Ovid Amores Book 2. 12

Ovid’s triumph

by Ovid

This poem tells its own story. Ovid’s sustained use of military metaphors is very clever and his mythological references very elegant. But is he really this pleased with himself, or is he exaggerating for comic effect? And what does Corinna think of it all? If he is blowing his own trumpet harder than he should, he will sadly pay for it later, when his exile to the back of beyond by the Emperor Augustus will prompt poetry expressing sentiments of a very different kind. The fight between centaurs and Lapiths took place at a wedding, where the centaurs, unused to wine, took too much of it. The reference to the fathers-in-law of the first Romans is to the story of the Sabine women, whom the Romans kidnapped to provide themselves with wives: in the usual version, the women intervene to separate the combatants, rather than urging them on.

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Ite triumphales circum mea tempora laurus:
vicimus; in nostro est ecce Corinna sinu,
quam vir, quam custos, quam ianua firma (tot hostes!)
servabant, ne qua posset ab arte capi.
haec est praecipuo victoria digna triumpho
in qua, quaecumque est, sanguine praeda caret.
non humiles muri, non parvis oppida fossis
cincta, sed est ductu capta puella meo.
Pergama cum caderent bello superata bilustri,
ex tot in Atridis pars quota laudis erat?
at mea seposita est et ab omni milite dissors
gloria, nec titulum muneris alter habet:
me duce ad hanc voti finem, me milite veni;
ipse eques, ipse pedes, signifer ipse fui.
Nec casum fortuna meis immiscuit actis:
Huc ades, o cura parte triumphe mea.
Nec belli est nova causa mei: nisi rapta fuisset
Tyndaris, Europae pax Asiaeque foret;
femina silvestres Lapithas populumque biformem
turpiter adposito vertit in arma mero;
femina Troianos iterum nova bella movere
impulit in regno, iuste Latine, tuo;
femina Romanis etiamnunc Urbe recenti
immisit soceros armaque saeva dedit.
vidi ego pro nivea pugnantes coniuge tauros:
spectatrix animos ipsa iuvenca dabat.
me quoque, qui multos, sed me sine caede, Cupido
iussit militiae signa movere suae.

Triumphal laurel, ring my brow: we have
conquered: see, Corinna lies in my bosom,
whom husband, guardian, closed doors (so many
enemies!) guarded against capture by some trick.
That victory, whatever it be, above all deserves
a triumph, in which the spoils are free from blood.
The walls were high, the trenches around the town
no shallow ones, but the girl was taken in my campaign.
When Troy fell, overcome by twenty years’ war, did
the Atrides, two among so many, deserve so great a share
of praise? My glory is another kind, nothing to do with
any soldier, no-one else deserves credit for this duty done:
I myself was the cavalry, infantry and standard bearer.
Nor did fortune mingle chance with my deeds:
come, you triumph, born from my own efforts!
Nor is the cause of my war a new one; had Helen not
been seized, Europe and Asia would have been at peace;
a woman brought the sylvan Lapiths
and the centaurs to arms
by basely plying them with wine;
a woman again impelled the Trojans to make war
a second time in your kingdom, just Latinus;
a woman, when the city was just freshly founded, set
the Romans’ fathers-in-law on them and gave them cruel
arms. I myself have seen bulls fight for a snowy bride:
the heifer herself by watching urged them on.
Cupid ordered me , like many, but in my case without
slaughter, to advance my standards and serve in his forces.