In AD 8 Ovid's brilliant career was abruptly ruined when the Emperor Augustus banished him, for reasons never satisfactorily explained, to Tomis (Constanta) on the Black Sea. The five books of Tristia (Sorrows) express his reaction to this savage and, as he clearly regarded it, unjust sentence. Though their ostensible theme is the misery and loneliness of exile, their real message, if they are read with the care they deserve, is one of affirmation. With a wit and irony that borders on defiance, Ovid repeatedly asserts the injustice of his sentence and of the preeminence of the eternal values of poetry over the ephemeral dictates of an earthly power. In technical skill and inventiveness these elegies rank with the Art of Love or the Fasti. For this new translation Alan Melville has reproduced, in rhyming stanzas, the virtuosity, wit, and elegance of the original.
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