Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Comparative Literature


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Hunter Gardner


Early Augustan Age literature saw a focus on recovery from a period steeped in the tragic losses of civil war; Vergil, in his Georgics, and Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, employed insects likened to, or transformed into, humans as a way to suggest possible models for recovery. While these models have been studied throughout classical scholarship for their value in proposing a new Roman Golden Age and its tenability, scholars have long overlooked the importance of the insects used in such models, and the ways in which they can substantially alter our understanding of these metaphors. As structures for cultural understanding rarely arise de novo, I discuss the most significant associations found in Greek and Latin literature which color the connotations of both bees and ants in these literary invocations. Following this exploration, I discuss the ways in which Vergil’s bees in Georgics four allow the poet to establish a binary opposition between civically oriented art and personally oriented art. Then, I discuss Ovid’s origins of the Myrmidons fabula, in which I present an analysis of the episode that highlights the negative aspects of this reconstitution of the civic body. Ultimately, my study seeks to evidence the ways in which both poets grapple with the shifting roles of art in the rising principate—and to connect these metaphors of civic body reconstitution with the larger frameworks of political commentary present in their works.


© 2018, Olivia Semler