Publio Ovidio Nasón, Italy

Publio Ovidio

Publius Ovid Nasone, also known simply as Ovide (Latin: Publius Ovidius Naso; Sulmona, March 20, 43 B.C. – Tomis, 17), was a Roman poet among the leading elegiacs.

Publio Ovidio Nasone

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Not much is known about Ovid’s life and the only proof of it comes from the poet himself: he wrote an autobiographical elegy in nature (the Fourth Sadness).

Youth and Studies

Ovid imagined by Chronique de Nuremberg

Born on March 20, 43 B.C. in Sulmona from a wealthy family, belonging to the equestrian class.

At the age of 12 he went to Rome with his brother Lucius, who died prematurely, to finish his studies.

He attended the grammar and rhetoric of the most famous masters of the capital, especially Marco Aurelio Fusco Marco Porcio Latrone.

His father would like to have a speaker, but Ovid is already more inclined to poetry. Seneca the Elder remembers that Ovid rarely recites, mostly suasorie.

Later Ovid goes, as it was already a disguise of the century, to Athens, visits during the return trip, the cities of Asia Minor; he also goes to Egypt and stays for a year in Sicily.

Career in Rome

Back in Rome, Ovid began his public career, not the position or importance of the honors of zeal.

He is one of the decemviri stilibus iudicandis et tresviri, officials, perhaps, of the Judicial Police.

Not aspiring to the Roman Senate, he paid for his equestrian dignity; unlike his brother, and against his father’s will, he devoted himself to literary studies.

At first he had contacts with the Messala Corvinus circle (Filorepubblicano), which encouraged him to devote himself to literature; later, he joined the circle in Piazza Mecena (Filoaugusteo) and met the most important poets of the time: Orazio, Properzio and, for a short time, Virgil.

This environment allows Ovidio, who in recent years has found the serenity and incentive necessary to express himself and produce.

We are in the historical period of the pax agustina and the customs of the Romans tend to relax, there is a freer and more relaxed view of morality that comes from the Hellenistic influence.

Ovid’s elegiac

Ovid is the youngest of the elegiac poets and is very different from them. If they rejected the mos maiorum (traditions of the ancestors) but wanted the advantages, Ovid rejects this contradiction and mos in toto.

One can also speak of relativism, because the fixed and rigid rejects the values of ancient Roman society to open up to the fashion of the time, trying to satisfy the taste of the fickle public.


Ovid is married three times, but if the first two cases, which will soon be divorced, the third is the most important.

Of the first two women you know nothing, except that one of them was born Ovidia, an educated writer herself.

The third marriage occurs with Fabia, of the same name Gen, a widow with a daughter and wife faithful in joy and in sadness, whose poet, in his works, has a moving commemoration.

relegation in Tomes and death

Nell ‘8 A.D., fell in disgrace with Augustus, Ovid is relegated to distant Tomis (now Constanta), a small town (port) on the Black Sea, in present-day Romania.

The poet, therefore, gave an exile carmen error and, but this vague expression has encouraged the proliferation of different interpretations, some improbable, others more fanciful, about the possible error.

Interesting facts:

  • It is said that Ovid had illicit relations with the daughter of Augustus Julia the elder, Tiberius’ widow, sung in Amores under the pseudonym of Corinna;
  • The allusions and parallels in Amores around the figure of Corinna have been seen as an attempt to damage the image of Tiberius’ succession hinders the plans of the Empress Livia;
  • It was suspected that he had aided and possibly abetted the relationship of Julia the younger, grandson of Augustus and wife of Lucius Emilio Paolo, with the young and noble Decimus Junius Silano;
  • discovered Augustus’ illicit relations at court or recklessly instigated the private behavior and intimate habits of the Empress Livia;
  • participated in the conspiracy of Agrippa Posthumus, pretender to the throne, against Tiberius.

The term “carmen” would refer, however, to the work of Ovid, contrary to the principles of Augustinian restoration (especially the amatory of Ars).

At the base of the sentence is undoubtedly a very serious staff, capable of justifying the sudden decision and preventing the return of the poet, despite their means and friends.

Ovid, in fact, no longer returned to the capital and died in 17 and 18 A.D. (most likely on the 18th), after a decade of confinement in a desert completely alien to him.

Fact or fiction?

The darkness of the causes of Ovid’s exile has given rise to a host of explanations. Ovid makes several references to his crime, but with vague or contradictory explanations.

For this reason, in 1923, J.J. Hartmann proposed a new theory: that Ovid in fact never suffered from relegatio, and that the reference to exile is a product of his imagination.

This theory was supported and rejected in the 1930s, mostly by Dutch authors.

In 1985, a study by Fitton Brown presented new arguments in support of the hypothesis; the article provoked a small controversy with a series of shots and rebuttals.

The main element that Fitton declared by Brown to deny the reality of exile is that it is mentioned only or mainly in the works of Ovid himself, and there are references to them where it would be legitimate to expect them (for example, historians who have treated the time of Augustus as Tacitus or Suetonius).

The exceptions, a little later than Ovid’s death, consist of two short passages Pliny the Elder, and Stace.

Nothing until the 4th century, with brief mentions in Girolamo and “Epitome of Caesaribus”.

However, today most researchers believe in very credible hypotheses that deny the reality of Ovid’s exile.


Ovid wrote a series of works, which can be easily divided into three groups: works of youth and love, more or less mature works and works of exile.

Other works have been almost completely lost, while others have been falsely attributed to the poet.

Youth or loving work

Youth and Studies

Amores, in three books: 49 poems that tell the love story of a woman named Corinna (literary character), according to the style and love conventions of the elegy: the poet is subjected to the domain, suffers from his infidelity, is jealous of other admirers and opposes the military life to the love life.

But Ovid does not suffer dramatically Catullus and always maintains a certain intellectual detachment he sees love as a game and this conception is translated into love and develops into a reversal of traditional attitudes and themes (Ovid also comes to love two women at the same time, he asks the beloved not to be faithful to him, but to hide the betrayal, so that he can pretend not to know).

The tragedy we have received, but praised by his contemporaries.

Heroides21 letters written by Ovid’s famous women to imagine their lovers. Three letters, in particular, have an answer from the beloved man.

It is a completely new type for the Latin literature: the erotic mythological aspect is made for the first time in the form of letters (some researchers have found for this similarity with the Suasoriae, the fictitious speeches have resorted to mythical or historical figures to persuade or dissuade them in certain circumstances).

There are many parallels with the epic and the tragedy (especially the heroines of Euripides’ monologues) and even certain myths are revised and rewritten (such as Phaedra’s letter to Hippolytus, in which she plays the mother-in-law as a cunning seductress instead of a desperate woman).

Ars amatory, in three books. According to Concept Marquis, it is the “masterpiece of Latin erotic poetry”, in which we find Ovidio praeceptor amoris, a role still played by almost all elegiac poets but which, thanks to a skillful mix of genres (elegy, didactic precepts, epic techniques), can acquire greater importance.

The first two books are dedicated to men and, respectively, to the conquest of women and seduction techniques, and how to make love stay. The third book aims to give valuable advice to women.

The most common model is “predator hunting”. “The objective of the game is no longer love, but sex.

In fact, Ovid advised not to fall in love, but to know how to experience love as a game. Therefore, he also admits betrayal in a relationship.

Because Ovid’s betrayal is a fundamental element of the society of his time.

But Ovid also points out that it does not refer to the relationship of marriage and even to respectable women. He advises Liberty, slaves and courtesans. Thus, work is vividly the social framework of Ovid’s time and, therefore, it is not surprising that it is not appreciated by Augustus himself (no doubt because of the veiled rejection of archaic ethical models).

Medicamina Faciei Femineae: Operetta on female cosmetics. Of what we have received only 100 verses: the first 50 are the preface, the next 50 offer 5 recipes for creams to apply to the face.

Remedia amoris400 elegiac distic to resist love or to get rid of it.

Work more or mature

metamorphosis, in 15 pounds of hexameters.

Ovid’s masterpiece, completed shortly before his exile, contains more than 250 myths of transformations, chaos and the apotheosis of Caesar and Augustus. The work ends with a prayer to the gods, so that they may sustain the Emperor Augustus for a long time.

Written in hexameters, in about fifteen books (about 12,000 verses), is the entire legendary history of the world, but reorganized by Ovid into a continuous series of stories.

The compilation of the general criteria follows a chronological order, but very often Ovid presents the events before or after the event narrated, links the stories based on family relationships, treats the stories according to affinity or diversity.

In short, it is a rough and articulate story, sometimes bordering on the artificial, showing an amazing ability to link poetic stories that apparently have a common logic. The only unifying principle is metamorphosis.

Among the instruments adopted by the poet is the story within the story, thanks to which the poet becomes the “told” characters in “narrative” characters that tell their stories or other tales. The work makes him illustrious among his contemporaries.

Fasting, in six books.

In the author’s intentions there would have been 12 books, one for each month of the year, but Ovid writes only 6 (from January to June) because of the exile.

It was intended to illustrate (according to a procedure similar to that used in Aitia Callimaco) the religious festivals and the various celebrations of the Roman calendar introduced by Caesar. It is a work of an etiological and erudite nature, inspired by Alexandria’s taste;

Ovid tells anecdotes, stories, episodes from the history of Rome, gives notions of astronomy, explains customs and traditions. But the celebration remains outside, unattended neither by the historical and religious interest, nor by the patriotic sense of the greatness of Rome.

Containment work

Sad, in 5 books of elegiac verses: Ovid takes up again here a typical feature of elegiac poetry, the lament. The results are about one hundred poems, grouped into five books. The elegies of Tristes have no addressee.

Epistulae ex Ponto, poetic letters grouped into four books: the elegies in the epistles are addressed to various Latin characters (among them the poet’s third wife, who stayed in Rome) who could intercede with the emperor to end the exile or, at least, to move the poet to a place closer to Rome.

ibis, a vague poem against an unnamed opponent, Ovid, before his friend and then bite.

Halieutica, a poem about fishing in Pontus.

phenomena, did not reach the astronomical poem.

Other minor works

Ovid wrote songs of various genres, to which the poet alludes particularly in Epistles ex Pontus; they are the following:

  • a poem in the Getian language, in honor of Augustus and the imperial family (of Cesare)
  • a poem, still in the Getian language, in honor of Tiberius, the winner of the Illyrian
  • a panegyric on the death of Messala Corvinus;
  • an epitaph for the wedding of his friend Paul Fabius Maximus.

Error in job assignment

Not Ovid, nor the poem Nux 182 verse (elegy in which a nut complains about the stone it receives unjustly from passers-by), nor the poem Consolation to Liviam of 474 poems, a poem of consolation to Augustus’ wife on the death of his son Drusus, in 9 B.C.

Some fine manuscripts attribute them to Ovid, but the stylistic reasons and measurements, as well as the content, suggest some imitators later.


The tendency towards the GALANT and spicy, in a way atheism and indifference to political life derives from the imperial golden youth, of which Ovid was one of the most honest representatives, and for which he wrote.

The author’s relationship with his sources is a major problem for philologists; but more than his predecessors, he has a very cultural environment around him.

The poet’s vitality is inexhaustible. In the Middle Ages I considered it no less Virgil and a whole season of medieval literature vulgar and medieval Latin, the Renaissance of the twelfth century, can also be considered Ovid of the Renaissance (Ludwig Traube invented for this term Ovidian athetes ):

In Italy, France, Germany, he was the “cleric of love”. Brunetto Latini wrote of him “and in a rich mantle – seen Ovid Maggiore – that acts of love – gathered and put into verse. »

This is also highlighted in the Metamorphoses of the Integumenta super Ovid, Giovanni’s translation of the Virgil by Giovanni de Buonsignori and Arrigo Simintendi and the Moralized Ovid.

He had a significant influence on English writers and poets such as Chaucer (The House of Fame, The Legend of Women) and Shakespeare (Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrezia, Romeo and Juliet), as well as on all Italian humanist poetry and learned about the style and poems of French-Dutch philologists.


Dante Alighieri in the divine comedy Ovid placed in Limbo (The Infernal Circle) among the “great spirits” as a distinguished personality, but without the baptism.

Dante does this in all his writings when he evokes the ancient mythology he has always told in Ovid.

Every year in Sulmona, the “Ovidio” institute organizes the Ovidianum Sulmonense Contest, a translation of international offers of extracts from Ovid’s works for the institutes.

Every year the Municipal Library of Sulmona Ovidio celebrates Ovid’s Dies Natalis (March 20) with the placement of a wreath on the poet’s head in the presence of students from the city’s schools and with the notes of the band from the institutes SMPSerafini’ and ‘Enrico Fermi’. During the ceremony, the students of the Ovid Classical Lyceum read the verses in Latin.

SMPE, Sulmo mihi patria EST. It is an acronym taken from the verses of a work by Ovid (i Tristes, to be exact) and has become a symbol of the city of Sulmona.

On June 10, 1957 the Italian Placet consecrated a stamp to celebrate the bimillennium of the birth.

In Ovid, the second act is dedicated to Les Muses gallantes de Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Editor’s Note

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