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PUBLIUS OVIDIUS NASO was born at Sulmo, a town of the Peligni, in 43 B.C., the year of the battles of Mutina, in which the Consuls Hirtius and Pansa fell. He belonged to an old equestrian family, and was carefully educated for public life, to which however he had a strong aversion, and after holding the offices of triumvir, decemvir and centumvir finally abandoned the forum for the pursuit of poetry.
He was married three times; first, when little more than a boy, to an unworthy person; from his second wife, though a lady of spotless character, he was soon separated; the third remained faithful to him through life. He had one daughter, named Perilla, as is usually assumed from one of his poems.
During his life at Rome he produced a number of poetical works, one of which, the Ars Amatoria, of an immoral tendency, was the ostensible cause of his banishment, which took place A.D. 8, when he was suddenly ordered by Augustus to leave Rome for Tomi, a colony situated in the territory of the Getae, on the cold shore of the Euxine (see Selection XII.) Ovid frequently alludes to a further, though involuntary offence he had committed, but what it was is not known. His punishment was the milder form of banishment, or relegatio, so his property was left to him and carefully managed by his wife. Nine years he lingered in this miserable place; his abject entreaties could procure from the Emperor no mitigation of his penalty, and here he died in his sixtieth year.
A large number of poems are attributed to Ovid, of which the most important are the following, in the probable order of their composition :
I. The Heroides or Epistolae Heroidum, a collection of four
teen imaginary letters by mythical heroines to their absent lovers.
II. The Amores, Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris.
III, The Metamorphoses, a collection of mythological stories of transformations in fifteen books, completed but not elaborated at the time of Ovid's exile (see Selection XIII.) It is the only poem in Heroic metre attributed to him with any certainty, the rest being Elegiac.
IV. The Fasti, a poetical account of the Roman Calendar, recording the festivals celebrated on particular days, and the connected legends. A book is devoted to each month, but the first six books only, as far as we know, were composed, the work being interrupted by the author's banishment.
V. The Tristia in five books and the Epistolae ex Ponto in four, containing altogether 96 elegies, were poems written either at Tomi or on the journey thither, filled with complaints of the poet's hard lot and entreaties for pardon or assistance.
SELECTIONS FROM OVID
(ELEGIACS AND HEXAMETERS).
[EPIST. VII. 111-125.]
Dido, Queen of Carthage, recounts her misfortunes-the murder of her husband Sychaeus, her own narrow escape from her brother Pygmalion, the building of her city disturbed by hostile attacks. She is surrounded by foes to whom Aeneas may as well give her up, impious man, for all his boasted piety. His divine command to go is a delusion; she prays him to remain, and unite his people and fortunes with hers.
Durat in extremum, vitaeque novissima nostrae
Occidit internas coniunx mactatus ad aras,
Exsul agor, cineresque viri patriamque relinquo,
Applicor ignotis, fratrique elapsa fretoque
Urbem constitui, lateque patentia fixi
Bella tument: bellis peregrina et femina temptor,
Mille procis placui, qui me coiere querentes
Quid dubitas vinctam Gaetulo tradere larbae?