User:Jahsonic/AHE/Greco-Roman/Ovid and the loves of the Gods
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In our monotheistic concept of God, God created man in his image and likeness, but in the polytheism of the Greeks and Romans the people created the gods in their likeness. Nothing human is alien to the gods and no one has described the gods better than Ovid (43 BC. - 17 AD). He made his début at the age of eighteen with his Amores, but had previously made a name for himself as a love poet.
He is wealthy and can devote himself entirely to poetry. His collection Amores are followed by the Ars Amatoria (The art of love) and his best-known work, The Metamorphoses. He can afford a luxurious and dissolute life in the cosmopolitan metropolis Rome and is a bona fide society figure. The poet marries three times, and is survided by his last wife.
Despite his success, and for reasons which remain unclear, he is exiled at the age of 51 by Emperor Augustus to the distant shores of the Black Sea. It is possible that the emperor considered the poet too light-hearted but others believe that a conspiracy theory was the reason for his exile. Although political subversion and sexual freedom often go hand in hand it is generally supposed that his exile was for political reasons rather than censorship. As an exile in a remote corner of the Roman world, languishing amidst what he called "the barbarians", the frivolous Ovid city man leads a desolate and lonely existence. Even his wife had remained in Rome. Without ever being rehabilitated, he dies in exile at the age of 60. His self-written epitaph reads:
- I that lie here, the bard of playful love,
- The poet Ovid, perished for my play.
- Oh passing lover, scorn not thou to pray
- That no ill chance my restful bones may move.
- Tristia tr. via Ovid and his influence Edward Kennard Rand
Fortunately, his oeuvre almost entirely survived. Two works are particularly relevant to our research. The Metamorphoses and the Ars amatoria. The Metamorphoses tells of the love adventures of the gods and the Ars amatoria is the first book of sex education. Neither uses explicit language, which in any case cannot be found in the work of Ovid, no direct references to mentula nor cunnus, the Latin terms for cock and cunt.
In the Metamorphoses, the gods are not depicted as exalted beings . Ovid describes them in a playful manner as ordinary mortals, with typical human foibles and amorous whims. The epic poem describes the creation and history of the world according to Greco-Roman mythology. Gods, demigods and mortals are constantly undergoing dramatic transformations (metamorphoses) and shifted into plants, flowers, trees, rocks, clouds, rivers and animals. Their bizarre behaviour is easily explained; many of them are indeed plagued by the arrows of Eros. Bewitched by love, they are not their ordinary selves.
Some of the more sexual stories are that in which the nymph Daphne is changed into a laurel tree to escape an impending rape by Apollo. Or the story of the hunter Actaeon who is turned into a deer after he had spied on the naked goddess Diana. As a deer he is torn to pieces by his own hounds. Serves him right.