The Fiery Shafts of Love: 20 Piece of Sex Advice from Ancient Greece and Rome

The ancient Greeks and Romans contributed a great many things we still cherish, such as democracy, libraries, the justice system, architecture, public orgies, etc. But they also had strong opinions about relationships, dating, personal development, and courtship, many of which are still applicable today. Below are some of the best wisdoms, platitudes and advice from ancient philosophers, writers and thought leaders.

Ovid’s Ars Amatoria

Ovid, that feisty ancient Roman you may remember from his important text Metamorphosis, was also not shy about advice giving. In his Ars Amatoria, Ovid waxes on everything from hygiene to where to pick up chicks to beer goggles. These are some of our favorite tidbits from him.

1. Don’t expect girls to just fall out of the sky.

“She's not going to be wafted down to you from heaven on the wings of the wind. You must use your own-eyes to discover the girl that suits you. The hunter knows where to spread his nets in order to snare the stag; he knows the valley where the wild boar has his lair.”

Wait, did Ovid just liken us to wild pigs?

2. All the hot babes live in Rome.

“[L]earn to know the places which the fair ones most do haunt. You won't have to put to sea in order to do that, or to undertake any distant journeys. Perseus may bring home his Andromeda from sun-scorched India, and the Phrygian swain may go to Greece to bear away his bride; Rome alone will give you a choice of such lovely women.…"

He clearly had a thing for boobs, too.

“ ... and so many of them, that you will be forced to confess that she gathers within her own bosom all the treasures that the world can show.”

3. Even lawyers are capable of love.

“Lawyers are by no means proof against the fiery shafts of Love. Hard by the marble temple sacred to Venus, where play the waters of the Appian fount, many an advocate has fallen a victim to the snares of Love; for the man who defends his client cannot always defend himself.”

4. If you’re having trouble meeting chicks, you might want to go to a play.

“[I]t is especially at the theatre you should lay your snares; that is where you may hope to have your desires fulfilled. Here you will find women to your taste: one for a moment's dalliance, another to fondle and caress, another to have all for your own.”

5. Put away your beer goggles.

“Bringing love and wine together is adding fuel to fire indeed. Don't judge a woman by candle-light, it's deceptive. If you really want to know what she's like, look at her by daylight, and when you're sober.… At night there is no such thing as an ugly woman!”  

6. Take a shower, guys. Don’t go reeking like a billy-goat.

“Don't let your hair stick up in tufts on your head; see that your hair and your beard are decently trimmed. See also that your nails are clean and nicely filed; don't have any hair growing out of your nostrils; take care that your breath is sweet, and don't go about reeking like a billy-goat. All other toilet refinements leave to the women or to perverts.”

He had us… until that last sentence.

7. Get a tan. No one wants to see your pasty visage.

“A pale complexion ill becomes a sailor. The rays of the sun and the salt spray should have tanned his features; nor does it suit the husbandman who, with plough or heavy rakes, is for ever turning up the soil in the open air; and ye who strive for the athlete's crown of olive, it would ill beseem you to have too white a skin.“

8. Cry. If you can’t will tears to come, stab yourself in the face.

“Make a point … of letting your mistress see your face all wet with tears. Howbeit, if you cannot manage to squeeze out any tears — and they won't always flow just when you want them to — put your finger in your eyes.”

There’s nothing ladies love more than to see your sensitive side, and a chance to drive you to the ER.

9. The arts are very important for your sex life.

“Take my advice, my youthful fellow-citizens, and study the fine arts, not only that you may champion the cause of some trembling dependent. The common herd, the austere judge, and those superior people, the senators, are not the only people who are moved by eloquence.”

Don’t be like the common herd! Learn about the arts. It will get you laid, especially if you smell like a goat.

10. When it’s okay to be angry.

“We should praise a person who feels angry on the right grounds and against the right person and also in the right manner at the right moment and for the right length of time.” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Sorry, can you be more specific, Aristotle? Which way should the wind be blowing?

11. Don’t be arrogant or Zeus will turn you into a frog-boar, probably.

“Zeus detests above all the boasts of a proud tongue.” Sophocles, Antigone

12. Jazzercise is great, but don’t forget to have morals, too.

“As it is the nature of the body to be developed by appropriate exercises, it is the nature of the soul to be developed by moral precepts.” Isocrates, Letter to Demonicus

13. Think twice before submitting that grainy cell phone sex tape footage to YouTube.

“Only perform such acts as you would not regret later.” Pythagoras

14. Sex and excellence influence all of our decisions.

“In every one of us there are two ruling and directing principles, whose guidance we follow wherever they may lead; the one being an innate desire for pleasure; the other, an acquired judgment which aspires after excellence.” Socrates, as quoted in Plato’s Phaedrus

15. We should all be more kind to each other.

“If we always helped one another, no one would need luck.” Menander

16. Stop procrastinating.

“Well begun is half done.” Aristotle

We think this can apply to oral sex, too.

17. Why that emo poetry you’ve been posting on Tumblr is understandable.

“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” Plato

18. Don’t copy people. Be original.

“I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” Plutarch

19. Get married or else … be doomed to become a philosopher!

“My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher.” Socrates

20. Euripides and the Beatles agree.

“Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other.” Euripides

Want more advice from olden times? Check out lists from the Victorian Era and the Roaring Twenties.

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