City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Ovid (43 BC-17 AD)
Publius Ovidius Naso (Classical Latin: [ˈpʊb.li.ʊs ɔˈwɪ.di.ʊs ˈnaː.soː]; 20 March 43 BC – AD 17/18), known as Ovid (/ˈɒvɪd/) in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of Virgil and Horace.
He is best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic, and for collections of love poetry in elegiac couplets, especially the Amores ("Love Affairs") and Ars Amatoria ("The Art of Love"). His poetry was much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and greatly influenced Western art and literature. The Metamorphoses remains one of the most important sources of classical mythology.
Ovid is traditionally ranked alongside Virgil and Horace, his older contemporaries, as one of the three canonic poets of Latin literature. He was the first major Roman poet to begin his career during the reign of Augustus, and the Imperial scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the Latin love elegists. He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, he was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, "a poem and a mistake", but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars.
Ovid's prolific poetry includes the Heroides, a collection of verse epistles written as though by mythological heroines to the lovers who abandoned them; the Fasti, an incomplete six-book exploration of Roman religion with a calendar structure; and the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, two collections of elegies in the form of complaining letters from his exile. His shorter works include the Remedia Amoris ("Cure for Love"), the curse-poem Ibis, and an advice poem on women's cosmetics. He wrote a lost tragedy, Medea, and mentions that some of his other works were adapted for staged performance.