OVID, Heroides - a selection

OVID, Heroides, a selection, Introduction, notes and vocabulary by John Godwin, ed. Bloomsbury,London 2016, 108 pp. £12.99

OVID, Heroides, a selection, Introduction, notes and vocabulary by John Godwin, ed. Bloomsbury,London 2016, 108 pp. £12.99

It is with a great pleasure that I have examined this charming book about women in love in Greek Myth.  This handy well-printed issue makes part of a collection specially suitable for students taking exams in Latin Verse and High Level Prose.  Cicero’s Pro Milone, Tacitus’ Annales together with a selection of Letters by Seneca make part of it.

Concerning Heroides, the book opens with a quite short accurate introduction: Ovid´s life and works.  The author underlines how Ovid used elegiac couplets for Tristia and Heroides, linking his own sadness and sense of abandonment at the end of his life with Heroides 1.


Then we find a very clear summary of the work itself: 21 poems, most of them properly letters of complaint addressed by distinguished women of Greek Myth to their lovers who have gone away after having left them alone. Three poems include an answer from those smashed, injured lovers. Godwin underlines the skill of Ovid in order to combine love elegy with the more funeral lament elegy.  To be noticed too is that letters were never written in verse before; Ovid becomes innovative and tries it for the first time.  The author points out the great ability of Ovid to touch the reader`s heart; in fact he is able to make his audience argue and rage either with or against this gallery of sad women.  The introduction closes with a very elementary approach to Greek elegiac couplet.


As a matter of fact the selection includes only two poems: VI and XI.  The first one involves Hypsipyle, the second one Ariadne, a couple of meaningful characters; so different, yet so similar at the same time, they both reflect perfectly what a heroine really is for Ovid.  The selection for VI includes lines 1-100 and 127-64,the editor filling in the gap with a short abstract.  Poem XI includes lines 1-76 and 119-50 and then an accurate detailed commentary notes follows the Latin text. They include linguistic and cultural remarks.  I have liked very much those concerning vocabulary.  The author has previously explained the personality and the environment of both Hypsipyle and Ariadne.


I simply wonder why Godwin has refused to compare both texts; it would have been very interesting to discover affinities and differences between them. There is only one single list of vocabulary including difficult or at least unusual words appearing in both texts; it would have been useful to indicate if such or such a word is to be found at poem VI or XI (words appearing in both poems, special meaning of such a word in both poems, hapax to be found, just in case----) But not simply vocabulary should have been compared: reactions, gestures, situations are often coincident but sometimes peculiar and specific. Ariadne in fact gave useful help to Theseus; Hypsipyle instead gave Jason hospitality, help coming later from Medea.  Both poems are extremely suitable for this kind of comparative examination that the author has considered inconvenient.

Anyway that is simply a humble suggestion for further publications. The book is excellent and I no doubt recommend it to students and teachers willing to continue further study and research about this unique gallery of women in love in Greek Myth.



José Luis Navarro