Furiosa libido. Ovid on love and madness.

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Wydawnictwo Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk

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This paper presents Ovid’s views on the concept of love madness. Taking Ars amatoria, in particular the distich (1.281–282) in which the poet blames woman’s love fury on her lust as its research material, the paper investigates how the notion in question has been realized in this “textbook for lovers.” There, Ovid uses the mythological figures of women who committed crimes against social rules to illustrate the said concept; the paper, in turn, juxtaposes it with the narratives in Metamorphoses (the stories of Byblis and Myrrha). Additionally, it makes use of the tale of Iphis, a story not included in Ars amatoria which can nevertheless be also treated as illustrative of how madness can overcome enamored women. The paper both contrasts the above mentioned stories with the narratives showing men’s inclinations to insanity caused by passion and examines the notion of love madness in the context and with regard to the style of Ovid’s works.


The main aim of the paper is to examine the nature of the concept of love madness in Ovid’s Ars amatoria and Metamorphoses. The paper opens with a presentation of a distich from Ars amatoria (1.281-282) considering the notion of love madness, describing it as furiosa libido, furious passion. The poet presents it as innate to women and adduces evidence for his views in the form of a passage which can be entitled “A catalogue of women madly in love”. It enlists mythological figures of women (Byblis, Myrrha, Clytemnestra, Medea etc.) who, controlled by libido, committed crimes against social rules. After a brief overview of the catalogue and its structure, the paper analyzes the specific character of the poet’s depiction of the libido. It is presented in Ovid’s works as being uncontrollable and independent from the will of women overtaken by it. In the second part, the said passage from Ars amatoria is juxtaposed with two stories from Metamorphoses, which can also be considered as illustrating Ovid’s views on love madness. The stories of Byblis and Myrrha who, however aware of their incestuous feelings being morally wrong, gradually fall into self-destruction, thus proving the lack of control over their passion. Also included is the analysis of the tale of Iphis from Metamorphoses, in which the main character is saved from the woman’s fate of being overtaken by furiosa libido. As a comparison for women’s stories, two passages from Ars amatoria regarding men’s lust are taken into consideration, one concerning Paris and the other Tereus. While Paris is cleared of blame, Tereus, a barbarian, falls under the same category as lustful women, as his libido is similarly innate and impossible to control. Also in the part relating to the poet’s depiction of men’s passion, Jupiter is portrayed as a god of lustful nature, treated almost equally to women. The paper concludes firstly with the overview of Pasiphae’s story from Ars amatoria and then with an analysis of the language used by the poet in the discussed passages. Both illustrate Ovid’s generally humorous and light tone of the narrative, almost entirely devoid of moral lecture, typical for the poet’s views on all matters related to love.



Ovid, Ars amatoria, women, madness, love


Symbolae Philologorum Posnaniensium, 2013, nr XXIII/2, s. 141-151



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego