usage of possessive pronouns, meus and suus


New Member

I am delving into a particular use of the possessive pronoun in Ovid's "Metamorphoses." In the passage below, Hippolytus recounts to a nymph a harrowing encounter with a sea-monster while traveling along the seashore. Notably, he is in exile from his homeland at this point. Despite the perilous situation, he mentions that his mind remained undisturbed, being preoccupied with thoughts of his own exile.

Corda pavent comitum. Mihi mens interrita mansit
exsiliis contenta suis. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15: 514-15)

The possessive "suis" grammatically refers back to "mens" (my mind). However, "suis exsiliis" seems like it should mean "his own exiles." It's interesting that Hippolytus doesn't employ "meis exsiliis." Could the use of "suis" here be a form of euphemism, perhaps to veil the shame associated with his exile? I would appreciate any insights or interpretations regarding this choice.



  • Aedilis

perhaps to veil the shame associated with his exile?
I wouldn't read so much into it. The speaker's exile is called his mind's exile by a figure of speech because his mind is preoccupied with it and, besides, a person's mind isn't very different from the person themselves.


New Member

Thank you for your thought-provoking response. I concur that it's crucial to approach the concepts of persona and mens in classical literature without the biases of the Western mind-body dichotomy. Your insights have stimulated deeper contemplation on how Roman literature portrays the interplay between an individual's identity and their mental state.

This discussion reminds me of a parallel in English literature, where a metaphorical distinction is drawn between a person's mind and their self. For instance, in Anthony Trollope's 'The Eustace Diamonds,' there's a passage that vividly illustrates this separation: 'When my mind has run away with me, to revel amidst ideas of feminine sweetness, you have always—always been the heroine of the tale, as the mistress of the happy castle in the air.' This metaphor could echo the Roman literary tradition, and might enrich our understanding of how different cultures perceive the relationship between the mind and the self."
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