Medea (Ovid)

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The tragedy Medea was a youth work by the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso . Except for two verses it has been lost in tradition.

The fragments

Ovid mentions in Amores  2,18,13-18 and Tristien  2,553-554 that he also wrote tragic poetry. Only two verses of a Medea tragedy that are quoted by other writers have survived:

Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria 8,5,6):

Servare potui; perdere an possim, rogas?
I could keep; if I can spoil you ask

Seneca Rhetor (Suasoriae 3,5,7):

Feror huc illuc, uae, plena deo.
Here and there it carries me, oh, filled with God.

Literary appreciation

The Roman rhetoric teacher and theorist Quintilian evidently considered the tragedy to be one of Ovid's best works; when he gave an overview of the entire Greek and Latin literature in the Institutio Oratoria around 100 AD ( inst. or.  10.1,46-131), he judged that Medea seemed to show him how great Ovid had if he would have preferred to master his talent instead of giving in to it ( inst. or.  10,1,98 Ovidi Medea videtur mihi ostendere, quantum seine vir praestare potuerit, si ingenio suo imperare quam indulgere maluisset ).


  • P. Ovidius Naso, The XII. Hero's letter: Medea to Jason. With a supplement: The Fragments of the Tragedy Medea. Introduction, text and commentary by Theodor Heinze, Verlag Brill, Leiden / New York / Cologne 1997 ( The "supplement" to the Medea fragments comprises pages 223-252 and represents the most exhaustive treatment of the topic to date. )