Lex and Ius in Propertius’ and Ovid’s Discourse: The Augustan Principate as the Paramilitary Kingdom of Minos

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Russian State University for the Humanities
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameVestnik drevnei istorii
EditionVolume 82 Issue 3

The paper examines Propertius’ and Ovid’s perception of Augustus’ political regime analyzing their interpretation of lex and ius. The aim of the study is to determine the key meanings of these concepts by demonstrating the peculiarities of their semantic relations with the terms arma (war, weapons), aurum (gold), pudor (shame), metus/timor (fear), amor (love), liber/libertas (free/freedom), felix/felicitas (happy/happiness), etc. The study has shown that in most cases the terms lex and ius mean a strict prescription, someone’s power exercised over something or somebody. Such prescriptions are divided into two types: an external state decree and an internal order of a lover's heart. Lex and ius of the first type are closely associated with Augustus who in this context appears in two complementary guises. Propertius depicts him as an imperator, a victorious military leader who imposes laws on conquered peoples and tribes, while Ovid portrays him as a princeps, a judge-legislator who focuses on the private life of Roman citizens. In both cases, principate appears as a direct continuation of republic: pillaging of foreign lands persists as well as repressions (republican in their spirit) against citizens. The poets argue that these facts negatively affect life of an ordinary citizen. According to Propertius, public laws, coupled with predatory external wars, make vices thrive and thereby destroy sincere love as a guarantee of genuine happiness. This brings him to the statement of the lovers’ right not to participate in battles. Portraying the Augustan principate as the kingdom of Minos, Ovid shows that the laws of the ruler ruthlessly suppress human freedom (libertas), forcing lovers, like Daedalus and Scylla, to flee away from the orbis terrarum conquered by Rome. Ultimately, both poets depict the Augustan principate as a regime of emperor-princeps’ personal power, whose leges and iura are incompatible with the aspiration of Roman citizens to seek individual happiness (felicitas).

KeywordsAugustus’ principate, lex, ius, elegies, Propertius, Ovid, political dimension of the poetry of Auguastan era
Publication date26.09.2022
Number of characters36991
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