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Ovid – A poet who rose above a paranoid?

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An illumination of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from a manuscript of William Caxton’s translation of the Metamorphoses (1480)—the first in the English language (via Wikipedia)

Ovid (43 BCE-17 CE) was a Roman poet born in Sulmo, whose full name is Publius Ovidius Naso.

Originally headed for a career in law, Ovid spent most of his time engaged in verse. His tragedy Medea was followed by major poems, such as the Ars Amatoria (Art of Love) and the popular classic Metamorphoses. Metamorphoses tells tales about gods and goddesses who are always changing shape (and moods); it also contains a creation myth and remains a major source book for classical mythology.

In 8 CE the Roman Emperor Augustus exiled Ovid to Tomi by the Black Sea.

He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, he was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, “a poem and a mistake”, but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars.¹

We don’t know if he was exiled for some larger political issue or possibly due to something more personal. Maybe both. Scared, paranoid tyrants arguably persecute perceived threats when their unresolved psychological complexes are activated, often unwittingly by the one receiving their wrath.

Whatever the cause, Ovid’s exile did not prevent him from becoming one of the greatest influences in art, literature and verse right through into the Middle Ages. And he is still required reading for many university courses in Classics and Religious Studies.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovid

Related » Aphrodite, Shapeshifter

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