emphasis, the very Metamorphoses of Ovid. It is known that the five “values or qualities or specificities” held up by the Ligurian writer as paradigms on which the “trust in the future of literature” should be founded are: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility and multiplicity. It is no coincidence that two of these categories, lightness and multiplicity, are chosen by his predecessor the metamorphic Ovid.

For the ancient poet from Abruzzo, the hour of redemption and of full recovery to the summit has struck, which is his due, after the centuries of gloom that followed the judgment of the penumbra of Seneca and Quintilian who will rebuke him for insufficient self control in the discipline of the font of his exuberant ingenium . Of course, attendance in the school of long discourses was fashionable in Rome during the Augustan period that had made of Ovid, already naturally endowed with an inexhaustible vein of imagination, an artist of carved by rhetoric. Governed by refined technique, thought, passion and feelings, often superficial or strictly emotional, the verses are in the form of an elegiac couplet (hexameter + pentameter) with fluidity, flexibility and amazingly melodic. Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos, / et quod temptabam dicere versus erat , “But verse came, of itself, in the right measures, / and whatever I tried to write was poetry”, he recalled during his exile to the Black Sea (Tristia IV 10, vv. 25-26).

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