Amores 1.15

Quid mihi, Līvor edāx, ignāvōs obicis annōs

ingeniīque vocās carmen inertis opus,

nōn mē mōre patrum, dum strēnua sustinet aetās,

praemia mīlitiae pulverulenta sequī

nec mē verbōsās lēgēs ēdiscere nec mē5

ingrātō vōcem prōstituisse forō?

mortāle est, quod quaeris, opus; mihi fāma perennis

quaeritur, in tōtō semper ut orbe canar.

vīvet Maeonidēs, Tenedos dum stābit et Īdē,

dum rapidās Simoīs in mare volvet aquās;10

vīvet et Ascraeus, dum mustīs ūva tumēbit,

dum cadet incurvā falce resecta Cerēs.

Battiadēs semper tōtō cantābitur orbe:

quamvīs ingeniō nōn valet, arte valet.

nūlla Sophoclēō veniet iactūra cothurnō;15

cum sōle et lūnā semper Arātus erit.

dum fallax servus, dūrus pater, improba lēna

vīvent et meretrīx blanda, Menandros erit.

Ennius arte carēns animōsīque Accius ōris

cāsūrum nūllō tempore nōmen habent.20

Varrōnem prīmamque ratem quae nesciet aetās

aureaque Aesoniō terga petīta ducī?

carmina sublīmis tunc sunt peritūra Lucrētī,

exitiō terrās cum dabit ūna diēs.

Tītyrus et frūgēs Aenēiaque arma legentur,25

Rōma triumphātī dum caput orbis erit.

dōnec erunt ignēs arcūsque Cupīdinis arma,

discentur numerī, culte Tibulle, tuī.

Gallus et Hesperiīs et Gallus nōtus Eōīs,

et sua cum Gallō nōta Lycōris erit.30

ergō cum silicēs, cum dēns patientis arātrī

dēpereant aevō, carmina morte carent:

cēdant carminibus rēgēs rēgumque triumphī,

cēdat et auriferī rīpa benigna Tagī.

vīlia mīrētur vulgus; mihi flāvus Apollō35

pōcula Castaliā plēna ministret aquā,

sustineamque comā metuentem frīgora myrtum

atque ā sollicitō multus amante legar.

pāscitur in vīvīs Līvor; post fāta quiēscit,

cum suus ex meritō quemque tuētur honōs.40

ergō etiam cum mē suprēmus adēderit ignis,

vīvam, parsque meī multa superstes erit.

1.15: Poetic Immortality

The poem begins with an address a personified Livor (“envy, malice, spite”), who has supposedly been complaining about his avoidance of more patriotic careers. [full essay]

1–2: mihi ... obicis: "bring up as criticism for me," "throw in my teeth." Līvor > līvor, -ōris, m. "envy." The personification is a purely literary device; there was no Roman cult of Līvor. Ovid views Envy as signifying criticism of poetry as an unworthy pursuit. edāx > edāx, -ācis, adj. "voracious, greedy."

3–4: mē ... sequī: indirect statement, dependent on obicis in line 1; "that I do not follow."

5–6: mē ... ēdiscere ... mē ... prostitisse: also indirect statement dependent on obicis in line 1. The references are to the two forms of specialist legal activity, that of the iūris consultus who studied the substance of the law (verbōsās lēgēs) and that of the rhētor who made speeches in court (forō); see on 1.13.21. prostitisse: aorist (AG §473); prostituō is a strong word, having much the flavor that ‘to prostitute’ a talent has in English.

7–8: mihi: dative of agent.

9–10: Maeonides > Maeonidēs, -ae, m., patronymic for "Homer," Maeon reputedly being his father’s name; Maeonia was also the Homeric name for Lydia, one of the poet’s possible birthplaces; "the Lydian." Tenedos > Tenedos, -ī, f. Tenedos is the small island that lies off the Trojan shore where the Greek fleet infamously anchored immediately before the sack of Troy. Īdē: Īdē, Īdēs is an alternate form for Īda, -ae. f. As in 1.14.11, the reference is to the Mt. Ida overlooking the plains of Troy, where the Judgment of Paris took place. Both Tenedos and Īdē are part of the setting of Homer’s great work, the IliadSimoīs > Simoīs, -entis, m., a small river near Troy, flowing into the Scamander.

11–12: Ascraes >Ascraeus, -a, -um "belonging to Ascra"; Ascra, a village in Boeotia, was the birthplace of the poet Hesiod, here associated with his didactic poem Works and Days about the farmer’s year and about justice. In it he discusses wine (ūva, 11) and the harvesting of grain (Cerēs, 12). mustīs > mustum, -ī, n. "must," new and unfermented wine; ablative of source or material (AG §403). Cerēs > Cerēs, -eris, f., "wheat."

13–14: Battiades > Battiadēs, -ae, m. "son of Battus," the founder of Cyrene, i.e., "the Cyrenian," referring to the third-century B.C. Hellenistic poet Callimachus; his poetry had a significant influence on later Roman poets, and for this reason Ovid elevated him to a prominent position, third only to Homer and Hesiod. ingeniō nōn valet, arte valet: Callimachus, like the Alexandrian poets in general, laid great stress on the need for poetic technique (ars) as well as natural talent or inspiration (ingenium). Ovid points out his polished artistry (arte valet), but says that when it comes to inspiration he was not as strong.

15–16: Sophoclēō > Sophoclēus -a -um, "Sophoclean, of Sophocles," the fifth-century B.C. Greek tragedian. iactūra: "loss (of stature / prestige)." cothurnō > cot(h)urnus, -ī, m. "buskin," a special kind of high, thick-soled boot worn by actors in tragedy to increase their height on stage. Cothurnus commonly serves as a metonymy for "tragedy." Arātus > Arātus, -ī, m. Aratus of Soli was a 3rd century Hellenistic author of a didactic poem in Greek on astronomy, the Phaenomena. It was widely read in the ancient world, rivaling Homer’s epics in popularity. erit: "will be (associated with)."

17–18: fallax servus ... meretrīx blanda: the deceitful slave, the stern father, the nasty brothel-keeper, and the lovable prostitute were all stock figures of Attic New Comedy, of which Menander (342–291 BC) was the most famous exponent.

19–20: Ennius: Q. Ennius (239–169 BC) was a famous early writer of Latin historical epic. arte carēns: "lacking artifice"; arte is ablative of separation (AG §400). Ennius wrote verse that was later seen as awkward and unsophisticated; but here that roughness is seen as a positive quality. animōsī ... ōris: "of the spirited tongue" (Barsby); genitive of quality, cf. AG §345. Accius: L. Accius (b. 170 BC) was the most famous of the Latin tragedians of the Republic; his style was later considerated high-flown and bombastic (animōsī ... ōris, 20). cāsūrum: "(that is) going to fall (into oblivion)."

21–22: Varrōnem > Varrō, Varrōnis m. Varro of Atax (b. 82 BC, and not the better known Marcus Terentius Varro), who wrote a lost Latin translation of the Argonautica (the story of Jason and the Argonauts) of Apollonius Rhodius. prīmamque ratem > ratis, -is, f., "ship"; according to Greek legend the first ship was the Argo. Aesoniō ... ducī: periphrasis for Jason, > Aesonius -a –um, "of or descended from Aeson"; Aeson was the father of Jason; dative of agent. terga > tergum, -ī, n., "skin, hide" referring to the Golden Fleece; plural for singular.

23–24: Lucrētī > Lucrētius, -a, -um. The philosopher-poet Titus Lucretius (b. 94 BC) wrote his didactic poem Dē Rērum Nātūrā based on Epicurean philosophy to prove that the gods were a dangerous illusion and that all things were composed of atoms and would sooner or later decompose into atoms. exitiō ... dabit ūna diēs: i.e., when the world comes to an end. This is a quotation from Lucretius (una dies dabit exitio5.95).

25–26: These lines allude to the great Roman epic poet Vergil. Ovid mentions neither his name nor patronymic nor place of birth (as he has done with the previous poets), but makes brief reference only to his three great works: the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid. Tītyrus: one of the shepherds in Virgil’s Eclogues and actually the first word of Eclogue 1. frūgēs: the reference is to Virgil’s Georgics, written in praise of farming. Aenēiaque > Aenēius, -a, -um (four syllables), "of Aeneas." arma: famously, the first word in the Aeneid. triumphātī is a more vivid equivalent of victī. dum caput orbis erit: "as long as Rome is the capital"; for dum + future indicative = "as long as," see OLD 1a.

27–28: dōnec: "as long as." ignēs arcūsque Cupīdinis arma: "torches and bows, the weapons of Cupid," i.e. as long as love and lovers exist. numerī: "verses." culte Tibulle: apostrophe; Albius Tibullus, along with Propertius and Gallus, was a famous elegist of the generation preceding Ovid.

29–30: Gallus: i.e. C. Cornelius Gallus (born c. 70 BC), whose elegies are almost entirely lost. nōtus: supply est. Hesperiīs ... Eōīs: dative masculine ("those dwelling in"); Ovid is probably alluding to a line from Gallus himself, as he does at Ars Amātōria 3.537: Vesper et Eōae novēre Lycōrida terrae. sua: reflexive, referring to Gallō. Lycōris > Lycōris, -idis or -idos, f. Lycoris is the poetic name Gallus gave to the lover who broke his heart; she was a well-known actress named Cytheris, and had previously been the mistress of (among others) Marc Antony.

31–32: cum: introduces a concessive clause. silicēs > silex, -icis, f. "flint" (actually any hard stone). dēpereant > dēpereō, dēperīre, dēperiī, "be completely destroyed." aevō: ablative of means or instrument (AG §409). carmina morte carent: this line has taken on a proverbial life of its own; "poetry is immortal." Morte = ablative of separation (AG §400).

33–34: cēdant ... reges: "let kings yield"; hortatory subjunctive, as are a series of verbs in the following lines. Tagī > Tagus, -ī, m. The river Tagus (in Lusitania) produced much gold and provided Rome with great wealth.

35–36: Castalia > Castalius, -a, -um "Castalian," i.e., associated with the spring on Mt. Parnassus, sacred to Apollo and the Muses, all metaphors for poetic inspiration. aquā: ablative of source and material (AG §403).

37–38: comā: ablative of place where. myrtum: the myrtle was sacred to Venus, therefore more appropriate for a love poet than laurel; it is also intolerant of cold weather (metuentem frīgora). sollicitō > sollicitus, -a, -um "troubled." multus: adverbial.

39–40: fāta > fātum, -ī, n., "death." cum ... honōs: "when each man’s fame protects him as he deserves," "in accordance with what he deserves." Literally, "his own honor protects each man." For cum + indicative introducing a circumstance which supports the main verb ("seeing that"), see OLD 6a.

41–42: adēderit: adedō, adedere, adēdī, adēsum "to consume"; future perfect. meī: partitive genitive.

līvor -ōris m.: envy

edāx -ācis: voracious, greedy

ignāvus -a -um: lazy, idle

obiciō -icere -iēcī -iectum: throw in the way, reproach; charge, accuse

iners -tis: crude, lacking skill; lazy, idle

strēnuus -a -um: brisk, prompt, vigorous

mīlitia -ae f.: military service, warfare

pulverulentus -a- um: covered with dust, dusty

verbōsus -a -um: wordy, verbose

ēdisco -discere -didicī: learn thoroughly, study5

prostituō -stituere -stituī -stitūtum: prostitute

perennis -e: perennial

Maeonidēs -ae m.: Homer

Tenedos -ī f.: Tenedos

Īdē -ēs f.: Mount Ida

rapidus -a -um: swift, tearing

Simoīs -oentis m.: a small river near Troy flowing into the Scamander

volvō volvere voluī volūtum: roll, wind, twist round10

Ascraeus -a -um: belonging to Ascra

mustum -ī n.: must

ūva -ae f.: grape

tumeō tumēre tumuī: swell, puff up

incurvus -a -um: bent, curved

falx -cis f.: scythe, sickle

resecō -secāre -secuī -sectum: cut, cut back

Cerēs -eris f.: wheat

Battiadēs -ae m.: descendent of Battus (the founder of Cyrene)

cantō -āre: sing

Sophoclēus -a -um: Sophoclean, of Sophocles

iactūra -ae f.: loss (of stature/prestige)

cothurnus -ī m.: buskin15

Arātus -ī m.: Aratus

fallax -ācis: deceitful, treacherous, false

improbus -a -um: inferior, bad; shameless

lēna -ae f.: brothel-keeper, procuress

meretrīx -īcis f.: prostitute, courtesan

blandus -a -um: flattering, caressing

Menandros -drī m.: Menander

Ennius -iī m.: Ennius

animōsus -a -um: bold, spirited

Accius -iī m.: Accius

Varrō -ōnis m.: Varro

ratis -is f.: ship21

Aesonius -a –um: of or descended from Aeson

sublīmis -e: lofty, elevated

Lucrētius -a -um: Lucretius

exitium -ī n.: going out; destruction, death

Tityrus -ī m.: one of the shepherds in Virgil’s Eclogues and actually the first word of Eclogue 1

frux -ūgis f.: crops, fruits, grain25

Aenēius -a -um: of Aeneas

Rōma -ae f.: Rome

triumpho -āre: triumph, have a triumph over, conquer

arcus -ūs m.: bow

Cupīdō -inis m.: Cupid 

cultus -a -um: elegant, polished, sophisticated; cultivated

Tibullus -ī m.: Tibullus

Gallus -a -um: Gallus

Hesperius -a -um: of the west, western

Ēōus -a -um: of the east, of the dawn

Lycōris -īdis f.: Lycoris30

silex -icis m.: flint; any hard stone

dēns -ntis m.: tooth

patiens -ntis: long-suffering, patient; hardy

arātrum -ī n.: plough

dēpereō -perīre -periī: destroy completely

triumphus -ī m.: triumph, triumphal procession

aurifer -era -erum: gold-bearing

benignus -a -um: kind, generous

Tagus -ī m.: the river Tagus (in Lusitania) produced much gold and provided Rome with great wealth

vīlis -e: cheap, worthless; contemptible; of inferior rank

flāvus -a -um: golden; fair-haired, blond35

Apollō -inis m.: Apollo

pōculum -ī n.: drinking-cup, goblet

Castalius -a -um: Castalian

ministrō -āre: serve, attend to, take care of

frīgus -oris n.: cold, coldness

myrtus -ī (-ūs) f.: myrtle, myrtle-tree

sollicitus -a -um: troubled

pascor -ī: feed, nourish

vīvus -a -um: alive, living

tueor tuērī tūtus sum: look at, behold; watch over, protect40

suprēmus -a -um: highest, uppermost; final

adedō -ere -ēdī -ēsum: consume

superstes -itis: surviving, remaining alive after death

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Suggested Citation

William Turpin. Ovid: Amores Book 1. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-947822-00-9. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/ovid-amores/amores-1-15