Suffering More than Odysseus

Ovid, Tristia 1.5:

“Learned poets, write of my sufferings instead of those of the Neritian* leader: for I have suffered more ills than Odysseus. He wandered for many years in the brief spot between his Dulichian and Trojan homes: but chance has borne me across channels separated by entire stars, and brought me into the Getic and Sarmatic bays. He had his faithful band and his faithful companions: but all of my friends have deserted me in exile. He sought his home as a happy victor: I have fled from my homeland conquered and exiled. Moreover, my home was not in Dulichium or Ithaca or Samos, from which places it would not be a hard punishment to be absent. Rather, my home was Rome, the seat of empire and the gods, which looks out at the whole world from its seven hills.

Odysseus had a hard body capable of enduring hard work: my strength is feeble, typical of noble birth. He was used to constant exercise in savage arms: I was accustomed to softer studies. A god oppressed me with no one to alleviate my suffering: but the warlike goddess gave help to him.

Consider that the one who rules the swollen waves is less than Jupiter – the anger of Neptune pressed upon him, but it is the anger of Jupiter which lays me low. Add to that the fact that the greatest part of his sufferings were made up, but there is no idle storytelling in my suffering. Finally, he nevertheless touched his long-sought Penates, and though he sought those fields for such a long time, he eventually reached them. But I must be away from my paternal soil forever, unless the anger of the wounded god should soften.”

*Ovid’s use of the adjective Neritius here is allusive in the extreme, referring to Odysseus on the basis of Iliad 2.631-2: “Odysseus led the great-hearted Cephallenians who held Ithaca and Neritus with its shaking leaves.” [αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς ἦγε Κεφαλλῆνας μεγαθύμους, οἵ ῥ᾽ Ἰθάκην εἶχον καὶ Νήριτον εἰνοσίφυλλον]. For more on Ovid’s playful but hyper-erudite allusion, see here.

File:Arnold Böcklin - Odysseus and Polyphemus.jpg
Arnold Böcklin – Odysseus and Polyphemus

pro duce Neritio docti mala nostra poetae
scribite: Neritio nam mala plura tuli.
ille breui spatio multis errauit in annis
inter Dulichias Iliacasque domos:
nos freta sideribus totis distantia mensos
sors tulit in Geticos Sarmaticosque sinus.
ille habuit fidamque manum sociosque fideles:
me profugum comites deseruere mei.
ille suam laetus patriam uictorque petebat:
a patria fugi uictus et exul ego.
nec mihi Dulichium domus est Ithaceue Samosue,
poena quibus non est grandis abesse locis,
sed quae de septem totum circumspicit orbem
montibus, imperii Roma deumque locus.
illi corpus erat durum patiensque laborum:
inualidae uires ingenuaeque mihi.
ille erat assidue saeuis agitatus in armis:
adsuetus studiis mollibus ipse fui.
me deus oppressit, nullo mala nostra leuante:
bellatrix illi diua ferebat opem.
cumque minor Ioue sit tumidis qui regnat in undis,
illum Neptuni, me Iouis ira premit.
adde, quod illius pars maxima ficta laborum,
ponitur in nostris fabula nulla malis.
denique quaesitos tetigit tamen ille Penates,
quaeque diu petiit, contigit arua tamen:
at mihi perpetuo patria tellure carendum est,
ni fuerit laesi mollior ira dei.

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