Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC – AD 17), the Nose, was an indifferent lawyer who resigned himself early on to poetry, and quickly proved popular, prolific and also often good. Included among his many books is an early collection of love poems, the Amores; the Art of Love, a style guide for would-be seducers (be neat and pale, he advises, and befriend the maid), and a versified mythological compendium, the Metamorphoses, which has been called "Transformative!" and "A real game-changer!" by generations of Renaissance painters. In AD 8 Augustus banished him to Tomis on the Black Sea (now Constanza, Romania) because of (Ovid tells us) "a poem and a gaffe," though he doesn't say which poem or what gaffe. The rest of his life he spent in Tomis, where he fought in the citizen militia, learned the local language, and until his death wrote home with a steady stream of sad poems and letters. Once, in his youth, he caught a glimpse of Virgil.


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