Ovid is not exactly the proper example for Roman greatness. He is the author, after all, of famously lascivious love manuals and erotic poetry, teaching in his Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love) how to pick up girls outside the Forum and generally mocking the pretensions of early imperial Rome, which caused Augustus to exile him in late middle-age. For generations of schoolboys (myself included), Ovid was excluded from the usual high-school cursus authorum romanorum of Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil. Along with the equally off-color Catullus, Ovid had to wait for the supposed maturity of college.

And yet there is no question that Ovid belongs in the first rank of Roman poets. In the closing lines of the Metamorphoses, he predicted that his fame would live on whatever his end, and so it proved to be. His influence was already evident shortly after his death; in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries he surpassed Virgil...

 

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