Art of Love is among Ovid’s most skillfully composed elegiac poems, and the novelty of its topic renders the poem a masterpiece of poetic invention. Belonging to the early part of Ovid’s career, this poem would become at once a foundation of Ovid’s fame and a cause of his life’s greatest tragedy.
Ovid was born into an equestrian family in Sulmo (modern Sulmona) in 43 b.c.e. His family financed his education in Rome, where he excelled in rhetoric. After his studies were complete, Ovid remained in Rome and practiced law, but he found most pleasure and success in the composition of poetry. Ovid’s poems were well received, so in his late twenties he abandoned other pursuits to dedicate himself to his art.
Ovid’s first known work is Amores (c. 20 b.c.e.; English translation, c. 1597), a first-person description of the poet’s love life written in elegiac couplets; it was published in about 16 b.c.e. and subsequently revised. He followed Amores with Art of Love. With this poem, his reputation as a leading poet at Rome was firmly established.
During the next few years, the volume of Ovid’s literary output was phenomenal. Scholars debate the particulars of the sequence in which he composed and revised his works, but the main outline is clear. In addition to Art of Love and Amores,...
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