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Fasti   By: (43 BC - 18?)

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Author of The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, History of Greece, History of Rome, etc.

Sex ego Fastorum scripsi, totidemque libellos; Cumque suo finem mense volumen habet. OVID. TRIST. II. 549.


No one, I should think, who has even done nothing more than look into Ovid's Fasti, will refuse his assent to the following words of Hercules Ciofanus, one of the earliest editors of this poem: Ex omnibus , says he, veterum poetarum monumentis nullum hodierno die exstat opus, quod, aut eruditione aut rebus quae ad Romanam antiquitatem cognoscendam pertineant, hos Ovidii Fastorum libros antecellat . In effect we have here ancient Roman history, religion, mythology, manners and customs, and moreover much Grecian mythology, and that portion of the ancient astronomy which regards the rising and setting of the different constellations. These altogether form a wide field of knowledge; and in my opinion there is not, in the whole compass of classical literature, a work better calculated to be put into the hands of students.

Accordingly the Fasti are read at some of our great public schools and at several of the private ones, and I have lately had the gratification of seeing this very edition adopted at one of the most eminent of the great schools. The name of the master of that school, did I feel myself at liberty to mention it, would be a warrant for the goodness, at least the relative goodness, of the present edition.

At the same time I will candidly confess that the work falls far short of my own ideas of perfection in this department of literature. Circumstances, which it is needless to mention, caused it to be executed in a very hurried manner and without the necessary apparatus of books. It was in fact undertaken, written, and printed in little more than two months. This is mentioned in explanation of, not in excuse for, its defects for no such excuse should be admitted.

The text is that of Krebs, the latest German editor; from which however I have occasionally departed, especially in the punctuation. In the notes will be found the most important various readings of the fifty eight MSS. of this poem which have been collated. I have also adopted the Calendar of Krebs' edition, as being on the whole the best, and as its copiousness enables it to supply the place of arguments to the several books.

In the Introduction I have given such matter as the student should be acquainted with previous to commencing the poem. The study of it will, I trust, be found to be of advantage. My plan in writing the notes was, to be as concise as was compatible with a full elucidation of the meaning of the author. While therefore no difficult passage is left without at least an attempt at explaining it, I have avoided swelling out my notes with mythic or historic notices and narrations which may be found in the Classical Dictionary. I suppose, for example, the student to know, or to be able easily to discover, who Hercules and Romulus were, and where Mount Haemus lies. Perhaps it would have been better if the notes on the first two or three books had been more copious; those on the three last are, I believe, sufficiently so.

Many references will be found to Niebuhr's History of Rome, and to my own Mythology of Greece and Italy. For those to the former work I may perhaps be entitled to thanks, as leading the attention to the noble discoveries of the Bacon of history, as he is justly styled by Dr. Arnold. This last eminent scholar is himself engaged on a History of Rome, of which apart has appeared, and which promises to form a permanent portion of our historic literature. In my own epitome of the Roman history sufficient information on the portions of it alluded to will be found by those who have not access to the work of Niebuhr. For the accuracy and fidelity of the translation of Niebuhr's history by my friends Hare and Thirlwall, I can pledge myself without any reservation... Continue reading book >>

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