Roman poet (43 BC – 17/18 AD)

Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC17 AD) was a Roman poet, commonly known to the English-speaking world as Ovid. Along with Virgil and Horace, Ovid is one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature, generally considered the greatest master of the elegiac couplet.

Let the man who does not wish to be idle fall in love!
See also:



Heroides (The Heroines)

Main article: Heroides
  • Res est solliciti plena timoris amor.
    • Love is a thing full of anxious fears.
      • I, 12
  • Iam seges est ubi Troia fuit.
    • Now are fields of corn where Troy once stood.
      • I, 53
  • Tarde quae credita laedunt credimus.
    • We're slow to believe what wounds us.
      • II, 9-10; translation by A. S. Kline
  • Exitus acta probat.
    • The end proves the acts (were done), or the result is a test of the actions; Ovid's line 85 full translation: “The event proves well the wisdom of her [Phyllis'] course.”
    • Variant translations: The ends justify the means. All's well that ends well. NB: the end does not always equal the goal.
      • II, 85
  • Abeunt studia in mores.
    • Pursuits become habits.
      • XV. 83, "Epistle of Sappho to Phaon"

Remedia Amoris (The Cure for Love)

Let him who loves, where love success may find,
Spread all his sails before the prosp'rous wind.
  • Siquis amat quod amare iuvat, feliciter ardens
    Gaudeat, et vento naviget ille suo.
    At siquis male fert indignae regna puellae,
    Ne pereat, nostrae sentiat artis opem.
    • Let him who loves, where love success may find,
      Spread all his sails before the prosp'rous wind;
      But let poor youths who female scorn endure,
      And hopeless burn, repair to me for cure.
      • Lines 13-16
  • Principiis obsta; sero medicina paratur
    Cum mala per longas convaluere moras.
    • Resist beginnings; the remedy comes too late when the disease has gained strength by long delays.
      • Lines 91–92
  • 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.
      • Lines 143–144

Fasti (The Festivals)

The gods behold all righteous actions.
  • Di pia facta vident.
    • The gods behold all righteous actions.
    • II, 117
  • Est deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illo:
    impetus hic sacrae semina mentis habet.
    • There is a god within us.
      It is when he stirs us that our bosom warms ; it is
      his impulse that sows the seeds of inspiration.
      • VI, lines 5-6; translation by Sir James George Frazer
  • Conscia mens recti famae mendacia risit
    • The mind, conscious of rectitude, laughed to scorn the falsehood of report.
      • IV, 311. Compare: "And the mind conscious of virtue may bring to thee suitable rewards", Virgil, The Aeneid, i, 604

Amores (Love Affairs)

  • Militat omnis amans
    • Every lover is a soldier.
      • Book I; ix, line 1
  • Qui nolet fieri desidiosus, amet!
    • Let the man who does not wish to be idle fall in love!
      • Book I; ix, 46
  • Procul omen abesto!
    • Far away be that fate!
      • Book I; xiv, 41
  • Aequo animo poenam, qui meruere, ferunt.
    • They bear punishment with equanimity who have earned it.
      • Book II, vii, 12
  • Quod licet ingratum est. Quod non licet acrius urit.
    • We take no pleasure in permitted joys.
      But what's forbidden is more keenly sought.
      • Book II; xix, 3
  • Cui peccare licet, peccat minus.
    • Who is allowed to sin, sins less.
      • Book III, iv, 9
  • Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.
    • We are ever striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied us.
    • Variant translation: We hunt for things unlawful with swift feet, / As if forbidden joys were only sweet.
      • Book III; iv, 17
  • 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.
      • Book III; xib, 39
      • Compare: Nec possum tecum vivere nec sine te ("I cannot live with you nor without you"), Martial, Epigrams XII, 46

Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love)

If you want to be loved, be lovable.
  • Spectatum veniunt, veniunt spectentur ut ipsae.
    • They come to see; they come that they themselves may be seen.
      • Book I, line 99 (tr. Henry T. Riley)
      • Compare: "And for to see, and eek for to be seye", 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.
      • Book I, lines 249–250
  • Aut non rem temptes aut perfice.
    • Either don't try at all or make damned sure you succeed.
  • Iuppiter ex alto periuria ridet amantum.
    • Jupiter from above laughs at lovers' perjuries.
      • Book I, line 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.
      • Book I, line 637
  • Neque enim lex aequior ulla est,
    Quam necis artifices arte perire sua.
    • No fairer law in all the land
      Than that death-dealers die by what they've planned.
  • Intret amicitiae nomine tectus amor.
    • Let love steal in disguised as friendship.
      • Book I, line 720; translated by J. Lewis May in The Love Books of Ovid, 1930
      • Variant translation: Love will enter cloaked in friendship's name.
  • Ut ameris, amabilis esto.
    • If you want to be loved, be lovable.
    • Variant translation: To be loved, be lovable.
      • Book II, line 107
      • Compare: Si vis amari, ama. ("If you wish to be loved, love"), attributed to Hecato by Seneca the Younger in Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, Epistle IX
  • Forma bonum fragile est.
    • Beauty's a frail flower.
      • Book II, line 113 (tr. James Michie)
  • Si nec blanda satis, nec erit tibi comis amanti,
    Perfer et obdura: postmodo mitis erit.
    Flectitur obsequio curvatus ab arbore ramus:
    Frangis, si vires experiere tuas.
    Obsequio tranantur aquae: nec vincere possis
    Flumina, si contra, quam rapit unda, nates.
    • If she's cool and unwilling to be wooed,
      Just take it, don't weaken; in time she'll soften her mood.
      Bending a bough the right way, gently, makes
      It easy; use brute force, and it breaks.
      With swimming rivers it's the same—
      Go with, not against, the current.
      • Book II, lines 177–182 (tr. James Michie)
  • Pauperibus vates ego sum, quia pauper amavi;
    Cum dare non possem munera, verba dabam.
    • I am the poor man's poet; because I am poor myself and I have known what it is to be in love. Not being able to pay them in presents, I pay my mistresses in poetry.
      • Book II, lines 165–166 (tr. J. Lewis May)
  • Cede repugnanti; cedendo victor abibis.
    • Yield to the opposer, by yielding you will obtain the victory.
      • Book II, line 197
  • Militiae species amor est.
    • Love is a kind of warfare.
      • Book II, line 233
  • Dum novus errat amor, vires sibi colligat usu:
    Si bene nutrieris, tempore firmus erit.
    Quem taurum metuis, vitulum mulcere solebas:
    Sub qua nunc recubas arbore, virga fuit:
    Nascitur exiguus, sed opes adquirit eundo,
    Quaque venit, multas accipit amnis aquas.
    • Young love is errant, but it needs to get around;
      The time and practice make it strong and sound.

      That bull you fear, you petted when it wasn't big;
      What now you sleep beneath was once a twig.
      That little stream, in gaining waters as it goes,
      Grows stronger, till at last a river flows.
      • Book II, lines 339–344 (tr. Len Krisak)
  • Nil adsuetudine maius.
    • Nothing is stronger than habit.
    • Variant translation: Nothing is more powerful than custom.
      • Book II, line 345
  • Da requiem: requietus ager bene credita reddit
    • Leave her alone. A fallow field soon shows its worth,
      And rain is best absorbed by arid earth.
      • Book II, line 351 (tr. Len Krisak)
  • Quod male fers, adsuesce, feres bene.
    • Habit makes all things bearable.
      • Book II, line 647 (tr. James Michie)
  • Utendum est aetate: cito pede labitur aetas.
    • Seize Time; his swift foot can't be held.
      • Book III, line 65 (tr. Len Krisak)
  • Nostra sine auxilio fugiunt bona; carpite florem,
    Qui, nisi carptus erit, turpiter ipse cadet.
    • Our charms depart all on their own, so pluck the bloom.
      For if you don't, it meets a wasted doom.
      • Book III, lines 79–80 (tr. Len Krisak)
  • Continua messe senescit ager.
    • A field becomes exhausted by constant tillage.
      • Book III, line 82
  • Casus ubique valet; semper tibi pendeat hamus
    Quo minime credas gurgite, piscis erit.
    • Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.
      • Book III, line 425
  • Candida pax homines, trux decet ira feras.
    • Rage is for beasts, but shining peace for man.
      • Book III, line 502 (tr. Len Krisak)
  • Est deus in nobis, et sunt commercia caeli:
    Sedibus aetheriis spiritus ille venit.
    • We all conceal
      A god within us, we all deal
      With heaven direct, from whose high places we derive
      The inspiration by which we live.
      • Book III, lines 549–550 (tr. James Michie)

Metamorphoses (Transformations)

Water belongs to us all. Nature did not make the sun one person's property, nor air, nor water, cool and clear.
Main article: Metamorphoses
  • Chaos, rudis indigestaque moles.
    • Chaos, a rough and unordered mass.
      • Book 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.
  • 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.
      • Book I, 84 (as translated by John Dryden)
  • Tum pater omnipotens misso perfregit Olympum
    fulmine et excussit subiectae Pelion Ossae.
    • Then the omnipotent Father with his thunder made Olympus tremble, and from Ossa hurled Pelion.
      • Book I, 154
      • Compare: "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.
  • Materiam superabat opus
    • The workmanship excelled the materials.
      • Book II, 5
  • Medio tutissimus ibis.
    • You will be safest in the middle.
      • Book II, 137
    • Variant translation: You will go most safely by the middle way.
  • Inopem me copia fecit.
    • Plenty has made me poor.
      • Book III, 466
    • Variant translation: Abundance makes me poor.
  • 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.
      • Book IV, 287
  • Fas est et ab hoste doceri.
    • It is right to learn even from an enemy.
      • Book IV, 428
    • Variant translations:
    • It is right to learn, even from the enemy.
    • Right it is to be taught even by the enemy.
    • It is right to be taught even by an enemy.
    • We can learn even from our enemies.
  • Usus communis aquarum est.
    Nec solem proprium natura nec aera fecit
    nec tenues undas
    • Water belongs to us all. Nature did not make the sun one person's property, nor air, nor water, cool and clear.
  • Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor.
    • I see better things, and approve, but I follow worse.
      • Book VII, 20
  • Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes.
    • And he turned his mind to unknown arts.
      • Book VIII, line 188
  • Insruit et natum: Medioque ut limite curras,
    Icare, ait, moneo. Ne, si demissior ibis,
    Unda gravet pennas; si celsior, ignis adurat.
    Inter utrumque vola.
    • My son, I caution you to keep
      The middle way, for if your pinions dip
      Too low the waters may impede your flight;
      And if they soar too high the sun may scorch them.
      Fly midway.
      • Book VIII, lines 203–206; translation by Brooks More
  • Sunt superis sua iura
    • The gods have their own rules.
      • Book IX, 500
  • Supremum vale.
    • A last farewell.
      • Book X, 62
  • Ars adeo latet arte sua.
    • So art lies hid by its own artifice.
      • Book X, 252
  • Nam genus et proavos et quae non fecimus ipsi,
    Vix ea nostra voco.
    • For those things which were done either by our fathers, or ancestors, and in which we ourselves had no share, we can scarcely call our own.
      • Book XIII, 140–141
  • Tibi dextera bello
    utilis: ingenium est, quod eget moderamine nostro;
    tu vires sine mente geris, mihi cura futuri;
    tu pugnare potes, pugnandi tempora mecum
    eligit Atrides; tu tantum corpore prodes,
    nos animo; quantoque ratem qui temperat, anteit
    remigis officium, quanto dux milite maior,
    tantum ego te supero; nec non in corpore nostro
    pectora sunt potiora manu: vigor omnis in illis.
    • Your right arm is useful in the battle; but when it comes to thinking you need my guidance. You have force without intelligence; while mine is the care for to-morrow. You are a good fighter; but is I who help Atrides select the time of fighting. Your value is in your body only; mine, in mind. And, as much as he who directs the ship surpasses him who only rows it, as much as the general exceeds the common soldier, so much greater am I than you. For in these bodies of ours the heart is of more value than the hand; all our real living is in that.
  • Ego pulveris hausti
    ostendens cumulum, quot haberet corpora pulvis,
    tot mihi natales contingere vana rogavi;
    excidit, ut peterem iuvenes quoque protinus annos.
    • Pointing to a pile of dust, that had collected, I foolishly begged to have as many anniversaries of my birth, as were represented by the dust. But I forgot to ask that the years should be accompanied by youth.
      • Book XIV, lines 136–139; translation by A. S. Kline
  • Parcite, mortales, dapibus temerare nefandis
    corpora! sunt fruges, sunt deducentia ramos
    pondere poma suo tumidaeque in vitibus uvae,
    sunt herbae dulces, sunt quae mitescere flamma
    mollirique queant; nec vobis lacteus umor
    eripitur, nec mella thymi redolentia florem:
    prodiga divitias alimentaque mitia tellus
    suggerit atque epulas sine caede et sanguine praebet.
    • O mortals, from your fellows' blood abstain,
      Nor taint your bodies with a food profane:
      While corn, and pulse by Nature are bestow'd,
      And planted orchards bend their willing load;
      While labour'd gardens wholesom herbs produce,
      And teeming vines afford their gen'rous juice;
      Nor tardier fruits of cruder kind are lost,
      But tam'd with fire, or mellow'd by the frost;
      While kine to pails distended udders bring,
      And bees their hony redolent of Spring;
      While Earth not only can your needs supply,
      But, lavish of her store, provides for luxury;
      A guiltless feast administers with ease,
      And without blood is prodigal to please.
  • Heu quantum scelus est in viscera viscera condi
    ingestoque avidum pinguescere corpore corpus
    alteriusque animans animantis vivere leto!
    Scilicet in tantis opibus, quas, optima matrum,
    terra parit, nil te nisi tristia mandere saevo
    vulnera dente iuvat ritusque referre Cyclopum,
    nec, nisi perdideris alium, placare voracis
    et male morati poteris ieiunia ventris!
    • O impious use! to Nature's laws oppos'd,
      Where bowels are in other bowels clos'd:
      Where fatten'd by their fellow's fat, they thrive;
      Maintain'd by murder, and by death they live.
      'Tis then for nought, that Mother Earth provides
      The stores of all she shows, and all she hides,
      If men with fleshy morsels must be fed,
      And chaw with bloody teeth the breathing bread:
      What else is this, but to devour our guests,
      And barb'rously renew Cyclopean feasts!
      We, by destroying life, our life sustain;
      And gorge th' ungodly maw with meats obscene.
  • Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
    • Thus all things are but altered, nothing dies.
      • Book XV, 165 (as translated by John Dryden); on the transmigration of souls.
  • Tempus edax rerum.
    • Time, the devourer of all things.
      • Book XV, 234
  • Nec species sua cuique manet, rerumque novatrix
    ex aliis alias reparat natura figuras:
    nec perit in toto quicquam, mihi credite, mundo,
    sed variat faciemque novat, nascique vocatur
    incipere esse aliud, quam quod fuit ante, morique
    desinere illud idem. cum sint huc forsitan illa,
    haec translata illuc, summa 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.
  • Nomenque erit indelebile nostrum.
    • My name shall never be forgotten.
      • Book XV, 876

Tristia (Sorrows)

Poetry comes fine-spun from a mind at ease.
  • Carmina proveniunt animo deducta sereno.
    • Poetry comes fine-spun from a mind at ease.
      • I, i, 39
  • Donec eris sospes, multos numerabis amicos:
    tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.
    • So long as you are secure you will count many friends; if your life becomes clouded you will be alone.
      • I, ix, 5
  • Horrea formicae tendunt ad inania numquam:
    nullus ad amissas ibit amicus opes.
    • Ants never head for an empty granary:
      no friends gather round when your wealth is gone.
      • I, ix, 9-10; translation by A.S. Kline
  • 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.
    • Variant translation: Believe me that he who has passed his time in retirement, has lived to a good end, and it behoves every man to live within his means
      • III, iv, 26
  • Quo quisque est maior, magis est placabilis irae,
    et faciles motus mens generosa capit.
    corpora magnanimo satis est prostrasse leoni,
    pugna suum finem, cum iacet hostis, habet:
    at lupus et turpes instant morientibus ursi
    et quaecumque minor nobilitate fera.
    maius apud Troiam forti quid habemus Achille?
    Dardanii lacrimas non tulit ille senis.
    • The greater a man is, the more can his wrath be appeased; a noble spirit is capable of kindly impulses. For the noble lion 'tis enough to have overthrown his enemy; the fight is at an end when his foe is fallen. But the wolf, the ignoble bears harry the dying and so with every beast of less nobility. At Troy what have we mightier than brave Achilles? But the tears of the aged Dardanian he could not endure.
      • III, v, 33; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler
      • Note: "the aged Dardanian" here refers to Priam
  • Vivere me dices, sed sic ut vivere nolim
    • Say that I live, but in such wise that I would not live.
      • III, vii, 7; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler

Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters From the Black Sea)

'Tis hard, I admit, yet virtue aims at what is hard.
  • Estque pati poenam quam meruisse minus.
    • And it is a smaller thing to suffer the punishment than to have deserved it.
      • I, i, 62; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler
  • Difficile est, fateor, sed tendit in ardua virtus
    et talis meriti gratia maior erit.
    • 'Tis hard, I admit, yet virtue aims at what is hard, and gratitude for such a service will be all the greater.
      • II, ii, 111-112; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler
  • Turpe quidem dictu, sed, si modo vera fatemur,
    vulgus amicitias utilitate probat.
    • Shameful it is to say, yet the common herd, if only we admit the truth, value friendships by their profit.
      • II, iii, 7-8; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler
  • Nec facile invenias multis in milibus unum,
    virtutem pretium qui putet esse sui.
    ipse decor, recte facti si praemia desint,
    non movet, et gratis paenitet esse probum.
    nil nisi quod prodest carum est.
    • Nor can one easily find among many thousands a single man who considers virtue its own reward. The very glory of a good deed, if it lacks reward, affects them not; unrewarded uprightness brings them regret. Nothing but profit is prized.
      • II, iii, 11-15; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler. Variant translation of gratis paenitet esse probum, in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th ed. (1980), p. 114: "It is annoying to be honest to no purpose."
  • Adde quod ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
    emollit mores nec sinit esse feros.
    • Note too that a faithful study of the liberal arts humanizes character and permits it not to be cruel.
      • II, ix, 47
  • Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.
    • Though strength be lacking, yet the will is to be praised.
      • III, iv, 79
  • Laeta fere laetus cecini, cano tristia tristis.
    • Gay was oft my song when I was gay, sad it is now that I am sad.
      • III, ix, 35; translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler
  • Gutta cavat lapidem
    • Drops of water hollow out a stone.
      • IV, x, 5; Arthur Leslie Wheeler translation

Quotes about Ovid

  • 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.
  • One often hears: that is good but it belongs to yesterday. But I say: yesterday has not yet been born. It has not yet really existed. I want Ovid, Pushkin, and Catullus to live once more, and I am not satisfied with the historical Ovid, Pushkin, and Catullus.
    • Osip Mandelstam THE WORD AND CULTURE translated into English in The complete critical prose (1997)
  • Here are only numbers ratified; but, for the elegancy, facility, and golden cadence of poesy, caret. Ovidius Naso was the man: and why, indeed, Naso, but for smelling out the odoriferous flowers of fancy, the jerks of invention?
  • To my fancy, the first poet of all antiquity.
    • Gilbert Wakefield, letter to Charles James Fox (20 September 1799), in Correspondence of the Late Gilbert Wakefield with the Late Right Honourable Charles James Fox (1813), p. 83; quoted in ‎E. J. Kenney's introduction to Ovid's Metamorphoses, trans. A. D. Melville (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 19.
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