Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Ketterer, Robert

First Committee Member

Dettmer, Helena

Second Committee Member

Finamore, John

Third Committee Member

Gibson, Craig

Fourth Committee Member

Green, Peter


My dissertation explores several topics recurring throughout Ovid’s single Heroides. When, how, and why does Ovid restructure tragic, epic, or pastoral stories into elegy? How do his heroines deal with their lovers starting relationships with new women, and what method of coping with abandonment is the most effective? What is the role of magic in the Heroides, what rules does it follow, and who uses it successfully? How does Ovid capitalize on the connection between elegy and lament, and which heroines does he use to do so? Finally, what is the role of writing in the Heroides, how does Ovid use the character of Sappho in the collection, and how does the Sappho epistle help readers interpret the rest of the Heroides?

The letters of Briseis (3), Phaedra (4), Hermione (8), and Oenone (5) transform previously epic, tragic, and pastoral worlds and inhabitants into elegiac contexts to show how they wish their men to accept the role of the elegiac lover. Ovid uses these reclassifications to explore the boundaries of elegy and show how thorough knowledge of audience and the genre are necessary for success. Oenone (5), Hypsipyle (6), Deianira (9), and Medea (12) each see their lovers replace them with another woman; Ovid uses their different methods—emulating the new woman’s qualities, attempting to regain the lover’s affection, and seeking revenge—to discover which approach will achieve its desired purpose.

Ovid’s construction of magic as a practical tool is established in the letter of Medea (12), and can be applied to the epistles of Deianira (9), Hypsipyle (6), and Laodamia (13) to interpret the magical practices in those epistles. Ovid explores a different facet of the elegiac genre by using the traditional link between elegy and epitaph in the letters of Phyllis (2), Dido (7), and Hypermnestra (14), but alludes to it in the epistles of Canace (11), Ariadne (10), and Deianira (9) to bridge the gap between literary characters and his readers’ reality.

Finally, the Sappho epistle (15) provides a tool for interpreting both the individual letters of the Heroides and Ovid’s own concerns. By using the famous poetess as one of his heroines, Ovid connects himself and his reputation to hers. His character Sappho provides a lens through which we can examine all of the heroines who are at a crisis point, a metaphorical cliff’s edge, as they write.

Public Abstract

The Roman poet Ovid is best known today for his Metamorphoses, Amores, and Ars Amatoria. These poems relate mythological stories of change, glimpses into the love life of his literary persona, and a tongue-in-cheek guide for seduction. The Heroides bridge the gap between mythology and love elegy which normally addresses contemporary lovers: the fifteen poems of the single Heroides are from the perspective of various mythological women—and one historical woman—who have been abandoned by their lovers. My dissertation explores different topics that pervade the collection, to help understand the poet’s concerns and goals.

Ovid transforms the epic, tragic, and pastoral stories of four women into elegies, which allows him one way of exploring the boundaries of elegy and to show how thorough knowledge of audience and the genre are necessary for success. Four of his letter-writers see their lovers replace them with another woman; Ovid uses their different approaches to dealing with the other woman to discover which method will success. Ovid also defines how magic works in the Heroides, through the infamous with Medea’s letter, and shows how three other women attempt to use it.

In six of the poems, Ovid explores the link the ancients saw between elegy and lament to connect his fictional heroines to the actual world of his readers. Finally, I examine how Ovid uses the character of the famous poet Sappho to interpret the individual letters of the Heroides, and how he connects himself and his reputation to hers.


elegy, genre, Heroides, magic, Ovid, Sappho


vii, 185 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 179-185).


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Copyright © 2017 Jacqueline Adrienne Jones

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