Ovid on Cosmetics: Medicamina Faciei Femineae and Related Texts
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The Medicamina Faciei Femineae is a didactic elegy that showcases an early example of Ovid's trademark combination of poetic instruction and trivial subject matter. Exploring female beauty and cosmeceuticals, with particular emphasis on the concept of cultus, the poem presents five practical recipes for treatments for Roman women. Covering both didactic parody and pharmacological reality, this deceptively complex poem possesses wit and vivacity and provides an important insight into Roman social mores and day-to-day activities.
The first full study in English devoted to this little-researched but multi-faceted poem, Ovid on Cosmetics includes an introduction that situates the poem within its literary heritage of didactic and elegiac poetry, its place in Ovid's oeuvre and its relevance to social values, personal aesthetics and attitudes to female beauty in Roman society. The Latin text is presented on parallel pages alongside a new translation, and all Latin words and phrases are translated for the non-specialist reader. Detailed commentary notes elucidate the text and individual phrases still further.
Ovid on Cosmetics presents and explicates this witty, subversive yet significant poem. Its attention to the technicalities of cosmeceuticals and cosmetics, including detailed analyses of individual ingredients and the effects of specific creams and makeup, make this work a significant contribution to the beauty industry in antiquity.
epic in favour of the amorous, playful and emotional genre of elegy. The decision to write elegy is a motif of the collection and is presaged as such in the opening poem of Book One. Ovid explains that he started with epic but was disturbed by Cupid who compelled him to write elegy instead. In other poems in the collection he further explains that elegy also came in the form of 28 Ovid on Cosmetics the inspirational women around him, including Corinna (Am. 2.1, 2.12 and 2.18) who,
manuals, Myerowitz argues that Ovid was also most likely inspired by erotic tabellae (lit. ‘small paintings’) similar to the scenes from the House of the Vettii in Pompeii. For support, Myerowitz (1992: 156n3) notes the speciﬁc references to tabellae by Propertius, Pliny, Suetonius, Introduction 33 Plutarch, Athenaeus, the Priapea and AA 2.679–680 in which Ovid mentions that women are adept in assuming novel positions that went far beyond erotic paintings. While the intention(s) behind the
ravage beauty, and, features once pleasing, will be ploughed by wrinkles; 35 40 45 46 Ovid on Cosmetics there will be a time when it will displease you to look in a mirror and grief will become another cause of wrinkles. Probity is the bedrock and it endures throughout a lengthy lifetime, and it is from it that love securely depends. 50 Learn, when sleep has released your tender limbs, how your face could shine radiantly. Strip the barley, which farmers from Libya have sent by ship, of
as it can possibly be. In this sense, cultus extends to integrity and grace – good looks and an appealing character make an irresistible combination. The theme of ageing and its physical eﬀects introduced in l.45 is accentuated by the imagery at l.46: features (vultus) that were once pleasing will be ploughed (arare) by wrinkles (rugae, also at l.48). Warming to his theme, in order to stress the need for inner-cultivation and perhaps as a selling point for the recipes that follow, Ovid notes the
ﬂowers and produces the sweet-smelling substance, crocodilea); cf. also Galen 12.47–48 Kühn 1826; 12.308 Kühn 1826. Olson (2009: 297) notes Medicamina Faciei Femineae 81 an alternative identiﬁcation, namely crocodilea as ‘an Egyptian code-word for “Ethiopian soil” ’ that was ‘a particular earth found beyond Upper Egypt’. Olson also mentions Lemnian and Samian ‘earths’ that were highly prized for skin preparations, and references Betz’s adoption of ‘Ethiopian soil’ for crocodilea in his