Ian WardFollow

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Roman literature has, thus far, assumed a relatively modest place in the canon of literary jurisprudence. Yet it presents a rich resource for scholars interested, not just in Roman law, but in law today. This article will revisit Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a text which has continued to fascinate literary scholars since the Renaissance. It will suggest that Metamorphoses can be read as a ‘casebook’ in Roman law, and more especially the law relating to marriage and sexuality. At the same time, it will be argued that Ovid had a rather greater argument to make in regard to the broader sweep of Roman law. One of the key changes which he described in Metamorphoses is that which transformed Rome from a lawless to a lawful state. This article will trace this ‘metamorphosis’ by re-reading three of ‘cases’ discovered in Ovid’s epic; those of Tiresias, Philomela and Myrrha.

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Ovid; literary jurisprudence; Roman law; power; rape; incest

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