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Love elegy and legal language in Ovid.

Ziogas, I. (2016) 'Love elegy and legal language in Ovid.', in Wordplay and powerplay in Latin poetry. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 213-240. Trends in classics. Supplementary volumes. (36).


Ovid’s engagement with legal discourse is a version of the elegiac recusatio, a simultaneous appropriation and denial of legalisms. Set against the background of Augustus’ adultery laws, Ovidian elegy aspires to dictate and reform the rules of amatory conduct. The Ars Amatoria exemplifies the profile of love elegy as legal discourse by attempting to regulate love affairs under a regime that institutionalized passion. The conflict and interaction between the world of elegiac seduction and that of Roman law feature prominently in Acontius’ letter to Cydippe (Heroides 20). In this letter, literary sources legitimize poetic imitations; fanciful innovations mirror established traditions; wedding contracts converge with amatory deception and witness-statements with love letters. By construing an intricate nexus between the fantasies of desire and the reality and materiality of legal documents, Ovid suggests that, in the end, Cupid is in charge of both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:14 March 2017
Date of first online publication:01 July 2016
Date first made open access:01 July 2017

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