43 BC - 18 AD


Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid) was probably buried in or around the ancient town of Tomis which is now part of Constanta on the Black Sea coast of Romania.

Scythians at Ovid's Tomb by Johann Heinrich Schönfeld  c.1640

Over the centuries there has been much interest in finding Ovid's tomb but the exact location has never been determined. Some have suggested that Ovid's ashes were actually taken back to Rome and interred there.

Ovid is regarded as one of the most significant of the Roman poets - alongside Virgil and Horace. He was a prolific writer and some of his most important works include: Heroides (comprising 14 dramatic personae letters from the following goddesses: Penelope, Phyllis, Briseis, Phaedra, Oenone, Hypsipyle, Dido, Hermione, Deianeira, Ariadne, Canace, Medea, Laodamia and Hypermestra), Amores (3 books of love poems), Ars Amatoria (mock didactic verse), Fasti (based on the Roman calender January - June) and the Metamorphoses (or transformations - which comprised 15 books written in dactylic hexameter couplets and dealing with up to 250 myths). The first book of Metamorphoses is similar in some ways to a pre-Christian Genesis.

contains a vast body of material and it had a profound influence on English literature. Shakespeare drew on The Pyramus and Thisbe section from the fourth book and used it in both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet John Gower also used it in Confessio Amantis. Swift drew on Baucis and Philemon, Prior on Daphne and Apollo and Swinburne on Atalanta in Calydon to name but a few.

Metamosphoses has also been widely translated. Chaucer was heavily influenced by the Ovide moralisé  - a huge French text written by Pierre Bersuire - which moralised the original Latin text and helped to bring it to a wider audience. More recently Ted Hughes translated Metamorphoses in his Tales from Ovid.

Ovid was born in Sulmo in the Apennine valley east of Rome of wealthy parents. He was educated in rhetoric and held various minor posts before abandoning them to devote himself to poetry between 29-25 BC.

In AD 8 Ovid was exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea by the emperor Augustus. It is not known for certain why he was exiled but there may have been a scandal connected with the emperor's granddaughter. Ovid describes the problem as carmen et error ( 'a poem and a mistake'). It is felt that Fasti remained uncompleted because Ovid did not have access to the libraries of Rome while in exile.

While in Tomis Ovid continued to write and in particular he produced  the Epistulae ex Ponto  - which were poems directed at friends back in Rome appealing to them to request that the emperor end his exile; to no avail.

Below are the opening lines of the Metamorphoses:

Of bodies chang'd to various forms, I sing:
Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring,
Inspire my numbers with celestial heat;
'Till I my long laborious work compleat:
And add perpetual tenour to my rhimes,
Deduc'd from Nature's birth, to Caesar's times.
The Creation of Before the seas, and this terrestrial ball,
The World And Heav'n's high canopy, that covers all,
One was the face of Nature; if a face:
Rather a rude and indigested mass:
A lifeless lump, unfashion'd, and unfram'd,
Of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos nam'd.

(From Metamorphoses, Book 1)





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