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About this poet

On March 20, 43 BC, Publius Ovidius Naso, better known to modern readers as Ovid, was born at Sulmo, 90 miles from Rome. Ovid's father, who was a respected member of the equestrian order, expected Ovid to become a lawyer and official and had him schooled extensively for that purpose. After working in various judicial posts, Ovid made the decision to dedicate himself to a life of poetry instead. Ovid's elegance, both in verse and comportment, made him a favorite among the moneyed class of Rome, and it was not long before Ovid was widely hailed as the most brilliant poet of his generation. His elegant verses on love appealed to a society being forced into a period of moral reformation by the emperor, Augustus. It may have been these same poems, namely those of his The Art of Love (3 BC), that caused Ovid to be exiled to the barren region of Tomi in AD 8.

The reason for Ovid's exile by Augustus is unknown. What is certain is that in AD 8 Ovid was sent to the bleak fishing-village of Tomi for what he describes as "a poem and a mistake", Ovid attempted on numerous occasions to find his way back into the good graces of Augustus, writing poems to the emperor and other influential friends. The poems, which were far less polished and elegant than his previous works, had little effect on Augustus, and Ovid remained in exile until his death in AD 17.

Ovid's poetic influence continued long after his death. His most famous work, The Metamorphoses (AD 8), had a great influence upon writers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the 12th century was named the Ovidian age for the numerous poets writing in Ovidian hexameter.

Tristia, Book III, Section 2

So it was my destiny to travel  as far as Scythia,
    that land lying below the northern pole,
and neither you, Muses, nor you, Leto’s son Apollo,
    cultured crowd though you are, gave any help
to your own priest: the fact that my poetry’s more wanton
    than my life, that my fun is free of real offence
does me no good. I’ve suffered innumerable perils
    on land and sea; now Pontus, seared by perpetual cold,
imprisons me, and I, the escapist, born for leisured
    comfort, once soft and incapable of toil,
now endure the worst — yet neither my distant journeys
    nor these harbourless seas have been able to destroy 
a spirit that’s matched its misfortunes: from it my body
    borrowed strength to bear what was scarce to be borne.
Yet while I still was prey to the hazards of land and ocean,
    Such hardships in fact beguiled my care,
my aching hear; but now the trip’s done, the toil of traveling
    ended,  now I’ve reached the land of my banishment,
weeping’s my only pleasure, the tears come flooding
    fuller than melted snow in spring.
Rome and home haunt me, all the places I know and yearn for,
    Whatever's left of me in the City I’ve lost.
Ah me, the times I’ve knocked at my sepulchre-door, yet never 
    found it open! Why have I
so often escaped a sword-thrust, why do the storm-clouds 
    endlessly threaten, yet never overwhelm
my unlucky head? You gods — whom I’m finding over-relentless
    in sharing the fury felt by a single god — 
spur on, I beseech you, the laggard Fates, forbid the 
    portals of my destruction to be closed!

Copyright © 2005 by Peter Green. From The Poems of Exile. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Copyright © 2005 by Peter Green. From The Poems of Exile. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.



Born on March 20, 43 BC, Ovid's poetic influence had a great impact on the writers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

by this poet

In summer's heat, and mid-time of the day,
To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay;
One window shut, the other open stood,
Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood,
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun,
Or night being past, and yet not day begun.
Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown,
Where they may
Baucis and Philemon

THUS Achelous ends: his audience hear
With admiration, and admiring, fear
The pow'rs of heav'n; except Ixion's son,
Who laugh'd at all the gods, believ'd in none:
He shook his impious head, and thus replies,
"These legends are no more than pious lies:
You attribute too much to