Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) (43 BC - AD 18) Roman poet, author of many love verses and elegies, among his big poetic works are Metamorphoses and Fasti. He was exiled by Emperor Augustus in AD 8 to the Black Sea, where he died ten years later. Metamorphoses is a free and poetic retelling of the Greek and Roman myths and legends. The Fasti (Festivals) is a poetic retelling of Roman early history, description of seasonal rites and festivals.
Subjects from the Metamorphoses:
and Baucis (8:621-96), an old couple, gave hospitality in their small
and humble house to a pair of travelers, who had been refused from richer
houses. During the evening some miraculous events took place: their only
goose, which they wanted prepare for the dinner of the guests, flew to
the visitors for refuge and the wine bowl replenished itself. Then the
travelers revealed themselves. They were Jupiter and Mercury. They took
Philemon and Baucis to the mountain, from which they watched as all the
country was covered by flood waters, only the cottage, where Jupiter and
Mercury had received hospitality did not suffer and was turned into a temple.
Philemon and Baucis wished to be priest and priestess of the temple and
were granted permission. After their death they were turned into an oak
and a lime tree.
See: Rembrandt Philemon and Baucis.
Peter Paul Rubens Stormy Landscape with Philemon and Baucis.
Ages of the World (1:89-150). Ovid describes how the World
went through four ages in its development, or rather degradation, because
each succeeding age brought more and more problems and grief to mankind:
the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age.
1. The Golden Age was an earthly paradise: men lived in harmony with each other and Mother nature, who provided them with all the necessary things.
2. During the next, the Silver Age, the climate became harsher, and men had to start working to provide themselves with dwellings for protection against cold, and had to learn to plough and sow to get food. First vices appeared and quarrels started among men.
See: Lucas Cranach the Elder The Silver Age, The Silver Age (The Effects of Jealousy).
3. The Bronze Age.
4. The Iron Age is full of tribulations, greed and malice. The world is now in the Iron Age.
Pyramis and Thisbe. The subject is
from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (IV, 55ff). Pyramis and Thisbe
are Babylonian lovers, whose parents are against their union; they plan
to elope. First they are to meet at a nearby spring. Thisbe comes first
and finds a lioness, which has just returned from successful hunt, her
jaws still covered with blood. Frightened Thisbe runs away, but drops her
cape; the lioness takes it and chews it, tearing and leaving blood stains
over it. Pyramis arrives at the place and believes his beloved was
torn by the lioness, he plunges his sword into his breast. The returned
Thisbe can't live without her love and also kills herself.
See: Hans Baldung. Pyramis and Thisbe.
Nicolas Poussin Landscape with Pyram and Thisbe.
Subjects from the Fasti:
The Rape of Lucretia (2:725-852). This is a story from ancient Rome: while her husband is away, the virtuous Lucretia is raped by Sextus, the son of the King Tarqunius the Proud. In order to save her honor Lucretia takes her own life, but not before revealing the reason of the suicide in a letter to her father and husband. On her tomb her family gave an oath to avenge her death. As a result a rebellion took place against the tyrant Tarquinius. The revolt led to the fall of the king's power of Rome and foundation of the Roman Republic.
See: Alessandro Botticelli The Story of Lucretia.
Lucas Cranach the Elder Lucretia.
Lorenzo Lotto Lady with a Drawing of Lucretia.
Rembrandt. Lucretia. Lucretia.
Jan van Scorel. Lucretia.
Phyllis and Demophoon is a story from Ovid’s Heroides. Phyllis was a Thracian queen who fell in love with Demophoon, son of Theseus and Phaedra, when he stayed at her court on his return from the Trojan wars. They married but Demophoon deserted her in several months and went to Athens on a visit, having promised to return in a month. However he did not return. Phyllis was so distraught that gods took pity and turned her into an almond tree. When at last Demophoon came back to Thrace and found out about Phyllis, he ran to the almond-tree and embraced it. The tree immediately burst into blossom and gradually transformed into the queen again.
See: Sir Edward Burne-Jones Tree of Forgiveness, Phyllis and Demophoon.