Ovid

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Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC - AD 17) was a Roman poet, best known today as the author of the Metamorphoses, a large collection of classical and near eastern myths and legends.

Born at Sulmo, to the east of Rome, into an upper class family, he was sent to Rome to be educated in preparation for an official's life. But his real interest was in poetry and, after a few years in several minor judicial posts, he abandoned that life for poetry.

Success came early for Ovid with a number of books on the subject of love (of which the Ars Amatoria is the most famous today) and by early in what we today call the Christian era, he was considered Rome's leading poet. In the year AD 8, soon after composing his most famous work, the Metamorphoses, Ovid was exiled by Augustus to Tomis (or Tomi, now Costanza), a town on the Black Sea on the extreme edge of the Empire. The reason for this exilement is unknown, but it has something to do with a carmen and an error. In spite of numerous pleas of his friends in Rome to be allowed to return, he would spend the rest of his life there.

Works

Amores

Heroides, also known as the Heroines or The Letters of the Heroines, are a collection of poems in the form of letters by mythological characters to their beloved. They represent the first instance of letters as a literary genre. Twenty-one letters survive, divided into two parts.

Ars Amatoria: Also known as the Ars amandi. This work, in 3 books, tells of the art of love. The first book is aimed on males and tells how to 'obtain' a woman. The second book tells males how to bind them to the female they obtained. The third book is aimed to women and learns them how to be a woman a man would like to have.

Remedia Amoris

Metamorphoses: Composed in dactylic hexameter in the years immmediately preceding his exile, this is a work, in 15 books, detailing around 250 stories of supernatural transformations (or metamorphoses) taken from classical and near eastern mythology and legend. A veritable compendium of ancient mythology, it is set out, albeit rather unsystematically, in semi-chronological order from the creation of the world to the time of Augustus.

Fasti: A series of poems about individual days in the Roman calendar. Many of them tell myths associated with specific stars or constellations that are visible in the night sky on the day in question; others are about festivals that fall on a particular day.

Tristia

Epistulae ex Pontus: These are poems filled with complainments he sent from Tomi his friends in Rome. Epistulae ex Pontus can be translated as 'letters from Pontus'.

External References

  • LibriVox Audiobook: Heroides (MP3 and OGG Vorbis) (Public Domain)
  • Many works of Ovid (and other classical authors) are available online in English translation by A.S. Kline at Poetry in Translation (copyrighted, but available free for non-commercial use)