The three books of Ovid’s poems “Ars Amatoria” taught Roman men and women the art of love. Over the centuries, his clever love suggestions have been passed down through generations and across cultures. Ovid’s poetry educated Romans of affluent social classes on how to entertain love and seduce a lover.

The first two of Ovid’s books offer guidance to men on how to approach women, conduct themselves around them, and make love to them. His love poems are full of wise and interesting advice about how to find a lover, how to get them interested, and how to keep them. 

I think contemporary readers will still find these books fascinating and interesting to read, despite the obvious differences between their lives and those of the ancient Romans. It’s worthwhile to learn from the past when it comes to love. Many of the old maxims are applicable even today. So, I used a number of passages from Anthony Kline’s wonderful translations of Ovid’s works in the articles on this blog (Kline, 2001). 

The remarkable cantos of Book 1 teach men 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),

How to Woo and Seduce a Woman (Parts 13 and 14),

How to Captivate a Woman at Dinner (Part 15),

How to Make Promises and Deceive (Part 16),

How Tears, Kisses, Taking the Lead Can Help in Love Affairs (Part 17),

“Psychology Love Tricks in the Art of Love” (Parts 18-19).

Stir Her Jealousy, Part XIII of Book II:

Here is Part XIII of Ovid’s Book II, advising men to “stir her jealousy,” thus entertaining their art of love.

“Wise Erato, why turn to magic arts?

My chariot’s scraping the inside post.

You who just hid your crimes on my advice,

change course, and on my advice reveal your secrets.

I’m not guilty of fickleness: the curved prow

is not always blown onwards by the same wind.

Now we run to a Thracian northerly, an easterly now,

sometimes a west wind fills our sails, sometimes a south.

Look how the charioteer now slacks the reins,

then skilfully restrains the galloping team.

There are those who don’t like being served with shy kindness:

while love fades if there’s no rival around.

Generally heads are swollen with success,

it’s not easy to be content with the good times.

As a fire with little power, gradually consumed,

hides itself, ashes whitening on its surface,

but the doused flames will flare with a pinch of sulphur,

and the brightness, that was there before, returns:

so when hearts are numbed by slack dullness and security,

love is aroused by some sharp stimulus.

Make her fearful for you: warm her tepid mind:

let her grow pale at evidence of your guilt:

O four times happy, times impossible to count,

is he for whom his wounded girl grieves.

That, when his sins reach her unwilling ears, she’s lost,

and voice and colour flee the unhappy girl.

Let me be him, whose hair the angry woman tears:

let me be him, whose tender cheeks nails seek,

him whom she sees with tears, turns on him tortured eyes,

whom though she can’t live without, she wishes she could.

If you ask how long you should let her lament her hurt,

keep it brief, lest a long delay kindles anger’s force:

Throw your arms straightaway around her snow-white neck,

and let the weeping girl fall on your chest.

Kiss her who weeps, make sweet love to her who weeps,

there’ll be peace: this is the one way anger’s dissolved.

When she’s truly raging, when she seems fixed on war,

then sue for peace in bed, she’ll be gentle.

There Harmony dwells with grounded arms:

there, trust me, is the place where grace is born.

Doves that once fought, now bill and coo,

whose murmur is of caressing words.

At first all things were confused mass without form,

heaven and earth and sea were created one:

soon sky was set above land, earth circled by water,

and random chaos split into its parts:

Forests allowed the creatures a home: air the birds:

fish took shelter in the running streams.

Then the human race wandered the empty wilds,

a thing of naked strength and brutish body:

woods were its home, grass its food, leaves its bed:

and for a long time no man knew another.

They say sweet delights softened savage spirits:

when man and woman rested in one place:

they had no teacher to show them what to do:

Venus did her work without sweet art.

Birds have mates to love: in the midst of waters

a fish will find another to share her joy:

hind follows stag, snake will bind with snake,

bitch clings entwined with some adulterous dog:

ewes delight in being covered: bulls delight in heifers, too,

the snub-nosed she-goat supports her rank mate:

Mares driven to frenzy follow their stallion,

through distant places beyond the branching river.

So act, and offer strong medicine to your angry one:

only this will bring peace to her unhappiness:

this medicine beats Machaon’s drugs: this will reinstate you when you’ve sinned.”

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


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