Ovid's works were immensely popular in the European Middle Ages and Renaissance: indeed, Ovid was rivalled only by Virgil for the title of most widely read poet of classical antiquity.
Throughout this period the Metamorphoses was the best known of all Ovid's works, although at times the Heroides challenged it for supremacy, being a perennially popular school text.
Part of the reason for the huge popularity of Ovid's works was their perceived suitability as educational texts with the exception of the Amores and Ars amatoria, whose sexual content and morally dubious attitudes meant that they were usually excluded from the schoolroom,
Ovid's poems were seen as ideal texts for young students to start learning learn good – but not too difficult – Latin, and they lent themselves easily to excerpting for use in teaching. The stories and situations described in his poems provided excellent material for exercises in stylistic imitation and ethical debate.
Ovid's texts were used for the grammatical, stylistic and encyclopaedic content they furnished and their mythological subject matter. The Metamorphoses, Heroides and Fasti were valuable sources of Greco-Roman mythology.
The influence of the Metamorphoses on the visual arts was immense, from illustrations in manuscripts and printed books to paintings and sculptures.
Ovid's treatments of myth also inspired allegorical readings, attempts to make sense of pagan mythology from a Christian perspective: the medieval allegorical tradition is exemplified by the Ovide moralisé and Ovidius moralizatus of the 14th century, which rewrote the stories told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses, repackaging them for a Christian audience.
In the 16th century, these texts were printed in an adaptation as the Bible des poëtes (Poets Bible). Ovid's standing as a model for poetic imitation and emulation was of biblical proportions!
The Fasti was less popular than the Metamorphoses, but attracted interest for its mythological content, and among Renaissance humanists interested in Roman antiquarianism; this is especially evident in the work of the Roman Academy in the 15th century.
Ovid's calendar poem also inspired imitators: 16th century neo-Latin poets wrote their own "sacred Fasti", and the genre became a battleground for Catholics and Reformers.