Hope? Hope.

Intro by a scholar to Ovid’s Heroides 10:  The standard version of Ariadne’s myth runs in general terms like this. She falls in love with Theseus and saves him from the labyrinth, is summarily abandoned by him on the island of Naxos, and is then saved by Dionysus, who makes her his immortal wife.


     Mythological references in our readings have caught my attention and I have been wondering and pondering about authors’ uses of them in elegiac poetry.  The story of Ariadne and Theseus is one that Ovid and Catullus reference (in Ovid’s Amores 1.7 and Catullus 64) and is referenced by other authors, so I wanted to explore it a bit more.  In another set of Ovid’s writings, the Heroides, he composes a letter from Ariadne to Theseus not long after he abandons her on the island of Naxos.  

     Ariadne’s letter to Theseus has a number of contradictions that stood out to me.  Ariadne’s emotions switch back and forth from anger to disbelief, sadness to repression, frustration to projection and blissful memories to stern admonitions.  I think this flood of contradictory emotions is very natural.  Perhaps this is part of what Ovid wishes to convey.  Indeed, some of Ariadne’s reactions were immediate while others she had pondered over before writing the letter.  Isn’t this how love, and breakups, go?  Rushing emotions and thoughts all at once that change and form over time.  Have you ever experienced this?  He leaves you, alone.  First you disbelieve it; you chase him; he just forgot right?  But he never looks back to your calls.  Your calls soon turn to cries; your cries soon turn to tears.  Then the excuses…anger…projection.  How to resolve these emotions and feelings is up to you.  You can’t change the past, but you can form the future.  A big part of it is your perspective, your hope for a brighter tomorrow.  Let’s peek into Ariadne’s future and yours.

     In an article I found, the author points out the use of the Latin word sola.  She (the author) notes the specific times and placements of this word which serve to emphasize Ariadne’s aloneness from Theseus, from her family and homeland, and from any form of civilization   These multiple aspects of Ariadne’s abandonment make her emotions all the stronger.  The mental distress she is wrestling with shows itself throughout the poem.  This made me think of ways that we struggle with separation today.  Coming to terms with a serious breakup, a big move from home, or a change in culture can press on our psyche.  In most situations of ours, there is still hope though—a new man to cherish your heart, a second family, and opportunities to adapt.  But with Ariadne, Ovid makes it clear in this poem that she is hopeless (from the present standpoint) based on the letters of many other heroines in the Heroides that end in hope of new love or beginnings (see article).  Is there ever a situation when hope really is completely lost?  Is it okay to give up?  How do you resolve the flood of emotion and stress, or don’t you?  I believe there is always hope.  No one is too far gone to not be redeemed.  The name of my school can be a daily reminder of that.  No matter how many people break your heart and leave you on a deserted island, there is always a Dionysus who can rescue you.


Also helpful in my searching was this article.


     The first hyperlinked article I found through Hope Library databases under “Modern and Classical Languages.”  I used JSTOR and typed in ‘Ariadne’ and ‘Heroides’ …somehow it led me to Google scholar and the article was the third one down…it had a link to JSTOR.  The article was written by Catherine Bolton from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Publisher is Phoenix, part of the Classical Association of Canada.  1994.

     The second linked article I found also under Hope Library databases but under “Project Muse.”  I typed in ‘Ariadne,’ ‘Ovid,’ and ‘Heroides.’  It is a book review by Genevieve Lively from the University of Bristol.  This review is published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in the American Journal of Pholology.  2007.




2 thoughts on “Hope? Hope.

  1. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    I think it’s pretty great (yet also kinda sad) that nothing ever really changes. That’s what I love about classics so much. There’s so much we can relate to, even though it happened hundreds of years ago. A broken heart feels horrible & it’s hard to heal & regain hope for the future; this situation has been around for so long and it probably will continue to happen forever.
    Another thing that comes to my mind when reading this is the function of ancient mythology. I believe that one of their purposes is to provide a metaphor or explanation for things that happen in real life. It’s clear that Ovid alludes to this myth of Ariadne to strengthen his argument that love can be a messy and complicated matter and that the loneliness felt when one is ignored by a love interest can be very painful indeed (maybe not as terrible as getting stranded on a desert island, but you get the point).
    gawrsh, I just love classics so much! 😀

  2. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    Fantastic post, I love the way you pull out so much of what makes classical literature so beautiful and intriguing to study! The fact that authors from thousands of years ago express feelings and experiences that resonate so well with us as modern readers, whether it be angst over a messy break-up or learning how to cope with loss of a loved one. And this gives us a wider perspective on human experience in general. I really like the way you summarize and then pull relevant questions out of the story of Ariadne and Theseus in such a way that it intrigues readers whether or not they have read the story for themselves. Well written, and I can’t wait to read your next post!

    -Elaina D.


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