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A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE BOARD OF UNIVERSITY
JAMES NESBITT ANDERSON.
CALVARY & CO.
Αψ δ' ὄκνῳ ποτὶ χεῖλος ἐλάμβανε μῦθον ἰόντα, μή τί οἱ οὐ κατὰ καιρὸν ἔπος προτιμυθήσαιτο σπερχομένου· χαλεπὸν δ ̓ ἑτέρου νόον ἴδμεναι ἀνδρός.
Theoc. Id. 25, 65.
On the Sources of Ovid's Heroides I., III., VII., X., XII.
When we take into consideration the comparatively limited experience of any individual, it is not strange that most writers have found it necessary or desirable to go for matter, inspiration, or suggestion, beyond these narrow confines out into the boundless fields of the world's literature, to cull a flower here or there from some perishable contemporary, or take a draught from the mightier streams of genius which flow on forever. Many a great mind has been stirred to productive activity by personal contact with contemporaries who had already achieved fame. Ovid intimates his obligations to the Roman poets in Trist. 4, 10, 42: Quotque aderant vates, rebar adesse deos.
Saepe suas volucres legit mihi grandior aevo,
Et tenuit nostras numerosus Horatius aures,
Successor fuit hic tibi, Galle, Propertius illi;
Quartus ab his serie temporis ipse fui.
These Roman poets probably exercised most influence on Ovid in the beginning of his career, but afterwards, the Greek literature, with its greater beauty and richness, doubtless became more and more influential in his case. It is our purpose here
to determine, as far as possible, the writers, whether Greek or Roman, who influenced him most in the composition of these five letters, and we shall not be content to determine simply whether or not Ovid was acquainted with a certain work, but we shall make some effort to determine the extent of the influence in each case, for it seems more interesting and more useful from the point of view of literary criticism to know how Ovid used his sources than to know whether or not he had before him some Alexandrian poem which has since been lost.
Many of the stories treated by Ovid were very old. *Rohde, in speaking of the ancient poets, says: "Wie die hellenischen Götter nicht die Schöpfer sondern die Bildner und Leiter der Welt waren, so die Dichter älterer Zeiten nicht die Erfinder, sondern wiederum die kunstvollen Bildner ihrer Stoffe." This does not mean that they were not original. It can hardly be claimed that any literature is more original than that of the Greeks, the originators of so many kinds of literary composition. Only, they preferred to exercise their ingennity in the treatment and development of a subject that was known, rather than in the invention of a new tale or an unheard-of plot. This is perhaps due to the fact that these works were prepared for hearers rather than for readers.
Though it is interesting and instructive when we have the sources at hand, to trace their influence on the later work, yet it is a very delicate piece of work and we must constantly be on our guard lest we go astray. Many dangers lurk in our path. The greatest, I think, is that of making intentional imitations out of accidental resemblances. This danger is especially great when the resemblance is confined to a word or phrase. For instance, it is generally admitted that Lachmann was rash, to say the least, in placing the Sappho letter later than Lucan on the strentgh of the single expression furialis Erichtho (Ov. H. 15, 139; cf. Erichtho, Lucan 6, 508.)** A. Zingerle, too, in
* E. Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, p. 11. ** It may be added that it is almost equally rash to reject a whole epistle as not genuine on the ground of a metrical irregularity in a single See Alexander Bilger, De Ovidi Heroidum appendice, p. 3.
his good and useful book, "Ovidius und sein Verhältniss zu den Vorgängern und gleichzeitigen römischen Dichtern", has carried this verbal resemblance too far.* The human mind, like human nature, is very much the same the world over and there can be no doubt that different people sometimes have the some thoughts quite independently of one another. The trouble is that there are so many ways of transmitting ideas and the human race is so closely connected that we can seldom be quite sure that the thoughts are entirely independent. Take, for instance, Diog. Laert. 1, 10 where he is speaking of Epimenides:
Οὗτός ποτε πεμφθεὶς παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς εἰς ἀγρὸν ἐπὶ πρόβατον, τῆς ὁδοῦ κατὰ μεσημβρίαν ἐκκλίνας ὑπ ̓ ἄντρῳ τινὶ κατεκοιμήθη ἑπτὰ καὶ πεντήκοντα ἔτη. διαναστὰς δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐζήτει τὸ πρόβατον, νομίζων ἐπ ̓ ὀλίγον κεκοιμῆσθαι. ὡς δὲ οὐχ εὕρισκε, παρεγένετο εἰς τὸν ἀγρόν, καὶ μετασκευασμένα πάντα καταλαβὼν καὶ παρὰ ἑτέρῳ τὴν κτῆσιν, πάλιν ἧκεν εἰς ἄστυ διαπορούμενος. Κἀκεῖ δὲ εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ εἰσιὼν οἰκίαν περιέτυχε τοῖς πυνθανομένοις τίς εἴη. ἕως τὸν νεώτερον ἀδελφὸν εὑρὼν τότε ἤδη γέροντα ὄντα, πᾶσαν νμαθε παρ ̓ ἐκείνου τὴν ἀλήθειαν. In place and time this is far enough separated from Rip van Winkle yet who can be sure that there is no connection between the two?
Another case of difficulty is when there are several imitations of the original and the source of our passage may be either the original or an imitation. Take, for instance, Molière, Le Misanthrope, 711:
L'amour, pour l'ordinaire, est peu fait à ces lois,
* I find that E. Bährens in the preface (p. VII) to his edition of Valerius Flaccus has expressed a similar opinion: "hoc tamen addo nec Zingerleium satis distinxisse similitudines fortuitas et eas imitationes quae consulto dataque opera sunt factae." Still, the comparison of similar passages is interesting and perhaps useful even when there is no imitation, and some instances of this will be found in the following pages.