Augustus is made pater patriae
This passage commemorates the senate’s granting of the title pater patriae (father of the country) to Augustus on the 5th of February 2 BCE. Ovid expresses his concern, however, at his own ability to convey through elegy this monumental event (199-125). Ovid compares Augustus to Romulus (137-144), who was honoured twelve days later at the Quirinalia on February the 17th (II.475-508). Indeed, Octavian had toyed with the idea of taking Romulus as a title before he decided instead on Augustus, likely because of the fratricidal associations with Rome’s mythical founder. Incidentally, Ovid chooses not to elaborate on this unpleasant aspect of Romulus’s story, instead maintaining as far as possible a more honourable image of him, focusing particularly on his deification (see Metamorphoses XIV.805-828). This said, in verse 134 there is a clear reference to the episode of the murder of Remus: “the walls you gave to the city were such as Remus could overleap.” As Carole Newlands states, the “deflation” of Romulus, the first pater patriae, who was the model for Augustus in terms of military conquests, civic organisation, and eventual deification, only elevates Augustus to a higher status than his mythical predecessor (Carole Newlands, Playing with Time, p. 189). Romulus is second to Augustus in every way – first and foremost, because the extent of Romulus’s conquests was limited to a few territories, whereas Augustus is said to rule over the whole world: “all that exists beneath the canopy of Jove is Caesar’s own” (138). Moreover, Romulus was a rapist while Augustus brought chastity, he kept wrongdoers around him, while Augustus banished them, and he ruled with the sword, while Augustus implemented laws (139-141). The main difference between Augustus and his ancestor, however, is that Augustus is the father not only of his patria, but also of the whole world (129), a title which assimilates him to Jupiter, the father of the gods. Indeed, Fasti I.587-616 closely related Jupiter and Augustus, arguing that the name Augustus embodies within it the very notion of the empire’s expansion (augere = “to increase/grow”), and its connection to augury (augurium) evokes divine blessing and power, which the poet prays will be realised through Jupiter’s aiding and extension (augmentation) of the emperor and his rulership).
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