Le Grand Edifice Romain a Mosa'i'que De Tomi

Registered by cackleberry on 3/30/2006
Buy from one of these Booksellers:
Amazon.com | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT | Bol.com
2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by cackleberry on Thursday, March 30, 2006
Paperback. 46 pages. Published 1977. Maps. Photographs. Bibliography. In French.

Tomi is in the Province of Scythia on the Black Sea and was originally settled by Greeks from Miletus.

In 29 B.C. the Romans captured the country from the Odryses, and annexed it as far as the Danube, under the name of Limes Scythicus. The area was afterwards included in the Province of Moesia, and from the time of Diocletian in Scythia Minor. In A.D. 10 Ovid was exiled by Augustus, and died here eight years later, celebrating Tomi in his poems.

The area subsequently belonged to the Byzantines, again to the Bulgarians, then to the Turks, and finally to the Romanians since the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. The town of Tomi is near Constantza, the capital of Dobroudja.

Journal Entry 2 by cackleberry on Thursday, March 30, 2006
The Roman Mosaic of Tomi...

OVID IN EXILE by James A. Clapp

That the avid traveler is often an avid reader (and/or moviegoer) is frequently noted. It is an observation that surely applies to me. After my passport, tickets and traveler’s cheques have been diligently attached to my person my thoughts turn to what I will be reading on my trip. The books can be history, biography, or fiction, but there is one requirement: they must be by or about some place or someone where I am traveling. There is nothing as incongruous, or ludicrous as someone reading a John Grisham novel at a café in Positano.

I had thought hard about what might be appropriate for a visit I would be making at the Black Sea port Constantsa, Rumania. I would be arriving by ship, and it would be nice to have read, or be reading something that would add some heightened level of interest and appreciation for the short time I would be there.

A few weeks prior to departure the "Constantsa book" was still an unfilled hole in my travel reading plans. It was a different interest that caused me to remove a dusty book from the shelf of my favorite used book store in San Diego. It was a novel of the exile of the Roman poet, Publius Ovidius Naso, popularly known as Ovid, and his exile to a garrison town in Roman colonized Dacia; a town called Tomi. I instinctively grabbed the book because in four years of studying Latin, my Jesuit teachers had assiduously avoided even an introduction to any of the Roman poets. Of Roman war I knew a great deal, having plodded with Caesar’s legions over most of the Roman world. But of Roman love I knew next to nothing. So it was Ovid’s name that caught my eye, he the author of the manual of seduction for Roman males, Ars Amatoria

It was not until I had the book home, eager to feed my long-delayed highschool prurient interest in Roman erotica that I decided first to see if I could locate Tomi. The geographical dictionary said: Tomi, or Tomis, cf. Constantsa. Unwittingly I had found my "Constantsa book" and I resolved to start it somewhere in the Ukraine and "time" is completion for my arrival at Constantsa, or Tomi.

Ovid himself was a reluctant literary traveler. It was not his literary talents, but his subject matter, that got him exiled from Rome by Augustus in 8 AD. He would have much preferred to remain at the center of the Empire where the inspiration and audience for his work was large and enthusiastic, and where the supply of beautiful women was endless. "Playboy of the Roman World" is how one reviewer of several new translations and commentaries in the most recent Ovidian revival characterized him. For any Roman exile from the capitol was a capital sentence. For an urban rake to be banished to such a backwater as a garrison town in Dacia populated with soldiers, camp-followers, and pacified local illiterates, exile must have been a fate worse than death.

There is not much that Ovid might recognize in the present-day city. It has grown from the Roman castrum into a metropolis of a quarter million. The sweeping curve of beach fronting the Black Sea (called the Euxine in his day) on the road into town might be the same. It remains one of the Rumanian Black Sea resorts.

He would certainly recognize the large mosaic floor of the former baths, now preserved in an annex to the Archeological Museum. But what he would think of the statue of him that sits centered in the square in front of the museum can only be guessed. After all, there are blank pedestals where statues of Stalin and Lenin once stood.

Guessing, and inventing, are, of course, is what a novelist such as Horia must do about the poet’s years in exile there. He has the poet visit a city to the north of Tomi, Aegypsos, that took its name from far off Egypt. That city serves as the source of the origin of the wandering Gypsies, who refer to themselves as "Rom.

Aegypsos, for which Horia has Ovid employ the 2nd Century Greek traveler and geographer, Pausanias, as a ‘Baedecker,’ lies at the top of the Danube delta, and may be the site of present-day Tulcea.

Despite the ancient place-names and personalities there is something remarkably ‘contemporary’ about the circumstances that dictated Ovid’s fate. In the early years of the first century Rome was enjoying a period of peace after years of war. Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, had vanquished Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, and declared himself Augustus. It was also a period in which the more conservative moral code that had come down from the days of Rome’s Republican and agrarian past had loosened considerably. Roman Patrician couples often divorced, abortion was not considered unacceptable, particularly as smaller, urban, families were becoming the norm. Ovid could write openly and with approval of his own amorous escapades. He chronicled his long adulterous affair with a married woman who aborted his child, and whose maid was also one of his seductions.

But as has happened to artists in many ages Ovid’s proselytizing of his lifestyle through his verses ran afoul of shifts in the political zeitgeist. Augustus himself was anything but a model for what today would be referred to as "family values". He was a bit of a playboy himself before he divorced his wife, Scribonia, to marry Livia even as she was carrying her divorced husband’s child. But dictators are often "do as I say, not as I do," types, and then as nowadays, controlled the "spin" on public opinion. Augustus, out of reformist zeal, and by domination of the Senate, began to promulgate legislation that would have pleased the types of right-wing religious groups roiling the political waters in contemporary America. Among the laws was one that permitted the banishment of adulterers. Although such laws were not always enforced a high-profile personality like the author of the Arts of Love could make a good scapegoat or example.

Ovid certainly sensed the precariousness of his position. Perhaps to ingratiate himself with the Emperor he dedicated his lengthy poem, the Fasti, a celebration of Roman religious festivals to Augustus to convince him he had switched his love interest from the secular to the sacred. The ploy didn’t work and Augustus in return blamed his poetry for the licentiousness of his daughter Julia, and Ovid was packed off to Tomi.

According to Horia at first Ovid pined for Rome and its women, orgies, banquets and other pleasures, and for a time plotted ways to regain the good graces of Augustus. Even his amour with a beautiful Dacian woman only remind him of his Roman mistress.

But gradually he formed friendships with the locals, a tavern-keeper, and slave girl, and courtesan, and even a Roman centurion, and so too came to the realization that he would live out his years in this remote outpost. He even seems to have turned his interest to the early Christianity that appealed to the Dacians and may have appealed to him as he himself was subjected to or observed the rigors, dangers, and violent treatment of these remote Roman subjects.

And so Ovid marked his final years in exile, although there seems to be only the statue in the museum square to commemorate his tenure there. But of course he comes to life through his poetry again and again, especially when the times are easy-going, the spirit of the times turn from war, to love. And when a literary traveler is looking for something to make a trip, even to an erstwhile place of exile, more memorable.

1 Better to be known by this name than "Naso," meaning "nose," an obvious invitation to ridicule.

2 Vintila Horia, God Was Born in Exile: Ovid at Tomi, (St. Martin’s Press, 1961)

3 Bernard Knox, "Playboy of the Roman World," The New York Review of Books, January 15, 1998, Pp. 32-36

4 A subsequent book that centers its plot on Ovid’s exile at Tomi is Christophe Ransmayr’s The Last World (Grove Weidenfeld, 1988). Ransmayr places his story at Tomi after the death of Ovid where a youthful Roman admirer searches for the lost manuscript of the poet’s Metamorphoses, rumored to have been burned by the author in his depression over his banishment.

James A. Clapp is Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Program for Media & Urban Affairs at San Diego State University.

Released 13 yrs ago (4/2/2006 UTC) at Sherwood Post Office in -- Controlled Releases --, Queensland Australia



Posted this book (together with some other bits and pieces) as a RABCK to my friend ioanathebold in far, far away Romania (she lives near the subject of the dissertation).

Mailed at the Post Office Sherwood Road Sherwood Brisbane Queensland Australia at 12.15pm Monday 03 April 2006.

Journal Entry 4 by ioanathebold on Friday, April 21, 2006
Thanks, cackleberry, the book has just arrived and I have to say I'm very curious about it. It's nice to read about things that are so much a part of our history.
And yes, that mosaic is the biggest of its kind in SE of Europe.

Are you sure you want to delete this item? It cannot be undone.