— Augustan marriage laws
— Ovid’s love poetry
1a. Ara Pacis Augustae, The Altar of Augustan Peace. Pledged 13 BCE, dedicated 9 BCE. The altar, made of Carrara/Luna marble, was erected in the northern Campus Martius, voted in 4th July 13 BCE by the senate (according to Augustus’ Res Gestae 12) to commemorate his safe return from Gaul and Spain, and dedicated 30th January 9 BCE, the birthday of Augustus’ wife, Livia (Ovid Fasti 1.709-722). An acanthus frieze binds the whole design in unity. Image: “Rabax63” (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia.
1b. Hypothesized colour light projection. Image: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images, see Bond 2017. See also this video which shows the other sides with colour projected.
1c. Aerial plan of the Ara Pacis. Text overlay by Čulík-Baird based on Pollini ap. Tuck 2016: 121; base image: “Augusta 89” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.
1d. Detail of frieze on the south side of the Ara Pacis, showing individuals believed to be Agrippa, Livia, and Tiberius. Strong visual connection to the 5th c. BCE Parthenon frieze at Athens. Unprecedented depiction of women and children in a sculptural relief. Image: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.
2. Portraits of Livia (b. 58 BCE, d. 29 CE), wife of Augustus (r. 27 BCE – 14 CE).
2a. Mid to late 30s BCE, marble. Livia is represented with “a new coiffure with no precursors in the ancient world — the nodus hairstyle — in which a section of hair is arranged in a nodus or roll over the forehead. The rest of the hair is brushed back in loose waves over the ears and fastened in a bun at the back of the head” (Diana Kleiner I, Claudia 1996: 53). Image: Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery.
Diana Kleiner (I, Claudia 1996: 53): “In these portraits, Livia is depicted as a serene beauty with almond-shaped eyes and a small rounded mouth. Her prominent aquiline nose is also accentuated. There is in these portraits little indication, even in Livia’s later years, of the aging process. This was in keeping with the Augustan ideal of an eternal youthfulness for portraiture of men and women that was based on the images of youthful male athletes and goddesses.”
2b. Siân Phillips as Livia in the 1976 BBC television adaptation of I, Claudius.
3. Suetonius (2nd c. CE), Life of Augustus 62-63:
Shortly after that he married Scribonia…He divorced her also, “unable to put up with her shrewish disposition,” as he himself writes, and at once took Livia Drusilla from her husband Tiberius Nero, although she was with child at the time; and he loved and esteemed her to the end without a rival.  By Scribonia he had a daughter Julia, by Livia no children at all, although he earnestly desired issue. One baby was conceived, but was prematurely born.
4a. Suetonius (2nd c. CE), Life of Augustus 34:
He revised existing laws and enacted some new ones, for example, on extravagance, on adultery and chastity, on bribery, and on the encouragement of marriage among the various classes of citizens. Having made somewhat more stringent changes in the last of these than in the others, he was unable to carry it out because of an open revolt against its provisions, until he had abolished or mitigated a part of the penalties, besides increasing the rewards and allowing a three years’ exemption from the obligation to marry after the death of a husband or wife. When the knights even then persistently called for its repeal at a public show, he sent for the children of Germanicus and exhibited them, some in his own lap and some in their father’s, intimating by his gestures and expression that they should not refuse to follow that young man’s example. And on finding that the spirit of the law was being evaded by betrothal with immature girls and by frequent changes of wives, he shortened the duration of betrothals and set a limit on divorce.
4b. Women in the Classical World, p302-303:
“The Augustan laws, designed to penalize those citizens who remained unmarried or childless (women between 20 and 50 and men after the age of 25) and those who committed adultery or married women or men of the “wrong” social rank or status, had as their goals the moral revitalization of the upper class, the raising of the birth rate among citizens, and the policing of sexual behaviour in the attempt to reintroduce conservative social values and control the social conduct of an upper class seen as more interested in pleasure and autonomy than in duty and community…The laws, first issued probably in 18 BCE, and amended by supplementary legislation more than 25 years later in 9 CE as the Lex Papia Poppaea, are today known mainly in fragmentary and sometimes distorted from in the writings of later jurists and historians who cite them. Issues of marriage and reproduction that once had been mainly under the control of families now became, at least on paper, public and the purview of the community as a whole. The laws penalized people who did not marry or have children by attacking their eligibility to inherit wealth.”
5. Julia and Julia.
- Julia the Elder (daughter of Augustus) in 2 BCE was charged with multiple adulteries and sent into exile (Velleius Paterculus 2.100.3; Pliny NH 7.149) — Velleius gives a list of five adulterers, all with noble Republican names, including Iullus Antonius (son of Mark Antony); Julia was initially sent to the island of Pandateria, an island less than 2 miles long (Tacitus Annales 1.53, Dio Cassius 55.10.14), later Reggio.
- Julia the Younger (daughter of Julia) was also exiled for adultery in 8 CE, suspected of an affair with D. Silanus (Tacitus Annales 3.24.5); Julia was sent to the island of Trimerus. Augustus refused to allow Julia’s child, born in exile, to be raised (Suet. Aug. 65). The poet, Ovid, who was also exiled in 8 CE, writes that it was because of carmen (poem) and error (a mistake), Tristia 2.207. Tristia 2.103ff. claims he saw something unwittingly.
6a. Ovid, Amores 1.5. Translated by John Svarlien.
It was hot – the day already more than half gone.
I lay where I’d dropped on the bed.
It happened a window was half-open. Light filtered in
like light falling in a forest;
like the afterglow of twilight or when it’s dawn
but the night hasn’t quite faded.
That’s the kind of dim light shy girls like – it gives
their modesty some cover.
The door opens. In comes Corinna, her dress half buttoned,
her hair fixed to show off that lovely neck.
She looked as lovely as Semiramis on her wedding night
or Lais in anyone’s bed.
I tore off the dress. To make it more fun she fought
to keep the flimsy thing half on.
We struggled; I won! Her protests betrayed
the truth: she had wanted to lose.
Clothes littered the room. There stood Corinna nude.
God, what a masterpiece she was!
Looking was not enough; I had to touch those shoulders, those arms;
mold my hands round each round breast.
Her belly’s subtle curves coaxed my fingers on. Soon I felt
the supple swell of hips and thighs.
But why catalogue the store of pleasure her body held?
I held her naked in my arms.
You can fantasize the rest. We were exhausted and slept.
May many afternoons be so well spent.
6b. Ovid, Amores 1.8.35-54. Translated by John Svarlien.
Does that make you blush? Hmm, a little color adds tone to your complexion;
but dab on some rouge; don’t rely on nature.
Keep your eyes leveled on your lap; gear your fetching glances
to the price a customer’s gift will bring.
Maybe in Tatius’ time the Sabine girls went unadorned and
refused service to any but a husband.
Now Mars leads our boys around the world to test their courage;
but Venus rules the city of her Aeneas.
The fun’s non-stop for sexy girls; the chaste are those no one asks out.
Only a hick wouldn’t ask the man herself.
As for prim matrons, take another look – those venerable wrinkles hide
tales of debauchery that would shock you.
Penelope knew how to try the strength of young men: she had them
straining to arch the bow’s bone.
Time slips by unnoticed – it goes spinning along out of control;
a year has raced by before you know it.
Bronze is polished bright by use; a lovely dress is made to show off,
if a house stands empty, it rots.
The same goes for beauty: you have to use it. You can’t save it for rainy days.
Don’t think one lover makes a spring.
6c. Ovid, Amores 2.13. Diane Arnson Svarlien.
For trying to unseat the burden crouched in her swelling womb,
for her audacity, Corinna lies near death.
I should be furious: to take such a risk! And without telling me!
But anger fails me — I’m so afraid.
You see, I’m the one who got her that way, or so I believe;
I might as well be, since I could have been.
Isis! Great queen of Paraetonium, of Canopus’ joyful plains,
of Memphis, and of Pharos, rich in palm-trees,
of the broad delta where the swift Nile spreads, and pours
his waters to the sea through seven mouths,
I pray, by your sacred rattles, by the venerated face of Anubis —
may faithful Osiris forever love your rites!
may the unhurried snake glide always amid your offerings,
and horned Apis travel at your side! —
come here, look kindly upon her, and save two lives in one:
for you’ll give life to her, and she to me.
She’s been devout: performed each service on your festival days,
observed the Gallic laurel ritual.
And you, who comfort laboring women in their time of distress, when
the lurking burden strains their bodies hard,
come gently now, and smile upon my prayers, Ilithyia —
she’s worthy of your intervention — please!
I myself, in white robes, will bring incense to your smoking altar;
I myself will offer votive gifts
and lay them at your feet with the inscription, “For Corinna’s Life.”
Goddess, give occasion for those words!
Corinna, listen, if you’re out of danger:
please don’t ever go through this again!
6d. Ovid, Amores 2.14.1-22. Translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien.
What good does it do for girls to be exempt from combat, freed
from all the dangers that our soldiers face,
if they will suffer self-inflicted wounds far from the front lines,
and blindly brandish arms against their own
bodies? The woman who first took aim at her helpless fetus
should have died by her own javelin.
Can it be possible that, simply to avoid a few stretch-marks,
you’d make your womb a bloody battleground?
What if our forebears had forborne to bear? Without willing mothers
the world would be unpopulated – again
someone would have to seed the empty earth with flung stones.
Priam’s palace wouldn’t have been sacked
if sea-goddess Thetis had refused to shoulder (so to speak) her load;
if Ilia, her belly swollen big,
had terminated her twins in utero, who would have founded
the City that was bound to rule the world?
If Venus, in her audacity, had aborted fetal Aeneas
the Caesars never would have graced our land.
Even you (though you were meant to be born a beauty) would have died
if your mother had attempted what you’ve tried.
I myself (though personally I plan to die of love) would not
have seen the light of day, had mother killed me.
7a. Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.451-466. Translated by A. D. Melville.
In entered Philomela, richly robed
In gorgeous finery, and richer still
Her beauty; such the beauty of the nymphs,
Naiads and Dryads, as we used to hear,
Walking the woodland ways, could one but give
The nymphs such finery, such elegance.
The sight of her set Tereus’ heart ablaze
As stubble leaps to lame when set on fire,
Or fodder blazes, stored above the byre.
Her looks deserved his love; but inborn lust
Goaded him too, for men of that rough race
Are warm for wenching: Thracian villainy
Joined flaring with his own. An impulse came
To bribe her retinue, suborn her nurse,
Even assail the girl herself with gifts,
Huge gifts, and pay his kingdom for the price —
Or ravish her and then defend the rape
In bloody war. Nothing he would not do…
7b. Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.669-80. Translated by G. P. Goold.
After kisses how much was lacking to your vow’s fulfilment? ah! that was awkwardness, not modesty. You may use force; women like you to use it; they often wish to give unwillingly what they like to give. She whom a sudden assault has taken by storm is pleased, and counts the audacity as a compliment. But she who, when she might have been compelled, departs untouched, though her looks feign joy, will yet be sad.
7c. Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.553-557. Translated by A. D. Melville.
…and Philomela, seeing the sword,
Offered her throat and hoped she would have died.
But as she fought, outraged, for words and called
Her father’s name continually, he seized
Her tongue with tongs and, with his brutal sword,
Cut it away.
7d. Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.576-586. Translated by A. D. Melville.
On clumsy native loom
She wove a clever fabric, working words
In red on a white ground to tell the tale
Of wickedness, and, when it was complete,
Entrusted it to a woman and by signs
Asked her to take it to the queen; and she
Took it, as asked, to Procne, unaware
What it contained. The savage monarch’s wife
Unrolled the cloth and read the tragic tale
Of her calamity — and said no word
(It seemed a miracle, but anguished locked
Her lips.) Her tongue could find no speech to match
Her outraged anger; no room here for tears;
She stormed ahead, confusing right and wrong,
Her whole soul filled with visions of revenge.
8a. Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.709-713. Translated by A. D. Melville.
Iphis, a name that gave its mother joy:
It meant no fraud — it could be a girl or boy.
So long the lie that love began lay hid.
She dressed her as a boy, and, whether judged
As boy or girl, the child was beautiful.
8b. Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.722-728. Translated by A. D. Melville.
Ianthe longed to fix the wedding day,
To be a wife and take to be her man
Her Iphis, whom she took to be a man.
Poor Iphis loved a girl, girl loving girl,
And knew her love was doomed and loved the more.
Almost in tears, ‘What will become of me?’
She said, ‘possessed by love unheard of, love
So monstrous, so unique?’
8c. Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.786-797. Translated by A. D. Melville.
Walked Iphis, as she went, with longer strides
Than usual, her cheeks of darker hue,
Her features firmer, limbs more powerful,
Her hanging tresses shorter and her strength
Greater than woman’s wont. She who had been
A girl a moment past was now a boy.
Rejoice, rejoice, with fearless faith! Go, bring
Your offerings to the holy shrine! They brought
Their offerings and beside them placed a plaque,
And on the plaque a couplet was inscribed:
“These offerings, vowed by Iphis as a maid,
By Iphis, now a man, are glady paid.”
The morning’s radiance revealed the world;
Venus, Juno, and Hymen joined to bless
The wedding rite; their love was sanctified
And Iphis gained Ianthe, groom and bride.