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Amores is Ovid's first completed book of poetry, written in elegiac couplets. It was first published in 16 BC in 5 books, but Ovid by his own account later edited it down into the 3-book edition that has come down to us. The book follows the popular model of the erotic elegy, as made famous by figures such as Tibullus or Propertius, but is often subversive and humorous with these tropes, exaggerating common motifs and devices to the point of absurdity.
The Amores is a poetic first person account of the poetic persona's love affair with an unattainable higher class girl, Corinna. The plot is linear, with a few artistic digressions such as an elegy on the death of Tibullus.
- 1.1 - The poet announces that love will be his theme
- 1.2 - He admits defeat to Cupid
- 1.3 - He addresses his lover for the first time and lists his good qualities
- 1.4 - He attends a dinner party; the poem is mostly a list of secret instructions to his lover who is also attending the party along with her husband.
- 1.5 - He describes a visit Corinna, here named for the first time, makes to his rooms.
- 1.6 - He begs the doorkeeper to let him into the house to see his love.
- 1.7 - He hits his love and is remorseful
- 1.8 - Mostly a monologue from Dipsas, a tipsy procurer, to a young lady about how to deceive rich men. This is the longest poem in the book.
- 1.9 - The poet compares lovers with soldiers
- 1.10 - He complains that his mistress is demanding material gifts, instead of the gift of poetry
- 1.11 - He asks Corinna's maid to take a message to her
- 1.12 - The poet responds angrily when Corinna cannot visit
- 1.13 - He addresses the dawn and asks it to wait, so he can spend longer with his mistress
- 1.14 - He mocks Corinna for ruining her hair by dyeing it.
- 1.15 - The book ends with Ovid writing of the famous poets of the past, and claiming his name will be among them.
The book has a ring arrangement, with the first and last poems concerning poetry itself, and 1.2 and 1.9 both contain developed military metaphors.
- 2.1: The poet describes the sort of audience that he desires.
- 2.13: The poet prays to the gods about Corinna's abortion.
- 2.14: The poet condemns the act of abortion.
3.2 - Ovid woos a girl at the races.
3.4 - Ovid tries to persuade a man to let him have sex with his wife.
3.5 - Ovid has a dream about a white cow.
3.14 - Ovid instructs his partner to not tell him about her affairs.
3.15 - Ovid bids farewell to love elegy.
Ovid's Amores are firmly set in the genre of love elegy. Familiar themes include:
- Poem featuring the poet locked out of his mistress' door
- Comparisons between the poet's life of leisure and respectable Roman careers, such as farming, politics or the military
It has been regularly praised for adapting and improving on these older models with humour.
Use of allusions
The poems contain many allusions to other works of literature beyond love elegy.
The poet and his immortality
Poems 1.1 and 1.15 in particular both concern the way poetry makes the poet immortal, while one of his offers to a lover in 1.3 is that their names will be joined in poetry and famous forever.
Use of humour
Ovid's love elegies stand apart from others in the genre by his use of humour.
Love and war
Amores I.1 begins with the same word as the Aeneid, "Arma" (an intentional comparison to the epic genre, which Ovid later mocks), as the poet describes his original intention: to write an epic poem in dactylic hexameter, "with material suiting the meter" (line 2), that is, war. However, Cupid "steals one (metrical) foot" (unum suripuisse pedem, I.1 ln 4), turning it into elegiac couplets, the meter of love poetry.
Ovid returns to the theme of war several times throughout the Amores, especially in poem nine of Book I, an extended metaphor comparing soldiers and lovers (Militat omnis amans, "every lover is a soldier" I.9 ln 1).
Speculations as to Corinna's real identity are many, if indeed she lived at all. It has been argued that she is a poetic construct copying the puella-archetype from other works in the love elegy genre. The name Corinna may have been a typically Ovidian pun based on the Greek word for "maiden", "kore".
Though most of this book is rather tongue-in-cheek, some people didn't take it that way and this could be the reason or part of the reason why Ovid was banished from Rome. However, his banishment probably has more to do with the Ars Amatoria, written later, which offended Augustus. There is also a connection between Ovid and Augustus' daughter, Julia, who was also exiled.
Influence and reception
There is a famous English verse translation made by Christopher Marlowe.
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