Phyllidis hic idem teneraeque Amaryllidis ignes bucolicis iuvenis luserat ante modis. Nos quoque iam pridem scripto peccavimus isto: supplicium patitur non nova culpa novum.The same man had written as a youth playful verse of the passion for Phyllis and tender Amaryllis, all in pastoral strains. Long ago I too sinned in that style of composition—thus a fault not new is suffering a new penalty.
Towards the end of Tristia 2, a book entirely devoted to one lengthy appeal to Augustus for his exile, Ovid defends his art by enumerating a catalogue of past poets who had written erotic poetry, a list that culminates with none other than Virgil, arguably the most sublime and blameless of Latin poets. After alleging that the most popular section of the great "Aeneid" is the love tragedy of Dido, Ovid further instances Virgil’s book of "Eclogues" as the sort of legitimate juvenile divertissement for a literary master. In a similar vein, claims the poet, he had composed verses of this kind when he was much younger: a general and suspiciously vague reference that was sometimes taken, such as in Ingleheart’s recent commentary, to mean the "Ars Amatoria", one (and the only certain) part of the dual crimes responsible for Ovid’s subsequent tribulation (hence the plea of guilt "peccavimus"). According to this reading, the phrase "non nova culpa" would put the "Ars" in relation to a tradition of eroticism in Latin poetry, ushered by such august names as Ennius and Lucretius; the "supplicium novum" would also be intended as a contrast with the impunity of the old masters.
However, the placing of the emphatic "scripto isto" at this point seems to indicate a more specific association between Ovid’s past writing in question with the literary genre of pastoral ("bucolicis modis"), which is summarized as the expression of “passions for” imaginary maidens. (I have modified Wheeler’s translation of "Phyllidis… ignes" from “passion of” to “passion for” since the original must be taken as an objective genitive: not only because the singers in the Eclogues are exclusively male, but also because the phrase is a direct quotation from Eclogue 5.) The similarity between "Ars Amatoria" and "Eclogues" stops at the very generic common theme of sexual love: being an extensive didactic poem, the "Ars" is not particularly comparable to the musings of herdsmen in their loved ones’ absence. Therefore I propose an alternative interpretation: the kind of writing in the same style to Virgil’s "Eclogues" refers to Ovid’s "Amores". It may be argued that Virgil’s invention of Phyllis and Amaryllis (both literary types somewhat wanting in individuality) would align better with the similarly fictitious heroines in the "Heroides". However, in the "Heroides" the gender of the speaker is reversed, and although the epistles retain certain characteristics of elegy, they are, with few exceptions, most rhetorically effective as complaints or invectives rather than confessions of love. The "Amores", on the other hand, are addressed to a girl under the name of Corinna, whose fictionality has also been admitted by Ovid earlier in Tristia 2.340 ("falso… amore").
Consequently we do not have to bring in any other poets in order to explain "non nova culpa": with the existence of the "Amores", the "Ars" is not new even within Ovid’s own poetic output. The "supplicium" it suffers, therefore, is not new compared to the favourable reception of other poets (which would be a little strange as an argument anyway, since the ancient poets cited by Ovid lie outside of the emperor’s purview), but compared to the fact that Ovid himself went unpunished after the success of his collections of elegy—an interpretation supported by lines that immediately follow, which describe the endowment of Ovid's knighthood: the inconsistency therefore lies on Augustus’ part. This reading also gives "nos quoque" a stronger force since it puts Ovid in a closer parallel to Virgil: just like the latter, who produced a national epic after having written the "Eclogues", Ovid also later moved on to compose the "Metamorphoses" and the "Fasti", both of which, in Ovid’s own words, have a strong panegyric element. In contradistinction to these lofty kinds of writing, the "Eclogues" and the "Amores" alike would be simply playful exercises. Hence the "peccavimus" must also be understood with more than a hint of irony: while Ovid confesses wrongdoing on the surface, he surely believes they are no more criminal than the elegies of Tibullus and Propertius, or Virgil’s pastorals.