Customer Reviews: Fasti (Penguin Classics)
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on March 19, 2015
The marketing of the Penguin edition translated by Boyle and Woodard is what moved me to write this review. Penguin's marketeers claim that Fasti is a "subtle but powerful political manifesto;" B&W expand on this theme in their introduction. This piqued my interest in the work, but I was frustrated once I began reading.

Maybe Ovid wasn't hiding his jokes and barbs by the standards of his day: for all I know, his contemporaries would be smiling ironically or even rolling on the ground with laughter as they read. But for a reader of this edition to appreciate those bits requires something approaching a professional Latinist's erudition. If the political aspect of the book interests you, be aware that to a great degree it's not visible from the four corners of this work. Mainly its based on (i) what Ovid *omits* from the book (e.g., failing to mention Augustus or members of his family in certain contexts where they might have expected it), and (ii) what Ovid says here *taken together with* what he said in other of his works, e.g. Ars amatoria. Even the example about Jupiter and rape mentioned in the blurb, which seems to be in Ovid's entries for Feb 5 through Feb 12, is rather subtly expressed in the poem's text -- I might easily have passed it on a first reading if B&W hadn't mentioned it in their introduction.

In other words, even if there's a political message written here in secret ink, so to speak, usually you'll need to bring in UV lights, lemon juice and other stuff to be able to read it. And often, you'll need to bring your own. While the translators are generous with apparatus (maps, an outline summary, almost 250 pages of scholarly endnotes, a glossary), this material isn't really focused on bringing into relief the political reading for which B&W argue. In particular, the endnotes don't highlight this big picture: although abundant, they tend to focus at a more micro level on specific events, names, places, and calendrical matters. The Introduction is the reader's best guide, but by its own admission it cites only a few examples -- hardly enough to make a "manifesto."

So I wasn't entirely shocked to find, after some digging with a search engine, that the political reading of the Fasti is still quite contested among modern classical scholars. Many don't accept it, and even some who do read it as more pro-Augustus than, as here, anti. This edition is itself a manifesto of an academic sort. That happens all the time in scholarship and I can grant it's legitimate, though I wish I hadn't mistaken the sales pitch for something more neutral.

There's another issue, too. The Fasti's subject, a festival-by-festival discussion of the calendar, prevents the poem from flowing along as beautifully as, say, the Metamorphoses. Nonetheless, for me this translation made things even choppier. Maybe in the belief that they were making things simpler for the reader, B&W use a lot of full stops where they don't occur in the original (or at least, in modern editions of the original text accepted as authoritative). The result is often a string of disconnected sentences, sounding at times more like oracle than narrative.

Here's an example, from 4.275-280 (with Latin from the 2014 Latin/German edition published by Reclam, based on the 1988 Alton et al. edition of Ovid's text, published by Teubner -- the same as used by B&W):

A thousand hands gather. A hollow ship painted
/ With burnt colors holds the Mother of Gods.
She is freighted through her son's water most safely,
/ And nears the long strait of Phrixus' sister.
She passes wide Rhoetium and Sigeum's beaches,
/ Tenedos and Eëtion's old realm.

mille mane coeunt, et picta coloribus ustis
/ caelestum Matrem concava puppis habet.
illa sui per aquas fertur tutissima nati
/ longaque Phrixeae stagna sororis adit,
Rhoeteumque capax Sigeaque litora transit,
/ et Tenedum et veteres Eetionis opes.

Notice how B&W use four sentences against Ovid's two, suppressing Ovid's "et" ("and") and using periods instead of more liquid commas -- all the more unfortunate since what's being described is the passage of a ship. The choice to begin each line with a capital letter (by no means obligatory in English) chops things up further, especially when the syntax carries over into a new line, as in the first two lines quoted (275-276). I found that it was often easier to get the sense of the translation by looking at the Latin, instead of the other way around. Maybe such roughness is a trade-off for the technical tour de force B&W achieved: tracking the original couplet-by-couplet and usually line-by-line, while sticking to a standard couplet of 12 + 10 syllables. But for the reader who wants a smoother understanding of what Ovid was talking about, a prose translation might be clearer in many places. (That's the case at least with the inexpensive Reclam, if you read German. I haven't yet checked the Oxford Classics English-only edition, nor the Loeb, whose English is from the 1930s).

My deduction of stars relates mainly to the gap between the "political manifesto" Penguin promises and its actual accessibility to the average reader, even one with some Latin; but the prickly translation is part of the reason, too.
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on January 23, 2008
This Penguin edition is very well done and preserves the meaning of the Latin without distorting or mangling it. The book also contains copious and well-researched notes to explain the numerous festivals, minor dieties, and individuals that Ovid mentions. The Fasti is invaluable as a glimpse of Roman culture, not only as a product of the Etruscan influences, but those of the other Italic peoples and the Greeks as well. Ovid skillfully adapts a plethora of "sacred rites unearthed from ancient annals" (1.7-8). What those "sacred annals" contained, we don't know for sure, but many of Ovid's stories included in the poem allude to and are corroborated by the works of Hesiod, Livy, Catullus, Lucretius, Vergil, and others. Ovid however puts his "slant" on things and makes associations that some argue are erroneous. Perhaps. But, taken as a whole, the Fasti is a great poem to also put Roman history into perspective. Ovid again and again stresses Rome's humble beginnings and it's current (for him) preeminence in the world -- "imperium sine fine."

A very well done translation of an amazing work that is not widely read in schools.
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on March 17, 2014
People have been talking up "Fasti" lately but it's really a poem you read AFTER you read Ovid's one great long poem, "Metamorphoses," and his one great collection of short poems, "Amores." (The "Art of Love" is a cute poem, and certainly gives you a vivid picture of what it was like to be a 'player' in Imperial Rome, but as for enduring literary quality, let's get real.) The Loeb edition is one of the weirder specimens in the LCL format. The great historian of religion, Frazer (of "The Golden Bough") began the Loeb edition, but got so interested in it he ended up doing a four-volume study of the poem, instead. The Loeb edition itself is just a chopped-down fragment of that larger project. So get a prose translation like the Oxford (see my review) to use with this handy and inexpensive edition of the Latin, if you want to read EVERYTHING Ovid wrote . . . and why not, he's a great, great poet!
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on February 22, 2016
Not a good one for beginners but a must read for anyone truly interested in ancient Roman religion; acquiring some background knowledge of the Gods and surrounding myths before reading is recommended. The notes in this edition are outstanding and well worth reading.
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on January 20, 2004
This one volume work in the Loeb Classical Series (# 253) is
Ovid's remarkable combining of poetry, myth, astrology,
astronomy, and commentary on Rome.
Apparently the work was written, or completed, while
Ovid was in exile in what is today Romania (in the
ancient city of Tomis), having been sent there by the
Emperor Augustus.
Ovid's life there must have been misery, anguish, and
hardship (how different from the famous poet all
Rome had talked about before his fall!). The poems
about that exile, along with letters which he sent back
to Rome, can be found in Loeb Classical volume, # 151,
-Tristia, Ex Ponto- (ISBN: 0674991672).
This present volume "is a poetical treatise on the
Roman calendar, which it discusses in chronological
order, beginning with the first day of January and
ending with the last day of June, where it stops
abruptly." (Introduction.) Ovid had intended to
write 12 parts to the work, but we only have the
first six. The author of the Introduction makes
some scholarly speculations about what happened to
the other six parts, which are very interesting.
This Loeb version is translated by James G. Frazer,
who himself had orginally published a 5-volume edition
of the -Fasti-, but trimmed a bit of his scholarly
commentary in order to produce this one-volume edition
for the Loeb series. Frazer (1854 - 1941) was a
British anthropologist, folklorist, and classical
scholar; his 12 volume opus, -The Golden Bough-,
is a world-famous work on comparative ancient religions,
myth, and cultural rites.
Ovid, himself, was exremely interested not only
in poetry, but in myth and cultural rites as well. That
is clearly evidenced in the -Fasti-. Here is an example
of the combining of poetry, with myth, and astrology/
astronomy from March 5: "When from her saffron cheeks
Tithonous' spouse shall have begun to shed the dew /
at the time of the fifth morn, the constellation,
whether it be the Bear-ward or the sluggard Bootes,
will have sunk and will escape thy sight. But not
so will the Grape-gatherer escape thee." There is
more to the quote which expands on the myth of the
origin of the constellation. There are excellent
notes to explain allusions, as well as a scholarly
Introduction to the volume.
Though Ovid was trying to find some way to gain
either commutation or release from his exile, he was
not successful (either under Augustus or his successor,
the Emperor Tiberius). Still, though seeking clemency,
Ovid nonetheless takes satiric swipes at Rome's
losing of ancient values. Ovid died in exile and
was buried in Tomis. "Sic transit gloria mundi."
-- Robert Kilgore.
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on April 16, 2015
The (unachieved) Days were composed BEFORE Ovid was exiled in Tomis where he composed Tristia. Otherwise, this edition offers an opportunity to read a worthy text and provides sufficient notes to allow navigation through Roman poetics. Still, reading ancient texts is an acquired taste.
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on April 18, 2013
There are supposed to be several maps at the beginning of this book, and they do show up on Kindle for Mac, but they do not on the iPad. The publishers/Amazon need to provide the correct text.
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on June 16, 2004
The review posted above is for the Loeb edition of Ovid, which is very different from Fantham's edition.
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on November 9, 2011
This is excellent book and the English translation is perfectly done. Comments in the end are really useful and helps to understand the poem better. In beginning there are maps of Ancient Rome which helps to travel with the text through the Ancient Rome. I am more than satisfied with this purchase.
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on October 8, 2011
Despite everything this page seems to suggest, if you order this volume, you will NOT receive a reprint of Frazer's original, now public domain, edition of Ovid's Fasti in the Loeb series. (The current Loeb edition of Ovid's Fasti is, by the way, only a very slightly revised version of Frazer's original edition.) What then do you receive instead? An unremarkable Latin-only edition of the Fasti that lacks a critical apparatus. One would be better off printing the Latin text directly from the Latin Library.
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