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Ille poetarum ingeniosissimus.-Senec, N. Q. III. c. 27.



P. Ovidius Naso a. d. XII. Kal. April. Sulmone in Pelignis natus est; quo anno bello Mutinensi P. Hirtius et C. Pansa Coss. diem obiere. Honoribus Romæ functus: fuit enim arbiter et triumvir, et iudicium inter centum viros dixit. Sub Plotio Grippo literis eruditus: deinde apud Marcellum Fuscum Rhetorem, cuius auditor fuit, optime declamavit. Admirator plurimum Porcii Latronis fuit, quem adeo studiose audivit, ut multas eius sententias in versus suos transtulerit. Bonus declamator et ingeniosus habitus est, et carmine et prosa licenter scripsit, ingenii sui adeo amator, ut ex iis quæ dixit, etiam precantibus amicis, nihil mutaverit. In carminibus vitia sua non ignoravit, sed amavit. Militavit sub M. Varrone. Iulio Græcino Grammatico familiaris. Tandem cum venisset in suspicionem Augusti, creditus sub nomine Corinnæ amasse Iuliam, in exsilium missus est; exsulavit Tomis, ibique decessit annum agens LX. novissimum.




THE personal history of Ovid is better known to us than that of any other Roman poet, except Horace. We are indebted for our information to various incidental notices scattered over his works, but principally to a short autobiography in Elegiac verse (Trist. IV. x.) which will be found in the present collection.

PUBLIUS OVIDIUS NASO was born on the 20th of March, (the second day of the Quinquatria) B. C. 43, the year in which the battles fought against Antony under the walls of Modena proved fatal to Hirtius and Pansa, in which the second triumvirate was formed, and in which Cicero perished. The place of his nativity was Sulmo (Sulmone,) a town in the cold moist hills of the Peligni, one of the Sabine clans, situated at a short distance to the S. E. of Corfinium, about 90 miles from Rome. His father was of an ancient equestrian family, and Publius was the second son, his elder brother being exactly twelve months his senior. They were both brought up at Rome, their education was superintended by the most distinguished masters, and at the usual period each assumed the manly gown. The elder, a youth of great promise, devoted himself with zeal to the study of eloquence, but his career was short, for he died in his twenty-first year.

Publius repaired to Athens for the purpose of finishing his studies; at this or some subsequent period, he visited, in the train of Macer, the gorgeous cities of Asia, and on his return home, passed nearly a year in Sicily. From a very early period he had displayed a decided


1 Nec peto, quas petii quondam studiosus Athenas,
Oppida non Asiæ, non loca visa prius.-Trist. I. il. 77.

taste for poetical composition, He soon manifested a rooted aversion to the jarring contentions of the forum, and notwithstanding the remonstrances of his father, gradually abandoned public life, and devoted himself exclusively to the cultivation of the muses. When a very young man, he exercised the functions of triumvir, decemvir,' centumvir,2 and judicial arbiter, but never attempted to rise to any of the higher offices of state, which would have entitled him to the rank and privileges of a senator.

He was married three times. His first wife, whom he wedded while still almost a boy, he describes as unworthy of his affection; his second was of blameless character, but from her also he was soon divorced. One of these two ladies, we know not which, belonged to the Etrurian tribe, whose chief town was Falerii3 (Civita Castellana.) His third wife was of the noble Fabian family. To her he was deeply


Again in E. ex. P. II. x. addressed to Macer, at line 21.

Te duce, magnificas Asia perspeximus urbes.
Trinacris est oculis, te duce, nota meis.
Vidimus Ætnæa cœlum splendescere flamma;
Suppositus monti quam vomit ore gigas:
Hennæosque lacus et olentia stagna Palici,

Quaque suis Cyanen miscet Anapus aquis.
Nec procul hinc Nymphen, quæ, dum fugit Elidis amnem,

Tecta sub æquorea nunc quoque currit aqua.
Hic mihi labentis pars anni magna peracta est.
Eheu, quam dispar est locus ille Getis!

See also Fast. Vl. 423.

1 Inter bis quinos usus honore viros.-Fast. 1V. 384.

2 Nec male commissa est nobis fortuna reorum,

Lisque decem decies inspicienda viris.

Res quoque privatas statui sine crimine iudex:

Deque mea fassa est pars quoque victa fide.-Trist. 11. 93.

3 Cum mihi pomiferis coniux foret orta Faliscis

Mænia contigimus victa, Camille, tibi.-Amor. III. xiii. 1.

4 In E. ex P. I. ii. 138, addressed to Fabius Maximus, he says, Ille ego, de vestra cui data nupta domo,

from E. ex P. II. xi. 13, we learn that the Rufus to whom it is addressed was her maternal uncle.

Sponte quidem, per seque mea est laudabilis uxor;
Admonitu melior fit tamen illa tuo.

Namque quod Hermiones Castor fuit, Hector luli,

Hoc ego te lætor coniugis esse meæ,

and from E. ex P. II. x. 10, that she was somehow connected with Macer, to whom he writes,

Vel mea quod coniux non aliena tibi.

She was a widow at the time of her union with Ovid, and her daughter by her first husband married Suillius, the intimate friend of Germanicus Cæsar. "In a letter to this Suillius, E. ex. P. IV. viii. 9, we find the expressions,

Ius aliquod faciunt affinia vincula nobis,

Quæ semper maneant illabefacta precor.
Nam tibi quæ coniux, eadem mihi filia pæne est:
Et quæ te generum, me vocat illa virum.

attached, and she remained fond and true to the last, supporting him by her faithful affection during the misfortunes which darkened the close of his life. His daughter, Perilla, was married twice, and was the mother of two children, one by each husband. His father died at the advanced age of ninety, and the poet was soon after called upon to pay the last rites to his mother likewise.

For a long period fortune had smiled steadily upon Ovid. He was now upwards of fifty years old, the greater part of this time he had spent at Rome, in ease, tranquillity, and happiness. His time was completely at his own disposal, and he could devote what portion of it he pleased to his favourite pursuits; his works were universally popular; he was the companion and friend of all the great political and literary characters of that brilliant epoch; he enjoyed the favour and patronage of the emperor himself. But he was not destined to end his days in peace. Towards the end of A.D. 8, an order was suddenly conveyed to him from Augustus, commanding that he should instantly quit the metropolis, and fix his residence at Tomi, a colony planted among the Getæ, in the midst of barbarous and hostile tribes, on the bleak shore of the Euxine, near the mouth of the Danube. To hear was to obey. Paralysed by grief, he tore himself from the arms of his afflicted wife, and set forth in the dead of winter for the place of his destination, which he reached the following spring.


The cause of this banishment is a problem which has excited the curiosity and exercised the ingenuity of learned men ever since the revival of letters, but it is one which our present sources of knowledge do not enable us to solve. The ostensible reason was the immoral tendency of the Ars Amatoria: to this Ovid frequently alludes, and the second book of the Tristia, which is addressed to Augustus, contains an elaborate apology for that poem. But, even if we set aside the fact that it was published nine years before the period of which we now speak, we are expressly told that there was another and more deadly offence which had roused the wrath of the prince. The language employed in reference to this matter is ever dark and mysterious; but the poet distinctly states that he had seen something which ought never to have met his eye, and constantly urges the plea that his transgression ought to be looked upon as a blunder, or an inadvertence, rather than a crime. His expressions, however, are not only always ambiguous, but not unfrequently inconsistent with each other; at one time he seems inclined to throw the whole blame upon his unlucky poem; at another he insinuates, with little concealment, that this was used

1 The works of Ovid were at this time cast forth from the three great public libraries of Rome: that in the Temple of Apollo Palatinus, that in the Atrium Libertatis, and that in the Porticus Octavia. See Trist. III. i. 59, et seqq.

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