Women Can Play the Game of Love with “Cloak and Dagger”

Quotes from Ovid’s “Ars Amatoria” imply that women should play the game of love with a “cloak and dagger” approach.

The famous Roman poet Ovid, who lived from 43 BCE to 17 CE, penned “Ars Amatoria” (The Art of Love). His poetry trilogy “Ars Amatoria” has been a classic text on love affairs in many countries among educated and affluent readers for centuries. Humanities scholars in the West have read and praised Ovid’s texts on “The Art of Love.”

Ovid counseled Roman men and women on love in his poems. He teaches them how to engage their partners’ interests and maintain love affairs. He also teaches them how to play the art of love in their interpersonal encounters.

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

The Romans lived in a different cultural era and had a different way of life than we do. But I believe that Ovid’s poetry can teach educated men and women something interesting and useful about love. This is why I placed excerpts from these books on this website for those interested in learning more about how ancient Romans lived and loved. Some of Ovid’s love advice and suggestions are still relevant today.

His poetry collection “Ars Amatoria” has good advice for modern men and women on how to find, attract, and keep a partner in love affairs. On the one hand, in his first two books of poetry, Ovid tells men how to talk to, court, and seduce women in a relationship. On the other hand, the third book tells women what they should do to be attractive and tempting, get men to fall in love with them, and keep those relationships going.

Here Is the Art of Roman Love Posted Previously on Blog Posts

In previous blog posts, I discussed how Ovid’s poetry can aid men in their love lives. These lovely poems cover a wide range of topics, including “how to find her, how to search for love around the dinner-table and on the beach,”  “while at the theatre,” “at the races or circus,” and “what is his task. In addition, Ovid teaches a Roman man that triumphs are good to attract a woman.He gives a man advicehow to captivate a woman,” “how to win her“, “how toseduce her,””how to know her,” “how to be attentive to her,”“how to make promises and deceive,and  Ovid describes how tears, kisses, and taking the lead help in love affairs.

In addition, the blog articles on this website contain Ovid’s advice on women’s love and what women should do in their love affairs. In particular, Ovid teaches women “how to appear,” “how to use makeup,” “how to keep taste and elegance in hair and dress,” “How to be modestly expressive,how to hide defects in appearance,” and how to beware of false lovers.”

Here are the poems for girls and women in Book III of Ovid’s “Ars Amatoria.” Ovid tells them how to play the game of love with “a cloak and a dagger” in their love affairs. As I noted in my first article about Ovid’s “The Art of Love,” his instructional books of poems talked about what love is and how to make love with the art of seduction, manipulation, and intrigue. The game of love with “cloak and dagger,” which is quoted here, ironically illustrates this matter.

Here’s How Ovid Tells Women to Play the Game of Love with “Cloak and Dagger”

“I nearly forgot the skilful ways by which you can

elude a husband, or a vigilant guardian.

let the bride fear her husband:  to guard a wife is right:

it’s fitting, it’s decreed by law, the courts, and modesty.

But for you too be guarded, scarcely released from prison,

who could bear it? Adhere to my religion, and deceive!

Though as many eyes as Argus owned observe you,

you’ll deceive them (if only your will is firm).

How can a guard make sure that you can’t write,

when you’re given all that time to spend washing?

When a knowing maid can carry letters you’ve penned,

concealed in the deep curves of her warm breasts?

When she can hide papers fastened to her calf,

or bear charming notes tied beneath her feet?

The guard’s on the look-out for that, your go-between

offers her back as paper, and takes your words on her flesh.

Also a letter’s safe, and deceives the eye, written with fresh milk;

you read it by scattering it with crushed ashes.

And those traced out with a point wetted with linseed oil,

so that the empty tablet carries secret messages.

Acrisius took care to imprison his daughter, Danae:

but she still made him a grandfather by her sin.

What good’s a guard, with so many theatres in the city,

when she’s free to gaze at horses paired together,

when she sits occupied with the Egyptian heifer’s sistrum,

and goes where male companions cannot go,

when male eyes are banned from Bona Dea’s temple,

except those she orders to enter?”

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

Ovid continues with more advice after that…

“When, with the girls’ clothes guarded by a servant at the door,

the baths conceal so many secret joys,

when, however many times she’s needed, a friend feigns illness,

and however ill she is can leave her bed,

when the false key tells by its name what we should do,

and the door alone doesn’t grant the exits you seek?

And the jailor’s attention’s fuddled with much wine,

even though the grapes were picked on Spanish hills:

then there are drugs that bring deep sleep,

and close eyes overcome by Lethe’s night:

or your maid can rightly detain the wretch with lengthy games,

and be associated herself with long delays.

but why use these tortuous ways and minor rules,

when the least gift will buy a guardian?

Believe me gifts captivate men and gods:

Jupiter himself is pleased with the gifts he’s given.

What can the wise man do, when the fool love’s gifts?

He’ll be silent too when a gift’s accepted.

But let the guard be bought for once and all:

who surrenders to it once, will surrender often.

I remember I lamented, friends are to be feared:

that complaint’s not only true of men.

If you’re credulous, others snatch your joys,

and that hare you started running goes to others.

She too, who eagerly offers room and bed,

believe me, she’s been mine more than once.

Don’t let too beautiful a maid serve you:

she’s often offered herself to me as my lady.”

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