Publius Ovidius Naso
by: P. Dionysius Mus
Publius Ovidius Naso was born in 43 BC in Sulmo, at approximately 150km from Rome. His father wanted him to become a jurist and had him educated in this direction, but Ovidius wanted to become a poet ever since he was young. Ovidius grew up in a period of flourishing literature in the peace and stability of the first years of the reign of Octavianus (Caesar Augustus). He became friends with poets like Vergilius, Horatius and Propertius and possibly moved in the best circles, near the caesar.

He wrote many poetical works, among which the controversial "Ars Amatoria" (The Art Of Love), a collection of erotic poems forming a handbook about how to win your beloved one and bind her on you. In his biggest work, the "Metamorphoses", a mythological history of the world from its creation on to the reign of Augustus, he incorporated around 250 myths. All stories are linked up very nice to form a continuous and coherent unity. Though he drew very much on Greek drama and poetry, Ovidius was more a poet than a scientist; he added materials or created whole new stories. Before he completed his definitive version of the "Metamorphoses", he was banned from Rome, partly because of his 'scandalous' "Ars Amatoria". Dissatisfied with his modifications on the "Metamorphoses" he decided to burn the manuscript. The text only survived because some of his friends still owned copies. Even after he was banned, he continued to write poems and letters, but no longer with the same enthusiasm as before. He died in 17 AD, sad and lonely.

The charms of his "Metamorphoses" not only made this work famous in his era, but also made sure it would live on during Christianity. In the Dark Ages it was possibly the most read non-christian work and until our era almost every European poet owed something to Ovidius. Thanks to him many classical stories are kept in their vivid and imaginative form, and thus they clearly justify the last lines of his Metamorphoses":


Iamque opus exegi, quod nec Iovis ira nec ignis
nec poterit ferrum nec edax abolere vetustas.
Cum volet, illa dies, quae nil nisi corporis huius
ius habet, incerti spatium mihi finiat aevi:
parte tamen meliore mei super alta perennis
astra ferar, nomenque erit indelebile nostrum,
quaque patet domitis Romana potentia terris,
ore legar populi, perque omnia saecula fama,
siquid habent veri vatum praesagia, vivam.

And now, I have completed a great work,
which not Jove's anger, and not fire nor steel,
nor fast-consuming time can sweep away.
Whenever it will, let the day come, which has
dominion only over this mortal frame,
and end for me the uncertain course of life.
Yet in my better part I shall be borne
immortal, far above the stars on high,
and mine shall be a name indelible.
Wherever Roman power extends her sway
over the conquered lands, I shall be read
by lips of men. If Poets' prophecies
have any truth, through all the coming years
of future ages, I shall live in fame.
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