These poems were tolerantly received by Roman society four years after the passing of the Julian reform laws. Great Senatorial families like the Fabii, the Corvini, the Pomponii continued to entertain Ovid in their homes. Buoyant with success, the poet issued a manual of seduction called Ars amatoria (2 B.C.). “I have been appointed by Venus,” he says, “as tutor to tender love.” He chastely warns readers that his precepts must be applied only to courtesans and slaves; but his pictures of whispered confidences, secret assignations, billets-doux, raillery and wit, deceived husbands, and resourceful handmaids suggest the middle and upper classes of Rome. Lest his lessons should prove too apt, he added another treatise, Remedia amoris, on curing love. The best remedy is hard work; next, hunting; third, absence; “it is also useful to surprise your lady in the morning, before she has completed her toilette.” Finally, to make the balance even, he wrote De medicamina faciei feminineae, a metrical manual of cosmetics, pilfered from the Greeks. These little volumes sold so well that Ovid soared to heights of insolent fame. “So long as I am celebrated all the world over, it matters not to me what one or two pettifoggers say about me.” He did not know that one of these pettifoggers was Augustus, that the Prince resented his poems as an insult to the Julian laws, and would not forget the insult when imperial scandal should touch the poet’s careless head. About the third year of our era Ovid married a third time. His new wife belonged to one of the most distinguished families in Rome. Now forty-six, the poet settled down to domestic life and seems to have lived in mutual faith and happiness with Fabia. Age did to him what law could not; it cooled his fires and made his poetry respectable. In the Heroides he told again the love stories of famous women- Penelope, Phaedra, Dido, Ariadne, Sappho, Helen, Hero; told them, perhaps, at too great length, for repetition can make even love a bore. Startling, however, is a sentence in which Phaedra expresses Ovid’s philosophy: “Jove decreed that virtue is whatever brings us pleasure.” About A.D. 7 the poet published his greatest work, the Metamorphoses. These fifteen “books” recounted in engaging hexameters the renowned transformations of inanimate objects, animals, mortals, and gods. Since almost everything in Greek and Roman legend changed its form, the scheme permitted Ovid to range through the whole realm of classical mythology from the creation of the world to the deification of Caesar. These are the old tales that until a generation ago were de rigueur in every college, and whose memory has not yet been erased by the revolution of our time: Phaethon’s chariot, Pyramus and Thisbe, Perseus and Andromeda, the Rape of Proserpine, Arethusa, Medea, Daedalus and Icarus, Baucis and Philemon, Orpheus and Eurydice, Atalanta, Venus and Adonis, and many more; here is the treasury from which a hundred thousand poems, paintings, and statues have taken their themes. If one must still learn the old myths there is no more painless way than by reading this kaleidoscope of men and gods- stories told with skeptical humor and amorous bent, and worked up with such patient art as no mere trifler could ever have achieved. Little wonder that at the end the confident poet announced his own immortality: per saecula omnia vivam – “I shall live forever.” He had hardly written the words when news came that Augustus had banished him to cold and barbarous Tomi on the Black Sea- even today unalluring as Constanta. It was a blow for which the poet, rounding fifty-one, was wholly unprepared. He had just composed, toward the close of the Metamorphoses, an elegant tribute to the Emperor, whose statesmanship he now recognized as the source of that peace, security, and luxury which Ovid’s generation had enjoyed. He had half completed, under the title of Fasti, an almost pious poem celebrating the religious feasts of the Roman year. In these verses he was on the way to making an epic out of a calendar, for he applied to the tales of the old religion, and to the honoring of its shrines and gods, the same lucid facility, delicacy of word and phrase, and even flow of racy narrative that he had devoted to Greek mythology and Roman love. He had hoped to dedicate the work to Augustus as a contribution to the religious restoration and as an apologetic palinode to the faith he once had scorned.

The Emperor gave no reason for his edict, and no one today can fathom its causes confidently. He offered some hint, however, by at the same time banishing his granddaughter Julia, and ordering that Ovid’s works should be removed from the public libraries. The poet had apparently played some role in Julia’s misconduct- whether as witness, accomplice, or principal. He himself declared that he was punished for “an error” and his poems, and implied that he had been the unwilling observer of some indecent scene. He was given the remaining months of the year (A.D. 8) to arrange his affairs. The decree was relegatio, softer than exile in allowing him to retain his property, harsher in commanding him to stay in one city. He burned his manuscripts of the Metamorphoses, but some readers had made copies, and preserved them. Most of his friends avoided him; a few dared the lightning by staying with him till his departure; and his wife, who remained behind at his bidding, supported him with affection and loyalty. Otherwise Rome took no notice as the bard of its joys sailed out of Ostia on the long voyage from everything that he had loved. The sea was rough nearly all the days of that trip, and the poet thought once that the waves would engulf the vessel. When he saw Tomi he regretted that he had survived, and gave himself over to grief.