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Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC – AD 17 or 18), known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who wrote about love, seduction, and mythological transformation.

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. His poetry, much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, decisively influenced European art and literature.

The Elegiac couplet is the meter of most of Ovid's poems: the AmoresArs Amatoria, Remedia Amoris — are didactic long poems; the Fasti, about the Roman calendar; the Medicamina Faciei Femineae, about cosmetics; fictional letters from mythologic heroines, the Heroides or Epistulae Heroidum; and all of the works written in exile (five Tristia books, four Epistulae ex Ponto books, and "Ibis", a long curse-poem).

The two extant fragments of the tragedy Medea are in iambic trimeter and anapest, respectively; the Metamorphoses is in dactylic hexameter, also known as "epic meter," which was used in the Aeneid by Virgil and the Odyssey and the Iliad by Homer.

Life and work

Ovid was born in Sulmomarker (Sulmona), in an Apenninemarker valley, east of Romemarker, 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 Athensmarker, Asia Minormarker, 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. 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 Olympianmarker gods.
In AD 8, Emperor Augustus banished Ovid to Tomismarker, on the Black Seamarker, 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.

In exile, he 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, thus might have been forced to abandon the Fasti poem about the Roman calendar, of which exist only the first six books — January through June. In the Epistulae ex Ponto 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, whom he calls Caesar and God. 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. 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!


Ovid died at Tomis after some ten years. He was allegedly buried a few kilometers away in a nearby town. In 1930 that town was renamed Ovidiumarker in his honor. Also, a statue commemorates him in the Romanianmarker city of Tomis (contemporary Constanţamarker). The statue's Latin inscription reads (Tr. 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.


Works



Extant authentic works

  • Amores ("The Loves"), five books, published in 16 BC, and revised to three books ca. AD 1.
  • Heroides ("The Heroines"), also known as Epistulae Heroidum ("Letters of Heroines"), 21 letters. Letters 1–5 published 5 BC; letters 16–21 were composed ca. AD 4–8.
  • Medicamina Faciei Femineae ("Women's Facial Cosmetics"), The Art of Beauty, 100 lines survive; 5 BC.
  • Ars Amatoria ("The Art of Love"), three books; first two books published 1 BC, the third book was published later.
  • Remedia Amoris ("The Cure for Love"), 1 book, published AD 1.
  • Fasti ("The Festivals"), 6 books extant, about the first semester of the year, about the Roman calendar. Finished by AD 8, possibly published posthumously.
  • Metamorphoses, ("Transformations"), 15 books published ca. AD 8.
  • Ibis a poem written ca. AD 9.
  • Tristia ("Sorrows"), five books published AD 10.
  • Epistulae ex Ponto ("Letters from the Black Sea"), four books published AD 10.


Lost authentic works and spurious works

  • Consolatio ad Liviam ("Consolation to Livia")
  • Halieutica ("On Fishing") — considered spurious, and identified as an eponymous poem by Ovid.
  • Medea, a tragedy about Medea
  • Nux ("The Walnut Tree")
  • A volume of poems in Getic, the language of Dacia, where Ovid was exiled, not extant (possibly fictitious).


Works and artists whom Ovid inspired

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



Attitude in Romania

As Ovid spent the last years of his life and literary work at what is now Romaniamarker, 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.

See also



Notes

  1. JSTOR - The Scholarly Journal Archive
  2. Ovid, Tristia 2.207
  3. Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 2.9.72
  4. Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto 3.3.72
  5. Norwood, Frances, "The Riddle of Ovid's Relegatio", Classical Philogy (1963) p. 158
  6. Talkin' Broadway Review: Metamorphoses


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: Brillmarker, 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.


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