The Epistles of Ovid

The Epistles of Ovid
By P. Ovidius Naso
London J. Nunn, Great-Queen-Street; R. Priestly, 143, High-Holborn; R. Lea, Greek-Street, Soho; and J. Rodwell, New-Bond-Street 1813

Perseus Documents Collection Table of Contents

Penelope to Ulysses

Phyllis to Demophoon

Briseis to Achilles

Phaedra to Hippolytus

Oenone to Paris

Hypsipyle to Jason

Dido to Aeneas

Hermione to Orestes

Deianira to Hercules

Ariadne to Theseus

Canace to Macareus

Medea to Jason

Laodamia to Protesilaus

Hypermnestra to Lynceus

Sappho to Phaon

Paris to Helen

Helen to Paris

Leander to Hero

Hero to Leander

Acontius to Cydippe

Cydippe to Acontius

Funded by The Annenberg CPB/Project

Briseis to Achilles


I saw the walls of Lyrnessus give way to your irresistible attack; nor was I an inconsiderable part of my native country. I saw three fall, brethren in blood as well as fate; who all sprang from the same mother. I saw my husband too stretched upon the bloody plain, and tossing with anguish his breast drenched in gore. Yet all these losses were recompensed in you alone; you were to me instead of a husband, a lord, a brother. You swore to me by the sacred deity of your sea-green mother, that it should be my happiness to have fallen a captive into your hands: for instance; to refuse me though offered to you with a large dowry, and reject the riches which you are urged to accept with me! It is even reported, that when returning Aurora gilds the mountains, you will open your flaxen sails to the cloud-bearing south winds. Soon as this cruel resolve reached my trembling ears, the blood forsook my breast; I was without life or soul. You will then abandon me! O barbarous man, what misery are you preparing for hapless Briseis! What solace can I expect in my forlorn state? Sooner may the gaping earth swallow me up, or the missile bolts of Jove overwhelm me, than I, abandoned, be doomed to behold the sea foaming after your Thessalian oars, and your ships deserting my distracted view. If you are determined to return, and visit again your native fields, I can be no very cumbersome load to your fleet. I submit to follow you as a captive subject to her conqueror, not as a spouse accompanying her husband. My hand will not disdain the meanest office. May the fairest of the Grecian dames become the happy partner of your bed, one worthy of such a father-in-law as the grandson of Jupiter and gina, to whom old Nereus will not disdain to be related. I her humble handmaid will diligently ply my task, and the twisted threads shall lessen the loaded distaff. Grant only that your wife, who I fear will regard me as a rival, be not suffered to treat me cruelly. Let her not tear my hair in your presence, while you unconcerned say, This girl was once dear to me. But I will submit to bear even this, rather than be left behind helpless and neglected. The dread of such treatment shakes my wretched frame. What can you wish for more? Agamemnon repents of his anger; and disconsolate Greece falls at your feet. You

who are conqueror every where else, be master also of yourself and your passions. Why is insulting Hector allowed to triumph over the Grecian troops? Take arms, brave grandson of acus, after first receiving me to your embraces; and urge their vanquished troops with a victorious spear. Your resentment was first kindled for my sake; let it cease also for my sake: may I be both the cause and measure of your disgust. Nor think it dishonorable to yield to my entreaties. Meleager took up arms at the request of his wife. I have it only by hearsay; but you are acquainted with the whole story. Altha's brothers being slain by her son, the unhappy parent devoted him with many imprecations. A war ensued: he, disgusted, laid down his arms, retired, and obstinately refused to assist his native country. His wife alone had power to move him: thrice happy she! But my words, alas! have no weight with you. Yet do I not repine; nor, though often called to my lord's bed, did I ever boast that I was your wife.