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The beginning of Ovid's Metamorphoses in the manuscript Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Lat. 1594, fol. 1r (15th century)

Publius Ovidius Naso (German Ovid [ ˀoˈviːt ]; * March 20, 43 BC in Sulmo ; † probably 17 AD in Tomis ) was an ancient Roman poet . Along with Horace and Virgil, he is one of the three great poets of the classical epoch in Roman literary history . Ovid wrote love poems in an early phase, saga cycles in a middle phase and lamentations in a later phase.

Ovid's well-preserved work, after it had received less attention in late antiquity , had an immense influence on poetry, the visual arts and music of the Middle Ages and the Baroque . The influence declined in the Romantic era , but revived in the later 19th century. His work has left a deep mark on the cultural memory of posterity; here, above all, his main work, the Metamorphoses , should be mentioned.


Statue in the Romanian city of Constanța , formerly Tomoi , the place of exile where Ovid spent the last eight years of his life

The only source on Ovid's life is his own work, particularly the Tristia written in exile . An entry in the Chronicle of Jerome provides brief information about his death and the place of death . The autobiographical reliability of Ovid's writings is partly questioned.

Ovid was born on March 20, 43 BC. Born in Sulmo (today Sulmona , 120 km east of Rome). In contrast to Virgil and Horace, he was spared the horrors of civil war ; he grew up in the safety of the Pax Augusta .

He was the scion of a wealthy knightly family . His father and his brother, who were roughly the same age, sent him on the educational trip to Greece, which was typical for wealthy sons at the time, and then to a rhetoric school in Rome to prepare for the Roman official career, the cursus honorum . There he was taught by the outstanding speakers and rhetoricians of the time, Marcus Porcius Latro and Arellius Fuscus . It was from them that Ovid discovered his penchant for formulating verses and telling stories, and from Porcius Latro, who himself emerged as a poet, Ovid later took up some turns in his poems. After he had reached the lowest levels of the senatorial office career as tresvir (probably monetalis, that is, he held the office of mint master ) and as decemvir stlitibus iudicandis , he gave up this path of life. At first he remained connected to the legal field as a member of the courts of the centumviri ("Hundred Men") and as a judge in civil proceedings , but then stopped all public activities in order to become a poet. The art patron Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus accepted him into his circle of poets and promoted him.

Ovid's first work, the love poems ( Amores ) , were a resounding popular success; they made it, at least since Horace's death 8 BC. BC, the most widely read poet in Rome. After further works on the subject of love, he created his main work around 1 AD, the Metamorphoses , in which old legends are told anew in a richly decorated manner.

Ovid married at a young age, but both his first and second marriages were divorced after a short period of time. His daughter probably came from the second marriage, since his third wife, to whom he remained married until his death, is never associated with her and is always spoken of separately from both in the poems.

In the autumn of 8 AD, Ovid was on the island of Elba when the decision of the Emperor Augustus reached him that he would be exiled to Tomi (now Constanta in Romania) on the Black Sea . Neither a court case nor a decision by the Senate legitimized this banishment, as Ovid later wrote.

The exile imposed on Ovid was - in contrast to the aquae et ignis interdictio , with which the person concerned was declared outlawed and his property was confiscated - a milder form, a relegatio , which allowed him to keep his property and his citizenship .

Ovid himself states that the reasons for his banishment were carmen et error , "poem and misconduct". The poem probably refers to the Ars amatoria , which was a thorn in the side of the strict Augustus, who was very concerned with the restoration of the traditional Roman concepts of marriage and family. But the “misconduct” must have been more important, as the ars amatoria was published eight years ago at the time of the banishment.

Ovid suggests another reason in his Tristia : he had "seen something that he was not allowed to see". Most research suggests that he was an accomplice in the adultery affair of Augustus' granddaughter Iulia . The real reason is still unclear to this day.

Ovid tried for many years to soften the emperor and obtain his recall by sending his exile poetry to Rome. But his endeavors were unsuccessful throughout his life. When Augustus died, his successor Tiberius did not recall Ovid either.

Not much is known about Ovid's death. Since there are no allusions to events after AD 17 in his poems, it is assumed that he died shortly afterwards. Addressing his wife, Ovid communicated in the Tristia the inscription that should be on his grave:

Hic ego qui iaceo tenerorum lusor amorum Ingenio perii, Naso poeta, meo. At tibi qui transis, ne sit grave quisquis amasti Dicere: Nasonis molliter ossa cubent.


“I who am lying here, Naso, the poet, player of tender love stories, have perished from my own talent.
But for you, who pass by, if you have ever loved, it should not be difficult to say: May Naso's bones rest softly! "


Three creative phases can be distinguished:

Early phase

After a tragedy, Medea , which was lost to a few remains , Ovid wrote erotic poems. In the Amores , between 20 and 15 BC First published in five, then in three books, the focus is on a young woman named Corinna, who is not known whether she was a real person in the author's life. Ovid no longer portrays love, like his predecessors, as a sorrowful languor, but as an amusing and frivolous game.

The Ars amatoria , which existed between 1 BC. "Art of Love", created in AD 4 and AD, is a didactic poem in three books in which ironic instructions are given on how women and men can succeed in the game of love. Here love is a technique that, like the craft of war , one can learn and master according to rules. Because of her provocative permissiveness, she could have aroused displeasure at the court of the emperor, who was intent on moral rigor, and thus could have been a reason for the banishment (see above). The Remedia amoris (“remedies against love”) represent the counterpart to the art of love; they name the remedies that are needed to get rid of lovesickness or to end a love affair.

The Heroides (for which Ovid's authorship is not certain) are fictional love letters from famous women of the legend like Penelope , Helena , Dido , Medea and others. a. In three cases, letters from the men to which the women respond are also reproduced. In the letters, a female view of well-known heroics is expressed.

From De medicamine faciei , a collection of cosmetic advice, only the first 100 verses have survived.

Middle phase

Ovids Fasti in a manuscript made by the humanist Pomponio Leto . Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat.Lat. 3263, fol. 119v (15th century)

After completing the love poetry, two great saga cycles followed. The names, origins and customs of Roman festivals are described in the fasti . The work breaks off halfway and only deals with the months from January to June.

Metamorphoses , 1618

The Metamorphoses , probably between 1 AD and 8 AD, 15 books with 700–900 verses each, are Ovid's best-known work. 250 stories of transformation from ancient, especially Greek, mythology are told. The stories are connected to one another through transitions and cross-connections in such a way that they represent not just a collection, but an epic whole with a proömium at the beginning and an epilogue at the end, but without a central protagonist. The stories can be thematically divided into four blocks: Book 1–2: from the creation of the world to the robbery of Europe ; Book 3–6: from the building of Thebes to the Argonauts voyage ; Book 7–11: from the Argonauts to the Trojan royal house; 12–15: from the Trojan War to the present, the age of Augustus. I.a. There are the stories The Golden Age , Pyramus and Thisbe , Apollo and Daphne , The Lycian Peasants , Daedalus and Icarus , Philemon and Baucis , Battus , Narcissus and Echo , the misjudgment of Midas in the musical contest between Pan and Apollo , Orpheus and Eurydice , Pygmalion , Caesar and Augustus , Niobe .

Late phase

During the time of his exile from 8 to 16 AD, Ovid wrote funeral strategies, all in letter form, namely five books Tristia and four books Epistulae ex Ponto ("Letters from the Black Sea"). The poet laments his harsh fate, the distance from Rome and the inhospitable place where he is forced to stay. He is still hoping for a pardon, in particular the "Letters from the Black Sea" are aimed at people from around Augustus.

Nothing is known about a lost poem called Phaenomena about celestial phenomena.

Doubtful and spurious works

For some works that go under Ovid's name in medieval manuscripts, it is not certain or even improbable that they come from Ovid: apart from the Heroides already mentioned , Halieutica , Ibis and Nux . The Consolatio ad Liviam (also called Epicedium Drusi ) is certainly not authentic.

Ovid as a literary figure

Ovid is the subject of various novels, for example by Christoph Ransmayr ( The Last World , 1988), Gertrude Atherton ( The golden peacock , 1936), Jane Alison ( The love artist , New York 2001), Volker Ebersbach ( Der Verbanned von Tomi , 1984) , Vintila Horia ( Dieu est né en exil , 1960, received the Prix ​​Goncourt ), David Malouf ( An imaginary life, Das Wolfskind 1978), Eckart von Naso (1958), Wilhelm Walloth ( Ovid , 1890), Tanja Kinkel ( Venus throw , 2006) and Josef Svorecky ( An inexplicable story , 2002).

Text output

(See also the articles on the individual works.)

  • Franz Bömer : P. Ovidius Naso. The fasts. Lat./German. Ed., Trans. u. commented by F. Bömer. Heidelberg 1957.
  • James George Frazer : Ovid's Fasti. Text and English translation. Heinemann, London 1931; Reprinted 1959 ( archive.org ).
  • Publius Ovidius Naso: Metamorphoses. Tusculum Collection. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf and Zurich 1996, (including a compilation of scientific literature on Ovid and the Metamorphoses ).



  • Ralph J. Hexter: Ovid and Medieval Schooling. Studies in Medieval School Commentaries on Ovid's Ars Amatoria, Epistulae ex Ponto, and Epistulae Heroidum. Arbeo-Gesellschaft, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-920128-39-7 .
  • Ulrich Schmitzer, Mirjam Vischer, Ralph Hexter: Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso). In: Christine Walde (Ed.): The reception of ancient literature. Kulturhistorisches Werklexikon (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 7). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, ISBN 978-3-476-02034-5 , Sp. 557-608.
  • Annette Simonis: Ovid. In: Peter von Möllendorff , Annette Simonis, Linda Simonis (ed.): Historical figures of antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music (= Der Neue Pauly . Supplements. Volume 8). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02468-8 , Sp. 721-734.
  • John F. Miller, Carole E. Newlands (Eds.): A Handbook to the Reception of Ovid. Wiley, Malden 2014, ISBN 978-1-4443-3967-3 .

Web links

Commons : Ovid  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Publius Ovidius Naso  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
Wikisource: Ovid  Sources and Full Texts
Wikiquote: Ovid  Quotes


  1. Manfred Fuhrmann : History of Roman Literature. Reclam, Stuttgart (1999) 2011, p. 66 ff. And p. 267 ff.
  2. Manfred Fuhrmann: History of Roman Literature. Reclam, Stuttgart (1999) 2011, p. 325 ff.
  3. ^ Michael von Albrecht : Ovid. An introduction. Reclam, Stuttgart 2003, p. 9.
  4. Hieronymus for the year 2033 = 17 AD ( chronicum Eusebii from Hieronymo retractatum ad annum Abrahae 2395 2 p. 147): Ovidius poeta in exilio diem obiit et iuxta oppidum Tomos sepelitur (“The poet Ovid died on this day in exile and was buried near Tomi ”).
  5. Heinz Hofmann: The Roman dandy at the end of the world.
  6. Seneca , Controversiae 2,2,8.
  7. Ovid, Fasti 4,384.
  8. Ovid, Tristia 2.93-96.
  9. Michael von Albrecht: History of Roman literature from Andronicus to Boethius and its continued work. Volume 1. 3rd, improved and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2012, p. 662 f.
  10. Michael von Albrecht: History of Roman literature from Andronicus to Boethius and its continued work. Volume 1. 3rd, improved and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2012, p. 683.
  11. ^ Arthur Wheeler: Topics from the life of Ovid. In: American Journal of Philology. Volume 46, 1925, p. 26.
  12. Tristia 2, 131f.
  13. Tristia 2, 207 ; German by Niklas Holzberg : Ovids Metamorphoses. CH Beck, Munich 2007 p. 16.
  14. The Italian news agency ANSA reported in December 2017 that the city of Rome had rehabilitated Ovid and lifted his exile: "Roma riabilita Ovidio, dopo 2000 anni revocato esilio" , ANSA , December 15, 2017.
  15. Ovid, Tristia 3, 3, 73-76 .
  16. ^ Stefan Cramme: Historical novels about ancient Rome: Ovid