In the poems of Ars Amatoria, Ovid taught Roman men and women the art of love. For example, in one of his poems, he advised a woman that she should enjoy her body in bed.

The Roman poet Ovid lived in the Roman Empire from 43 BCE to 17 CE. He was well known among educated and aristocratic Roman citizens. Three books of poems, “Ars Amatoria” (The Art of Love), made him especially famous. The books of Ars Amatoria were an enthralling depiction of the hedonistic and refined lifestyles of the Roman aristocracy at the time.

Ovid instructed men on the art of love. He explained how to find, win, and seduce women, as well as maintain sexual relationships with them. His books also instructed women on how to attract, be lovable to, and maintain relationships with men.

For centuries, “The Art of Love” has been popular among educated and aristocratic people in Western societies. Ovid’s poems of love have been translated into English several times. Among the recent translations were the publication in prose by Henry Riley in 1885 (reprinted on December 16, 2014) and the publication in poetic forms by Anthony Kline in 2001 (Kline, 2001, Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love).

Is Ovid’s Wisdom in “The Art of Love” Still Relevant Today?

Many modern scholars of the humanities and educated people are familiar with his trilogy of poems.

I believe that Ovid’s advice is still relevant today. We must admit that the ancient Romans had a different culture and way of life than we do. However, there are some historically and cross-culturally universal aspects of love. So, modern men and women can still learn interesting and useful lessons about love from Ovid’s poetry. The books’ poetry teaches men and women the art of love, sex, and relationships.

How to Read Ovid’s Art of Love

I’ve included excerpts from his books here for those who want to learn about the lives, love, and relationships of the ancient Romans. Some of Ovid’s love recommendations may appear cynical, ironic, and manipulative. Others reveal useful kernels of the naked truth about love.

I said in my first blog post about Ovid’s “The Art of Love” that his instructional books talk about what love is and how to make love through seduction, manipulation, and intrigue.

Yes, some of Ovid’s recommendations on love may come across as cynical, ironic, and manipulative, yet others reveal useful kernels of the naked truth about love.

Nevertheless, modern men and women can learn helpful tips from his poetry of “Ars Amatoria” on how to find, draw, and keep a partner. On the one hand, Ovid’s first two poetry collections instruct men on how to approach, court, and seduce women. On the other hand, the third book teaches women how to entice men and keep them as lovers by being alluring and seductive.

You can find some other posts with Ovid’s advice interesting and useful for you:

They cover such topics as “how to find her, around the dinner-table and on the beach,” “at the races or circus,” “while at the theatre,” and “what is his task. Ovid explains that triumphs are good to attract a womanand gives advice how to captivate a woman,” “how to seduce her,” “how to win her”,  “how to be attentive to her,” “how to know her,” how to make promises and deceive,”  and how tears, kisses, and taking the lead help in love affairs.”

Ovid’s advice for women teaches women how they should act with men they love. Among other suggestions are “how to use makeup,” “how to appear,” “how to keep taste and elegance in hair and dress,” “how to hide defects in appearance,” “how to be modestly expressive, how to beware of false lovers, how to “try young and older lovers,” how to ”avoid vices and favor poets,” “how to use jealousy and fear in love affairs, make him believe he is loved,” and how to play the game of love with “cloak and dagger.”

The last article of the blog even quotes Ovid’s poetic wisdom, explaining that the way women eat and drink can affect their love affairs.

Here’s another poem for girls and women from Book III of “Ars Amatoria.” Ovid says that a woman should enjoy her body in bed and in sexual relationships.

Ovid Encouraged a Woman to Enjoy her Body in Bed and Sex

“To have been taught more is shameful: but kindly Venus

said: ‘What’s shameful is my particular concern.’

Let each girl know herself: adopt a reliable posture

for her body: one layout’s not suitable for all.

She who’s known for her face, lie there face upwards:

let her back be seen, she who’s back delights.

Milanion bore Atalanta’s legs on his shoulders:

if they’re good looking, that mode’s acceptable.

Let the small be carried by a horse: Andromache,

his Theban bride, was too tall to straddle Hector’s horse.

Let a woman noted for her length of body, 

press the bed with her knees, arch her neck slightly.

She who has youthful thighs, and faultless breasts,

the man might stand, she spread, with her body downwards.

Don’t think it shameful to loosen your hair, like a Maenad,

and throw back your head with its flowing tresses.

You too, whom Lucina’s marked with childbirth’s wrinkles,

like the swift child of Parthia, turn your mount around.

There’s a thousand ways to do it: simple and least effort,

is just to lie there half-turned on your right side.

But neither Phoebus’s tripods nor Ammon’s horn

shall sing greater truths to you than my Muse:

If you trust art’s promise, that I’ve long employed:

my songs will offer you their promise.

Woman, feel love, melted to your very bones,

and let both delight equally in the thing.

Don’t leave out seductive coos and delightful murmurings,

don’t let wild words be silent in the middle of your games.

You too whom nature denies sexual feeling,

pretend to sweet delight with artful sounds.

Unhappy girl, for whom that sluggish place is numb,

which man and woman equally should enjoy.

Only beware when you feign it, lest it shows:

create belief in your movements and your eyes.

When you like it, show it with cries and panting breath:

Ah! I blush, that part has its own secret signs.

She who asks fondly for a gift after love’s delights,

can’t want her request to carry any weight.

Don’t let light into the room through all the windows:

it’s fitting for much of your body to be concealed.

The game is done: time to descend, you swans,

you who bent your necks beneath my yoke.

As once the boys, so now my crowd of girls inscribe on your trophies ‘Ovid was my master.’

Kline, A. S. (2001). Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love.

Victor Karandashev

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