In the first century BCE, Ovid wrote his three famous books, “Ars Amatoria.”
“The Art of Love” poems by Ovid painted a fascinating picture of the decadent and fashionable lives of the Roman upper class. He assisted upper-class Roman men and women in mastering the art of love and sexual relations. In his poems, he instructs men and women on how to find a lover, win them over, and keep them in love.
In the study of the art of love, his poetic writings on matters of love have established a landmark. His wise counsel on how to handle their love affairs has been passed down through the ages, cultures, and generations.
Henry Riley translated Ovid’s books of “Ars Amatoria” into English in 1885. It was a literal prose translation rather than the original poetry (Riley, 1885/2014).
A recent translation of Ovid’s “Ars Amatoria” by Anthony Kline appeared in 2001. It may be difficult to read these books without a knowledge of Roman culture, as modern men and women do not live in the same era as the Romans (Kline, 2001).
Nonetheless, I think there is much that modern men and women can learn from looking backward to ancient ways of thinking about the art of love. Ovid made a lot of profound statements about love that hold true even today. Consequently, I believe that these books are still fascinating and enjoyable to read.
Because of this, I’ve posted on this love blog some insightful passages from wonderful Ovid’s love books in Anthony Kline’s translations.
Modern men can find interesting ideas for their love relationships in the wonderful poems in Book 1 that teach them “How to Find Her” (Part 2), “How to Win Her” (Part 9), “How to Make Promises of Love to Her” (Part 12), “How to Entice and Seduce a Woman” (Parts 13 and 14), “How to Make Promises and Deceive” (Part 16), “How Tears and Kisses Help in Love Affairs” (Part 17), “Psychology Love Tricks in the Art of Love” (Parts 18-19), and others.
The poems in Book II provide additional pieces of love advice for men. Parts V, VI, and VII, for example, talk about how vital it is in love affairs (a) not to be faint-hearted, (b) win over the servants, and (c) give her little tasteful gifts.
In Book II, Ovid also says how to Be Gentle and Good-Tempered in Love Relations (Part III), Let Her Miss You, but Not For Long (Part X), how to Stir Her Jealousy in Their Art of Love (Part XIII), Be Wise and Ready to Suffer in Love (Part XIV).
Here is Part XVII of Ovid’s Book II, advising men to be wise and not mention her faults. She should know she is perfect.
Do Not Mention Her Faults, Part XVII of Book II:
“Above all beware of reproaching girls for their faults,
it’s useful to ignore so many things.
Andromeda’s dark complexion was not criticised
by Perseus, who was borne aloft by wings on his feet.
Andromache by all was rightly thought too tall:
Hector was the only one who spoke of her as small.
Grow accustomed to what’s called bad, you’ll call it good:
Time heals much: new love feels everything.
While a new-grafted twig’s growing in the green bark,
struck by the lightest breeze, it may fall:
Later, hardened by time, it resists the winds,
and the strong tree will bear adopted wealth.
Time itself erases all faults from the flesh,
and what was a flaw, ceases to make you pause.
A new ox-hide makes nostrils recoil:
tamed by familiarity, the odour fades.
An evil may be sweetened by its name: let her be ‘dark’
whose pigment’s blacker than Illyrian pitch:
if she squints, she’s like Venus: if she’s grey, Minerva:
let her be ‘slender’, who’s truly emaciated:
call her ‘trim’, who’s tiny, ‘full-bodied’ if she’s gross,
and hide the fault behind the nearest virtue.”
Kline, A. S. (2001). Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love.