Episode 60: How to Make Love to a Roman

Ovid’s Art of Love is ancient Rome’s manual of seduction – a record of the steamier side of the Augustan Age.

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Ovid’s Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris

Hello, and welcome to Literature and History. Episode 60: How to Make Love to a Roman. In this episode, we’re going to talk about three instructional poems by the Roman writer Ovid, instructional poems on the subject of love and romance. The main text we’ll look at in this show will be the Ars Amatoria, or The Art of Love a three book long manual on seduction and courtship, the first two books addressed to men, and the last one, to women, that Ovid finished around 4 BCE. We’ll also look at Ovid’s Medicamina Faciei Femineae, or Women’s Facial Cosmetics, a fragment that survives from what was once a longer poem instructing women on how to prepare their makeup. And finally, we’ll read Ovid’s Remedia Amoris, or Cure for Love. Much of the poetry Ovid writes on the subject of love explains how to find love and enjoy it, but the Remedia Amoris, or again the Cure for Love, illustrates how to recover and move on after a heartbreak.

We’re going to need a term upfront to describe all of the content we’ll cover in this episode, as it will be clunky to say, “The Ars Amatoria, Medicamina Faciei Femineae, and Remedia Amoris” again and again and again. So let’s call the subject of today’s show Ovid’s “didactic love poetry” – his love poetry that aims to instruct readers on the best means of courtship, lovemaking, and bouncing back after a breakup. Ovid’s didactic love poetry wasn’t the only love poetry he wrote. Last time, we looked at his Amores, a three-book-long collection of about 50 poems generally addressed to a mistress called Corinna. We also looked at the Heroides, a collection of 21 letters, mostly from famous female characters of mythology, to their absent lovers.

When Ovid began writing didactic love poetry, he had already thoroughly explored the subjects of courtship and sexual politics in earlier works. In the Amores, he’d written a definitive and pivotal book of Roman love elegies – one that took up the genre and satirized it so successfully that future generations thereafter found it difficult to write the sorts of ardent and genuinely emotive love poetry once penned by Propertius and Catullus. In the Heroides, he had ranged far and wide in ancient mythology and tried to imagine the emotional experiences of lovelorn women from literary history. With the works we’ll read today – The Art of Love, Women’s Facial Cosmetics, and The Cure for Love, Ovid took a different path, keeping romance and seduction as central subjects, but switching from storytelling to instruction. This transition to didactic poetry allowed Ovid to distance himself further from the emotionality of personal romance, treat the subjects of love and sex with deeper irony, and at the same time throw himself into a challenging new genre of poetry.

Ovid and Didactic Love Poetry

We have read some didactic poetry in this podcast – most recently, Virgil’s Georgics, which was one of Ovid’s central models in his own didactic love poetry. Virgil’s Georgics, a four-book-long manual on farming, was a famous text in Augustan Rome, offering its readers instructions on plowing, horticulture, animal husbandry, and beekeeping. Today, the very nature of the Georgics sounds idiosyncratic – farmers, after all, don’t learn agriculture from intensely difficult and allusive poetry, and they probably never have. However, the Georgics was part of an old and well-respected genre in the ancient Mediterranean that we generally call “didactic poetry.”

Latin Poet Ovid

Ovid’s Metamorphoses will probably always be his most famous poem, but the Art of Love and its companion pieces are nonetheless a rich window into the lost world of courtship in Augustan Rome – or at least a heavily ironic poetic view of this world!

If you were a citizen of Rome in Ovid’s age, and you wanted to learn about a topic, you had a wide variety of esteemed poetic texts to draw from. The Greek poet Aratus, at work during the 200s BCE, had written a popular poem on constellations and weather. Aratus’ successor Eratosthenes had written on geography and astronomy. The Greek poet Nicander, at work some time in the 200s BCE, authored didactic poetry on venomous animals and antidotes, along with other subjects. These writers were available for Romans to study during the Augustan Age – Virgil likely made use of all three when writing the Georgics.1 And Ovid, nothing if not a voracious reader, used a massive amount of source material for texts like the Metamorphoses and the Fasti, his catalog of Roman holidays.2

Virgil’s Georgics had precedents – a book on farming published not even a decade before by his predecessor Marcus Terentius Varro, and long before that, a treatise published by the statesman Cato the Elder in the previous century. Ovid’s didactic love poetry, however, was a more novel effort – a book that promised not so much inveterate and timeless wisdom as it did hardheaded and cynical advice on sex and ephemeral romantic relationships in contemporary society. The Art of Love is, in a sentence, a book for the Roman street, telling its reader where to meet women in the temples and breezeways of Augustan Rome, and how to transform titillating new acquaintances into lovers. Just as the Roman writer Lucilius had once adapted the grand hexameter of the Homeric epic into the first true works of Roman satire, Ovid’s Ars Amatoria takes the traditionally respectable form of the didactic poem and uses it to create a thoroughly contemporary, and thoroughly irreverent work on sex and seduction, replacing the traditional hexameter of didactic poetry with the elegiac couplet that we talked about last time.

The Ars Amatoria, because of the nature of its content, has been controversial for a long time. As late as 1930, an English translation of the book was confiscated by American customs agents.3 In various centuries beforehand, as when the outspoken Dominican preacher Girolamo Savonarola ordered Ovid’s works burned in 1497, Ovid’s poems were a frequent target for destruction, the Art of Love and the Amores frequently topping the list. However, long before the Middle Ages, and in fact, from the very beginning, the Art of Love brought Ovid a lot of grief.

The Art of Love and the Augustan Age

One of the most famous lines in Ovid’s poetry is in his late work, the Tristia, a collection of letters written in elegiac couplets from Ovid’s exile. The line is famous because of the mystery with which it presents us – we know that Ovid spent the end of his life on the fringes of the Roman world, on the coast of modern day Romania, but we don’t know exactly what he did to make the Emperor Augustus exile him there. In the second book of these late letters, Ovid offers us our most substantial clue, admitting that “It was two offences undid me, a poem and an error” (Tr 2.207).4 Scholars have been trying to pin down the nature of this error for thousands of years, with little success, but the poem in question is elsewhere in Ovid’s poetry explicitly identified as the Art of Love.5 Considering what we know about the reign of Augustus, with his conservative stance on marriage, childbearing, and adultery, Rome’s first emperor likely would not have looked favorably on a guidebook about casual sex in his capital, or the poet who wrote this guidebook.

Augustus Bevilacqua Glyptothek Munich 317

This portrait of Augustus wearing the civic crown in the Glypothek museum in Munich, as many portraits of the emperor do, shows a figure with a drawn mouth and gaunt cheeks, suggesting the first emperor’s austere personal disposition.

One of the most contentious actions that Augustus took while in office was the passage of a pair of laws related to marriage. These laws passed between 17 and 18 BCE. Ovid was about 25, and well on his way to becoming the sensational love poet and flâneur of his generation. He had likely already issued his first book of Amores in 20 BCE, and was at work on some combination of the Heroides and possibly Ars Amatoria the same year that Augustus was tightening down laws on marriage and fidelity. And the ethics of Ovid’s freewheeling love poetry form a sharp contrast to the puritanical strictures of Augustus’ new laws.

Now, we covered the Augustan Age marriage legislation a couple of episodes ago, when we were talking about Propertius, so I’ll discuss Augustus’ new laws fairly quickly here. The first law of 18 BCE was the Lex Iulia de adulteriis. This law forbade adultery, made male adultery punishable by exile and the confiscation of half of a man’s fortune, and made female adultery punishable by the confiscation of half of a woman’s dowry and a third of her fortune. Additionally, the Lex Iulia de adulteriis made the testimonies of slaves viable in law courts. Marital fidelity had been loosely regulated before – men were legally allowed to murder other men who’d slept with their wives, and to disown disloyal wives. What changed with the Augustan adultery laws of 18 BCE, though, was that suddenly, men’s sexual freedoms were being curbed, and they found that in certain cases, their extramarital recreations could be ferreted out through the testimonies of slaves and severely punished by the courts.

That was just one of the two laws Augustus issued in 18 BCE, and the other was even more oppressive. The Lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibis required elite Romans to marry. If you were between the ages of 25 and 60, and you were a man, you were legally required to be married. If you were a woman between 20 and 50, you were also legally required to be married. Being in these age groups and losing a spouse meant that you were legally required to remarry. If you failed to marry, you could not pass on inheritances and your money went to the state treasury when you died.

In addition to wanting elites to be secured in monogamous marriages, Augustus also wanted elite marriages to produce children. Any ambitious Roman man who wanted to ascend the cursus honorum would have a year cut off of the minimum age requirements for offices for each child he’d fathered. Similarly, women who had three kids of a certain age earned what was called the ius trium liberorum, or “right of three children,” which entitled her to certain legal rights that were otherwise unavailable.

Thus, Ovid wrote his Art of Love and the other didactic love poems often associated with it at a time when the emperor himself was clamping down on marital infidelity and forcing Roman citizens to marry. As Augustus made adultery increasingly difficult to get away with, Ovid wrote a handbook about how to best seduce women, regardless of their marital status. As Augustus made childbearing a highly rewarded part of Roman marriage, Ovid encouraged his readers to enjoy a number of sexual partners and never said much about family life at all. As Augustus, in an early version of the Lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibis, actually forbade unmarried Romans from visiting the theater and circus, Ovid explicitly recommended going to the theater and circus to meet sexually eligible women.6 Ovid and Augustus, then, were likely on a collision course from the moment the poet first set pen to paper, and it is thus remarkable that Ovid wasn’t exiled until 8 CE – nearly thirty years after the publication of his first book of love poems.

The Art of Love, then, a prickly, prurient, unmannerly book from the moment of its release, would have been as objectionable to Augustus as it was to the generations of censors who lived centuries after him. Even today, the Art of Love alternately offends and amuses, offering entertainingly cynical advice about adult relationships, but also, distressingly, endorsing rape as an acceptable path to male sexual gratification. So in the remainder of this episode, we’re going to take a good, long look at the Art of Love and its companion texts. Considering the nature of the material, I probably don’t have to say that there is going to be some adult content, including some very specific tactical advice on sex and sexual positions. It’s not going to get quite so X-rated as Catullus was, but still, the main text we’ll look at today is a book about how to get people to have sex with you, and thus this might not be the ideal program for all age groups.

So let’s open the Art of Love and take a look at some of the long poem’s more famous moments. I’m using the Len Krisak translation, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2014. This translation is done in rhymed elegiac couplets, that metrical structure that alternates from hexameter to pentameter with each couplet, and I enthusiastically recommend it. [music]

The Basics of The Art of Love

Classical texts often begin with invocations to muses – hopeful requests that divine inspiration will help writers accomplish their goals. Near the opening of the Art of Love, Ovid undertakes a sort of reverse invocation to the muses, telling us that in fact, his inspiration for the poem comes from the world around him, and not some archaic deity. Here’s Ovid, about 25 lines into the Art of Love, explaining his motivation to write the poem.
I will not claim that Phoebus gave me this (my skill),
     Or that some high-flown bird has stirred my quill.
I never saw a Clio go, and never saw
     Her sisters fill me with old Hesiod’s awe.
No. Life informs these lines, so heed this well-versed bard
     Who sings the truth. (1.25-30)7
Carl Friedrich Deckler Vestalin mit Efeugirlande

A vestal virgin with two rouguish figures in the back. Beneath the official narrative of the Augustan Age, Ovid’s early works suggest a culture of leisure and pleasure that flowered beneath the first emperor. The painting is Carl Friedrich Deckler’s Vestal with Ivy Garland.

I think the key statement there is “Life informs these lines.” In other poems, Ovid described himself as an uates – a word that’s commonly translated as “prophet” or “seer,” and which in Ovid’s time described an inspired poet.8 In the opening of the Art of Love, though, it’s not a god or muse that inspires Ovid, but the life all around him on the streets of Rome. In the opening of the second book of the Art of Love, Ovid reiterates his claim that his poetry comes from and is written for the contemporary Roman world. He writes, “The happy lover gives a fresh palm to my verse / And finds old Hesiod’s and Homer’s worse!” (2.3-4). In other words, tales of the origins of the gods and the wars of the Bronze Age are all fine and well, but real Romans need romantic advice that comes from the same milieu that they do. The flippant self assurance here is characteristically Ovidian – the only invocation of muses in literature I know of that’s more iconoclastic than this comes from Byron, himself a huge fan of Ovid. Byron begins the third Canto of Don Juan with a single line invocation: “Hail, Muse! et cetera.”9

To return to Ovid, the odds and ends of Augustan Rome, more than the timeless landscapes and palaces of Greek mythology, fill his didactic love poetry. The city is vividly described throughout the Art of Love, a poem that explicitly details when, how, and where to meet lovers in the metropolis of Rome during the Augustan Age. As Ovid puts it, “You too! Look for substantial love that will go far. / But first, you need to know where the girls are!” (1.49-50). And Ovid has extensive and specific advice about where to look for eligible Roman women. He recommends going to the portico of Pompey’s theater (1.67-8). Another good spot is the gallery of Livia Drusilla, Augustus’ wife (1.71-2). The Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill is a great location for picking up on girls, Ovid tells us (1.73-4), Jewish temples work well (1.75), and the temple of Io, who, Ovid points out, was once seduced by Zeus. The Cure for Love also suggests an “ancient shrine near the Colline Gate” as an excellent place to meet women.10 If the temples and shrines around town aren’t to one’s liking, Ovid writes, Rome’s law courts are actually a great place to meet women, too (1.79-80). Theaters, however, are the very best places to instigate a romance. Ovid describes them as places where women “are able to be seen, [where] they come to see – / A place that’s lethal to all chastity” (1.99-100). And if one doesn’t enjoy the theater, the Circus, where Roman chariot races took place, is nearly as effective. The close quarters and excitement of a race are perfect, Ovid emphasizes, for cozying up to a prospective mistress. “Just sit beside her;” Ovid says, “it’s the open-seating plan, / So nudge against her thigh the best you can. / Like it or not, the seats mean closeness, and that’s good; / Tight spaces leave you touching where you should” (1.139-42). Ovid then goes on to offer specific strategies for exchanging glances and smiles, and the subtle art of flirting in the midst of a chariot race.

There is a broad assumption throughout all of Ovid’s didactic love poetry that Rome is the center of seduction and romance. In The Cure for Love, one of the means of coping with heartbreak that Ovid suggests is leaving the city itself. He tells his reader that when a romance goes south, one should leave the capital, and “Don’t ask how many miles you’ve done, and how many / there are left: nor feign delays so you can stay around: / Don’t count the hours, or keep looking back at Rome.”11 The assumption here is that love, sex, and heartbreak all take place in the city, and that by ducking out, one can recover in the slower moving and morally purer countryside. Rome, in Ovid’s didactic love poetry, is an erotic honeycomb of opportunities and missed connections; fresh faces and old flames.

If there is a main character in Ovid’s didactic love poetry, other than the narrator himself, it is the city of Rome, which during the Augustan Age had swelled to over a million inhabitants. Ovid was not trying to write a timeless treatise on seduction, but a manual on specific strategies for Augustan Age Romans to find love and sex in the city around them. And thus, the amount of local color detail that we find in Ovid’s didactic love poetry is one of the reasons we find it fascinating. Scholar Sarah Ruden writes that
Ovid is one of our richest sources on otium, literally ‘leisure,’ and in Rome the word was particularly suggestive of things that are extra, ephemeral, disposable – such as the love affairs a young man might indulge in as long as they did not involve serious infatuation that might distract him from duties and prescribed ambitions. Every relationship Ovid depicts comes under the heading of dalliance: any assertion of real, lasting emotional involvement is canceled out by the poet’s satirical wit.12
Beneath the official narratives of the Augustan Age – Virgil’s Aeneid, and Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita Libri, and later Augustus’ own Res Gestae – beneath these grand portraits of Roman history, Ovid’s didactic love poetry paints a picture of how and where the Roman gentry actually spent their days and nights in the capital. The Art of Love and its companion texts certainly shouldn’t be regarded as documentary realism, but nonetheless Ovid invites us to consider the glittering worlds of racing stands, temple porticos, and freshly built libraries where the Rome’s leisure class went to have fun. The urban spaces that fill Art of Love are some of its most distinct features. Classicist David Malouf writes that the poem ushers us into “the flâneur’s world of cruising the streets of a vast cosmopolitan city, of shopping and partygoing, of theaters, taverns, temples, synagogues, colunnades, racetracks, [and] piazzas.”13 Within this myriad of exciting locations, Ovid promises, if you know just a little bit about how to flirt, Rome is absolutely teeming with erotic opportunities. [music]

Romantic Counsel in The Art of Love: The Details

As I said before, the first two books of the Art of Love are written to men. I want to spend some time looking at these two books now. Ovid is many things in his didactic poetry. He is erudite, funny, practical, and disturbing, but he is also a huckster, offering a frequent sales pitch guaranteeing that his erotic advice works, and that it works for everyone. Early in the first book of the Art of Love, Ovid writes,
First, rest assured there is no woman you can’t get;
     But keep in mind, you have to spread your net!
Spring birds will sing no more, cicadas make no sound,
     And rabbits run Arcadian hounds to ground
Before well-tempted women won’t succumb to skill;
     Even the ones you think unwilling, will. (1.269-74)
These six lines are a good introduction to the content and ethos of Ovid’s didactic love poetry. There is a pervasive sense of cheerleading and empowerment, Ovid promising that his male readers can and will see tangible rewards for following his advice. Love and courtship are depicted as a large and eminently amusing game, in which the best tactical maneuvers will garner the most bounty. And more disquietingly, there is a pervasive metaphor of hunting, with men being the pursuers, and women their often reluctant quarry. We’ll look at some of the more disconcerting parts of the text later – let’s begin by hearing some of Ovid’s advice to men on how to find love and sex in Augustan Rome.

It is important, Ovid emphasizes, to get in good with one’s prospective lover’s slaves, who will ultimately be the gateway to her bedroom. Her slaves, for instance, need to be respected, and it’s important to shake their hands and treat them with deference (2.251-5). Her hairdresser can be an especially valuable pander to one’s affair, Ovid says, but “Be sure she’s privy to your mistress’ thoughts and cares, / And circumspect with all your love’s affairs. / Corrupt this lady’s maid with promises and prayers” (1.353-5). From time to time, Ovid notes, in one’s efforts at seduction, one might find one’s prospective mistress’ slave sexually desirable as well. In such cases, there is a necessary order of operations. Ovid explains,
All right: suppose, in playing messenger, [the slave’s] figure
     Should please you no less than her helpful vigor.
Master the mistress first, and then the maid. The maid
     Is never where to start some escapade. (1.383-6)
Having multiple lovers at the same time is perfectly permissible, Ovid says, although it’s tricky. His advice on the subject is, “Yes, play around, but quietly. And keep it hidden. / Don’t look for glory out of what’s forbidden” (2.389-90). Citing the example of brazen Agamemnon, who sported his adultery openly and was murdered for it, Ovid emphasizes that one can carry on multiple affairs, but only with tact and caution. On the same subject, Ovid states that one should not expect a lover to be loyal to oneself, any more than one plans to be loyal to one’s lover. Only the most pitiful and desperate Roman would try to ferret out infidelity – the smarter ones readily understand that their mistresses are probably carrying on multiple affairs simultaneously, and that this is all a part of the game (2.593-6).

Use slaves strategically, sleep with some of them if one wants to, and don’t have any illusions of monogamy, Ovid tells his reader in the first two books of the Art of Love, and one is on one’s way to a lifetime of fun and sex. And these are just the beginning of his instructions. In addition to laying out some ground rules, Ovid has recommendations on whom to pursue. Women who are just beginning to show some gray in their hair, he writes, are ideal – they know all the tacit rules of courtship, they want sex, and have enough sexual experience to be fantastic lovers. In one of the racier passages of the poem, Ovid specifically recommends women 35 and older. He writes, again in the Len Krisak translation,
I want her words – as wild as woman’s words can get;
     I want to hear “Yes! Yes!” and yet “Not yet!”
I want to see her gray eyes rolling back so much,
     Till languishing, she cannot bear my touch.
Youth doesn’t know these joys, which Nature still withholds
     From all but seasoned thirty-five-year-olds. (2.689-94)
While women in their mid-thirties and older make excellent mistresses, Ovid tells us, women who are rebounding from other relationships are also, often, keen on having a new lover. Ovid recommends, “So try her when she’s rival-wounded; watch her sob, / Then see she gets revenge. Make it your job” (1.365-6). Women who have been abandoned or suffered somehow in love, Ovid adds, are particularly liable to try and please and maintain a relationship with a new lover, and men who find them are very lucky indeed (2.447-8,454-5).

So far, we’ve heard Ovid advise how to select a mistress and how to move in on her. In addition to this basic courtship advice, Ovid has recommendations for what men should do in order to showcase their attractiveness and eligibility as lovers. It doesn’t hurt to be handsome, Ovid says, but one needs more than good looks – one needs a well-honed mind and personality, because looks fade (2.113-20). And it doesn’t hurt to be eloquent, although one should generally opt for plain speech instead of trying to impress a mistress with a bunch of highbrow diction. In addition to looks and speech, Ovid has some specific counsel on male grooming and hygiene. Don’t curl your hair or shave your legs, he tells his reader. Be plain and clean, keep your toga neat and clean, polish your buckles, get a hair cut, trim your nails and nose hairs, freshen your breath, and wash your armpits – but doing more than this is excessive and won’t really help with anything (1.512-24). In addition to using curling irons and shaving legs, Ovid thinks that using magic spells, charms, and potions doesn’t really help anything (2.99-102). However, Ovid says, a smart man ought to know a few common foods that can help sustain an erection. Specifically, Ovid writes,
Eat onions sent from Megara to help you harden,
     And rocket, lewd, fresh out of the garden.
Hymettian honey works, and eating eggs as well;
     Try needled-pine nuts; they should make you swell. (2.422-5)
Onions, honey, eggs, and pine nuts, then, according to Ovid, are some of the keys to male sexual stamina. Before sexual stamina is really an issue, however, there are a number of things that men can do to meet and win the favor of eligible women.

Ovid recommends sending a prospective lover cute, small gifts like nuts and berries. Sending poetry can be very productive, he adds, and really it doesn’t have to be good – it just needs to praise her in a convincing fashion. Praise is at the core of an aspiring lover’s conduct toward his mistress, according to the Art of Love – Ovid stresses that a lover should praise his lady’s beauty, her clemency, her clothing, her hairstyle, her voice, her dancing, and at the same time carefully conceal what he actually thinks (2.297-306). Disingenuous praises are thus part of a skilled lover’s arsenal, and Ovid also assures his reader that it’s okay to make promises and oaths that one doesn’t intend to keep. Ovid writes,
Promise girls anything that works, and don’t be shy
     At calling on some god to testify.
For Jove on high just laughs at lovers’ perjuries,
     Telling the winds, ‘Blow them across the seas!’ (1.631-3)
While swearing false oaths is sometimes a necessary part of a courtship, Ovid also writes that false tears can be very effective, if one is able to cry on command.

As initial meetings turn into courtships, Ovid has more guidance on how to navigate the sometimes predatory nature of sexual relationships in Augustan Rome. Ovid warns his reader not to be duped into buying a mistress all sorts of expensive gifts (1.421-6). Birthdays, thus, are poor days for dating, and certain kinds of women will pretend to have many birthdays per year, and affect all sorts of distressing incidents, all for the sake of racking up expensive presents (1.449-50). While Ovid cautions against elaborate gifts, he also stresses that one needs to be as congenial and agreeable at all times, regardless of what one actually feels. He counsels his reader,

If she complains, complain, and bless the things she blesses;
     Deny when she denies; yes when she yesses.
Laugh when she laughs; cry if she cries. Always take care
     To let her face teach your face what to wear. (2.199-202)
And while Ovid stresses the importance of being conciliating, he also says that from time to time one needs to back off and be unavailable, just so that one’s mistress is led on and enjoys the thrill of being challenged (1.715-20).

So far, I hope I’ve given you a general sense of the contents of the main part of Ovid’s Art of Love. Put briefly, it’s an unapologetic seduction manual with discernibly pre-modern gender roles, set in the glamour and stench of Augustan Rome. It alternately offends and amuses, just as it probably always has. When we read it today, we are struck by a peculiar combination – on one hand, the text’s understanding of the profound complexities of adult relationships, and on the other, its general portrayal of women as objects to be selected, negotiated with, and then dominated by strapping and determined men. On that last note, I’ve thus far skirted around the edges of the sexual advice that Ovid offers in the Art of Love. We’ve heard him explain how and where to meet women, how to put one’s best foot forward initially, and how to keep women interested during the initial phases of a relationship. Now, we need to explore some of the more adult parts of the Art of Love – those moments at which Ovid explains what to do when the bedroom lights go down, the temperature goes up, and the clothing comes off. [music]

Ovid’s Advice to Men on Flirtation and Sex in the Ars Amatoria

From the moment a man first meets a prospective lover, Ovid has specific advice on the physicality of a romantic relationship. Earlier, we heard him recommending that the close quarters of seating at the chariot races are a great place to get physically close to a woman, and brush thighs with her. This is only the beginning of Ovid’s recommendations on how to get close to a woman. He explains, again in the marvellous Len Krisak translation, a number of ways to show physical interest while at the Circus.
Say that a speck of dust should fall into her lap;
     Flick it away with a quick finger-snap.
If nothing’s there, then flick that nothing anyway.
     Find any old excuse, then. . .seize the day!
And if her hem should hang, dragging the ground a bit,
     Save earth and hem by neatly lifting it.
This wins a prize (if she permits): you get the chance
     To give her legs a momentary glance. (1.149-56)
Beyond specific advice on sexual intercourse, the Art of Love provides a kaleidoscope of tips like those you just heard – tips on how to get close and physically familiar with a prospective lover. Ovid’s pointers on physical flirtation can be unsettling – I don’t think very many of us would want our laps touched by an aggressive stranger, or our clothing lifted up by someone we’ve never met before, even in a public place like a chariot race. But lest we get too puritanical and austere, flirtation, and physical flirtation are, in the right context, and with the right person, a lot of fun, and Ovid’s tips for steering a relationship toward sexual consummation generally assume a framework of mutual desire and mutual consent.

What I want to do now is share some of Ovid’s sexual advice with you. There’s actually a lot of it, and we’ll start with his words of advice to men. I’m going to read fourteen lines that include seven elegiac couplets, and as I read notice how the alternations between hexameter and pentameter create a sense of playful give and take that’s perfect for the steamy subject Ovid is discussing. Here’s Ovid, to men, explaining how to please women in bed.
Trust me: the joy of sex should not be rushed, but bit-      By-bit brought on by slowly balking it. Finding that place where she will love to feel your touch,      Don’t let some shyness slow you down too much. Then watch her eyes go glittering, their light aquiver      The way the sun will sparkle off a river. Suiting her words to all your playful deeds, she’ll sweetly      Sigh, moan, and murmur, pleasing you completely. Don’t crowd on sail to win this “race” – a big mistake –      Or let her horses dust you in their wake. Instead, the goal should be dead heat – the fullest measure      When both lie spent in their pursuit of pleasure. Make this your practice: plough as if you had all day      When fear is not a factor in your play. (2.717-30)
These lines have some hokey bits in them – the plowing and horse race metaphor feel a bit timeworn – but Ovid here seems to be offering some general advice for mutually satisfying sex. There isn’t, as we see in other X-rated ancient poets like Archilochus and Catullus, any sense that domination or degradation will be present in the bedroom – just that a couple ought to come together, take it slow, time things well, and both get the most out of their experience together.

The More Controversial Couplets of The Art of Love

However, the lines you just heard aren’t the ones that usually get Ovid in trouble with modern readers. Those passages come a little earlier in the poem, and they are as follows. “It’s all right using force: girls like it. Often they / Will want to yield what they won’t give away. / Some women take delight in brute assaults; they act / As if it’s quite a coup to be attacked” (1.673-6). Ovid includes a mythological example to corroborate this claim, too. At the center of this example is a story about Achilles’ early life. Achilles, according to stories circulating during the Augustan Age, had once been disguised as a girl, and hidden by his mother in the court of an island in the central Aegean. Achilles shared a room with a princess, and this is where Ovid picks up the tale in the Art of Love.
A virgin princess shared his room, but what escaped her      Revealed itself at last as male: he raped her. So yes, it’s true that she was conquered by brute force,      But that’s what she’d been wishing for, of course. (1.697-700)
What I’ve just read you are probably the two most controversial quartets in Ovid’s Art of Love, a nasty little group of lines that pretty clearly emphasize rape as something that some women secretly want. The Art of Love can be a fun and slightly squeamish ride for the modern reader, but these two passages are the ones that make us grind to a full stop, the moment at which the Art of Love loses its power of seduction over its modern reader and appears in full color as a text written for men, by a man, with some ugly and one-sided misconceptions about human sexuality and consent. Ovid was raised in a culture that assumed women were the weaker sex, or, infirmitas sexus, and had feebler minds, or levitas animi. Roman legal theory relegated even aristocratic women to being the property of the pater familias, or head of the family, in some cases even after her marriage.14 And the Art of Love is at its most unsightly to modern readers when it bears the reek of ancient Mediterranean misogyny, dehumanizing women as soulless and mostly interchangeable others. Toward the end of the first book, Ovid writes,
Don’t steal from friends, but keep your word. Show piety,      Avoid all fraud, and keep your hands blood-free. But if you’re smart, cheat only girls and have your fun.      Allow yourself this fraud, but just this one. Yes, cheat the cheaters; most of them are far from good.      Catch them in their own traps – it’s right you should! (1.641-6)
Relationship advice, ancient and modern, is often at its worst when it assumes one gender or the other shares some unified set of qualities beyond physiology, and Ovid here uses just that sort of logic to endorse all sorts of dishonesty to women. He closes the second book of the Art of Love with a reference to the Iliad – the scene in which Vulcan provides Achilles with divine armor. “I’ve armed you,” Ovid tells his male readers, “just as [Vulcan] armed Thetis’ son, / And with this gift you’ll win the way he won” (2.741-2). Hunting, racing, chasing, and warfare are all metaphors for men pursuing women in the Art of Love, but Ovid’s closing allusion to Homer really is a decidedly violent choice. Achilles, with his new divine armaments, begins a multi-book long killing spree that leaves countless Trojans dead and dismembered, including twelve Trojan children Achilles murders for the sake of his dead friend. The corollary, in Ovid, is that his male readers have been armed to the teeth, and are thus ready for their own – possibly violent – conquests. As translator A.D. Melville observes, Ovid wrote his love elegies and his didactic love poetry while he was in his 20s and 30s, and the speaker of the Art of Love “is not the mellow poet of the Metamorphoses; these poems are the product of a younger man, brilliant and heartless.”15

Well, I don’t mean to disparage Ovid for being a creature of his times, and certainly don’t mean to bring things down in the middle of a show about some really fun, and really sexy Latin poetry. Better scholars and writers than I have taken Ovid to task over some of the lines you’ve just heard – it’s just that you can’t really talk about Ovid’s didactic love poetry without at least acknowledging some of the nasty ideas you find there.16

In any case, with his promise that his male readers are now well armed to enter the warfare of Roman romance, Ovid shifts the structure of the Art of Love. Its first two books, he says, have been addressed to men. And its final book, he promises, will be addressed to women. [music]

Portions of Ovid’s Didactic Love Poetry Addressed to Women

The third book of the Art of Love is a loosely organized set of instructions on how women can attract men, manipulate man, look their best, and enjoy sexual relationships. If we compare the third book of the Art of Love with the two that have come before it, we see a general difference in the types of advice that Ovid offers to men and women. The focus in the first two books is most frequently on the actions that men can take to find prospective mates and instigate relationships with them. The focus in the third book, however, is geared toward making women appear physically desirable, rather than teaching women how to actively seek out sexual partners.

At the core of Ovid’s advice to women is the sense that Rome is an advanced civilization – one which requires an appropriately sophisticated appearance, and not just a bunch of huts like it was in the days of Romulus and Remus. Ovid emphasizes that modern Roman women ought to look elegant and wear suitable things for every occasion (3.129-36). Women have a lot of options in the third book of the Art of Love – they can dye their hair, for instance, while men just lose theirs (3.161-8). A whole encyclopedia of colors compliment certain complexions, and Ovid reviews some of the best combinations (3.170-95). There are things Ovid recommends doing in order to compensate for certain kinds of physical appearances, and he recommends best clothes and postures for short women, skinny women, pale women, dark complexioned women, women with high collar bones, flat chests, bad breath, bad teeth, and so on (3.267-80).

Cultivating an attractive appearance is at the center of the instructions in the third book of the Art of Love. But another text that Ovid wrote, possibly a very long text, was also a didactic poem on how women can try to look their best. This was the Medicamina Faciei Femineae, or Women’s Facial Cosmetics, and Ovid actually mentions it in the final book of the Art of Love (3.205).

Women’s Facial Cosmetics is only a couple of hundred lines long – a fragment of its original size. A lot of the text of Women’s Facial Cosmetics sounds similar to what Ovid tells women in the closing book of the Art of Love. In the A.D. Melville translation, Ovid advises his presumably female readers,
Learn, girls, the methods that improve complexions,
     The means by which your looks you may defend.
By cultivation barren acres yielded
     Harvests, and greedy briars met their end.
And cultivation sweetens fruit that’s bitter;
     From grafted trees adopted riches grow.
Culture gives pleasure. Lofty halls are paneled
     With gold, and marble hides black soil below. (1-8)17
There is a pervasive sense in Women’s Facial Cosmetics and the final book of the Art of Love that women’s personal appearances are raw materials to be fine tuned through clothing, makeup, and careful physical posturing. Looks aren’t everything, Ovid makes clear, but dressing well and putting on makeup before company arrives are both important for any woman who wants suitors. None of this sounds very outlandish or surprising – tips on makeup and clothes still fill the pages of modern lifestyle magazines. Where Ovid’s poem Women’s Facial Cosmetics, specifically, becomes memorable is that Ovid offers some specific recipes – often outlandish recipes – for women’s skin creams and foundations.

Gustave Boulanger The Flute Concert

Ovid’s didactic love poetry, intended for the leisured class of Rome, is full of minute details, down to the (probably farcically exaggerated) ingredients women ought to use in their cosmetics. The painting is Gustave Boulanger’s The Flute Concert (1860).

For instance, here are Ovid’s instructions on how to make a good cosmetic foundation. You’re supposed to get barley brought from Libya. Remove the chaff and measure out two pounds. Beat ten eggs. Then have a donkey trample the mixed eggs and barley, and grind the mixture with ground up antler from an old stag. Then sift the gooey mixture, add twelve narcissus flower bulbs, mortar these in marble, then add gum and Tuscan seeds, then an entire pound of honey. Next, put the mixture on your face. Now, I don’t know if anyone has ever attempted this facial concoction, and there is certainly stranger stuff to be found in the didactic poetry of the ancient world, but it seems pretty likely that Ovid is being a bit cheeky with his cosmetic advice, piling ingredient on top of ingredient to make compounds that sound like they could have come from Medea’s cauldron.

Later in Women’s Facial Cosmetics, he offers another recipe. Ovid advises mixing 12 pounds of lupine seeds and flatulence-causing beans. With these beans and seeds, Ovid says to get white lead, red nitre, and irises, and to have some muscular guys grind it all together. Next, you have to get nine ounces of peeled gum, and a cube of myrrh, and stir honey into the powdered combination of the two, then add some frankincense and some salt, a handful of dried rose pedals, and some fennel, and some barley liquor, and lather this on your face as a foundation. I’m not exactly sure how little bits of fennel or rose pedal fragments look stuck on someone’s face in the midst of a mass of congealed honey and salt, but I can’t imagine it would look very impressive. So, one of the surprising things about reading Ovid’s Women’s Facial Cosmetics is that the text affects to be a serious and detailed treatise on how to prepare and mix different kinds of makeup, but the ingredients and procedures are so outrageous that it’s hard to take the poem seriously. The whole thing cuts off at the moment Ovid starts to discuss how to use poppies in one’s cosmetics, and we wonder what other kinds of bizarre recipes the poet might have included.

Women’s Facial Cosmetics and the third book of the Art of Love have plenty to say about women’s looks. But to get back to the Art of Love more specifically, this text also has a fair bit of instruction on what women should do, beyond just tinkering with their personal appearances, in order to be attractive and have fun with men.

One of the things that Ovid asserts women ought to do to be attractive to men is sleeping with men. There’s nothing wrong, Ovid says, with women who have had quite a few lovers. Toward the beginning of Book 3, he writes,
O mortal girls, let all your models be divine:
     When amorous men come asking, don’t decline.
Even deceived, what have you lost? You have it still,
     After a thousand men have worked their will.
Flint thins from constant use, and iron rusts from wear,
     But do not fear: that part will still be there. (3.87-92)
It’s perhaps a refreshing assurance, exposing a different ideology than the notion that anyone is somehow sullied by sexual intercourse. Ovid’s idea that having a wide roster of lovers is a good thing fits into his overall belief that seduction and sex are arts that need to be carefully cultivated, rather than natural abilities arising at birth. Everything that a woman does, according to the third book of the Art of Love, can be carefully geared toward allurement and flirtation.

Moving beyond the subject of mere appearance, Ovid advises women to use music and singing in order to entice men (3.317-22). Dancing and playing parlor games, when done correctly, can be particularly alluring (3.349-70). Ovid tells women how to look attractive while laughing (3.281-90), and the importance of looking insouciant and flirting, rather than appearing angry or stoic (3.510-20). It’s important, Ovid maintains, to come a bit late to parties, to eat and drink moderately while there, and to stay out of harsh light unless one is inordinately good looking (3.750-68).

While Ovid’s advice to women generally assumes passiveness, he does from time to time some guidelines on how to instigate and carry out affairs. Describing some of the same locations he already has in the Art of Love, like Pompey’s theater and the woodlands of the Julio-Claudians, Ovid tells his female readers,
Beautiful girls, the public crowd can be of use,      So get outside and walk a bit footloose. To prey on just one lamb, wolves watch a dozen herds;      Jove’s eagle plummets on whole flocks of birds. That’s how a beauty ought to let the public view her;      She may find one who’ll be attracted to her. (3.417-422)
If such an attraction springs up, Ovid adds, there are some steps that need to be followed in order to catalyze an affair. First, one needs to know how to reply to correspondence – if a man sends one a note, it’s important to read the note carefully and wait a full day before replying (3.469-74). The logistics of replying are a delicate matter, as well – Ovid says that women can more safely write love letters in the bathtub, and that if one has a very jealous husband she can write a note on a slave’s back, or write a note in milk, which will be invisible until revealed by a thin layer of coal dust (3.625-8). Sometimes, Ovid admits, one’s efforts in secrecy can be bolstered by paying bribes to messengers and recipients of messages (3.655). And once an affair has been instigated, it’s important that any new lover does not think he has exclusive sway over a mistress. Likening men to thoughtless quadrupeds, Ovid writes, “The strong horse challenged by a peer who sets the pace / Quickly outruns the field and wins the race” (3.591-6). Or, more literally, a man who thinks he has competition for a lover will redouble his efforts and his ardency.

Both of the main parts of the Art of Love – the first two books to men and then the final book to women, culminate in careful sexual instructions to each gender. Ovid shapes the two parts of his poem so that each runs like a long and exciting courtship, a courtship that ends in consummation. And his sexual instructions to women have less to do with pacing and stamina, as we hear at the end of Book 2, but instead how women can make the most of their looks, and take on an appearance of sexual pleasure. Here’s the Len Krisak translation of a passage close to the end of the Art of Love – a fairly long quote – in which Ovid tells women how to conduct themselves in bed.
Ladies should know their bodies, choosing what is best
     For them; one manner may not fit the rest.
If you’re another pretty face, then lie back flat;
     But if your back’s the charm, then show him that.
Milanion set Atalanta’s legs to rest
     Around his neck; do your legs pass the test?
You little women, “ride the horse.” Poor Hector’s wife,
     Too tall, could never ride him all her life.
If your long legs look good, then make the most of it;
     Kneel on the bed, your neck bent back a bit.
With youthful thighs, and breasts fault-free, you ought to lie
     Slant-wise across the bed; have him stand by.
Like some Thessalian mother, let your hair fly free;
     Toss back your head so men can clearly see.
[Childbirth] may have written on your flesh, of course.
     If so, play Parthian; turn around your horse.
Love’s thousand modes! Here’s one that’s easy on the spine:
     Try lying right-side down, semi-supine. . .
Don’t stint on teasing talk; on moaning, purring, humming;
     In sex play, keep the less-than-proper coming.
And that includes the girl so frigid she can’t feel;
     Cry out with joy – even if it’s not real.
(It’s sad when in that special place [I don’t mean bed]
     Where couples ought to share, the girl is dead.)
But when you fake it, don’t be obvious; compel
     Belief with rolling eyes, so he can’t tell. (3.771-88,795-802)
The lines here are a mixture of sexy, clever, ruthlessly practical and distressing. Look your best at all moments, Ovid tells women, conceal any physical faults you feel you have, and fake anything that you need to. The tacit assumption is that sex for women is a careful social performance rather than a genuine physical and personal experience – a sort of masquerade geared toward dazzling and deluding a male lover, potentially at the expense of one’s own needs. Whatever you make of these lines, it’s nonetheless pretty fascinating to read 2,000-year-old tips on love and sex. The entirety of the Art of Love is an intriguing ride for today’s reader, partly a fun manual on flirtation, partly a work of unintended social history, from time to time a depressing record of gender oppression and culturally sanctioned rape, and marked from end to end by the gleeful cynicism of its author. While the text ranges far and wide in subject, in the end it returns to Ovid himself – Ovid the huckster, guaranteeing that life and literature alike have made him the supreme authority on love and sex. Ovid’s early work can be heinously offensive, but even its staunchest critics admit that there is something irresistible in Ovid’s virtuoso couplets and his bohemian morality. He closes his advice to women with the lines, “As young men marked their trophies once before, just so / The girls now [say]: [Ovid] taught us all we know” (3.811-12). In a long manual of seduction, Ovid fittingly closes by proclaiming that he’s seduced his audience, male and female alike. [music]

The Meretrix and the Patron: A Different Take on the Ars Amatoria

Before we leave the Art of Love and move onto the Cure for Love, I have just one final thought for you – a rather different take on this poem that’s become increasingly popular over the past decade and a half. In this episode so far I’ve given you a very straight-ahead, traditional introduction to this important didactic poem. We have assumed, largely, that the men and women in the Art of Love are generic Romans, and that the book is intended as a general seduction manual for men and women on the lookout for a fling. This, again, is a conventional reading of the poem – that the male and female addressees are the John and Jane Does of the Roman world.

Tocador de una matrona romana Juan Giménez Martín

The Ars Amatoria has usually been written as a treatise for generic Roman men and women – including matronae, or respectable married women, like the ones in this picture. New interpretations, however suggest that it’s actually written for free, discerning Roman meretrices (or courtesans) and their patrons. The painting is Juan Giménez Martín’s Tocador de una dama romana (late 19th century).

However, more recent scholarship has begun to think more extensively about Ovid’s intended audience. Classicists like Sharon James have argued that Ovid’s intended audience was not, broadly speaking, men and women of Rome trying to court one another. Much more specifically, this newer argument goes, Ovid is writing about a specific sort of situation – a male customer and a female sex worker, or meretrix. From what we can gather using often literary source materials, meretrices, frequently translated as courtesans, were an interesting social group in the Roman republic and early empire. Though they lacked the patrician pedigree and greater financial security of married Roman aristocrats, Rome’s courtesans nonetheless enjoyed the freedom to move between all sorts of circles and incur financial and social advantages according to their looks, their intelligence, and their charm. Rome’s courtesans, often freedwomen and foreigners, thus occupied an echelon of society that’s a bit counterintuitive for us to understand today. They were potentially glamorous people who infiltrated high society. Although one of the main ways they incurred fiscal advantages was sex, courtesans weren’t necessarily compensated for sex alone.

For sex alone, Romans had a variety of other, simpler options than courtesans. There were, first and foremost, slaves. Horace, who has little to say about love or romance, nonetheless casually mentions a planned liaison with a sex slave during a journey east across the Italian peninsula in one of his satires.18 For Romans of a certain echelon, then, unlike later Renaissance readers of Latin love elegy, regular sex with an underclass of subjugated men and women was widely practiced. Beyond having sex with their own slaves, Romans had access to a group called the scorti, generally, prostitutes. A scortum, unlike a meretrix or courtesan, was met with and compensated for sexual encounters. Companionship and conversation might have been a part of the picture, but Rome’s prostitutes were much more cut and dry sex workers than their courtesan counterparts. And Rome’s scorti were a much lower social echelon than its meretrices. Courtesans, far more than prostitutes, might be invited to a high class party and not necessarily be out of place amidst artists, intellectuals, and even aristocrats. They were a fluid class whose advantages came from their physical, intellectual, and social merits, sharing with poets like Ovid, Virgil and Horace participation in a complex patron-based gift economy.

These three classes of sex workers – slaves, prostitutes, and courtesans, existed in addition to Rome’s matronae, or respectable married women. Different rules governed interaction and economic interchange with each class, and thus it’s possible that the Art of Love isn’t so much a book on general courtship for the Roman everyman as it is a manual for a very specific sort of situation – the aspiring Roman Casanova, and the informed and discerning courtesan.

Reading the poem this way, perhaps, makes the Art of Love seem just a little gentler and less cynical. While sex wasn’t the only ware that Roman courtesans plied, and while their wit, and their artistic talents, and repartee were surely appreciated, a primary part of their allure was their status as sexually available and desirable people. And while the patrons of courtesans surely appreciated the conversation, and intelligence, and charisma of their meretrices, these patrons also hoped for sex with courtesans, as well. So if a one-sided sexual politics seems to govern the Art of Love, one explanation for this that’s available to us is that it’s a poem ultimately written for high class sex workers and their customers – one that tacitly assumes that the interactions between these female and male groups will culminate with intercourse. Though this isn’t the way the book has conventionally been read, it does help explain the often stark simplicity of the book’s assumptions about gender and sex. And if this newer interpretation of much of Ovid’s love poetry is correct, it’s fascinating to think that Renaissance audiences read earnestness and ardor into verses that were intended as prurient entertainment; moreover, that the genre of love elegy was composed for social and sexual groups that simply didn’t exist in the early modern period. There is also evidence in the Art of Love from Ovid himself that the book wasn’t intended for general audiences. But before we get to that evidence, we should move on to Ovid’s companion piece to the Ars Amatoria – a single book long poem called the Cure for Love. [music]

Irony and Subtlety in Ovid’s Remedia Amoris

Romance has a dark side. For all the successful courtships and consummated relationships Ovid draws in the Art of Love, he also, in another poem, wrote about the pain of heartbreak and separation, and how to survive even a catastrophic romantic loss. His poem Remedia Amoris, or the Cure for Love, is about 815 lines long, making it about the same length any one of the three books of the Art of Love, a sort of unofficial fourth installment in the three that came along before.

A lot of the advice on flirtation and sex that we find in the Art of Love feels familiar to us – modern magazines and guidebooks also advise us, variously, to play hard to get, to wear things that showcase our strengths and hide our defects, to be good lovers, and all that. And a lot of the recommendations we hear in Ovid’s Cure for Love also sound like they could be printed in modern advice columns – Ovid says that in the wake of a bad breakup, it’s important to keep yourself busy, to try a change of scene, to not spend too much time alone, and to remember the bad things about a relationship, as well as the good things.

While in some ways the Cure for Love is the inverse of the Art of Love, a sort of black coffee and cold shower after a long night of revelry, the Cure for Love is also not without its own sense of playful levity. Scholar Alison Sharrock, in a general assessment of the Cure for Love, writes,
This underrated, superbly sexy poem pulls off a brilliant coup, pretending to be the rhetorical ‘other side’ of the argument, and the ultimate retraction and denial of the world of erotic elegy, in preparation for greater things, but actually being a seductive song, which will draw us further into the world of Ovidian erotics.19
Put differently, we might expect a text like the Cure for Love to propose stoic detachment, or epicurean moderatism, or perhaps even a serious education or career as alternatives to the general atmosphere of sex and debauchery depicted in Ovid’s Amores and Art of Love. Rather than proposing solutions involving restraint and sobriety, however, many of the recommendations Ovid makes in the Cure for Love are designed to get crestfallen lovers boomeranging right back into the world of Roman love affairs.

The outset of the Cure for Love makes the target audience of the poem quite clear. Ovid writes, in the A.S. Kline translation,
Come to my teaching, young men who’ve been deceived,
     you whose love has utterly betrayed you.
Learn how to be cured, from him who taught you how to love:
     the one hand brings the wound and the relief.20
In these lines we see both that Ovid’s intended audience is men, and that he hopes the men who read his lines will think of him as both a corrupter and a savior – a poet who teaches the prurient arts of seduction as well as the delicate processes of recovery. Ovid tells his reader upfront that no one ought to die from heartbreak – no one should ever hang himself or stab himself due to a love gone wrong.

By way of illustration, Ovid describes a number of heartbreaks in Greco-Roman mythology. The heroine Phyllis, for instance, whom we meet in Ovid’s Heroides, died of heartsickness when her lover abandoned her. Medea murdered her children. Queen Pasiphaë fell in love with a bull, which caused all sorts of problems on the island of Crete. Theseus’ wife Phaedra fell in love with her stepson. Paris and Helen, also, fell into an ill-advised romance that had some serious blowback. Enumerating all of these victims of passion, Ovid writes,
You read your Ovid then, when you learnt about love:
     now the same Ovid’s to be read by you.
The public champion, I lighten hearts constrained
     by their masters: each of you, thank the rod that frees. (237)
Ovid is nothing if not self-assured. Anyway, after a long wind up in which he emphasizes the importance of knowing the cure for love, as well as the art of love, Ovid begins his specific instructions for how to cope with romance gone bad.

It is important, Ovid tells his reader, to attack an errant love quickly and try to work through it. “Venus loves idleness,” he writes, “you who seek to end love, / love gives way to business: be busy, you’ll be safe” (239). One of the ways of keeping yourself busy is to leave Rome and undertake some agricultural labor in the countryside. Ovid suggests grafting different trees together, hunting, and fishing as productive things to do to distract oneself from love gone awry.

In some cases, he acknowledges, you won’t be able to get out of Rome for a change of scene. Still, even if you’re stuck in Rome, there are some things you can do to help cope with heartsickness. One of these is to not spend too much time alone – Ovid recommends finding a fun crowd, and sticking with it. He notes that you really shouldn’t be revisiting spots you used to go with your lover – it’s best to seek out new turf, even if you don’t actually leave the city. Additionally, Ovid says that burning your correspondence isn’t a bad idea – you really don’t want to be pouring over love letters someone wrote you after the relationship has run its course. Staying away from the theater, Ovid says, is also prudent – the theater is such a locus of love and longing in the first place that watching the work of poets and actors is likely to lead to melancholy and desolation. Ovid writes that you can drink alcohol, but that you have to do it carefully. His specific advice in this vein is, “don’t drink at all, or drink so much your cares all vanish: / if it’s anywhere between the two it’s bound to do you harm” (266). And finally, Ovid asserts that recovering from romantic loss is a slow process that requires patience and open-mindedness, and not some quick catch-all solution.

This counsel, so far, sounds pretty sensible. I think anyone who has been through a bad breakup finds that keeping busy, exploring new terrain, and spending time with other people are all better courses of action than rereading old love letters in doleful solitude. But Ovid has other advice, too – advice that doesn’t quite look like what you’d encounter today in magazines and psychiatrists’ offices.

One issue that Ovid addresses very explicitly is witchcraft. Witchcraft, he says, with all of its appended spells and curses, is not helpful when it comes to coping with heartbreak. What is helpful, however, especially if you have to stay in Rome, is trying to make yourself dislike your former lover by contemplating his or her defects and transgressions. If you meditate on these faults enough, Ovid promises, you will begin to feel a distance from your former lover that will help with the coping process.
Tell yourself often [, writes Ovid,] what your wicked girl has done,
and before your eyes place every hurt you’ve had. . .
Let all this embitter your every feeling:
recall it, look here for the seeds of your dislike. . .
As much as you can, disparage your girl’s attractions. (246)
Carefully cultivating dislike for one’s former lover, according to Ovid, is only one path to romantic recovery. Ovid also suggests taking on some new lovers. “When the heart’s divided,” he explains, “it goes in both directions, / and one love saps the power of the other” (251). And an entirely different form of sex can be useful to romantic recovery, as well. Ovid suggests having sex with the very same person who has hurt you emotionally, but having sex with that person in such a way that is as ugly and unenjoyable as possible. You should make love with your former partner, Ovid says, in awkward and unbecoming positions, and make sure all the windows are open so you can see your old lover in an unflattering light.

By the time Ovid wraps up the Cure for Love, the sheer number of solutions to heartache he has proposed become encyclopedic, ranging from the familiar and modern to the ancient and strange to the memorably malicious. And near the very end of the Cure for Love, among some of the last lines of didactic love poetry Ovid ever wrote, he includes the following general counsel. “Pretend,” Ovid advises, “to what is not, and that the passion’s over, / so you’ll become, in truth, what you are studying to be” (253). These are, in some ways, among the most disturbing words in Ovid’s didactic love poetry, counseling readers to deceive themselves, just as Ovid advises readers to deceive and manipulate lovers throughout the Art of Love and Cure for Love. In a string of didactic love poetry in which love and sex are depicted as prodigious masquerades, with little place for genuine emotion, Ovid closes with the ultimate counsel for dissimulation, telling his readers that if they try hard enough, they can even delude themselves.

Ovid’s didactic love poetry is fun to read. His sensibility is often so remote from our own, and his basic take on the meaning of love so different, that we turn the final page of the Cure for Love with the impression that the poet really did think of love as a game – a sort of genteel contact sport to be practiced and perfected by a leisure class whose predominant pastime was extramarital sex. Classicist Philip Hardie, as we heard last time, observed that for a long period, Ovid’s “works were to become a byword for a playful detachment from the serious business of life,” and the saucy irreverence we find throughout his early love poetry shows just this sort of detachment.21 What I want to ask, as we approach the end of this second program on Ovid, is whether there is a kernel of seriousness buried beneath the poet’s copious writings on love and passion. Let’s talk about that. [music]

Ovid: Le peintre de la vie moderne?

About 1,870 years after Ovid wrote the Art of Love, another poet was working on a literary treatise. This book, The Painter of Modern Life, made an assertion as shocking as anything we find in Ovid, an assertion that had to do with women’s cosmetics, something on which Ovid had once published, as well. Let’s hear an excerpt from The Painter of Modern Life. This is a long quote, and in my opinion one of the most important passages ever written during the nineteenth century, and if you happen to know nineteenth-century literary history, see how quickly you can guess the author.
Nature teaches us nothing, or practically nothing. I admit that she compels man to sleep, to eat, to drink, and to arm himself as well as he may against the inclemencies of the weather: but it is she too who incites man to murder his brother, to eat him, to lock him up and torture him; for no sooner do we take leave of the domain of needs and necessities to enter that of pleasures and luxuries than we see that Nature can counsel nothing but crime. . . It is this infallible Mother Nature who has created patricide and cannibalism, and a thousand other abominations that both shame and modesty prevent us from naming. . . I ask you to review and scrutinize whatever is natural – all the actions and desires of the purely natural man: you will find nothing but frightfulness. Everything beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation. Crime, of which the human animal has learned the taste in his mother’s womb, is natural by origin. Virtue, on the other hand, is artificial, supernatural, since at all times and in all places gods and prophets have been needed to teach it to animalized humanity, man being powerless to discover it himself. Evil happens without effort, naturally, fatally; Good is always the product of some art. . . Fashion should thus be considered as a symptom of the taste for the ideal which floats on the surface of all the crude, terrestrial and loathsome bric-à-brac that the natural life accumulates in the human brain: as a sublime deformation of Nature, or rather a permanent and repeated attempt at her reformation.22
The ideas in this passage, and elsewhere in the pages of the same author, lie at the roots of symbolist poetry, existentialism, modernism, and postmodernism alike. Charles Baudelaire published The Painter of Modern Life in 1863, taking the shocking step of saying that everything natural is bestial and unclean, and that only through civilization, and its finest accoutrements, can we ascend from the murk of primitivity. Nature, to Baudelaire, is stinking and unrefined. Artifice, clothing, makeup, and performance, to Baudelaire are all the heart of civilization.

Étienne Carjat, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, circa 1862

Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) and Ovid, though they wrote very different poetry, shared a sense of the power of artifice and social performance to construct identity, emphasizing the power of nurture over nature. The famous photo of the French poet is by Étienne Carjat (1863).

The debate about the wholesomeness of nature swept the literate world after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859. Thinkers like Baudelaire, confronted with the flux and the mercilessness of Darwin’s doctrine of evolution, began to question the essential goodness of nature. For Baudelaire, cosmetics and costume, far from being a flimsy veneer smeared over the face of natural beauty, were the cornerstone ingredients of what made humans civilized.

Baudelaire, and long before him Ovid, invite us to ask a broad and elemental question about human identity. And that question is whether our identity is with us from birth, or whether our identity is conferred on us from our environment and the people around us. The nature/nurture dichotomy is familiar to most of us, and most of us can understand that of course we are products of both genetics and our environments, experiences, and choices. But the way that this question gets discussed in various periods of human history is much more interesting than simply concluding that we’re all admixtures of nature and nurture. Sometimes, according to historical circumstances, we seem to need to emphasize one or the other.

If we look for a polar opposite statement to Baudelaire’s philosophy in The Painter of Modern Life, that opposite might be found in the opening of Rousseau’s The Social Contract, published 101 years before Baudelaire’s treatise. “Man is born free,” Rousseau writes, “and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they.”23 This was a common idea in eighteenth-century political economics – that we are born free into sovereign identities, and yet the manacles of civilization erode our individuality and make us subjects of one another and of oppressive regimes. To Rousseau and many in his generation, identity was inborn and natural, and civilization, and all its accoutrements, were necessary evils.

This notion that “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” could be the slogan of European romanticism, a movement that rose out of the urbanization and industrialization of eighteenth-century Europe, and called for a return to nature and spiritualism. To romanticism, what was natural was good, but, in text after text, writers like Blake, Wordsworth and Schiller lamented that getting older was a slow descent from the spiritual purity of childhood and into the alienating gutters of adulthood; from sweet innocence to blighted experience.

The question of where human identity comes from, and what civilization does to shape it, is everywhere in intellectual history. And because of the theological history of Europe, figures like Rousseau and Wordsworth are far more common than figures like Ovid and Baudelaire. The romantic approach to selfhood, like the Christian approach to selfhood, asserts that each of us has an unchanging essence that is battered and threatened by the realities around us, but is always, nonetheless, uniquely us. The approach of Ovid and Baudelaire, on the other hand, is that the supposedly spurious accoutrements and knickknacks of civilization are the things that make us who we are. Clothing and makeup, in a writer like Baudelaire, are fashions which allow one to fashion oneself.24

It is thus no surprise that Baudelaire comes to the enthusiastic defense of cosmetics, nor that Ovid wrote an entire work on the subject. To these two urban poets, clothing and makeup were paths to self-determination, and not facades demanded by society. Baudelaire wrote, “Who would dare to assign to art the sterile function of imitating Nature? [Makeup] has no need to hide itself or to shrink from being suspected; on the contrary, let it display itself, at least if it does so with frankness and honesty” (802). Cosmetics and self-conscious displays in fashion, as far as Baudelaire was concerned, allowed one to become who and what one wanted, and there was no shame or even disingenuousness in such transformations.

But Ovid was probably even further from romanticism than Baudelaire. Because Ovid believed that by pretending to be what one was not, one could become what one was not. Near the end of the Cure for Love, in a quote we heard earlier, Ovid advises strategic self-deception as one of the steps one can take toward romantic recovery. “Pretend,” Ovid advises, “to what is not, and that the passion’s over, / so you’ll become, in truth, what you are studying to be” (253). Earlier, I said that these lines were disturbing. We don’t, after all, typically recommend a program of emotional dishonesty for those suffering from grief and loss. But while Ovid’s counsel at the end of the Cure for Love is characteristically unorthodox, it’s also empowering. You can decide, Ovid states, to get better. You can decide to be something new. In the multifarious and anonymous spaces of the city, through changes in your clothing and makeup and deportment, you are no longer restricted to being just one thing. You can metamorphose, becoming what you want, and transformations can begin through willful self-deception.

For a long time, to quote Philip Hardie one last time, Ovid’s “works were to become a byword for a playful detachment from the serious business of life.” There’s more to the world, Ovid’s critics contended, than strolling through metropolitan crowds, dressed to the nines, and looking for fun and sex. Human identity isn’t so flexible that we can transform from week to week based on the social and sexual politics of any given moment. Or is it? Platonism, and Christianity, and romanticism, which have dominated European intellectual history and Anglophone literature, all stand shoulder to shoulder against Ovid’s slippery ideas about human identity. But another band of thinkers – a quieter and less represented band of thinkers – have taken a more Ovidian stance on how we become what we are. From Protagoras to postmodernism, the notion that human identity is not static nor congenital, and that it is the product of discourses and social organizations has gradually been embraced – particularly in academic humanities departments. Thinkers like Rousseau and Wordsworth saw urbanization and modernization as fundamentally threatening to human identity. But Ovid and Baudelaire, conversely, saw that in the bustling anonymity of a huge city, in the constantly changing faces pouring through porticos and flowing along boulevards, one could become anything and everything that one wanted. It’s little wonder that, having written so much about self-transformation and change in the streets of Rome in his early love poetry, that when Ovid turned to write his magnum opus, the Metamorphoses, he chose the theme of transmutation as the anchor of all Greco-Roman literature. [music]

Coda: Ovid, Augustus, and the Ars Amatoria

There’s a coda to this episode, one to bring us back to Augustan Rome. Inasmuch as Ovid clearly believed in the power of self-determination, he still lived, as Baudelaire did in nineteenth-century Paris, amidst the laws and social mores of a newly minted empire. As scholars Annie and Peter Wiseman put it, “The puritanical and patriotic ‘restored Republic’ of the Augustan principate was always an uneasy climate for the love-elegists, with their rejection of all duties except devotion to a mistress. Ovid himself. . .deeply offended Augustus with his brilliantly cynical Art of Love.”25 Ovid’s didactic love poetry is generally thought to be the source of Augustus’ beef with the poet. As we learned earlier, while Augustus was enforcing new laws prohibiting adultery and requiring marriage – laws passed in 18 BCE, Ovid was telling Roman women how to slip notes past their husbands and use sexual positions with their lovers that best flattered their bodies. The question I think we should now ask is this. What, exactly, was Ovid thinking when he wrote his didactic love poetry and put it into circulation? Wasn’t he aware that he had produced something that the most powerful person in the Mediterranean would find ragingly offensive?

There are a few moments in Ovid’s didactic love poetry that suggest Ovid was at least partly aware of the volatile nature of the text he was writing. In some of the opening lines of the Art of Love, Ovid assures his reader, “I sing safe, sanctioned love and love affairs in rhyme / That advocates no error, sin or crime” (1.33-4). Later, at the opening of Book 3, Ovid promises that
[Innocent] minds are not required by the art I draft;
     Less noble sails become its modest craft.
As I instruct the world in wanton love alone,
     How men should love them, women will be shown. (3.25-8)
Castro Battle of Actium

Various moments of Ovid’s poetry pay lip service to the achievements of Augustus, like his victory at the Battle of Actium. Ovid, however, was even less interested than Virgil, Horace, and Propertius at offering patriotic encomia to Rome’s first emperor. The painting is Lorenzo A. Castro’s Battle of Actium (1672).

In this quote and the previous one, Ovid hedges slightly toward saying that his romantic advice is for the racy and freewheeling only, and not everyone. A version of the same statement appears in the Cure for Love – Ovid assures us, “I’ve nothing to do with wives: it’s [courtesans] in my art. / If my Muse corresponds to light-hearted matters, I’ve won” (248). There is some effort in Ovid’s didactic love poetry then – some fairly minimal effort – to claim that the material isn’t for proper Romans – only a subculture of loiterers and profligates far removed from the aristocracy and intelligentsia.

There is also some rather perfunctory effort to praise Augustus and his initiatives in the Art of Love. Ovid offers fulsome praises of Augustus’ adopted son and biological grandson Gaius Caesar, the child of Augustus’ daughter Julia and his general Agrippa. Gaius Caesar, Ovid writes, will be instrumental in winning Rome’s long and complex conflict with Parthia. While Gaius Caesar is young, Ovid tells us that “Caesars show courage long before they’re due” (1.184). But after touting young Gaius Caesar’s precocity and military future, and predicting the glory of the coming Parthian campaign, Ovid returns immediately to advice on how to find sex in Augustan Rome – specifically, that men should court women during the day, because blemishes and other physical faults are far easier to discern in bright sunlight.

So there is a faint, almost indiscernible fingerprint of Augustus’ family and sensibilities in Ovid’s didactic love poetry. We see an occasional awareness that the author is writing about adultery and seduction beneath a regime that took a harsh stance against illicit romance. And at one point, there is a concerted effort, as we see much more often in Horatian odes and in Virgil’s Aeneid, to flatter Augustus and his family. But by and large Ovid’s didactic love poetry is exultant and unapologetic about encouraging adultery and risky sex. He might tell us, in the Cure for Love, that his lines are for courtesans, and he might tell women in the Art of Love that he writes only for the libertine, but it’s hard to believe that any reader of any age would take these claims seriously. Perhaps Ovid would have been exiled sooner had he not paid lip service to Augustus’ biological grandson, and gone through the motions of admitting the lurid nature of some of his work. In the long run, though, Augustus wasn’t fooled. Ovid was way out of step with the official ethics of the Augustan regime, and as he sat down to pen the Metamorphoses, which he hoped would secure his literary future, he must have also been brooding about the salacious content of his literary past. [music]

Moving onto the Metamorphoses

Speaking of the Metamorphoses, it’s about time we cover one of Latin literature’s most influential and inspired poems. With 15 books, and more than 250 myths, the Metamorphoses is a giant and complex work. It is also a work that has had as much influence over European art and literature as anything except perhaps the Bible. Ovid drew from many sources in the Metamorphoses, going back through Ancient Mediterranean literature, as many Roman poets did, to Hesiod and Homer in the 700s BCE. But while Ovid read his myths in the pages of Homer, Bacchylides, Pindar, Euripides, Sophocles, Apollonius, Callimachus, and many others, the most ubiquitous source for Greco-Roman myth in European history was Ovid himself. Ovid is everywhere in the works of Chaucer. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, and The Tempest all include stories or actual lines lifted directly from the Metamorphoses. Boccaccio took plots from Ovid, and Dante took characters and scenes. And the stories in the Metamorphoses, with their vivid depictions of transformations, became subjects of some of the most extraordinary visual art of the Renaissance and Baroque period – the paintings of Titian and Pieter Brueghel, the stunning masterworks of sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

More than perhaps any work we’ve covered in this podcast, the Metamorphoses are a sort of folding point. At the turn from BCE to CE, Ovid wrote a book that synthesized a thousand years of an entire region’s fiction – a collection of the best and most enduring tales that had been forged in the Mediterranean world. Hesiod might have already told of the beginnings of the universe; Homer might have done Troy; numerous Athenian dramatists wrote about what happened after Troy, and later Virgil; Livy might have done a Roman history, but Ovid’s Metamorphoses contained all of it, repackaged and redone in sparkling, fresh Latin by Roman literature’s most ingenious craftsman. Considering the incredible sweep of content in the Metamorphoses, together with the fact that Latin remained the liturgical and sacred language of Europe through even the most chaotic periods of the Middle Ages, it’s easy to see why so many were attracted to Ovid’s single volume index of Greco-Roman myths. For perhaps a thousand years, the Metamorphoses was the gateway to pagan antiquity, a portal by which monks and priests and later, aristocratic enthusiasts could travel back into the period before Christianity and hear the stories that the ancients used to tell about the world. Ovid was hardly a modest writer – today we heard him variously trumpeting his ability to both guide people into love affairs and then spirit them toward swift recoveries. But even at his most arrogant moment, Ovid could not have imagined how important the Metamorphoses was going to be to literary history – that Shakespeare would take the plot of Romeo and Juliet from Ovid’s telling of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe – that this play would go on to have its own cultural ubiquity, and that this would be just one of Ovid’s influences on just one text by just one major world author.

A popular and accessible online classics journal, Eidolon steers you toward new discoveries, emerging controversies, and outstanding intellectual work on the ancient world.

I want to thank Dr. Donna Zuckerberg for giving this transcription a once over before I recorded it. Ovid’s early love poetry is nothing if not controversial, and I didn’t want to touch The Art of Love, particularly, without input from a specialist familiar with some of the controversies surrounding this body of work. Dr. Zuckerberg, in addition to being the editor-in-chief of the popular classics journal Eidolon, has also just published a book about the reception of classics in contemporary online communities. This book, which is called Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age, looks at modern appropriations of stoic philosophy, elegiac poetry, and other ancient genres designed to bolster the ideologies of various controversial online subcultures today. Whether in her work at the journal Eidolon, or her recent Harvard University Press book, Not All Dead White Men, Dr. Zuckerberg is in the front lines of modern classicists who are trying to thwart modern hate groups from specious and simplistic appropriations of the ancient past. If you’re interested in how some of these very real and volatile debates are being carried out, check out eidolon.pub – it’s a popular online classics journal with short, accessible articles covering breaking news about the ancient world.

Well, next time, in Episode 61: Changes of Shape, we’re going to take a long look at the first third of the Metamorphoses. My main goal will be to tell you about the overall shape and scope of Books 1-5 of the Metamorphoses. But because the Metamorphoses is so gargantuan, and so diverse, we’ll also try, early on, after a long summary of many wonderful myths, to get a sense of the general worldview of Ovid in his most famous poem. One more quick thing. Before we get into the Metamorphoses, if you haven’t done so, I have a 15-hour compilation of adaptations of Greco-Roman myths available on my Bonus Content Page. These myths include the stories of Perseus, Medusa, Andromeda and the Kraken, Theseus, Ariadne, the Labyrinth, and Phaedra and Hippolytus, Daedalus, Icarus and King Minos; Persephone, Demeter, and Hades; Orpheus and Euridice, Baucis and Philemon, Bellerophon and the Chimera, Iphigenia at Tauris, Arachne, and Typhoios. It’s a huge compilation, and all these characters show up in the Metamorphoses, so my compilation Rad Greek Myths might be a decent homework assignment before we head into Ovid’s masterpiece, and by buying it for ten bucks, you can help support the show, too. Thanks for listening to Literature and History. I’ve got a detailed quiz on Ovid’s didactic love poetry at literatureandhistory.com if you want to review what you learned here. Got a song coming up if you want to hear it. If not, see you next time.

Still listening? Well, I got to thinking about what The Art of Love would sound like if it were a song. It would be a sexy song, of course – with a mixture of different kinds of romantic advice. Not all of the advice would be good – some of it would be patently bad – and some of it would be strange. So I wrote this R&B song. Like a 90s R&B song that some of us in a certain age group heard in high school and junior high school dances. This one’s called “Bad Advice from Ovid,” and I hope it captures the fun and occasionally odd or anachronistic nature of Ovid’s great poem. Hope it’s entertaining. And if you’ve never encountered the Metamorphoses before – wow – you’re going to love it.


1.^ For Aratus see Geo 1.351-460, for Eratosthenes, Geo 1.233-8. Nicander’s Georgica may have been an influence (Quintilian Ins 10.1.56).

2.^ For Nicander’s and Boeus’ presence in the Metamorphoses, see Wheeler, Stephen. A Discourse of Wonders: Audience and Performance in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, Chapter 8: Translating Past into Present.

3.^ See Haight, A.L. and Grannis, C.B. Banned Books 387 BC to 1978 AD. R.R. Bowker and Company, 1978, pp. 2-3.

4.^ Ovid. The Poems of Exile: Tristia and the Black Sea Letters. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Peter Green. University of California Press, 2005, p. 30.

5.^ See Wiseman, Annie and Peter. “Introduction.” Printed in Ovid. Fasti. Translated and with an Introduction and Notes by Annie and Peter Wiseman. Oxford University Press, 2011, p. xv. The positive identification is “. . .poetry made Caesar condemn me and my life-style / because of my Art, put out / years before: take away my pursuit, you remove my offences – / I credit my guilt to my verses” (Tr II.7-9). (Printed in Green, p. 25.)

6.^ See Eck, Warner. The Age of Augustus. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Kindle Edition, Location 1080.

7.^ Ovid. Ovid’s Erotic Poems: Amores and Ars Amatoria. Translated by Len Krisak, with an Introduction and Notes by Sarah Ruden. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, p. 114. Further references noted parenthetically.

8.^ See, for instance, Fasti 1.25, 1.101, 3.177 and 6.21.

9.^ Byron, George Gordon. Don Juan 3.1.1. Quoted in English Romantic Writers, ed. David Perkins. Harcourt Brace, 1995, p. 937.

10.^ Ovid. The Love Poems. Translated into English by A.S. Kline. Poetry in Translation, 2001, p. 256.

11.^ Ibid. p. 242.

12.^ Ruden, Sarah. “Introduction.” Printed in Ovid’s Erotic Poems: Amores and Ars Amatoria. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, p. 1.

13.^ Malouf, David. “Introduction.” In Ovid. The Art of Love. Modern Library Classics, 2002. Kindle Edition, Location 82.

14.^ Pomeroy, Sarah. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. Schocken Books, 1975, p. 152.

15.^ Melville, A.D. “Translator’s Note.” Printed in Ovid. The Love Poems. Oxford University Press, 1998, p. xxxiii. It should be noted that Ovid wasn’t particularly young (39/40) by the time he finished Ars 3.

16.^ Some of these ideas are still alive and well today, and certain online communities have taken to Ovid’s didactic love poetry precisely because of its intermittently degrading view of women. See https://eidolon.pub/bang-rome-2214f4a3d5c5.

17.^ Ovid. The Love Poems. Translated by A.D. Melville and with an Introduction and Notes by E.J. Kenney. Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 83.

18.^ See Sat 1.5.82-6

19.^ Sharrock, Alison. “Ovid and the discourses of love: the amatory works.” Printed in Hardie, Philip, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Ovid. Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 160

20.^ Ovid. The Love Poems. Translated into English by A.S. Kline. Poetry in Translation, 2001, p. 236.

21.^ Hardie, Philip. “Introduction.” Printed in Hardie, Philip, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Ovid. Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 1.

22.^ Baudelaire, Charles. “The Painter of Modern Life.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, ed. Vincent Leitch, et. al. New York and London: W.W. Norton, 2001, pp. 800-1.

23.^ Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. On the Social Contract. Translated by G.D.H. Cole. Dover Publications, 2003, p. 1.

24.^ I’m borrowing terms from Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning (1980), in my opinion one of the greatest pieces of literary scholarship ever published.

25.^ Wiseman, Annie and Peter. “Introduction.” Printed in Ovid. Fasti. Translated and with an Introduction and Notes by Annie and Peter Wiseman. Oxford University Press, 2011, p. xv.