Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews October 2, 2023
September 25, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
*See discount terms and conditions.
Ovid, one of Rome’s greatest poets, predicted that his fame would live on forever. So far, his prediction has proven accurate. Ovid was born Publius Ovidius Naso on March 20, 43 BCE, a year after the death of Julius Caesar. He was born in Sulmo, to a wealthy family. When Ovid was twelve years old, the battle of Actium put an end to a civil war that had been raging between Anthony and Octavian. Octavian, the victor, became emperor. (He was later known as Augustus.) Because he lived in a time of calm and prosperity, and because of his family’s wealth, Ovid was able to write in peace. Ovid’s work draws on the great literary traditions of Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman cultures. His writing owes a debt to the works of Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Theocritus, Callimachus, Virgil, Tibullus, Horace, and Propertius. Some critics view Ovid’s opus as the culmination of ancient poetry.
After Ovid’s early education in Sulmo, his father sent him to Rome to study rhetoric in preparation for a life in politics. However, Ovid claimed that whenever he tried to write prose, only poetry came out. After a short stint in government, he decided to pursue poetry. His father disapproved of Ovid’s choice and incessantly reminded him of the fate of Homer, who died a poor man. Ovid’s father was wrong to worry, however. Ovid found immediate success. Around 20 BCE, he published the Amores, or Loves, which consisted of three books on the theme of love. Ovid’s next work, the Heroides, or Heroines, took him into uncharted territory. In this novel work, comprising fourteen letters written by legendary women to their husbands or lovers, Ovid puts the narrative in the hands of historically voiceless, mistreated, or overlooked women. Around this time, Ovid also wrote a tragedy about Medea, a popular figure of power, magic, and revenge. This work has not survived, but there is good evidence that Ovid’s contemporaries judged it a success. Quintilian, a Roman critic of literature, and Tacitus, a Roman historian, comment favorably on it.
Ovid continued to experiment. In the next stage of his career, he moved into the realm of didactic (“how to”) poetry. Rather than explore traditional didactic topics such as farming (as Virgil does in Georgics) or science (as Lucretius does in On the Nature of Things), Ovid wrote on the art of seduction and the art of falling out of love. Around 1 BCE or 2 AD, he wrote the Ars Amatoria (Art of Love), Medicamina Faciei Femineae (Makeup for a Women’s Face), and the Remedia Amoris (Remedies of Love). In these works, Ovid consciously played off other, familiar didactic works, particularly Virgil’s Georgics. He subverted what had been an essentially serious genre and said ridiculous, comedic things about love. With a straight face, he posited that young men and women should spend time learning how to commit adultery and seduce each other. While working on the Metamorphoses, Ovid was also writing another piece, the Fasti, a poem describing the Roman religious calendar. It seems he never finished this work, although it is valuable for the many fascinating antiquarian details it contains.
Ovid is most famous for the Metamorphoses, a single poem of fifteen books, which was probably completed around 8 AD. By writing the Metamorphoses in dactylic hexameter, the meter of epic, Ovid intentionally invited comparisons with the greatest Roman poet of his age, Virgil, who had written the epic the Aeneid. In form, rhythm, and size, the Metamorphoses falls squarely in the category of epic. In content, however, the Metamorphoses has little in common with such epics as the Aeneid, which are characterized by a single story line and one main protagonist. In fact, Ovid explicitly pokes fun of the epic genre. The Metamorphoses more closely resembles the work of Hesiod and the Alexandrian poets, who favored a collection of independent stories connected by a theme. The Metamorphoses’ roughly 250 stories are linked only by their common theme of metamorphosis.
Shortly after the publication of these two poems, Ovid found himself in great peril. In 8 AD, Augustus exiled Ovid and banned his books from the libraries of Rome. The reason for Ovid’s exile is not entirely clear, but one can surmise that Augustus took offense at Ovid’s lecherous poetry. Poems on the art of seduction would have hardly pleased Augustus, who sought to institute moral reform. Moreover, Augustus must have been especially incensed when he exiled his own daughter, Julia, for adultery. All Ovid writes concerning his exile is that a “poem and a mistake” caused his downfall. In exile, Ovid penned his last works at Tomis, a colony by the Black Sea. His final three works are the Tristia, or Sadness, Ibis, and the Epistulae ex Ponto, or Letters from Pontus. These works largely concern his hardships in a foreign land and his desire to dwell in Rome again. However, despite all his pleas to Augustus and later to Tiberius, he would never see Rome again. Ovid died in 16 or 17 AD.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Metamorphoses!