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5 Dating Tips in Latin from the Roman Poet Ovid Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Latin Language, Roman culture

So today, we are going to be exploring dating and courting as it would have been handled in Ancient Rome. However, it may surprise some of you to know that the standards of dating MAY not be that different from then and now.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote various works within his career, but none so insightful for the everyday person as his Ars Amatoria  (The Art of Love). The piece was written about 2 C.E.; however, much of the books’ advice and methods are still applicable to today.

Statue (1887) by Ettore Ferrari  commemorating Ovid's exile in Tomis

Statue (1887) by Ettore Ferrari
commemorating Ovid’s exile in Tomis; Courtesyof WIkiCommons & Ettore Ferrari

The Ars Amatoria was composed of several books; the first was to show a man how to find a woman. In the second book, Ovid shows how a man may keep her. Lastly, the third book (written two years after the first book was published) gives women advice on how to win and keep the love of a man.  He opens the third book with:

Amazon preparing for a battle (Queen Antiop or Armed Venus), by Pierre-Eugène-Emile Hébert 1860 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Amazon preparing for a battle (Queen Antiop or Armed Venus), by Pierre-Eugène-Emile Hébert 1860 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) Courtesy of WikiCommons & Palbrattberg.

Arma dedi Danais in Amazonas; arma supersunt,
quae tibi dem et turmae, Penthesilea, tuae.
ite in bella pares

I have given weapons to the Greeks against the Amazons; the weapons
which remain I give to you, Penthesilea, and your crew.
Go as equals into war!

– Ovid, Ars.III.

 

 

Ovid’s progressive attitude is both condemnable and humorous. The fact that he equates dating/courting to war and his advice to weapons is one in which most people can understand. Dating can be a dangerous tricky game.  Here are ten crucial pieces that I believe Ovid would agree are essential for dating (for either sex):

1. LOVE WON’T JUST HAPPEN; YOU NEED TO GO OUT AND FIND IT!

Dum licet, et loris passim potes ire solutis,
Elige cui dicas ‘tu mihi sola places.’
Haec tibi non tenues veniet delapsa per auras:
Quaerenda est oculis apta puella tuis.

While you are still permitted, and you are able to go anywhere because you are not tied down,
Choose someone! and say to your chosen: ‘You alone are perfect (suitable) for me.’
This woman will not come having fallen to you through thin airs:
You must look with your eyes for a suitable girl.

– Ovid, Ars.I.

2. YOU PROBABLY WON’T FIND MR./MS. RIGHT AT THE CLUB; ALCOHOL & LOW LIGHTING ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS 

Be cautious in low light situations!  Courtesy of WikiCommons & J. Samuel Burner.

Be cautious in low light situations!
Courtesy of WikiCommons & J. Samuel Burner.

Et Venus in vinis ignis in igne fuit.
Hic tu fallaci nimium ne crede lucernae:
Iudicio formae noxque merumque nocent.

And Love in wine becomes a fire within a fire*
On this occasion, don’t you trust deceptive candle light too much
Nighttime darkness and wine harm your decision making and standards

-Ovid, Ars.I.

*[Love/Lust is already passionate and fiery; wine will just add fuel to the fire.]

3. LOVE IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT:SOMETIMES FRIENDSHIP LEADS TO LOVE

Beware the "Friend Zone"

Beware the “Friend Zone”
Painting by Marcus Stone. Courtesty of WikiCommons & Public Domain.

Nec semper veneris spes est profitenda roganti:
Intret amicitiae nomine tectus amor.
Hoc aditu vidi tetricae data verba puellae:
Qui fuerat cultor, factus amator erat.

It is necessary not to always be asking for the hope of love*
Let love appear disguised by the name of friendship
With this entrance (friendship), I have seen the surrendering words of fierce women
This (friendship)which has been the cultivator, a lover was made.

*[i.e. Don’t come off desperate!]

-Ovid, Ars.I.

 

 

4. KEEPING UP APPEARANCES & PLAYING TO YOUR STRENGTHS

ADVICE FOR WOMEN

quam paene admonui,
ne trux caper iret in alas,
neue forent duris aspera crura pilis!
exiguo signet gestu, quodcumque loquetur,
cui digiti pingues et scaber unguis erit.
cui grauis oris odor numquam ieiuna loquatur
et semper spatio distet ab ore uiri.
si niger aut ingens aut non erit ordine natus
dens tibi, ridendo maxima damna feres.

The thing which I was nearly going to say:
[address] the odor in your armpit so that it does not go rancid
and your legs so they are not rough with hair.
With little gesture make, whenever she may speak
the woman who will have fat fingers and dirty nails.
And to the woman whose breath of her mouth is burdensome, never speak hungry
and always keep some distance away from your lover’s mouth.
If you’re teeth are blackened, large, or not in line
from birth, you will carry the greatest error by laughing.

-Ovid, Ars.III.

ADVICE FOR MEN

Sit bene conveniens et sine labe toga:
Lingula ne rigeat, careant rubigine dentes,
Nec vagus in laxa pes tibi pelle natet:
Nec male deformet rigidos tonsura capillos:
Sit coma, sit trita barba resecta manu.
Et nihil emineant, et sint sine sordibus ungues:
Inque cava nullu
s stet tibi nare pilus.
Nec male odorati sit tristis anhelitus oris:
Nec laedat naris virque paterque gregis.

[ See to it that..]He is well-composed, and the toga without a stain.
That the tongue not be unbending, and that your teeth be without tartar,
Nor let your foot swim about while walking in a loose shoe(s).
Don’t let a hair-cut badly fashion your stiff hair;
Let your hair and your beard be trimmed by a familiar hand.
And that it doesn’t stick up too much, and that your nails are without dirt.
And no hairs stand out in the cavities from the nostril.
Nor let the breath of your sad mouth be badly scented,
Nor [smelling] as a man or billy-goat annoy nostils.

-Ovid, Ars.I.

5. AVOID THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT THE SAME TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP AS YOU

Portrait of Casanova by Alessandro Longhi

Portrait of Casanova by Alessandro Longhi. Courtesy of WikiCommons, Public Domain, and Fang2415.

Sed uitate uiros cultum formamque professos
quique suas ponunt in statione comas.
quae uobis dicunt, dixerunt mille puellis;
errat et in nulla sede moratur Amor.

Avoid those men who swears by looks and culture,
who keeps their hair carefully in place.
The things they tell to you they’ve told a thousand girls:
their love wanders and lingers in no one place.

Ovid, Ars.III.

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About the Author: Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.


Comments:

  1. Maurice Gonzales:

    Hi, Brittany!
    I’m currently a UCR student in Classical Studies and I just wanted to say I really love what you did here. It’s pretty amazing!! Thank you for this amazing contribution 😀