Core Curriculum : Literature Humanities

Ovid > Introduction

German Ovid engraving-Orpheus

German book of engravings

Scenes from Ovid, 1641

Columbia RBML Lodge 1641 Ov4

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Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17 AD) was a Roman poet who spent the first part of his career writing love poetry (the Amores and Heroides) in Rome and the last years of his life exiled in Tomis, where he wrote the Tristia, or Sorrows, and the Epistuale ex Ponto, petitions for his return to Rome. Ovid took the myths and histories that he included in the Metamorphoses from classical Greek authors (including Homer) and more recent Latin authors (including Virgil).

Ovid remained a popular (that is to say consistently copied) author over the next millennium, though different works enjoyed more popularity at different moments. During the late medieval period, the Heroides, Ars amatoria, and Remedia Amoris were popular classroom texts.  Medieval authors also produced “moralized” versions of the Metamorphoses, which provided an interpretation of each of the decidedly pagan episodes that would be consistent with Christian morality.

Ovid was a popular author for the early printers, receiving multiple incunable and early sixteenth-century editions. This exhibit presents three editions of Ovid from the early sixteenth century as well as two later versions of the text. The Metamorphoses contains both discrete episodes and ligatures between them, repeated motifs across books and sudden changes of direction. Some of the editions present the work as a compendia of shorter narratives and others as a long narrative poem.


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