Ovid Amores 3.2 Essay

“Ovid finds his muse.”

The first poem functions, as we might expect, as an introduction to the whole book: we are introduced to the aspiring poet, to the genre of his poems, and perhaps also to their subject. At one level the wit is easy to appreciate, but for me the poem gives the first example of a problem presented by many of the poems in this book: the question of coherence. Ovid’s poems, in my opinion, are supposed to be satisfying: when we get to the end, we should feel that we have seen the point, and that the poem is a coherent whole. Often, as in this first poem, we do not at first have that sense of coherence, and my suggestion is that, when that happens, we take it as a challenge to read more closely.

The poem begins with a metrical and generic joke. The poet was preparing to write epic poetry: his first word is the same as the first word of the Aeneid, and he would have continued writing in dactylic hexameter, except that apparently Cupid “stole a foot” from every second line (lines 3–4), creating elegiac couplets instead, the metrical form particularly associated with love poetry. We thus have a witty variation of a recusatio, a standard poetic theme particularly appropriate for the first poem of a collection: poets typically explain why they have to refuse (recusatio means “refusal” or “excuse”) to write the kind of patriotic poetry that their patrons or their public might be demanding.

The poet responds with a complaint, addressed to Cupid. He has no right to interfere in the serious business of writing poetry: other gods stay within their appointed spheres, and Cupid should do so as well. Like the good rhetorician he is, Ovid offers a few exempla to drive home his protest (lines 5–16). He then adds that he doesn’t like it when every second line is kind of feeble (lines 17–18), and on top of that adds that he doesn’t have anyone (boy or girl) to write love poetry about (lines 19–20). 

But Cupid responds to these objections by shooting the poet with one of his famous arrows, so that he is now a stereotypical wretched lover; love now reigns in his “empty heart” (line 26). Some scholars have taken this empty heart (in vacuo pectore) at face value: the poet is in love, but his heart is empty, so he must simply be in love with love itself. Others have argued, I think correctly, that this empty heart is one that had been empty, but is empty no longer; previously the poet had no one to write love poetry about, as we saw, but thanks to Cupid’s arrow he has now fallen in love.

On most readings, the last four lines are a little disappointing. Having become a lover, of whatever kind, the poet returns to his own poetry: he is now going to write elegiac couplets, with lines of six feet, the hexameters, followed by lines of five feet, the pentameters (lines 27–28). He concludes by invoking the muse of elegy, first in the poetic language we might expect, with talk of her golden hair and myrtle wreath (line 29), but then in language that is ironically pedestrian, emphasizing the mere numerical fact that an elegiac couplet has eleven feet (line 30).

I would argue that in fact the poet never loses sight of his new lover: thanks to Cupid’s arrow, as we saw, he is miserably in love, and with someone in particular. It is this new lover who is responsible for his change to elegiac couplets, the meter for lovers (lines 27–28). And it is this new lover who emerges triumphantly at the end: it is she who is the poet’s new muse, wearing a myrtle garland on her golden hair, and inspiring the poetry that is to come, written of course in elegiac couplets.

Suggested Reading

Moles, J. “The Dramatic Coherence of Ovid, Amores 1.1 and 1.2,” Classical Quarterly 41 (1991): 551–554.

Prof. Jennifer Ingleheart

Contact Prof. Jennifer Ingleheart (email at jennifer.ingleheart@durham.ac.uk)

Areas of doctoral supervision

I am keen to supervise students working on any aspect of Latin poetry and its reception (including translation), as well as those with an interest in the reception of Roman culture in later constructions of homosexuality.

Education and career

I took up a lectureship at Durham in 2004, on completion of my Oxford D. Phil., and after holding teaching posts in the United States, the University of Wales, and several Oxford colleges.

Research and other interests

I have a long-standing interest in Latin poetry (particularly the works of the elegists and Catullus), its relationship with politics and culture, and its reception (including its translation history), and welcome enquiries from prospective graduate students considering working in any of these areas. A more recent research interest is in how later cultures have responded to the phenomenon of Roman homosexuality, and the role which ancient Rome has played in constructing modern homosexual identities, and I would welcome prospective graduate students with an interest in this underexplored and diverse area.

A revised version of my doctoral thesis, a commentary on Ovid, Tristia 2, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010, and OUP published my edited volume on the reception of the figure of the exiled Ovid (Two Thousand Years of Solitude: Exile after Ovid) in 2011. I have recently written papers on the reception of Roman 'homosexuality' in pornographic texts of the 19th century, translations of classical texts in Thomas Cannon's 1749 defence of same-sex love, and the engagement with Catullus by Robinson Ellis and Sir Richard Burton and Leonard Smithers.

My current major research project explores the role played by the reception of Rome in the construction of Western homosexual identities; I organised a major international conference (funded by the British Academy) on this topic which was held in Durham in April 2012, and I am editing for OUP a collected volume of papers arising from the conference: for more information on the conference and its remit, see http://romosexuality.wordpress.com/. 

Other current projects include a paper on Propertius' response to Apollonius and Theocritus, and the various classical interactions of Philip Gillespie Bainbrigge (1890-1918).

I am keen to share my love of classics with more than just my fellow academics and students, and my introductory essays on the AS level Latin set text (Ovid, Amores 3.2, 4, 5 and 14) have recently been published by Bristol Classical Press; I also regularly speak at school and outreach events around the country. 

Research Interests

  • Ovid
  • Ovidian exile and its reception
  • Politics and Latin poetry
  • Reception of Latin poetry
  • Reception of Roman homosexuality
  • Sex and censorship
  • The history of homosexuality
  • Catullus

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2015). Putting the Roman Back into Romance: The Subversive Case of the Anonymous Teleny. In Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities. Ingleheart, Jennifer Oxford Oxford University Press. 144-160.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2015). Romosexuality: Rome, Homosexuality, and Reception. In Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities. Ingleheart, Jennifer Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1-35.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2015). The Invention of (Thracian) Homosexuality: The Ovidian Orpheus in the English Renaissance. In Ancient Rome and the Construction of Modern Homosexual Identities. Ingleheart, Jennifer Oxford: Oxford University Press. 56-73.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2012). Vates Lesbia: images of Sappho in the poetry of Ovid. In Sappho's Roman Reception. Harrison, Stephen. & Thorsen, Thea. Trondheim Studies in Greek and Latin.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2011). 'I shall be thy devoted foe': the exile of the Ovid of the Ibis in English reception. In Two Thousand Years of Solitude: Exile After Ovid. Ingleheart, Jennifer Oxford: Oxford University Press. 119-134.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2011). Introduction: Two Thousand Years of Responses to Ovid's Exile. In Two Thousand Years of Solitude: Exile After Ovid. Ingleheart, Jennifer Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1-19.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2010). I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here: the reception of Euripides' Iphigenia among the Taurians in Ovid's Exile Poetry. In Beyond the fifth century: Interactions with Greek Tragedy from the Fourth Century BCE to the Middle Ages. Gildenhard, Ingo & Revermann, Martin de Gruyter. 219-246.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2009). Writing to the Emperor: Horace's Presence in Ovid'S, Tristia 2. In Perceptions of Horace: A Roman Poet and his Readers. Houghton, Luke & Wyke, Maria Cambridge University Press. 123-139.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2008). Et mea sunt populo saltata poemata saepe (Tristia 2.519). Ovid and the pantomime. In New Directions in Ancient Pantomime. Hall, Edith & Wyles, Mary-Rose Oxford Oxford University Press. 198-217.

Edited book

Journal Article

  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2015). Exegi monumentum: exile, death, immortality, and monumentality in Ovid, Tristia 3.3. Classical Quarterly65(1): 286-300.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2015). Responding to Ovid’s Pygmalion episode and receptions of same-sex love in Classical antiquity: art, homosexuality, and the Curatorship of Classical culture in E. M. Forster’s ‘The Classical Annex’. Classical Receptions Journal7(2): 141-158.
  • Ingleheart, J. (2014). Play on the proper names of individuals in the Catullan corpus: wordplay, the iambic tradition, and the late Republican culture of public abuse. Journal of Roman Studies104: 51-72.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2012). Ovid's scripta puella: Perilla as poetic and political fiction in Tristia 3.7. Classical Quarterly62(1): 227-241
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2010). The Literary 'Successor': Ovidian Meta-poetry and Metaphor. Classical Quarterly60(1): 167-172.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer. (2007). Victoria Rimell, Ovid's Lovers: Desire, Difference, and the Poetic Imagination. Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2007). Propertius 4.10 and the end of the Aeneid: Augustus, the spolia opima and the right to remain silent. Greece and Rome54(1): 61-81.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2006). Burning Manuscripts: the literary apologia in Ovid's Tristia 2 and Vladimir Nabokov's On a Book Entitled Lolita. Classical and Modern Literature26(2): 79-109.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2006). Ovid, Tristia 1.2: high drama on the high seas. Greece and Rome53(1): 73-91.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2006). Ovid's error: Actaeon, sight, sex, and striptease. Omnibus52: 6-8.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2006). Review: R. Dimundo: Ovidio. Lezioni d'amore. Saggio di commento al I Libro dell' Ars amatoria. Classical Review56(1): 114-115.
  • Ingleheart, Jennifer (2006). What the Poet Saw: Ovid, the error and the theme of sight in Tristia 2. Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici56(1): 63-86.
  • Ingleheart, J. (2003). Catullus 2 and 3: A programmatic pair of Sapphic Epigrams?. Mnemosyne56(5): 551-565.

Book review

Show all publications

0 thoughts on “Ovid Amores 3.2 Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *