a marble bust of Ovid

Did Ovid's erotic poetry lead to his exile from Rome?

Penning scandalous poems about gods and mortals brought Ovid many Roman fans—except Emperor Augustus, who banished the poet for reasons still unknown.

Ovid, first-century marble bust. Uffizi Gallery, Florence
White Images/Scala, Florence

Publius Ovidius Naso, the poet better known today as Ovid, tried to write his own epitaph before his death in A.D. 17. In a series of poems composed near the end of his life, he asked for these lines to mark his final resting place:

I who lie here was a writer
Of tales of tender love
Naso the poet, done in by my
Own ingenuity.
You who pass by, should you be
A lover, may you
Trouble yourself to say that Naso’s
bones
May rest softly.

Recognized today for the Metamorphoses, his dazzling reworking of Greek and Latin myths, Ovid was known during his time for vibrant, controversial love poetry, including the Amores (The Loves) and the Ars amatoria (The Art of Love). These frank poetic reflections on Roman sexual customs brought him fame but also played a role in his downfall. (Learn about the responsibilities that came with coveted Roman citizenship.)

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