Ovid was one of the great writers of the Golden Age (31 BC-AD14) in ancient Rome (Matthews 112-113). He was born in 43 BC and died while he was in exile about AD18. Ovid received a broad education, which included the study of subjects such as rhetoric and law. It was during this time that he developed a preference for poetry (Bunson 305).
Ovid wrote works about a variety of subjects during his lifetime. Fasti (The Calendar) was about the background of the Roman calendar. In his work, Ibis, he curses an enemy in Rome. Epistulae Heroidum (Letters of the Heroines) was a popular work made up of letters that abandoned, mythical ladies wrote to their former lovers. Halieutica was a poem about the Black Sea fish he studied (Bunson 306).
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Ovids greatest work, the Metamorphoses, was a fourteen book collection of myths and legends from the Greeks and Romans (Matthews 113, Bunson 306). In this work, he shows how a metamorphosis, or transformation from chaos to order, took place in each of the chronologically arranged stories (Fowler 151, Bunson 306). The more than two hundred stories in this work are about Creation, the founding of Thebes, Hercules, various other gods and other themes (Fowler 151-152, Matthews 113). The smooth transitions, rapid and fluent narrative, and variety of expressions used in this piece, combine to make the Metamorphoses Ovids most significant work (Fowler 151). An excerpt from this work reveals his style:
At length the world was all restor'd to view;
But desolate, and of a sickly hue:
Nature beheld her self, and stood aghast,
A dismal desart, and a silent waste.
(Book One: The Creation of the World)
Ovids life ended in exile because of his controversial work, The Art of Love, which was published in AD 1 (Grant 1461). This lust-filled love poetry instructed young men on the art of seducing women (Fowler 147). Emperor Augustus, angered by this immoral work, connected Ovid to his granddaughter Julias act of adultery and sent him into exile in A.D. 8 (Grant 1461). It was while Ovid was in exile in the harsh Black Sea region of Tomis that his poetry focused solely on his desire to be pardoned and allowed to return to Rome (Grant 1461). His works, Tristia (Sadness) and Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters from the Black Sea), contain the many letters he wrote to various people, including the Emperor, in which he pleaded, to no avail, for justice, help, and pardon in the years before his death (Bunson 306). Ovids greatest work, Metamorphoses, continues to be a valuable source of information in discovering Classical myths (Matthews 113).
Fowler, Harold N. A History of Roman Literature. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937.
Grant, Micheal and Rachel Kitzinger. Civilization of Ancient Mediterranean: Greece and Rome. New York: Charles Schribners Sons, 1988. 1460-1462.
Matthews, Roy T. and Platt, F. Dewitt. The Western Humanities. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1998.