Ovid – The Art of Love

Cupid

Amor stringing his bow, Roman copy after Greek original by Lysippos. Musei Capitolini, Rome. Photo: Ricardo André Frantz

Love is a boy.

Ovid begins his treatise, The Art of Love with Cupid, a wild boy.

By this we know that we are dealing with Eros, desire, Cupid’s Greek equivalent, from whom we get the words erotic and erogenous zones. There are of course other loves.

C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves gives us not only Eros but also Storge (affection, as a parent for a child or a child for a pet), Philia (friendship) and Agape (in the sense used in 1 Corinthians 13 – divine love).

The happiest marriages and sexual partnerships include all four loves. The case for friendship is easy to make, and of the others I shall perhaps treat another time.

Back to our ancient Roman guide through the difficulties of love. Ovid says that he is well-qualified to write on this subject because he is old enough to have learned Cupid’s ways. Cupid is notoriously mischievous. If you are anything like me, you will have fallen in love many times and had no idea how even to get a kiss. But Ovid says his poem springs from experience.

Just as the fierce warrior Achilles was taught and tamed as a boy by his teacher, the old Centaur Chiron, so Ovid says he will tame the wild boy Cupid, ‘though his arrows riddle me.’

Over the coming weeks it is my intention to look at what Ovid says and see how much of it still applies today.

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One thought on “Ovid – The Art of Love

  1. Pingback: Ovid’s banned book | Cornelius Agrippa

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