The trilogy “Ars Amatoria,” or “The Art of Love,” by Roman poet Ovid is well-known among educated people and scholars studying love. The books show how the aristocracy in the ancient Roman Empire lived a life of sophisticated style and pleasure.
The author’s beautiful words about love are full of good and clever advice for men about how to look for a woman and for women about how to keep a man. The books also teach the art of amorous seduction and intrigue.
I think that some of his ideas are still useful and would be interesting for you to know.
When Ovid’s books were translated into English in 1885, they were translated literally into prose instead of poetry. When their most recent translation of the books came out in 2001, these were poetic translations of verses. I posted some excerpts from those in my earlier articles 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).
Here is Part 5, telling Roman men and women how to…
Search for Love While at the Races or the Circus
“Don’t forget the races, those noble stallions:
the Circus holds room for a vast obliging crowd.
No need here for fingers to give secret messages,
nor a nod of the head to tell you she accepts:
You can sit by your lady: nothing’s forbidden,
press your thigh to hers, as you can do, all the time:
and it’s good the rows force you close, even if you don’t like it,
since the girl is touched through the rules of the place.
Now find your reason for friendly conversation,
and first of all engage in casual talk.
Make earnest enquiry whose those horses are:
and rush to back her favourite, whatever it is.
When the crowded procession of ivory gods goes by,
you clap fervently for Lady Venus:
if by chance a speck of dust falls in the girl’s lap,
as it may, let it be flicked away by your fingers:
and if there’s nothing, flick away the nothing:
let anything be a reason for you to serve her.
If her skirt is trailing too near the ground,
lift it, and raise it carefully from the dusty earth:
Straightaway, the prize for service, if she allows it,
is that your eyes catch a glimpse of her legs.
Don’t forget to look at who’s sitting behind you,
that he doesn’t press her sweet back with his knee.
Small things please light minds: it’s very helpful
to puff up her cushion with a dextrous touch.
And it’s good to raise a breeze with a light fan,
and set a hollow stool beneath her tender feet.
And the Circus brings assistance to new love,
and the scattered sand of the gladiator’s ring.
Venus’ boy often fights in that sand,
and who see wounds, themselves receive a wound.
While talking, touching hands, checking the programme,
and asking, having bet, which one will win,
wounded he groans, and feels the winged dart,
and himself becomes a part of the show he sees.
When, lately, Caesar, in mock naval battle,
exhibited the Greek and Persian fleets,
surely young men and girls came from either coast,
and all the peoples of the world were in the City?
Who did not find one he might love in that crowd? Ah, how many were tortured by an alien love!”