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The Art of Love

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Adult | Published in 2

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Summary and Study Guide


The Art of Love, or Ars Amatoria, by Ovid, was published between 1 BCE and 2 CE. It was originally written in Latin. This guide cites the English translation by A. D. Melville, published by Oxford World Classics in 1990.

The Art of Love is a didactic poem, or one that is intended to teach the reader. It probably was written after another didactic piece by Ovid, Cosmetics for Ladies, and his love poems Amores, but before his most famous work, Metamorphoses. The Art of Love includes many allusions to authors who inspired Ovid, such as Homer (the author of the Iliad and Odyssey) and Virgil (the author of the Aeneid). Ovid intends to teach a male audience How to Find, Catch, and Keep a Woman; offers Advice for Women; and discusses the Art of Writing.

Poet Biography

Ovid was born at the end of the Republican period of the Roman Empire, on March 20, 43 BCE, in Sulmona, Italy. When Augustus Caesar assumed power and ended the Republic, Ovid’s family sent him to study in Rome, with the expectation that he would become an Imperial official. Instead, upon completing his education, Ovid dedicated himself to poetry, beginning with his three-book sequence, Amores.

Ovid would build on the reputation established by this work, publishing further works on love, cosmetics, and the tragedy of Medea. Toward the beginning of the Common Era, the deaths of Virgil and Horace left Ovid indisputably the most prestigious poet of the Roman Empire. He began work on what he believed to be his masterpieces, Fasti and Metamorphoses. When the latter was complete, Ovid’s life was upended when Augustus Caesar condemned him to exile. The causes were most likely three-fold: Ovid’s overly erotic poetry was at odds with the culturally conservative culture of Rome, the poet was not obsequious enough to the ruler, and Ovid was possibly even involved in a political plot of some kind. Ovid would publish Metamorphoses, which—besides being one the great foundational texts of Western literature—is considered the premiere source for Greek and Roman mythology. He never returned to Rome, and died in 17 CE.

Poem Text

Ovid, translated by Melville, A.D. 1990. The Love Poems. Oxford World Classics.


Book 1

The first stanza introduces the poem as a guide for would-be lovers. The speaker (Ovid) is the navigator for those who want to learn about the art of loving. He is recommended by Venus and asks for her blessing. Cupid was the speaker’s teacher, just as the consummate musician centaur Chiron taught the Greek warrior Achilles how to play the lyre—the implication is that each of these figures (including Ovid) is at the height of his powers and abilities. As a result, the speaker can now make love serve him. The stanza also explains that this book is for men.

The second stanza outlines the steps in the pursuit of love. First, locate a female partner; second, obtain their consent; and third, keep them for the long term.

The third stanza is about finding a romantic partner. Ovid compares this act to hunting animals, which begins with finding their natural habitats. There are diverse women worth hunting for in Rome, as many women as there are fish in the sea or stars in the sky. Ovid lists locations where women can be found, such as Pompey’s colonnade and the legal courts.

The fourth stanza indicates that the theater, a place to see and be seen, is one of the best locations for finding love. Ovid compares theater patrons to ants and bees. Then, Ovid describes how Romulus, one of the mythic founders of Rome, ordered the sexual assault of the Sabine women—an infamous legend about the city. Those women are compared to prey animals, like doves and lambs, while their rapists are compared to predators—eagles and wolves. This incident still causes people to think that theater is a dangerous and alluring place.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker recommends the racetrack as another place to meet women. There, it is easy to exchange notes with and sit close to the object of one’s affection. Ovid recommends initiating a more intimate connection through innocuous physical touch or small services: cleaning real—or imagined—dirt off of a woman, helping her hold her clothes off the ground, fanning her, and/or getting her a footstool.

Attending gladiator matches is suggested in the sixth stanza. Ovid compares the fighting in the ring to being hit with love in the audience.

The seventh stanza attributes Rome’s diversity to Caesar’s expansion of the Roman Empire. Despite his youth, Caesar has been successful. The speaker asks the god Mars to bless Caesar, and predicts more victories for the emperor, which the poet will write about. All of these victories offer opportunities to the aspiring lover: the resulting triumph (parade) is a good place to talk to a woman—you can answer her questions, making up what you don’t know, about the people in the processional.

The eighth stanza suggests meeting women at dinner parties. Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry, and Cupid, the god of love, come together at these. Wine can assist in flirtation and seduction because it makes people passionate, carefree, and joyful. However, Ovid warns against choosing a partner in candlelight. He suggests ascertaining what a woman looks like in the daylight before seducing her. Ovid also describes Baiae’s springs—a popular spa-like resort—and Diana’s forest as good places for flirtation. However, readers should be warned that Diana, the virgin goddess of the hunt, hates Cupid.

Ovid uses Stanza 10 to announce a change of topic. In the following stanzas, he will reveal the art of courting, or catching, women.

Stanza 11 argues that any woman can be seduced, and hunting for a romantic partner should be thought of as fishing. A woman who initially refuses a man’s advances will eventually consent. After all, women are also amorous: If men did not initiate romantic contact, women would. In fact, men are more restrained than animals in their desires—unlike women. Ovid lists women with problematic sexuality, such as the incestuous desires of Byblis and Myrrha. Another example is the bestiality of Pasiphae, the Queen of Crete—her sexual contact with a bull created the Minotaur, which had to be confined to a labyrinth. These wildly inappropriate desires make it clear that all women have sexual urges and most want to consent to sex. Plus, if a woman doesn’t consent, there are other women to pursue.

Stanza 12 recommends working with a woman’s maid. A maid can reveal when to approach her mistress, such as when another man has angered her. Also, a maid can speak on your behalf. If you are interested in seducing the maid, as well as her employer, you should seduce the mistress first—that way no one’s sense of dignity or status will be insulted. However, this is not advised. Again, courtship is compared to hunting.

Stanza 13 discusses the timing of your romantic pursuit. Avoiding gift-giving occasions will keep you from having to spend money on a woman. Women are greedy for gifts and will not pay back any money you loan them.

Stanza 14 suggests writing letters. However, before sending off a letter, Ovid recommends praying for a good result; he offers examples of effective prayers from Greek myth. During courtship, it should seem to the woman like you are going to spoil her, but you should wait to actually give her things. The speaker compares a woman’s desire for what is withheld to farmers desiring their crops to grow or gamblers desiring to win at dice games—a woman will invest time and effort into a relationship she assumes will eventually pay off.

Stanza 15 describes what to write to a woman. Women can be won over with eloquence. Your letter should be conversational and persuasive. Being persistent is also important. Ovid compares how a woman will eventually submit with how animals, like oxen and horses, submit. There are many potential outcomes for letter-writing—a woman returning letters unread, not answering letters, or answering coldly—but Ovid advises patience.

In Stanza 16, the speaker suggests approaching the woman when she is out and about in Rome. For instance, you can walk with her through an arcade or see her at the theater. Overall, you should learn her habits and work around her schedule.

Stanza 17 is about appearance. A man seeking a woman should not use too many beauty tools or products. Ovid offers examples of natural beauty, such as the mythological heroes Theseus and Adonis. A man should be clean and neat. For instance, his nails and hair should be trimmed. Also, his clothes should fit and not be damaged. Ovid argues that being overly groomed sends the wrong signal: Gay men, and not heterosexual men, pay too much attention to appearance.

Stanza 18 links Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry, to love. Bacchus, with his Bacchanals and satyrs, approached Ariadne after Theseus betrayed her. Meanwhile, Silenus, one of the satyrs, was harassed by nymphs and fell off his donkey. Ariadne fled from Bacchus, but he pursued and won her.

Stanza 19 shows the reader how to apply this example from myth: He should use wine in his seduction. Before a dinner party, pray to Bacchus. Then, at the party, whisper and hint that you are interested in a woman. Make eye contact with her, and be in physical contact with her by sharing the same cup and dishes of food. If she has a lover, flatter him as well. He can assist you in winning her. Ovid advises against getting into drunken brawls. Instead, dance or sing. You can pretend to be drunker than you are to slip in flirtatious comments into your conversation. At the end of the party, as guests are leaving, you should approach your object of desire with confidence. Your words should be artful, but not necessarily truthful. Lies about love might turn into love. Women enjoy being flattered, so praise them extensively, and they will put on a show for you.

In Stanza 20, Ovid elaborates on lying. Jove, the father of the gods approves of lying, and himself lies to his goddess wife Juno, setting the example for mortal men. But at the same time, remember that the gods do pay attention to human behavior, so be sure you are generally honest and moral. Being moral includes deceiving deceivers. This is supported with the story of Busiris, a king of Egypt slayed by Hercules, being tortured with the brazen bull for suggesting a sacrifice will end a drought.

Stanza 21 describes forms of persuasion. These include crying or pretending to cry, praying, and kissing. However, kissing too forcefully might result in rejection. Overall, women enjoy being dominated. They will regret not consenting if they have any amount of desire. This is supported with the story of Phoebe and her sister, who were both assaulted but eventually fell in love with their rapists, as well as the story of Priam’s son, who kidnapped his bride. Then, Ovid describes Achilles dressing up as a woman and sleeping with Deidamia, as well as Jove bedding many women. Women desire forceful pursuit. Approaching a woman as a friend first is a good tactic.

Stanza 22 elaborates on appearance. Lovers are not tan, like farmers or sailors, but pale. Examples of pale lovers include Daphnis and Orion. Being in love will make you lose sleep, so looking miserable is proof that you are in love. Lovers should not brag about their women to their friends. Ovid discusses the desirability and virtue of faithful lovers, for example, the way Patroclus loved Achilles in Homer’s Iliad. A lover should be more wary of his friends than his enemies.

Stanza 23 notes that women are each different, so no one method will work on all women. The diversity among women is compared to the diversity of crops. In a comparison between loving and hunting, the speaker points out that using different tactics to win affection is like using different methods for catching fish. Also, women of different ages should be approached differently.

In the final stanza of Book 1, Ovid notes that he has only covered part of his previewed topics from the second stanza. He will cover more in the next book.

Book 2

In the first stanza of Book 2, the speaker offers a triumphant song and acknowledges famous poets, like Homer, as his idols. Then, he includes examples of lovers, such as Hippodamia, whose lover won her in a race against her predatory father, and Paris, whose elopement with Helen led to the Trojan War. Ovid previews the content in Book 2—how to keep a lover. He again calls on the gods to aid him.

The second stanza recounts the myth of Daedalus, who constructed wings to escape from Minos in Crete. He longed to be buried in his home country and for his son, Icarus, to be free. The only method for escape was flying, and Daedalus prayed to Jove for help. The speaker describes Daedalus’s process of crafting the wings and giving a pair to his son. Daedalus warned Icarus to not fly too close to the sun. However, in youthful exuberance, Icarus did not listen, so the wax on his wings melted and he fell into the sea.

In the third stanza, the speaker hopes to control the winged god Cupid (or love). Magic can’t control love—charm can. Supporting examples include Ulysses not being seduced by Circe in Homer’s Odyssey. A lover should develop his mind because physical beauty fades. Ovid compares aging with flowers dying. Languages and liberal arts should be studied. Ulysses was known for his mind, and was thus desired by nymphs and Calypso, who delayed Ulysses on the beach, where he made sandcastles to describe the battle of Troy. The ocean destroyed the sand models, which Calypso used as an example of how life is fleeting and you should be known for intelligence to make an impact on the world.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker asserts that you should avoid being ill-tempered, like a hawk or wolf. Being gentle, like doves, will work in your favor. Arguments can happen in marriages, but you should not argue with your mistress. He also approves of cheating in the name of love. In general, Ovid’s advice is for people who are too poor to win women with money: Poor lovers have to endure more than rich lovers. For example, Ovid was once with a woman who claimed he tore her dress and had to replace it.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker advocates for patience. If you submit to the woman you love, she will be kinder. Patience is compared to swimming with the current or lying in wait while hunting. Ovid advises yielding to and agreeing with your beloved. Also, let her win at games, help her through crowds, and make sure she is comfortable. The speaker offers the example of Tirynthian as a man submitting to a woman. She should determine the place and time of your outings. You should come as soon as she calls, no matter the weather.

In the sixth stanza, Ovid compares love to waging war. Pursuing love will result in having to camp outside without provisions, like between battles. An example of this is Apollo staying in a cabin. You should be willing to break into your lover’s house: Dangerous acts like this will demonstrate your love.

In the seventh stanza, the speaker suggests befriending people who work for the woman you love. It is important to have the household staff, especially those employees who can unlock doors, on your side.

The eighth stanza focuses on gifts. Ovid suggests inexpensive items, like food. He bemoans the fact that gifts of poetry are not desired as frequently as monetary gifts. People are obsessed with consumerism, and money matters more than manners. However, Ovid assures the reader that there are some women who consider reading poetry as part of being cultured, and will appreciate your poems.

In the ninth stanza, the speaker suggests doing favors for others in the name of your beloved. As long as you are already planning on engaging in generosity, such as freeing a slave, there is no extra cost to involve the woman you love in the process.

Stanza 10 focuses on flattery. Ovid suggests complimenting women’s clothing—the colors and the kinds of fabric—and complimenting a woman’s physical features. You should admire her hair, her dancing and singing, and her affections. He compares an angry mistress to Medusa. Flattery will calm your mistress. If you lie when flattering your beloved, make sure to conceal your lies.

Stanza 11 advises caring for your beloved if she gets sick. Conceal the fact that she is unattractive while ill, kiss her, cry by her sickbed, and make sure she has everything she needs. However, you should not nurse her excessively. In the beginning of the relationship, be near her and make sure she is accustomed to your presence. After a while, be apart from her so she will have a chance to miss you—taking time apart is like letting fields lie fallow so crops will improve. The speaker offers examples of lovers who were apart, like Phyllis and Demophoon. The affair of Paris and Helen is discussed at length, and Ovid blames Menelaus for leaving Helen alone too long.

Stanza 12 focuses on infidelity. A woman becomes enraged when she discovers she is being cheated on, like a fierce animal. Ovid discusses the example of Jason cheating on Medea, whose rage was so dire that she killed their children in revenge. This example illustrates why you should be careful to hide your affairs. You should not brag about your mistress, let her know your schedule, or let her know about your other women. Make sure your letters to one woman don’t carry the impression of letters to another woman from your wax tablet. Ovid describes how Clytemnestra cheated on Agamemnon with Aegisthus. If your infidelity is discovered, deny you are having an affair and demonstrate your love with sex. However, the speaker also suggests adding in some savory elements with your sweetness.

In Stanza 13, the speaker fully reverses his previous advice. Acknowledging that he is contradicting himself, Ovid now suggests confessing to your affairs as a way of spicing up love: The challenge of a romantic rival has the same excitement as sailing or driving a chariot. Affairs keep women from being too proud and reignite the fire of the relationship. A woman’s jealousy is attractive—it makes a man feel like he owns her: By being upset, she demonstrates that she loves him. Ovid advises having makeup sex, comparing it to doves making up after a quarrel.

In Stanza 14, the speaker describes how the world was formed. It started as one mass, and eventually divided into different elements: earth, ocean, and sky. Animals roamed these places, then humanity joined them. Early humans figured out which plants to eat and slept outside. Love came naturally to them. Ovid includes examples of courtship between animals, such as snakes, dogs, cows, and horses. He also assures the reader that their sins will be forgiven.

In Stanza 15, Phoebus (Apollo, the sun god of intellect and artistic endeavor) affirms Ovid’s role as a teacher of love. Then, Phoebus asserts that lovers must know and play up their positive qualities, such as good looks, witty conversation, or musical talents. However, Phoebus advises against lecturing or reading poetry.

Stanza 16 is about how love causes pain. Failures in love are compared to failures in farming and sailing. The amount of pain in love is as unmeasurable as shells on a beach and as uncountable as fruit on olive trees. Examples of pain include your beloved’s staff telling you she isn’t home when you planned to meet. You can offer flowers to try to gain admittance; however, if she continues to refuse to see you, respect that. Allow her to curse at you and hit you. Be willing to submit to her.

Stanza 17 argues that you should tolerate cheating. Don’t ask who else your lover is writing to or monitor all of her movements. The speaker admits that he has trouble following his own advice: He cannot tolerate a woman having another lover, but hopes the reader will be wiser than him. Don’t insist that a woman confess to her affair—pretend that you don’t know about it. The speaker includes the example of Venus and Mars having an affair. When her husband Vulcan discovers it, he sets a magic trap for the lovers. This trap doesn’t end the affair, but only causes Venus and Mars to continue their relationship in the open. This is why the reader should not set a trap for a woman he believes is cheating.

In Stanza 18, the speaker says married people should not use his methods: There are some rules to love. The speaker is not interested in pursuing married women.

Stanza 19 advocates for keeping secrets. Examples of things that should be kept secret include the rites of Ceres and the rituals of Venus (i.e., sex). Venus, the goddess of love, has a degree of modesty, which is evident from the placement of her hand to hide parts of her otherwise unclothed body. The speaker suggests having sex in dim lighting and not meeting in the daylight. If you have an outdoor rendezvous, you should meet in a cave or forest. The speaker condemns bragging about sexual encounters. Women might start scandals about sexual assault. Avoid this by keeping a low profile.

Stanza 20 focuses on flattery. The speaker recommends never pointing out a woman’s flaws. He supports this with examples, such as Hector not pointing out Andromache’s height. Love is compared to a tree, which can be harmed when it is young, but endures when it is older. You will become accustomed to a woman’s flaws over time. The speaker suggests using euphemisms when discussing things that could be considered negative, such as calling someone who is very small “petite.”

In Stanza 21, the speaker advises against asking a woman’s age, especially if you think she is older. Love is again compared to war. The speaker argues that older women are good lovers. He does not approve of sex between men and boys. He also does not approve of a woman having sex because she feels like it is her duty to do so. The speaker prefers a passionate woman who might spurn him. Personally, he prefers older women, such as Hermione.

Stanza 22 is about sex. Poetry should not be a part of foreplay. Instead, you should use your hands. The warriors Hector and Achilles excelled at sex. Ovid suggests bringing a woman to climax slowly and discovering where she likes to be caressed. Also, a man and a woman should climax at the same time.

Stanza 23 is the end of the speaker’s advice about love for men. His understanding of love is as expert as Nestor’s reputation for being a great sage and Ajax’s renown for being a great fighter. The speaker arms the reader for love like Vulcan armed Achilles for battle. He tells his readers to call themselves the students of Ovid.

In Stanza 24, the speaker notes that the following book will be for women.

Book 3

In the first stanza, the speaker says it’s only fair to also arm women for the war of love, since he already armed men. When some men object to this, the speaker insists that there are both good and bad women. Helen (the cause of the Trojan War) and Eriphyl caused trouble for their partners, while Penelope (the ever patient wife of Odysseus), Phylacides, and Evadne were faithful lovers. In any case, men are more likely to deceive than women. Examples of this include Jason, Theseus, and Aeneas, all of whom lacked the art of love. Venus insists that Ovid write a guide to love for women as well.

Then, the speaker warns women to seize the day before age catches up: If you reject love now, you will be lonely later in life. The speaker describes the physical changes that come with aging and childbirth, like body parts sagging. Human women should follow the examples of female goddesses who do not deny love, such as Venus with Adonis. There is no cost in consenting. The source of love is contrasted with iron and stone. Then it is compared to the vast sea and lightning. The speaker clarifies that he isn’t suggesting promiscuity, but accepting whichever suitors appeal.

In the second stanza, the speaker focuses on appearance. Only a few people are naturally beautiful. Most need artistry and self-care to improve their looks. The ancients did not have the same beauty regimens as modern women. For instance, Andromache (the royal wife of Trojan hero Hector) wore rough wool. Ovid contrasts the era when Ajax lived with the current urbanity of Rome. The speaker enjoys being part of his refined era.

In the third stanza, the speaker advises against wearing expensive jewelry and fabrics. He explains how different hairstyles are good for different face shapes, such as how to part hair for an oval face shape. Hairstyles are connected to goddesses, such a braid for Diana. There is so much possible diversity of styles that even messy hair can be artful. Women who are aging can dye their hair or wear wigs.

Then, the speaker focuses on clothing. He suggests avoiding expensive colors, like purple, and getting clothes in cheaper colors, like blue. Colors are connected to mythic figures, such as green with naiads. He suggests finding colors that suit you. For instance, black is a good color for blondes, such as Briseis, and white is a good color for brunettes, like Andromeda.

The fourth stanza expands on the topic of personal grooming. The speaker doesn’t think women need to be reminded to bathe, like men. However, he includes some suggestions, like shaving your armpits, brushing your teeth, and washing your face. The speaker suggests using makeup: putting on blush, filling in eyebrows, and applying kohl eyeliner (all of which is described at length in Ovid’s guide to cosmetics, the speaker notes). It’s important to hide makeup containers and make sure your makeup stays in place on your skin.

The process of using cosmetics should be private. Many things are ugly at first and have to go through a process to become pretty, such as how a dress begins as dirty fleece and how statues start as plain rocks. He warns women to be gentle with their hair, to not upset a maid who will brush it harshly, and to be careful putting on wigs. The speaker recalls a time when he surprised a woman whose hair was awry because she put it on too hastily. Being bald is compared to various things, like a bull without horns, and considered a terrible shame.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker notes that his advice is not for beautiful women like Helen or Semele. Rather, his audience is plain women. So, he suggests ways to hide flaws. For instance, short women can sit to disguise their height and slight women can wear clothes that make them look more voluptuous. Colors of clothes should complement skin tones. Don’t draw attention to your hands by gesturing if your hands are not beautiful. Don’t expose your teeth while laughing if your teeth are not beautiful.

The speaker continues his idea about laughing in the sixth stanza. He marvels that artful laughter has to be taught. The ideal is that, while laughing, the mouth only opens a small amount and makes a delicate sound. The speaker notes that even crying and pronunciation can be artistic. You should move your body in an attractive fashion, somewhere between unnaturally stiff poise and a too rangy rural gait. The speaker finds that showing a little shoulder can be sexy.

In the seventh stanza, the speaker focuses on the arts. The sirens used song to lure sailors to their deaths, which demonstrates the power of this art form. So, women should learn to sing. Women should also know how to play a musical instrument, such as the lyre or harp, and write well. Examples of the power of music include Orpheus leading beasts with his lute.

In the eighth stanza, the speaker discusses reading. He provides a reading list that includes the poets Callimachus, Sappho, and Propertius. Then, he mentions specific stories women should learn, like the Aenid. Ovid hopes to be as well-known as the authors he admires. He considers what a recommendation to read his own work would look like, and prays that his writing dreams come true.

In the ninth stanza, the speaker argues that women should learn how to dance, noting the favor that dancers receive. He also recommends learning how to gamble with dice, and how to play chess and other games. When you play games, you should not lose your temper. If you do, you will gain a negative reputation.

Stanza 10 contrasts the sports that men play with the activities women engage in. Men participate in rough games with a ball or weapons. Women can visit places like Pompey’s Porch, the shrine of Phoebus, the arcades, the theater, and the gladiator matches. You have to show your face in public in order to win at love. For example, Venus needed to be seen by Apelles so he could write her hymn. Poets seek fame, and poets used to be held in higher regard. However, Rome in the speaker’s era does not appreciate poets. Love is compared with hunting various animals, such as fish and a stag. You can even meet men at funerals, he adds.

In Stanza 11, the speaker warns women to avoid overly manicured men. They will feed you the same lines that they use for everyone. Thieves will pretend to seduce you, and then rob you, so word of mouth is crucial: Talk to women who have been betrayed to avoid their betrayers. Examples of men who betrayed women include Theseus and Demophoon.

Stanza 12 focuses on writing. Your love letters should be well-written, and you should wait a day or two to answer. Don’t leave a potential lover without hope, but don’t give in too quickly. Use conversational language, but demonstrate that you are well read. You can use a ghostwriter if needed. Learn how to write in diverse styles. Also, be aware that writing tablets can carry impressions of previous letters. You can use female pronouns for a male lover in your letters to throw others off the scent of what you’re doing.

In Stanza 13, the speaker discusses emotions. Women should avoid being angry, haughty, and hateful. These emotions can make your features unattractive. Rather, you should be vulnerable and happy. Smiling will indicate your interest in a man. The speaker offers examples of gloomy women, such as Tecmessa and Andromache.

Stanza 14 suggests playing to your strengths. Different people can provide different services, such as a lawyer helping a client. Poets offer poetry, and are the best lovers. They ensure that the names of their loved ones will be known forever. Examples of this include Nemesis and Cynthia. Plus, poets are only interested in art, not wealth. Being open to emotions makes poets prone to heartbreak. Therefore, the speaker argues, women should give poets—like himself—a chance, and not only go after rich men.

Stanza 15 discusses age. The methods for attracting younger men and older men are different. The speaker advocates getting involved with older, more stable, and more experienced men. Older men are calmer, while younger men may physically assault you and your dress.

In Stanza 16, the speaker turns his attention to deception. Men will lose interest if love is too easy, so locking a lover out once in a while is a good idea. Sweetness must be paired with pain. At first, be faithful to him—or make him think that you are faithful. Later, hint at having an affair. Jealousy of a rival will improve love overall. Ovid admits he prefers a challenge. Since part of love’s charm is its danger, you should pretend to be in trouble and let him rescue you.

In Stanza 17, the speaker offers advice on how to conduct an affair. A woman can outwit her husband, who is compared to a jailer. One tactic for a secret rendezvous is to meet your lover when you say you are going to be in the bath. You could have a friend smuggle out letters in her bodice, shoe, or stocking. Another option is to write messages on her skin. The speaker shares invisible ink recipes, such as words written in milk and revealed by coal-dust. One example of a woman escaping a controlling man is the daughter of Acrisius. Locations such as the theater and the racetrack are good places to talk with a lover. Rendezvous can be arranged at the baths or a friend’s house. To escape your husband, you can use alcohol or drugs to induce sleep. It’s also important to bribe the people who help you to keep your secrets, but beware: Women who help you might also sleep with your lover. The speaker has slept with both a mistress and her maid.

In Stanza 18, the speaker counters men’s objections to him helping women. Other men would call Ovid a traitor: Animals like birds and stags do not give away their hiding places. The speaker accepts that helping women might doom him, but carries on. He recommends that women demonstrate their love for men. This can be done by getting upset over an imagined rival. Jealousy will make a man believe a woman loves him. However, don’t be too upset, and be skeptical when you hear about a romantic rival.

To support the point that stories of romantic rivals should be met with skepticism, Stanza 19 offers the story of Procris and Cephalus. Cephalus used to stand in a glade and call to the wind, asking it to cool him. Someone overheard his call and rumors eventually reached his lover Procris that Cephalus was talking to someone in the glade. Procris assumed that the air Cephalus called to was actually another woman. This belief caused her to faint, then tear at herself and her clothes—like a crazed maenad. Procris ran to the glade and hid there until Cephalus arrived. She then saw him call to the wind, and realized her mistake. However, when she came out of hiding, Cephalus thought she was an animal and killed her with his spear. Her dying words were that her spirit would become part of the same air she suspected was a woman.

In Stanza 20, the speaker ends this tangent and teases that he has more advice. He suggests that you will have luck pursuing love at dinner parties with alcohol because alcohol can improve anyone’s looks. Be sure that you do not make a mess with your food and don’t eat too much: Even the beautiful Helen could appear ugly by gorging herself. Again, the speaker encourages women to combine Cupid and Bacchus—they are a good match. However, don’t get too drunk—that is unattractive and could lead to getting assaulted.

Stanza 21 focuses on sex. The speaker suggests finding which sexual positions are the most flattering to your features. For instance, you can show off your legs by placing them on your lover’s shoulders, like Milanion and the famed runner Atalanta. Other examples include throwing back your head with your hair loose, like a maenad. Women should be passionate during sex. This includes moaning and talking dirty. If you can’t orgasm, faking it is OK, but it is better if both a man and a woman orgasm. Be sure the lights are dim during sexual encounters.

In the final stanza, the speaker notes that he is finished dispensing advice. He compares women to swans. At the end of Book 3, the speaker mentions his name (Ovid) again, asking that you credit him if his techniques work for you.