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A G, Ricordo di Bruno Gentili
B M. P S, I canti di questua nella Grecia antica (
Eiresione samia ed Eiresione attica
G C. P, Eclogue 7, 69-70. Vergil’s Victory over Theo-
V V, Hypermestra as soror querens. Reading Ovid’s
U B, Eschine e la phéme in giudizio
E D, Pausania e il lavoro sul campo. Il caso dell’attacco
celtico a Del
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gua e religione nella costruzione della identità castigliana nel
A T, Per la storia del testo di Plauto nell’Umanesimo. Benedetto
Borsa, De legendo Plauto potius quam Terentio
Studi di Storia del Cristianesimo per Alba Maria Orselli, a cura di Luigi
Canetti, Martina Caroli, Enrico Morini, Raaele Savigni (Francesco
C A, Il centone virgiliano cristiano «Versus ad gratiam
Domini». Introduzione, edizione critica, traduzione e commento (Fran-
E P, M S, La teologia degli antichi
) (Francesco Corsaro)
M D, Leisured Resistance. Villas, Literature and Politics in the
Roman World (Stefano Briguglio)
Sommario dell’annata 2014
HYPERMESTRA AS SOROR QUERENS.
READING OVID’S HER.,
In this paper we try to discuss Ovid’s choice to present Hypermestra apparently
indierent about love, gravis like a Roman matrona, although belonging to the Hero-
ides collection, which is generally dominated by the notion of love. Moreover, we
briey comment the suggestion that Hypermestra’s father Danaus, instead of
Lynceus, was the real recipient of this prima facie deprived of the notion of love epis-
tle. Our view is that various hints should make us seriously doubt about this
pompous Hypermestra’s matronalis/coniugalis gravitas, and suspect that the usual
Ovidian playful and ironical spirit is constantly present in his version of the story.
Many ambiguous expressions or words, also present in the most piqué poems of the
Amores, contribute to this impression: Hypermestra seems to care about love and
love-making much more than the initial phenomena. The uidity of the notion of
pietas projected in this epistle and also the ambiguity of numerous verses allows the
reader to suspect that Ovid is deeply undermining the image of a matrona that
Hypermestra seeks to acquire initially. Love comes e contrario to the forestage. If so,
then Ovid’s thematic shift away from love, that the non-erotic fourteenth epistle
gives the impression to announce, should wait a bit longer to be realized.
K: Ovid, Heroides, Amores, Hypermestra, Lynceus, pietas, marriage, love,
paper concentrates on the myth about the Danaids as seen by Ovid in
Her., , where Hypermestra, a personage known from epic and tragic po-
etry is cited within elegiac ambience. We will rst exhibit Ovid’s choice to pass
over the importance of love as a motive for Hypermestra’s disobedience, al-
though the Epistulae Heroidum are dominated by the notion of love. As this
‘peculiarity’ has encouraged scholars to believe that this specic epistle has a
dierent recipient, not the usual perdus amans of the previous letters, but
the father of the letter writer, the paper shortly comments on this possibility.
After discussing this issue, we will try to speculate on a possible thematic or
generic shift that this absence of love could notify, although the heroine, com-
posing an elegiac epistle, is in accordance with all the stylistic conventions of
the Roman love elegy, except the love theme, thus remaining within the ele-
giac domain. Our opinion is that this shift hypothetically announced through
the absence of love is too abrupt to be suciently convincing. Thus, we will
« » · ·
try to examine numerous hints and ambiguous expressions allowing the read-
er to suspect that love and love poetry is always present in Ovid’s priorities; if
this is true, the poet has realized a perfect deception of his audience by nal-
ly rejecting his own prima facie recusatio of amor.
The fourteenth composition of Ovid’s collection of Heroides or Epistulae
Heroidum has long raised questions in philological research. First and fore-
most cause of the reader’s surprise is the letter’s content: it is distinguished
by the apparent absence of the erotic element, in contrast to the other letters
in which the erotic theme is predominant, and indeed vested with the sub-
jective tone and the usual motifs of the traditional elegy of Tibullus and
Propertius, and very often with the ironic insinuations, parody and exagger-
ation of Ovid’s Amores.
Even those letters supposedly written by emblematic ‘women-wives’, such
as Penelope in Her., or Laodamia in Her., , emphasize erotic love far more
than the character and the ideal behaviour of a royal wife (or a ‘Romanized’
Augustan matrona). Love is in no way played down because of its conjugal di-
mension. They also reveal passions and concerns identical or similar to those
distinctive of the personae of the puellae relictae of the rest of the letters or of
the suering lover of the Tibullan and Propertian elegies and of the Ovidian
Amores. From the opening lines of the Heroides Penelope herself stresses the
qualities of the puella deserta, with explicit erotic references and cares, thus
specifying the personality familiar female literary gures assume within the
novum opus. Indeed, it should be noted that in some of the stories the em-
phasis on the erotic dimension is most probably an Ovidian innovation. This
is the case, for example, in Hypsipyle’s letter to Jason (Apollonius’ Hypsipyle
is more ‘royal’ and much less amorous) and, mainly, Canace’s letter to
Macareus, in which the reciprocity of the erotic love is implicit. By contrast,
This composition indeed concerns the model female gure for Arethusa’s letter to Lycotas,
of Propertius’ , , which inaugurates the genre of the elegiac epistle before Ovid proceeds to
shaping a novum opus to his own specications.
See the terms deserto lecto and relicta in Her., , - (Goold).
See e.g. V V, In-Between Lament and Irony. Some Cross-References in Ovid’s Hero-
ides 6 and 12, «Mediterranean Studies», , Valletta, Midsea Books, , p. .
See L F, The Ovidian Heroine as Author. Reading, Writing, and Community in
the Heroides, Cambridge-New York-Melbourne-Madrid-Cape Town-Singapore-São Paulo, Cam-
bridge University Press, , p. , pointing out the emphasis on the Canace’s love for Macareus,
while it is not clear from the rest of the relevant tradition whether Canace was raped or seduced.
See also the detailed discussion in H J, Ovid’s Heroides, Princeton, Princeton Uni-
versity Press, , pp. -.
in Her., the innovation is that the letter of Hypermestra is at rst glance
stripped almost absolutely of the erotic element. At the same time the hero-
ine’s insistence on projecting the virtue of pietas verges on excess.
The literary tradition relating to the myth of the Danaids generally accepts
the erotic dimension, even when it projects the version in which Lynceus re-
spects Hypermestra’s virginity as the reason why the Danaid too, in her turn,
spared the Belide’s’ life. The role of Hypermestra is emphasized by Horace
in Carm., , ; Propertius, in , , , presents her as both the moral counter-
weight and the etymological correspondent of Clytemnestra, with the lat-
ter’s name transformed for the case to Clytaemestra (instead of the more com-
mon Clyt(a)emnestra), in order to underline the subversive comparison of and
the dierences between these two female types and role models. The Ovid-
ian letter is the integrated literary development of the ‘Propertian detail’ and
the mythological exemplum of , . It is, furthermore, an answer to Horace’s
treatment of Hypermestra’s persona, which projects the Danaid as paragon
of a (loving) wife. Consequently, Ovid’s handling of the myth by provoca-
tively downplaying this dimension is of itself a standpoint with signicant po-
etological implications: it not only moves away from the dominant erotic
tone in the collection, but also essentially demands the partial denial of the
pre-existing literary tradition and the perception of the story’s erotic charac-
ter, which was current in Antiquity.
Ovid/Hypermestra insists on a kind of pietas whose content is not deter-
mined clearly but is merely implied by the few references to Lynceus’ status
See J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14. A Commentary, Leiden-Boston-Köln, Brill,
(«Mnemosyne Suppl.», ), pp. -; also V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in
Epist. 14, «Eikasmos», , Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum, , pp. - for a more detailed
study of the role of pietas in this letter.
See A., P r., - (Murray) (the ancient Scholia point out that one daughter out of fty has
been inicted by love, refused to kill her groom, and spared his life), also A., fr. - (Radt), Sch.,
Pi., P., , b (Drachmann), Sch., E., Hec., (Schwartz), Nonn., D., , - (Keydell), Hor.,
Carm., , , mollior (a word rich in erotic connotations) and Venus (Klingner), Apollod., ,
(Wagner), Sch., Pi., N., , b, E., fr. a, K (Archelaus, fr. ). See also V V, Hy-
permestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., p. , note . On various episodes of the myth see Apol-
lod., , -, Paus., , , .; , -; , ; , . (Spiro), E., fr. (Nauck), Aeschylus’ trilogy
Supplices,Aegyptii, Danaides (of which only the rst play survives today), Hyg., Fab., , and
(Rose), Lucr., , - (Martin), and especially Tib., , , - (Lenz-Galinsky), Prop., , ,
- (Goold) and Hor., Carm., , , -.
See details in V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., pp. -.
There might be an erotic hint even in dum nox sinit of Her., , (cf. Hor., Carm., , , : dum
favet nox et Venus), a line referring to Lynceus’s escape, but also reminding of what did not happen
during the night. Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere: º‡ÏÔ Î·È Á¤ÓÔ˜ ÛÙÈ˜ HÚˆ›‰Â˜ ÙÔ˘ O‚È‰›Ô˘,
£ÂÛÛ·ÏÔÓ›ÎË, (¢È‰·ÎÙ. ¢È·ÙÚÈ‚‹), p. , who sees a more obvious erotic dimension in
as husband: the reader realizes his identity as husband more from the cotext
or the wider inter-text and the context rather than from the Ovidian text per
se. An equal number of mentions of the fraternal relationship linking him
with the Danaid conrms this emphasis on pietas, which coexists with the
presence and the repetition of standard and recognizable elegiac motifs, but
ones that had been used more often in articulation with the erotic theme.
Hypermestra does in fact combine the characteristics of the excluded lover
of the traditional elegiac serenades with those of the puella relicta of the col-
lection of the (previous letters of the) Heroides: abandonment by the (un-
faithful in the other Heroides but not in the specic letter) male, presence of
a custodian (here this role is assumed not by the husband, the slave-ianitor or
the lena of the Amores but by the father-custos Danaus), existence of obstacles
to the male’s encounter with the female. Furthermore, a funerary epigram
has been composed by the heroine herself, in imitation or intentional anno-
tation of the typical elegiac motif which Tibullus (and Lygdamus) and Prop-
ertius had utilized (using a more serious tone) in literature, and which Ovid
in the Amores had already ‘overstretched’ with its abuse in Am., , , -
(Goold), prior to bringing it back with vague intentions in the Heroides, pri-
marily in order to give the female protagonists an undeniably recognizable
However, whereas in these elegiac epitaphs (including those encountered
in the Heroides), the (hapless) love gives the subject and the ·úÙÈÔÓ, Hyper-
mestra’s letter ends by asserting the virtue of pietas, which she showed to-
wards her ‘brother’ – as she calls her cousin – who a short time before had
Only in lines Her., , (vir), (mariti), while in lines and viros is used to refer to all
Egyptians, cf. generos in line (Danaus is presented counting his sons-in-law who were slain). On
the mention of ‘fraternity’ see (fratri), (sororis), (fratres, sorores), (de fratrum populo).
A P, P. Ovidi Nasonis Heroides with the Greek Translation of Planudes, Oxford, , p.
(n. ed. Hildesheim, Georg Olms, ), in his comment on line , sees pietas with its conju-
gal/nuptial dimension, dening it as ‘wifely aection’ and connecting the line with Her., ,
(where the adjective pii is attributed to the sinus of Protesilaus’s wife). Laodamia’s and Hyperme-
stra’s letters present serious similitudes related not exclusively to conjugal piety issues.
On common elements with paraclausithyron and komos, see for example F S,
Ovids Heroides als Elegien, München, C. H. Beck, («Zetemata», ), p. .
Her., , -.
Tib., , , -, [Carm. Tib.], , , -, Prop., , , -; , , -.
Her., , -; , -.
H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. speaks of a Hypermestra’s obsession with
pietas accentuating on the moral valuation of the acts of her sisters made by her: they periere just
because they committed the crime, i.e. they are ethically ruined.
The wider concept of brother is used so as to include the literal status of cousin. See Oxford
Latin Dictionary, Oxford, Clarendon Press, , (from now on OLD), p. , sub voce «frater, ». See
also for example Plaut., Poen., (Leo), Cic., n., , (Schiche), Att., , , (Shackleton Bailey),
Liv., , , (Conway-Johnson), and especially Ov., Her., , and Met., , (Goold).
become her husband. Hypermestra obviously dierentiates the ·úÙÈÔÓ of her
victimization from every other case of the Heroides, in which the mortis causa
is an actual or a hypothetical erotic abandonment: of Canace, for example,
of Dido or of Phyllis. In the case of Hypermestra, the heroine’s intention of
persuading a lover to return to the empty love nest is entirely absent.
The poet’s attempt seems to be to present her with the characteristics of
the Cynthia of Propertius’ , or the Cornelia of , . Indeed, the Ovidian
letter prima facie surpasses Propertius’ , in severity of tone; in Her., not
only the erotic element is absent but also any hint at female beauty, which ac-
cording to the Propertian elegy would have rightly oered Cynthia an out-
standing place in the paradise of faithful wives. Consequently, the Ovidian
treatment brings the heroine closer to the female protagonist of the last Prop-
ertian composition, Cornelia of , , who thanks to her behaviour, the exact
antipode of the forty-nine murderous Danaids, awaits Aeacus’ judgment in
her favour. An important dierence, of course, is that in , Cornelia already
has the characteristics of the matrona, both as virtuous uxor and as mater, and
it is with this already formed indubitable conjugal/maternal identity that she
avoids a fate comparable to that of the Danaids in the underworld. By con-
trast, Hypermestra cannot yet claim literally the title of matrona, since she
has not become mater, and her solicitude for her posthumous memory as pia
is tinged by the kinship status of sister and not of wife, like Cornelia, Lucre-
tia or Turia.
Ovid in the Heroides needs to emphasize on the erotic abandonment element in order to un-
doubtedly ‘elegize’ his heroine, so he treats her the way he treats e.g. Dido, Ariadne and Medea.
See also L F, The Ovidian Heroine as Author, cit., pp. -, J B , Ovid. The
Second Book of the Amores, Edited with Translation and Commentary, Warminster, Aris & Phillips,
, p. , mentioning versions of the story which report a delayed return of Demophoon.
See also V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., p. .
«As far as moral stature is concerned, the gap between Elysium and Subura is considerable»;
see T D. P, Propertius: a Hellenistic Poet on Love and Death, Cambridge-Lon-
don-New York-New Rochelle-Melbourne-Sydney, Cambridge University Press, , p. com-
menting on this metamorphosis of Cynthia in Prop., , . But beauty is still a dominant factor even
after death: «[…] what ultimately binds Cynthia, Andromeda and Hypermestra together is death
and beauty […]».
V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., p. , and p. , note , cf.
EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. .
Prop., , is supposed to be, as mentioned before, one of Her., models; F S,
Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. , note has doubts about the priority of the Ovidian epistle
over the Propertian synthesis. Anyway, the two poems are connected not only thanks to the
narratio which the Ovidian heroine develops as an answer to narrat Hypermestre of Prop., , ,
[cf. F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. : ‘Diese narratio ist der . Heroiden-
brief’], but also thanks to the àÌË¯·Ó›· expressed in non valuisse (Prop., , , ), a notion present
in the entire Ovidian epistle (cf. Tib., , , , where, on the contrary, valuisse manus).
V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., pp. -.
Both coincidences of expression and motifs in common with the rst let-
ter, as well as the happy end for the female protagonists, help to create the
impression that the fourteenth letter concludes the cycle of the collection; it
counterbalances the turn of Penelope into puella deserta, with the meta-
morphosis of a maiden into a serious matrona. The adoption of a mien of
prestige, formality and sobriety seems to be among Hypermestra’s intentions
visible in her heroic and moralistic vocabulary, as she often sounds like a mar-
tyr. If in Heroides the delay or postponement of the epic deed is considered
typical elegiac female behaviour, in this case it is the woman who urges the
man to save himself through escape and not to stay; it is her who has sought
the abandonment by undergoing a drastic reversal of previously adopted
practice. On the contrary, it is the heroine who now has a violent mission ‘of
epic type’ to fulll, and it is her success in this mission which will secure the
laus of her father Danaus; nally, it is her refusal and not her acceptance of
the ‘epic’ paternal command that in the end puts her in danger.
However, this recusatio of ‘epic behaviour’ does not happen for the sake
of love, as it would have probably been expected in this same collection;
the heroine absolutely avoids to put love as priority instead of ‘war’, like
the pii devotees of Venus in Tib., , , or because she prefers to place the
true triumph on the love bed, like the lover of Am., , . Hypermestra
prejudicates the virtue of pietas, as is maintained by the frequency with
which Aeneas denes himself as pius in Vergil’s epic. Readers could think
that Hypermestra, apart from Cornelia in the making, becomes also a fe-
male homeotype of the national Roman hero with a modernist perception
Line Her., , is more or less repeated in , . The texture motif (Her., , -) is repeated in
, -. Another observation that could be made is that Penelope’s pietas concerning her conju-
gal devotion to Odysseus, is her answer to her father’s Icarius pressure to replace Odysseus as a
husband with one of her followers: Her., , -. Apart from this, the two heroines will be saved
thanks to their husbands’ nal victory over their enemies. The periphrasis Danais puellis referring
to Greek women at the beginning of Penelope’s epistle (, ) could also constitute another link
between the rst and the fourteenth letter. Her., , -; -; -.
See for example lines Her., , , , , -, , -, -, -, -, , , , ,
Penelope has rst exhibited such complaints and grumbling against epic deeds in Her., , -;
Dido’s and Laodamia’s epistles represent the same spirit. Cf. Prop., , , -, where Galla, a per-
sonage with strong similarities to Penelope, as said in this same elegy, is supposed to have prayed
her Postumus not to follow Augustus at a military expedition.
V V, From militia patriae to militia amoris. Love labour and post obitum remunera-
tion (Tib. 1.3), «Vichiana», , Napoli, Loredo, , pp. -; cf. among others S
T, Rusticitas versus urbanitas in the literary programmes of Tibullus and Persius,
«Mnemosyne», , Leiden, Brill, , pp. -, with note , on Tibullus’ programmatic el., , .
Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., pp. . Emphasis on pietas gives a good opportunity
to relate Aeneas to Hypermestra and note similitudes and analogies between these two person-
ages. These connections would need to be studied in a separate paper.
of heroism. This short of heroism is detached from the often blind vio-
lence of the archaic epic whose fruit is a traditional type of laus; it is based
on an eminent Roman virtue, the one that is at the heart of the Roman
habitus, exemplied not only by Aeneas but also by the conduct of the
Sabine women which leads to the birth of the Roman nation. If an aspect
of pietas may exist in the possibility that Danaus is the actual recipient of
the letter (see infra), then Hypermestra comes closer from this standpoint
too to the exemplary for his respect of his father persona of Aeneas. In oth-
er words, Hypermestra’s Romanization does not follow the same line as the
other Heroides, who behave basically as elegiac puellae (sometimes even as
ladies of good society, to whom the pleasures of the Roman dolce vita are
not unknown); it condenses the Roman national hero’s respect for his fam-
ily and for his father and for religion. In this perspective, the familial facet
of her proclaimed piety is strengthened by Hypermestra’s express and re-
peated reference to the ‘sororal’ relationship uniting her to Lynceus.
The formality of tone the heroine of Her., adopts may lead to such
ramications and similar associations, nonetheless more careful study will
reveal that this proclaimed piety leaves leeway for second thoughts. The par-
ticipant in the realia of the story tends, as noted above, to ll in the gaps in
the clarication of the motives for Hypermestra’s behaviour with the hy-
pothesis that the maiden is put in the service of the institution of marriage,
which the rest of the Danaids impiously violated. Moreover, the mythologi-
cal tradition has led to inculcation of the idea that this episode functions also
as ·úÙÈÔÓ of the institution of marriage and of the cry ^YÌ‹Ó, ^YÌ¤Ó·ÈÂ which
accompanies the ancient wedding ceremony. In practice, however, Hyper-
mestra’s express reference to Lynceus as husband is isolated and lack-lustre,
and is the quid pro quo persistent rhetoric on a pietas of basically unspecied
content, which for the moment obscures this reluctance to mention directly
marriage and erotic love, even conjugal.
According to H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. , her behaviour is in fact heroic,
although the maiden places herself opposite to epic and violent actions, as she states in her epistle.
The heroic motif is emphasized by the masculine/heroic terminology used culminating at
naming her own epitaph a titulus. Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. .
Cf. F V, Ovid’s Toyshop of the Heart. Epistulae Heroidum, Princeton, Prince-
ton University Press, , pp. -.
E.g. see Hypermestra’s references to marriage and to Juno as the goddess protecting mar-
riage, as well as her ample use of religious or pietistic vocabulary: Her., , -, , -, -, -
, , , .
See also J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., p. , ad l., who points out that Ovid
functions within an etiological framework placing the ·úÙÈÔÓ of the cry in the Danaids wedding
episode. Ovid reduces his audience and himself to the centre of etiological concept, searching for
the supposed time of birth of nuptial tradition. Hyginus’s treatment of the same myth (Fab., ,
) reinforces this dimension.
Jacobson’s assessment of the heroine’s psychology, pointing out that
Ovid, more than Horace, attempts a psychological examination of Hyper-
mestra, is an attempt to explain the Ovidian choice not to present her in
love: in his opinion Hypermestra’s marriage to Lynceus is the cause of her
suerings, so a repetition of the erotic inclination of the preceding Heroines
would not be plausible. Furthermore, the erotic version would be a very
simplistic psychological interpretation and the poet does not usually like the
simplistic adoption of already formed views for his material. The interpre-
tation on the basis of psychology certainly accepts the specic letter’s par-
ticularity of subject and tone, and oers a manner of explaining it; but in a
letter rich in poetological allusions and exploiting rened poetic techniques
according to the neoteroi’s principles, it is not possible for similar analysis
to be one way.
. L D?
The choice of emphasizing piety would nd a reasonable explanation if
Fulkerson’s interpretation that the real recipient of the letter is Danaus and
not Lynceus held absolutely; in this case the downplaying of the erotic ele-
ment and the declaration that virginity was kept are simultaneously also
proof that Hypermestra’s piety towards her parent remains unharmed. Ac-
cording to this version, the continuous reference to chastity is an indirect at-
tempt to show to the real recipient of the letter that respect of and loyalty
to her father are maintained, since, unlike her sisters, she did not give in erot-
ically to the husband who was imposed on her. It could be added as further
argument that Hypermestra refers to her dilemma and to her triple attempt
to kill Lynceus: and this should not be included in her letter if her aim was
to activate the Egyptian rather than to appease her father. Consequently, the
vagueness of the concept of pietas diminishes the contradiction the heroine
experiences and the confusion of identity she faces: Hypermestra is aicted
by the opposition between the pietas owed to her father and to her husband,
a dimension visible also in the mutually conicting expressions rea-laus,
Nonetheless, the version of the double recipient (Lynceus and Danaus) or
of Danaus instead of Lynceus as the only and true recipient, although at-
tractive as an interpretative exercise, indeed theoretically applicable also to
H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. .
Cf. J-CJ, Allusion et ction épistolaire dans les Héroïdes. Recherches sur l’in-
tertextualité ovidienne, École Française de Rome, («Collection de l’École Française de Rome»,
), p. . L F, The Ovidian Heroine as Author, cit., pp. -.
other letters in the collection, comes up against the problem that it seeks a
realistic explanation of an Ovidian invention. This invention, placed in the
eld of literary experimentations and innovations familiar to the poet, will
have had little need of an undeniably plausible cause.
Someone could remember that Medea omits any reference to her hesita-
tions on whether she should save Jason or not, known from Apollonius’ nar-
ration (, -, Fraenkel), since this information would not serve her argu-
mentation exhibited in Her., , whereas Hypermestra does not have any
problem mentioning her dilemma. Yet, this argument is not sucient to sus-
tain the theory of Danaus as the true recipient of the letter, because Hyper-
mestra’s mention of her dilemma whether to kill Lynceus or to spare his life
describes the diculty of her decision to disobey her father’s order. Phaedra,
on the other hand, also mentions her triple attempt to speak to Hippolytus
at the beginning of her letter, but this is presented by her as a proof for her
love. Leander will do the same in Her., , -: his triple attempt to fall into
the sea shows the diculty of the task he has to undertake for his beloved’s
sake. So, Hypermestra’s reference to her triple attempt to commit the crime
could be mutatis mutandis interpreted as a declaration of her devotion to
Lynceus; at least it is not necessary for us to interpret the triple attempt mo-
tif as an eort to appease her father’s wrath, which could make Danaus the
true recipient of her letter.
In fact, the letters do not need a true recipient, since they have resigned a
priori from a realism that is beyond all doubt. Certainly, the Heroides do not
leave unexploited any opportunity to build plausibility. But the poet always
aims rather at further unfolding the ironic game that the reader enjoys to
the degree that he is familiar with the other versions, frequently the pre-
vailing ones, of the exposited stories. Their literary plausibility does not de-
pend on plausibility per se. We could maintain, furthermore, that their suc-
cess is based precisely on the opposite: on the acceptance of their ‘articial’
character and their fantastical, ‘contrived’ substance. Indeed, the poet has
turned his heroines’ eorts to nd a point of contact with realistic issues in-
to a way of renewing the literary game and into a source of aesthetic pleas-
ure for the reader, who enjoys following them as they strive to keep up the
pretenses of realism: Hypsipyle and Penelope have given us samples of sim-
ilar attempts to grant a realistic explanation of how they get information
As in the case of Canace, for example, which displays similarity to letter both in the
conditions of the heroine’s imprisonment and the kinship connecting her to the male persons in
See ANA™TA™IO™ °. NIKO§AI¢H™, H ÌÔÚÊ‹ ÙË˜ M‹‰ÂÈ·˜ ÛÙÔ ¤ÚÁÔ ÙÔ˘ O‚È‰›Ô˘, in A\ ¶·ÓÂ -
ÏÏ‹ÓÈÔ ™˘ÌﬁÛÈÔ §·ÙÈÓÈÎÒÓ ™Ô˘‰ÒÓ, °È¿ÓÓÂÓ·, 5-6 NÔÂÌ‚Ú›Ô˘ 1982, °È¿ÓÓÂÓ·, , p. .
about their partners or how they intend to deliver their letter to them; their
attempt to secure plausibility for their letter-writing rather evokes wry
smiles to the reader. In addition, it should be expected that the letters con-
tain elements that would concern also recipients other than the declared
ones; not because they aim literally at convincing them, but because they
are addressed rstly to a wider audience which is in a position to appreciate
the insinuations and the dramatic or comic moments of irony, and therefore
also to imagine the reaction of possible ‘second’ recipients, to the degree
that ‘addressing’ them also boosts the irony to the utmost. Thus, the lack of
a reasonable explanation of the manner of delivering the letter is not su-
cient to lay the foundation of the status of the true recipient as Danaus in-
stead of Lynceus.
Another point of the lack of realism that distinguishes the letters, is
demonstrated also by the host of needless, for their aims, snippets of infor-
mation they contain. Hypermestra’s letter by no means escapes this practice
of providing information that is apparently redundant as far as the possible
true objectives are concerned, but which is particularly important at a meta-
poetical level. In the end, it is not necessary for the fourteenth letter to seek
eectiveness, since this is not and cannot be a basic concern in the rest of the
Heroides, who rather show indierence to the consequence of their eorts
and consist of reproduction (in the most parodying or sarcastic form) of al-
ready known commonplaces of the elegy.
After all, the female protagonists of the Heroides have been taken from
literary works earlier than Ovid, in which the end of their stories is specied
and consequently leaves little room for dierentiation; and this only in indi-
vidual elements of the plots, perhaps concerning the conditions or the means
of achieving the outcome already known to the public, because the opposite
would come up against the informed reader’s knowledge. So, both the
‘failure’ of the preceding thirteen letters and the ‘success’ of the last are
developments independent of the letters’ aims and recipients, as well as of
whether a reply is expected. Thus, the hypothesis that Hypermestra’s hap-
py end emerges as fruit of her letter and indeed thanks to the change of the
declared recipient is not necessary. No heroine achieves anything through
writing, and the last in the end, if she succeeds, does so thanks to the overt
H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., pp. -, note .
LF, The Ovidian Heroine as Author, cit., p. . Cf. E S, Read-
ers and Writers in Ovid’s Heroides, Transgressions of a Genre and Gender, Oxford-New York, Oxford
University Press, , p. .
Cf. also A B, Speaking Volumes. Narrative and Intertext in Ovid and Other
Latin poets, English transl., London, Duckworth, , pp. -.
and not to the supposed covert recipient of her letter: Hypermestra is not
saved thanks to her father and to his mercy – possible outcome of a hypo-
thetical letter from her to him – but by the action of her subsequent ‘true’
husband and co-regnant in Argos, Lynceus. Consequently, the uid content
of pietas, far more than needing to be justied through the female protago-
nist’s real needs, objectives and ambitions, most probably illustrates messages
and objectives of poetological nature, which remain to be claried, at least as
far as possible.
. A ?
The ‘Romanization’ of Hypermestra and her identication, as it is supposed,
with exemplary wives of literary tradition and with the Roman model wife
is promoted in the fourteenth letter also by projecting her involvement with
weaving, a domestic task whose potent symbolism far outweighed its
practical application in Ovid’s day. And the recalling of this symbolically
charged image of the woman at her loom, with which the same collection
begins in Penelope’s letter, is one of those elements that capture the reader’s
imagination and lead it to interpret the piety proclaimed by the last heroine
mainly in terms of conjugality and marriage, and makes Hypermestra a
homologue of Cornelia, of Cynthia/coniunx, of Penelope or of Lucretia, as
The fourteenth epistle is special regarding the thematic shift it constitutes,
as it contains hints at a new direction in Ovid’s poetics, which were con-
rmed by his subsequent creations. Thus, the grafting onto Hypermestra’s
Her., , .
See e.g. J H, The Role of Women in Roman Elegy. Counter-cultural Feminism, in Paul
Allen Miller (ed.), Latin Erotic Elegy. An Anthology and Reader, London-New York, Routledge, ,
pp. -, cf. V V, Femineae artes et la thématique des Héroïdes
«Mètis», n. s. , Paris, EHESS, , p. , E§ENH KAPAMA§E°KOY, °˘Ó·›Î· Î·È È‰ÂÔÏÔÁÈÎÔ›
ÚÔÛ·Ó·ÙÔÏÈÛÌÔ› ÛÙÔ 2º Ì.X. ·ÈÒÓ·, in ¢. PAIO™, M. ¶A¶A¢HMHTPIOY, E. °KA™TH (eds.), H
ÓÂ˘Ì·ÙÈÎ‹ ˙ˆ‹ ÛÙÔ ÚˆÌ·˚Îﬁ ÎﬁÛÌÔ ·ﬁ ÙÔ 14 ˆ˜ ÙÔ 212 Ì.X., ™Ù\ ¶·ÓÂÏÏ‹ÓÈÔ ™˘ÌﬁÛÈÔ
§·ÙÈÓÈÎÒÓ ™Ô˘‰ÒÓ, Iˆ¿ÓÓÈÓ· 11-13 AÚÈÏ›Ô˘ 1997, Iˆ¿ÓÓÈÓ·, , p. , note ; also M
S, Introduction: quod multo t aliter in Graecia, in Judith P. Hallett, Marilyn Skinner (eds.),
Roman Sexualities, Princeton, Princeton University Press, , p. and C M, H
Á˘Ó·›Î· ÛÙËÓ ·Ú¯·›· EÏÏ¿‰·, MÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË Aı·Ó. ¢. ™ÙÂÊ·Ó‹˜, Aı‹Ó·, EÎ‰ﬁÛÂÈ˜ ¶··‰‹Ì·,
, pp. , -, , (orig. ed. La femme dans la Grèce antique, Paris, ), about Greek women;
also P G, Matrona (les lois, les mœurs, et le language, in René Braum (ed.), Hommage à
Jean Granarolo. Philologie, littératures et histoire anciennes, «Annales de la Faculté des Lettres et Sci-
ences Humaines de Nice», , Nice, Lettres Modernes, , pp. - about the characteristics of
a decent Roman lady.
Hypermestra consummates the text/textile metaphor started by Penelope, the emblematic
weaver, in Her., , -. Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. and V V, Hyper-
mestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., p. .
letter of an etiological dimension of Hellenistic nuance, obvious in the con-
fessed attempt to interpret the Danaid’s tribulations through Hera’s wrath
against her Inachian ancestor Io, as well as the narrative digression with the
tale of the latter’s suerings, have been justiably considered as intimations
of Ovid’s later turn to the etiological endeavour of the Fasti and to the re-
newed third-person narration of the mythological-etiological epic of the
Certainly the similarities of this last (or penultimate) composition of the
collection with the last compositions of Propertius third book, those of his
exit from the purely erotic aspect of the elegiac genre or with his last elegy
(, ), may permit parallels to be drawn between the course of Ovid and that
of his predecessor towards etiological and mythological interests. After all,
Ovid’s handling of the last poems in the Amores, with the non-erotic Am., ,
and the announcement in Am., , of a literary migration towards tragedy
or the Fasti, at rst glance reinforce this idea, while Propertius’ deconstruc-
tion of the woman as generic allegory and aesthetic symbol, at the end of the
third book, coincides with what Ovid promotes at the end of the Amores
Io’s digression (Her., , -) has been strongly criticized by scholars from an aesthetic point
of view. D. Heinsius, Scaliger and Sedlmayer have serious doubts even about the authenticity of
the text tradition. See J-C J, Allusion et ction épistolaire, cit., p. .
V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., pp. -.
The problem of authenticity of the Epistula Sapphus (on which see, for example, the discus-
sion in P K, Ovid Heroides. Select Epistles, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, )
goes beyond the intentions of this article. For our study, even if the fourteenth epistle is the penul-
timate letter of the collection, it does not lack importance regarding probable poetological state-
ments. Exactly like in the Amores, it is not only the last poem of the collection that is full of meta-
poetic hints; it is in Am., , that the poet begs his Muse/mistress to help him remain in his
illusion. Let us also remind that it is not only the last composition of the Propertian third book
that marks the poet’s thematic shift towards the etiologic fourth book, but also the penultimate
elegy, containing Propertius’s disillusionment.
Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. (she comes to a similar conclusion about Ovid’s
shift to epic through Io’s ‘epyllion’).
Cf. A B, The Poet and the Prince. Ovid and Augustan Discourse, Berkeley-
Los Angeles-London , University of California Press, p. .
£EO¢øPO™ ¢. ¶A¶A°°E§H™, Falso laudata femina: TÔ ÊÈÏÔÛÔÊÈÎﬁ Î·È ÔÈËÙÈÎﬁ ¯ÚÔÓÈÎﬁ ÌÈ·˜
„Â˘‰·›ÛıËÛË˜, in H Á˘Ó·›Î· ÛÙË Ï·ÙÈÓÈÎ‹ ÁÚ·ÌÌ·ÙÂ›·, ¢\ ¶·ÓÂÏÏ‹ÓÈÔ ™˘ÌﬁÛÈÔ §·ÙÈÓÈÎÒÓ
™Ô˘‰ÒÓ (P¤ı˘ÌÓÔ 2-4 NÔÂÌ‚Ú›Ô˘ 1990), P¤ı˘ÌÓÔ, , p. . The elegy Am., , , just before
Am., , with its ‘nuptial’ content, in fact totally uncovers the elegiac convention, as it declares
that female beauty is imaginary and made up of a poet’s invention; Am., , could be considered
as a synthesis designating the poet’s departure from the genre.
A prelude of the Fasti is generally recognized in Am., , , see M L, MÂÙ¿‚·ÛÈ˜
Âå˜ ôÏÏÔ Á¤ÓÔ˜Ø la poétique de l’élégie et la carrière poétique d’Ovide, in Jacqueline Fabre-Serris, Alain
Deremetz (eds.), Élégie et épopée dans la poésie ovidienne (Héroïdes et Amours): en hommage à Simone
Viarre, 15 et 16 mai 1998, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Université Lille , («Collection UL, travaux et
recherches»), pp. -.
and, justiably perhaps, presages a similar interpretation also of the role of
the non-erotic fourteenth epistle.
The remembrance of the value world of the elegy remains vital, thanks to
the candid condemnation of the arma (as will happen with the programmat-
ic declaration at the beginning of the Fasti too). Concurrently an aesthetic
value is projected, that of decorum, as the example of Io, an aesthetic symbol
present also in Horace’s Ars Poetica, implies. Io is a literary character who
embodies an overt transgression of decorum, something that her descendant
should avoid at any cost. Apart from Io’s tie of kinship with Hypermestra,
other features they have in common are the mutation of their existence (the
one is commanded but the other undergoes this alteration), the sojourn of
both with their father (Inachus and Danaus); also, Io loses her virginity
against her will to Zeus, whereas Hypermestra keeps her virginity, without
it being said whether this is done voluntarily, while Io’s fear of being wound-
ed by the weapons she incongruously carries on her head is turned into Hy-
permestra’s fear that she wounds Lynceus lying at her side with the weapons
she incongruously carries in her hands. The Danaid’s actual or apparent
naivety, which stresses the inappropriate presence of the arma in her hands,
brings to mind Canace’s astonishment on observing the weaponry she is
holding in her hands, whereas, like Hypermestra, it would be appropriate to
hold instruments of weaving: the inappropriateness is underlined by the
presence of Hercules’ weapons in the hands of a femina, Omphale, in the
framework of an exchange of roles, which too comes up against decorum,
noted by Deianira; in this case the embodiment of masculinity and epic
action, Hercules, holds the instruments of weaving.
Io’s epyllion presence within Her., might constitute an early de facto
application of the mythological/etiological dimension of Ovid’s planned
poetic metamorphosis, which takes place still within the elegiac domain.
Nonetheless, the thematic shift, with the absence of levis amor and the erotic
suerings of the ‘humble’ genre of the elegy, apart from being far too abrupt
On the subject see more details in V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. ,
cit., pp. -.
V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., pp. -.
F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., pp. -. See EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De
genere, cit., p. and mainly p. .
Cf. V V, Hypermestra as seen by Ovid in Epist. , cit., pp. -.
Cf. H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. .
Her., , -, cf. -; the reference to Hercules’ attitude under Omphale represents an
insult in the framework of an attack against him by Deianira. Cf. Ar., A v. , (Hall-Geldart), Cic.,
de orat., , (Wilkins). Cf. M S C, Heroes In D(u)ress: Transvestism and Power
in the Myths of Herakles and Achilles, «Arethusa», , Bualo, Johns Hopkins University Press,
, p. ; also EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. .
to be automatically credible and suciently convincing, is accompanied by
the adoption of a highly moralizing tone and an exceedingly aected turn to
piety. In addition, whereas the poetological hints seem to indicate an almost
unavoidable shift to etiological poetry and the mythological epic, in practice
Ovid is in no hurry to realize these announcements of his immediately after
the collection of the Heroides. Before transubstantiating the erotic elegy into
etiological, he opts for the panegyric ‘death’ of the elegy: rst with the
provocative erotic exuberance of the Ars Amatoria, which abolishes de facto
the elegiac circumstances by securing the erotic success; and then with the
Remedia Amoris, which lead to full erotic remedy, in both cases according to
the teachings of an experienced erotic instructor.
Certainly, the fulllment of the epic and etiological announcements does
not need to follow our own pace, but can best be harmonized with the pace
of Ovid himself: the poet, whether he meant his literary migration seriously
or not, surely had a right to postpone it, after a last and highly titillating in-
terlude of erotic poetry. After all, the erotic subject will not be exiled from his
interests, not even in the Fasti despite their Augustan aroma, nor, of course,
in the Metamorphoses, in which the erotic element is frequently the driving
force of the stories. Consequently, on the basis of the neglect in practice of
the announced ideological and generic turn, the imitation of the Propertian
volte face of the last elegies of the third book and of the new spirit running
through the elegies of the fourth must be re-examined.
Hypermestra asserts her pietas pretentiously and through tiring repetitions,
which however do not include expressly the conjugal dimensions of this Ro-
man virtue, precisely that aspect which had enhanced Cornelia of Prop., ,
and had metamorphosed even Cynthia of Prop., , into a model wife. The
ostentatious invocation of pietas could recall the pompous magnicence in
which Oenone and Briseis present themselves in the same collection, after
all. Thus, suspicions of the poet’s second thoughts on a profoundly ironic
treatment of the myth, which will function in parallel with the more ortho-
dox interpretation in the reader’s mind, are justied at least. The dual inter-
pretation of the frequently ambiguous or ambivalent expression accompa-
nying the description of the mythological data contributes to this.
As most women in the Heroides are legendary gures and of monumental magnitude, it is a
part of the humour diused in the entire collection that they conceive of themselves as simple/
human every day mistresses. Cf. F V, Ovid’s Toyshop of the Heart, cit., p. .
The tragic incident of the Danaids’ murder of the forty-nine Egyptians is re-
ferred to in combination with the otherwise needless mention of the bride-
grooms’ drunkenness and a hedonistic comastic revelry that ends in the
bridal chamber, place of consummation of the marriage and perpetration of
the crime. But both the line Her., , , with the pressure of the bodies on the
mattress, and the iacebant of line , and mainly the gemitus with their high-
ly sexual connotations (existent primarily in Ovid’s works) in line , refer to
the sexual act which was most probably performed in at least forty-nine of
the cases: for Hypermestra’s sisters too sex is not mentioned explicitly even
though it is strongly implied.
As far as Hypermestra’s testimony of hearing with her own ears the mur-
der committed in the neighboring chambers, certainly the determination
morientum in the gemitus claries the nature of the sounds the Danaid hears;
it denes them as groans of dying men, while the term also applies to
sounds absolutely compatible with elegiac grievance and lamentation. This
certainty is seriously weakened, however, by the videbar at the end of line
, . This word reminds us that the maiden has doubts at least about the
exact provenance of the sounds, unknowing and inexperienced as she is in
matters of death, as well as, we may add, of love. Apart from that, if death
had come without any love-making having taking place before, no gemitus
would have been heard by Hypermestra, since the grooms cibo vinoque
graves somnoque iacebant. Furthermore, her confusion and her doubt is justi-
ed, because if Hypermestra heard with her own ears the cries of death,
she would have heard with her own ears the erotic sighs that preceded. The
episode constitutes a literal realization of the amor/mors conventional ele-
giac motif anyway.
The same poet will give an example of sighs not caused by unhappiness
and physical pain but by more pleasant feelings in Ars, , - (Goold).
That is, the possibility of dual reading of the motif reinforces the ironic and
the parodying tone in Her., , as the use of the same term also by Canace in
Cf. Her., , (ore novo madidas inpediente comas) with Am., , , (madidis lapsa corona comis).
See also F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. .
J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., p. .
See J N A, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins
University Press, , p. .
See C T. L, C S, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford, Clarendon Press,
, p. , sub voce «gemitus», and .
See especially Ars, , - Accedent questus, accedet amabile murmur,/ Et dulces gemitus aptaque
the eleventh letter indicates: the latter’s gemitus were manifested without
causing pain, but Canace seems unsuspecting of their erotic provenance and
their nature, as she declares herself totally ignorant of what it was to be in
love, although her belly is (simultaneously or almost simultaneously) swollen
from her pregnancy.
.. Tremor, frigus and virgo
The above excerpt from the Ars Amatoria, apart from a pleasant genre of gemi-
tus and a superbly constructive utilization of mora, adds a sample of tremor
which, however, is not due to fear of death, contrary to Hypermestra’s
similar reaction on the fateful night of the Argolic weddings and killings. The
reference to the shiver and the chill Hypermestra feels due to fear of dying
men’s shrieks from the adjacent chambers, the mention of the loss of tem-
perature of her body and soul simultaneously with this of the blood, surely
describe, mainly at a metaphorical level, a physiological reaction of a maiden
who knows nothing of violence and murders.
The parallel between Hypermestra’s reactions in lines Her., , - and
those of the abused Corinna in Am., , , - is illuminating: the dierence
is that the likening of the latter to the foliage trembling in the wind describes
the consequences of the epic violence that the vicious male protagonist of
Am., , has exercised, whereas in Her., it describes the consequences of the
violence exercised by the heroine’s sisters transmuted into epic-tragic
symbols. It is they who with their ‘epic’ action have promoted the tragic
development; but ‘now’ it is the heroine, remaining in the elegiac eld, who
suers the consequences, before her sisters found the retribution that awaits
them in the literary waters of the epic and/or the drama. Ariadne in Her.,
and Briseis in Her., do not react very dierently to the ‘epic’ type behaviour
Her., , . Her., , - and -.
Cf. J N A, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, cit., p. .
Her., , -, cf. , - where the air is cold in a simile reecting the state of the Danaid
Sanguis abit, mentemque calor corpusque relinquit, / inque novo iacui frigida facta toro. / ut leni
Zephyro graciles vibrantur aristae,/ frigida populeas ut quatit aura comas,/ aut sic, aut etiam tremui
magis. ipse iacebas.
Exanimis artus et membra trementia vidi – / ut cum populeas ventilat aura comas,/ ut leni Zephyro
gracilis vibratur harundo, / summave cum tepido stringitur unda Noto. The comparison serves the
purpose of exaggerating the solemnity of the scene and does not constitute a sample of mere
Ovidian lascivia, as J. C. MK, Ovid: Amores. Text, Prolegomena and Commentary in Four
Volumes, Volume . A Commentary on Book One, Leeds, Francis Cairns, , p. observes. ‘Epic’
violence necessarily leads to ‘tragic’ consequences. Cf. R D, L’elegia allo specchio.
libro degli Amores di Ovidio, Bari, Edipuglia, , p. .
Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. .
of their lovers, nor does Canace to the paternal command for use, as in the
case of Hypermestra, of an ensis (against herself and not against Macareus)
in Her., , -, with the meta-poetic allusions never absent.
However, there is another (?) kind of tremor, like that described in Catull.,
, - (Thomson), also capable of breaking the bed, as it had happened in
Canace’s case, so potentially the term contains a sexual connotation in
Hypermestra’s epistle too. Further exploitation of the motif reinforces our
suspicions without allowing us to be sure for a sexual meaning though: a
passage from Am., , brings in our mind some of the motifs present in Her.,
(but also in Her., -). In the mythological paradigm exhibited by the exclusus
amator of Am., , Ilia, a priestess under a virginity oath (like Hero, who,
according to the literary tradition followed by Musaeus – not by Ovid–, is
forbidden to marry), just after having been raped by Mars, accepts Tiberis’ as-
sistance, cries like Hero and moistens her breasts with her tears; she tries to
escape three times; she xes her hair with her nger; she complaints about
her misfortune to Tiberis ‘with trembling voice’; and nally she ends us at his
bed. In Am., , , Ovid does not ask his mistress to stop her activity against
him, but to keep it secret and continue oering and enjoying lust in a room
outof his view: her activity, it is said, may cause the trembling of the bed.
Whereas in the detailed description of Hypermestra’s reactions the
reference to the loss of blood presupposes a metaphorical use of the terms
(in parallel with the possible literalism of the loss of colour and temperature),
for the dead Egyptians the loss of blood and temperature is the literally ex-
Both Hypermestra and Canace are depicted as victims of paternal violence. Cf. G
R, Publio Ovidio Nasone. Lettere di eroine. Introduzione, traduzione e note, testo latino a fronte,
Milano, Rizzoli, , p. .
The abandoned Ariadne is described in a similar to Hypermestra’s situation in Her., , -
. Cf. also Canace in Her., , -, Briseis in Her., , -.
In Her., , - the bed was broken by Canace’s trembling (out of fear) body; however erotic
hints are possibly present, as in Catull., , - mentioned above, of which the Ovidian passage
probably constitutes a reminiscence, if it is not a repetition of loci communes of the Hellenistic
epigram, as §EøNI¢A™ TPOMAPA™, K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ˜, Ô ÓÂˆÙÂÚÈÎﬁ˜ ÔÈËÙ‹˜ ÙË˜ PÒÌË˜. EÈÛ·ÁˆÁ‹,
ÎÂ›ÌÂÓÔ, ÌÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË, Û¯ﬁÏÈ·, £ÂÛÛ·ÏÔÓ›ÎË, , repr. , p. , notes regarding lines Catull.,
, - (see especially comm. on line ); cf. D. F. S. T, Catullus. Edited with a Textual and
Interpretative Commentary, Toronto-Bualo-London, Toronto University Press, («Phoenix
Supp.», ), p. . The motif of the broken bed because of the tremor was used by Ovid in Am.,
, , with an explicit reference to sexual intercourse. See also J N A, The Latin
Sexual Vocabulary, cit., p. . Mus., -, cf. - (Orsini).
Cf. ebilis in Am., , , with lacrimae per amantia lumina manant in Her., , .
Am., , , -. Cf. Her., , -; , - and , -.
Am., , , .Am., , , . Am., , , .
Am., , , -. Phaedra in Her., , , deeply inuenced by her love for Hippolytus, declares
that she has recently discovered the pleasures hunting may oer and talks about tremulum iaculum:
but both hunting and spear have also strong erotic and sexual connotations.
pected state; far more than for the terried Danaid, for whom to be left frigi-
da and trembling on the marriage bed was not the most desirable situation
and allows, at least on second reading, various innuendoes. This sense is re-
inforced by the use of facta in conjunction with frigida in line Her., , ,
which implies that the frigidity came after she laid down on the bed. The mo-
tif of Hypermestra’s coldness and shivering is stressed by the assimilation to
the leaf that trembles in the breeze; the adjective frigida is in this case need-
less, since cold is not necessary for leaves to tremble: the wind is sucient to
cause this movement. This probably means that the adjective emphasizes the
condition of the maiden, which, indeed, is juxtaposed to that of Lynceus. At
the very moment she is quivering in bed beside him, from fear of the mur-
ders she witnessed with her own ears, her own bridegroom is lying beside her
fast asleep and iners, impotent and oblivious due to drink – or to what Hy-
permestra has given him, according to Reeson’s edition (see infra). Of course,
ubiquitous references to the adjective frigidus conrm its use in love, along-
side its metaphorical use relating to fear and to death, so that the ambivalence
of the excerpt with the dual reference to frigidity springs readily and sponta-
neously to the reader’s mind.
Penelope, who is at the symmetrically opposite pole within the structure
of the collection (if the fourteenth composition is the last of the Heroides) and
whose link with Hypermestra is probably underlined by the use of the
epithet Danais already in line Her., , referring to Greek women, uses the
expression primarily metaphorically, with clear erotic connotations: non ego
deserto iacuissem frigida lecto. The metaphorical use of the adjective is just as
Cf. J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., pp. -.
This simile brings Hypermestra closer to Briseis, Oenone and Laodamia regarding her
See ipse iacebas in Her., , and inertia in line . Paris in Her., , will give the Ovidian
audience an idea of what a non iners Venus could be. Cf. Am., , , - somnos inertes in connec-
tion with lecti onus.
OLD, cit., pp. -, sub voce «frigidus», especially . Cf. Ibidem, p. , sub voce «frigus»,
Her., , . Cf. F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. and p. , note .
Cf. Her., , -. Frigidus is a typically Ovidian adjective to describe erotic abandonment. See
e.g. Her., , -, ; , , ; , ; , ; , ; , ; Am., , , -, Ars, , -. Cf. Catull.,
(a), - with sexual connotations, W F, Catullan Provocations. Lyric Poetry
and the Drama of Position, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, University of California Press, , p.
, §EøNI¢A™ TPOMAPA™, K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ˜, cit., p. , also viduas noctes with obvious sexual connota-
tions in Catull., , -, Ov., Am., , , -, Her., , , ; , ; , , ; , ; , ; , -.
On post-literary connotations of frigidus, see Catull., , - and §EøNI¢A™ TPOMAPA™,
K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ˜, cit., pp. - and , S T, Further Programmatic Implications of
Valerius Flaccus’ Description of the Construction of the Argo (1, 121-9), «SO», , Oslo, Scandina-
vian University Press, , pp. and , note . Cf. Ar., Ach., - (Coulon-van Daele); Mart.,
strong as (or stronger than) the literal when Leander in Her., , - aban-
dons the tower and Hero’s embrace, and makes for the shore: this is not cold
because of the bad weather, since the youth refers still to the successful ar-
rivals protected from the winter cold, but mainly because the cold symbo lizes
his separation from his lover, which comes also because of the urging of the
nutrix – literary remembrance of the lena of comedy and traditional elegy.
The notion of frigus, combined with lying in bed without making love and
usually alone, occurs in exemplary manner in the traditional elegy: the mem-
bers of the canus amator of lines Tib., , , - are frigida and need to warm
themselves in the puella’s balmy bosom, but for this gifts are demanded. And,
as it is maintained, the gifts are not enough to oer joy to a woman sleeping
by herself in (erotic) frigidity because she is not desired by the man. In Prop.,
, , - the adjective notes the condition of the poet’s bed after the loss of
Cynthia, thus reinforcing the in any case ongoing imagined dialogue between
this composition and letter : as argued, the reason for the Propertian com-
plaint is the desertion of the love bed itself and not simply the death of the
It could be maintained that the frequent use of the adjective and of the mo-
tif of frigidity in erotic co-text allows the parallel presence in the reader’s
mind of an interpretation of erotic nature for Hypermestra’s coldness too.
Her lamentation is justied also by the fact that she is lying in a bed that is
cold due to the absence of love, even though she is not alone in it; her part-
ner may have avoided the exsequiae of Cynthia in , but is still abandoned to
sleep (unlike Propertius, who cannot sleep because of his mistress loss in ,
, ). The dierence that Hypermestra remains cold in a bed that is not emp-
ty and before she becomes relicta (Lynceus is present but love is absent), like
Penelope in Her., , , and although she is not alone in bed, like the undesirable
woman of Tib., , , -, rather reinforces the specic interpretation.
In Am., , , - frigidus describes erotic frigidity and unresponsiveness,
and correlates passion or erotic indierence with the lover’s colour; in Am.,
, , , frigora describes one of the standard suerings of the exclusus ama-
tor; but it is also a literal use of the term concurrently with the metaphorical,
since the position of the excluded lover deteriorates and is dramatized by the
bad weather conditions; in Am., , , the cold (in metaphorical use anew)
blood describes death. The line Am., , , , which with phraseology akin to
lines Her., , , , exposes the future of the elegiac lover, loveless and lone-
ly, according to the explanation of a richly symbolic dream, could describe al-
Tib., , , -.
F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. , note on more loci containing the
notion. Cf. the word calor in Her., , with color in Am., , , .
so the state of Hypermestra, who is lying cold upon the bridal bed and will
soon be left alone too. The motif has been used also with clearly erotic
meaning in Oenone’s mention of the abandonment of Menelaus: nunc iacet
in viduo credulus ille toro. In other words, the abandoned Menelaus undergoes
essentially what the poet of the Amores voices against his enemy in Am., , ,
-. The excerpt from letter relating to coldness could also remind the
Am., , protagonist’s stance: he prefers the erotic dilemmas even if they
contribute to double fatigue, but deprecates the lonely loveless sleep. Hyper-
mestra does not have the same spaciousness on the mattress that the Ovidi-
an amator’s enemy will have had, but she suers deprivation of love to the
The line Am., , , , which describes Ovid’s preferences regarding his fe-
male audience, potentially oers an additional dimension: if Hypermestra is
frigida virgo (much more if she is also literally virgo), she does not correspond
to what the poet is seeking in Am., , . The innuendo reinforces the meta-po-
etic message of Ovid’s supposed poetic migration towards non-erotic genres:
if the non frigida virgo of Am., , , is the suitable one to read Ovid’s erotic
verse, one who is literally virgo (according to her declaration) and frigida, she
would be self-evidently incapable of erotic writing. For this reason, it seems,
in practice either she omits it completely or downgrades it dramatically.
The ambivalence of the word virgo, which allows the possibility of the
term merely denoting Hypermestra’s age (without other implications), rein-
forces and enriches furthermore the interpretative options that have been
noted. If Hypermestra has not been left virgo but only frigida, as her husband
is lying motionless beside her, the specic hint ridicules and dramatically de-
constructs the sobriety of a pious wife whose image the heroine tries to build
in the entire composition. In this case the shiver and the fear, literally, of the
Danaid in the bed may be due to the bridegroom’s premature departure from
the erotic battleeld, as of Achilles in Ars, , -, who causes Deidamia’s
Her., , .
Am., , , -. See J B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores, cit., p. .
Me legat in sponsi facie non frigida virgo. See J B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores,
cit., p. , pointing out the Ovidian attribution of the adjective to «a sexually unresponsive human
being». Cf. Am., , , , where the reference to myrtle and frigora constitutes a clear metonymy
of poetry, elegy and of two dierent poetic genres and ways of life. Cf. J. C. MK, Ovid:
Amores, cit., p. , A B, The Poet and the Prince, cit., p. . Cf. also Am., , ,
, where Eurotas is frigidus (a post-literary dimension is present).
See A G. N, On a Supposed Contradiction in Ovid (Medicamina faciei 18-22
vs Ars amatoria 3, 129-32), «AJPh», , Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, , p. ;
H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. . Cf. A P, P. Ovidi Nasonis Heroides,
cit., pp. -, comm. on line : «mitis natura, quia femina, mitis et annis quia virgo». See also
the same word in Medicamina faciei, (Goold).
complaint for his hastiness, enhancing the subject of mora to basic parameter
of amor (even if violence has preceded, as in the case of the princess from
Scyros). In the case of Hypermestra the violence concerns the imposition of
marriage, but the love (or/and sex) does not seem to have followed, despite
Lynceus’ attempt to embrace her in his drunken stupor.
If the term virgo is only an indication of age and gender, the loss of Hyper-
mestra’s blood metaphorically continues to be justied by her fear at the
murder of her cousins, but literally may imply that Lynceus took measures
not to abandon her virgo, even though he left her frigida. This reading projects
the innuendo that there was some form of erotic contact during the wedding
night, which simply was not absolutely successful. Consequently, the heroine
automatically becomes less ignorant and inexperienced in love than she
declares, and therefore less ‘pious’ and ‘serious’ than she presents herself.
The line that follows the one relating to the maiden’s frigidity and con-
cerns the bridegroom’s sleep encourages the interpretation in this direction:
as Reeson speculates, line , should be read quaeque tibi dederam causa
soporis erant; in this case do is naturally interpreted as denoting the oering
of erotic satisfaction (and, consequently, quaeque = gaudia). Once again, the
erotic ·Ú·ÏÂÈﬁÌÂÓ· of the night Lynceus spent with Hypermestra and her
possible contribution to this come to the forestage: with the specic reading
it was this contribution (more essential than the initial phenomena) that re-
sulted in Lynceus’ sleep. Since wine-drinking did not automatically bring
sleep in the case of the forty-nine Egyptians, because coition took place, the
deletion of vina leaves a strong erotic innuendo in the case of Lynceus too;
this innuendo further undermines the image of gravitas that the Danaid tries
The anagrammatism amor/mora or Roma is always present in the literary subconscious. On
the importance of mora in love, see, among others, Ars, , -. Her., , .
The blood mentioned in Her., , may of course be referring to the fear Hypermestra felt,
and her memory of blood (line ) is relevant to the murders committed by her sisters and the one
she was ordered to commit, but, as blood is easily related to the virgins’ deoration, Hypermestra
may also refer to her or her sisters’ deoration. Cf. L F, Chain(ed) Mail:
Hypermestra and the Dual Readership of “Heroides 14”, «TAPhA», , , Boston, Scholars Press,
, p. and p. , note .
J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., p. regarding line , (his translation:
«What I gave you (i.e. sexual pleasure) was the cause of sleep»). Reeson states that vina does not
merit retaining, because Lynceus is surely vinoque gravis somnoque along with his brothers (as line
informs), and needs no more wine, drugged or not. He believes that quae tibi dederam is an
elliptical expression for Hypermestra’s contribution to her lovemaking with Lynceus.
OLD, cit., p. , sub voce «do», especially d: Catull., , , Ov., Ars, , ; , ; ; , ,
Mart., , , -; , , ; , , .
Cf. Am., , , ; , ; , ; , , ; , , Her., , ; , ; , ; ; , ; , ; ; ,
; ; , ; ; , Ars, , -; ; ; ; , ; ; ; ; .
This undermining is most probably the real issue for the poet, and not a
forthright announcement on what did and did not happen on the fateful
night, because only the dispersal of insinuations seems sucient to chip
away at the image of a matrona which is built through discourses by and for
Hypermestra in letter . So, the letter’s expressive vagueness, with the
ambivalence of terms and phrases, is an extension and an exploitation of
the uidity and the dissonance of the sources regarding the events of the
Argolic night. In other words, it pictures the groundlessness of the literary
tradition: the lines Her., , -, with munera containing also clear
sexual connotations but without being obligatorily a candid confession of
erotic contact, potentially imply but not conrm sexual intercourse; the
declaration that Hypermestra is a woman and a virgin, likewise, is not a
frank denial and does not compulsorily exclude coition from what took
place on that long night.
The Dainaid’s command ‘surge, age, Belide, de tot modo fratribus unus! / nox tibi,
ni properas, ista perennis erit!’ (Her., , -) is included harmoniously in the
story, reecting the urgent need for Lynceus to rise from the bed in time, in
order to be saved by being smuggled out in the dead of night. The tela in line
, which are left unused in Hypermestra’s hands, are implicitly the sword en-
trusted her by her father, in order to slay Lynceus. However, the combination
of tela, surge, with the nighttime setting and the bed, refers to a known risqué
scene in Am., , : Corinna has made full use of tactus on contestable membra
See Apollod., , , the scholiast on Pi., N., , b, and E., fr. a, K (Archelaus, fr. ). Cf.
J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., p. repeating Austin’s statement that «Lynceus
spared Hypermestra’s virginity, with the implication that Lynceus’s brothers were not so sparing».
Reeson also notes that «with iam, Ovid’s Hypermestra coyly sidesteps the issue; and Ovid refuses
to engage with the tangled mythical tradition».
At tu, siqua piae, Lynceu, tibi cura, sororis,/ quaeque tibi tribui munera, dignus habes.
OLD, cit., p. , sub voce «munus». The use of munus (with erotic meaning) in Am., , , -
(credo etiam magnos, quo sum turpiter usus,/ muneris oblati paenituisse deos) relinks the epistle to
the bold atmosphere of this elegy. Cf. Am., , , -: festa dies Veneremque vocat cantusque
merumque; / haec decet ad dominos munera ferre deos. Cf. also Ars, , ; , -; , , and the dis-
cussion about munera in Helen’s epistle (Her., , -).
Cf. J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., p. .
Reproducing the double surge of Hor., Carm., , , -, he connects his text with the older
literary tradition related to this myth.
Cf. however the nisi properas of line Her., , with the properanda voluptas in Ars, , .
OLD, cit., p. , sub voce «membrum», especially b. See for example Tib., , , , Catull.,
(a), and §EøNI¢A™ TPOMAPA™, K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ˜, cit., p. , ad l. Cf. the more than explicit phrase
genitalia membra in Am., , , . See J B , Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores, cit., p. and
J N A, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, cit., p. .
of the male weaponry; she took care to ‘move’ these by making every com-
mendable eort aimed at the consurgere in the very next line (Am., , , ).
Analogies between Her., and Am., , emerge if the bodily proximity of
Hypermestra and Lynceus is borne in mind, which is the same as that of the
lovers in Am., , , ; yet in both cases it does not end in sexual intercourse,
even though it includes touch (in the case of Her., unavoidably or willing-
ly, in Am., , as intentional act and in diverse manifestations). Hypermestra
almost risks wounding Lynceus with the sword she is holding as he lies beside
her (Her., , -), and her tears fall from her eyes onto his membra (Her., ,
), which means that they are very close to each other (the term membra
with its semantic variety allowing second thoughts).
Lynceus’ heeding of Hypermestra’s surge saves his life but he leaves the
Danaid alone and in waiting: tu fugis, ipsa moror, she complains in Her., , ,
opening a discussion on mora, very frequent and especially meaningful in the
letters of the collection, since inter alia the Û¯ﬁÏË (free-time) is ne for
lovemaking as well as for writing; that is it has direct implication in literary
production, either in provisioning thematic material for erotic literature or in
providing the time essential for the actual process of literary production.
But the potential lover’s premature departure from the marriage bed may
recall also the empty-handed lover’s swift departure (although after exhaust-
ing every erotic technique) in line Am., , , , while the motif of premature
departure will be lampooned in Ars, , -. The notable coincidences of
setting and expression with the fourteenth letter project post hoc the possibil-
ity of an erotic and sexual dimension, apart from the exhortation surge, also
in the scene of Lynceus’ departure in combination with Hypermestra’s lone-
liness and coldness. The male protagonist of Am., , gets up from the bed
(surgit), like Lynceus, just as clean as someone who wants to make a pious
sacrice, and leaves the girl to wake up (surgit again), just as a brother leaves
untouched his respected sister, as pure as a vestal virgin who approaches the
Cf. inermis in Am., , , ; the semantic richness of tela (neutr. pl.) and tela (fem. sing.) open-
ing Penelope’s epistle (Her., , ) should also be taken into consideration. See EIPHNH MHTOY™H,
De genere, cit., p. on the abundant sexual insinuations of the two kinds of tela.
Am., , , : molliter admota sollicitare manu.Proximus esse- fui.
On a similar ‘proximity’ which does not end with love-making either, see Her., , -: the
elegiac Hermione, being in proximity to the ‘epic’ Pyrrhus, touches his body by mistake, like Hy-
permestra who risks hurting Lynceus by mistake. The Spartan maid will avoid (?) love-making
with Pyrrhus, because being in touch with the epic world is a nefas and causes her pollution; her
stance could easily be interpreted in a meta-poetic level as a rejection of epic ambience as well.
Hermione will reject the imposed husband for the sake of her cousin/lover Orestes, whom she
addresses as a brother in her letter. Hypermestra will also avoid the epic nefas of murder for the
sake of her cousin, whom she also addresses as a brother.
Am., , , . Am., , , .
revered ame of the city, and not as a man would leave a woman. The same
words could easily have been uttered (the phrasal coincidences are in any case
notable) by Hypermestra in Her., , where she insists on projecting the sta-
tus of brother and not of vir for Lynceus and the concept of pietas for herself.
The reference to the de facto fraternal relationship of the members of both
couples, the rising from the bed without contact preceding, the mention of
virginity and piety, the mention of the night, connects these two composi-
tions, placed towards the end of the collections to which they belong. The
night, in case Lynceus does not get up, will be perennis, in contrast to the an-
gusta nocte of the glorious erotic past of the Ovidian lover of lines Am., , ,
-; the latter had managed, presumably ‘standing’, to ‘support’ –
sustinuisse – his partner nine times in the same night, which was therefore too
short for so much activity. If lovemaking cannot take place, this is the begin-
ning of the end of the elegy, but the piqué details exposed eliminate the pos-
sibility of higher ights into more serious subjects.
Passages from another composition of the Amores reveal similar associa-
tions. If Lynceus of letter needs to obey an exhortation surge from his bed-
mate, the inanimate ring-gift of the Ovidian amator of Am., , not only ac-
quires a soul before the body of Corinna, but also, in an impressive
combination of the lover’s tenderness with piquant audacity and parody,
will assume the male role stricto sensu in Am., , , -. We do not know
whether Lynceus was lucky enough to enjoy the Danaid in a similar state,
naked, even though the tidying of the maiden’s hair and garments at the end
of the night leave this possibility open (Her., , , see , infra). But the
Egyptian’s assuming of the male role remains vividly doubted, since the
rising from the bed does not change but rather conrms the fraternal
relationship uniting the couple; there is no mention of activity such as the
The word pias in Am., , , is to be noted. Am., , , .
Cf. Am., , , -; - with Her., , - (nox), , (mane erat). See also Am., , , : sed
postquam nullas consurgere posse per artes. In Her., Lynceus is the one who surgit; but he is called
mainly frater by the self-called soror Hypermestra, and the heroine’s obsession with pietas is
characteristic of the entire epistle, as noted above. See also Am., , , -: a, pudet annorum: quo
me iuvenemque virumque? / nec iuvenem nec me sensit amica virum. Cf. Am., , , with Her., , -:
a night without an erectio seems endless (perennis in Her., , ), while it is too short (angusta in
Am., , , ) to contain all pleasant voluptuous amoris gaudia, as e.g. it happens in Her., , -.
The words of the unsuccessful Ovidian lover in Am.,, , (haec mihi contigerat; sed vir non contigit
illi) could be placed in Hypermestra’s mouth referring to her experience of sleeping next to but
not with Lynceus.
Cf. £EO¢øPO™ ¢. ¶A¶A°°E§H™, O‚È‰›Ô˘. H ÂÚˆÙÈÎ‹ Ù¤¯ÓË (MÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË) Î·È ¤Ó· ‰ÔÎ›ÌÈÔ
ÁÈ· §·Ù›ÓÔ˘˜ ÂÚ·ÛÙ¤˜, Aı‹Ó·, EÎ‰ﬁÛÂÈ˜ K·ÛÙ·ÓÈÒÙË, , pp. -.
Sed, puto, te nuda mea membra libidine surgent,/ et peragam partes anulus ille viri. Cf. J
B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores, cit., p. .
deceived lover describes with pain in lines Am., , , -, when he is eye-
witness to his beloved’s embraces which are anything but sororal.
Lynceus’ deep sleep does not allow him to undertake the partes viri, as the
anulus of Am., . would gladly have done, even though a ring. If Hyperme-
stra, as puella docta, had read the Amores, she would have had every reason to
wonder or to complain about the unfair treatment. Justiably too, she would
have rushed the urgent exhortation surge, particularly if she also had in mind
the poet’s opinion concerning the correct utilization of the night: in Am., ,
b, - the poet severely states that the night cannot be dedicated entirely
to sleep, which is essentially a simulacrum of death. If Lynceus does not
heed Hypermestra’s surge and continues sleeping, he risks nding the true
face of death, while concurrently he will have left unexploited the true gifts
of the night. And Hypermestra tries to interrupt this sleep so close to death,
without dissolving for us the serious doubts as to whether the gaudia inter-
woven with the night were drawn.
Corinna, who was evidently more experienced than the Danaid in matters
of love, had planned a similar deep sleep for ‘Ovid’ in Am.,, , -. Her aim
is to be able to indulge in the aforementioned non-fraternal embraces with
one of the poet’s rivals, who eagerly acted as vir and not as frater. Drunken-
ness induced by wine was the chosen means of hypnosis. It had been Ovid
himself who showed those tricks to his mistress in a preparatory display of
erotic teaching and practical exercise in Am., , , -, with candidate vic-
tim the unsuspecting husband. In other words, Lynceus is in the state that
the elegiac lover of Am., , wishes for his mistress’s husband/custos, and
which Corinna has planned unsuccessfully for Ovid himself in Am., , , -.
However, as far as the forty-nine Egyptians are concerned, even though they
stagger like comasts (dubii), the merum apparently has no eect on their erotic
Cf. Am., , , -, where saevus amor is asked to break o the poet’s somnos inertes; so love
making is the suggested manner to interrupt both sleeping and inertia.
Cf. Catull., , -. On the motif see §EøNI¢A™ TPOMAPA™, K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ˜, cit., p. , and also M -
J, “When the Lamp is Shattered”. Desire and Narrative in Catullus, Carbondale-Ed-
wardville, Southern Illinois University Press, , p. correlating Catull., , and , and point-
ing out the function of the nox motif.
See J B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores, cit., p. , noting that the vir driven to
ebrietas and sleep is often presented as an easy and willing dupe; cf. J. C. MK, Ovid: Amores,
cit., p. , and R D, L’elegia allo specchio, cit., pp. and -, correlating Am., ,
with , regarding the ebrietas/somnus motif.
Cf. F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit. , p. . The words vinum (Her., , , ),
merum (, ) also present in Am., , , ; ; and , are to be noted too.
capability and there is little doubt that the brothers regained their orientation
on the bed. The sleep into which, as it is noted, the Egyptians fall after en-
tering the marriage chamber reinforces the lively impression made by the
reference to the coition of the forty-nine couples, since sleep usually follows
sexual intercourse. And this picture, even in the reader’s subconscious, re-
moves ipso facto a great weight from the ‘tragedy’ of the situation and conse-
quently from Hypermestra’s letter. This reference to the murder in combi-
nation with the allusive reminder of the sexual act that preceded in the
forty-nine cases could probably generate suspicions about Hypermestra’s in-
nuendos. The marriage was surely consummated in the forty-nine cases ac-
cording to the mores of ancient societies, both Roman and Greek, as sex
took place. So, Hypermestra could imply that, in a sense, her marriage most
probably remained unconsummated, due to this serious omission, although
a marriage’s stricto sensu legitimization was not put into risk because of the
omission of sexual act. This is what a large part of the tradition preserves,
after all, dening Lynceus’ respect of Hypermestra’s virginity as basic reason
why the maiden spared his life.
If there is such a hint at what did not happen in the ftieth chamber, in con-
trast to what happened – pleasant and unpleasant – in the other forty-nine
chambers, the impression of an unvoiced simultaneous complaint to
Lynceus, who did not make himself her husband de facto, is not deleted. This
is true whether, as Fulkerson believes, it contains the concept of assuring
Danaus of Hypermestra’s respect for him since her virginity was preserved,
or not. If the hypothesis is tenable, Ovid’s ironic game with the conicting
sources becomes quite amusing, since what one version of the story refers to
as reason for the maiden’s mercy towards Lynceus is also the latent cause of
It is possible to explain the deconstruction of Lynceus’ image on the basis
of the same line of interpretation, since these hardly attering, by any read-
Her., , .
Xen., oec., , - (Marchant), Catull., , -; ; ; -, et al. See C R-
, °¿ÌÔ˜, ÂÙ·›ÚÂ˜ Î·È ·È‰ÂÚ·ÛÙ›· ÛÙËÓ ·Ú¯·›· EÏÏ¿‰·, MÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË: ¢.°. °ÂˆÚÁÔ‚·Û›ÏË˜
Î·È M. Pfreimter, Aı‹Ó·, EÎ‰ﬁÛÂÈ˜ ¶··‰‹Ì·, , pp. , -, et passim (orig. ed. Ehe,
Hetärentum und Knabenliebe im antiken Griechenland, München ), J P V D
B, PˆÌ·›Â˜ Á˘Ó·›ÎÂ˜. H ÈÛÙÔÚ›· ÙÔ˘˜ Î·È Ù· ¤ıÈÌ¿ ÙÔ˘˜, MÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË: N›ÎÔ˜
¶ÂÙÚﬁ¯ÂÈÏÔ˜, Aı‹Ó·, MIET, , pp. - and (orig. ed. Roman Women. Their History and
Habits, London, The Bodley Head, ), G P-D, La vie sexuelle à Rome,
Paris, Tallandier, , pp. -, Pierre G, O ¤ÚˆÙ·˜ ÛÙËÓ ·Ú¯·›· PÒÌË, MÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË
N›ÎÔ˘ M. TÛ·ÁÎ¿, Aı‹Ó·, EÎ‰ﬁÛÂÈ˜ ¶··‰‹Ì·, , p. (orig. ed. L’amour à Rome, Paris, ).
P G, O ¤ÚˆÙ·˜ ÛÙËÓ ·Ú¯·›· PÒÌË, cit., pp. -, G P-D-
, La vie sexuelle à Rome, cit., p. , referring to Ulpian’s conrmation on the matter.
L F, The Ovidian Heroine as Author, cit., pp. -.
ing, details of his rather funny persona are not imposed by the related mytho-
logical tradition; they rather recall the setting of Am., , . The embrace
Lynceus attempts is lethargic, since his arms are sopita, just like Ovid’s mem-
bra are quasi-dead. The use of terms meaning weight or immobility, such as
iacui, pondus et al., is particularly frequent in both compositions. In Her., ,
the Egyptians iamque cibo vinoque graves somnoque iacebant; in , strataque
corporibus funere digna premunt, where, however, the sexual meaning of the ex-
pression is more than likely but apparently concerns the forty-nine bride-
grooms about to die. On the contrary, Lynceus is said to lie immobile in line
, (iacet), which refers to Am., , , (iacui) and - (esp. iacui) where the
inability to respond to the erotic call equates the lover with a shadow, that is
with a dead man. Also, the inactivity of Lynceus’ sleep implied in line Her.,
, is analogous to that of lines Am., , , -. Line Am., , , - brings to
mind the immobility of Lynceus who has to be urged to get up. Iaceo is used
also in line Am., , , , where the rebuke concerns the delayed activation of
the specic (independent acting) member of the body; lines , , -, in
which Corinna fails in her nal raising attempt, present coincidences of
phrasing with Her., , - and make the most of the use of consurgo, surgo,
exsurgo, which possibly refer to the body as a whole or to a specic member;
this use is in conjunction with the metaphorical use of the tela which are
found incongruously in Hypermestra’s hands.
The similar, literal and metaphorical, mention of living and dead men is
one of the many cross-references between the two compositions. Corinna,
according to her inactive lover’s admission, would be capable of moving emo-
tionally and physically every living person (vivus) and man (vir), but neither
of the two properties remains to him and his limbs lie as dead. In Her.,
Lynceus remains literally vivus thanks to Hypermestra. The heroine speaks
of him once as vir (Her. , ) and once as maritus (Her. , ), but he is not
proved de facto vir, while in lines Her., , - he has slumped as a dead man
Her., , , cf. soporis eras in , . Am., , , .
See J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., p. . On explicit sexual meaning of lying
on the torum, see for example Her., , -, Am., , , , Ars, , ; , , and also Fast., , ,
where the mythological paradigm presented concerns another exemplary wife, Lucretia, and ends
with death. Cf. inertia in Her., , .
Territus exsurgis; fugit omnis inertia somni; / adspicis in timida fortia tela manu. Cf. also Her., ,
(erigor et capio tela tremente manu), where Hypermestra informs us on her (literally speaking)
erectio, while holding the tela in her trembling hands. Manus and tela could easily imply the act of
tractatio (which could also be realized by the woman for the man’s sake, as it happens in Mart., ,
, -); cf. J N A, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, cit., p. and especially p. , also
EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. .
Am., , , -.Am., , , .
on the bed after what Hypermestra has given him (wine or gaudia, depend-
ing on which reading of the text is selected). The rest of the Egyptians are
called viri, but since they deserved to die they end up caesi, that is not vivi.
Interesting in these co-texts is the use of the schema of the personication of
the manus, which indeed becomes independent. According to Jacobson the
motif is most probably an overt transfer from reality towards the functions
presented here: from violence to action and to description of action. This is
sealed also in the epitaph at the end of the poem and adds to the membrum a
substance separated from the person, as happens also with the literary opus.
The use of the motif in lines Am., , , -, where the ‘inactive part’ of
Ovid’s body accepts its master’s verbal assault because it was activated but
with delay (that is with a non-benecent mora), is placed in the framework of
the poet’s line of defense: the poet denies any responsibility for his impo-
tence, since his spirit was more than willing, but his ‘body’ refused to obey
him. The independence of Hypermestra’s hand most probably aims at her
defense in the eyes of the father-judge and punisher. And the defense motif
is consistent with the juridical vocabulary dispersed throughout the letter
and making it resemble a moral controversia. In line Her., , the hand’s re-
fusal to kill is said to make the maiden guilty in her father’s eyes. In lines Her.,
, -; (dextra); - the hand is declared incapable of committing the
murder (cf. timida manu in line , where Hypermestra’s sentiment of fear is
transferred to her hand thanks to the gure of hypallage); in line it is de-
clared that the hand is more suited for weaving; and in line it is necessary
for Hypermestra to interrupt the process of the (metaphorical) weaving of
the textum of the elegiac epistle, because she is pressurized by her father’s
graves catenae of her father and by fear.
Her., , ; . Her., , ; . Her., , .
See H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. who points out that the personication is
deepened and the manus acquires independence from the person of whom it is a part. But cf.
F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. . The motif of the self-acting hand is used
within a dierent framework in Am., , , - and adapted to a more serious poetic style in Tib.,
, , -; -.
See also EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. on a very interesting interpretation of the
hand’s role, cf. also J R, Ovid Heroides 11, 13 and 14, cit., pp. -.
Crimine (, ), coercita vinclis (), supplicii causa (), rea, scelus (), ream (), sceleris (), carcer
(), paenitet (), paeniteat (), criminis (), poenae (, designing the punishment Io suers, and
, designing the inmeritum punishement Hypermestra suers), rea (), catenis ().
See F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. , rephrasing Ehwald’s thesis that
the epistle is a moral controversia of the genus iudiciale, as it results from the use of judicial vocab-
ulary (carcer, rea), especially at the beginning, and intense rhetorical style.
In Her., Leander, with the same motif of the independent/personied
hand, presents a similar oscillation to Hypermestra’s between ‘epic’ (mari -
time) action and elegiac static script, he too combining it, like the heroine,
with the motif of the triple attempt. The dierent answer the two charac-
ters give to the dilemma ‘action or waiting’ leads them to dierent ‘endings’.
Leander meets his death when he is proved audax, violating the ‘elegiac le-
gitimacy’, while Hypermestra will be saved precisely because she waited ‘at
a safe distance’ from bravadoes of epic type. Thanks to her behaviour, the
maiden avoids contributing in making the night temerata. The repentant
lover of lines Am., , , - will try to expiate his temeraria bracchia, which
exercised violence on the Ovidian puella, with a triple (also failed) attempt,
seeking forgiveness from the abused Corinna for his ‘epic’ violence. The mo-
tif of personication signals the return to the elegiac atmosphere after the
epic parenthesis that came up against (in this composition too) decorum; this
parenthesis is coloured by the terms ausus (, , ), saeva (, , ), fortis (, ,
), caedis scelerumque (, , ), scelerum (, , ), saevus (, , ), turba (, , ),
forti (, , ), praeda (, , ), ferreus (, , ), sceleris (, , ). The same or si -
milar phraseology occurs also in Her., and concern the heroine’s father and
her sisters, practically placed in the ‘epic-tragic camp’. Tibullus had empha-
sized the hands as means of expressing saevitia in , , - and this adds
special weight to the symbol of the hands in Her., , where they practice the
art of writing and not violence. The antithesis with the harsh epic world is
apparent in lines Her., , -, where the military vocabulary is intertwined
with the reference to manus: metum, iussa, violenti, tela, timor, ausis, refugit (in
the sense of desertion from the army). According to Spoth, this is a repeti-
tion of the elegiac àÌË¯·Ó›·, the protagonist’s awkwardness in handling
violent subjects and committing acts of violence, just like Ovid in the Amores
and Propertius have shown on several opportunities; especially the lines
Prop., , , ; -; , - indeed include some of the ideas about decorum ex-
pressed in Her., regarding violence, and use a great deal of common terms
as well as the interrogative schema of lines Her., , -. Lines Her., , -
repeat motifs which occur in Her., , , where Hypsipyle repents becoming
embroiled with the Argonauts – one of the typical anti-elegiac symbols. The
Her., , -, cf. , -.
Her., , . See , infra for a short discussion of nox and temeritas.Am., , , .
Am., , , -. Again personication is used by the poet to divert the blame from himself.
SeeJ. C. MK, Ovid: Amores, cit., p. .
F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. .
F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. .
E.g. Am., , , -; , , ; -; , , -, -. E.g. Prop., , ; , ; , .
«Quid mihi cum ferro? quo bellica tela puellae? / aptior est digitis lana colusque meis». Cf. Her., , .
link also concerns Am., , , , where the independent hand assumes full re-
sponsibility for exercising epic violence, and Am., , , ; in these co-texts the
poet stresses the male or female protagonist’s incompatibility with the anti-
elegiac eld, and his lines are full of meta-poetic meaning. The meta-poetic
hint existing in the declaration that the heroine expresses herself exiguo sono
is emphasized by the dramatic monologue: this technique takes on a special
form in this case, since Hypermestra speaks to herself as if she is a separate
person, as if two inner voices are conversing, or, according to Jacobson, as
if Hypermestra converses with an inner voice.
With the questions in lines Her., , - Hypermestra declares herself un-
suitable for handling tela but willing and able to apply herself to the em-
blematic occupation of virtuous Roman and Greek women: weaving. With
questions of the same type the protagonist of lines Am., , , - declares
himself unable to exploit his great good fortune, like the king who is unable
to take pleasure in his realms and the rich man who is unable to enjoy his
wealth. Hypermestra or Lynceus could have used the same words, since they
did not make the most of their nocturnal opportunity. Corinna too in Am., ,
could metaphorically declare that she is suitable to engage in the works of
virtuous women, spinning and weaving, because she did not manage to ‘han-
dle’ and to activate the male tela, since her partner took care to respect her as
if she were a puella casta or a vestal virgin. In other words, at the same mo-
ment as the questions of lines Her., , - keep their meta-poetic scholiastic
function undiminished, they potentially reect the spiciest moments of
Ovidian humour in the Amores: these lines might remind compositions
whose remembrance is of itself capable of diminishing the sense of gravitas
which the fourteenth letter is supposed to consolidate.
.. Elegiac devotion
The elegiac devotion of the heroines of Am., , and Her., is underlined
also by their fear: Apollo and the Muse, who prohibited Propertius move to
epic and dictated the latter’s delity to elegy in Prop., , , are not mentioned
Her., , . F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., pp. -.
H J, Ovid’s Heroides, cit., p. .
Her., , -, -. Ovid in Fast., , - recycles a similar rhetoric, meta-poetic hints and
implications, but from a dierent point of view and with a new direction.
Am., , , .
Fear and insecurity is an inherent element of the elegiac identity. See for example Prop., , ,
-, which constitutes a kind of model for many of the Ovidian heroines’ cases according to
G R, Publio Ovidio Nasone. Lettere di eroine, cit., p. , note ; also Am.,, , , and
Her., , -, -; , -; , -; , ; , , -, -, -; , -, -; , -; , , -;
, , , ; , -, , -, -; , -, -, et al.
as responsible for the recusationes now. Hypermestra is warded o from the
scelus thanks to pietas but also because of fear, as Her., , informs us; fear
had also kept the victimized Corinna immobile and passive. The puella will
not transgress the ‘elegiac legitimacy’ even as penalty-answer to the violence
exerted on her, just as for the Danaid the justness of the Egyptians’ punish-
ment is not a satisfactory argument for her inclusion in the epic-tragic ac-
tion. The elegiac atmosphere still remains due to the persistent preservation
of the sound of complaint / lamentation. In this case this tone perhaps seems
self-serving and obviously conventional, since the fourteenth heroine is in re-
ality the only one of the sisters who will be saved, while she is also the only
one, together with the rst, Penelope, of the Heroides, whose story will have
a happy end. Line Her., , denes the elegiac letter as a lament bringing
back the elegiac couplet to its thematic cradle, re-approaching a subject
which Dido deals with at the end of her letter, in Her., , -, and Briseis
also raises in Her., , -. As long as Dido continues holding a pen, her tears
produce elegy as a result, while the sword is still inactive. When pen is aban-
doned and the ensis takes up the situation, death and blood will come: but this
will happen just after the elegiac letter is accomplished, outside the ‘elegiac
territory’. Briseis, after having mentioned the liturae caused by her tears on
the paper, denes her poem and her discourse as querimonia. Sappho’s tears
will also create some litura in her writings; and Hypermestra’s tears will have
surely caused lituras, blotting the ink on the paper. How bold would it be for
us to speculate that the ‘gaps’ are the lost feet of the pentameters? On the
contrary, a maiden suering from a monstrous, violating her feminine nature
metamorphosis, Io, is not capable of producing an elegiac querimonia; as long
as she carries arma on her head, she risks of hurting herself and, additional-
Her., , -. Haec ego; dumque queror, lacrimae sua verba sequuntur.
Poetological messages existing in the synthesis are related to the conrmation of elegy as a
mourning poem (see above, passim); this point had also been demonstrated in Her., , , , , ,
, et al. F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., pp. - observes that it is Hyper-
mestra herself who determines her monologue as an elegiac querela. In other words she agrees
with the characterization of elegy as ebilis.
Additionally, if by litura the heroine does not only mean a spot but also deletion (see OLD,
cit., p. , sub voce «litura», especially b), then it could be supposed that it is the tear/sob that
causes the deletion of the metrical foot missing from the hexameter; it is this omission that cre-
ates the scheme of elegiac distich and permits the transformation of the narration or of the speech
into a querimonia.
Her., , -. Cf. , -, where the liturae will be made, as we are told, by Canace’s blood.
Cf. P G, Sens et destin du distique élégiaque, «CRAI», , Paris, de Boccard,
, pp. -, and I, Le problème de l’élégie romaine: une gree réussie, in ¶Ú·ÎÙÈÎ¿ E\
¶·ÓÂÏÏËÓ›Ô˘ ™˘ÌÔÛ›Ô˘ §·ÙÈÓÈÎÒÓ ™Ô˘‰ÒÓ, H Ì›ÌËÛË ÛÙË Ï·ÙÈÓÈÎ‹ ÏÔÁÔÙÂ¯Ó›· (Aı‹Ó·, 5-7
NÔÂÌ‚Ú›Ô˘ 1993), Aı‹Ó·, , pp. -. Her., , .
ly, has lost her human voice: the literary product of inappropriate arma on
a maiden’s head is not a carmen but a mugitus.
Ovid’s defense in the ‘trial’ of the epic violence of Am., , is based, as is
Hypermestra’s defense, on the personication and independent action of
the perpetrator’s hand. Indeed, the detachment of the protagonist of Am.,
, from the instrument of violence, his hands, is expressed with questions
of the same type as those that denied the appropriateness of weapons in
Hypermestra’s hands. However, there are more similarities: the lover of ,
, who without apparent reason has sunk to the dishonourable use of vio-
lence, deserves to be put in chains but the shackles have not been clamped
on his hands; Hypermestra, who is candidate in the role of the epic manus,
despite her vacillation, in the end avoids her identication with the epic
world. Her hand does not succumb to the temptation of resorting to vio-
lence (nor as response to the violent forcing into marriage after being
chased all over the eastern Mediterranean); even so, she is not rewarded in
the erotic eld.
The heroine presents analogies with the abused female lover of lines Am.,
, , -, who has rejected violence even as an answer to the violence she
has suered, remaining faithful to her elegiac behavior. Hypermestra suers
an unjust punishment, the violence of the epic catenae and incarceration, as
consequence of her rm decision not to exercise violence herself, even in-
voluntarily, thus remaining faithful to elegiac behaviour. And it is rather the
absence of sentence for the protagonist of Am., , which accelerates his ad-
mission that he is reus, whereas it is Hypermestra’s conscious choice to be
rea vis-à-vis her father. Last, while the violent behaviour of the protagonist
of Am., , is equated to sacrilege, that is, it is noted that he may be proved
unrespectable, de facto impius, towards his parents and towards the gods,
Hypermestra, in response to the dilemma of whom to prove pia towards, her
parent or the gods, has chosen to respect the second, despite the danger of
Her., , -.
In Met., , - Io is still incapable of speaking but she is able of writing: she can tell her
sad story with letters she traces in the dust with her hoof. Yet, we are not told what kind of ﬁ‰Â˜
her pes in pulvere duxit. Cf. J F, Reading and Writing the Heroides, «HSCP», ,
Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, , p. .
The use of judicial vocabulary similar to that found in Her., is worthy of note. See also p.
, notes - and cf. with vincla, catenas (Am., , , ), reum (), poenam (), scelerum (), vincla
subite (), plecterer, ius (), scelerum (), nocens (), nocentem (), sceleris ().
Am., , , . Her., , -.
F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., pp. - correlates the two poems in
what concerns the consequences of epic violence. Am., , , .
Her., , -, . Am., , , .
Her., , -, . Am., , , -.
paternal punishment. Her hand abandons the murderous paternal tela. The
only activity which, according to decorum, she considers right and proper to
practice is the female occupation of weaving (practiced with the tela [fem.
sing.]); what she nally undertakes is, according to elegiac decorum, the
weaving of the literary textum. The lacrimae constitute a continuous
connecting thread between Hypermestra and Corinna, except that the tears
of the latter are mute, they are not accompanied by words of chastisement
or complaint, whereas the tears of the former, because they are accompanied
by verba, produce elegiac letter .
.. Tela and mollities
In addition, beyond the meta-poetic ramications that it naturally takes on
with the above reading, the mention of Hypermestra’s abstention from the
epic ausa in Her., , , while typically concerning the murder, contextually
allows the readers mind to stray once again into sexual innuendoes, since the
setting is the marriage chamber and reference to the tela has preceded a few
lines above. In Her., the connotative reading of tela is in any case necessary,
because literally Danaus entrusted to his daughter a sword and not arrows,
in order to commit the murder. Therefore, the reader’s broad interpretation
of the term is necessary more than once, since Hypermestra insists on using
tela instead of ensis; the further extension of the metaphor to the usual
meaning for tela [neut. pl.] (as well as the homophone tela [fem. sing.]),
namely the male ‘weapons’, transfers the climate anew to elds rather far
removed from the proclaimed piety and sobriety. Thus, the scene of Lynceus’
waking in line ends up comic, as Hypermestra is caught holding in her
frightened hands the fortia tela (of every possible connotation).
In this framework, the maiden’s declaration in line Her., , that her
hands, being soft (molles), are unsuitable for holding arrows, may of course
constitute a recusatio of the epic act and writing: but it also reinforces the ex-
isting implications in the erotic domain because the adjective mollis has a rich
prehistory in this eld too. In Am., , , - the mollities of Corinna’s hand is
hoped to mobilize the ‘weapons’ of the man in the erotic battle, because he
Her., , , -. Cf. quem (=patrem) non violavimus in line with ego […] potui violare parentes in
Am., , , .
Am., , , , -. Her., , .
As noted before, apart from constituting a poetic symbol of epic action and scripture, tela
(=arrow) are enriched by sexual connotations, strengthened also by those regarding tela (= loom).
Cf. EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. . Her., , .
See for example S T, Further Programmatic Implications, cit., p. , on the
mollities’ signicance on pointing generic and thematic choices.
has been arrested inermis in this case. On the contrary, Hypermestra’s hand
(dextra) remained casta, as is said, far from the ausa (of every kind?).
However, the mollities of her hands is a quality which literally would be useful
not only for writing but also for the amours and caresses which she does not
give Lynceus when they are asked of her. On the contrary Corinna is more
generous in Am., , , -.
A similar reading, according to which Hypermestra physiologically (and
partially on her own responsibility) remained virgo because she did not
exhaust the elegiac puella of the Amores’ repertoire of duties, cannot possi-
bly be the main one. Moreover, it is weakened by the numerous erotic
stimulus which Am., , acknowledges: Hypermestra ts several of the
‘specications’ mentioned by the male protagonist of this composition
regarding his female partner. The pudor with which the Danaid confronts
the male presence would be capable of attracting the lover, while she
certainly has the virtue of the docta puella and, furthermore, the art of the
lamenting chords. Also, the heroine is already mollis, while the closeness
to her lover’s body allows them to touch, which according to Am., , , -
would be enough to make her mollior. Last, the puella is not simply equal
to but is literally one of the veteres heroidas. Even so, she lies deserta and
frigida, without having aroused the bridegroom of letter , even though
she fullls several of the erotic preconditions of Am., , , which could
‘make Hippolytus a Priapus’. Consequently, whatever excuses for Lynceus’
inertia can be drawn from Am., , are disarmed by Am., , . In each case,
the repeated use of ambiguous expressions in a letter in which the question
of whether or not sexual intercourse took place constantly hovers is prob-
ably not completely innocent, especially if addressed to a public educated
in Ovidian innuendoes.
.. Nox temerata and amplexus
The night becomes time for murder; it also accentuates Hypermestra’
solitude and fear. But the frequent mention of the night in this synthesis
probably brings the letter into an imagined dialogue with numerous literary
Am., , , .
See OLD, cit., p. , sub voce «ausum». In Her.,, Hero refers to the maritime activities of
Venus; cf. Tib., , , , where Venus is considered to be an ally of the lover who dares.
Her., , -. Hypermestra does not conrm any amplexus without at the same time,
however, denying it.
Cf. Am., , , -. Cf. Am., , , .
Cf. Am., , , -. Am., , , .
Am., , , . Her., , , , , .
topoi in which the night is the suitable time for love. This connection seems
to be strong particularly with the previous letter in the same collection. In
Her., , - Laodamia says that the night is pleasant for girls when they
are not sleeping alone. However, neither Laodamia’s nor Hypermestra’s
night is pleasant, because the absence of Protesilaus in Troy has the same
practical result as the essential ‘absence’ of Lynceus.
This critical Argolic night has already become temerata because of the
bloodshed of the Egyptians, by fault of the Danaids and not of Hyper-
mestra. On the opposite, Leander becomes temerarius after the end of writing
Her., , unsuccessfully imitating Argo, which is called temeraria in Am., , ,
in a co-text with obviously negative connotations. In Am.,, , temerasset
describes the sacrilege of Corinna’s abortion, which constitutes a violation of
sacra. It seems well established that temeritas is incompatible with a passive
elegiac character identity. In general temeritas, temero have the meaning of
desecrating anything protected by religious sanction.
However, there is another nuance of temeritas, rich in erotic or strictly sex-
ual connotations, frequently present in the same collection. In Her., , -
it seems as if Hero wishes her lover imitate the temerarius lover of Prop., , ,
, where the same term describes the amator insanus. In Her., , -
temerati acquires a stricto sensu sexual meaning; in , - temeratam refers to
a rape; in , - Venerem temerare maritam and in , - temeratis sacris re-
fer to adultery. The notion is clearly connected with an ambient of sexual
In the Heroides see e.g. , (the time is counted in nights); , ; , (Dido’s solitude and
memory of her beloved); , ; , (noctes amarae), , , , , , ; , , ; , , ,
(cf. pernoctet); , , , also Am., , , ; , , , ; , , , Priap., , ; , ; , ; , ; ,
; , ; , ; , ; , ; , (Vollmer). See J B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores,
cit., p. , C M, Il tempo in Ovidio. Funzioni, meccanismi, strutture, Firenze, Leo
Olschki, , p. .
Laodamia presents many symptoms of a similar to Hypermestra’s pathogenicity: Her., , -
. In line Her., , Laodamia has chosen to refer to the Greek ships as Inachiae rates, maybe en-
couraging the dialogue between the two epistles. Cf. Her., , , where Laodamia prefers using
the name Danai for the Greeks.
V V, Léandre dans Ov., Her.,18: conformation avec les stéréotypes et dépassement de
l’identité élégiaque, «Ágora», , Aveiro, Departamento de Linguas e Culturas, , pp. - on
Leander’s probable hybris.
On the topos of rejecting maritime journeys see for example AP , (Diehl), also J
B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores, cit., p. .
J B, Ovid. The Second Book of the Amores, cit., p. .
OLD, cit., p. , sub vocibus «temerarius, temeritas, temero, temere, temeritudo, temeriter,
Cf. OLD, cit., p. , sub voce «temerator», and sub voce «temero, ».
Cf. A N. M, Ovid Heroides 16 and 17. Introduction, Text and Commentary,
Cambridge, Francis Cairns, , p. .
boldness in Am., , , -; the same happens in Am., , , thalamos temerare
pudicos and in , , -, where Penelope remains intemerata despite the
suitors’ insistent courtship. Once again Ovid/Hypermestra uses a term that
the reader could read in various ways.
The formulation of lines Her., , - allows the extension of the ima-
gined connection between Her., and : the Trojan women ‘will give
weapons and kisses together’ to their husbands, something which the
Danaids will literally do, though to their husbands’ death. Laodamia’s letter
contains clear sexual references relating to the egy the heroine uses as sub-
stitute of her husband. Her hands embrace the simulacrum, just as Hyper-
mestra’s hands could embrace Lynceus, if they were bolder and did not ab-
stain from erotic ausa, rejecting the Egyptian’s idle amplexus. The wax model
enjoys sweet words and embraces, just like the (not more lively) body of
Ovid in lines Am., , , -; the amplexus that (the not more active) Lynceus
indolently seeks in Her., , almost lead to his injury upon the sword of
Danaus, which Hypermestra is holding. Laodamia is said to embrace the
image as if it were her husband (pro coniuge vero), whereas Lynceus, on the
contrary, in letter (like the lover in Am., , ), although he is husband, ends
up being treated and acting pro fratre.
.. Motae comae
The line Her., , is also undoubtedly a reduction to erotic connotations,
without simultaneously compelling an erotic interpretation. The observa-
tion that the heroine gets up from the bed wearing the same garments is
not proof that the colour of the preceding night was white, since the cor-
relation of the excerpt with Ovidian passages relating to the tidying of the
hair and dress after sexual intercourse is quite easy. For example, in Am., ,
, the poet protests to his mistress that when he sees her hair far more
disheveled than sleep can justify she destroys his illusion that she is faithful
to him. That is, tousled hair is considered an explicit indication of previous
K M, Ovid’s Art of Imitation. Propertius in the Amores, Leiden, Brill, , pp.
-, J. C. MK, Ovid: Amores, cit., p. .
Cf. Ars, , lectum temeravit, Stat., Theb., , (Hill), Tac., Ann., , (Fisher), Apul., Met., ,
Her., , -. Her., , -.
Dum petis amplexus sopitaque bracchia iactas. Cf. Her., , , ; , .
On amplexus see F S, Ovids Heroides als Elegien, cit., p. . In Prop., , , ; ,
c, the word is used in paradigmatically successful sexual intercourses, while in Prop., , ,
the word has clearly sexual meaning, since it concerns buying erotic services.
Her., , -. Cf. Am., , , .
Purpureos laniata sinus, laniata capillos.
coition. In Am., , , - Corinna’s disheveled hair is one of the eects of
the lover’s violence; but it is the Ovidian puella/erotic object discussed here
and her motae comae do not diminish her beauty. Nor Hypermestra’s
appearance would have been aected by her untidy hair. It could also be
noted that the presence of the adjective purpureus (here qualifying sinus)
reinforces the erotic connotations of the line, since the epithet has a rich
prehistory in erotic co-texts.
One element that is problematical regarding the Romanization of Hyper-
mestra attempted on the basis of pietas is Roman tradition’s little tolerance
of (essentially incestuous) marriages between cousins, and even more so
siblings, which society in Greece permitted. The emphatic change of the
relationship of cousins into siblings logically ought to scandalize rather than
to underline the pietas which the true transformation of the puella into ma-
trona would have undoubtedly signied, if the pietas was dened with refe-
rence clearly to Hypermestra’s status as spouse and its meaning was not left
uid. Hypermestra shows respect towards her father if she did not sleep with
the undesirable bridegroom; she also shows respect towards Lynceus as
See for example Her., .- (Ariadne’s hair is disarrayed from sleep, but also, most probably,
Cf. Ars, , -. Laodamia (in Her., , .) refuses to take care of her hair and wear new
dresses sympathizing with her husband who is supposed to carry a galea and weapons. But her tin-
gled hair and her refusal to get dressed, if taken literally, in combination with the use of a waxen
image as a substitute for Protesilaus may hide well covered insinuations, as the repetition of the
disarrayed hair motif within the same mythological exemplum in Ars allows us to think. See also
Ars, , and Am., , , - showing that the disheveled state of a woman’s hair does not at all
diminish female beauty. Cf. TA™O™ NIKO§AI¢H™, Puella formosa. TÔ Á˘Ó·ÈÎÂ›Ô Î¿ÏÏÔ˜ ÛÙÔÓ
K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ Î·È ÛÙÔ˘˜ PˆÌ·›Ô˘˜ ÂÏÂÁÂÈ·ÎÔ‡˜, Aı‹Ó·, ™ÙÈÁÌ‹, , pp. - and , note ; J. C.
MK, Ovid: Amores, cit., p. .
See for example Am., , , (it qualies the Ovidian puella’s lips), , , ; , , ; , ,
(Amor, who dictates the elegiac poetry, is characterized as purple), , b, .
See for example J P V D B, Roman Women, cit., p. , G-
P-D, La vie sexuelle à Rome, cit., pp. -, pointing out that, while marriages
between brothers and sisters were strictly and permanently interdicted, those between cousins
could be tolerated, but constituted always an exception. Cf. Plu., Mor., D-E (Titchener).
See for example Nep., pr., , (Marshall). Even marriage between brothers from the same fa-
ther was permitted in Greece, while marriages between cousins are considered to strengthen fa-
milial bonds and are thus encouraged. See for example Plu., Them., , (Perrin), D., (òEÊÂÛÈ˜
Úe˜ Eé‚Ô˘Ï›‰ËÓ, Rennie) , -, cf. C R, Ehe, Hetäund Knabenliebe, cit., pp. -
, R F, O ‰ËÌﬁÛÈÔ˜ Î·È È‰ÈˆÙÈÎﬁ˜ ‚›Ô˜ ÙˆÓ AÚ¯·›ˆÓ EÏÏ‹ÓˆÓ, MÂÙ¿ÊÚ·ÛË
°ÂÚ¿Û. B·Ó‰ÒÚÔ˜, Aı‹Ó·, EÎ‰ﬁÛÂÈ˜ ¶··‰‹Ì·, , pp. - (orig. ed. La vie quotidienne en
Grèce au siècle de Périclès, Paris, ).
spouse, as she refers to him rarely, since she saved him, as well as towards her
relative, her cousin. In practice, her eort to present Lynceus as her brother,
that is to bring him nearer to her and to present their relationship as closer,
has the opposite results from the expected one: if he is brother and not
cousin, then rightly he has not become husband.
By mentioning Juno/Hera, patron goddess of marriage, of Argos and in
the end of Rome, both in her status as the wife in Her., , and as a sister
of Jupiter/Zeus in Her., , , the heroine hints at a model that could be ap-
plied successfully in her own case and oer a mantle of seriousness. Except
that Phaedra has utilized the same status of Juno as sister in Her., , , in an
erotic suasoria of a matrona who seeks pretexts to cover her lust. The case
of Hermione who calls Orestes to be activated, summoning the status of
sibling – she too using the wider meaning of the terms frater/soror so that
they include also the relationship of cousins – is dierent, because she does
not conceal her love for her cousin/Agamemnon’s son. On the contrary, in
the case of Hermione the reinforced characteristics of kinship are realiza-
tion of the standard elegiac ideal of absolute love. Instead of Catull., , -
, and Prop., , , , which is repeated with such tragic realism that it
verges on parody in Her., , , Hypermestra and Lynceus, although sharing
the same bed after the wedding ceremony, continue to be linked only thanks
to their sibling relationship in the broad sense. Hermione insists, even if it
involves incest, on remaining in the genus of the Tantalids, which has main-
ly dark sides in its past (incest is the basis of the lineage’s creation as well as
her parents’ marriage), referring tenderly also to her father-in-law. The
fourteenth letter becomes a superbly sarcastic text, since Danaus too as fa-
ther-in-law has no love for his sons-in-law, and the Danaids, as ‘sisters’ and
wives, have no love for their Egyptian husbands. And Hypermestra, who
could synopsize absolute love in her erotic attraction towards her husband,
ends up restricting motives and behaviour within the framework of a soro-
ral (?) pietas. The impression that, in the end, love of all kinds is synopsized
in this of brother and sister is legitimized not only as indication of a the-
matic shift and a generic change of Ovid’s stylus, but also by allusive irony
because of Lynceus’ inability to be transformed from brother/cousin into
Her., , -.
The lines imply an extension of ‘family’ especially thanks to generos mentioned. See D. F. S.
T, Catullus, cit., p. and also §EøNI¢A™ TPOMAPA™, K¿ÙÔ˘ÏÏÔ˜, cit., p. pointing out
a possible anity of soul too.
Although it is not taken as such within Greek social and historical framework; but Hermione
‘speaks Latin’, we should not forget. See EIPHNH MHTOY™H, De genere, cit., p. .
Consequently, the repetition of the sibling status and its connection with
the conjugal within the latent Roman framework deprives the letter of what
it purports to project: piety and seriousness as Roman diacritic. The linking
of the letter with Canace, who has had sexual intercourse with her brother
but has not realized that it is love which is eating her up, although she is
already (or is about to get) pregnant, landmine a priori the eldest Danaid’s
creation of a serious Roman prole. The imprisonment of both heroines by
the father, inside their own home, for the sake or because of the faith in the
brother, may be correlated with Antigone (the identication of the chamber
with prison or with tomb underlines the connections); yet the piety on be-
half of a ‘brother’ against a harsh father is emphasized by the use or abuse
of common elegiac topoi and thus seems to deprive the tragic material of
the ñ„ËÏﬁÓ, in the way it is mixed with authentic components of the genus
With the ambivalence and the vagueness of the concept of pietas Ovid
reects the dissonance of literary tradition as to whether or not there was
sexual contact between the two cousins and brings to the forestage this
titillating question without mentioning it explicitly; in this way he arouses his
readers’ curiosity about ‘details’ and ‘clarications’. The readers, seeking out
information behind the insinuations and ambiguous formulations, ll in the
voids with the knowledge provided by the context, while familiarity with the
elegiac and primarily the Ovidian inter-text justies their suspicions that the
well-known (levior) poet’s literary self is hidden behind pompous proclama-
tions. The undermining of Hypermestra’s image as a pious wife is most
probably the real issue for the poet, and not a clear statement about what did
and did not happen in the chamber. Insinuations seem sucient to destroy
the image of Hypermestra as a matrona in letter . The epistle’s vagueness,
with the ambivalence of terms and phrases allows Ovid to prima facie discuss
pietas and marriage, but only dimly lighting the marriage chamber in which
two cousins lay together, implying but not clarifying that they did not be-
come true spouses during the night, but rather slept like siblings. Thus, in the
funerary epigram at the end of the letter the reference to the sibling and not
the spousal relationship (the terms vir and maritus were used at the beginning
of the letter and were subsequently forgotten completely) uniting Hyper-
J-C J, Allusion et ction épistolaire, cit., p. .
The identication of the bedroom with a jail or a grave is rst found in S., Ant., (Dain-
mestra and Lynceus may remind not only which scelus was averted or
avoided, but also possibly which foreseen ocium was omitted in the
marriage chamber. Love returns e contrario to the forestage.
In this framework the remembrance of the Cynthia, awless as to her wife-
ly behaviour and the des marita in Prop., , , and that of the exemplary Cor-
nelia of , acquire an ironic dimension because of the exaggeration of
tone. In my opinion this exaggeration in accentuating rhetorical elements
and the persistence on a conversation about pietas, without at the same time
elucidating the meaning of this vague notion, is suspicious: it is exactly this
transformation of the epistle into an ethical controversia rich in rhetoric ele-
ments, in moralizing statements, and judicial vocabulary, as well as dressed
in a pietistic tone, that gives us reason to suspect that Ovid has never with-
drawn from his usual tension for parody. Ovid does not simply reproduce the
image of a faithful sine fraude Cynthia, preserving love albeit in its conjugal
version, but struggles to stress the absence of love, at the very moment he
brings the ‘camera of narration’ so close that it illumines (unnecessary) de-
tails of the fateful night: inebriation, ÎáÌÔ˜, sleep, sighs will bring love back
to the centre of the discussion and indeed stricto sensu. The maiden’s virgini-
ty must have been kept probably thanks to the Egyptian’s excessive wine-bib-
bing, which laid him heavy on the mattress (or because of Hypermestra’s un-
responsiveness to his attempts to embrace her), and not thanks to the nobility
of his motives, as part of the literary tradition preserves. The persistence in
the ad nauseam mention of the virgo intacta in the ftieth case reminds those
who have forgotten that both the comastic situation and the night as erotic
time remained unfullled, in contrast to the previous forty-nine cases. In the
end, what is supposed to be projected is in fact parodied and undermined: the
gravitas of a wife who does not appear convinced that she is a wife and in-
stead of her status as such projects and invokes her status as sister. It is pre-
cisely the incomplete marriage which not only failed to turn a cousin into a
wife, but also made her a ‘sister’. Hypermestra, the symbol of correct female
and wifely sine fraude behaviour, behaves like Turia saving her husband, but
her husband did not behave as a man.
According to this reading, the female protagonist and composer of the
letter is undermined by herself. Additionally, she ends up belonging to a
category of ‘pious ones’ whom she herself disdains. In Her., , the hero-
ine, refusing to repent her disregard of the paternal command for the sake of
piety, pompously declares: […] non est, quam piget esse, pia. If, however,
Hypermestra practically moans about her untouched virginity, blaming the
bridegroom for her intactness, whatever attempt is made to lay the founda-
tions of a pietas towards her father is dismissed on the basis of her own
arguments: Hypermestra is presented as almost unwillingly pia according to
her own theses; she seems rather to regret being pia (eam piget). At the same
time, the possibility that the letter is addressed to Hypermestra’s father
Danaus, instead of to Lynceus, is seriously weakened.
If Hypermestra ‘fails to become wife’, then Ovid’s entire endeavour re-
garding the shift towards non-erotic values remains unsubstantiated; and the
honesty of his announcements of a generic, ideological and stylistic shift is
doubted. At least, these announcements can wait a little longer before they
end up truly on etiological or epic-mythological elds. The Metamorphoses
and the Fasti will surely come, but they will wait for the Ars and the Remedia
to come rst; and, furthermore, they will never denounce love as subject,
sometimes even with the boldness already known from the Amores, which
will be present also in the Ars and in Epistula Sapphus. Thus, the surprise of
the last un-erotic letter is certainly serious, since at rst glance it turns a puel-
la levis into a coniunx gravis, whereas the course (and the process of Romani -
zation of the Heroides) up to this point was the reverse. In fact in all previous
letters we had seen the turning of several wives into puellae, Laodamia’s let-
ter presenting an emphasis on bold and barely concealed sensuousness rather
than reproducing the heroine as model wife. But the initial surprise is quick-
ly repudiated by a new surprise, which is based on the poet’s excessive ea-
gerness to stress the seriousness of Hypermestra and the gravity of his own
poetic turn. This second surprise concerns the poet’s return to his supposed
starting point and the undermining of the undertaking itself, something not
of course alien to his technique and practice.
With this reading the poem becomes a cunningly imperceptible and su-
perbly ironic recusatio of the migration from love. In other words, the im-
pression that it is a remembrance or reproduction of the Propertian volte face
via the recusatio of love may hold; but this conclusion is possibly not the po-
et’s nal goal but one step towards achieving a goal of dierent nature, not
alien to the spirit that distinguishes him so far. Ovid’s intention may be to lead
the reader almost compulsorily to the equation of the un-erotic fourteenth
letter with the Propertian meta-poetic hints exposed in the last elegies of
Book . But the fact per se that this course of his made it quite easy for his
reader to understand it, and rather encouraged him excessively to observe it,
imposes examination of the possibility that Ovid intended to ‘deceive’ his
public, to lead it astray as to the seriousness of his intentions. Ovid is making
his audience suspect that yet once again the poet perhaps smirks behind
his writings or makes fun of and parodies anew his predecessor’s turn,
subverting in advance his own analogous shift.
The probable linking of Hypermestra with Aeneas thanks to the pietas, in
conjunction with the remembrance of Juno/Hera as pursuer of the Inachids,
on the basis of this reading does not weaken Ovid’s deconstructive intention
at all. The ironic coloration of a feminine Romanized Hypermestra-Aeneas’
homeotype with probable erotic allusions, overturns the momentary im-
pression of the poet’s conformity to a climate of national ideology compati-
ble with aims of the dominant political scene. Without anything confessed
expressly, while the heroine’s rhetoric could be adopted by a moralizer of the
regime that propagandizes the values of marriage and of the family in the
name of an emblematic Roman virtue (which for Aeneas too is not deter-
mined with absolute clarity), the presence of so many hints concerning the
erotic life and the marital ‘keyhole’, weave Ovid’s most exquisite deceit of the
unsuspecting public. But his loyal friends rather nd a reason to smirk with
him, in discovering the poet’s familiar face projecting behind the most pious
Roman mask and the most ‘institutional’ rhetoric that one could expect in the
specic collection. By negating his readers’ original surprise, for which he
himself was responsible, Ovid too is entitled to smile while weaving the tex-
tum of this letter on behalf of Hypermestra.
They return to their fathers’ land after wandering at the other end of the Mediterranean, like
the lineage of Dardanus which hunted down anew returns to the pre-eternal Italian womb. These
connections go beyond the intentions of this paper, though.
composto in carattere dante monotype dalla
fabrizio serra editore, pisa · roma.
stampato e rilegato nella
tipografia di agnano, agnano pisano (pisa).
(cz 2 · fg 21)