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OVIDE, OVYDE. Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 B.C.-A.D. 17 or 18, was born at Sulmo and died in exile at Tomi. He tells the story of his life in Tristia 4.10. He studied rhetoric in Rome because his father wanted him to be a lawyer, but after holding a few minor posts, he abandoned law for poetry. Married three times, he had one daughter. With the publication of Ars amatoria (The Art of Love) in c. 1 B.C. he became popular and famous. In A.D. 8 Augustus banished him to Tomi for reasons not quite clear. Ovid says that he was exiled because of a poem (carmen, possibly Ars amatoria) and because of an error or indiscretion. Repeated appeals to Augustus and, later, Tiberius, brought no relief, and he died in exile. The following are his works in approximate (but uncertain) order:

1. Amores (The Loves), in three books, consisting of love elegies influenced by Propertius.
2. Heroides, or Epistulae heroidum (The Heroines, or Heroines's Letters), letters from certain famous women to false lovers or absent husbands.
3. Medicamine faciei femineae (Face Cosmetics for Women), a poem on cosmetics.
4. Ars amatoria (The Art of Love), books 1 and 2 written for men, book 3 added for women at their request.
5. Remedia amoris (The Remedies of Love), a pretended recantation of the previous work.
6. Metamorphoses (The Metamorphoses), in fifteen books, each episode describing or alluding to a change of shape, generally from human form to that of beasts or plants.
7. Fasti (Feasts), a calendar of Roman festivals.
8. Tristia (Sorrow), five books of poems giving the story of his life, describing his exile and defending Ars amatoria.
9. Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters from Pontus), four books of poems from various periods of his life.
10. Medea (a play), Ibis, and Nux said to be spurious works.

The twelfth-century writer Arnulf of Orleans prefixed to his glosses on the Metamorphoses the first "life" of the poet with the following order of his works: Heroides, Sine titulo (Amores), Ars amatoria, Remedia amoris, Fasti, Tristia, Metamorphoses, Epistolae Ex Ponte, Ibis. Arnulf assigned Metamorphoses to moral philosophy, thus bringing it into the culture of the time. The introduction to each of Ovid's works during the medieval period carried an accessus, or an additional introduction, positing that the work had a moral aim, showing that the commentator thus hoped to escape the church's censure. Medieval commentators gave three reasons for the poet's exile: quod ipse concubuit cum Livia, quod vidit Augustum condormientem puero, quod ipse composuit librum de arte amatoria, "that he slept with Livia, that he saw Augustus sleeping with a boy, that he composed the book on the art of love." (For the medieval view of Ovid's life, see Fausto Ghisalberti, "Mediaeval Biographies of Ovid," JWCI 9 [1946]: 10-59.)

The early Middle Ages were devoted to Virgil because Christian writers interpreted his Eclogue VI as prophecy concerning the birth of Christ; they rejected Ovid mainly because of the forthright erotic nature of his work. By the twelfth century, however, his Fasti and Epistulae ex Ponto were in the school curriculum, and Heroides and Metamorphoses were presented with moral aims. The process of moralizing Ovid had begun as early as the fifth century when Fulgentius (c. A.D. 467-532) presented his fables-with-moral, Mythologiarum libri tres. Theodulphus, the ninth-century bishop of Orleans (d. 821), proposed that truth was hidden by the false covering in Ovid's work and produced his Theodulfi Carmina: de libris quos legere solebam, et qualiter fabulae poetarum a philosophis mystice petractentur (PL 105: 331-332). Theodulf interpreted the gods and heroes as allegorical figures, e.g., Hercules was Virtue, Proteus was Truth. By the eleventh and twelfth centuries library catalogues showed regular increases in copies of Ovid, as well as of Horace and other classical writers. Excerpts from Ovid appear in florilegia, anthologies of passages from classical authors. One florilegium, composed of fourteen books, devoted five of them to Ovid (Survival of the Pagan Gods 91). In the twelfth century Ovid's name was listed for school study, and in the thirteenth century John of Garland's Integumenta on the Metamorphoses appeared. The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries have been called Aetas Ovidiana, the Age of Ovid, because Ovidian sentiments and meters dominate the literature of the period. In the early fourteenth century, between 1316 and 1328, came the Ovide Moralisé by an anonymous writer, done at the request of Queen Jeanne, probably Philip V's wife, Jeanne of Bourgogne (d. 1329), and sometimes attributed to Philippe de Vitry, bishop of Meaux. At the same time, several Ovidian works appeared: Robert Holcott's Moralia super Ovidii Metamorphoses (The Morals of Ovid's Metamorphoses); Petrus Berchorius's Ovidius moralizatus (The Moralized Ovid), of which book fifteen, called De formis figurisque deorum, gives allegorical interpretations of the gods; Thomas Waleys's Metamorphosis Ovidiana moraliter explanata (Ovid's Metamorphoses Explained with Morals); Giovanni dei Bonsogni's Allegorie ed esposizioni delle Metamorphosi (Allegories and Expositions of the Metamorphoses). The allegories interpret Jupiter as Christ, the triple goddess Diana as the Trinity, Juno as the Virgin, and so on. About 1331 John Ridewall composed his Fulgentius metaforalis, based not only on Ovid but also on the Bible and the church fathers. Here Juno is Memoria, Neptune is Intelligencia, Pluto Providence. The late fourteenth-century Libellus de imaginibus deorum of Albericus Philosophus is a recension of the earlier thirteenth-century Mythographus tertius Vaticanus (The Third Vatican Mythographer), identified with Albericus of London. Derived chiefly from Fulgentius, these two works have little Ovidian material.

It is not surprising, then, to find that Ovid's influence is the greatest of any single influence on Chaucer's work, providing plots as well as exempla and commonplaces. The Man of Law says that Chaucer has written more love stories in English than Ovid has in his Epistles, MLI 46-55, referring to Epistulae heroidum. Ovid's Ars amatoria is bound with others in Jankyn's anthology, WBP 680. Alys refers to Ovid for her tale of Midas, WBT 952-982. The Merchant invokes "noble Ovide," who says that love will find a way as it did with Piramus and Tesbee, MerchT 2125-2128. Dame Prudence quotes from Ovid's Remedia amoris, 127-130, Mel 976-977; from Remedia amoris 421-422, Mel 1325; from Amores 1.8.104, Mel 1414-1415. The Man in Black is in such despair that not all the remedies of Ovid can cure him, BD 568, having in mind Remedia amoris. The narrator refers his audience to the "Epistle of Ovyde" for Dido's story, HF I.379-380, found in Heroides VII. Ovyde, as "Venus clerk," stands on a copper pillar, HF III.1486-1492. Chaucer directs his "litel bok" to kiss the footsteps of the great poets, Virgile, Ovyde, Omer, Lucan, and Stace, Tr V.1786-1792. The God of Love asks the poet: "What says 'the Epistle of Ovyde' about faithful wives?" LGW G 305, referring to Epistulae heroidum. The poet refers the reader to Ovyde for Dido's letter to Eneas, LGW 1367 (Heroides VII). Ovyde, in his Epistles, tells Ysiphile's story, LGW 1465 (Heroides VI). The poet asserts that Ovyde has given Medea's letter to Jason in verse, LGW 1678-1679 (Heroides XII). Ovyde is one of the sources for Lucresse's story, LGW 1683 (Fasti II.685-952).

Chaucer refers to the Heroides as Epistles, MLI 53-55; HF I.379; LGW 1465, showing that he knew the full title, Epistulae heroidum or Letters from Heroines. Most of the names mentioned in the Balade, LGW F 249-269, LGW G 202-223, are taken from the Heroides. The story of Jason, Ypsipyle, and Medea, HF I.400 and developed in LGW 1368-1679, is based on Heroides VI and XII. Ariadne's story, HF I.405-426 and LGW 1886-2227, is based on Met VIII.169-182 and Heroides X; that of Phyllis and Demophoon, HF I.388-396 and LGW 2394-2561, is based on Heroides II; that of Ypermestra, LGW 2562-2723, from Heroides XIV. Stories mentioned in HF I.397-404 are based on Heroides III, V, IX.

Chaucer mentions Metamorphoses only once, MLI 93, but he uses it extensively throughout his work. The description of Mercury, KnT 1385-1390, comes from Met I.671-721; the story of King Midas, WBT 952-982, comes from Met XI.174-193; the reference to Echo and Narcissus, FranklT 1951-1952, comes from Met III.407. The source of the Manciple's Tale is Met II.534-632; the story of Ceys and Alcyone, BD 60-770, comes from Met XI.410-768; the reference to Niobe, Tr I.699, although a well-known story, may have been influenced by Met VI. Some of the stories in The Legend of Good Women are taken from the Metamorphoses: Pyramus and Thisbe, Met IV.55-166; Ariadne, Met VII and VIII; Philomela, Met VI.424-605.

Metamorphosios, MLI 93, is a variant of Metamorphoseos, the genitive of Metamorphosis. Early manuscripts and editions of Ovid's work contain the erroneous genitive form instead of the plural Metamorphoseon, as in the eleventh-century manuscript known as Codex Marcianus Florentinus 225 in the Bibliotheca Laurentiana and the manuscript of Guido de Columnis, Liber de Casu Trojae of the Harvard Library, in addition to several others. [Naso: Philippe de Vitry]

Ovide, the French variant of Latin Ovidius, the writer's clan name, appears twice medially, MLI 54; Tr V.1792; twice in final rhyming position, HF I.379, HF III.1487. Ovyde, a spelling variant, appears once initially, WBP 952; six times in medial positions, WBP 982; MerchT 2125; LGW 1367, 1465, 1678, 1683; and twice in final rhyming position, BD 568; LGW G 305. Ovydes, the ME genitive case, appears once initially, WBP 680.

F.M. Fyler, Chaucer and Ovid; F. Ghisalberti, "Medieval Biographies of Ovid." JWCI 9 (1946): 10-59; R.L. Hoffman, Ovid and The Canterbury Tales; Ovid, The Art of Love and Other Poems, ed. and trans. J.H. Mozley; ibid., Fasti, ed. and trans. J.G. Frazer; ibid., Heroides and Amores, ed. and trans. G. Showerman; ibid., Metamorphoses, ed. and trans. F.J. Miller; OCD 763-765; J. Seznec, Survival of the Pagan Gods, trans. B.F. Sessions, 90-95; E.F. Shannon, Chaucer and the Roman Poets, 308-312; Beryl Smalley, English Friars and Antiquity in the Early Fourteenth Century.
Copyright © 1988, 1996 Jacqueline de Weever
Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

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