Latin For You

Teaching and translating ancient Latin since 1986

Ovid in the Cambridge Latin Course

The following are the passages of Ovid which appear in the Cambridge Latin Course, Unit 4 as well as the selected reading book (Cambridge Latin Anthology).  Some extra assistance has been provided for students who are still getting used to translating/reading ancient Latin.  So far what has been provided is a good translation, some notes on literature and culture and a parsing exercise. 

Metamorphoses 1.253-300 (selections)

This passage describes how Jove attempted to destroy mankind (for their wickedness) by sending a great flood and what happened as a result.  The passage has been divided into two separate sections for ease of use.

     Iamque erat in totas sparsurus fulmina terras;
sed timuit, ne forte sacer tot ab ignibus aether
conciperet flammas longusque ardesceret axis:
poena placet diversa, genus mortale sub undis      
perdere et ex omni nimbos demittere caelo.               5
     Protinus Aeoliis Aquilonem claudit in antris
emittitque Notum. madidis Notus evolat alis,
barba gravis nimbis, canis fluit unda capillis;
fit fragor: hinc densi funduntur ab aethere nimbi;        Nec caelo contenta suo est Iovis ira, sed illum        10
caeruleus frater iuvat auxiliaribus undis.
     Ipse tridente suo terram percussit, at illa
intremuit motuque vias patefecit aquarum.

And now he was about to scatter lightning bolts upon all the lands; but he was afraid that the sacred heaven might burst into flames from so many fires and the long vault of heaven might catch fire: a different penalty pleases (him), to destroy the human race under the waves and to send clouds down from every (part of the) sky.  At once he closes the West Wind in the caves of Aeolus and sends out the South Wind.  The South Wind flies out on wet wings; his beard is heavy with clouds; a wave flows from his white hair; a crash arises: from there thick clouds are poured from the sky; and the anger of Jove is not satisfied with heaven, his brother from the deep blue sea helps with additional waves.  He himself struck the ground with his trident and it shook and revealed the waterways with the quake.



sparsurus erat _____________________________________

fulmina __________________________________________

aether ___________________________________________

conciperet ________________________________________

mortale __________________________________________

perdere ___________________________________________

Aeoliis ___________________________________________

alis ______________________________________________

canis ____________________________________________

fit _______________________________________________

funduntur _________________________________________

contenta __________________________________________

Iovis _____________________________________________

auxiliaribus _______________________________________

illa ______________________________________________

motu ____________________________________________


4)  placet is the technical word used in the senate when a law is passed (‘it pleases the senate that . . .’).  It is often best translated as 'he decided'.  There is also ellipsis - a word which would normally be reuired is left out, in this case, Iovi.

4-5)  Hysteron Proteron, when the logical order of events is reversed (drowning and then rain).

7-8)  Personification of  the South wind (Notus).

7-8)  Asyndeton (lack of conjunctions, like ‘and’).

8)  est is assumed (barba est gravis).

10)  Personification of Jove’s anger (ira).

13)  Metaphor:- the riverbeds are called the roads of water

Jove decided that mankind was so wicked that it should be destroyed and he would start over.  His first thought is to use his traditional weapon, the thunderbolt, but he decides that is too dangerous and opts for a flood.  The story is basically the same as the story of Noah in the Bible.

Heaven was thought to be as solid as the earth and, so, liable to the same dangers, including fire.

Aeolus is the god of the winds and he keeps them in the caves where he lives.  Jove gave Aeolus his power, which is why Jove can command the winds himself if he wishes.

The forces of nature are all personified as deities: the South wind is a mature man who is covered in water and clouds because the South wind brought rain and storms.

Neptune is Jove’s brother and is the god of the sea and of earthquakes.  His weapon is the trident.





exspatiata ruunt per apertos flumina campos
iamque mare et tellus nullum discrimen habebant:  15
omnia pontus erant, derant quoque litora ponto.
     Occupat hic collem, cumba sedet alter adunca
et ducit remos illic, ubi nuper arabat:
ille supra segetes aut mersae culmina villae
navigat, hic summa piscem deprendit in ulmo.        20
     nat lupus inter oves, fulvos vehit unda leones              quaesitisque diu terris, ubi sistere possit,                         in mare lassatis volucris vaga decidit alis.                      et, modo qua graciles gramen carpsere capellae,
nunc ibi deformes ponunt sua corpora phocae.        25

The spread out rivers rush through the opened fields and now the sea and land had no boundary: all things were the sea, the shores also were missing the sea.

This one occupies a hill; another sits in a curved boat and plies the oars where recently he was plowing: that one sails over his crops or the submerged roof of his house, this one spots a fish in the top of an elm.

The wolf swims with the sheeps, a wave carries light brown lions and a bird, who has searched so long for land where he might be able to stop, falls into the sea on tired wings.  And where graceful goats just nibbled on grass, now ugly seals place their bodies there.




exspatiata ________________________________________

apertos __________________________________________


discrimen ________________________________________

ponto_ __________________________________________

cumba ___________________________________________

remos ___________________________________________




nat _____________________________________________

oves  ___________________________________________

quaesitis _________________________________________



gramen _________________________________________

carpsere _________________________________________

phocae __________________________________________

19) Hyallage (Transferred Epithet):- 'the roof of the submerge house', rather than 'the submerged roof of the house'.

21-23) Tricolon:- there are three elements to this sentence for 3 different animals; wolf, lions and bird.  As is usual, the third and final part of the tricolon is the longest which makes this an ascending tricolon.

24) Elision:- carpsere is often referred as the poetic form of the 3rd plural perfect indicative active (carpserunt).  It is actually the elided form, although it is typically used in poetry which often needs more short syllables.

24-25) the comparison between the graceful goats and the ugly seals is one made on the basis of movement rather than appearance.

This is a description of the world turned upside down.

The Roman world was very much an agrarian world (everyone was a farmer).  So we see plowing, sheep and goats.


Metamorphoses 8.183-235

This is another section of the Metamorphoses where Daedalus and his son Icarus escape from King Minos and Crete using wings which Daedalus has made.  The famous story of Icarus flying to close the the sun and being destroyed was a metaphor in the ancient world for striving too high in life.  There is also a lesson


Daedalus interea (Creten longumque perosus
exilium tactusque loci natalis amore)
clausus erat pelago. 'terras licet' inquit 'et undas
obstruat: at caelum certe patet; ibimus illac:
omnia possideat, non possidet aera Minos.'
dixit et ignotas animum dimittit in artes
naturamque novat. nam ponit in ordine pennas
(ut clivo crevisse putes): sic rustica quondam
fistula disparibus paulatim surgit avenis;

Meanwhile Daedalus (detesting Crete and his long exile, and touched by love of his birth place) had been enclosed by the sea. He says "he can cut off the lands and the waves, but the sky is certainly open; we'll go that way: He might own everything, but Minos doesn't own the sky." He spoke and turned his mind to unknown arts and made nature new. for he places feathers in a row ( you would think that they rose in a curve): in the same way rustic pan pipes rise little by little with their reeds of different lengths.


tum lino medias et ceris alligat imas
atque ita conpositas parvo curvamine flectit,
(ut veras imitetur aves). puer Icarus una
stabat et, (ignarus [sua se tractare pericla]),
ore renidenti modo, (quas vaga moverat aura),
captabat plumas, flavam modo pollice ceram
mollibat lusuque suo mirabile patris
impediebat opus. postquam manus ultima coepto
inposita est, geminas opifex libravit in alas
ipse suum corpus motaque pependit in aura;

Then he fastens the middle of the wings with string and the ends with wax and, thus put together, he bends them into a slight curve (to imitate real birds).  His boy Icarus was standing with him and, without knowing that he handling something dangerous, but with a smile on his face, now he was grabbing at the feathers, which the shifting air moved, now he was softening the yellow wax with his thumb.  With his play he got in the way of his father’s wretched task.  Afterwards he put the final touch on his undertaking and the creator balanced his own body on the double wings and hung on the air as it was moved.


instruit et natum 'medio'que '(ut limite curras),
Icare,' ait 'moneo, (ne, [si demissior ibis],
unda gravet pennas, [si celsior], ignis adurat):
inter utrumque vola. nec te spectare Booten
aut Helicen iubeo strictumque Orionis ensem:
(me duce) carpe viam!' pariter praecepta volandi
tradit et ignotas umeris accommodat alas.

He also instructs his son and says, “I suggest you run by the middle route, so that a wave doesn’t weigh down your feathers, if you go too low, or fire burn you, if you fly too high; fly between the two.  I tell you not to look at Bootes or Helix or Orion’s drawn sword.  I’ll lead, you hit the road!  As he passes on the flying instructions, he settles the unfamiliar wings on his shoulders.


inter opus monitusque genae maduere seniles,
et patriae tremuere manus; dedit oscula nato
non iterum repetenda suo pennisque levatus
ante volat comitique timet, velut ales, ab alto
quae teneram prolem produxit in aera nido,
hortaturque sequi damnosasque erudit artes
et movet ipse suas et nati respicit alas.
hos aliquis tremula dum captat harundine pisces,
aut pastor baculo stivave innixus arator
vidit et obstipuit, (quique aethera carpere possent),
credidit esse deos.


Between the task and the warnings the old man’s cheeks became moist and a father’s hands shook.  He gave to his son kisses never to be given again and, lightened by his feathers, he flies ahead and fears for his companion, like a mother bird who has led her tender chick from their high nest into the air.  and he urges him to follow and he teaches him the cursed arts and he moves his own wings and looks back at his son's.  While someone catches fish with a quivering pole or some shepherd leans on his staff, or some farmer on his plough, he looks and is stunned (who could take to the air?) and believes they are gods.


                                    et iam Iunonia laeva
parte Samos (fuerant Delosque Parosque relictae)
dextra Lebinthos erat fecundaque melle Calymne,
cum puer audaci coepit gaudere volatu
deseruitque ducem caelique cupidine tractus
altius egit iter. rapidi vicinia solis
mollit odoratas, pennarum vincula, ceras;
tabuerant cerae: nudos quatit ille lacertos,
remigioque carens non ullas percipit auras,
oraque caerulea patrium clamantia nomen
excipiuntur aqua, quae nomen traxit ab illo.
at pater infelix, nec iam pater, 'Icare,' dixit,
'Icare,' dixit 'ubi es? qua te regione requiram?'
'Icare' dicebat: pennas aspexit in undis
devovitque suas artes corpusque sepulcro
condidit, et tellus a nomine dicta sepulti.


And now on the left is Juno’s Samos (both Delos and Paros had been left behind) and on the right Lebinthos and Clymne, rich in honey, when the boy began to enjoy the daring flight and abandoned his leader.  Drawn by the love the sky, he took a higher road.




Ovid Ars Amatoria 1.90-100 (elegiac couplets)

Ovid here describes how easy it is to pick up women at the games.

Haec loca sunt voto fertiliora tuo. 90
Illic invenies quod ames, quod ludere possis,
Quodque semel tangas, quodque tenere velis.
Ut redit itque frequens longum formica per agmen,
Granifero solitum cum vehit ore cibum,
Aut ut apes saltusque suos et olentia nactae 95
Pascua per flores et thyma summa volant,
Sic ruit ad celebres cultissima femina ludos:
Copia iudicium saepe morata meum est.
Spectatum veniunt, veniunt spectentur ut ipsae:
Ille locus casti damna pudoris habet. 100

These places are more fertile for your wish. There you will find what you may like, what you can play with, what you may touch once and what you might like to hold. As the numerous ant(s) return and go in a long column and carry their customary food in their grain-bearing mouth(s), or as the bees, having come upon their meadows and fragrant pastures, fly through the flowers and the tips of the thyme, thus does the most cultured woman rush to the crowded games: the quantity has often delayed my selection. They come to be seen, they themselves come to see: that place holds the ruin of chaste modesty.



voto _______ _____________________________________

fertilora _________________________________________


ames __ ________________________________________

tenere __________________________________________





nactae ___________________________________________

celebres _________________________________________


Copia ___________________________________________

morata est _______________________________________



damna __________________________________________

pudoris __________________________________________


Ovid here tells how the games are a good place to pick up women.

90) technically tuo voto are ablative of comparison (more fertile than your wish; i.e., more than you could wish).  It is also possible to take this phrase as dative (IMHO) as in there are more fertile place for you.  In this reading, the comparison is with other places to pick up women.

91-92)  There is chiasmus here as two types of women are mentioned (referred by the neuter relative instead of the feminine, possibly to further objectify the women); women we'll just have an afternoon's fun with (ludere & tangas semel) and women we'll have a longer term relationship with (ames & tenere).

93)  Synchysis (interlocking word order) also seen in lines 94 & 98

93-96) The two similes are very agricultural: ants and bees, both of which were societies which hugely intrigued the ancient Romans.  The ants suggest a continuous line up of women waiting to get into the games.  The bees give the image of crowds of women flitting about here and there, almost without purpose.

97) cultissima is extremely ironic.  It is abit like saying the classiest women rush to watch MMA or professional wrestling.

99) a very neat line which shows two different ways to show purpose.  It also shows how much rhetorical training pervaded Roman writing and Roman thought.