The Art of Love

The Justification of Rape in Ovid's The Art of Love

By 18 BC, morality among the citizens of Rome had depleted by such degree that the emperor was impelled to enact the lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus, which instituted adultery as a crime punishable by death or exile. This was the Rome of Ovid’s time, but more importantly this was the audience for whom The Art of Love was written. When contemplating the decadent advice Ovid offers this Roman population in moral decay, one must consider what tools Ovid utilizes to persuade his audience to follow his teachings. Ovid seeks to conduct his audience by providing them with a myriad of examples from the most respected, yet most immoral entity in ancient times: the Roman gods. To decipher the manner in which Ovid accomplishes his feat one must not only consider his exploitation of religion as a mode of persuasion, but also these ancient beings themselves, whose scandalous lives and love affairs are deeply rooted with that same decadence and which Ovid tries to promote in Book I of his Ars Amatoria: rape.

Religion was the muse of Ovid’s controversial The Art of Love. The first book is primarily composed of references to ancient Roman myths and heroes; however, there are a few key allusions which not only justify but actually promote an...

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