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The Roman poet Ovid with a laurel wreath from an engraving.
Born March 20, 43 BCE
Sulmo, Roman Republic
Died 17 or 18 CE
Tomis (present Constanţa), Scythia Minor, Greek colony
Occupation Poet
Genres Elegy, drama, epic

Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BCE – 17 or 18 CE), known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria, three major collections of erotic poetry, the Metamorphoses a mythological hexameter poem, the Fasti, about the Roman calendar, and the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, two collections of poems written in exile on the Black Sea. Ovid was also the author of several smaller pieces, the Remedia Amoris, the Medicamina Faciei Femineae, and the Ibis, a long curse-poem. He also authored a lost tragedy, Medea. He is considered a master of the elegiac couplet, and is traditionally ranked alongside Virgil and Horace as one of the three canonic poets of Latin literature. The scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the canonical Latin love elegists.[1] His poetry, much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, decisively influenced European art and literature and remains as one of the most important sources of classical mythology.[2]



Ovid talks more about his own life than most other Roman poets. Information about his biography is drawn primarily from his poetry, especially Tristia 4.10, which gives a long autobiographical account of his life. Other sources include Seneca and Quintilian.

Birth, Early Life, and Marriage

Ovid was born in Sulmo (Sulmona), in an Apennine valley, east of Rome, to an important equestrian family, on March 20, 43 BCE, a significant year in Roman politics.[a] He was educated in Rome in rhetoric under the teachers Arellius Fuscus and Porcius Latro with his brother who excelled at oratory.[3] His father wished him to study rhetoric toward the practice of law. According to Seneca the Elder, Ovid tended to the emotional, not the argumentative pole of rhetoric. After the death of his brother at 20 years of age, Ovid renounced law and began travelling to Athens, Asia Minor, and Sicily.[4] He held minor public posts, as one of the tresviri capitales[5] and as one of the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis[6] but resigned to pursue poetry probably around 29-25 BCE, a decision his father apparently disapproved of.[7] His first recitation has been dated to around 25, when Ovid was eighteen.[8] He was part of the circle centered upon the patron Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus but seems to have been friends with poets in the circle of Maecenas. In Trist. 4.10.41-54, Ovid mentions friendships with Macer, Propertius, Horace, and Bassus (he only barely met Virgil and Tibullus, a fellow member of Messalla's circle whose elegies he admired greatly). He married three times and divorced twice by the time he was thirty years old; yet only one marriage yielded offspring — a daughter who gave him grandchildren.[9] His last wife was part of the influential gens Sulpicia and would help him during his exile in Tomis.[10]

Literary Success

Ovid's statue in Constanţa/Tomis, the city where he died.

The first 25 years of Ovid's literary career were spent primarily writing poetry in elegiac meter with erotic themes.[11] The chronology of these early works is not secure, however, tentative dates have been established by scholars. His earliest extant work is thought to be the Heroides, letters of mythological heroines to their absent lovers, which may have been published in 19 BCE, although the date is uncertain as it depends on a notice in Am.2.18.19-26, which seems to describe the collection as an early published work. The authenticity of various of these poems has been challenged but this first edition probably contained the first 14 poems of the collection. The first five-book collection of the Amores, a series of erotic poems addressed to a lover, Corinna, is thought to have been published in 16-15 BCE; the surviving, extant version, redacted to three books according to an epigram prefixed to the first book, is thought to have been published c. 8-3 BCE. Between the publications of the two editions of the Amores can be dated the premiere of his tragedy Medea which was admired in antiquity but is now no longer extant. Ovid's next poem, the Medicamina Faciei, a fragmentary work on women's beauty treatments preceded the Ars Amatoria, the Art of Love, a parody of didactic poetry and a three-book manual about seduction and intrigue,[12] which has been dated to 2 CE. Ovid may identify this work in his exile poetry as the carmen, or song, which was one cause of his banishment. The Ars Amatoria was followed by the Remedia Amoris in the same year. This corpus of elegiac, erotic poetry earned Ovid a place among the chief Roman elegists Gallus, Tibullus, and Propertius, of which he saw himself as the fourth member.[13]

By 8 CE, he had completed his most ambitious work, the Metamorphoses, a hexameter epic poem in 15 books which encyclopedically catalogues transformations in Greek and Roman mythology from the emergence of the cosmos to the deification of Julius Caesar. The stories follow each other in the telling of human beings transformed to new bodies — trees, rocks, animals, flowers, constellations et cetera. At the same time, he was working on the Fasti, a six-book poem in elegiac couplets which took the Roman festivals calendar and astronomy as its theme. The composition of this poem was interrupted by Ovid's exile,[b] and it is thought that Ovid abandoned work on the piece in Tomis. It is likely in this period, if they are indeed by Ovid, that the double letters (16-21) in the Heroides were composed.

Exile to Tomis

In 8 CE, Ovid was banished to Tomis, on the Black Sea, by the exclusive intervention of the Emperor Augustus, without any participation of the Senate or of any Roman judge,[14] an event which would shape all of his following poetry. Ovid wrote that the reason for his exile was carmen et error — "a poem and a mistake",[15] claiming that his crime was worse than murder,[16] more harmful than poetry.[17][18] The Emperor's grandchildren, Agrippa Postumus and Julia the Younger, were banished around the time of his banishment; Julia's husband, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, was put to death for conspiracy against Augustus, a conspiracy about which Ovid might have known. The Julian Marriage Laws of 18 BCE, which promoted monogamous marriage to increase the population's birth rate, were fresh in the Roman mind. Ovid's writing in the Ars Amatoria concerned the serious crime of adultery, and he may have been banished for these works which appeared subversive to the emperor's moral legislation. However, because of the long distance of time between the publication of this work (1 BC) and the exile (8 CE), some authors suggest that Augustus used the poem as a mere justification for something more personal.[19]

William Turner, Ovid Banished from Rome, 1838.

In exile, Ovid wrote two poetry collections titled Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, illustrating his sadness and desolation. Being far from Rome, he had no access to libraries, and thus might have been forced to abandon the Fasti poem about the Roman calendar, of which only the first six books exist — January through June. The five books of the elegiac Tristia, a series of poems expressing the poet's despair in exile and advocating his return to Rome, are dated to 9-12 CE. The Ibis, an elegiac curse poem attacking an adversary at home may also be dated to this period. The Epistulae ex Ponto, a series of letters to friends in Rome asking them to effect his return, are thought to be his last compositions, with the first three books published in 13 CE and the fourth book between 14-16 CE. The exile poetry is particularly emotive and personal. In the Epistulae he claims friendship with the natives of Tomis (in the Tristia they are frightening barbarians) and to have written a poem in their language (Ex P. 4.13.19-20). And yet he pined for Rome and for his third wife, as many of the poems are to her. Some are also to the Emperor Augustus, yet others are to himself, to friends in Rome, and sometimes to the poems themselves, expressing loneliness and hope of recall from banishment or exile.[20]

The obscure causes of Ovid's exile have given rise to endless explanations from scholars studying antiquity. In fact, the mediaeval texts that mention the exile offer no credible explanations as their statements seem incorrect interpretations drawn from the works of Ovid.[21] Ovid himself wrote many references to his offense giving obscure or contradictory clues.[22] In 1923, scholar J. J. Hartmann proposed a theory that is little considered among scholars of Latin civilization today — that Ovid never left Rome to the exile and that all of his exile works are the result of his fertile imagination. This theory was supported and rejected in the 1930s, especially by Dutch authors.[23] In 1985 a new research paper by Fitton Brown advanced new arguments in support of the theory;[24] the article was followed by a series of supports and refutations in the short space of five years.[25] Among the reasons argued by Brown is: that Ovid's exile is only informed by his own work, except in "dubious" passages by Pliny the Elder, Stachys but no other author until the beginning of the fifth century; that the author of Heroides was able to separate the poetic "I" of his own and real life; that information on the geography of Tomos were already known by Virgil, Herodotus and by Ovid himself in his Metamorphoses.[c][26] Orthodox scholars, however, are opposed to these hypotheses.[27] One of the main arguments of these scholars is that Ovid wouldn't let his Fasti remain unfinished, mainly because this poem meant his consecration as imperial poet.[28]


Ovid died at Tomis after some ten years. It is thought that the Fasti, which he spent time revising were published posthumously. He was allegedly buried a few kilometers away in a nearby town. In 1930 that town was renamed Ovidiu in his honor. As Ovid spent the last years of his life and literary work in what is now Romania, Romanian nationalists have adopted him as "The First Romanian Poet" and placed him in the pantheon of Romanian national heroes. Ovidiu is a common male first name in Romania. Also, a statue commemorates him in the Romanian city of Tomis (contemporary Constantza). The statue's Latin inscription reads (Tristia 3.3.73-76):

Hic ego qui iaceo tenerorum lusor amorum
Ingenio perii, Naso poeta, meo.
At tibi qui transis, ne sit grave, quisquis amasti,
Dicere: Nasonis molliter ossa cubent.
Here I lie, who played with tender loves,
Naso the poet, killed by my own talent.
O passerby, if you've ever been in love, let it not be too much for you
to say: May the bones of Naso lie gently.


Fresco of Medea from Herculaneum.

Heroides ("The Heroines")

The Heroides ("Heroines") or Epistulae Heroidum are a collection of 21 poems in elegiac couplets. The Heroides take the form of letters addressed by famous mythological characters to their partners expressing their emotions at being separated from them, pleas for their return, and allusions to their future actions within their own mythology. The authenticity of many of the letters has been questioned, the most conservative scholars only considering those mentioned specifically in Ovid's description of the work at Am. 2.18.19–26 to be authentic. The collection comprises a new type of generic composition without parallel in earlier literature.[29] The first 14 letters are thought to comprise the first published collection and are written by the heroines Penelope, Phyllis, Briseis, Phaedra, Oenone, Hypsipyle, Dido, Hermione, Deianeira, Ariadne, Canace, Medea, Laodamia, and Hypermestra to their absent male lovers. Letter 15, from the historical Sappho to Phaon, seems spurious because of its length, its lack of integration in the mythological theme, and its absence from Medieval manuscripts.[30] The final letters (16-21) are paired compositions comprising a letter to a lover and a reply. Paris and Helen, Hero and Leander, and Acontius and Cydippe are the addressees of the paired letters. These are considered a later addition to the corpus because they are never mentioned by Ovid and may or may not be spurious. The Heroides markedly reveal the influence of rhetorical declamation and may derive from Ovid's interest in rhetorical suasoriae, persuasive speeches, and ethopoeia, the practice of speaking in another character. They also play with generic conventions; most of the letters seem to refer to works in which these characters were significant, such as the Aeneid in the case of Dido and Catullus 64 for Ariadne and transfer characters from the genres of epic and tragedy to the elegiac genre of the Heroides.[31] The letters have been admired for their deep psychological portrayals of mythical characters, their rhetoric, and their unique attitude to the classical tradition of mythology.

Amores ("The Loves")

Ovide et Corine by Agostino Carracci portrays the poet with his love of Amores, poem of his huge production in elegiac couplets.

The Amores is a collection in three books of love poetry in elegiac meter, following the conventions of the elegiac genre developed by Tibullus and Propertius. The books describe the many aspects of love and focus on the poet's relationship with a mistress called Corinna. Within the various poems are several which describe events in the relationship, thus presenting the reader with some vignettes and a loose narrative. Book 1 contains 15 poems; the first poem tells of Ovid's intention to write epic poetry which is thwarted when Cupid steals a metrical foot from him, changing his work into love elegy. Poem 4 is didactic and describes principles which Ovid would develop in the Ars Amatoria. The fifth poem, describing a noon tryst, introduces Corinna by name. Poems 8 and 9 deal with Corinna selling her love for gifts, while 11 and 12 describe the poet's failed attempt to arrange a meeting. 14 discusses Corinna's disastrous experiment in dying her hair and 15 stresses the immortality of Ovid and love poets. The second book has 19 pieces; the opening poem tells of Ovid's abandonment of a Gigantomachy in favor of elegy. 2 and 3 are entreaties to a guardian to let the poet see Corinna, 7 and 8 deal with Ovid's affair with Corinna's servant and her discovery of it, and 11 and 12 try to prevent Corinna from going on vacation. Poem 6 is a lament for Corinna's dead parrot, 13 a prayer to Isis for Corinna's illness, 14 a poem against abortion, and 19 a warning to unwary husbands. Book 3 has 15 poems. The opening piece depicts personified Tragedy and Elegy fighting over Ovid. 2 describes a visit to the races, 3 and 8 focus on Corinna's interest in other men, 10 is a complaint to Ceres because of her festival that requires abstinence, 13 is a poem on a festival of Juno, and 9 a lament for Tibullus. In poem 11 Ovid decides not to love Corinna any longer and regrets the poems he has written about her. The final poem is Ovid's farewell to the erotic muse. Critics have seen the poems a highly self conscious and extremely playful specimens of the elegiac genre.[32]

Medicamina Faciei Femineae ("Women's Facial Cosmetics")

About a hundred elegiac lines survive from this poem on beauty treatments for women's faces, which seems to parody serious didactic poetry. The poem says that women should concern themselves first with manners and then prescribes several compounds for facial treatments before breaking off. The style is not unlike the shorter Hellenistic didactic works of Nicander and Aratus.

Ars Amatoria ("The Art of Love")

The Ars Amatoria is a didactic elegiac poem in three books which sets out to teach the arts of seduction and love. The first book is addressed to men and teaches them how to seduce women, the second, also to men, teaches one how to keep a lover. The third is addressed to women and teaches seduction techniques. The first book opens with a invocation to Venus in which Ovid establishes himself as a praeceptor amoris (1.17) a teacher of love. Ovid describes the places one can go to find a lover, like the theater, a triumph, which is thoroughly described, or arena, and ways to get the girl to take notice, including seducing her covertly at a banquet. Choosing the right time is significant as are getting into her associates' confidence. Ovid emphasizes care of the body for the lover. Mythological digressions include a piece on the Rape of the Sabine women, Pasiphae, and Ariadne. Book 2 invokes Apollo and begins with a telling of the story of Icarus. Ovid advises lovers to avoid giving too many gifts, keep up their appearance, hide affairs, complement her, and ingratiate themselves with slaves to stay on their lover's good side. The care of Venus for procreation is described as is Apollo's aid in keeping a lover; Ovid then digresses on the story of Vulcan's trap for Venus and Mars. The book ends with Ovid asking his "students" to spread his fame. Book 3, opens with a vindication of women's abilities and Ovid's resolution to arm women against his teaching in the first two books. Ovid gives women detailed instructions on appearance telling them to avoid to many adornments. He advises women to read elegiac poetry, learn to play games, sleep with people of different ages, flirt, and dissemble. Throughout the book, Ovid playfully interjects, criticizing himself for undoing all his didactic work to men and mythologically digresses on the story of Procis and Cephalus. The book ends with his wish that women will follow his advice and spread his fame saying Naso magister erat, Ovid was our teacher.

Remedia Amoris ("The Cure for Love")

This elegiac poem proposes a cure for the love which Ovid teaches in the Ars Amatoria and is primarily addressed to men. The poem criticizes suicide as a means for escaping love and, invoking Apollo, goes on to tell lovers not to procrastinate and be lazy in dealing with love. Lovers are taught to avoid their partners, not perform magic, see their lover unprepared, take other lovers, and never be jealous. Old letters should be burned and the lover's family avoided. The poem throughout presents Ovid as a doctor and utilizes medical imagery. Some have interpreted this poem as the close of Ovid's didactic cycle of love poetry and the end of his erotic elegiac project.[33]

Metamorphoses, ("Transformations")

Engraved frontispiece of George Sandys’s 1632 London edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses Englished.

The Metamorphoses, perhaps Ovid's most ambitious work and one of his most popular, consists of a 15-book catalogue in dactylic hexameter of transformations in Greek and Roman mythology set within a loose mytho-historical framework. Almost 250 different myths are mentioned, and the poem stands in the tradition of mythological and aetiological catalogue poetry such as Hesiod's Catalogue of Women, Callimachus' Aetia, Nicander's Heteroeumena, and Parthenius' Metamorphoses. The first book describes the formation of the world, the ages of man, the flood, the story of Daphne's rape by Apollo and Io's by Jupiter. Book 2 opens with Phaethon and continues descrbing the loves of Jupiter with Callisto and Europa. The third book focuses on the mythology of Thebes with the stories of Cadmus, Actaeon, and Pentheus. Book 4 focuses on lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, Salmacis, and Perseus; Book 5 opens by ending the story of Perseus and focuses on the song of the Muses which describes the rape of Proserpina. Book 6 collects stories of rivalry between gods and mortals with Arachne and Niobe and ends with Tereus and Philomela. Book 7 presents Medea and Cephalus and Procris. The eighth describes Daedalus' flight, the Calydonian boar hunt, and the contrast between pious Baucis and Philemon and the wicked Erysichthon. Book 9 focuses on Heracles and the incestuous Byblis. Book 10 focuses on stories of doomed love, such as Orpheus, who sings about Hyacinthus, Pygmalion, Myrrha, and Adonis. The eleventh book compares the marriage of Peleus and Thetis with the love of Ceyx and Alcyone. Book 12 moves into history from myth describing the exploits of Achilles, the battle of the centaurs, and Iphigeneia. The thirteenth book discusses the contest over Achilles' arms, and Polyphemus. The fourteenth moves to Italy, describing the journey of Aeneas, Pomona and Vertumnus, and Romulus. The final book opens with a philosophical lecture by Pythagoras and the deification of Caesar. The end of the poem praises Augustus and expresses Ovid's belief that his poem has earned him immortality. In analyzing the Metamorphoses, scholars have focused on Ovid's organization of his vast body of material. The ways that stories are linked by geography, themes, or contrasts creates interesting effects and constantly forces the reader to evaluate the connections. Ovid also varies his tone and material from different literary genres; G. B. Conte has called the poem a "a sort of gallery of these various literary genres."[34] In this spirit, Ovid engages creatively with his predecessors, alluding creatively to the full spectrum of classical poetry.

Fasti ("The Festivals")

Six books in elegiacs survive of this second ambitious poem on which Ovid was working at the time he was exiled. The six books cover the first semester of the year, with each book dedicated to a different month of the Roman calendar (January to June). The project seems unprecedented in Roman literature. It seems that Ovid planned to cover the whole year, but was unable to finish because of his exile, although he did revise sections of the work at Tomis, and he claims at Trist. 2.549-52 that all twelve books were finished. Like the Metamorphoses, the Fasti was to be a long poem and emulated aetiological poetry by writers like Callimachus and, more recently, Propertius and his fourth book. The poem goes through the Roman calendar, explaining the origins and customs of important Roman festivals, digressing on mythical stories, and giving astronomical and agricultural information appropriate to the season. The poem was probably dedicated to Augustus intitially, but perhaps the death of the emperor prompted Ovid to change the dedication to honor Germanicus. Ovid uses direct inquiry of gods and scholarly research to talk about the calendar and regularly calls himself a vates, a priest. He also seems to emphasize unsavory, popular traditions of the festivals, imbuing the poem with a popular, plebian flavor, which some have interpreted as subversive to the Augustuan moral legislation.[35] While this poem has always been invaluable to students of Roman religion and culture for the wealth of antiquarian material it preserves, it recently has been seen as one of Ovid's finest literary works and a unique contribution to Roman elegiac poetry.

Ibis ("The Ibis")

The Ibis is an elegiac poem in 644 lines, in which Ovid uses a dazzling array of mythic stories to curse and attack an enemy who is harming him in exile. At the beginning of the poem, Ovid claims that his poetry up to that point had been harmless, but now he is going to use his abilities to hurt his enemy. He cites Callimachus' Ibis as his inspiration and calls all the gods to make his curse effective. Ovid uses mythical exempla to condemn his enemy in the afterlife, cites evil prodigies that attended his birth, and then in the next 300 lines wishes that the torments of mythological characters happen to his enemy. The poem ends with a prayer that the gods make his curse effective.

Tristia ("Sorrows")

The Tristia consist of five books of elegiac poetry composed by Ovid in exile in Tomis. Book 1 contains 11 poems; the first piece is an address by Ovid to his book about how it should act when it arrives in Rome. 3 describes his final night in Rome, 2 and 10 Ovid's voyage to Tomis, 8 the betrayal of a friend, and 5 and 6 the loyalty of his friends and wife. In the final poem Ovid apologizes for the quality and tone of his book, a sentiment echoed throughout the collection. Book 2 consists of one long poem in which Ovid defends himself and his poetry, uses precedents to justify his work, and begs the emperor for forgiveness. Book 3 in 14 poems focuses on Ovid's life in Tomis. The opening poem describes his book's arrival in Rome to find Ovid's works banned. Poems 10, 12, and 13 focus on the seasons spent in Tomis, 9 on the origins of the place, 2,3, and 11 his emotional distress and longing for home. The final poem is again an apology for his work. The fourth book has ten poems addressed mostly to friends. Poem 1 expresses his love of poetry and the solace it brings; 2 describes a triumph of Tiberius. Poems 3-5 are to friends, 7 a request for correspondence, and 10 an autobiography. The final book of the Tristia with 14 poems focuses on his wife and friends. Poems 4, 5, 11, and 14 are addressed to his wife, 2 and 3 are prayers to Augustus and Bacchus, 4 and 6 are to friends, 8 to an enemy. Poem 13 asks for letters, while 1 and 12 are apologies to his readers for the quality of his poetry.

Epistulae ex Ponto ("Letters from the Black Sea")

The Epistulae ex Ponto is a collection in four books of further poetry from exile. The Epistulae are each addressed to a different friend and focus more desperately than the Tristia on securing his recall from exile. The poems mainly deal with requests for friends to speak on his behalf to members of the imperial family, discussions of writing with friends, and descriptions of life in exile. The first book has ten pieces in which Ovid describes the state of his health (10), his hopes, memories, and yearning for Rome (3,6,8), and his needs in exile (3). Book 2 contains impassioned requests to Germanicus (1 and 5) and various friends to speak on his behalf at Rome while he describes his despair and life in exile. Book 3 has nine poems in which Ovid addresses his wife (1) and various friends. It includes a telling of the story of Iphigenia in Tauris (2), a poem against criticism (9), and a dream of Cupid (3). Book 4, the final work of Ovid, in 16 poems talks to friends and describes his life as an exile further. Poems 10 and 13 describe Winter and Spring at Tomis, poem 14 is praise for Tomis, 7 describes its geography and climate, and 4 and 9 are congratulations on friends for their consulships and requests for help. Poem 12 is addressed to a Tuticanus, whose name, Ovid complains, does not fit into meter. The final poem is addressed to an enemy whom Ovid implores to leave him alone. The last elegiac couplet is translated: "Where’s the joy in stabbing your steel into my dead flesh?/ There’s no place left where I can be dealt fresh wounds."[36]

Lost Works

One loss which Ovid himself informs us of is the first five-book edition of the Amores from which nothing has come down to us. The greatest loss is Ovid's only tragedy, Medea, from which only a few lines are preserved. Quintilian admired the work a great deal and considered it a prime example of Ovid's poetic talent.[37] Lactantius quotes from a lost translation by Ovid of Aratus' Phaenomena, although the poem's ascription to Ovid is insecure because it is never mentioned in Ovid's other works.[38] Even though it is unlikely, if the last six books of the Fasti ever existed, they constitute a great loss. Ovid also mentions some occasional poetry which does not survive.[39] Also lost is the final portion of the Medicamina.

Spurious Works

Consolatio ad Liviam ("Consolation to Livia")

The Consolatio is a long elegiac poem of consolation to Augustus' wife Livia on the death of her son Drusus. The poem opens by advising Livia not to try and hide her sad emotions and contrasts Drusus' military virtue with his death. Drusus' funeral and the tributes of the imperial family are described as are his final moments and Livia's lament over the body, which is compared to birds. The laments of the city of Rome as it greets his funeral procession and the gods are mentioned, and Mars from his temple dissuades the Tiber river from quenching the pyre out of grief. Grief is expressed for his lost military honors, his wife, and his mother. The poet asks Livia to look for consolation in Tiberius. The poem ends with an address by Drusus to Livia assuring him of his fate in Elysium. Although this poem was connected to the Elegiae in Maecenatem, it is now thought that they are unconnected. The date of the piece is unknown, but a date in the reign of Tiberius has been suggested because of that emperor's prominence in the poem.[40]

Halieutica ("On Fishing")

The Halieutica is a fragmentary didactic poem in 134 poorly preserved hexameter lines and is considered spurious. The poem begins by describing how every animal possesses the ability to protect itself and how fish use ars to help themselves. The ability of dogs and land creatures to protect themselves are described. The poem goes on to list the places which are best for fishing and which types of fish should be caught. Although Pliny the Elder mentions a Halieutica by Ovid, which was composed at Tomis near the end of Ovid's life, modern scholars believe Pliny was mistaken in his attribution and that the poem is not genuine.[41]

Nux ("The Walnut Tree")

This short poem in 91 elegiac couplets is a monologue spoken by a walnut tree asking that boys not pelt her with stones to get his fruit. The tree contrasts the formerly fruitful golden age with the its own barren time in which fruit is violently ripped off and its branches broken. The tree compares itself to several mythological characters, praises the peace the emperor provides, and prays to be destroyed rather than suffer. The poem is considered spurious because it incorporates allusions to Ovid's works in an uncharacteristic way, although the piece is thought to be contemporary or by a poet of the same period.[42]

Somnium ("The Dream")

This poem, traditionally placed at Amores 3.5 is considered spurious. The poet describes a dream to an interpreter, saying that he sees while escaping from the heat of noon a white heifer near a bull; when the heifer is pecked by a crow, it leaves the bull for a meadow with other bulls. The interpreter interprets the dream as a love allegory; the bull represents the poet, the heifer a girl, and the crow an old woman. The old woman spurs the girl to leave her lover and find someone else. The poem is known to have circulated independently and its lack of engagement with Tibullan or Propertian elegy argue in favor of its spuriousness, however, the poem does seem to be datable to the early empire.[43]


Ovid is traditionally considered the final significant love elegist in the evolution of the genre and one of the most versatile in his handling of the genre's conventions. Ovid, like the other canonical elegiac poets takes on a persona in his works which emphasizes subjectivity and personal emotion over traditional militaristic and public goals, a convention which has been linked by some scholars with the relative stability provided by the Augustan settlement.[44][45] However, although Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius may have been inspired in part by personal experience (the validity of "biographical" readings of these poets' works is a serious point of scholarly contention)[46] Ovid has been seen as taking on a persona in his poetry which is far more emotionally detached from his mistress and less involved in crafting a unique emotional realism within the text than the other elegists.[47] This attitude, coupled with the lack of testimony which identifies Ovid's Corinna with a real person[48] has led scholars to conclude that Corinna was never a real person and that Ovid's relationship with her is an invention for his elegiac project.[49] Some scholars have even interpreted Corinna as a metapoetic symbol for the elegiac genre itself.[50]

Statue in Constanţa.

Ovid has been considered a highly inventive love elegist who plays with traditional elegiac conventions and elaborates the themes of the genre[51]; Quintilian even calls him a "sportive" elegist.[52] In some poems, he uses traditional conventions in new ways, such as the paraklausithyron of Am. 1.6, while other poems seem to have no elegiac precedents and appear to be Ovid's own generic innovations, such as the poem on Corinna's ruined hair (Am. 1.14). Ovid has been traditionally seen as far more sexually explicit in his poetry than the other elegists.[53] His erotic elegy covers a wide spectrum of themes and viewpoints; the Amores focus on Ovid's relationship with Corinna, the love of mythical characters is the subject of the Heroides, and the Ars Amatoria and the other didactic love poems provide a handbook for relationships and seduction from a (mock-)"scientific" point of view. In his treatment of elegy, scholars have traced the influence of rhetorical education in his enumeration, in his effects of surprise, and in his transitional devices.[54] Some commentators have also noted the influence Ovid's interest in love elegy in his other works, such as the Fasti and have distinguished his "elegiac" style from his "epic" style. Richard Heinze in his famous Ovids elegische Erzählung delineated the distinction between Ovid's styles by comparing the Fasti and Metamorphoses versions of the same legends such as the treatment of Ceres-Proserpina story in both poems. Heinze demonstrated that, "whereas in the elegiac poems a sentimental and tender tone prevails, the hexameter narrative is characterized by an emphasis on solemnity and awe..."[55] His general line of argument has been accepted by Brooks Otis, who wrote:

"The gods are 'serious' in epic as they are not in elegy; the speeches in epic are long and infrequent compared to the short, truncated and frequent speeches of elegy; the epic writer conceals himself while the elegiac fills his narrative with familiar remarks to the reader or his characters; above all perhaps, epic narrative is continuous and symmetrical... whereas elegiac narrative displays a marked asymmetry..."[56]

Otis wrote that in the Ovidian poems of love, he "was burlesquing and old theme rather than inventing a new one."[57] Otis states that the Heroides are more serious and, though some of them are "quite different from anything Ovid had done before [...] he is here also treading a very well-worn path" to relate that the motif of females abandoned by or separated from their men was a "stock motif of Hellenistic and neoteric poetry (the classic example for us is, of course, Catullus 66)."[57] Otis also states that Phaedra and Medea, Dido and Hermione (also presents in the poem) "are clever re-touchings of Euripides and Vergil."[57] Some scholars, such as Kenney and Clausen, has compared Ovid with Virgil. According to them, Virgil was ambiguous and ambivalent while Ovid was defined and, while Ovid wrote only what he could express Virgil wrote for the use of language.[58]



A 1484 figure of Ovide Moralisé, edition by Colard Mansion.

Ovid's works have been interpreted in various ways over the centuries with attitudes that depended on the social, religious and literary contexts of different times. It is known that since his own lifetime, he was already famous and criticized. In the Remedia Amoris, for example, Ovid reports criticism from people who considered his books insolent.[59] He responds for them in the same poem, writing: "Gluttonous Envy, burst: my name’s well known already:/it will be more so, if only my feet travel the road they’ve started./But you’re in too much of a hurry: if I live you’ll be more than sorry:/many poems, in fact, are forming in my mind."[60] Later, he was one of the best known and most loved Roman poets during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.[61] The authors of the Middle Ages used his work as a way to read and write about sex and violence without orthodox "scrutiny routinely given to commentaries on the Bible".[62] In the Middle Ages the voluminous Ovide Moralisé, a French work that moralizes 15 books of the Metamorphoses was composed. This work influenced Chaucer. His poetry provided inspiration for many Renaissance painters and the Renaissance humanism did not ignored him: Montaigne in his Essais alludes several times to the Roman poet (for example, in Book I/Chapter II) and wrote in his view of Education of Children:

"The first taste I had for books came to me from my pleasure in the fables of the Metamorphoses of Ovid. For at about seven or eight years of age I would steal away from any other pleasure to read them, inasmuch as this language was my mother tongue, and it was the easiest book I knew and the best suited by its content to my tender age."[63]
A oil on paper laid down on wood of 1862 by Delacroix called Ovid among the Scythians.

In the 16th century, some Jesuit schools of Portugal cut several passages from his Metamorphoses. While the Jesuits saw his poems elegant compositions worthy of being presented to students for educational purposes, they also felt his works as a whole might corrupt students.[64] Jesuits took much of their knowledge of Ovid to the Portuguese colonies. According to Serafim Leite (1949), the ratio studiorum was in effect in Colonial Brazil during the early seventeenth century, and in this period students read works like the Epistulae ex Ponto to learn grammar.[65] In the 16th century, Ovid's works were criticized in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London ordered that a contemporary translation of Ovid's love poems be publicly burned in 1599. The Puritans of the following century viewed Ovid as a pagan and thus as an immoral influence.[66] John Dryden composed a famous translation of the Metamorphoses into stopped rhyming couples during the eighteenth century, when Ovid was "refashioned [...] in its own image, one kind of Augustanism making over another."[61] The Romantic movement of the 19th century, in contrast, considered Ovid and his poems "stuffy, dull, over-formalized and lacking in genuine passion."[61] Romantics might have preferred his poetry of exile.[67] The painting on right, Ovid among the Scythians, painted by Delacroix, which portrays the last years of the poet in exile in Scythia, was seen by Baudelaire, Gautier and Edgar Degas.[68]

Ovid's Influence

Ovid as imagined in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493.

Literary and Artistic

See the website "Ovid illustrated: the Renaissance reception of Ovid in image and Text" for many more Renaissance examples.

Dante twice mentions him in:

Retellings, adaptations, and translations of Ovidian works


See also


  • a. ^  It really was a pivotal year in the history of Rome. A year before his birth, the murder of Julius Caesar took place, an event that precipitated the end of the republican regime. After Caesar's death, a series of civil wars and alliances followed (See Roman civil wars), until the victory of Caesar's nephew, Octavius (later called Augustus) over Mark Antony (consul for 44 years and leading supporter of Caesar), from which arose a new political order.[70]
  • b. ^  Fasti is, in fact, unfinished. Metamorphoses was already completed in the year of exile, missing only the final revision.[71] In exile, Ovid said he never gave a final review on the poem.[72]
  • c. ^  Ovid cites Scythia in I 64, II 224, V 649, VII 407, VIII 788, XV 285, 359, 460, and others.


  1. ^ Quint. Inst. 10.1.93
  2. ^ Mark P. O. Morford, Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology (Oxford University Press US, 1999), p. 25. ISBN 0-19-514338-8 ISBN 978-0-19-514338-6
  3. ^ Seneca, Cont. 2.28 and 9.5.17
  4. ^ Trist. 1.2.77
  5. ^ Trist. 4.10.33-4
  6. ^ Fast. 4.383-4
  7. ^ Trist. 4.10.21
  8. ^ Trist. 4.10.57-8
  9. ^ JSTOR - The Scholarly Journal Archive
  10. ^ Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World s.v. Ovid
  11. ^ The most recent chart which describes the dating of Ovid's works can be found in Knox. P. "A Poet's Life" in A Companion to Ovid ed. Peter Knox (Oxford, 2009) pp.xvii-xviii
  12. ^ Hornblower, Simon; Antony Spawforth (1999). Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford University Press. pp. 1084–1086. 
  13. ^ Trist. 4.10.53-4
  14. ^ See Trist. II, 131-132.
  15. ^ Ovid, Tristia 2.207
  16. ^ Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 2.9.72
  17. ^ Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 3.3.72
  18. ^ Norwood, Frances, "The Riddle of Ovid's Relegatio", Classical Philogy (1963) p. 158
  19. ^ José González Vázquez (trans.), Ov. Tristes e Pónticas (Editorial Gredos, Madrid, 1992), p.10 and Rafael Herrera Montero (trans.), Ov. Tristes; Cartas del Ponto (Alianza Editorial, Madri, 2002). The scholars also add that it was no more indecent than many publications by Propertius, Tibullus and Horace circulating freely in that time.
  20. ^ The first two lines of the Tristia communicate his misery:Parve — nec invideo — sine me, liber, ibis in urbem; ei mihi, quod domino non licet ire tuo!
    Little book — for I won't hinder you — go on to the city without me; Alas for me, because your master is not allowed to go with you!
  21. ^ J. C. Thibault, The Mystery of Ovid’s Exile (Berkeley-L. A. 1964), p.20-32.
  22. ^ About 33 mentions, according to Thibault (op. cit., p.27-31).
  23. ^ A. W. J. Holleman, "Ovid’s exile", Liverpool Classical Monthly 10.3 (1985), p. 48.
    H. Hofmann, "The unreality of Ovid’s Tomitan exile once again", Liverpool Classical Monthly 12.2 (1987), p. 23.
  24. ^ A. D. F. Brown, "The unreality of Ovid’s Tomitan exile", Liverpool Classical Monthly 10.2 (1985), p. 18-22.
  25. ^ Cf. the summary provided by A. Alvar Ezquerra, Exilio y elegía latina entre la Antigüedad y el Renacimiento (Huelva, 1997), p. 23-24
  26. ^ A. D. F. Brown, "The unreality of Ovid’s Tomitan exile", Liverpool Classical Monthly 10.2 (1985), p. 20-21.
  27. ^ J. M. Claassen, "Error and the imperial household: an angry god and the exiled Ovid’s fate", Acta classica: proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa 30 (1987), p. 31-47.
  28. ^ Although some authors such as Martin (P. M. Martin, "À propos de l’exil d’Ovide... et de la succession d’Auguste", Latomus 45 (1986), p. 609-11.) and Porte (D. Porte, "Un épisode satirique des Fastes et l’exil d’Ovide", Latomus 43 (1984), p. 284-306.) detected in a passage of the Fasti (3371-80) an Ovidian attitude contrary to the wishes of Augustus to his succession, most researchers agree that this work is the clearest testimony of support of Augustan ideals by Ovid (E. Fantham, Ovid: Fasti. Book IV (Cambridge 1998), p. 42.)
  29. ^ Knox, P. Ovid's Heroides: Select Epistles (Cambridge, 1995) pp.14ff.
  30. ^ Knox, P. pp.12-13
  31. ^ Knox, P. pp.18ff.
  32. ^ Conte, G. pg.343
  33. ^ Conte, G. Latin Literature a History trans. J. Solodow (Baltimore, 1994) pg.346
  34. ^ Conte, G. pg.352
  35. ^ Herbert-Brown, G. "Fasti: the Poet, the Prince, and the Plebs" in Knox, P. (2009) pp.126ff.
  36. ^, a translation of all of Ovid's exile poetry can be found here by A. S. Kline, 2003
  37. ^ Quint. Inst. 10.1.98
  38. ^ Lact. Inst. 2.5.24
  39. ^ Epist. 1.2.131 and 1.7.30
  40. ^ Knox, P. "Lost and Spurious Works" in Knox, P. (2009) pg.214
  41. ^ Plinty Nat. 32.11 and 32.152 and Knox, P. "Lost" in Knox, P. (2009)
  42. ^ Knox, P. "Lost" in Knox, P. (2009) pg.212-3
  43. ^ Knox, P. "Lost" in Knox, P. (2009) pp.210-11
  44. ^ Ettore Bignone, Historia de la literatura latina (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1952), p.309.
  45. ^ A. Guillemin, "L’élement humain dans l’élégie latine". In: Revue des études Latines (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1940), p. 288.
  46. ^ In fact, it is generally accepted in most modern classical scholarship on elegy that the poems have little connection to autobiography or external reality. See Wycke, M. "Written Women:Propertius' Scripta Puella" in JRS 1987 and Davis, J. Fictus Adulter: Poet as Auctor in the Amores (Amsterdam, 1989) and Booth, J. "The Amores: Ovid Making Love" in A Companion to Ovid (Oxford, 2009) pp.70ff.
  47. ^ Booth, J. pg.66-68. She explains: "The text of the Amores hints at the narrator's lack of interest in depicting unique and personal emotion." pg.67
  48. ^ Apuleius Apology 1.10 provides the real names for every elegist's mistress except Ovid's.
  49. ^ Barsby, J. Ovid Amores 1 (Oxford, 1973) pp.16ff.
  50. ^ Keith, A. "Corpus Eroticum: Elegiac Poetics and Elegiac Puellae in Ovid's 'Amores'" in Classical World (1994) 27-40.
  51. ^ Barsby, pg.17.
  52. ^ Quint. Inst. 10.93
  53. ^ Booth, J. pg.65
  54. ^ Jean Bayet, Literatura latina (Barcelona: Ariel, 1985), p.278 and Barsby, pg.23ff.
  55. ^ Quoted by Theodore F. Brunner, "Deinon vs. eleeinon: Heinze Revisited" In: The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 92, No. 2 (Apr., 1971), pp. 275-284.
  56. ^ Brooks Otis, Ovid as an epic poet (CUP Archive, 1970), p.24. ISBN 0-521-07615-3, ISBN 978-0-521-07615-9
  57. ^ a b c _____, p.264.
  58. ^ KENNEY, E. J. y CLAUSEN, W. V. História de la literatura clásica (Cambridge University), vol. II. Literatura Latina. Madrid: Gredos, w/d, p.502.
  59. ^ Ov. Rem. VI, 6.
  60. ^ Ov. Rem. VI, 33-36. Translated by A. S. Kline and available in Ovid: Cures for Love (2001).
  61. ^ a b c Peter Green (trad.), The poems of exile: Tristia and the Black Sea letters (University of California Press, 2005), p.xiii. ISBN 0-520-24260-2, ISBN 978-0-520-24260-9
  62. ^ Robert Levine, "Exploiting Ovid: Medieval Allegorizations of the Metamorphoses," Medioevo Romanzo XIV (1989), pp. 197-213.
  63. ^ Michel de Montaigne, The complete essays of Montaigne (translated by Donald M. Frame), Stanford University Press 1958, p.130. ISBN 0-8047-0486-4 ISBN 978-0-8047-0486-1
  64. ^ Agostinho de Jesus Domingues, Os Clássicos Latinos nas Antologias Escolares dos Jesuítas nos Primeiros Ciclos de Estudos Pré-Elementares No Século XVI em Portugal (Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, 2002), Porto, p.16-17.
  65. ^ Serafim da Silva Leite, História da Companhia de Jesus no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Instituto Nacional do Livro, 1949, pp. 151-2 – Tomo VII.
  66. ^ Ovid's Metamorphoses, Alan H. F. Griffin, Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Apr., 1977), pp. 57-70. Cambridge University Press.
  67. ^ Peter Green (trad.), The poems of exile: Tristia and the Black Sea letters (University of California Press, 2005), p. xiv. ISBN 0-520-24260-2, ISBN 978-0-520-24260-9
  68. ^ "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2007–2008," in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 66, no. 2 (Fall, 2008).
  69. ^, Review: Metamorphoses
  70. ^ (Portuguese) Met., Ovid, translation to Portuguese by Paulo Farmhouse Alberto, Livros Cotovia, Intro, p.11.
  71. ^ Carlos de Miguel Moura. O mistério do exílio ovidiano. In Portuguese. In: Àgora. Estudos Clássicos em Debate 4 (2002), pp. 99-117.
  72. ^ Tristia 1, 7, 14.

Further reading

  • Ovid Renewed: Ovidian Influences on Literature and Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Ed. Charles Martindale. Cambridge, 1988.
  • Richard A. Dwyer "Ovid in the Middle Ages" in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, 1989, pp. 312–14
  • Federica Bessone. P. Ovidii Nasonis Heroidum Epistula XII: Medea Iasoni. Florence: Felice Le Monnier, 1997. Pp. 324.
  • Theodor Heinze. P. Ovidius Naso. Der XII. Heroidenbrief: Medea an Jason. Mit einer Beilage: Die Fragmente der Tragodie Medea. Einleitung, Text & Kommentar. Mnemosyne Supplement 170 Leiden: Brill, 1997. Pp. xi + 288.
  • R. A. Smith. Poetic Allusion and Poetic Embrace in Ovid and Virgil. Ann Arbor; The University of Michigan Press, 1997. Pp.ix+ 226.
  • Michael Simpson, The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001. Pp. 498.
  • Philip Hardie (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ovid. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Pp. xvi, 408.
  • Ovid's Fasti: Historical Readings at its Bimillennium. Edited by Geraldine Herbert-Brown. Oxford, OUP, 2002, 327 pp.
  • Susanne Gippert, Joseph Addison's Ovid: An Adaptation of the Metamorphoses in the Augustan Age of English Literature. Die Antike und ihr Weiterleben, Band 5. Remscheid: Gardez! Verlag, 2003. Pp. 304.
  • Heather van Tress, Poetic Memory. Allusion in the Poetry of Callimachus and the Metamorphoses of Ovid. Mnemosyne, Supplementa 258. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Pp. ix, 215.
  • Ziolkowski, Theodore, Ovid and the Moderns. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005. Pp. 262.
  • Desmond, Marilynn, Ovid's Art and the Wife of Bath: The Ethics of Erotic Violence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006. Pp. 232.
  • Rimell, Victoria, Ovid's Lovers: Desire, Difference, and the Poetic Imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. 235.
  • Pugh, Syrithe, Spenser and Ovid. Burlington: Ashgate, 2005. Pp. 302.
  • Pasco-Pranger, Molly, Founding the Year: Ovid's Fasti and the Poetics of the Roman Calendar. Mnemosyne Suppl., 276. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Pp. 326.
  • Martin Amann, Komik in den Tristien Ovids. (Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, 31). Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2006. Pp. 296.
  • P. J. Davis, Ovid & Augustus: A political reading of Ovid's erotic poems. London: Duckworth, 2006. Pp. 183.
  • Peter E. Knox (ed.), Oxford Readings in Ovid. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. 541.
  • Andreas N. Michalopoulos, Ovid Heroides 16 and 17. Introduction, text and commentary. (ARCA: Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs, 47). Cambridge: Francis Cairns, 2006. Pp. x, 409.
  • R. Gibson, S. Green, S. Sharrock, The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. 375.
  • Desmond, Marilynn. Ovid's Art and the Wife of Bath: The Ethics of Erotic Violence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006. Pp. xiii, 206.
  • Montuschi, Claudia, Il tempo in Ovidio. Funzioni, meccanismi, strutture. Accademia la colombaria studi, 226. Firenze: Leo S. Olschki, 2005. Pp. 463.
  • Johnson, Patricia J. Ovid before Exile: Art and Punishment in the Metamorphoses. (Wisconsin Studies in Classics). Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. Pp. x, 184.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

We can learn even from our enemies.

Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC - 17 AD) was a Roman poet known to the English-speaking world as Ovid, wrote on topics of love, abandoned women, and mythological transformations. Ranked alongside Virgil and Horace as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature, Ovid was generally considered the greatest master of the elegiac couplet.



  • Qui nolet fieri desidiosus, amet!
    • Let who does not wish to be idle fall in love!
    • Amores, I, ix, 46.
  • Sic ego nec sine te nec tecum vivere possum.
    • Translation: So I can't live either without you or with you.
    • Alternatively: Thus, I can neither live without you nor with you.
    • Amores, III, xi, 39.
  • Exitus acta probat.
    • Translation: The result justifies the deed.
    • Variants: The ends justify the means.
    • Heroides (c. 10 BC).
  • Resist beginnings; the prescription comes too late when the disease has gained strength by long delays.
    • Remedia Amoris, 91.
  • Qui finem quaeris amoris/Cedit amor rebus; res age, tutus eris.
    • Translation: Love yields to business. If you seek a way out of love, be busy; you'll be safe then.
    • Remedia Amoris, 143.
  • Poetry comes fine-spun from a mind at peace.
    • Tristia, I, i, 39.
  • So long as you are secure you will count many friends; if your life becomes clouded you will be alone.
    • Tristia, I, ix, 5.
  • Cura quid expediat prius est quam quid sit honestum
    • It is annoying to be honest to no purpose.
    • Ex Ponto, II, iii, 14.
  • Note too that a faithful study of the liberal arts humanizes character and permits it not to be cruel.
    • Ex Ponto, II, ix, 47.
  • The mind, conscious of rectitude, laughed to scorn the falsehood of report.
    • Fasti, IV, 311. Compare: "And the mind conscious of virtue may bring to thee suitable rewards", Virgil, The Aeneid, i, 604.

Ars Amatoria

If you want to be loved, be lovable.
  • They come to see; they come that they themselves may be seen.
    • I, 99. Compare: "And for to see, and eek for to be seie", Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, "The Wif of Bathes Prologue", line 6134.
  • If you want to be loved, be lovable.
    • Variant: To be loved, be lovable.
    • II, 107.
  • Nothing is stronger than habit.
    • Variants: Nothing is more powerful than custom or habit.
      Nothing is stronger than custom.
    • II, 345.
  • Intret amicitiae nomine tectus amor.
    • Let love steal in disguised as friendship.
    • Variant: Love will enter cloaked in friendship's name.
    • Context: Cool off; don't let her think you too importunate. Do not betray the hope of too swift a victory; let Love steal in disguised as Friendship. I've often seen a woman thus disarmed, and friendship ripen into love.
    • Ovid, The Art of Love, Book 1, line 720, translated by J. Lewis May in The Love Books of Ovid, 1930.
  • Expedit esse deos, et, ut expedit, esse putemus.
    • Translation: It is convenient that there be gods, and, as it is convenient, let us believe that there are.
    • I, 637.
  • Nocte latent mendae, vitioque ignoscitur omni, Horaque formosam quamlibet illa facit.
    • Translation: Blemishes are hid by night and every fault forgiven; darkness makes any woman fair.
    • I, 249-250.
  • Many women long for what eludes them, and like not what is offered them.
  • Wine gives courage and makes men more apt for passion.
  • Pure women are only those who have not been asked.
  • Prisca iuvent alios: ego me nunc denique natum gratulor: AA III
    • Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.
    • Variant: The good of other times let people state; I think it lucky I was born so late.


  • Then the omnipotent Father with his thunder made Olympus tremble, and from Ossa hurled Pelion.
    • I. Compare: "Heav'd on Olympus tott'ring Ossa stood; On Ossa, Pelion nods with all his wood", Alexander Pope, The Odyssey of Homer, Book xi, line 387; "would have you call to mind the strength of the ancient giants, that undertook to lay the high mountain Pelion on the top of Ossa, and set among those the shady Olympus", François Rabelais, Works, book iv. chap. xxxviii.
  • Medio tutissimus ibis.
    • Translation: You will be safest in the middle.
    • II, 137.
  • Causa latet, vis est notissima
    • Translation: The cause is hidden, but the result is well known.
    • IV, 287.
  • Fas est et ab hoste doceri.
    • Translation: We can learn even from our enemies.
    • Variant: You can learn from anyone, even your enemy.
    • IV, 428.
  • Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor.
    • Translation: I see and approve better things, but follow worse.
    • VII, 20.
  • Sunt superis sua iura
    • Translation: The gods have their own rules.
    • IX, 500.
  • It is the mind that makes the man, and our vigour is in our immortal soul.
    • XIII. Compare: "I must be measured by my soul: The mind's the standard of the man", Isaac Watts, Horæ Lyricæ, Book ii, "False Greatness".
  • Tempus edax rerum
    • Translation: Time, the devourer of all things.
    • Variant: Time is the devourer of all things.
    • XV, 234.
  • In the winter season,
    For seven days of calm, Alcyone
    Broods over her nest on the surface of the waters
    While the sea-waves are quiet. Through this time
    Aeolus keeps his winds at home, and ocean
    Is smooth for his descendants' sake.
    • As translated by Rolfe Humphries.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

OVID [PUBLIUS OVIDIUS [[Nasd] (43 B.C.-A.D]]. 17), Roman poet, the last of the Augustan age, was born in 43 B.C., the last year of the republic, the year of the death of Cicero. Thus the only form of political life known to Ovid was that of the absolute rule of Augustus and his successor. His character was neither strengthened nor sobered, like that of his older contemporaries, by personal recollection of the crisis through which the republic passed into the empire. There is no sense of political freedom in his writings. The spirit inherited from his ancestors was that of the Italian country districts, not that of Rome. He was born on the 10th of March (his self-consciousness has preserved the exact day of the month)' at Sulmo, now Sulmona, a town of the Paeligni, picturesquely situated among the mountains of the Abruzzi: its wealth of waters and natural beauties seem to have strongly affected the young poet's imagination (for he often speaks of them with affectionate admiration) and to have quickened in him that appreciative eye for the beauties of nature which is one of the chief characteristics of his poems. The Paeligni were one of the four small mountain peoples whose proudest memories were of the part they had played in the Social War. But in spite of this they had no old race-hostility with Rome, and their opposition to the senatorial aristocracy in the Social War would predispose them to accept the empire. Ovid, whose father was of equestrian family, belonged by birth to the same social class as Tibullus and Propertius, that of old hereditary landowners; but he was more fortunate than they in the immunity which his native district enjoyed from the confiscations made by the triumvirs. His vigorous vitality was apparently a gift transmitted to him by heredity; for he tells us that his father lived till the age of ninety, and that he performed the funeral rites to his mother after his father's death. While he mentions both with the piety characteristic of the old Italian, he tells us little more about them than that " their thrift curtailed his youthful expenses," 2 and that his father did what he could to dissuade him from poetry, and force him into the more profitable career of the law. He and his brother had been brought early to Rome for their education, where they attended the lectures of two most eminent teachers of rhetoric, Arellius Fuscus and Porcius Latro, to which influence is due the strong rhetorical element in Ovid's style. He is said to have attended these lectures eagerly, and to have shown in his exercises that his gift was poetical rather than oratorical, and that he had a distaste for the severer processes of thought.

Like Pope, "he lisped in numbers," 3 and he wrote and destroyed many verses before he published anything. The earliest edition of the Amores, which first appeared in five books, and the Heroides were given by him to the world at an early age. " Virgil," he informs us, " he had only seen "; but Virgil's friend and contemporary Aemilius Macer used to read his didactic poems to him; and even the fastidious Horace some ' Trist. iv. 10.13. Am. i. 3.10.

Trist. iv. 10.26 " et quod temptabam scribere, versus erat." times delighted his ears with the music of his verse. He had a close bond of intimacy with the younger poets of the older generation - Tibullus, whose death he laments in one of the few pathetic pieces among his earlier writings, and Propertius, to whom he describes himself as united in the close ties of comradeship. The name of Maecenas he nowhere mentions. The time of his influence was past when Ovid entered upon his poetical career. But the veteran politician Messalla, the friend of Tibullus, together with his powerful son Cotta Messallinus and Fabius Maximus, who are mentioned together by Juvenal4 along with Maecenas as types of munificent patrons of letters, and other influential persons whose names are preserved in the Epistles from Pontus, encouraged his literary efforts and extended to him their support. He enjoyed also the intimacy of poets and literary men, chiefly of the younger generation, whose names he enumerates in Ex Ponto, iv. 16, though, with the exception of Domitius Marsus and Grattius, they are scarcely more than names to us. With the older poet, Macer, he travelled for more than a year. Whether this was immediately after the completion of his education, or in the interval between the publication of his earlier poems and that of the Medea and Ars amatoria is unknown, but it is in his later works, the Fasti and Metamorphoses, that we chiefly recognize the impressions of the scenes he visited. In one of the Epistles from Pontus (ii. io) to his fellow-traveller there is a vivid record of the pleasant time they had passed together. Athens was to a Roman then what Rome is to an educated Englishman of the present day. Ovid speaks .of having gone there under the influence of literary enthusiasm, and a similar impulse induced him to visit the supposed site of Troy. The two friends saw together the illustrious cities of Asia, which had inspired the enthusiasm of travel in Catullus, and had become familiar to Cicero and Horace during the years they passed abroad. They spent nearly a year in Sicily, which attracted him, as it had attracted Lucretius s and Virgil, s by its manifold charm of climate, of sea-shore and inland scenery, and of legendary and poetical association. He recalls with a fresh sense of pleasure the incidents of their tour, and the endless delight which they had in each other's conversation. We would gladly exchange the record of his life of pleasure in Rome for more of these recollections. The highest type of classic Roman culture shows its affinity to that of modern times by nothing more clearly than the enthusiasm for travel among lands famous for their natural beauty, their monuments of art and their historical associations.

When settled at Rome, although a public career leading to senatorial position was open to him, and although he filled various minor judicial posts and claims to have filled them well, he had no ambition for such distinction, and looked upon pleasure and poetry as the occupations of his life. He was three times married; when little more than a boy to his first wife, whom he naïvely describes as unworthy of himself: 7 but he was soon separated from her and took a second wife, with whom his union, although through no fault of hers, did not last long. She was probably the mother of his one daughter. Later he was joined to a third wife, of whom he always speaks with affection and respect. She was a lady of the great Fabian house, and thus connected with his powerful patron Fabius Maximus, and was a friend of the empress Livia. It therefore seems likely that he may have been admitted into the intimacy of the younger society of the Palatine, although in the midst of his most fulsome flattery he does not claim ever to have enjoyed the favour of Augustus. His liaison with his mistress Corinna, whom he celebrates in the Amores, took place probably in the period between his first and second, or between his second and third marriages. It is doubtful whether Corinna was, like Catullus' Lesbia, a lady of recognized position, or whether she belonged to 4 Juv. vii. 95.

Lucret. i. 726 " quae cum magna modis multis miranda videtur gentibus humanis regio visendaque fertur." 6 Sueton. (Donatus), Vita Virg. 13 " quamquam secessu Campaniae Siciliaeque plurimum uteretur." 7 Trist. iv. to. 69-70.

the same class as the Chloes and Lalages of Horace's artistic fancy. If we can trust the poet's later apologies for his life, in which he states that he had never given occasion for any serious scandal, it is probable that she belonged to the class of libertinae. However that may be, Ovid is not only a less constant but he is a less serious lover than his great predecessors Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius. His tone is that either of mere sensuous feeling or of irony. In his complete emancipation from all restraint he goes beyond them, and thus reflects the tastes and spirit of fashionable Rome between the years 20 B.C. and the beginning of our era. Society was then bent simply on amusement; and, as a result partly of the loss of political interests, women came to play a more important and brilliant part in its life than they had done before. Julia, the daughter of the emperor, was by her position, her wit and beauty, and her reckless dissipation, the natural leader of such a society. But the discovery of her intrigue (2 B.C.) with Iulus Antonius, the son of Mark Antony, was deeply resented by Augustus as being at once a shock to his affections and a blow to his policy of moral reform. Julia was banished and disinherited; Antonius and her many lovers were punished; and the Roman world awoke from its fool's paradise of pleasure. Nearly coincidently with this scandal appeared Ovid's Ars amatoria, perhaps the most immoral work ever written by a man of genius, though not the most demoralizing, since it is entirely free from morbid sentiment. By its brilliancy and heartlessness it appealed to the prevailing taste of the fashionable world; but its appearance excited deep resentment in the mind of the emperor, as is shown by his edict, issued ten years later, against the book and its author. Augustus had the art of dissembling his anger; and Ovid appears to have had no idea of the storm that was gathering over him. He still continued to enjoy the society of the court and the fashionable world; he passed before the emperor in the annual procession among the ranks of the equites; and he developed a richer vein of genius than he had shown in his youthful prime. But he was aware that public opinion had been shocked, or professed to be shocked, by his last work; and after writing a kind of apology for it, called the Remedia amoris, he turned to other subjects, and wrote during the next ten years the Metamorphoses and the Fasti. He had already written the Heroides, in which he had imparted a modern and romantic interest to the heroines of the old mythology,' and a tragedy, the Medea, which must have afforded greater scope for the dramatic and psychological treatment of the passion with which he was most familiar. In the Fasti Ovid assumes the position of a national poet 2 by imparting poetical life and interest to the ceremonial observances of the Roman religion; but it is as the brilliant narrator of the romantic tales that were so strangely blended with the realistic annals of Rome that he succeeds in the part assumed by him. The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem which recounts legends in which the miraculous involved transformations of shape. Beginning with the change from Chaos to Cosmos, legends first Greek and then Roman are passed in review, concluding with the metamorphosis of Julius Caesar into a star and a promise of immortality to Augustus. The long series of stories, which consist to a large extent of tales of the love adventures of the gods with nymphs and the daughters of men, is strongly tinged with Alexandrine influence, being in fact a succession of epyllia in the Alexandrine manner. This work, which Ovid regards as his most serious claim to immortality, had not been finally revised at the time of his disgrace, and in his despair he burnt it; but other copies were in existence, and when he was at Tomi it was published at Rome by one of his friends. He often regrets that it had not received his final revision. The Fasti also was broken off by his exile, after the publication of the first six books, treating of the first six months of the year.

Ovid assigns two causes for his banishment, his Ars amatoria, and an actual offence.' What this was is not known, but his 1 The essentially modern character of the work appears in his making a heroine of the time of the Trojan war speak of visiting " learned " Athens (Heroid. ii. 83).

2 " Animos ad publica carmina flexi " (Trist. V. I. 23).

3 Trist. ii. 207.

frequent references to it enable us to conjecture its character. He tells us that there was no breach of law on his part; he distinctly disclaims having been concerned in any treasonable plot: his fault was a mistake of judgment (error), an unpremeditated act of folly. He had been an unintentional witness of some culpable act committed by another or others - of some act which nearly affected the emperor, and the mention of which was likely to prove offensive to him. Ovid himself had reaped no personal gain from his conduct. Though his original act was a pardonable error, he had been prevented by timidity from atoning for it subsequently by taking the straightforward course. In a letter to an intimate friend, to whom he had been in the habit of confiding all his secrets, he says that had he confided this one he would have escaped condemnation. 4 In writing to another friend he warns him against the danger of courting too high society. This offence, which excited the anger of Augustus, was connected in some way with the publication of the Ars amatoria, since that fact was recited by the emperor in his sentence. All this points to his having been mixed up in a scandal affecting the imperial family, and seems to connect him with one event, coincident with the time of his disgrace (A.D. q), the intrigue of the younger Julia, granddaughter of Augustus, with D. Silanus, mentioned by Tacitus. 5 Augustus deeply felt these family scandals, looking upon them as acts of treason and sacrilege. Julia was banished to the island of Trimerus, off the coast of Apulia. Silanus withdrew into voluntary exile. The chief punishment fell on Ovid, who was banished. The poet at the worst could only have been a confidant of the intrigue; but Augustus must have regarded him and his works as, if not the corrupter of the age, at least the most typical representative of that corruption which had tainted so direly even the imperial family. Ovid's form of banishment was the mildest possible (relegatio); it involved no deprivation of civic rights, and left him the possession of his property. He was ordered to remove to the half-Greek, half-barbaric town of Tomi, near the mouth of the Danube. He recounts vividly the agony of his last night in Rome, and the hardships of his November voyage down the Adriatic and up the Gulf of Corinth to Lechaeum, where he crossed the isthmus and took ship again from Cenchreae to Samothrace, whence in the following spring he proceeded overland through Thrace to his destination. For eight years he bore up in his dreary solitude, suffering from the unhealthiness of the climate and the constant alarm of inroads of barbarians. In the hope of procuring a remission of his punishment he wrote poetical complaints, first in the series of the five books ,of the Tristia, sent successively to Rome, addressed to friends whose names he suppresses; afterwards in a number of poetical epistles, the Epistulae ex Ponto, addressed by name to friends who were likely to have influence at court. He believed that Augustus had softened towards him before his death, but his successor Tiberius was inexorable to his appeals. His chief consolation was the exercise of his art, though as time goes on he is painfully conscious of failure in power. But although the works written by him in exile lack the finished art of his earlier writings, their personal interest is greater. They have, like the letters of Cicero to Atticus, the fascination exercised by those works which have been given to the world under the title of Confessions; they are a sincere literary expression of the state of mind produced by a unique experience - that of a man, when well advanced in years but still retaining extraordinary sensibility to pleasure and pain, withdrawn from a brilliant social and intellectual position, and cast upon his own resources in a place and among people affording the dreariest contrast to the brightness of his previous life. How far these confidences are to be regarded as equally sincere expressions of his affection or admiration for his correspondents is another question. Even in those addressed to his wife, though he speaks of her with affection and respect, there may perhaps be detected a certain ring of insincerity in his conventional comparisons of her to the Penelopes and Laodamias of ancient legend. Had she been a Penelope or Laodamia she would have accompanied him in 4 Trist. iii. 6. II. 5 Ann. iii. 24.

his exile, as we learn from Tacitus was done by other wives in the more evil days of which he wrote the record. The letters, which compose the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, are addressed either to his wife, the emperor, or the general reader, or to his patrons and friends. To his patrons he writes in a vein of supplication, beseeching them to use their influence on his behalf. To his rather large circle of intimate acquaintances he writes in the language of familiarity, and often of affectionate regard; he seeks the sympathy of some, and speaks with bitterness of the coldness of others, and in three poems1 2 he complains of the relentless hostility of the enemy who had contributed to procure his exile, and whom he attacked in the Ibis. There is a note of true affection in the letter to the young lyric poetess Perilla, of whose genius and beauty he speaks with pride, and whose poetic talents he had fostered by friendly criticism.' He was evidently a man of gentle and genial manners; and, as his active mind induced him to learn the language of the new people among whom he was thrown, his active interest in life enabled him to gain their regard and various marks of honour. One of his last acts was to revise the Fasti, and re-edit it with a dedication to Germanicus. The closing lines of the Epistulae ex Ponto sound like the despairing sigh of a drowning man who had long struggled alone with the waves: " Omnia perdidimus: tantummodo vita relicta est, Praebeat ut sensum materiamque mali." Shortly after these words were written he died in his sixty-first year in A.D. 17, the fourth year of the reign of Tiberius.

The temperament of Ovid, as indicated in his writings, has more in common with the suppleness of the later Italian than with the strength and force of the ancient Roman. That stamp of her own character and understanding which Rome impressed on the genius of those other races which she incorporated with herself is fainter in Ovid than in any other great writer. He ostentatiously disclaims the manliness which in the republican times was regarded as the birthright not of Romans only but of the Sabellian races from which he sprang. He is as devoid of dignity in his abandonment to pleasure as in the weakness with which he meets calamity. He has no depth of serious conviction, no vein of sober reflection, and is sustained by no great or elevating purpose. Although the beings of a supernatural world fill a large place in his writings, they appear stripped of all sanctity and mystery. It is difficult to say whether the tone of his references to the gods and goddesses of mythology implies a kind of half-believing return to the most childish elements of paganism, or is simply one of mocking unbelief. He has absolutely no reverence, and consequently inspires no reverence in his reader. With all a poet's feeling for the life, variety and subtlety of nature, he has no sense of her mystery and majesty. The love which he celebrates is sensual and superficial, a matter of vanity as much as of passion. He prefers the piquant attraction of falsehood and fickleness to the charm of truth and constancy. Even where he follows the Roman tendencies in his art he perverts them. The Fasti is a work conceived in the prosaic spirit of Roman antiquarianism. It is redeemed from being prosaic by the picturesqueness and vivacity with which the legends are told. But its conception might have been more poetical if it had been penetrated by the religious and patriotic spirit with which Virgil invests ancient ceremonies, and the mysticism with which he accepts the revelations of science. In this respect the contrast is great between the reverential treatment which the trivialities of legend and science receive in the Georgics and Aeneid, and the literal definiteness of the Fasti. These defects in strength and gravity show a corresponding result in Ovid's writings. Though possessing diligence, perseverance and literary ambition, he seems incapable of conceiv 1 Tac. Hist. i. 3 " comitatae profugos liberos matres, secutae maritos in exilia coniuges." Trist. iii. II, iv. 9, v. 8.

3 Trist. iii. 7. Perilla has by many been erroneously supposed to have been the poet's own daughter; but this is impossible, since she is described as young and still living under her mother's roof, whereas at the time of Ovid's exile his daughter was already married to her second husband.

ing a great and serious whole. Though a keen observer of the superficial aspects of life, he has added few great thoughts to the intellectual heritage of the world. 4 But with all the levity of his character he must have had qualities which made him, if not much esteemed, yet much liked in his own day, and which are apparent in the genial amiability of his writings. He claims for himself two virtues highly prized by the Romans, fides and candor - the qualities of social honour and kindly sincerity. There is no indication of anything base, ungenerous or morose in his relations to others. Literary candor, the generous appreciation of all sorts of excellence, he possesses in a remarkable degree. He heartily admires everything in literature, Greek or Roman, that had any merit. In him more than any of the *Augustan poets we find words of admiration applied to the rude genius of Ennius and the majestic style of Accius. It is by him, not by Virgil or Horace, that Lucretius is first named and his sublimity is first acknowledged.' The image of Catullus that most haunts the imagination is that of the poet who died so early " hedera iuvenalia cinctus Tempora," as he is represented by Ovid coming to meet the shade of the young Tibullus in Elysium.' To his own contemporaries, known and unknown to fame, he is as liberal in his words of recognition.? He enjoyed society too in a thoroughly amiable and unenvious spirit. He lived on a friendly footing with a large circle of men of letters, poets, critics, grammarians, &c., but he showed none of that sense of superiority which is manifest in Horace's estimate of the " tribes of grammarians " and the poetasters of his day. Like Horace too he courted the society of the great, though probably not with equal independence; but unlike Horace he expresses no contempt for the humbler world outside. With his irony and knowledge of the world it might have been expected that he would become the social satirist of his age. But he lacked the censorious and critical temper, and the admixture of gall necessary for a successful satirist. In his exile he did retaliate on one enemy and persistent detractor in the Ibis, a poem written in imitation of a similar work by Callimachus; but the Ibis is not a satire, but an invective remarkable rather for recondite learning than for epigrammatic sting.

But Ovid's chief personal endowment was his vivacity, and his keen interest in and enjoyment of life. He had no grain of discontent in his composition; no regrets for an ideal past, or longings for an imaginary future. The age in which he lived was, as he tells us, that in which more than any other he would have wished to live. 8 He is its most gifted representative, but he does not rise above it. The great object of his art was to amuse and delight it by the vivid picture he presented of its fashions and pleasures, and by creating a literature of romance which reflected them, and which could stimulate the curiosity and fascinate the fancy of a society too idle and luxurious for serious intellectual effort. The sympathy which he felt for the love adventures of his contemporaries, to which he probably owed his fall, quickened his creative power in the composition of the Heroides and the romantic tales of the Metamorphoses. None of the Roman poets can people a purely imaginary world with such spontaneous fertility of fancy as Ovid. In heart and mind he is inferior to Lucretius and Catullus, to Virgil and Horace, perhaps to Tibullus and Propertius; but in the power and range, of imaginative vision he is surpassed by no ancient and by few modern poets. This power of vision is the counterpart of his lively sensuous nature. He has a keener eye for the apprehension of outward beauty, for the life and colour and forms of nature, than any Roman or perhaps than any Greek poet. This power, acting upon the wealth of his varied reading, gathered with eager curiosity and received into a singularly retentive mind, has enabled him to depict with consummate skill and sympathy legendary scenes of the most varied and picturesque beauty. If his tragedy, the 4 There are found in him some exceptionally fine expressions, such as Her. iii. 106 " qui bene pro patria cum patriaque iacent "; and Met. vii. 20 " video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor." ' Am. i. 15.19 ff. 6 Am. iii. 9.

Ex Ponto, iv. Ars amatoria, iii. 121 ff.

Medea, highly praised by ancient critics, had been preserved, we should have been able to judge whether Roman art was capable of producing a great drama. In many of the Heroides, and in several speeches scattered through his works, he gives evidence of true dramatic creativeness. Unlike his great predecessor Catullus, he has little of the idyllic in his art, or whatever of idyllic there is in it is lost in the rapid movement of his narrative. But he is one, among the poets of all times, who can imagine a story with the most vivid inventiveness and tell it with the most unflagging animation. The faults of his verse and diction are those which arise from the vitality of his temperament - too facile a flow, too great exuberance of illustration. He has as little sense of the need of severe restraint in his art as in his life. He is not without mannerism, but he is quite unaffected, and, however far short he might fall of the highest excellence of verse or style, it was not possible for him to be rough or harsh, dull or obscure.

As regards the school of art to which he belongs, he may be described as the most brilliant representative of Roman Alexandrinism. The latter half of the Augustan age was, in its social and intellectual aspects, more like the Alexandrine age than any other era of antiquity. The Alexandrine age was like the Augustan, one of refinement and luxury, of outward magnificence and literary dilettantism flourishing under the fostering influence of an absolute monarchy. Poetry was the most important branch of literature cultivated, and the chief subjects of poetry were mythological tales, various phases of the passion of love, the popular aspects of science and some aspects of the beauty of nature. These two were the chief subjects of the later Augustan poetry. The higher feelings and ideas which found expression in the poetry of Virgil, Horace and the writers of an older generation no longer acted on the Roman world. It was to the private tastes and pleasures of individuals and society that Roman Alexandrinism had appealed both in the poetry of Catullus, Cinna, Calvus and their school, and in that of Gallus, Tibullus and Propertius. Ovid was the last of this class of writers.

His extant works fall naturally into three divisions, those of his youth, of middle life and of his later years. To the first of these divisions belong the amatory poems: (I) the three books of Amores (originally five, but reduced in a later recension to three) relating to his amours with his mistress Corinna; (2) the Medicamina formae, or, as it is sometimes called Medicamina faciei, a fragment of a hundred lines on the use of cosmetics; (3) the three books of the Ars amatoria, rules for men and women by which they may gain the affections of the other sex; (4) the Remedia amoris (one book), a kind of recantation of the Ars amatoria. To the second division belong (5) the fifteen books of the Metamorphoses, and (6) the six books of the Fasti, which was originally intended to be in twelve books, but which breaks off the account of the Roman calendar with the month of June. To the third division belong (7) the five books of the Tristia, (8) the Ibis, an invective against an enemy who had assisted to procure his fall, written in elegiac couplets probably soon after his exile; (9) the four books of Epistulae ex Ponto. Of these the first three were published soon after the Tristia, while the fourth book is a collection of scattered poems published by some friend soon after the author's death. The Halieutica is a didactic fragment in hexameters on the natural history of fishes, of doubtful genuineness, though it is certain that Ovid did begin such a work at the close of his life.1 In his extant works Ovid confined himself to two metres - the elegiac couplet and the hexameter. The great mass of his poetry is written in the first; while the Metamorphoses and the Halieutica are composed in the second. Of the elegiac couplet he is the acknowledged master. By fixing it into a uniform mould he brought it to its highest perfection; and the fact that the great mass of elegiac verse written subsequently has endeavoured merely to reproduce the echo of his rhythm is evidence of his pre-eminence. In the direct expression and illustration of feeling his elegiac metre has more ease, vivacity and sparkle than that of any of his predecessors, while he alone has corn ' Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxii. 152.

municated to it, without altering its essential characteristic of recurrent and regular pauses, a fluidity and rapidity of movement which make it an admirable vehicle for pathetic and picturesque narrative. It was impossible for him to give to the hexameter greater perfection, but he imparted to it also a new character, wanting indeed the weight and majesty and intricate harmonies of Virgil, but rapid, varied, animated in complete accord with the swift, versatile and fervid movement of his imagination. One other proof he gave of his irrepressible energy by composing during his exile a poem in the Getic (Gothic) language in praise of Augustus, Tiberius and the imperial family, the loss of which, whatever it may have been to literature, is much to be regretted in the interests of philology.

It was in Ovid's writings that the world of romance and wonder created by Greek imagination was first revealed to modern times. The vivid fancy, the transparent lucidity, the liveliness, ease and directness through which he reproduced his models made his works the most accessible and among the most attractive of the recovered treasures of antiquity. His influence was first felt in the literature of the Italian Renaissance. But in the most creative periods of English literature he seems to have been read more than any other ancient poet, not even excepting Virgil, and it was on minds such as those of Marlowe, Spenser, Shakespeare, 2 Milton and Dryden that he acted most powerfully. His influence is equally unmistakable during the classical era of Addison and Pope. The most successful Latin verse of modern times has been written in imitation of him; the faculty of literary composition and feeling for ancient Roman culture has been largely developed in the great schools of England and France by the writing of Ovidian elegiacs. His works afforded also abundant stimulus and materials to the great painters who flourished during and immediately after the Renaissance. Thus his first claim on the attention of modern readers is the influence which he has exercised on the development of literature and art; for this, if for no other reason, his works must always retain an importance second only to those of Virgil and Horace.

He is interesting further as the sole contemporary exponent of the last half of the Augustan age, the external aspects and inner spirit of which is known from the works, not of contemporary historians or prose-writers, but from its poets. The successive phases of Roman feeling and experience during this critical period are revealed in the poetry of Virgil, Horace and Ovid. Virgil throws an idealizing and religious halo around the hopes and aspirations of the nascent empire. Horace presents the most complete image of its manifold aspects, realistic and ideal. Ovid reflects the life of the world of wealth and fashion under the influence of the new court, its material prosperity, its refinement, its frivolity and its adulation. For the continuous study of the Roman world in its social and moral relations his place is important as marking the transition between the representation of Horace, in which the life of pleasure and amusement has its place, but is subordinate to the life of reflection and serious purpose, and that life which reveals itself in the cynicism of Martial and the scornful indignation of Juvenal. He is the last true poet of the great age of Roman literature, which begins with Lucretius and closes with him. No Roman poet writes with such vivacity and fertility of fancy; in respect of these two qualities we recognize in him the countryman of Cicero and Livy. But the type of genius of which he affords the best example is more familiar in modern Italian than in ancient Roman literature. While the serious spirit of Lucretius and Virgil reappeared in Dante, it is Ariosto who may be said to reproduce the light-hearted gaiety and brilliant fancy of Ovid.

Bibliography. - The life of Ovid was first treated systematically by J. Masson, Ovidii vita ordine chronologico digesta (1780) (often reprinted, e.g. in Burmann's edition). Modern literature on this subject will be found in Teuffel's History of Roman Literature (Eng. trans., ed. 2), § 247, and S. G. Owen's edition of Tristia, bk. i. The very numerous manuscripts of Ovid are chiefly of late date, 13th to 15th century. The earliest and best are: for the Heroides a Paris MS. of the 9th, a Wolfenbiittel MS. of the 12th and an Eton The influence of Ovid on Shakespeare is shown conclusively by T. S. Baynes, Shakespeare Studies (1894), p. 1 95 ff.

fragmentary MS. of the 11th century (the Epistula Sapphus, found in no early MS., is best preserved in a 13th-century Frankfort, and a 15th-century Harleian MS.); for the Amores, Ars amatoria, Remedia amoris, two Paris MSS. of the 9th and 10th century respectively; for the Medicamina formae a Florence MS. (Marcianus) of the 11th; for the Metamorphoses two Florence MSS. (Marcianus and Laurentianus) and a Naples MS., all of the 11th century; for the Fasti two Vatican MSS. of the 10th and 11th century; for the Tristia a Florence MS. of the 11th; for the Epistulae ex Ponto a fragmentary Wolfenbiittel MS. of the 6th and a Hamburg and two Munich MSS. of the 12th; for the Ibis a Trinity College, Cambridge, MS. of the 12th; for the Halieutica a Paris MS. of the 9th or loth, and a Vienna MS. of the 9th century. Important for the text of the Heroides and Metamorphoses is the interesting paraphrase written in Greek by the monk Maximus Planudes in the latter half of the 13th century at Constantinople; that of the Heroides is printed in Palmer's edition of the Heroides (1898), that of the Metamorphoses in Lemaire's edition of Ovid, vol. v., edited by Boissonade. See also Gudeman, De Heroidum Ovidii codice Planudeo (Berlin, 1888).

Two independent editiones principes of Ovid were published contemporaneously in 1471, one at Rome, printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz, and one at Bologna by Balthasar Azoguidius: these present entirely different texts. See Owen's Tristium libri, v. p. lv. ff. The following are the most important editions: those marked with an asterisk have explanatory notes. Of the whole works: *Heinsius-Burmann (1727); *Amar-Lemaire (1820-1824); MerkelEhwald (1874-1888); Riese (1871-1889); Postgate's Corpus poetarttm Latinorum, by various editors (1894),"reprinted separately (1898). Of separate works: Amores, *Nemethy (1907); Heroides, Sedlmayer (critical) (1886); *Palmer (1898); Epistula Sapphus (separately), *De Vries (1888); Ars amatoria, *P. Brandt (1902); Medicamina formae (critical), Kunz (1881); Metamorphoses, *J. C. Jahn (1821); *Loers (1843); Korn (critical) (1880); *Magnus (1885); *Haupt-Ehwald (1898-1903); Fasti, *Gierig (1812); Merkel (1841) (critical, with learned prolegomena on the sources, the Roman calendar, &c.); *Keightley (1848); *Paley (1854); *Peter (1889); Tristia, *Loers (1839); S. G. Owen (1889) (critical) *Bk. i. (1885), *Bk. iii. (1889); *Cocchia (1900); Epistulae ex Ponto, Korn (1868) (critical), Bk. i. Keene (1887); *Ellis (1881); Halieutica, *Birt, De Halieuticis Ovidio poetae falso adscriptis (1878). The following verse translations in English deserve mention: Amores, C. Marlowe (1600) (?); Heroides, Turbervile (1579); Saltonstall (1639); Sherburne (1639), various hands, preface by Dryden (3rd edition, 1683); Art of Love and Remedy of Love, Creed (1600); Dryden and others (1709); Metamorphoses, Golding (1567); Sandys (1626); Dryden and others (1717); King (1871); Fasti, Gower (1640); Rose (1866); Tristia, Saltonstall (1633); Catlin (1639); Churchyarde (1816); Epistles from Pontus, Saltonstal (1639); Jones (1658).

The special treatises on matters connected with Ovid are very numerous; a fairly complete list up to the time of publication is given in Owen's Tristia (critical edition), p. cviii. ff.; in Teuffel's History of Roman Literature (trans. byjWarr)and in Schanz's Geschichte der romischen Litteratur; and in the excellent critical digests of recent literature by Ehwald in the Jahresbericht itber die Fortschritte der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, xxxi. (1884) pp. 157 ff., lxxx. (1894) pp. 1, ff., cix. (1902) pp. 157 ff. The following deserve special mention. On the history of the text: Ehwald, Ad historiam carminum Ovidianorum symbolae (1889); Kritische Beitrage zu Ovids Epistulae ex Ponto (1896); Sedlmayer, Prolegomena ad Heroidas (1878); Gruppe, Minos, pp. 441 ff. (on interpolations). On style: Ovid's diction in connexion with other writers, - A. Zingerle, Ovidius and sein Verheiltnis zu den Vorgringern (1869-1871); Martial's Ovid-Studien (1877); W. Zingerle, Untersuchungen zur Echtheitsfrage der Heroiden Ovids (1878); W. Vollgraff, Nikander and Ovid (Groningen, 1909 foil.). Peculiarities of Ovid's style: van Iddekinge, De Ovidii Romani iuris peritia (1811); Washietl, De similitudinibus imaginibusque Ovidianis (1883); M'Crea, On Ovid's Use of Colour and Colour Terms (Classical studies in honour of H. Drisler) (1894). Metre: the structure of the Ovidian pentameter examined in relation to the textual criticism, - Hilberg, Gesetze der Wortstellung im Pentameter des Ovid (1894) (fully reviewed by Ellis, Classical Review, ix. 157). Literary appreciation: Sellar, Roman Poets of the Augustan Age; Lafaye, Les Metamorphoses d'Ovid et leurs modeles grecs. Ovid's relation to works of art: Wunderer, Ovids Werke in ihrem Verheiltnis zur antiken Kunst (1890-1891); Engelmann, Bilder-Atlas zu Ovid's Metamorphosen (1890). Cause of exile: the most interesting discussion is by Boissier in his L'Opposition sous les Cesars. See also Nageotte, Ovide, sa vie, ses oeuvres (1872); Huber, Die Ursachen der Verbannung des Ovid (1888). Influence of Ovid upon Shakespeare: T. S. Baynes, Shakespeare Studies (1894), pp. 1 95 ff.; Constable, Shakespeare's " Venus and Adonis " in Verheiltnis zu Ovid's Metamorphosen (1890). (S. G. O.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Latin Ovidius, name of a Roman gens.

Proper noun




  1. A 1st century BC Roman poet.
  2. A male given name of mainly historic use.



  • Anagrams of diov
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