Ovid Amores
Chat Transcript 13 
137 lines
December 15, 1999


19:46 Torrey Philemon enters...
19:47 Torrey Philemon: Ovid chat on Art of Love soon after 8pm. I will be here about 8:15pm. See our Ovid discussion board at Mythquest! .......
20:11 Morgana Flavius enters...
20:13 Morgana Flavius: Hi!
20:19 Torrey Philemon: Hi Morgana. I'll be ready to "chat" in 2 minutes. Anyone else coming?
20:22 Morgana Flavius: I don't know if someone else is coming. Maybe Nimue, if she can log in...
20:23 Torrey Philemon: Ok. I just posted two posts on the board ....Only read Art of Love books one and two though, not yet three. Where do you want to start?
20:25 Morgana Flavius: I just finished reading your posts.
20:26 Morgana Flavius: I have no particular start in mind. And in book three, Ovid gives its advice to women (like he gave it to men in the previous books).
20:26 Torrey Philemon: Nimue says she still can't post at A.S. This site is a mess!
20:27 Morgana Flavius: I read the whole book as something written to make people laugh... not serious at all. You?
20:27 Torrey Philemon: Maybe we can start with book one and two, then talk about book three later on the message board (once I read it <-:)
20:27 Morgana Flavius: Yes. The site has been totally unreliable lately...
20:28 Torrey Philemon: That's interesting.......I viewed some of it as serious, some of it as amusing. You know there are actually advice books to men and women out today that read a similar way, and they are meant to be serious!
20:29 Morgana Flavius: Well, book one is the "hunting" part. How to pick up women, where, what to do, what not to do...
20:30 Morgana Flavius: Yes, I know. But we should not forget that Ovid's "greatest art" was his ability with words... his poetry. I think that mattered (for him) more than the content itself. It's a pitty I cannot read Latin to fully appreciate his art.
20:32 Torrey Philemon: Although Ovid doesn't come across as adolescent as  in Amores, he still comes across as young......At least I recall in my 30s that I thought I had a lot of advice about how to live, that I had all the answers......now I don't think I have much meaningful guidance at all! Ovid does sound like he's in his 30s, not in his 20s or his 40s!
20:32 Morgana Flavius: In book one, Ovid seems to call his reader's attention to "women's uncontrollable libido". The interesting thing, however, is that he does not seem to make men feel afraid; on the contrary: he tells them that because of this "uncontrollable libido" any woman can be "won"..
20:34 Torrey Philemon: Do you find him to be respectful or condescending to women now? Or neither? And do you suspect his "manipulative" approach to the "art of love" was typical of his time, or just his own personal approach?
20:35 Morgana Flavius: What I learned to appreciate, though, was his incredible ability to use apparently opposite arguments to make his statements.
20:35 Torrey Philemon: (Do we know Ovid's birthdate? I swear he's a combination of Gemini, and Scorpio, with maybe a bit of Pisces!)
20:36 Torrey Philemon: Yes, talking out of both sides of his mouth! He would have made a very effective politician <-:
20:36 Morgana Flavius: My perception now is that Ovid didn't care at all about women, or what they would think of his verses. It seems to me that he was writing just for the fun of it. He didn't have any "moral" or "ethical" goal for his poems.
20:37 Morgana Flavius: Or a very effective lawyer! LOL! (I don't know his b-day).
20:38 Morgana Flavius: I've been reading a bit about the "elegiac" poetry and it's quite hard to find out what the author really thought, because they had to follow certain patterns.
20:40 Torrey Philemon: I wonder what did motivate him to write....and  write those books. Writers write for many reasons.......sometimes therapeutic, to state a particular message, to be heard by a particular audience, to earn money, to show off, or  to know the joys of creative expression. Maybe he was also attempting to "work out" his own conflicts in regard to love and sex by writing about them.
20:41 Morgana Flavius: It seems that Ovid used the "elegiac verse" (slightly shorter than the epic verse), which was used ordinarily for love/erotic poems; then he insereted some images typical in epic poetry (like summoning the muses or a god to help him write), and added a touch of irony in many exemples he gives (mocking Augustus, mocking traditional Roman values, etc.) Apparently, he was a kind of "enfant terrible" of the poets.
20:41 Torrey Philemon: This is Ovid talking out of both sides of his mouth <-:->
20:42 Torrey Philemon: You raised the question about how much he was mocking Augustus........What do you think? At what points do you think he was being deliberately mocking?
20:43 Morgana Flavius: I think he wrote because he found it a nice activity; he didn't want to pursue any career offered to him. I also think he hung out with that "intellectual" group of poets and writers and they probably fed each one's egos when needed.
20:45 Torrey Philemon: I would imagine  that he took pride in the "wisdom" he was gaining about how to conduct love affairs, and that he was in part trying to offer meaningful advice, as well as poke fun at Augustan mores. Always as ever a multiple personality, with several aims not just one.....
20:45 Morgana Flavius: He mocks him whenever he uses the "military" approach to a lover: nothing would be funnier than compare Augustus army to a lover seeking to win a "love battle"...
20:46 Morgana Flavius: And we should never forget - as you said - that he was actually the Ancient Roman counterpart of our Woody Allen guy. W.A. makes fun while making some sharp social criticism...
20:48 Torrey Philemon: Yes, I would imagine comparing Augustus' proud military battles to the battles of love would be demeaning to Augustus!
20:48 Torrey Philemon: Very true! Woody Allen does combine humor and real social criticism, just as Ovid does!
20:49 Morgana Flavius: Another interesting thing (although it is more evident in Book 3) is that he advises men to excel in some art (this time art meaning a scholar discipline like grammar, rethoric, mathematics, poetry, etc.). When he gives his advice to women, he stresses that they should excel in "social" arts, like singing, dancing, or reading poetry (not writing it).
20:50 Torrey Philemon: I didn't read book 3 yet, but it sounds like the advice generally given to a courtesan. Be knowledgeable and cultured, but develop this part of yourself in the manner that would delight a man, not for your own sake.
20:51 Morgana Flavius: And in Book 3 he also writes the most erotic verses of his poem (in my opinion). He even mentions quite directly that women can make love as many times as they want, with as many men as they want, and their sexual organ will always look good! (wow!)
20:53 Morgana Flavius: Yes, this brings to my mind something you said in one of your posts: much of the literature on how to achieve this or that (today and in the past), focus on what you should do and make others believe you are in order to achieve your goals. But what about self-accomplishment, personal delight in your acts? Does this not matter at all?
20:55 Morgana Flavius: What you should do to succeed versus what you really are is something that has been presented in my personal life a lot lately...
20:55 Torrey Philemon: Hmm, well at least Ovid does appreciate women! And value their sexuality.....which is not what we see often in literature of the past!
20:56 Torrey Philemon: Nice way to put it, Morgana. I've always followed the path of "being true to oneself" but that isn't usually the same path as "how to get ahead". Some people are good at "playing the games" of a society for a certain end, which is a kind of posing or acting.........
20:57 Torrey Philemon: Here are three questions that came to mind when reading books one and two:
20:57 Morgana Flavius: Some people do expect you to act on a certain way (not at all the way you would naturally act) in order to "love you".
20:58 Torrey Philemon: What for you is the most insightful part of Art of Love? What is the most amusing? And what is the most evocative in a literary sense?
21:00 Morgana Flavius: one moment pls.
21:03 Torrey Philemon: (I just had to take a  phone call myself).......On a literary level, I like his retelling of the Icarus story; it made me aware of how this is "his" myth and how he indeed dared to fly to close to the Sun and suffered the consequences of getting too hot in a public way! ........On a humor level, I found a few lines amusing, like" "You'll get around her with cocksmanship!" Indeed, some men are capable of doing so! <-:
21:04 Morgana Flavius: sorry, that was a phone call. Back to our chat now. :o)
21:06 Morgana Flavius: For me, the most insightful verses were those he talked about being tolerant if you want to keep a love for a long time. To the point of recommending men to tolerate rivals! (Something he confessed he found very hard to himself).
21:07 Morgana Flavius: Of course, tolerating "competitors" in a love relationship is very extreme, but it shows how important tolerance is when you want a relationship to last...
21:08 Morgana Flavius: At the same time, that was an amusing part too! And this is Ovid: serious and fun on the very same issue at the same time!
21:09 Torrey Philemon: Yes, I agree that his advice about tolerance was good advice - how "habit breeds tolerance". It sounds like he knows more about what can happen in a relationship over time, and perhaps how even appreciation and acceptance can grow. He's not as focused as much on appearance as he was in Amores.
21:11 Torrey Philemon: I like his occasional Woody Allenish confessions.....like that he has trouble handling his jealousy of rivals himself! (Am also thinking now of Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally)
21:12 Morgana Flavius: Yes, Billy Crystal too! :o)
21:18 Morgana Flavius: Well, overall, I must say that I like Ovid. He is not perfect, but he sure is not totally biased, a human quality I do appreciate!
21:18 Torrey Philemon: Where do you find the humor, Morgana? I don't find a lot of humor; perhaps I miss it because I don't know enough about the Roman context.......
21:20 Morgana Flavius: Ah, and I'd like to mention that following one of the various links about the Art of Love suggested by you when we started reading it, I came across an interesting paper about Ovid's latest days in exile. He was certainly under an extremely painful psychological punishment!
21:20 Torrey Philemon: I like Ovid best when: a) he is very poetic, in Metamorphoses b) when he very much expresses the inner emotional experience, as he did occasionally in Metamorphoses, or gives insight into human nature  - occasionally in  bothMetamorphoses and Art of Love  c) when he really makes a myth come alive.......
21:21 Morgana Flavius: Oh, the humor lies on his Allenish comments: making fun of society values, of government, and of himself. Something he definetely lost after he was banished...
21:21 Torrey Philemon: Also when he honestly reveals his own insecurity and struggles.....though it's unclear here whether he's letting down on his posing and being real, or if this is just another pose. What do you think?
21:22 Torrey Philemon: Haven't checked out those links in awhile but did read some about his exile. What comes to mind about how painful a time it was for him.....?
21:25 Morgana Flavius: yes, I like it very much when he uses myths too. And also when he is able to see something through female heroines in the myths (something not so much seen in the Love poems, but can be seen in some parts/myths of Metamorphoses and definitely in the Heroides letters.
21:26 Torrey Philemon: I would like to read the Heroides.....Am curious though, where you  specifically see Ovid poking fun at society's values and the government in Art of Love? I feel a little dense....I know he is doing so, but I'm not quite sure when and how.....Do you have any specific examples?
21:27 Morgana Flavius: Tristia and the verses he wrote in Exile (I haven't read them, but they were quoted in the paper I read) show a quite different person! Humble, with no fine irony which characterises a self-confident person. It really made me sad...
21:28 Torrey Philemon: His early bravado is definitely broken down later in life.......I wonder what he learns about life during Exile....
21:28 Morgana Flavius: Let me go through my notes in the book and see if I can quote verses where I sense he is mocking social/government values. One moment, pls.
21:28 Torrey Philemon: ..... and what he then regrets about his previous behavior or writing. And does he blame himself for being foolish, or nurse anger against Augustus?
21:32 Morgana Flavius: Here's something right at the beginning of Book 1, when Ovid tells men where to pick up women: (starting on verse 67) ...stroll down some shady colonnade, Pompey's say, or Octavia's (...) or Livia's, with its gallery of genuine Old Masters....
21:33 Torrey Philemon: Ah, I say, it's somewhat trivializing to Rome's grand places to reduce them to pickup joints.....
21:35 Morgana Flavius: Octavia was Augustus' sister, Livia his own wife. Saying that the monuments built as homage to them are good for picking up girls is to compare them with "easy women" who would be wandering around these monuments, certainly thinking that Octavia and Livia are their equals... (no?)
21:36 Torrey Philemon: So this would be perceived as an insult......? (I'm thinking now of political satirists, cartoonists, and how they must be irritating politicians, pulling away their pedestal and reducing them to the very human level......
21:37 Morgana Flavius: As to Ovid's exile... I don't think he learned any lesson there... he officially admitted that he had done wrong with his Art of Love book, but I think that personally, he never regreted it at all! He was just totally torn by being away from Rome (his beloved city) and often complained about the bad weather and the bad (uncultivated) company he had in Tomis...
21:38 Morgana Flavius: I don't believe Ovid meant insulting Augustus or his relatives... he was just making fun of them... (THEY felt insulted, though...)
21:40 Morgana Flavius: Right. Ovid (very indirectly) was implying that men and women regardless their social position, would have to follow his advice if they wanted to succed in love.
21:40 Torrey Philemon: It sounds like Tomis in the winter is very much like Boston! <-: But at least we have cultured and intelligent community here.......It definitely sounds like Ovid was cut off from all that sustained him, and I imagine that communication by mail during those times was much slower than email! Weeks or months........He certainly was humbled, Icarus and Phaethon plunging into the seas of exile after daring to pose as a god and buck the authorities......
21:41 Morgana Flavius: Augustus, on the other hand, felt he was in a higher position. He made laws against adultery, for instance, very severe laws, when personally he didn't follow them.
21:43 Morgana Flavius: Yes... there are the letters (not poems) he wrote. In many of them, Ovid wrote that he felt very depressed, he didn't want to eat, he was losing weight, his hair was growing totally grey...
21:45 Torrey Philemon: Morgana, do you know what Ovid's contemporaries thought of him? I mean, did they view him mostly as humorous? Or did they read Art of Love as one would read Ann Landers (advice to the lovelorn columnist)? Was he criticized or praised for his manipulative approach to male/female relationships.....or both? I know his books were POPULAR but also angered many......but why were they popular? Do you have any idea what people most responded to? (Perhaps we really can't know that today........?
21:45 Morgana Flavius: Surprisingly enough, if you look on the map, Tomis is not farther to the North than Florence, for instance... I wonder if it was really that cold there...
21:47 Morgana Flavius: No, I don't have the answer to those questions, Torrey, and believe me: they are the very same questions I had when I first started to read Ovid: how he was viewed by the society? (As we can have a good idea of how HE viewed that society).
21:47 Torrey Philemon: Well, I lived in the Greek Islands for 3 months, from September to November, and in November I was COLD! The heating system was awful and it was so damp! The heating "technology" in Tomis may have been inferior to Rome......and wet winters can be cold ones.
21:49 Torrey Philemon: About how he was viewed by society.......I wonder if there's any kind of literature out there about that........References to him by his contemporaries. Of course we only have the literature of the intelligentsia but perhaps only the intelligentsia was reading books!
21:49 Morgana Flavius: I think he was "popular" in a very strict circle of intellectuals and cultured men and women of the upper classes. I think he was popular because he was a genius with words (as a poet) and because he was an innovator; he decided to break some rigid poetic patterns, without losing track of the techniques he had learned and that people were used to.
21:50 Morgana Flavius: Yes, I think only the intelligentsia was reading books at that time...
21:51 Torrey Philemon: My guess is that he dared to write about subjects and share personally in ways that others did not dare to do before. And that to some extent, he put into words what some people vaguely thought but were unable or unwilling to verbalize......
21:52 Morgana Flavius: And, surprisingly enough, I think he is more understandable by people like you and I than Dante for instance (and Dante wrote his verses more than a thousand years after Ovid!)
21:55 Torrey Philemon: Just thinking. Some of the high points in the Metamorphoses or when he gets into the minds and feelings of a woman or man overcome by passion or pain and expresses it so articulately.....Yet in the Art of Love, he is detached, standing so apart from the experience, so into having control over the "love" experience rather than being at the mercy of it. Two extremes here ------being overpowered by passion or learning how to control and manipulate relationships......Didn't he write Art of Love before Metamorphoses or did these overlap?
21:55 Morgana Flavius: I'm not sure if WHAT he wrote was innovative... poets like Tibullus and Catullus also "dared" to write in a very personal/confessional tone... I think that the WAY Ovid expressed his thoughts was the real "boom": subverting rigid poetic patterns without being excessively iconoclastic.
21:57 Torrey Philemon: (I'm distracted...back in 2 minutes)
21:58 Morgana Flavius: The Art of Love was written before Metamorphoses. But here's what we must be careful: Metamorphoses was written as an epic poem; this means that feelings had to be expressed in a very emotional and personal way. Elegiacs were lighter verses; plus, the Art of Love is a "didactic" poem, which means an art or a technique is being teached, and feelings would not supposed to play a major role in that. Didatic poems were popular; there's another kind of elegiac poetry (can't remember the name now), where feelings played a proeminent role.
22:01 Torrey Philemon: Ovid certainly is versatile, to say the least!
22:02 Torrey Philemon: I need to go in about 10 minutes, Morgana.......Any other comments on books one or two? Or anything you want to say on book three (I can respond to you later on the message board after I read it)
22:04 Morgana Flavius: He sure is! I read some verses of didactic poems written by another poet (cant' remember the name either, sheesh!); nothing more boring... Now, Ovid takes this apparently boring style and makes it alive, adding touches of different styles (epics were considered more sophisticated than elegies), writes about it in a very actual way, and (from what I've read from people who can read his poems in the original Latin) he wrote in a extremely elegant way. So... he was a genius, yes.
22:06 Morgana Flavius: Ok, I will go too. I had a hell of day! *g*
22:07 Torrey Philemon: I'm just thinking of actors who always play the same kind of role (Jack Nicolson or Woody Allen for example) versus those who can play a wide range of roles (Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day Lewis). Ovid has a wide range........but unfortunately he failed to apply his deliberate approach to "love" to his own life, and didn't take seriously the consequences of his actions.........But then again, perhaps he was exiled not because of the Art of Love, but really because of whatever it was "he saw".....
22:08 Morgana Flavius: Book 3 was interesting, but very "cosmetical". It means that the advice was usually about appearance and othe "technicalities" on love courtship and actual love making. The last part is amusing (but not gros) when Ovid tells how each woman should prefer to lay down before making love in order to take advantage of a particularly good part of her body... LOL!
22:08 Torrey Philemon: A big question for me is was it really his writings on love and sex that got him into trouble, or some real life incident.....or indeed a combination of both. Nobody seems to know for sure; it's still a speculative subject.......
22:09 Torrey Philemon: Oh goodness, it sounds like he's gone back to the appearance-conscious approach when it comes to women!  Will see if I can read book 3 in the next week and write a few comments........Hope you will post on the subject!
22:09 Morgana Flavius: Just before we go, I'd like to say that it was wonderful to have read these 3 books and discuss them with you, Torrey. I think I'd never be able to read them without this incentive! :o)
22:11 Torrey Philemon: Yes, Morgana, I've so appreciated our dialogue too.......and do find it to be very motivating. I need to cut back on my A.S. time now, and do fewer chats, but would like to do at least one on the Heroides sometimes. What do you think? A few months from now.....
22:11 Morgana Flavius: I think Peter Green has the most interesting input on the reasons for Ovid's exile. The verses were one reason and something Ovid had seen and not reported (as he should do) was the other thing. What was it, is something we probably never will know, as no Ovid's writings or his contemporaries survived to tell us...
22:12 Torrey Philemon: You know, I think we've done something  very unique here........in the learning environment we've created with all our book chats, out of sheer love of learning and dialogue, without cost or college credits or any external reasons. This is a very special experience!
22:13 Torrey Philemon: Yes I recall the Green chapters to be excellent ones..........going to go now! Hope you will post more on Ovid soon, and I will too........
22:13 Morgana Flavius: The Heroides are interesting, but believe me, I don't feel like reading them all over again. Myrrhine Solon posted the translation of these letters in the net. I can give you the URL if you wish (Myrrhine's web pages about the Heroides, with the actual text in English) were my source.
22:14 Morgana Flavius: Ok, see you Torrey! I believe Dante is Saturday, isnt' it?
22:14 Torrey Philemon: Yes, I know Myrrhine did some work on the Heroides.....Sorry to hear you don't want to read them again! Well perhaps we can find another topic for future book chats (At Readers Vine, I really want to discuss Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.....)
22:15 Morgana Flavius: I will try to finish the last Cantos of the Comedy, plus elaborate a post about an interesting text about Dante and his translators.
22:15 Torrey Philemon: Yes Dante is Saturday night and I will be in Connecticut Saturday and THINK I'll be back in time...... In any case, the chat's at Fab Bib.
22:16 Morgana Flavius: (I'm trying to cut my AS online time too!)
22:16 Torrey Philemon: Great! If I post more on Dante I need to do it before tomorrow afternoon when I leave town, so I'll see what I can come up with. Hope to see you Saturday night! Glad you could make it tonight.....
22:17 Morgana Flavius: Ok, I'll be there on Saturday anyway. Good night Torrey!
22:17 Torrey Philemon exits...
22:19 Morgana Flavius exits...
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