In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Ovide moralisé

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • General Overviews and Seminal Studies
  • Edited Volumes and Proceedings
  • Language and Vocabulary
  • Author and Context

Medieval Studies The Ovide moralisé
Richard Trachsler, Laura Endress
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0305


The anonymous French Ovide moralisé is the first full translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, covering nearly 72,000 lines of octosyllabic verse. Its author incorporated earlier renderings of the tragic love stories of Philomela and Pyrame et Thisbé, adapted the remaining myths recounted in Ovid’s poem, and inserted additional ones for a readership no longer familiar with classical mythology. The medieval French author, however, not only translated and compiled myths, but also attempted to explain them based on the Christian four senses of Scripture. Ovid, so goes the message transmitted in the medieval adaptation, was not so much writing about Antique mythology as he was attempting to convey a Christian meaning concealed beneath the individual myths. To unveil this hidden meaning, the medieval author added exegetical interpretations to his translation—i.e., the moralisations that give the text its name and turn it into what is presumably the longest verse text in medieval French literature. Its date of composition is unknown, but it must have existed in 1328, since a manuscript of the work is mentioned in an inventory of items owned by Clemence of Hungary established the same year. Today, the text is most commonly dated between 1315 and 1325. It is thus relatively late regarding what has famously been called the aetas ovidiana of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which also witnessed the first adaptations of the “Matter of Rome” into vernacular languages. The literary current that explains the emergence of the Ovide moralisé is the allegorical tradition, which took off toward the end of the thirteenth century with the Roman de la Rose and gradually touched a broad array of texts. Notwithstanding its length, the Ovide moralisé enjoyed a considerable career, as some twenty preserved manuscripts and two independent prose renderings show. Its considerable literary fortune during the Middle Ages stands in sharp contrast to the relative indifference of modern critics toward the work until relatively recently. Despite the existence of a reliable edition, it was not until the late twentieth century that the Ovide moralisé began to attract scholarly interest. Much remains to be said about its manuscript tradition and manifold sources. Moreover, the Latin and vernacular glosses in some witnesses offer a field of research modern critics have only just begun to explore. Around 2007 an international consortium of scholars—Ovide en Français (OEF)—formed in order to explore different aspects of the text and to prepare a new critical edition of the Ovide moralisé. The present bibliography relies heavily on the work accomplished by this team and aims to offer an overview of the relevant areas of ongoing research, as well as outline some of the crucial and as yet unanswered questions surrounding the work.


A number of bibliographical resources on the Ovide moralisé are accessible in print and online. Deleville and Montorsi 2018 offers an extensive list of titles reflecting the state of research as of 2018. The online Bibliographie de l’Ovide moralisé aims to be as exhaustive as possible and is regularly updated. The Archives de littérature du Moyen Âge (Arlima) provide a representative, though non-exhaustive bibliography on the Ovide moralisé.

  • Bibliographie de l’ Ovide moralisé, établie par le groupe Ovide en Français.

    This online bibliography was first established by members of the research group Ovide en Français. The bibliography is updated at regular intervals and intends to cover the full range of primary and secondary literature relating to the Ovide moralisé.

  • Brun, Laurent. “Ovide moralisé.” Arlima: Archives de littérature du Moyen Âge.

    Useful bibliographical resource, updated regularly, referencing manuscripts, editions, and studies.

  • Deleville, Prunelle, and Francesco Montorsi. “Bibliographie.” In Ovide moralisé, Livre I. Edited by Craig Baker, Marianne Besseyre, Mattia Cavagna, et al., 423–437. Paris: Société des anciens textes français, 2018.

    Published in the introduction to the latest edition of Book I of the Ovide moralisé (see Baker, et al. 2018a and Baker, et al. 2018b, cited under Complete Editions), this bibliography includes both editions and critical studies relating to the French Ovide moralisé, its sources and adaptations.

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