Biography of Ovid
Ovid was born in Sulmo (Sulmona), in an Apennine valley, east of Rome, to an equestrian family, and was educated in Rome. 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, Ovid renounced law and began travelling — to Athens, Asia Minor, and Sicily. He held minor public posts, but resigned to pursue poetry. He was part of the circle centered upon the patron Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus. He was thrice-married and twice-divorced by the time he was thirty years old; yet only one marriage yielded offspring — a daughter.
Originally, the Amores were a five-book collection, circa 20 BC; the surviving, extant version, reduced to three books, includes poems written as late as AD 1. Book 1 contains 15 elegiac love poems about aspects of love. Most of the Amores is tongue-in-cheek, and, while Ovid adhered to standard elegiac themes — such as the exclusus amator (locked-out lover) lamenting before a paraklausithyron (a locked door) — he portrays himself as romantically capable, not emotionally struck by it, (unlike Propertius, whose poetry portrays him under love's foot). He writes about adultery, rendered illegal in Augustus's marriage law reforms of 18 BC. Ovid's next poem, the Ars Amatoria, the Art of Love, parodies didactic poetry whilst being a manual about seduction and intrigue; and it refers to the ludus duodecim scriptorum board game, an antecedent of modern backgammon. He identifies this work in his exile poetry as the carmen, or song, which was one cause of his banishment.
By AD 8, he had completed Metamorphoses, an epic poem derived from Greek mythology. The subject is "forms changed into new bodies". From the emergence of the cosmos from formless mass to the organized, material world, to the deification of Julius Caesar, the poem tells of transformation. The stories follow each other in the telling of human beings transformed to new bodies — trees, rocks, animals, flowers, constellations et cetera. Famous myths, such as Apollo and Daphne, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Pygmalion are contained. It explains many myths alluded to in other works, and is a valuable source about Roman religion, because many characters are gods or offspring of Olympian gods.
In AD 8, Emperor Augustus banished Ovid to Tomis, on the Black Sea, for political reasons. Ovid wrote that his crime was carmen et error — "a poem and a mistake", claiming that his crime was worse than murder, more harmful than poetry. The Emperor's grandchildren, Agrippa Postumus and Julia the Younger, were banished around the time of his banishment; Julia's husband, Lucius Aenilius Paullus, was put to death for conspiracy against Augustus; Ovid might have known of that. The Julian Marriage Laws of 18 BC were fresh in the Roman mind. These promoted monogamous marriage to increase the population's birth rate. Ovid's writing concerned the serious crime of adultery, which was punishable by banishment.
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But oh, I suppose she was ugly; she wasn't elegant; I hadn't yearned for her often in my prayers. Yet holding her I was limp, and nothing happened at all: I just lay there, a disgraceful load for her bed.
Love And War
Lovers all are soldiers, and Cupid has his campaigns: I tell you, Atticus, lovers all are soldiers. Youth is fit for war, and also fit for Venus. Imagine an aged soldier, an elderly lover!
I don't ask you to be faithful - you're beautiful, after all - but just that I be spared the pain of knowing. I make no stringent demands that you should really be chaste, but only that you try to cover up.
Metamorphoses: Book The First
OF bodies chang'd to various forms, I sing: Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring, Inspire my numbers with coelestial heat; 'Till I my long laborious work compleat:
In Summer's Heat
In summer's heat and mid-time of the day, To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay, One window shut, the other open stood,
The Art Of Love: Book Two
...Short partings do best, though: time wears out affections, The absent love fades, a new one takes its place. With Menelaus away, Helen's disinclination for sleeping Alone led her into her guest's
Elegy For Tibullus
If Memnon's mother mourned, Achilles's mother mourned, and our sad fates can touch great goddesses, then weep, and loose your hair in grief you never earned, Elegy, now ah! too much like your name.
Metamorphoses: Book The Eighth
NOW shone the morning star in bright array, To vanquish night, and usher in the day: The wind veers southward, and moist clouds arise, That blot with shades the blue meridian skies.
Metamorphoses: Book The Eleventh
HERE, while the Thracian bard's enchanting strain Sooths beasts, and woods, and all the listn'ing plain, The female Bacchanals, devoutly mad,
In summer's heat and mid-time of the day To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay, One window shut, the other open stood, Which gave such light, as twinkles in a wood,
Metamorphoses: Book The Third
WHEN now Agenor had his daughter lost, He sent his son to search on ev'ry coast; And sternly bid him to his arms restore The darling maid, or see his face no more,
Metamorphoses: Book The Fourteenth
NOW Glaucus, with a lover's haste, bounds o'er The swelling waves, and seeks the Latian shore. Messena, Rhegium, and the barren coast Of flaming Aetna, to his sight are lost:
Metamorphoses: Book The Seventh
THE Argonauts now stemm'd the foaming tide, And to Arcadia's shore their course apply'd; Where sightless Phineus spent his age in grief, But Boreas' sons engage in his relief;
Metamorphoses: Book The Fifth
WHILE Perseus entertain'd with this report His father Cepheus, and the list'ning court, Within the palace walls was heard aloud The roaring noise of some unruly crowd;
I don't ask you to be faithful - you're beautiful, after all -
but just that I be spared the pain of knowing.
I make no stringent demands that you should really be chaste,
but only that you try to cover up.
If a girl can claim to be pure, it's the same as being pure:
it's only admitted vice that makes for scandal.
What madness, to confess by day what's wrapped in night,
and what you've done in secret, openly tell!
The hooker, about to bed some Roman off the street