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4 - Publica numina

Conspicuously Consuming the Imperial Image at Tomis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2020

Amy Russell
Brown University, Rhode Island
Monica Hellström
University of Durham
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Ovid’s Epistulae ex Ponto 2.8 commemorates the exiled poet’s receipt of a gift of silver images of the Caesars from Rome. This paper argues, with reference to Augustan coinage and Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism, that the poem deconstructs Romans’ self-subjugation to imperial iconography and highlights their role in vesting it with power. Through comic deployment of the pathetic fallacy via a naïve narrative persona, Ovid shows how, from a provincial perspective, the emperor's numen might really appear to reside in his image, placing the emperor literally in his subjects’ hands. Pont. 2.8 therefore comments more generally on the interpretive possibilities, social practices, and psychology surrounding Roman imperial images, locating their power in plural, subjective, democratic acts of creative consumption.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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