The Rome of Ovid’s time was devoted to self-indulgence. Aristocrats amused themselves with endless parties, theatrical performances, circuses and sexual adventures.
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Married at 16 to his first wife, Ovid was the era’s supreme chronicler of women, love and sex. In his 18 B.C.E best-seller, “Amores,” the poet celebrated his gorgeous and passionate mistress, Corinna, she of the lustrous auburn hair and curvaceous bottom.
After several intense years, Corinna dumped him for a virile soldier. As Ovid lamented in his verse, “When I held her I was limp as yesterday’s lettuce,” adding, “I couldn’t get my pleasure-part to work.”
I spoke with Elizabeth Abbott, author of “Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman,” on the following topics:
1. Vessels of Seed
2. East vs. West
3. Ovid’s Corinna
5. Post-Sexual Revolution
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)