Publius Ovidius Naso, also known as Ovid (43 BCE – 17 ACE) was a Roman poet. Born in 43 BCE in the city Sulmo just outside Rome, during which Rome was still a Republic governed by the Senate. Ovid is most popular for his poetry, most notably Metamorphoses, a collection of about 250 different Greco-Roman myths and stories written in hexameter. The Metamorphoses is divided into fifteen books, where Ovid tells stories from the already well-known Greek (to some extent Roman) mythology where the main themes being man’s corruption, the different ages of man, rapes, sex and eroticism between gods and humans, with transformations as the central motif. Some characters were transformed into trees (Daphne and Apollo), others into animals (Artemis and Actaeon), and some to plants/flowers (Narcissus and Echo), often as punishment for defying or offending the gods.


Ovid is also known for his Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love), which probably first came into circulation when Ovid was around 43 years old, in the year 0. In the controversial but highly popular book he shared with his contemporary Romans advice on how to flirt with the opposite sex in order to “get laid” in the booming metropolitan city of Rome. Although the Romans loved the poems, Emperor Augustus did not. It was during Ovid’s upbringing when Octavius had gone from being Julius Caesar’s adopted son to a Caesar, or an emperor, now called Augustus. When Augustus came to power, he decided to implement a whole lot of changes in the rules, conduct and laws of Roman society, most of which weren’t that well received by the general populace. With these laws Augustus wanted to stave off immorality and debauchery amongst his citizens, as he wanted Romans of decent families to only engage in intercourse with their spouses – hopefully leading to more children. Thus extramarital sex was banned and made illegal, the punishment could be anything from exile to confiscation of property. For unfaithful women however the punishment was more severe as they were sometimes killed by their families and relatives. Moreover the husband was obliged to divorce his wife if she had been cheating, if not, he risked being punished himself.

Although Ovid initially did quite well with his controversial love book, in the year 8 ACE he suffered the consequences as Augustus excommunicated him from Rome. During this same time there were rumours going around that the reason Ovid was exiled because he was aware of conspiratory plans against the emperor. However this isn’t generally accepted by historians and scholars today.

Ovid lived his remaining 9-10 years a long way from home and in quiet desperation, as he considered himself a man of the city with all its luxury and splendor. Instead he ended up in a backwater coastal village near the Black Sea called Tomis (modern day Constanta in România), and he never had the chance to see his wife, his daughter – or his beloved Rome ever again.

Ere land and sea and the all-covering sky
Were made, in the whole world the countenance
Of nature was the same, all one, well named
Chaos, a raw and undivided mass,
Naught but a lifeless bulk, with warring seeds
Of ill-joined elements compressed together.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

To be loved, be lovable.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Either do not attempt at all, or go through with it.
Ovid

You will be safest in the middle.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

Happy are those who dare courageously to defend what they love.
Ovid

Tis not always in a physician’s power to cure the sick; at times the disease is stronger than trained art.
Ovid

Poetry comes fine-spun from a mind at peace.
Ovid (Tristia – Sorrows)

Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.
Ovid

Where belief is painful we are slow to believe.
Ovid (Heroides – The Heroines, ca. 10 BCE)

Everything changes, nothing perishes.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

I am the poet of the poor, because I was poor when I loved; since I could not give gifts, I gave words.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

It is the mind that makes the man, and our vigour is in our immortal soul.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Let love steal in disguised as friendship.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

The bold adventurer succeeds the best.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

The burden which is well borne becomes light.
Ovid (Amores – The Loves)

Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.
Ovid

So long as you are secure you will count many friends; if your life becomes clouded you will be alone.
Ovid (Tristia – Sorrows)

Nothing is stronger than habit.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.
Ovid

So I can’t live either without you or with you.
Ovid (Amores – The Loves)

Time the devourer of all things.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

It is convenient that there be gods, and, as it is convenient, let us believe there are.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Fortune and love favor the brave.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

The road to valor is built by adversity.
Ovid

Sleep, rest of nature, O sleep, most gentle of the divinities, peace of the soul, thou at whose presence care disappears, who soothest hearts wearied with daily employments, and makest them strong again for labour!
Ovid

Love is a kind of warfare.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Everything changes; nothing dies: The spirit wanders here, wanders there, enters anyone’s body, passes from beasts to human beings and back to beasts again, but never perishes.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

Tears sometimes have the weight of spoken words.
Ovid (Tristia – Sorrows)

Many women long for what eludes them, and like not what is offered them.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

All right, boy, skewer me. I’ve dropped my defenses,
I’m an easy victim. Why, by now
Your arrows practically know their own way to the target
And feel less at home in their quiver than in me.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

Courage conquers all things.
Ovid (Tristia – Sorrows)

Blemishes are hid by night and every fault forgiven; darkness makes any woman fair.
Ovid (Ars Amatoria – The Art of Love)

The result justifies the deed.
Ovid (Heroides – The Heroines, ca. 10 BCE)

We can learn even from our enemies.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul.
Ovid

All things change, nothing is extinguished. . . . There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent. Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

Look at the four-spaced year
That imitates four seasons of our lives;
First Spring, that delicate season, bright with flowers,
Quickening, yet shy, and like a milk-fed child,
Its way unsteady while the countryman
Delights in promise of another year.
Green meadows wake to bloom, frail shoots and grasses,
And then Spring turns to Summer’s hardiness,
The boy to manhood. There’s no time of year
Of greater richness, warmth, and love of living,
New strength untried. And after Summer, Autumn,
First flushes gone, the temperate season here
Midway between quick youth and growing age,
And grey hair glinting when the head turns toward us,
Then senile Winter, bald or with white hair,
Terror in palsy as he walks alone.
Ovid (Metamorphoses)

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