Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access

First Advisor

Timothy O'Sullivan

Second Advisor

Rebecca Kahane


After finally gaining control of Rome as princeps, Augustus was tasked with both ushering in a new era of peace and a new imperial form of government. To contrast the masculine world of war that he sought to leave behind, Augustus turned his attention to mothers and used them in imperial ideology and imagery as symbols of prosperity and morality. This was supported through his moral legislation, which brought tangible, legal benefits to motherhood in addition to the benefits of status that were more loosely and implicitly defined. The transition to monarchy also brought attention to mothers as the importance of succession was more important than ever and imperial women’s proximity to power stirred existing anxieties about feminine threats to power. In this context, Ovid composes the Metamorphoses and Fasti, and in this thesis, I examine the ways in which Ovid specifically acknowledges and disrupts Augustus’ construction of maternal identity as a stable symbol of peace and prosperity. In the Metamorphoses, Ovid confronts the pressure placed on women to become mothers by exploring the transgressive mothers of myth. In particular, I argue that this is accomplished through a focus on names and titles, especially that of mater and a woman’s given name. In the Fasti, Ovid takes on the paradoxical visibility and power of mothers at this time through the imperial family by concentrating on the upright founding mothers of Rome. Ovid achieves this through structure, namely by positioning mothers in the narrative to consistently undercut and overshadow men. In this way, the poems work together to address both realities of mothers at this time while also challenging Augustus’ efforts of control and stability.