Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 15:24


We can learn even from our enemies.

Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC17 AD) was a Roman poet known to the English-speaking world as Ovid, wrote on topics of love, abandoned women, and mythological transformations. Ranked alongside Virgil and Horace as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature, Ovid was generally considered the greatest master of the elegiac couplet.


The mind, conscious of rectitude, laughed to scorn the falsehood of report.
  • Qui nolet fieri desidiosus, amet!
    • Let who does not wish to be idle fall in love!
    • Amores (The Loves), I, ix, 46.
  • Procul omen abesto!
    • Far away be that fate!
    • Amores, I, xiv, 41.
  • Quod licet ingratum est. Quod non licet acrius urit.
    • We take no pleasure in permitted joys.
      But what's forbidden is more keenly sought.
    • Amores, II, xix, 3.
  • Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.
    • We are ever striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us.
    • Amores, III, iv, 17.
    • Variant translation:
      We hunt for things unlawful with swift feet,
      As if forbidden joys were only sweet.
  • Sic ego nec sine te nec tecum vivere possum.
    • So I can't live either without you or with you.
    • Variant translation: Thus, I can neither live without you nor with you.
    • Amores, III, xi, 39.
  • Iam seges est ubi Troia fuit.
    • Now are fields of corn where Troy once stood.
    • Heroides (The Heroines), I, 53.
  • Exitus acta probat.
    • The result justifies the deed.
    • Variant translation: The ends justify the means.
    • Heroides, II, 85.
  • Principiis obsta; sero medicina paratur, / Cum mala per longas convaluere moras.
  • Resist beginnings; the prescription comes too late when the disease has gained strength by long delays.
  • ...qui finem quaeris amoris, / Cedit amor rebus; res age, tutus eris.
    • Love yields to business. If you seek a way out of love, be busy; you'll be safe then.
    • Remedia Amoris, 143–4.
  • Poetry comes fine-spun from a mind at peace.
  • So long as you are secure you will count many friends; if your life becomes clouded you will be alone.
    • Tristia, I, ix, 5.
  • Crede mihi, bene qui latuit bene vixit, et intra
    Fortunam debet quisque manere suam.
    • Well doth he live who lives retired, and keeps
      His wants within the limit of his means.
    • Tristia, III, iv, 26.
  • Vergilium vidi tantum.
    • I just saw Virgil.
    • Tristia, IV, x, 51.
  • Cura quid expediat prius est quam quid sit honestum
    • It is annoying to be honest to no purpose.
    • Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters From the Black Sea), II, iii, 14.
  • Note too that a faithful study of the liberal arts humanizes character and permits it not to be cruel.
    • Epistulae ex Ponto, II, ix, 47.
  • Di pia facta vident.
    • The gods behold all righteous actions.
    • Fasti (The Festivals), II, 117.
  • The mind, conscious of rectitude, laughed to scorn the falsehood of report.
    • Fasti, IV, 311. Compare: "And the mind conscious of virtue may bring to thee suitable rewards", Virgil, The Aeneid, i, 604.
  • Abeunt studia in mores.
    • Pursuits become habits.
    • Epistle of Sappho to Phaon, Ep. xv. 83.

Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love)Edit

If you want to be loved, be lovable.
Let love steal in disguised as friendship.
Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.
  • They come to see; they come that they themselves may be seen.
    • I, 99. Compare: "And for to see, and eek for to be seie", Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: "The Wife of Bath's Prologue", line 6134.
  • Nocte latent mendae, vitioque ignoscitur omni, Horaque formosam quamlibet illa facit.
    • Blemishes are hid by night and every fault forgiven; darkness makes any woman fair.
    • I, 249–250.
  • Iuppiter ex alto periuria ridet amantum.
    • Jupiter from on high smiles down on lovers' perjuries.
    • Variant: Jupiter from above laughs at lovers' perjuries.
    • I, 633.
  • Expedit esse deos, et, ut expedit, esse putemus.
    • It is convenient that there be gods, and, as it is convenient, let us believe that there are.
    • I, 637.
  • Intret amicitiae nomine tectus amor.
    • Let love steal in disguised as friendship.
    • Variant: Love will enter cloaked in friendship's name.
    • Context: Cool off; don't let her think you too importunate. Do not betray the hope of too swift a victory; let Love steal in disguised as Friendship. I've often seen a woman thus disarmed, and friendship ripen into love.
    • Ovid, The Art of Love, Book 1, line 720, translated by J. Lewis May in The Love Books of Ovid, 1930.
  • Ut ameris, amabilis esto.
    • If you want to be loved, be lovable.
    • Variant: To be loved, be lovable.
    • II, 107.
  • Cede repugnanti; cedendo victor abibis.
    • Give way to your opponent; thus will you gain the crown of victory.
    • Variant: Yield to the opposer, by yielding you will obtain the victory.
    • II, 197.
  • Nothing is stronger than habit.
    • Variant translations: Nothing is more powerful than custom or habit.
      Nothing is stronger than custom.
    • II, 345.
  • Candida pax homines, trux decet ira feras.
    • Let white-robed peace be man's divinity; rage and ferocity are of the beast.
    • III, 502.
  • Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.
    • III, 425.
  • Many women long for what eludes them, and like not what is offered them.

Metamorphoses (Transformations)Edit

It is the mind that makes the man, and our vigour is in our immortal soul.
  • Chaos, rudis indigestaque moles.
    • Chaos, a rough and unordered mass.
    • I, 7.
  • Sanctius his animal mentisque capacius altae
    Deerat adhuc et quod dominari in cetera posset:
    Natus homo est.
    • A creature of a more exalted kind
      Was wanting yet, and then was Man designed;
      Conscious of thought, of more capacious breast,
      For empire formed, and fit to rule the rest.
    • I, 76 (translated by John Dryden).
  • Pronaque quum spectent animalia cetera terram,
    Os homini sublime dedit, coelumque tueri
    Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
    • Thus, while the mute creation downward bend
      Their sight, and to their earthly mother tend,
      Man looks aloft, and with erected eyes
      Beholds his own hereditary skies.
    • I, 84 (translated by John Dryden); on the creation of Man.
  • Then the omnipotent Father with his thunder made Olympus tremble, and from Ossa hurled Pelion.
    • I, 154. Comparable to: "Heav'd on Olympus tott'ring Ossa stood; On Ossa, Pelion nods with all his wood", Alexander Pope, The Odyssey of Homer, Book xi, line 387; "would have you call to mind the strength of the ancient giants, that undertook to lay the high mountain Pelion on the top of Ossa, and set among those the shady Olympus", François Rabelais, Works, book iv. chap. xxxviii.
  • Medio tutissimus ibis.
    • You will be safest in the middle.
    • Variant translation: You will go most safely by the middle way.
    • II, 137.
  • Inopem me copia fecit.
    • Plenty has made me poor.
    • Variant translation: Abundance makes me poor.
    • III, 466.
  • Causa latet, vis est notissima
    • The cause is hidden, but the result is well known.
    • Variant translation: The cause is hidden; the effect is visible to all.
    • IV, 287.
  • Fas est et ab hoste doceri.
    • Right it is to be taught even by the enemy.
    • Variant translation: You can learn from anyone, even your enemy.
    • IV, 428.
  • Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor.
    • I see better things, and approve, but I follow worse.
    • VII, 20.
  • Sunt superis sua iura
    • The gods have their own rules.
    • IX, 500.
  • Supremum vale.
    • A last farewell.
    • X, 62.
  • Ars adeo latet arte sua.
    • So art lies hid by its own artifice.
    • X, 252.
  • It is the mind that makes the man, and our vigour is in our immortal soul.
    • XIII. Comparable to: "I must be measured by my soul: The mind's the standard of the man", Isaac Watts, Horæ Lyricæ, Book ii, "False Greatness".
  • Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
    • Thus all things are but altered, nothing dies.
    • XV, 165 (translated by John Dryden); on the transmigration of souls.
  • Tempus edax rerum
    • Time, the devourer of all things.
    • Variant: Time is the devourer of all things.
    • XV, 234.
  • Nomenque erit indelebile nostrum
    • My name shall never be forgotten
    • XV, 876.
  • Nec species sua cuique manet, rerumque novatrix
    Ex aliis alias reddit natura figuras.
    Nec perit in toto quidquam, mihi credite, mundo,
    Sed variat faciemque novat: nascique vocatur
    Incipere esse aliud, quàm quod fuit antè; morique
    Desinere illud idem; quum sint huc forsitan illa,
    Haec translata illuc; summâ tamen omnia constant.
    • No species remains constant: that great renovator of matter
      Nature, endlessly fashions new forms from old: there’s nothing
      in the whole universe that perishes, believe me; rather
      it renews and varies its substance. What we describe as birth
      is no more than incipient change from a prior state, while dying
      is merely to quit it. Though the parts may be transported
      hither and thither, the sum of all matter is constant.
    • XV, 252-8 (translated by Peter Green).
  • In the winter season,
    For seven days of calm, Alcyone
    Broods over her nest on the surface of the waters
    While the sea-waves are quiet.
    Through this time
    Aeolus keeps his winds at home, and ocean
    Is smooth for his descendants' sake.
    • As translated by Rolfe Humphries.

Quotes about OvidEdit

  • The fittest for my Wound;
    Who best the gentle Passions knows to move;
    Ovid, the soft Philosopher of Love:
    His Love Epistles for my Friends I chose;
    For there I found the Kindred of my Woes.
    • John Dryden, in Love Triumphant (1694), Act II, scene i.

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