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For other uses, see Ovid (disambiguation)
Image:Ovidius Metamorphosis - George Sandy's 1632 edition.jpg
Engraved frontispiece of George Sandys's 1632 London edition of Ovids Metamorphoses Englished.

Publius Ovidius Naso (Sulmona, March 20, 43 BCTomis, now Constanţa AD 17), 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. His poetry, much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, had a decisive influence on European art and literature for centuries.


[edit] Life and work

Ovid wrote in elegiac couplets, with two exceptions: his lost Medea, whose two fragments are in iambic trimeter and anapests, respectively, and his great Metamorphoses, which he wrote in dactylic hexameter, the meter of Virgil's Aeneid and Homer's epics. Ovid offers an epic unlike those of his predecessors, a chronological account of the cosmos from creation to his own day, incorporating many myths and legends about supernatural transformations from the Greek and Roman traditions.

Ovid was born March 20th in Sulmo, which lies in a valley within the Appenines, east of Rome. He was born into an equestrian ranked family and was educated at Rome. His father wished for him to study rhetoric with the ultimate goal of practising law. As stated by Pliny the Elder, Ovid leaned toward the emotional side of rhetoric as opposed to the argumentative. After the death of his brother, Ovid renounced law and began his travels. He travelled to Athens, Asia Minor, and Sicily. He also held some minor public posts, but quickly gave them up to pursue his poetry. He was part of the circle centered around the patron Mesalla. He was married three times, and, from these marriages, had one daughter.

Augustus banished Ovid in C.E. 8 to Tomis on the Black Sea for reasons that remain mysterious. Ovid himself wrote that it was because of carmen et error – "a poem and a mistake" (Tr. 2.207). The error itself is uncertain, but it is believed that Ovid may have had an affair with a female relative of Augustus, or withheld knowledge of such an affair (perhaps even the granddaughter of Augustus). The carmen, however, is probably his Ars Amatoria, a didactic poem offering amatory advice to Roman men and women, which had been in circulation for several years.

It was during this period of exile – more properly known as a relegation – that Ovid wrote two more collections of poems, called Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, which illustrate his sadness and desolation. Being far away from Rome, Ovid had no chance to research in libraries and thus was forced to abandon his work Fasti. Even though he was friendly with the natives of Tomis and even wrote poems in their language, he still pined for Rome and his beloved third wife. Many of the poems are addressed to her, but also to Augustus, whom he calls Caesar and sometimes God, to himself, and even sometimes to the poems themselves, which expresses his heart-felt solitude. The famous first two lines of the Tristia demonstrate the poet's misery from the start:

Parve – nec invideo – sine me, liber, ibis in urbem:
ei mihi, quod domino non licet ire tuo!
Little book – and I won't hinder you – go on to the city without me:
Alas for me, because your master is not allowed to go!

Ovid died at Tomis after nearly ten years of banishment.

[edit] Assessment

R. J. Tarrant offers the following assessment for the importance of Ovid:

From his own time until the end of Antiquity Ovid was among the most widely read and imitated of Latin poets; his greatest work, the Metamorphoses, also seems to have enjoyed the largest popularity. What place Ovid may have had in the curriculum of ancient schools is hard to determine: no body of antique scholia survives for any of his works, but it seems likely that the elegance of his style and his command of rhetorical technique would have commended him as a school author, perhaps at the elementary level.<ref>R. J. Tarrant, "Ovid" in Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics (Oxford, 1983), p. 257.</ref>

[edit] Works

[edit] Existing and generally considered authentic, with approximate dates of publication

  • (10 BC) Amores ('The Loves'), 5 books, about "Corinna", anti-marriage (revised into 3 books ca. AD 1)
  • (5 BC) Heroides ('The Heroines') or Epistulae Heroidum ('Letters of Heroines'), 21 letters (letters 16–21 were composed around AD 4 - 8)
  • (5 BC) Remedia Amoris ('The Cure for Love'), 1 book
  • (5 BC) Medicamina Faciei Feminae ('Women's Facial Cosmetics' or 'The Art of Beauty'), 100 lines surviving
  • (2 BC) Ars Amatoria ('The Art of Love'), 3 books (the third written somewhat later)
  • (finished by AD 8) Fasti ('Festivals'), 6 books surviving which cover the first 6 months of the year and provide unique information on the Roman calendar
  • (AD 8) Metamorphoses ('Transformations'), 15 books
  • (9) Ibis, a single poem
  • (10) Tristia ('Sorrows'), 5 books
  • (10) Epistulae ex Ponto ('Letters from the Black Sea'), 4 books
  • (12) Fasti ('Festivals'), 6 books surviving which cover the first 6 months of the year and provide unique information on the Roman calendar

[edit] Lost or generally considered spurious

  • Medea, a lost tragedy about Medea
  • a poem in Getic, the language of Dacia where Ovid was exiled, not extant (and possibly fictional)
  • Nux ('The Walnut Tree')
  • Consolatio ad Liviam ('Consolation to Livia')
  • Halieutica ('On Fishing') - generally considered spurious, a poem that some have identified with the otherwise lost poem of the same name written by Ovid.

[edit] Works and artists inspired by Ovid

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

Dante mentions him twice:

[edit] Retellings, adaptations and translations of his actual works

[edit] Trivia

[edit] See also

[edit] References

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[edit] External links

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