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The Gate of Horns: History and Fiction in Ovid’s Cipus Episode (Met. 15.565–621)*

Andrew Feldherr

Résumé

Ovid’s tale of Cipus, the returning general who discovers that horns have miraculously appeared on his forehead, combines narrative elements that point back to the poem’s early books with others that suggest historiography. Cipus’ own hybridity, therefore, figures a generic combination that simultaneously invites incredulity and belief. These different interpretative strategies feature in the different responses to the prodigy within the episode. The general’s determination to keep his horned presence, and the kingship it predicts, out of Rome makes space for Republican history to proceed as normal, while his likeness to other metamorphic figures within the poem complicates that strategy. As a representation of the Roman past, Ovid’s Metamorphoses necessarily summons up foreign, even tyrannical, comparands at the moment of their exclusion and questions the very reality on which history’s authority depends by grounding it in unbelievable stories. The second half of this article uses this Ovidian perspective as a vantage point for re-examining the blending of myth and history at the conclusion of Aeneid 6, intermittently recalled by the language and imagery of the Ovidian episode. Reading Vergil back through Ovid exposes the earlier poet’s refashioning of history to serve dynastic ends: Cipus’ prescription for the Roman future, ‘no kings’, sets up a Republican response to the entire Vergilian spectacle and suggests how its internal contradictions persist in the normative conclusions Anchises draws from it.

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  • * It is a pleasure to thank the audience, live and virtual, at the Second European Conference of the (...)
  • 1 TLL s.v. I. A. 2. f; OLD s.v. § 10a. For an overview of the possible connotations of deducere in th (...)

1When in the proem to the Metamorphoses Ovid asks the gods ‘to lead his song down, perpetual, to his own times’ (ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen, 1.4), he employs an especially complex metaphor. The primary sense of the verb deducere here must describe a creative process like drawing out a thread, and the image seems to point to the poem’s subject matter, which will stretch from the first origin of the world to the author’s now. But among its many other common uses, deducere can mean escort or accompany, and it seems especially at home in ritual or civic language to describe leading someone in a procession or triumph.1 This aspect of the action suggests less the extent of the poem’s content than the arrival of the poem as a whole. When in Book 15 we come nearer the poet’s time, therefore, remembering this opening prayer highlights two potential challenges: the first is how to depict recent events in the mode of mythological epic so that a narrative arc that includes Actaeon and Narcissus can also describe Augustus. But, especially if we recall that second function of deducere, equally at stake is the issue of reception: how does a mythological epic ‘reach’ a Roman audience?

  • 2 On the falsity of fabulae contrasted with the truth of historical narrative, cf. Quint. Inst. 2.4.2 (...)

2My aim here is to examine how Ovid explores the interpenetration of problems of content with modes of reception in a brief and relatively understudied episode from near the end of the poem whose subject as well as chronology brings it especially near to Ovid’s own time. It tells of a Roman commander, Cipus, who, seeing from his reflection on the surface of a stream that horns have sprouted on his head, secures his own banishment from Rome after this is interpreted to him as a sign that he will become king. I will argue that the poem’s approach to the subject matter of history goes together with an intratextual staging of particular strategies of interpretation. Cipus’ first response to the sight of his horned self begins this pattern by suggesting how a contemporary reader might switch gears between reading history (in which, as Cicero had said, everything is to be referred to truth, Leg. 1.5) and fabulae: specifically, Cipus considers the apparition false (falsamque in imagine credens esse fidem, 15.566–7).2 The discussion to follow falls into two halves. The first concentrates on the ways the apparition of the horns is received within Ovid’s account and how these explicate modes of reception appropriate to myth and history. Here the focus will be on what the episode can tell us about the interpretation of the Metamorphoses itself. The second section uses the resulting perspective to build an Ovidian reading of one of Augustan literature’s most ambitious and exalted attempts to fuse the legends of Greek poetry with Roman history, the sixth book of Vergil’s Aeneid, an intertext that, in hindsight, appears persistently, if never insistently, to shadow Ovid’s tale.

I.

  • 3 For the description and justification of such an approach through ancient literary practice, see Sc (...)
  • 4 Political readings of the episode are conveniently summarized in Hardie 2015, 563–564: Fränkel 1945 (...)
  • 5 Wheeler 2000, 128; Hardie 2015, 564. Heinsius’ omission of 3.200 is accepted by Tarrant precisely b (...)
  • 6 When, in consequence of this recognition, Narcissus wastes away as he gazes on his reflection in th (...)

3The testing against reality Cicero makes central to the reading of history can also be traced in modern scholarly treatments of the episode, which often seek a reference to some historical truth, blurred and allegorized through the lens of myth.3 Thus Cipus story has been plausibly interpreted as referring to Caesar’s rejection of monarchy, or to Augustus’, and as a reminder of the essentially republican nature of Rome and/or as a validation of imperial moderation.4 In tension with this historical approach is a recognition that the episode alludes to a number of the most remote and incredible mythical figures from the poem’s early books: Io, who sees her own bovine visage in the stream (1.640–41), and, if we accept 3.200 as genuine, Actaeon’s watery vision of his own horns are only the most obvious intratextual reflections.5 Narcissus’ fatal recognition of his image in the water also provides an important ‘mirror’ for Cipus’ experience: Cipus first believes the apparition in the stream is false (falsamque in imagine credens/ esse fidem, 15.566–7), but discovers it is true when he ‘touched what he saw’ (quae vidit tetigit, 15.568). Narcissus of course believes in the reality of the image but, after his attempts to touch it are frustrated (cf. posse putes tangi, 3.453), is no longer deceived (nec me mea fallit imago, 3.463).6

  • 7 Valerius has the prodigy occur when Cipus is leaving the city, and only Ovid, who also includes the (...)
  • 8 Wiseman 1995, 109, connects the absence of a fixed chronology with the plebeian status of the prota (...)
  • 9 Admittedly, with its run of three short syllables, this gentilician name Genucius, given only by Va (...)
  • 10 Cf. Granobs 1997, 78–80.
  • 11 For Segal 1969, 274, the absence of an explanation for the metamorphosis links Cipus’ fate to that (...)

4A sense that the episode points forward to the present and backward, ‘inward’ to the poem’s narrative and ‘outward’ to the world, also appears in its own uncanny narrative properties. In many ways besides its Roman, civic setting, Ovid’s tale conforms to the standards of Roman historiographical narrative. A sudden growth of horns certainly beggars belief; but there is no specific representation of divine activity. The uncanny event enters the narrative the way that the miraculous is allowed into Livy’s AUC, for instance: its very unnaturalness makes it a prodigy. On the one hand, Cipus seems to be behaving just like a Livian figure, leading an army back to the city, sacrificing, and addressing the Senate and people. Valerius Maximus, in the only other extant version of the story, calls Cipus a ‘praetor’ (5.6.3), and the context Ovid provides, ‘when he was returning from conquering the enemy’, together with the emphases on soldiery, the laurel crown, and the city gates, suggests a triumph.7 But considering this possibility reveals exactly what excludes Cipus from any history: both magistracies and triumphs were carefully recorded in the fasti. In texts as well as inscriptions, these accomplishments are not just measured by time but actually give structure to Roman time. Cipus, however, remains undatable. If the story is true, why isn’t he in Livy?8 His name too, which, as I will later suggest, can appear Roman or Greek, lacks precisely the gentilician nomen that would make it possible to include in a family’s monumental and ritual preservation of its past.9 But neither is the story fully at home in metamorphic accounts of myth: again, it depicts neither divine action nor strictly speaking, metamorphosis; it is, rather, post-metamorphic.10 It also lacks the kind of narrativizing explanation so often provided for the earlier metamorphoses it recalls.11 Cipus was not desired by a god, like Io, nor did he outrage one, like Actaeon, nor can his transformation be read as a punishment for hubris or for folly (Midas’ ass’ ears, 11.179–81, are another poorly concealed comparand, cf. Porte 1985, 194).

  • 12 On the importance of this difference between Ovid’s version and Valerius’, see also Marks 2004, 114 (...)
  • 13 Hardie 2015, 571 observes, the phrase ad finem lucis ab ortu (15.619) recalls the expression used a (...)

5I begin my interpretation of this in-between generic status of the episode by emphasizing two internal motifs that seem to comment on possible relationships between the poem’s audience and the narrative and in themselves point inward and outward: reflections and boundaries. The narrative opens with a reflection, the sight Cipus catches of himself in the water, yet the face in the mirror motivates the creation of boundaries. Cipus will become king if he enters the city of Rome. However, unlike in Valerius, it is not enough for him simply to exert his will and refuse to pass through the open gates: he demands that he be actively shut out from the city.12 A border must be created, and this emphasis on limits is enshrined in the twofold commemoration of the event. First, Cipus is given as much land as he can encompass with a single day with a plow dragged ‘by subject cattle’ (15.617–19);13 second, an image of horns is sculpted on the posts of one of the gates entering the city (15.620–21).

  • 14 Santini 1987 especially stresses the importance of boundaries in his sociopolitical reading of the (...)
  • 15 E.g. Io (1.641), Jupiter (2.855), Actaeon (3.194), Achelous (8.882), the Cerastae (10.235), Acis (1 (...)

6The relative position of the mirror at the beginning and boundaries at the end of the narrative provides a pretty strong guide to its interpretation. While the mirror creates an uncanny likeness to the strange, foreign, and unbelievable, the gate insists on its exclusion.14 And here Cipus’ actions and strategies acquire a particular metatextual direction. When the audience begins their quest for the horned figure, the cornua they seek are called praedicta (15.608). This description applies not just within the narrative (Cipus has just issued his warning about the dangers of the horned man which itself echoes the soothsayer’s prophecy) but for Ovid’s audience as well, who have read of countless horns earlier in the poem.15 Moreover, the stories referred to in Cipus’ initial vision not only contain reflections but are themselves reflexive; they allow readers to see what the characters see and, in that sense, enable them to imagine the events described as participants without the mediation of the text.

7And this reflexive aspect is precisely the poetic motive for Cipus’ inclusion in the Metamorphoses in the first place. In striking distinction to the subsequent tale of Aesculapius, whose status as a subject in his own right is emphasized by the poet’s invocation of the Muses (15.622–25), Cipus earns his place in Book 15 as a mere likeness. He provides the third simile for describing Virbius’ astonishment at the metamorphosis of Egeria into a fountain (haud aliter stupuit, 15.553~aut, 15.565). Since Virbius was of course the internal audience for the story the poem has just related, the chain of likenesses is easily extended via the mirror of the text to include ‘us’ as readers of that poem. We, like Virbius, like Cipus, respond to the miracle of Egeria’s becoming a spring. This mirror within the text becomes even more apparent if we remember that the unbelievable aspect of Egeria’s story involved the disappearance of a body into water, symmetrically reflected in Cipus’ discovery of a mysterious presence in an image appearing on water.

  • 16 Albeit, as observed by Haupt-Ehwald 1966, 2.368–69, the scene itself is an impossible bricolage of (...)

8If Cipus’ experience brings us into the transformative world of the poem, however, its repetition by the ‘historical audience’ for Cipus’ speech, those who discover the horns in context of an assembly with analogues both in real-life political experience and as a setting for Roman historical narratives, helps keep us out.16 Both Cipus and his audience test the presence of the ‘narrated’ (praedicta) horns, Cipus by touching his forehead (15.567–68), the crowd by their shared act of looking (15.608). But if Cipus’ vision is affirmed, the crowd’s results come back negative; they do not have horns and, therefore, do not resemble what they have heard about. As opposed to the reader looking into the mirror over Cipus’ shoulder, they cannot recognize his image as their own. Indeed, what they are looking at is not themselves but one another.

  • 17 On the function of horned antefixes in Etruscan art, see Jannot 1974, esp. 774.
  • 18 And, as Gildenhard and Zissos 1999, 176–81, have powerfully demonstrated, Virbius himself purges hi (...)
  • 19 See Steinby (ed.) 1993–2000, 1.216 (Rodriguez-Almeida).
  • 20 Lundström 1980, 79–80, and Granobs 1997, 79 n. 145; so also Hardie 2015, 571.
  • 21 Qui [sc. metus deorum] cum descendere ad animos sine aliquo commento miraculi non posset, simulat s (...)

9The reenactment of Cipus’ encounter with his horned image in his speech to the crowd, therefore, becomes part of a process that turns reflections of likeness into affirmations of difference, mirrors into borders, and this continues in the final image of the horns on the gates. The sculpted figure itself is generally interpreted as an apotropaic one, warding off dangers and threats.17 And, in this sense, it functions in a manner analogous to the historicization of the miraculous story of Cipus, as an exemplum: the hero’s reward for refusing to become king encourages others to emulate his behavior. Hardie (2002, 205–206) has pointed out the importance of exemplarity in this book of the poem as a part of Ovid’s generic approximation to historiography as his narrative moves to Rome, but it is still remarkable how precisely Cipus’ story conforms to Roller’s 2009 account of the morphology of exemplum narratives, in which public affirmation of the actions through some lasting mark of distinction forms a crucial stage in their social reproduction. Ovid’s adoption of this particularly Roman mode of historiography goes together with his deployment of an aetiology whose ultimate referent is not some weird Greek myth, but an enduring physical presence in the city (longum mansura per aevum, 15.621). In this sense, Cipus ‘mirrors’ not the translated Greek immigrant Virbius, aka ‘Hippolytus’, in wondering at Egeria, but Egeria herself, who has similarly been made material and permanent through metamorphosis (aeternas … in undas, 15.551).18 In terms of spectatorial roles, Cipus begins by resembling the viewer, but ends up like what he sees. And this othering of the object of vision is perpetuated for Ovid’s contemporary audience as they are invited to see the transformed figure from a temporal distance, indeed as part of the physical landscape that defines the Roman city. For like the bronze head, Egeria would be immortalized at a place of transition. Her fountain was located at another of Rome’s gates, the Porta Capena.19 But, to anticipate a further stage in my argument, neither story quite makes it to the here and now of Rome. The bronze head on the Porta Raudusculana may last a long time, but it seems not to have been extant in Ovid’s day.20 Similarly, while there was a fountain of Egeria in the shrine of the Camenae at the gates of Rome, Ovid places her transformation somewhere else, in Diana’s grove at Nemi. And in his aetiological Fasti, this is where the poet himself tastes her waters (3.274–75). Both characters, therefore, fall short of true presence in Roman reality, Egeria in space and Cipus in time; they remain mere stories who can only be seen through Ovid’s fabulous text. And in the case of Egeria this is particularly apt since already in Livy she becomes synonymous with the good lie of historical fiction, a story made up by Numa so that the real, and lasting, religious practices he institutes will seem to have a divine source.21

  • 22 Contra Hardie 2002, 198–199: ‘One effect [of the pattern of cross-referencing between episodes with (...)
  • 23 In Valerius’ transmitted text, the image is no head and all horns: capitis effigies aerea (5.6.3). (...)

10Such a linear arrangement of the motifs of the mirror and gate/boundary, therefore, provides a model for the Romanization of Ovid’s narrative, one that, importantly, not only describes its subject matter but defines the terms of its reception. As the matter of the poem is transformed from Greek to Roman, and from myth to history, the audience’s relationship to its narrative fictions undergoes a simultaneous change.22 They no longer cross the textual boundary that lets them see themselves in the story but instead exclude its strangeness by emphasizing difference. The Metamorphoses becomes a reminder of what is not Roman, like the apotropaic residue of Cipus. And here it is interesting to note that, as Ovid describes it, the image on the gate has lost its miraculous, hybrid quality; it is a representation of horns, not a man with horns (cornuaque aeratis miram referentia formam, 15.620). Cipus’ transgressive horned image has become merely the referent of the sign, not the image it reproduces.23

11This normalization also reveals the political significance of the category boundary between man and beast, transgression of which practically defines the narrative genre of Metamorphoses. If Cipus crosses the boundary of the city walls, he will treat the Romans as slaves (famularia iura daturum, 15.597). By contrast, the boundaries of the personal property that he will gain in exchange for kingship will be created by ‘subiectis bobus’ (15.618). It is now cattle that are the subjects not men. The Roman audience within the story no longer have to see themselves reduced to the status of beasts, as the horned man is removed from sight, and the animal elements of the hybrid visage, the horns, have been removed from the human ones.

  • 24 Hardie 1993, 6, also describes Cipus as turning himself into a scapegoat by re-deploying the motif (...)
  • 25 The term derives from Meuli 1946 and refers to the various ritual devices believed to diminish the (...)
  • 26 Cf. the crowd’s response to the sight of the horns: demisere oculos omnes, 15.612.

12This is also a restoration of sacrificial roles. Although sacrifice does not provide the context in which Cipus first sees the image that mixes animal and human (he is gazing at a river), the ritual does explicitly play a role in interpreting that image. Sacrifice itself becomes a mirror that confirms the veracity of the account. The prophet ‘reader’ looks from the, presumably horned, victim’s insides to the horned outside of the sacrificant, and the two objects of his gaze could easily appear as part of the same animal (cum vero sustulit acre/ a pecudis fibris ad Cipi cornua lumen, 15.579–80). Yet this recognition of unity is not, as Girard might have it, a source of crisis and confusion, where the victim’s death, because it is recognizable, creates fear and desire for revenge, but the solution of the crisis.24 Cipus’ story is the perfect ‘comedy of innocence’.25 The one man that the society wants to cast out wants to go, and the drama for this Anti-Oedipus comes not from discovering that he is really an ‘other’, but rather in persuading the crowd of what he already knows all along: he is the one who is sought, quem poscitis habetis (15.609). As Hardie points out (2015, 570), we have heard this phrase before, when Procne reveals, by showing him the faces of her victims, that Tereus has consumed his son as if he were an animal (intus habes quem poscis, 6.655). The summoning up of this tyrant, alongside the intimations of Oedipus Tyrannus, now becomes a truly closural gesture; it reveals consensus26 and unity, the end of an investigation rather than the beginning of revenge. If Tereus had realized the ultimate Pythagorean horror by taking into his stomach what was already too like him, Cipus prevents the guilty party from ever being ‘within’. People ingest their relatives, according to Pythagoras, because they are misled by external forms, as Tereus’ meal has been boiled and spitted like animal flesh. Cipus reveals his hybrid form on the outside, and his horned caput (15.614) thus offers a legible and timely counterpoint to the head of Itys (praesignia tempora, 15.611), which reveals the victim’s human aspect too late. To evoke another tragic parallel equally at home in Metamorphoses, Cipus is Pentheus and Bacchus rolled into one; at once the fantastical figure trying to enter the city and the native hero struggling to exclude him. But this time there will be no need for chains (15.601), since the horned stranger volunteers to leave rather than return in victory.

  • 27 Granobs 1997, 136. Though he does not develop the connection to drama as a genre, the same author a (...)
  • 28 For the place of flattery in the theatricalized world of Roman tyranny, see Bartsch 1994, esp. 23–2 (...)
  • 29 On the ‘Ich-Spaltung’ by which Cipus creates this Alter Ego, see Granobs 1997, 138.

13Cipus, then, has not just written himself as the perfect Roman, he has written drama and tyranny out of Rome, together with metamorphosis, in the sense that he has rationalized and Romanized a foreign image and insured that the paradox of the horned man is not remembered. Instead, after a glimpse of Cipus’ monstrous self, the man is returned to the ‘outside’ and the horns are left at the gates. Speaking of Cipus as the author here is, I believe, justified by his role within the episode, especially by his relationship with the voice of the haruspex. Although this prophet is never called a ‘vates’, he emerges dramatically as its first speaking presence, and his utterance in its repetition and re-vision exists not just within the story but gives it shape. Indeed, he is himself a spectator made spectacle, an actor in the audience, in looking from the inner victim to the horns, previously described on their bearer’s frons, he turns the narrative into a drama by beginning its first speech, which opens tragically ('rex’, ait ‘o salve’, 15.581).27 The Bartschian overtones of that phrase ‘actor in the audience’ may also be in play; one wonders whether his ‘keen gaze’ (acre lumen, 15.580) has seen an opportunity for flattery in making the prophecy that a would-be tyrant, the kind you meet in plays, would want to hear.28 Whether the prophecy is itself true or false, whether it is a legitimate product of his art, or made to order, it will not be fulfilled in reality, and this is in part because Cipus himself revises his words in re-producing them for the crowd, changing the person from the second, rex eris (15.585), to the third, rex erit (15.595).29 Yet, once again, by apparently making himself someone else, Cipus paves the way for his recognition as ‘one’.

  • 30 For different interpretations of the simile, see Granobs’ fine account of how Ovid varies the Homer (...)

14A similar reduction can be traced in the unity achieved by the audience. The simile comparing their roar to the wind raging in the trees or the sea’s waves suggests the kind of opening confusion that sets epic plots in motion (15.603–606), specifically the simile at the beginning of Iliad 2 in which that poem is almost derailed when the assembly breaks apart and the men rush to their ships (Β 144–150).30 And yet the simile strikingly sputters out. The confused words of the ‘roaring’ crowd become a single recognizable human utterance (vox una, 15.607): quis est ille? Their question recalls Aristotle’s account of the inquiry whose solution makes mimesis itself pleasurable, when spectators recognize that ‘this one is that one’ (Poet. 4=1448b). Cipus thus superimposes the problem of understanding that underlies the process of imitation on the prophetic interpretation of the oracle: Where before he had consulted the haruspex about ‘what the organs of the victims sacrificial organs signified’ (quid sibi significent, 15.574), now he makes the identity of the one that prophecy singled out a semiotic challenge for his audience by indicating him not by a name but by a sign (is qui sit signo, non nomine, dicam, 15.595). If, as I have suggested, the initial prodigy of the horns confuses men and beasts, this act of recognition, according to Aristotle, itself provides correction; for him, a natural propensity for mimesis and its role in the earliest stages of learning distinguish humanity from other living creatures. And this difference receives further demonstration when humans can take pleasure in looking upon the forms of even ‘the most dishonorable beasts’. In this sense too, the sacrificial impact of the spectacle is reinforced. The ‘signified’ Cipus is recognized as uniquely alien, and the spectators are simultaneously defined as human, not the inarticulate winds, woods, or waves of the simile, by the very experience of recognizing him. As a result of this mimetic manipulation on the part of Cipus, the prodigy really has changed its meaning. His imitation of the vatic original ends both with the solution of the riddle through the revelation of the thing itself and simultaneously with an evacuation of the prodigy’s prophetic value: the kingship originally predicted has been averted, and the sign seems in retrospect to anticipate only the horned head on the gate.

  • 31 So also Néraudau 1989, 115.
  • 32 So too Marks 2004, 127 n. 53. For the graphic similarity of the serpent to the coronis, and for the (...)

15Yet this linear process of excluding likeness—and Hardie (2015, 569) interestingly observes that the simile describing the confused voice of the crowd is the last in the poem—offers another face in the mirror at the instant Ovid himself resumes the vatic role. When, in line 15.616, the poet uncannily addresses Cipus as ‘you’, this could be seen as a final reunification achieved by the signifying process we have observed. Not only has Cipus become real, but we have taken him at his word that he really is someone else. On the other hand, readers hearing Cipus addressed as ‘you’ are themselves put in the position of Cipus, seeing the image of another yet made to recognize it as their own. The final image of the horn, therefore, not only appears circular, as real horns are, instead of linear by gesturing back to the mirroring at episode’s beginning, but, as Marks 2004, 126–27, well observes, it sparks a profusion of puns: it recalls the cornel wood staff of Romulus (cornus), which would seem to suggest that Cipus really was meant to be king after all;31 it also looks back to the crown (corona, 15.610) Cipus uses to conceal his horns but which, thanks to the verbal similarity to cornu, appearing in the same position in the next line, reveals them. Horns visually summon up the next curvaceous presence in the poem as well, the serpent son of Coronis.32 And for a brief instant those distinguished Roman senators whose authority ends the crisis end up wearing Greek horns when proceres (15.616) echoes kerata.

16At this stage let me summarize the argument so far and suggest some ways in which the issues of interpretation and reception raised by the Cipus episode bear on a reading of the Metamorphoses as whole. Cipus’ story highlights a central aspect of Ovid’s poem as narrative, the issue of its veracity. It does so not only by placing a metamorphic story into a context which is itself more veristic, the Roman civic world as opposed to the quintessentially Greek wildernesses where a Daphne or Actaeon experience transformation, but also by its concomitant approximation to the genre of history, which prompts its readers to ask the fundamental question ‘is this true?’. The issue of the truth of the narrative, therefore, becomes increasingly bound up with the terms of its reception, figured by these conflicting generic allegiances, and the problem of how responses to metamorphosis are controlled and in turn control an understanding of the historical world. Cipus sees himself specifically in river water (15.565), and this helps highlight how the content of his vision recalls the Pythagorean instabilities that the philosopher’s speech had projected onto the poem. Because everything flows (cuncta fluunt, 15.185), species, social, and civic boundaries are all under threat: a man can be an animal, a citizen a slave, and Rome foreign.

17The poetics of Metamorphoses themselves mimic and perpetuate this instability through an almost ungovernable play of likenesses—Cipus is explicitly like Virbius and Tages and implicitly comes to resemble Io, Egeria, Narcissus, Actaeon, etc. By contrast, Cipus enters history (or rather, by a typically Ovidian paradox, leaves it) by re-writing himself historically: his story aims at demonstrating his exceptionalism, that he is one, not many (cf. the Aristotelian dictum that poetry tells of the universal, but history the specific, Poet. 5=1451b), and of precipitating out his hybrid nature by separating the man himself from the horns that signify him. Thus, by proving that his horns are real, Cipus simultaneously returns us to the historical world where we do not have horns. The strongly diachronic direction of the story from myth to history, presided over by a historical figure, a triumphator, who is also a historian, contrasts a linear approach to time with the much more layered one enabled by a Pythagorean view of metamorphosis where, again, because everything flows, past existences and forms are always present and everyone is always a hybrid. The semiotic consequences of this exchange leave a residue of real signs—springs, sculpted horns, whose very facticity makes them, from this perspective, borders against the strange or miraculous becoming real. The striking resemblance of these horns as ‘narrating a wondrous form’ cornua miram referentia formam, to Ovid’s own poem, carmina mutatas hominum dicentia formas, as he will call it in the Tristia (1.7.13), equates an approach that reads the poem from the vantage of history, with reference to its truth, to reading it in history, that is as a material text produced at a certain time.

  • 33 Hardie 2015, 571 and 603, relates Cipus’ imperfectly enduring horns to both Horace’s monumentum and (...)

18However, this perspective on the poem does not tell the whole story. As Cipus is a false ending, not quite bringing us to Ovid’s own time (ad mea tempora), so Ovid’s poem will not just last for a long age, like the bronze monuments of Cipus, but through all ages. And Ovid’s temporal trajectory also bears comparison to Cipus’: Where the praetor stops at the gates, Horace whose rejection of bronze as a measure of eternity is evoked by elision in Ovid’s envoi (opus exegi, 15.871~exegi monumentum perennius aere, C. 3.30.1), will live as long as the pontifex mounts the Capitol (C. 3.30.8–9).33 The earlier poet too, having led his song to Rome, using deducere in precisely the sense I emphasize in Ovid’s proem (C. 3.30.14), presents himself as having completed the triumph Cipus rejects, and wears the laurel crown that for Cipus has become a fiction, a mask for the reality of his horns. This triple comparison further stresses that Ovid is left outside, like Cipus, but unlike Horace. Yet where Cipus’ exile is in a limited space reminiscent of old Roman agrarian contentment, Ovid’s immortality extends throughout the unbounded world that Rome has conquered, ‘as long as the words of the vates have any vestige of truth’ (si quid habent veri vatum praesagia, 15.879). While making truth, as this last line of the poem reminds us, is crucial to Ovid’s survival, it is of course not sufficient. Carmina are different from cornua, and from corpora, precisely because of such semiotic slippage, because they can evoke what is not there not only through the real presence of their letters but through devices like the apostrophe by which Ovid re-animates Cipus and puts him in the place of ‘you’ the present audience for the poem. Finally, this awareness of how Ovid’s song is more than history exerts its own transforming power over history’s monuments. While Cipus puts himself into history only as a warning, an exemplum, its representation in the context of Ovid’s poem both summons up all those foreign tyrants at the moment of their exclusion and questions the very reality on which history’s authority depends by grounding such real signs in unbelievable stories.

II.

19If the intertextual triangulation between Cipus’ horns, Horace’s bronze monument, and the epic’s sphragis has stressed Ovid’s poetic transcendence of history, but also his exclusion from the Roman spaces of history, in this section I turn to another Augustan intertext to reflect on the more general cultural and political issues raised by the exemplum of Cipus. Book 6 of the Aeneid ends by articulating an opposition between the true and the false through the image of the twin gates of sleep. The one which gives exit to true shadows (veris umbris, 6.894) is of course made of the material represented in the commemoration of Cipus’ renunciation, horn. Read back through the Ovidian gate, as it were, this Vergilian image undergoes metamorphosis to a new level of material veracity: in Ovid’s narrative, a fantastical story becomes a real sign; now that sign in turn becomes more real still since what is merely depicted on that gate, horn, has become its substance. And where even Vergil’s horn gate of true dreams only reaches us by a potentially false report (fertur, 6.893), Ovid’s gate of horns is, or was, part of the fabric of the Roman city and its history. The treatment of this Vergilian parallel therefore can bear a poetological message like the one that arises from the comparison to the Horatian monument through the bronze substance of Cipus’ sign: by pushing these poets’ works toward historical reality, Ovid signals how, for better or worse, he has moved beyond it.

  • 34 For a recent taxonomy of scholarly interpretations of Aeneas’ path through the ivory gate, with a f (...)
  • 35 This is not a context for mapping the vast scholarly discussion of these issues, especially given t (...)

20Yet to the endless fascination of all readers, truth is the road not taken by Vergil’s hero. His father ushers him back into the world through the ivory gate, ‘by which the shades send false dreams to the sky’ (6.896). However one understands the significance of Aeneas’ route, the tension between truth and falsehood thus expressed at its conclusion lays bare the dualities and contradictions of this, in every way, central book of Vergil’s epic.34 As different readings have variously explored, Vergil’s underworld itself invites readers to reconcile its explicitly mythical beginning, where the clustering of false images and hybrid monsters heralds the appearance of figures of poetic legend, with its historical conclusion. This distinction in turn relates to how what at first seems an act of commemoration becomes protreptic. The inhabitants of the mythical section of the underworld remain but the shadows of who they were, judged and sorted according to their actions and even retaining the physical scars inflicted on their bodies. Paradoxically, the historical section of the poem shows us the shadows of those who, from the perspective of the narrative, are yet to be born. And as Anchises uses their qualities to prescribe ideal codes of conduct for the Rome to come, his voice can be reconciled with that of the poet addressing contemporaries, again turning the represented past into the historical future. Subtending these transitions between representing what happened and shaping what will happen, and between the book’s not-to-be-believed beginnings and its all-too-true conclusion, is a further inconcinnity between a worldview based on Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy that suggests not only the immortality of the soul but its transcendence of the worldly and a distinctly Roman instructional practice grounded in exemplarity, in which what has happened is the best guide for how to act in here and now.35

21Hardie (2002, 194) has already charted how a number of these oppositions from Aeneid 6 also structure the concluding book of Ovid’s epic, which itself moves from Pythagoras’ exposition of metempsychosis to a succession of Roman heroes, including crucial figures from the Vergilian parade such as Numa and Caesar. This structural similarity also points to a plot that can give unity to this most disparate of Ovid’s books, allowing it to being read as the fulfilment of the protreptic of the Vergilian underworld: Aeneas’ descendant Augustus, shadowed by the poet himself, retraces Aeneas’ miraculous ascent from the world of the dead by defining terms in which he can claim to live forever.

22The Cipus story forms a significant hinge within this structure as Ovid moves from myth and philosophy toward history’s temporal end in the now. And, even beyond the detail of the ‘gate of horns’, it provides a distinctive vantage point on the challenges of reading Vergil’s poem in the Ovidian present. So, for instance, the cry of ‘procul, a procul,’ with which Cipus wards off the haruspex’ predictions at the end of the sacrifice (15.587) recalls the ritual banishment of the profani with which the Sybil starts Aeneas on his journey (6.258). Ovid’s account of Cipus’ address to the people includes the detail that he had first had a mound created by the soldiers from which to reveal the sign of his horned temples (15.592). Anchises, too, before he delivers his second speech cataloguing Rome’s future heroes, places his son on a raised mound, tumulus, ‘where he can read and learn the countenances of those to come’ (6.744–45). As Horsfall observes (2013, 518), this tumulus ‘corresponds to what in the Augustan world was called a suggestus’, a feature of a military camp, which again would bring the image closer to Cipus’ reality.

  • 36 Cf. Hardie 2002, 194–195, on this ‘hourglass’ effect.
  • 37 Cf., Feeney 1986, 5, on the display of heroes in Aeneid 6: ‘The emphasis on the gens and the contin (...)
  • 38 Postquam omnia secundo navium cursu in Italiam pervenerunt neque erat quod ultra precarer, illud op (...)

23If Ovid has set the stage for a parade, however, these expectations will be disappointed; within the narrative there will be no triumph, and all that Cipus has to show his readers is himself. In place of the pregnant sequence of future times, he has only his own praesignia tempora to offer as spectacle. Making this comparison, however tenuously motivated, lends an important perspective on the position Cipus occupies in Ovid’s poem, for he has literally taken the place of the entire series of Republican heroes and ancestors that Anchises uses to construct the Roman future. To qualify Hardie’s point about the similarities between the historic portions of the two books, Ovid has included the kings, Romulus and Numa, who also appear in Vergil’s parade, and will feature the dynastic descendants of Aeneas, but the entire Republican period has been restricted to this single episode and the arrival of Aesculapius.36 For Livy, Roman history only really began with the coming of libertas after the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus (2.1); in Ovid, Cipus alone stands in for all these ‘not kings’. This exclusion complements another way in which Ovid’s depiction of Cipus eliminates a crucial emphasis of the Vergilian scene: the entire gentilician tradition by which exemplarity ought to be perpetuated.37 Not only, as we have seen, does Ovid omit Cipus’ nomen, Genucius, but unlike other famous renouncers within Republican history, Cipus seems to have no family at all. Cincinnatus in exile had a wife to pass him a toga when he returned to Rome from his farm and sons to greet him when he enters the city (Liv. 3.26), and Aemilius Paullus possessed a domus on which to avert the calamities his successes might bring to the state.38 Later I will have more to say about this aspect of Cipus’ aloneness, but as a point of contrast with Aeneid 6, it complements the exclusion of the Republic and helps to characterize Ovid’s more imperial perspective on its institutions. Of course, competition between rival gentes was the fuel of Republican political life, yet the absence of any gentilician tradition motivating or preserving Cipus’ exemplary self-sacrifice makes Vergil’s emphasis on the family look less like a preservation of Republican ways than an intimation of the coming dynasty. By comparison to the definitive anti-regal figure, Cipus, ancestry in Vergil looks very much like an instrument of monarchy.

  • 39 Horsfall 2013, 518.
  • 40 For the ambiguities of word placement that make it hard to tell whether this proud mind belongs to (...)

24Beyond his value as an index of what Ovid excludes from Vergil’s depiction of the Republican past, Cipus also highlights tensions in how that past is articulated by the figure of Anchises. Again, in the Ovidian decoction of the scene, Cipus takes on the role of the one who shows, unmasking the triumphal pretense to expose the foreign, regal horns beneath, as well as being the spectacle himself. And his own simple prescription for the Roman future, ‘no kings’, in addition to setting up a Republican response to the entire Vergilian spectacle, suggests how the contradictions within the episode as a whole also emerge from the normative conclusions Anchises draws from it. As Freudenburg 2017 stresses, Anchises’ famous injunction to the future ‘Roman’ pointedly excludes as much as it recommends. His relegation of the arts of sculpture, rhetoric, and astronomy to others in favor of the military arts becomes especially visible because it is introduced at a point in the narrative when the crowd of ancestors he describes to Aeneas has taken on the ordered structure of a triumph, or, more particularly, of a sequence of Republican triumphators from the middle Republic.39 Even this military core, however, exposes a number of potentially contradictory themes: war and peace, slaying and sparing. These uncertainties about how the mindful Roman is actually meant to balance attack and retreat, staying and advancing, ripple outward to suggest contradictory patterns within the exemplary spectacle it interprets. The first of the triumphators, Mummius, drives his chariot as victor (victor aget currus 6.837). Marcellus, another victor, follows up Anchises words similarly by ‘pressing on’ (ingreditur, 6.856). Yet in this advancing crowd, Fabius stands out as greatest by alone delaying (6.846). And just before this Republican triumphal core, the unnamed Caesar and his famous gener, are urged not to become accustomed to war (6.832) but to be sparing (parce, 6.836), presumably before Pompey has been beaten down. The earlier sequence of kings tracks progressively from the peaceful stasis of Numa, who founds the city with laws (6.810–11), to Tullus who breaks apart otia and, contrasting with Anchises’ advice to Caesar, will lead armies ‘grown unaccustomed to triumphs’ (6.814) to iactantior Ancus (6.815) and the proud mind, presumably, of Tarquin (6.817).40

  • 41 Such a reading aligns itself closely with Fabre-Serris’ interpretation of the Tages-Romulus-Cipus s (...)

25Thus, the two forms of motion, advance and withdrawal, displayed and exhorted throughout the sequence illustrate the challenge of reconciling Anchises’ distinctively Roman accomplishments with one another. And, within this structure, the chain reaction that comes from excessive aggression belongs to the sequence of kings. This association raises an essential question about Anchises opening precept, tu regere imperio … memento (6.851): how do you rule without becoming a rex? Ovid’s Cipus hears his own version of Anchises’ command. The haruspex had promised him that he would be king, in the indicative, but had exhorted him to break precisely the delays for which Anchises praised Fabius as the ‘single’ restorer of the state. This comparison, therefore, both reveals the tension between approaching and avoiding action intertwined in Anchises’ words and the parade as a whole and exposes how the historical momentum towards kingship is masked by the Republican spectacle of the triumph, as Cipus has concealed his horned tempora beneath a triumphator’s laurel crown.41

  • 42 Flower 2020, 9: ‘After Actium and his [sc. Augustus’] own triple triumph in 29 BC, triumphs cluster (...)

26If family is a significant suppression in Ovid’s version of the Cipus legend, his emphasis on its triumphal context stands out by comparison with Valerius’ version, in which Cipus receives the prodigy when leaving the city. Previously, I suggested that Cipus’ fictionality was in part revealed by his absence from the triumphal fasti, which ought to have inscribed his presence in history if he really had returned to Roman victorious. But in retrospect that absence is now given its own explanation. Cipus was content to write himself out of history by giving up the triumph which would have secured his commemoration. And just this sacrifice was now demanded of other such victors. Not only did Augustus himself refuse any triumphs after the event commemorated in the center of Aeneas’ shield, the triple triumph of 29 BCE, but at some point between then and when Metamorphoses appeared it must have become clear that no one other than potential emperors would triumph either. Indeed, Flower (2020) has argued that this reflected a desire less to refashion the triumph as an exclusively imperial dignity than to eliminate it entirely as an unwelcome vestige of Republican competition. The crowd of triumphs that Vergil depicts at the climax of his parade mirrored their contemporary frequency if we imagine the book was first composed shortly after the younger Marcellus’ death in 23 BCE.42 But things would look very different to Ovid re-reading the passage. Since the death of the older poet in 19 BCE, there had been exactly one triumph, that of Tiberius in 7 BCE, which, Flower suggests (2020, 18–21), resulted from the future emperor’s unwillingness to emulate Augustus’ own refusal of this honor. The decision to locate Cipus’ rejection of the crown in a triumphal context, therefore, at once maps the changing demands of exemplarity as the Augustan age progressed and adds a new note of ambiguity. While renouncing kingship was a defining tradition of the Republic, renouncing triumphs was something new and could indeed be felt as a distinguishing feature of the new monarchy. The Vergilian intertext heightens the paradox; what Anchises presents as the highest Roman achievement, the pater patriae now expects to be rejected.

27In narrowly political terms, I have argued that the disambiguation of Anchises’ message is of a piece with the radical reduction of its accompanying spectacle. If the staged exclusion of the triumph and the implicit erasure of the gens Genucia unmasks Anchises’ use of Republican traditions in the service of dynasty, his reduction of Anchises’ equivocal depiction of the Roman ideal to a truly Republican warning against kingship clarifies that strategy. Conversely, adding in the historical context, in which Vergil’s quintessential demonstration of Republican vitality had lost its value, may in turn raise the suspicion that it is now Cipus who wears the mask: what he presents as Republican rejection of individual authority turns out to be a very politic restraint of elite ambition to suit the exigencies of the imperial regime. Cipus is perhaps on his way to the domestication he would achieve as an example of pietas in Valerius Maximus. This problem of sorting textual representation and historical context points the way to integrating Cipus’ political message with the poetological problems of truth and falsehood that, I suggested in the previous section, provide the ultimate referent for Cipus’ ‘Gate of Horns’.

28Vergil himself was also a master of the significant elision, and one of the most powerful recent demonstrations of the significance of what the poet leaves out of his account of the underworld also focuses on the image of the triumph. Freudenburg (2017) zeroes in on the figure of Marcellus the triumphator to emphasize how much Vergil’s parade constructs rather than reflects an idea of Romanness. The controversial career of this Marcellus shows him to have been in fact quite interested in just the arts and sciences that Anchises subordinates to conquest, an interest that on the one hand introduced the fascination with Greek art to Rome but also led to his ruthless plundering of Syracuse. Yet Anchises’ perspective correspondingly refashions this complex figure as a mere warrior. The gulf that opens here between the exemplary representation constructed by Anchises and the extratextual knowledge a reader might bring to the text raises a question that will be sharpened at once by the oxymoronic description of the traffic passing through the gate of horn, ‘verae umbrae’, and by Anchises’ choosing the ivory gate for his son. For the glimpse of Marcellus’ triumph that follows makes him among the ‘truest’ of the shades: aspice ut insignis spoliis Marcellus opimis/ ingreditur victorque viros supereminet omnis (6.855­–56). Thanks to his gait and the spolia he bears, Marcellus as seen by Aeneas and Anchises is visually indistinguishable from how he would have appeared in a triumph.

  • 43 Cic. Rep. 1.21–22. See above all the discussion by Jaeger 2008, 49–57.
  • 44 Iam nimis multos audio Corinthi et Athenarum ornamenta laudantes mirantesque et antefixa fictilia d (...)

29Vergil’s reader, who is aware of the ritual in a way that Aeneas of course is not, can see the likeness and connect the imaginary scene in the underworld to historical experience in his mind’s eye. And this moment of unity between the poem’s construction of the future and the reader’s vision of historical reality keeps the gaze fixed on the stuff of Roman history, specifically on the display of military virtue that exalts Marcellus above other viri. As Freudenburg points out (2017, 13), Vergil allows the victory at Clastidium in 222 BCE, when Marcellus won the spolia opima, to occlude the even better-known conquest of Syracuse. At that triumph, the spolia were of a very different character. Prominent among them were masterpieces of the arts that Anchises concedes to others: astonishing pieces of Greek sculpture and the astronomical equipment of Archimedes, which Marcellus put on display at the temple of Virtue.43 These images stand out not only as alternative objects of attention, rivals to the military magnificence which should dominate the display. Both statues and Archimedes’ astronomical globes offer alternative representations of reality, mimetic objects that can entrance with their artistic excellence and offer their own depictions of the world. The wonders of Greek art not only stimulate Roman avarice, but, in the words Livy puts in the mouth of the Elder Cato, they distract attention from more primitive native sculptures whose aesthetic function ought in any case to be subordinated to their purpose of honoring the gods.44 When these hidden spolia, then, come into view they distract us from the virtus Anchises wants to display; they also offer a glimpse of historical reality, an alternative triumph that lingered in the Romans’ visual and rhetorical memory to compete with the seamless joining of the triumph itself with the exemplary procession he constructs. Finally, and most importantly, they remind us of other systems of conceptualizing the world in a manner that recalls the dualities of the book as a whole, the umbrae of the mythical past, but also the Greek philosophical explanations that give way to history. When Anchises choreographs the end, or the beginning, of that history so that its avatar, Aeneas, travels the path of false dreams, the effect is to balance these conflicting truths against one another: the truth of images against the historical actuality they claim to represent, and, as Tarrant (1982) particularly stresses, the philosophical claims to discover a truth beyond corporeal reality that dominate Anchises’ first speech and the ‘real’ reality of history.

30Ovid’s engagement with that concluding image of duality through Cipus’ historical ‘Gate of Horns’, adds a new twist to the Vergilian challenge of deciding on which side of which gate what truth lies. If Vergil gestures towards the fictionality of the images in his underworld by having the figure who kick starts their realization in history come out of the ivory gate, Ovid does the opposite, keeping Cipus out of the Roman space of history and the Roman historical record by way of the gate of horns. Does his ultimate exclusion from a record where he never appears make him ‘true’? Does it signify the segregation of the unbelievable and the credible? Or has Cipus left an arena of competition and praise that so many contemporaries would consider false goods for the true life of obscurity? Has he become a mere sign, perhaps not unlike the native antefixes Cato opposes to foreign statues or the crude portraits Freudenburg evokes for Anchises’ oversimplification of Marcellus? Or would that sign itself suffice to bring back (referentia, 15.620) the ultimately foreign, hybrid forms it seeks to exclude? These are all possibilities we have discussed for Ovid’s Cipus, but an intertextual connection to the Aeneid adds a rider to each: And in this is he like or different from Aeneas? In the most general terms, if the accomplishment of the Aeneid, nowhere more evident than in Book 6, is to synthesize the discourses of myth, history, and philosophy, Ovid’s Cipus’ narrative closes that gate by sharply distinguishing these elements and the different modes of reception they require and by drawing out the political implications of each.

********

  • 45 Hardie 2015, 567.

31Just in between the appearance of Marcellus the triumphator and the gate of ivory in Vergil’s poem, another unwanted likeness pops into view, the younger Marcellus whom Anchises would just as soon have left in the shadows. Freudenburg (2017, 21) demonstrates how this revelation of the more tragic aspects of the history that awaits Aeneas and the Romans calls into question the poetic construct that Vergil has placed in the mouth of Anchises. In a similar way, I want to suggest, the younger Marcellus’ shadow helps to point out the unbelievable singularity of Ovid’s Cipus. While Marcellus may not have the horns to prove it, his destiny is rather like that of Cipus. In historical terms, he would have been Augustus’ heir and the culmination of Roman hopes, had he not died. And the likeness is reinforced by similarities of narrative situation and even verbal echoes. For Marcellus too is exhorted within the poem to realize a destiny which the reader knows will never come true: rex eris (15.585)~tu Marcellus eris (6.883). Rumpe moras, as the suddenly Vergilian voice of the haruspex urged Cipus, may specifically recall Mercury chasing Aeneas out of Carthage (4.569),45 but Anchises too laments that the young hero will not be able to ‘shatter the bitter fates’ (fata aspera rumpas, 6.882). And, finally, Anchises compensates Marcellus for his absence from history by heaping him with gifts (his saltem accumulem donis, 6.885), as Cipus’ renunciation of regnum is rewarded by the Senate and people, again in an unexpected second person address that may resemble Anchises’ apostrophe to Marcellus (tantum tibi, Cipe, dedere, 15.617). But as that last point reminds us, the inversions of perspective that separate Republic and Empire are also emphasized by the comparison. The destiny Marcellus is mourned for not achieving is precisely the one Cipus rejects. The exile chosen by Cipus itself resembles the place where we actually see Marcellus, and where he will return all too soon, the paradise of Elysium whose boundaries separate it from historical realization.

32Even in terms of physical appearance, although Marcellus lacks horns, he does bear an ill-omened forehead (frons laeta parum, 6.862) and ‘night flits about his head with a gloomy shade’ (tristi …umbra, 6.866). Similarly, Cipus’ horns, before their reality is proven, seem to him a false image. But if we allow this unsettling likeness to link Augustus’ heir trapped on his side of the gates of horn and ivory with the Republican general who willingly puts a wall between himself and kingship, that opens the door to further complicating visions. For the Ovidian image of Narcissus which emerges when Cipus sees his own reflection would now seem intertextually redoubled by the umbra of a beautiful youth, whose own bier will be adorned with lilies that recall not just the ultimate form of Narcissus himself but the name of his mother, Liriope. The pair of foredoomed youths flanking Cipus’ image points out a final dimension to his characterization in Ovid. One of the ways in which Cipus can seem as idealized a figure as Anchises’ Marcellus lies in the apparent ease with which he surrenders what so many desire. Ambitio was of course the besetting sin of the late Republic, and Anchises gives it due attention in his warning to Caesar and Pompey. If rule without regnum was the impossible aim of Anchises’ advice, the absence of such desire reveals Cipus to be suspiciously unrepresentative of the real political priorities of Republican heroes. For Narcissus, the sight of his own likeness enflamed desire, and the images of painting and statuary to which that likeness is compared, can, from the vantage of the Aeneid, recall those foreign arts against which the Romans are warned, as well as the actual objects that fueled their uncivil avarice. Seeing Narcissus and Marcellus together, therefore, both reveals the desire that Cipus lacks and gives it a place in Roman history, or rather outside of history since his lack of susceptibility to it so runs against the grain of contemporary reality.

  • 46 For other suggestions about the significance of the name, see Santini 1987, 297–98, who detects an (...)

33The early death that further links Cipus’ two shadows activates another dimension of his choice. The kingship offered him was perennis (15.585), like Ovid’s soul (15.875) or Horace’s monumentum, but he seems content to trade this immortal future for an aevum (15.588). The gifts he received in compensation themselves echo this acceptance of ephemerality; the sculpted horns will also endure for an aevum—a long aevum, but one that, as the comparison to the poem’s conclusion suggests, falls short of eternity. And the land that Cipus receives is bounded by time as well as by space; his possessions encompass as much as can be plowed from the sun’s rising until its setting (15.619). Ovid’s poem ends with an obsessive concern about escaping death, from importing the healing god Aesculapius, who has been reborn himself and allowed Hippolytus an encore as Virbius, to Venus’ anxiety for Caesar, to the poet’s prediction of his own survival. In this context, Cipus’ willingness to remember he is mortal, as all triumphatores were cautioned to do, stands out especially. Perhaps his name echoes not only the cippus that limits space but the Epicurean kēpos that taught such restrictions for human aspirations.46 Is the Cipus who embraces these limits of space and time any more credible than the horned image he is meant to banish? Who would not prefer the limitless imperium of Augustus—or Ovid?

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Notes

* It is a pleasure to thank the audience, live and virtual, at the Second European Conference of the International Ovidian Society for questions and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. Dunstan Lowe generously read that version and shared his own forthcoming work on Cipus. I am especially grateful to Dictynna’s two anonymous referees for the care and attention with which they read my submission. The mistakes and infelicities that remain are emphatically my own responsibility.

1 TLL s.v. I. A. 2. f; OLD s.v. § 10a. For an overview of the possible connotations of deducere in the passage, see Barchiesi 2005, 143–45, with further bibliography. Philip Hardie highlighted the possibility for interpreting deducere in this triumphal sense in a comment on a different paper presented at the conference mentioned above.

2 On the falsity of fabulae contrasted with the truth of historical narrative, cf. Quint. Inst. 2.4.2, Rhet. ad Her. 1.12–13, Cic. Inv. 1.27, and Sext. Emp. Adv. gramm. 1.263–4. Notice that Pliny HN 11.123 pairs Cipus with Actaeon as fabulosus—and therefore not refuting the rule that only quadrupeds have horns!

3 For the description and justification of such an approach through ancient literary practice, see Schmitzer 1990, 19–32.

4 Political readings of the episode are conveniently summarized in Hardie 2015, 563–564: Fränkel 1945, 226 n. 104, proposes a positive reference to Caesar’s rejection of monarchy at the Lupercalia. Marg 1949, 56, suggests by contrast that the scene offers ‘eine scharfe Kritik am Prinzipat’. This anti-imperial interpretation has generally prevailed since: Galinsky 1967 sees an ‘irreverent’ (191) treatment of Cipus as a prototype for Augustan iconography. A much stronger assertion of Rome’s traditional rejection of monarchy is identified by Lundström 1980, 67–79; Porte 1985, 193–195, with important observations on intratextual connections to Caesar’s apotheosis, and Martin 2009. Schmitzer 1990, 260–272, traces references to crucial moments in Augustus’ definition of his power, especially his return from Spain in 23 BCE, but also stresses the intratextual comparison to Numa, who does become king after receiving the lessons of Pythagoras. The result is a complex perspective on the principate grounded more in political philosophy than politics. Marks 2004, esp. 113–120, highlights precisely the ambiguity of the story, which reflects the paradox that the rejection of monarchy could itself bring monarchical authority and prestige: ‘If his story teaches us anything, it is not that kingship should or should not be avoided, but that kingship is difficult to avoid’ (120). Barchiesi 1997, 185 n. 12, moves the discussion from political power as a historical phenomenon to the problems of its description and manifestation: ‘I think we do not need to look for allegories to a particular event in Roman history, …. The political reference is effective precisely because it implies a concentrated political discourse; Ovid explores a way of representing power, not a specific situation’.

5 Wheeler 2000, 128; Hardie 2015, 564. Heinsius’ omission of 3.200 is accepted by Tarrant precisely because it is a doublet of 1.640–41. At the risk of circularity, the metapoetic potential of such repeated mirrorings might itself provide an argument for its retention, as suggested at Barchiesi and Rosati 2007, 157–158.

6 When, in consequence of this recognition, Narcissus wastes away as he gazes on his reflection in the water, the wax (cerae, 3.488) to which he is compared may provide a soft option for the real horns Cipus discovers. For puns between the Greek kera (horn) and Latin cornu, see Ahl 1985, 250–54. Barchiesi and Rosati 2007, 158, observe that Actaeon points forward to both Narcissus and Cipus.

7 Valerius has the prodigy occur when Cipus is leaving the city, and only Ovid, who also includes the detail that Cipus was victorious (15.569), mentions the laurel crowns. Both these differences make the triumphal emphases of the episode distinctively Ovidian (Versnel 1970, 395–96). For more on the differences between the two accounts, see especially Granobs 1997, 131–33, and Martin 2009, 270–73. On the particularly Augustan significance of the laurel, see Galinsky 1967, 185–86.

8 Wiseman 1995, 109, connects the absence of a fixed chronology with the plebeian status of the protagonists. The newly prominent plebeian gentes would locate such stories about their ancestors, who could not feature in the established fasti, in ‘an undefined “olden time”’.

9 Admittedly, with its run of three short syllables, this gentilician name Genucius, given only by Valerius Maximus, would be a challenge to include in dactylic hexameter, but the deracinating effect of its exclusion remains. On the history of the gens Genucia, see Münzer 1910 and more recently Hölkeskamp 2010, 79. The family was prominent among the first generation of plebeians to reach high office in the mid-4th century BCE but effectively vanishes from history by the end of the 3rd. Münzer suggests that Genucii appearing earlier in the consular lists were ‘smuggled in’ to raise the status of the family.

10 Cf. Granobs 1997, 78–80.

11 For Segal 1969, 274, the absence of an explanation for the metamorphosis links Cipus’ fate to that of other victims of incomprehensible and unmotivated divine actions, specifically Dryope. There is also a dramatic motivation for the absence of any backstory for the miraculous appearance of the horns: the outcome of the story hinges precisely on the question of whether the kingship presaged by the sign is a reward, as it appears to the vates, or a punishment, as Cipus views it from the perspective of the state.

12 On the importance of this difference between Ovid’s version and Valerius’, see also Marks 2004, 114–15.

13 Hardie 2015, 571 observes, the phrase ad finem lucis ab ortu (15.619) recalls the expression used at Trist. 5.8.25 to describe the boundaries of the Roman Empire itself.

14 Santini 1987 especially stresses the importance of boundaries in his sociopolitical reading of the story. Of course, the very name Cipus closely resembles, cippus, the word for boundary stone (Palm 1939, 85–88; Porte 1985, 194; Barchiesi 1997, 185–86, and Wheeler 2000, 130).

15 E.g. Io (1.641), Jupiter (2.855), Actaeon (3.194), Achelous (8.882), the Cerastae (10.235), Acis (13.894).

16 Albeit, as observed by Haupt-Ehwald 1966, 2.368–69, the scene itself is an impossible bricolage of elements: the people could only assemble in the open air, the Senate only in a covered space. Hardie 2015,568 goes on to note, however, that the internal emphasis on traditional propriety (priscoque … e more, 15.593) is borne out by the opening prayer of Pliny’s Panegyricus (1.1–2). The assembly, on which Ovid lavishes considerable detail, thus hovers between veristic plausibility in the precedents for its individual elements, which may have been a part of contemporary civic experience (on the continuation and function of contiones under Augustus, see Sumi 2005, 222–28), and (evident?) fabrication. Another historical referent for the scene as Ovid imagines it is suggested by Schmitzer 1990, 264, the Latin festival in 23 BCE, where Augustus laid aside his consulate (Dio 53.32.3).

17 On the function of horned antefixes in Etruscan art, see Jannot 1974, esp. 774.

18 And, as Gildenhard and Zissos 1999, 176–81, have powerfully demonstrated, Virbius himself purges himself of his tragic legacy to be reborn as a Roman exemplum.

19 See Steinby (ed.) 1993–2000, 1.216 (Rodriguez-Almeida).

20 Lundström 1980, 79–80, and Granobs 1997, 79 n. 145; so also Hardie 2015, 571.

21 Qui [sc. metus deorum] cum descendere ad animos sine aliquo commento miraculi non posset, simulat sibi cum dea Egeria congressus nocturnos esse; eius se monitu, quae acceptissima diis essent sacra instituere, sacerdotes suos cuique deorum praeficere, 1.19.5. It is thus only as a falsehood that Egeria herself enters the true discourse of history. Aesculapius by contrast, the miraculous form who is attested in history makes it all the way (see Feeney 1991, 208–10).

22 Contra Hardie 2002, 198–199: ‘One effect [of the pattern of cross-referencing between episodes within the poem] is to further erode any possibility of drawing a sharp distinction between the worlds of fabula and historia’.

23 In Valerius’ transmitted text, the image is no head and all horns: capitis effigies aerea (5.6.3). Shackleton Bailey adds the horns through the supplement cornuti.

24 Hardie 1993, 6, also describes Cipus as turning himself into a scapegoat by re-deploying the motif of the ‘unus vir’, the one man who is at once the salvation of the state and an adumbration of the dangers of civil war: ‘Cipus averts from himself and his fellow citizens the danger of his becoming king by turning himself into a scapegoat, an Oedipus rather than a Romulus’. For the ‘sacrificial crisis’, see Girard 1977, 39–67, and esp. pp. 102–103 for how ritual substitution resolves it by repeating the initial act of violence.

25 The term derives from Meuli 1946 and refers to the various ritual devices believed to diminish the guilt potentially felt by the sacrificers at the death of the victim. Especially important among these ritual dramatizations were the notions that the victim had either deserved punishment for some offense against the god or went willingly to its death (see the discussion of Burkert 1966, 105–113). Naiden 2010 challenges the concept, arguing that what Burkert takes as evidence of the victim’s willingness expressed instead the vitality that made it acceptable to the god and that there is no Greek evidence for sacrificial guilt. He notes, however, that a large part of Burkert’s evidence comes from Pythagorean sources (67). This is especially relevant here because it is Pythagoras himself who enunciates a theory of sacrifice in the Metamorphoses that does condemn the act as impious (cf. esp. 15.127–142). The doctrinal motivation for this rejection of sacrifice is of course metempsychosis, which potentially translates every act of sacrifice into human sacrifice, and Pythagoras correspondingly describes sacrifice from the perspective of the animal victim, narratologically placing his audience ‘inside’ it.

26 Cf. the crowd’s response to the sight of the horns: demisere oculos omnes, 15.612.

27 Granobs 1997, 136. Though he does not develop the connection to drama as a genre, the same author also recognizes the frequency of direct speech as ‘eines der Hauptgestaltungsmittel der Cipus-Erzählung’ (135 n. 188; cf. also 142).

28 For the place of flattery in the theatricalized world of Roman tyranny, see Bartsch 1994, esp. 23–25.

29 On the ‘Ich-Spaltung’ by which Cipus creates this Alter Ego, see Granobs 1997, 138.

30 For different interpretations of the simile, see Granobs’ fine account of how Ovid varies the Homeric original (1997, 140–41) and Hardie’s comparison to other crowd similes within the Metamorphoses and elsewhere in the epic tradition (2015, 569–70). The Homeric simile is itself inverted to depict the opening chaos of the Aeneid (1.148–53), where instead of a crowd becoming waves, a disturbed sea is likened to a crowd controlled by a powerful speaker. The motion in the Ovid passage from disruption to order, presided over by a powerful speaker, recapitulates the actions depicted in Vergil’s adaptation and symbolically perpetuates the transition it presides over from Greek disorder to Roman imperium; see Hardie 1986, 202–207, and Feeney 1991, 137, with further references.

31 So also Néraudau 1989, 115.

32 So too Marks 2004, 127 n. 53. For the graphic similarity of the serpent to the coronis, and for the wordplay linking the latter with crowns, see Barchiesi 1997, 190, with Wheeler 1999, 92–93.

33 Hardie 2015, 571 and 603, relates Cipus’ imperfectly enduring horns to both Horace’s monumentum and Ovid’s more permanent opus.

34 For a recent taxonomy of scholarly interpretations of Aeneas’ path through the ivory gate, with a full bibliography (though disavowing completeness), see Horsfall 2013, 612–618.

35 This is not a context for mapping the vast scholarly discussion of these issues, especially given the availability of Horsfall’s commentary (2013). Instead, I merely signal the interpretations that have most influenced the reading offered here: Feeney 1986, Habinek 1989, and, particularly, Zetzel 1989. The contributions of Freudenburg 2017 will be described more fully below.

36 Cf. Hardie 2002, 194–195, on this ‘hourglass’ effect.

37 Cf., Feeney 1986, 5, on the display of heroes in Aeneid 6: ‘The emphasis on the gens and the continuity of the gens is felt throughout’. Cf. also Freudenburg, 2017, 7.

38 Postquam omnia secundo navium cursu in Italiam pervenerunt neque erat quod ultra precarer, illud optavi ut, cum ex summo retro volvi fortuna consuesset, mutationem eius domus mea potius quam res publica sentiret, Livy 45.41.8–9. Martin 2009, 273–274, also makes the comparison to Paullus among other manifestations of ‘un thème historico-littéraire assez banal’ (273).

39 Horsfall 2013, 518.

40 For the ambiguities of word placement that make it hard to tell whether this proud mind belongs to Tarquin or, paradoxically, to Brutus, cf. Horsfall 2013, 557–558, with further references. For how this dislocation of the traditional epithet might point to the tyrannicide, see Feeney 1986, 10.

41 Such a reading aligns itself closely with Fabre-Serris’ interpretation of the Tages-Romulus-Cipus sequence as not only politically anti-monarchical but as exposing the ritual claims by which Augustus attempted to justify his office (1996, 166–71). Néraudau 1989, 128, presents a contrasting perspective according to which the laurel refers to the way the literary pleasures of Ovid’s own text mask its anti-monarchical politics.

42 Flower 2020, 9: ‘After Actium and his [sc. Augustus’] own triple triumph in 29 BC, triumphs cluster in the immediately following years with three in 28 BC (Spain, Gaul, Africa), two in 27 BC (Thrace and the Getae, Gaul), and one in 26 BC (Spain)’.

43 Cic. Rep. 1.21–22. See above all the discussion by Jaeger 2008, 49–57.

44 Iam nimis multos audio Corinthi et Athenarum ornamenta laudantes mirantesque et antefixa fictilia deorum Romanorum ridentes, Livy 34.4.4. Freudenburg 2017, 14, discusses this passage in the context of his demonstration that Anchises plays on a historical legacy that was contested from the start. It also relates to his later argument that the preference for vivid sculptures over rough-hewn portraits of virtuous Romans colors the language of Anchises’ rejection of sculpture. For the fullest account of the cultural and political debates arising from Marcellus’ Syracusan spoils, see Flower 2003.

45 Hardie 2015, 567.

46 For other suggestions about the significance of the name, see Santini 1987, 297–98, who detects an echo of the Greek word for sceptre (skipon), recalling the cognomen of the ambitious Scipiones. So also Néraudau 1989, 126–127.

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Andrew Feldherr, « The Gate of Horns: History and Fiction in Ovid’s Cipus Episode (Met. 15.565–621) »Dictynna [En ligne], 19 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2022, consulté le 01 février 2023. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/dictynna/2919 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/dictynna.2919

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