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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Erotic Poems by Ovid

Ovid was a poet during the lengthy time that Augustus was the emperor of Rome.  He was from an equestrian family in the north of Italy, but unlike Virgil, he loved Rome.  He loved the plays, the music, the parties, and the people.  He thrived on the city life.  Unfortunately for him, he made a mistake and Augustus banished him to a distant, cold, and inhospitable place for the rest of his life.  The work that he is best known by lay folk like me for was Metamorphosis, which he wrote while in exile in the hopes that Augustus would be pleased and allow him to come back to Rome.  No such luck befell Ovid, but his work relied upon many ancient sources, some of which no longer exist, so he did modern man a favor, or at least those modern men who wanted to know more about the myths and legends of the ancient world.

The Erotic Poems were the work of Ovid's heart.  The Amores are elegaic poems that were written by a young man.  They describe a consuming love, fueled by equal parts passion and jealousy, that ends badly.  The emotions are strong, almost frightening at times, and always frank.  The Art of Love poems are written in middle age, when passion has cooled a bit.  They are instruction manuals for men and women interested in fomenting love.  He is a teacher of the art of love, an apprentice at the knee of Cupid.  The Cures for Love are intended for the man who cannot survive love.  Ovid is a healer, giving instructions in how to manage an addiction to love that had failed.  The writing is frank, understandable, and in many ways it seems quite contemporary.

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