Born in 43 B . C . to a respectable Roman family, Ovid was a poet best known for his collection of myths and legends titled the Metamorphoses. As expected of a young man of his station, he studied rhetoric—oratory—in both Rome and Athens and served in several minor government posts. However, writing poetry was his first love, and he quickly gave up public life to pursue this art.

nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful

The Metamorphoses tells many of the ancient myths and legends of Greece, Rome, and the Near East. All the stories have a common theme: change, or metamorphosis. For example, when the nymph Daphne is pursued by Apollo*, she escapes by being turned into a tree. Other works by Ovid also present myths and legends. The Heroides is a collection of fictional letters from mythical women to the men they love, such as letters from Penelope to her long-absent husband, Ulysses (Odysseus*). The Fasti describes stories connected with ancient Roman religious festivals.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

In A . D . 8, the Roman emperor Augustus exiled the poet to the city of Tomis on the Black Sea. Though never really explained, Ovid's exile appears to have been connected to a poem he wrote that was considered immoral and to a scandal in the imperial family. Ovid died nine years later in Tomis. Ovid's work with stories from Greek and Roman mythology influenced writers and artists centuries later.

See also Apollo ; Metamorphoses, The .

imperial relating to an emperor or empire

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