Publius Ovidius Naso — known as “Ovid” (43 B.C.-A.D.17)
Ovid wrote cool, witty, “modern” poems about the arts of love. Born in Sulmona, Italy, a small provincial town, he was educated in Rome and traveled in Greece before shocking and delighting Roman society with his poems, the Loves (Amores; written at intervals from 20 B.C. onward) and The Art of Love (Ars amatoria; c. 1 B.C.) Married three times, only his last marriage appears to have been a love match. Exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea for displeasing the emperor Augustus, he was separated from his wife until his death nine years later. His last and greatest work, the Metamorphoses, a collection of myths and legends that inspired many later writers, had just been completed when he was banished.
C A.D. 8-17
I plowed the vast ocean on a frail bit of timber; (whereas) the ship that bore the son of AEson (Jason)* was strong… The furtive arts of Cupid aided him; arts which I wish that Love had not learned from me. He returned home; I shall die in these lands, if the heavy wrath of the offended God shall be lasting.
My burden, most faithful wife, is a harder one than that which the son of AEson bore. You, too, whom I left still young at my departure from the City, I can believe to have grown old under my calamities. Oh, grant it, ye Gods, that I may be enabled to see you, even if such, and to give the joyous kiss on each cheek in its turn; and to embrace your emaciated body in my arms, and to say, “’twas anxiety, on my account, that caused this thinness”; and, weeping, to recount in person my sorrows to you in tears, and thus enjoy a conversation that I had never hoped for; and to offer the due frankincense, with grateful hand, to the Caesars, and to the wife that is worthy of a Caesar, Deities in real truth!
Oh, that the mother of Menon, that Prince being softened, would with her rosy lips, speedily call forth that day.
*Ovid compares his sea-journey into exile with the voyage made by Jason and the Argonauts, who went in search of the legendary Golden Fleece. He laments the fact that his own troubles are far worse than those Jason experienced.
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