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[ahv' id] Roman poet best known for his collection of tales
Publius Ovidius Naso was born in Sulmo (now Sulmona), Italy, in 43 B.C. Born into an equestrian family, Ovid was expected to become a lawyer and an official, so he was given an excellent education. He studied in Athens, toured the Near East, and spent about a year in Sicily before returning to Rome, where he held some minor government positions before turning to poetry.
In A.D. 8, the emperor Augustus banished Ovid to Tomis, an isolated city on the Black Sea in what is now Romania. The specific reasons for the exile are unknown, but it is believed that Ovid was witness to, if not part of, some kind of indiscretion within Augustus' family. The journey to Tomis took almost a year, and upon his arrival Ovid found a village of people who spoke no Latin and who lived under almost constant fear of attack from barbarians. Although he initially detested the place, he came to be beloved by the citizenry. He learned the native language, and earned an exemption from all local taxes. Little else of Ovid's personal life is known, except that he was married three times. One of his wives, probably his second, bore him a daughter, who in turn made him a grandfather. His last wife remained loyal even after Ovid was exiled. He died in Tomis in A.D. 17 or 18.
Amores was probably Ovid's first major work. Written about 2 B.C., it consists of three volumes of love poems.
Epistles of the Heroides (Letters of Heroic Women) consists of 21 fictional letters written by famous women in mythology to their husbands or lovers.
Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love) was a kind of manual in verse on how to fall in love. It is believed by some scholars that it was this work which somehow led to Ovid's exile.
In contrast to the previous work, Remedies for Love focused on how to get over an unsuccessful love affair.
Ovid considered Metamorphoses (Transformations) to be his greatest work. It is a narrative poem that includes more than 200 tales taken from the favorite legends and myths of the ancient world, arranged in chronological order from the creation of the world to Julius Caesar. The stories tell of the adventures and love affairs of gods and heroes, and many involve some kind of metamorphosis (hence the name).
Lesser known works by Ovid include: The Art of Beauty; Fasti (Calendar), was intended to be a Roman religious calendar in verse, one book for each month, but Ovid only completed six before his death; and, Medea, a rhetorical drama of which only a few lines remain.
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This page was last updated on 10/26/2017.