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Publius Ovidius Naso, Fasti VI.801-810: Marcia

Augustan woman
Republican funerary statue

The glory of Marcia's appearance, conduct and lineage is the subject of the closing lines of Book 6 of Ovid's Fasti, a work he began before his exile in 8 CE. Despite the praises of the muse Clio for Marcia's beauty, these lines are less a tribute to this noblewoman's attributes than to the males of her family. Through her, Ovid honors not only her husband, his patron, Paullus Fabius Maximus (46 BCE-14CE; consul 11 BCE), but Augustus as well, for Marcia was Augustus' maternal cousin through a complex web of relationships. Her mother, Atia minor, was the sister of Augustus's mother, Atia maior; both were daughters of Julius Caesar's sister Julia. Atia maior married L. Marcius Philippus maior (consul 56 BCE) after the death of Augustus' biological father, Gaius Octavius, in 58 BCE, while her sister, Atia minor, Marcia's mother, married L. Marcius Philippus minor, his son by an earlier marriage. In 14 CE Marcia bitterly grieves at her husband's funeral; ironically he was forced to commit suicide after she told her friend Livia about his secret trip with Augustus to reconcile with his exiled heir and grandson Agrippa Postumus (see Tacitus, Annales 1.5.3, in State). The passage below closes Book 6 and June, Juno's month, on the 29th (ante diem III Kalendas Iulianas), the day sacred to Hercules Musarum (on denarius of Q. Pomponius Musa, 66 BCE). The round temple of Heracles Musarum (see lost frgt.31eeff) is located on the Forma Urbis Romae (frgt. 31bb) near the Portico of Octavia and the Portico of Philippus (frgt. 31u). The poem is written in elegiac couplet, a pattern of alternating dactylic hexameter and pentameter lines (see illustration).

  sic ego. sic Clio: "clari monimenta Philippi

aspicis, unde trahit Marcia casta genus,

  Marcia, sacrifico deductum nomen ab Anco,

in qua par facies nobilitate sua.

805  par animo quoque forma suo respondet; in illa  

et genus et facies ingeniumque simul.

  nec, quod laudamus formam, tu turpe putaris:  

laudamus magnas hac quoque parte deas.

  nupta fuit quondam matertera Caesaris illi:

o decus, o sacra femina digna domo!"


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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of Body
December 2006