By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jewels from the Poet Ovid

One benefit of the forced march ("magnum iter") through a long reading list of Latin authors is to collect a few nuggets or jewels here and there ("passim").  Below are a few from Publius Ovidius Naso (better known as "Ovid," 43 B.C. to 17 A.D.). All quotations are from Book I of his Art of Love (Ars Amatoria). When you read this work, you realize how little human nature and the relation between the sexes have changed. (The Latin text is from the Loeb Classical Library edition, whose English translation by Mozley & Goold was consulted.)

1. They come to see [others], they come so that they themselves may be seen (Spectatum veniunt, veniunt spectentur ut ipsae), I.99 (Reminds me of going to Starbucks.);

2. Small things capture frivolous minds (Parva leves capiunt animos), I.159 (I think of people who fuss over menus and other trivial matters);

3. And is it so much to be able to do without a particular man? (Et quantum est uno posse carere viro), I.328 (Apparently, for many, it is, even when the consequences are fatal.);

4. Often, a silent look has its own voice and words (Saepe tacens vocem verbaque vultus habet), I.574 (If you have experienced it, you understand the verse.);

5. Both Fortune and Love ("Venus") aid the bold man (audentem Forsque Venusque iuvat), I.608, (How true! But the bold man had better consider carefully if the quarry is worth catching.);

6. So that you may gain her, ask: she desires only to be asked (Ut potiare, roga: tantum cupit illa rogari), I. 711 (An application of the general rule--ask and you shall receive.);

7. Let love enter, hidden by the name of friendship (Intret amicitiae nomine tectus amor), l. 720 (Ovid is being a bit cynical, but we can extract a more profound truth.);

8. So it happens, that she who feared to entrust herself to an honorable man, [then], as something common and cheap, goes to the embraces of an inferior man (Inde fit ut quae se timuit committere honesto, Vilis ad amplexus inferioris eat), I.769-70 (Wow! These lines are a powerful psychological mirror.)


Why study classics? You just got an answer.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)