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Amores 1.3

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The metaphor of the promiscuous lover as a desultoramoris (Am. 1. 3. 15) is one of the most striking in Ovid's Amores, and it is therefore of some interest to students of Ovid's style to assess its originality. As the commentators have noted (Paul Brandt ad loc.; A. E. Housman ad Manil. 5. 85), the desultor image can be traced back to Homer (Il. 15. 679), who compares Ajax, as he leaps from one Greek ship to another to keep off the Trojan attackers, to a trick-rider entertaining the crowds on the roadside by leaping from horse to horse. But there is no need to suppose that Ovid had Homer in mind rather than the Roman circus-riders described, for example, by Livy (44. 9. 4= 169 B.c.) and Varro (Rust. 2. 7. 15). It is clear from these passages that the desultores were established in the Roman circus by the earlier second century B.C., and that for the Romans the word desultor was a technical term needing no further explanation or qualification.

J. A. Barsby: “DesultorAmoris in Amores 1. 3” (44)


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