Roman culture can teach modern men how to captivate a woman at dinner with their personal charm just by looking bold and presentable. Here is what the Roman poet Ovid advised in part 15 of his “Ars Amatoria.”
Ovid, a Roman poet from the second century, wrote “Ars Amatoria” about the art of love in three volumes. He depicted how people of the upper classes in the ancient Roman Empire of that time appreciated their lives. They highly regarded the art of love and time spent on sexual adventures, which were full of sensual and hedonistic delights.
Ovid’s Latin “Ars Amatoria” has been translated into English as “The Art of Love” and appreciated by educated people in the following historical periods across many cultures.
The two versions of the text of “The Art of Love” are currently available online for interested readers. The one from 1885 was a literal English translation in prose by an English antiquary and renowned translator of antique literature, Henry Riley (1816–1878). It was posted online in 2014. Another one was written in English verse at the end of the 20th century by the English poet and translator of classical Roman poems, Anthony Kline. It was published online in 2001 .
Even though modern people live in a different era and society than the ancient Romans, they can still enjoy these books. I’ve published excerpts from these books on this website for people interested in cross-cultural love wisdom.
The poetry of “Ars Amatoria” offers men and women advice on finding and keeping a partner. Ovid’s first two books of poems detail how to meet, flirt with, and make love to a woman.
Ovid’s advice on how to love is still relevant today and can be valuable for modern men and women. A few examples of Ovid’s remarkable verses, translated by Anthony Kline, are posted on this website. They’re quoting the pieces about “What Is His Task” (Part 1), “How to Find Her” (Part 2), “Search for Love While Walking” (Part 3), “Search for Love while at the Theatre” (Part 4), “Search for Love at the Races or Circus” (Part 5), “Triumphs that Are Good to Attract a Woman” (Part 6), “Search for Love around the Dinner-Table and on the Beach” (Parts 7 and 8), “How to Win Her” (Part 9), “How to Know the Maid” (Part 10), “How to Be Attentive to Her” (Part 11), “How to Make Promises of Love to Her” (Part 12), and “How to Woo and Seduce a Woman” (Parts 13 and 14).
Here is Part 15, Teaching a Roman Man How to Captivate a Woman Just by Looking Bold at Dinner
Here is the poetic advice of Ovid on how to captivate a woman at dinner:
“Ah, Bacchus calls to his poet: he helps lovers too,
and supports the fire with which he is inflamed.
The frantic Cretan girl wandered the unknown sands,
that the waters of tiny sea-borne Dia showed.
Just as she was, from sleep, veiled by her loose robe,
barefoot, with her yellow hair unbound,
she called, for cruel Theseus, to the unhearing waves,
her gentle cheeks wet with tears of shame.
She called, and wept as well, but both became her,
she was made no less beautiful by her tears.
Now striking her sweet breast with her hands, again and again,
she cried: ‘That faithless man’s gone: what of me, now?
What will happen to me?’ she cried: and the whole shore
echoed to the sound of cymbals and frenzied drums.
She fainted in terror, her next words were stifled:
no sign of blood in her almost lifeless body.
Behold! The Bacchantes with loose streaming hair:
Behold! The wanton Satyrs, a crowd before the god:
Behold! Old Silenus, barely astride his swaybacked mule,
clutching tightly to its mane in front.
While he pursues the Bacchae, the Bacchae flee and return,
as the rascal urges the mount on with his staff.
He slips from his long-eared mule and falls headfirst:
the Satyrs cry: ‘Rise again, father, rise,’
Now the God in his chariot, wreathed with vines,
curbing his team of tigers, with golden reins:
the girl’s voice and colour and Theseus all lost:
three times she tried to run, three times fear held her back.
She shook, like a slender stalk of wheat stirred by the wind,
and trembled like a light reed in a marshy pool.
To whom the god said: ‘See, I come, more faithful in love:
have no fear: Cretan, you’ll be bride to Bacchus.
Take the heavens for dowry: be seen as heavenly stars:
and guide the anxious sailor often to your Cretan Crown.’
He spoke, and leapt from the chariot, lest she feared
his tigers: the sand yielded under his feet:
clasped in his arms (she had no power to struggle),
he carried her away: all’s easily possible to a god.
Some sing ‘O Hymenaeus’, some ‘Bacchus, euhoe!’
So on the sacred bed the god and his bride meet.
When Bacchus’s gifts are set before you then,
and you find a girl sharing your couch,
pray to the father of feasts and nocturnal rites
to command the wine to bring your head no harm.
It’s alright here to speak many secret things,
with hidden words she’ll feel were spoken for her alone:
and write sweet nothings in the film of wine,
so your girl can read them herself on the table:
and gaze in her eyes with eyes confessing fire:
you should often have silent words and speaking face.
Be the first to snatch the cup that touched her lips,
and where she drank from, that is where you drink:
and whatever food her fingers touch, take that,
and as you take it, touch hers with your hand.
Let it be your wish besides to please the girl’s husband:
it’ll be more useful to you to make friends.
If you cast lots for drinking, give him the better draw:
give him the garland you were crowned with.
Though he’s below you or beside you, let him always be served first:
don’t hesitate to second whatever he says.
It’s a safe well-trodden path to deceive in a friend’s name,
though it’s a safe well-trodden path, it’s a crime.
That way the procurer procures far too much,
and reckons to see to more than he was charged with.
You’ll be given sure limits for drinking by me:
so pay attention to your mind and feet.
Most of all beware of starting a drunken squabble,
and fists far too ready for a rough fight.
Eurytion the Centaur died, made foolish by the wine:
food and drink are fitter for sweet jests.
If you’ve a voice, sing: if your limbs are supple, dance:
and please, with whatever you do that’s pleasing.
And though drunkenness is harmful, it’s useful to pretend:
make your sly tongue stammer with lisping sounds,
then, whatever you say or do that seems too forward,
it will be thought excessive wine’s to blame.
And speak well of your lady, speak well of the one she sleeps with:
but silently in your thoughts wish the man ill.
Then when the table’s cleared, the guests are free,
the throng will give you access to her and room.
Join the crowd, and softly approach her,
let fingers brush her thigh, and foot touch foot.
Now’s the time to speak to her: boorish modesty
fly far from here: Chance and Venus help the daring.
Not from my rules your eloquence will come:
desire her enough, you’ll be fluent yourself.
Your’s to play the lover, imitate wounds with words:
use whatever skill you have to win her belief.
Don’t think it’s hard: each think’s herself desired:
the very worst take’s pleasure in her looks.
Yet often the imitator begins to love in truth,
often, what was once imagined comes to be.
O, be kinder to the ones who feign it, girls:
true love will come, out of what was false.
Now secretly surprise her mind with flatteries,
as clear water undermines the hanging bank.
Never weary of praising her face, her hair,
her elegant fingers, and her slender feet.
Even the chaste like their beauty to be commended:
her form to even the virgin’s pleasing and dear.
Why is losing the contest in the Phrygian woods
a cause of shame to Juno and Pallas still?
Juno’s peacock shows his much-praised plumage:
if you watch in silence, he’ll hide his wealth again.
Race-horses between races on the testing course, love it when necks are patted, manes are combed.”
Kline, A. S. (2001). Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love.
I believe that these beautiful verses and sage advice from the Roman poet Ovid are just as applicable to modern men as they were to ancient Roman men.