Heroides, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


In the twenty-one poems of the Heroides, Ovid gave voice to the heroines and heroes of epic and myth.

These deeply moving literary epistles reveal the happiness and torment of love, as the writers tell of their pain at separation, forgiveness of infidelity or anger at betrayal.

The faithful Penelope wonders at the suspiciously long absence of Ulysses, while Dido bitterly reproaches Aeneas for too eagerly leaving her bed to follow his destiny, and Sappho - the only historical figure portrayed here - describes her passion for the cruelly rejecting Phaon.

In the poetic letters between Paris and Helen the lovers seem oblivious to the tragedy prophesied for them, while in another exchange the youthful Leander asserts his foolhardy eagerness to risk his life to be with his beloved Hero.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary essays
  • ISBN: 9780140423556

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I'd never thought about reading more by Ovid, and then I came across The Heroides while showing someone else the wonders of my city's central library. (Before I knew it, I had a stack of nine books in my arms, despite the fact I'm about to go visit my parents via train, meaning I can't carry <I>that</i> many books.) Anyway, I was delighted to find this, and it's a nice edition too, with explanations of all the myths and extensive notes (which for the most part I don't need, but which were a handy refresher when I couldn't quite remember) and introductions to each poem. The translation seems good to me, in that it's readable and flows well, and doesn't get in the way of experiencing the poems.<br/><br/>In a way it seems almost a modern, feminist thing to do, giving these female heroines the space to make their complaints (though some of the poems are 'written' by men, they are the ones paired with a female response). Penelope voices her worries about Odysseus' long absence -- something I remember all the girls in my class being offended about on her behalf, since he spends most of the time in Circe and Calypso's beds. Medea pours out her outrage, Dido her heartbreak; Phaedra tries to manipulate Hippolytus into her arms. Not all of them are exactly wonderful women -- Medea is downright wicked -- but they're all given a chance to speak of their pain and the wrongs done to them.

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