Fasti (poem)  

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The Fasti is a six-book Latin poem by Ovid believed to have been left unfinished when the poet was exiled to Tomis by the emperor Augustus in the year 8. Written in elegiac couplets and drawing on conventions of Greek and Latin didactic poetry, the Fasti is structured as a series of eye-witness reports and interviews with deities by the first-person vates, who explains the origins of Roman holidays and associated customs, often with multiple aetiologies. It is thus a significant source for the study of Roman religion, and a major English translation with annotations was made by the influential anthropologist and ritualist J.G. Frazer. Each book covers one month, January through June, of the Roman calendar, which had been revised only recently by Julius Caesar into the form known as the Julian calendar.



The poem is an extensive treatment on the Roman calendar or Fasti, loosely imitated from the Works and Days by Hesiod. Each of its separate books discusses one month of the Roman calendar, beginning with January. It contains some brief astronomical notes, but its more significant portions discuss the religious festivals of the Roman religion, the rites performed upon them, and their mythological explanations. These explanations preserve much mythological and religious lore that would have otherwise been lost. The poem was written to illustrate the Fasti, or almanac and official calendar, published by Julius Caesar after he remodelled the Roman year.

Only the six books which concern the first six months of the year are extant. It may be that Ovid never finished it, that the remaining half is simply lost, or that only six books were intended. Ovid apparently wrote, or at least revised, the poem while he was in exile at Tomis. In other poems, such as the Tristia, he complained of the conditions of his exile there. The Tristia mentions the poem, and that its completion had been interrupted by his exile. In that poem he mentions that he had indeed written the whole thing, and finished revising six books. However, no ancient source quotes even a fragment from the six missing books. The poem is dedicated to Germanicus, a high ranking member of the emperor Augustus's family. These circumstances have led some to speculate that the poem was written on religious, patriotic, and antiquarian themes in order to improve Ovid's reputation and standing with the rulers of Rome, and secure his release from exile.

However, Ovid slips in some subtle insults aimed at Augustus, such as an episode in which he acknowledges the emperor's status as "Jupiter-on-Earth" and then retells a myth depicting Jupiter as a savage rapist.


January (Book 1)

The first book opens with a prologue which contains a dedication (1-62) of the poem to Germanicus, Ovid's recusatio, and a description of the poem's theme as the Roman calendar, festivals, and annual astronomical events, followed by a discussion of Romulus' and Numa's invention of the Roman calendar. The first episode (63-294) is an interview between the poet and the god Janus about the details of his nature as primal creator (Chaos), history, iconography, and festival on the Kalends of January. The second long episode (317-456) describes the Agonalia, the aetiologies of sacrificial animals, the story of Aristaeus, and the story of Lotis and Priapus. The third episode (461-636) for the Carmentalia discusses the exile of Evander to Latium, the prophecy of his mother Carmentis about Aeneas, Augustus, and Livia, and the myth of Hercules and Cacus, ending with the praise of the family of Augustus. The end of the book talks about the festival of Concordia (637-650), the movable Sementivae with a prayer for agricultural productivity (655-704), and the feast of the Ara Pacis (709-724).

In popular culture

The Percy Jackson series of books alludes to the sacrifice of the Ophiotaurus, a creature that appears only in the Fasti.

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