“The Metamorphoses” – Book XIII

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book XIII: 

Book XIII begins with Ajax and Ulysses vying for Achilles’s armor through debate. Ajax went first, stating that he fought very bravely for their side to set examples for them all and didn’t flinch away from putting his life in danger, while Ulysses relies on trickery and deception: “In bloody fields I labour to be great; / His arms are a smooth tongue, and soft deceit: / Nor need I speak my deeds, for those you see, / The sun, and day are witnesses for me. / Let him who fights unseen, relate his own, / And vouch the silent stars, and conscious moon. / Great is the prize demanded, I confess, / But such an abject rival makes it less; / That gift, those honours, he but hop’d to gain, / Can leave no room for AJax to be vain: / Losing he wins, because his name will be / Ennobled by defeat, who durst contend with me.” Ajax then quotes his ancestry, recalling how his father, Telamon, attacked Troy before with Hercules and is a relative of Jove. Ajax proceeds to mention the record of their service: while Ajax went with little delay to the battlefield, Ulysses tried to avoid going and only went when there was little choice: “Then must I lose these arms, because I came / To fight uncall’d, a volutionary name, / Nor shunn’d the cause, but offer’d you my aid? / While he long lurking was to war betray’d: / Forc’d to the field he came, but in the reer; / And feign’d distraction to conceal his fear: / ‘Till one more cunning caught him in the snare / (Ill for himself); and dragg’d him into war. / Now let a hero’s arms a coward vest, / And he who shunn’d all honours, gain the best: / And let me stand excluded from my right, / Robb’d of my kinsman’s arms, who first appear’d in fight, / Better for us, at home had he remain’d, Had it been true the madness which he feign’d, / Or so believ’d; the less had been our shame, / The less his counsell’d crime, which brands the Grecian name”. He then describes how Ulysses’s cowardice placed his fellows, including a man named Nestor, in danger, citing his cowardice as a reason why he should be disqualified at once. He follows up by describing how he saved Ulysses when he was escaping from the enemy, and that Ulysses therefore owes him his life and the armor, for he wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him: “I heard, I ran, I found him out of breath, / Pale, trembling, and half dead with fear of death. / Though he had judg’d himself by his own laws, / And stood condemn’d, I help’d the common cause: / With my broad buckler hid him from the foe / (Ev’n the shield trembled as he lay below); / And from impending Fate the coward freed: / Good Heav’n forgive me for so bad a deed! / If still he will persist, and urge the strife, / First let him give me back his forfeit life: / Let him return to that oppobrious field; / Again creep under my protecting shield: / Let him lie wounded, let the foe be near, / And let his quiv’ring heart confess his fear”. Ajax continues to describe his military prowess, reminding the listeners that he helped defend the ships of the Greeks from the Trojans with his life with little protection. Ulysses then made his reply, beginning by detailing his ancestry: he is also a descend of Jove (shocker) and has Hermes on his mother’s side. Ulysses defends his reluctance to fight in the Trojan War by stating that Achilles too was reluctant to come: both of them had loved ones they were concerned for, which absolves them of the charge of cowardice. Moreover, Ulysses helped convince Achilles to come fight in the battle by using his wits to find out that the female he was talking to was in fact him. He then boasted of how he convinced Agamemnon to murder Iphigenia, his daughter (Lucretius describes the heinousness of this event in his On the Nature of Things, describing how superstition and crass fear could lead people to do deeds as wicked as a parent murdering their own child to appease some wrathful deity), by pressing on him the need to do so to appease Diana, whom he had previously wronged for killing some of her animals: “That by his daughter’s blood we must appease / Diana’s kindled wrath, and free the seas. / Affection, int’rest, fame, his heart assail’d: / But soon the father o’er the king prevail’d: / Bold, on himself he took the pious crime, / As angry with the Gods, as they with him. / No subject cou’d sustain their sov’reign’s look, / ‘Till this hard enterprize I undertook: / I only durst th’ imperial pow’r controul, / And undermin’d the parent in his soul; / Forc’d him t’ exert the king for common good, / And pay our ransom with his daughter’s blood. / Never was cause more difficult to plead, / Than where the judge against himself decreed: / Yet this I won by dint of argument; / The wrongs his injur’d brother underwent, / And his own office, sham’d him to consent.” When it came to sacrificing Iphigenia, Ulysses tricked her mother by lying to her. 

Ulysses was the emissary of the Greeks who went into Troy to plead for the return of Helen: although he failed, he proved himself as willing to put himself in danger. Ulysses then called Ajax a warrior fit only for brute force while his value was of a more intricate, cunning sort, given his emphases on strategy and deception. For instance, after Priam had a dream sent by Jove that encouraged him to attack the Greeks, Ulysses led a counterattack, destroying much of his forces. Ulysses claims he wanted to fight Hector like Ajax, but didn’t get to because of luck. Odysseus brings up how he snuck into enemy ranks utilizing the darkness and learned of the plans of the Trojans, which helped the Greeks successfully repel them: “Our boasting champion thought the task not light / To pass the guards, commit himself to night; / Not only through a hostile town to pass, / But scale, with steep ascent, the sacred place; / With wand’ring steps to search the citadel, / And from the preists their patroness to steal: / Then through surrounding foes to force my way, / And bear in triumph home the heaven’ly prey; / Which had I not, Ajax in vain had held, / Before that monst’rous bulk, his sev’nfold shield. / That night to conquer Troy I might be said, / When Troy was liable to conquest made.” When it comes to the issue of their respective strengths, Ulysses claims how he deserves Achilles’s arms more than Ajax for his guidance of numerous individuals. While Ajax did indeed bravely fight for their side, he was, in the end, according to Ulysses, one person: “Thy body is of profit, and my mind. / By how much more the ship her safety owes / To him who steers, than him that only rows; / By how much more the captain merits praise, / Than he who fights, and fighting but obeys; / By so much greater is my worth than thine, / Who canst but execute, what I design. / What gain’st thou, brutal man, if I confess / Thy strength superior, when thy wit is less? / Mind is the man: I claim my whole desert, / From the mind’s vigour, and th’ immortal part.” Ulysses finishes his speech by making an emotional appeal to the listeners: “But you, o Grecian chiefs, reward my care, / Be grateful to your watchman of the war: / For all my labours in so long a space, / Sure I may plead a title to your  grace”. The weapons of Achilles were promptly given to Ulysses. Ajax, ashamed and enraged, stabbed himself to avoid disgrace. Ovid poignantly writes, “He who cou’d often, and alone, withstand / The foe, the fire, and Jove’s own partial hand, / Now cannot his unmaster’d grief sustain, / But yields to rage, to madness, and disdain; / Then snatching out his fauchion, Thou, said he, / Art mine; Ulysses lays no claim to thee. / O often try’d, and ever-trusty sword, / Now do thy last kind office to thy lord: / ‘Tis Ajax who requests thy aid, to show / None but himself, himself cou’d overthrow: / He said, and with so good a will to die, / Did to his breast the fatal point apply, / It found his heart, a way ‘till then unknown, / Where never weapon enter’d, but his own. / No hand cou’d force it thence, so fix’d it stood, / ‘Till out it rush’d, expel’d by streams of spouting blood.” The next tale is that of Polyxena and Hecuba. When the Greeks overtook Troy and were planning to return, they were confronted by the angry ghost of Achilles, who demanded them pay homage to him through sacrificing Polyxena, the daughter of the king and queen of Troy, Priam and Hecuba. Achilles’s orders were followed, and Polyxena died without making a scene, asking that her body be given to her mother for burial without a ransom. Her request is agreed, and when Hecuba sees her dead body, she curses her circumstances, herself, and Achilles, who slew all her brothers when he was alive and destroyed her daughter in his death. Hecuba decides to go to find her youngest child, Polydore, who was given to another king, leader of the Thracians, to look after for his safety. Unfortunately, the king murdered him out of greed and fear. Hecuba, while collecting water to handle the ashes of her daughter, saw his corpse. Driven half-insane with grief, “She had nor speech, nor tears to give relief; / Excess of woe suppress’d the rising grief. / Lifeless as stone, on Earth she fix’d her eyes; / And then look’d up to Heav’n with wild surprise.” Hecuba gets her revenge on his murderer, though: she pretends that she doesn’t know of his death and offers the king money in exchange for him. The murderer unwittingly approached her, only to have his eyes gouged out in her fit of fury. The Thracians with their king respond by shooting arrows and throwing stones at Hecuba. Hecuba, consumed by her rage, transforms into a female canine. Leaving the scene, she remains in the area in her changed form. 

Aurora, the goddess of the morning, lost her son Memnon, who was slain by Achilles on the battlefield. Going to Jove, she asks that her son is commemorated. Jove agrees, turning his funeral pyre into a multitude of birds that destroyed each other: “The The sooty ashes wafted by the air, / Whirl round, and thicken in a body there; / Then take a form, which their own heat, and fire / With active life, and energy inspire. / Its lightness makes it seem to fly, and soon / It skims on real wings, that are its own; / A real bird, it beats the breezy wind, / Mix’d with a thousand sisters of the kind, / That, from the same formation newly sprung, / Up-born aloft on plumy pinions hung. / Thrice round the pile advanc’d the circling throng. / Thrice, with their wings, a whizzing consort rung. / In the fourth flight their squadron they divide, / Rank’d in two different troops, on either side: / Then two, and two, inspir’d with martial rage, / From either troop in equal pairs engage. / Each combatant with beak, and pounces press’d, / In wrathful ire, his adversary’s breast; / Each falls a victim, to preserve the fame / Of that great hero, whence their being came. / From him their courage, and their name they take, / And, as they liv’d, they dye for Memnon’s sake. / Punctual to time, with each revolving year, / In fresh array the champion birds appear; / Again, prepar’d with vengeful minds, they come / To bleed, in honour of the souldier’s tomb.” The focus then proceeds to the voyage of Aeneas. Aeneas, the prince of Troy, fled with his father on his back and his young son Ascanius. He is instructed by priests to found a new land, but he eventually encounters Scylla and Charybdis at Straits of Gibraltar: “Here cruel Scylla guards the rocky shore, / And there the waves of loud Charybdis roar: / This sucks, and vomits ships, and bodies drown’d; / And rav’nous dogs the womb of that surround, / In face a virgin”. Scylla was once an attractive nymph who was friends with Galatea. Galatea tells her a story of how painful love and luck is: she was once engaged with a youth named Acis. Unfortunately, the Cyclops Polyphemus spotted her and became obsessed. After failing to persuade her to leave Acis for him, he crushes him with a boulder. Galatea asks for his body to be honored, and it is turned into a stream. Scylla eventually went back home, but she bathed herself near the ocean and slept on the beach for a while. When she awoke, she saw the sea god Glaucus admiring her. Glaucus pleads with her to be with him, and narrates his history: although he was once a regular human, one day he ingested a strange plant that made him go into the ocean. His body also changed, for his lower half is that of a fish. The gods of the ocean transformed him into one due to their sympathy, and he is important to a variety of operations. He tells Scylla that if she doesn’t care for him, then his godhood means nothing to him: : “But what avail these useless honours now? / What joys can immortality bestow? / What, tho’ our Nereids all my form approve? / What boots it, while fair Scylla scorns my love?” Scylla continues to rebuff him, leaving him bitter and unhappy. Book XIII concludes with the following lines: “Thus far the God; and more he wou’d have said; / When from his presence flew the ruthless maid. / Stung with repulse, in such disdainful sort, / He seeks Titanian Circe’s horrid court.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book XII

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book XII: 

Book XII focuses on the Trojan War. Paris, the handsome prince of Troy, absconds with Helen, the wife of Menelaus, who was famed for her beauty. Outraged, Paris commands a multitude of forces from a variety of areas to siege Troy, seeing how all her previous suitors agreed to do so in exchange for a chance at winning her hand. One of the kings there, Priam, is told to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia for the sake of giving his ships the wind needed to cross the ocean, for Diana was enraged that they had attacked her animals. He prepares to do this, but at the last moment she is replaced with a doe just before she is sacrificed: “Fair Iphigenia the devoted maid / Was, by the weeping priests, in linen-robes array’d; / All mourn her fate; but no relief appear’d; / The royal victim bound, the knife already rear’d: / When that offended Pow’r, who caus’d their woe, / Relenting ceas’d her wrath; and stop’d the coming blow. / A mist before the ministers she cast, / And, in the virgin’s room, a hind she plac’d. / Th’ oblation slain, and Phoebe, reconcil’d, / The storm was hush’d, and dimpled ocean smil’d: / A favourable gale arose from shore, / Which to the port desir’d, the Graecian gallies bore.” The birds also indicated that the war would taken ten years. It is then narrated that in a certain place lived Fame: “Full in the midst of this created space, / Betwixt Heav’n, Earth, and skies, there stands a place, / Confining on all three, with triple bound; / Whence all things, tho’ remote, are view’d around; / And thither bring their undulating sound. / The palace of loud Fame, her seat of pow’r, / Plac’d on the summer of a lofty tow’r; / A thousand winding entries long and wide, / Receive of fresh reports a flowing tide. / A thousand crannies in the wall are made; / Nor gate, nor bars exclude the busie trade. / ‘Tis built of brass, the better to diffuse / The spreading sounds, and multiply the news: / Where eccho’s in repeated eccho’s play: / A mart for ever full, and open night and day.” The story of Cycnus is then told. Cycnus was a son of Neptune and on the battlefield of Troy, due to his bloodlust and impenetrable skin, slaughtered many Greeks. He is eventually killed when Achilles strangles him with the strap buckle of his helmet: “Achilles took th’ advantage which he found, / O’er-turn’d, and push’d him backward on the ground, / His buckler held him under, while he press’d, / With both his knees, above his panting breast. / Unlac’d his helm: about his chin the twist / He ty’d; and soon the strangled soul dismiss’d.” When he prepared to loot Cycnus’s body, it turned into a bird. The history of the warrior Caeneus is then told: beforehand, he was a female nymph named Caenis who was assaulted by Neptune. After raping her, it was described that he was in a good mood, and he promised to grant her a wish. She asked to be transformed into a male so that she wouldn’t be assaulted again: “Her virgin-treasure seiz’d, / And his new joys, the ravisher so pleas’d, / That thus, transported, to the nymph he cried; / Ask what thou wilt, no pray’r shall be deny’d. / This also Fame relates: the haughty fair, / Who not the rape ev’n of a God cou’d bear, / This answer, proud, return’d: To mighty wrongs / A mighty recompense, of right, belongs. / Give me no more to suffer such a shame; / But change the woman, for a better name; / One gift for all: she said; and while she spoke, / A stern, majestic, manly tone she took.” Caeneus later attended the wedding of Pirithous, the son of Ixion, who was planning to marry Hippodame. A centaur named Eurytus tries to assault her, only to be killed by Theseus: “The cave resounds with female shrieks; we rise, / Mad with revenge to make a swift reprise: / And Theseus first, What phrenzy has possess’d, / O Eurytus, he cry’d, thy brutal breast, / To wrong Perithous, and not him alone, / But while I live, two friends conjoyn’d in one? / … The hero [Theseus] snatch’d it up, and toss’d in air / Full at the front of the foul ravisher. / He falls; and falling vomits forth a flood / Of wine, and foam, and brains, and mingled blood.” The other centaurs attempt to avenge Eurytus, only to be killed in a scene full of blood, vomit, and spilled drink. Caeneus’s body, like Cycnus’s, can’t be pierced by sharp objects. He slaughters multiple centaurs: “Already Caeneus, with his conquering hand, / Had slaughter’d five the boldest of their band. / Pyrachmus, Helymus, Antimachus, / Bromus the brave, and stronger Stiphelus, / Their names I number’d, and remember well, / No trace remaining, by what wounds they fell.” 

The centaurs resort to throwing all manners of objects at him to attempt to harm him, and somehow succeed in throwing mountains at him, which either sunk him into the earth or turned him into a bird to aid in his escape. Humorously, they call him a “woman-man” due to his previous history, which reflects their sexism: they’re terrified of appearing subordinate to the opposite sex. When it comes to how much their fears and spite motivated them, Ovid spares no detail: “Whole mountains throw / With woods at once, and bury him below. / This only way remains. Nor need we doubt / To choak the soul within; though not to force it out: / Heap weights, instead of wounds. He chanc’d to see / Where southern storms had rooted up a tree; / This, rais’d from Earth, against the foe he threw; / Th’ example shewn, his fellow-brutes pursue. / With forest-loads the warrior they invade; / Othyrs, and Pelion soon were void of shade; / And spreading groves were naked mountains made. / Press’d with the burden, Caeneus pants for breath; / And on his shoulders bears the wooden death. / To heave th’ intolerable weight he tries; / At length it rose above his mount and eyes: / Yet still he heaves; and, struggling with despair, / Shakes all aside, and gains a gulp of air: / A short relief, which but prolongs his pain; / He faints by fits; and then respires again: / At last, the burden only nods above, / … Doubtful his death: he suffocated seem’d, / Who said he saw a yellow bird arise / From out the piles, and cleave the liquid skies: / I saw it too, with golden feathers bright; / Nor e’er before beheld so strange a sight. / Whom Mopsus viewing, as it soar’d around / Our troop, and heard the pinions’ rattling sound, / All hail, he cry’d, the country’s grace and love! / Once first of men below, now first of birds above. / Its author to the story gave belief: / For us, our courage was increas’d by grief: / Asham’d to see a single man, pursu’d / With odds, to sink beneath a multitude, / We push’d the foe: and forc’d to shameful flight, / Part fell, and part escap’d by favour of the night.” The son of Hercules, Tlepolemus, demands to hear his father’s exploits. Nestor the centaur denies him his wish, recollecting how Hercules murdered his brothers. For instance, the cenatur Periclymenos could change forms and was pursued by Hercules, who disfigured his face by tearing it. Turning into a bird to escape, his wing had difficulty functioning, which led him to plunge to the ground, shattering his neck. Book XII ends with a recollection of the death of Achilles. After he killed Achilles, Neptune was full of sorrow, and swore to get revenge on him. He asked Phoebus to aid him in his vengeance. Apollo agreed, and took the form of a human, going to Paris and telling him that he should kill those of important bloodlines such as Achilles, not regular people, thus revealing the barbaric, violent attitudes of the people of the time. Ovid writes, “And to his uncle’s anger, adds his own. / Then in a cloud involv’d, he takes his flight, / … And found out Paris, lurking where he stood, / And stain’d his arrows with plebeian blood: / Phoebus to him alone the God confess’d, / Then to the recreant knight, he thus address’d. / Dost thou not blush, to spend thy shafts in vain / On a degenerate, and ignoble train? / If fame, or better vengeance be thy care, / There aim: and, with one arrow, end the war.” Paris let his arrow fly and Apollo guided it to strike at Achilles’s heal, which was his Achilles heel. Ovid recollects, “Thus fell the foremost of the Grecian name; / And he, the base adult’rer, boasts the fame. / A spectacle to glad the Trojan train; / And please old Priam, after Hector slain.” Ovid details that Achilles lives on in Homer’s work, The Iliad. As for Achilles’s armor, Ajax and Ulysses vied for its ownership, which paves the way for the next section. Book XII ends with the following lines: “His buckler owns its former lord; and brings / New cause of strife, betwixt contending kings; / Who worthi’st after him, his sword to wield, / Or wear his armour, or sustain his shield. / Ev’n Diomede sat mute, with down-cast eyes; / Conscious of wanted worth to win the prize: / Nor Menelaus presum’d these arms to claim, / Nor he the king of men, a greater name. / Two rivals only rose: Laertes’ son, / And the vast bulk of Ajax Telamon: / The king, who cherish’d each with equal love, / And from himself all envy wou’d remove, / Left both to be determin’d by the laws; / And to the Graecian chiefs transferr’d the cause.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book XI

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book XI: 

Orpheus is slain by the Thracian women/maenads/Bachannae (worshippers of Bacchus). He had been mourning for quite some time and drew the anger of the Bacchanae due to how his melancholy was disrupting their festivities. That is, “The female Bacchanals, devoutly mad, / In shabby skins, like savage creatures, clad, / Warbling in air perceiv’d his lovely lay, / And from a rising ground beheld him play. / When one, the wildest, with dishevel’d hair, / That loosely stream’d, and ruffled in the air; / Soon as her frantic eye the lyrist spy’d, / See, see! the hater of our sex, she cry’d.” She then threw a spear at him, but it missed. She then threw a rock, but it refused to harm him because of the music he played. Utterly enraged, the maenads abandoned the use of tools and attacked Orpheus with their nails, viciously tearing him to pieces. In the process, they severed his head, which was lost to a river and continued to sing until it washed ashore and was buried: “His mangled limbs lay scatter’d all around, / His head, and harp a better fortune found; / In Hebrus’ streams they gently roul’d along, / And sooth’d the waters with a mournful song. / Soft deadly notes the lifeless tongue inspire, / A dolefule tune sounds from the floating lyre; / The hollows banks in solemn consort mourn, / And the sad strain in ecchoing groans return. / Now with the current of the sea they glide, / Born by the billows of the briny tide; / And driv’n where waves round rocky Lesbos roar, / They strand, and llodge upon Methymna’s shore.” A snake attacked the head of Orpheus, but Phoebus showed some mercy by turning it into stone to stop savaging it. As for Orpheus, he was at last reunited with his wife: “His ghost flies downward to the Stygian shore, / And knows the places it had seen before: / Among the shadows of the pious train / He finds Eurydice, and loves again; / With pleasure views the beauteous phantom’s charms, / And clasps her in his unsubstantial arms. / There side by side they unmolested walk, / Or pass their blissful hours in pleasing talk; / Aft or before the bard securely goes, / And, without danger, can review his spouse.” As for the maenads, after their murder, they were remorseful, and so were the gods, who, to punish them, transformed them into trees. It goes, “Bacchus, resolving to revenge the wrong, / Of Orpheus murder’d, on the madding throng, / Decreed that each accomplice dame should stand / Fix’d by the roots along the conscious land. / Their wicked feet, that late so nimbly ran / To wreak their malice on the guiltless man, / Sudden with twisted ligatures were bound, / Like trees, deep planted in the turfy ground. / And, as the fowler with his subtle gins, / His feather’d captives by the feet entwines,  That flutt’ring pant, and struggle to get loose, / Yet only closer draw the fatal noose; / So these were caught; and, as they strove in vain / To quit the place, they bust encreas’d their pain.” The next story is that of Midas. On one of his drunken raves, Bacchus lost his good friend Silenus, who in a stupor wandered away from his troupe. When he was brought before Midas, Midas returned him to Bacchus. Bacchus, grateful, offered him a wish. Midas requested that everything he touches will become gold: “Give me, says he (nor thought he ask’d too much), / That with my body whatsoe’er I touch, / Chang’d from the nature which it held of old, / May be converted into yellow gold. / He had his wish; but yet the God repin’d, / To think the fool no better wish could find.” Midas left Bacchus in a good mood and was initially overjoyed that he would be extremely wealthy. His happiness, however, was short-lived: he should’ve been more specific with his wish (ex. perhaps by asking that he could turn whatever he wants into gold whenever he wants to, and not in an indiscriminate fashion), for the food and drink he tried to consume became gold too. Bacchus, learning of his plea, granted his wash by informing him to go to a river and to wash himself in it to be rid of the Golden Touch: “The hungry wretch, his folly thus confest, / Touch’d the kind deity’s good-natur’d breast; / The gentle God annull’d his first decree, / And from the cruel compact set him free. / But then, to cleanse him quite from further harm, / And to dilute the relics of the charm, / He bids him seek the stream that cuts the land / Nigh where the tow’rs of Lydian Sardis stand; / Then trace the river to the fountain head, / And meet it rising from its rocky bed; / There, as the bubbling tide pours forth amain, / To plunge his body in, and wash away the stain. / The king instructed to the fount retires, / But with the golden charm the stream inspires: / For while this quality the man foresakes, / An equal pow’r the limpid water takes; / Informs with veins of gold the neighb’ring land, / And glides along a bed of golden sand.” Midas, wanting to distance himself from the sight of material wealth, went into the woods. He soon witnessed Phoebus competing with Pan in a music contest. At the end of the context, it was ruled that Phoebus was the winner. All agreed with the decision except for Midas. Phoebus, believing that Midas had poor musical taste and didn’t deserve his ears, transformed them into those of a donkey: “The lyrick God, who thought his untun’d ear / Deserv’d but ill a human form to wear, / Of that deprives him, and supplies the place / With some more fit, and of an ampler space: / Fix’d on his noddle an unseemly pair, / Flagging, and large, and full of whitish hair; / Without a total change from what he was, / Still in the man preserves the simple ass.” Midas, ashamed, wears a turban, and no one else save him ever sees his donkey ears except for his barber, who keeps his secret. 

Phoebus, after winning the music competition and transforming Midas’s ears into those of a donkey, goes to the Hellespont, which was ruled by Laomedon. There he took a human form to work with Neptune to help build a wall for Laomedon, for he promised them both compensation (though it’s somewhat strange that they do this, considering how wealthy and influential they are already as deities). When they were finished, however, Laomedon demonstrated himself to be a liar, for he refused to uphold his end of the bargain. Embittered, Phoebus and Neptune send natural disasters and a sea monster. They also dictated that Hesione was to be sacrificed to appease them. Laomedon tells Hercules that if he rescues his daughter, he will give him horses. When Hercules performs the deed and is rebuffed, he successfully attacks the city and kidnaps Hesione and gives her to his friend Telamon, who helped him sack the city: “He, in revenge, the new-built walls attack’d, / And the twice-perjur’d city bravely sack’d. / Telamon aided, and in justice shar’d / Part of the plunder as his due reward: / The princess, rescu’d late, with all her charms, / Hesione, was yielded to his arms”. Telamon’s brother Peleus becomes infatuated with the nymph Thetis. He tries to assault her, but she is transformed into a horse for her sake. He succeeds anyway by subduing her while she is asleep. The misogyny of the time period is then made evident, for Thetis is described as being more than happy to be abused by Peleus; they eventually have Achilles as a son. Later on, he is banished for killing his brother. Going to a kingdom ruled by Ceyx, he is told by him that he had a brother named Daedalion. Because of the asinine, disgusting nature of the rest of this section, I’m going to gloss over it. To put it simply, Daedalion has a daughter named Chione who, through her good looks, is wooed by many people (seeing how evolution ensured the sheer extent to which selfish genes dictate the behavior of living organisms). Phoebus and Mercury both sexually assault her and she later gives birth to twins. After boasting that she’s better than Diana, she is slain by her. Her father becomes insane and jumps off a cliff, only to take the form of a bird. After telling Peleus his story, he goes to the Oracle of Delphi to consult how to better his situation, only to be killed in a storm. Before he perishes, he wishes for his body to be brought back to his homeland: “From pray’rs to wishes he descends at last; / That his dead body, wafted to the sands, / Might have its burial from her friendly hands, / As oft as he can catch a gulp of air, / And peep above the seas, he names the fair; / And ev’n when plung’d beneath, on her he raves, / Murm’ring Alcyone below the waves: / At last a falling billow stops his breath, / Breaks o’er his head, and whelms him underneath. / That night, his heav’nly form obscur’d with tears, / And since he was forbid to leave the skies, / He muffled with a cloud his mournful eyes.” His body arrives through the waves, and his wife Alcyone dreams of what happened, for Juno had Sleep inform her of what had happened. Alcyone, upon seeing her husband’s body, is turned into a bird. Her husband also transforms into one. Ovid describes, “Headlong from hence to plunge her self she springs, / But shoots along, supported on her wings; / A bird new-made, about the banks she plies, / Not far from shore, and short excursions tries; / Nor seeks in air her humble flight to raise, / Content to skim the surface of the seas: / Her bill tho’ slender, sends a creaking noise, / And imitates a lamentable voice. / … The Gods their shapes to winter-birds translate, / But both obnoxious to their former fate. / Their conjugal affection still is ty’d, / And still the mournful race is multiply’d: / They bill, the ytread; Alcyone compress’d, / Sev’n days sits brooding on her floating nest: / A wintry queen: her sire at length is kind, / Calms ev’ry storm, and hushes ev’ry wind; / Prepares his empire for his daughter’s ease, / And for his hatching nephews smooths the seas.” At the same time, Peleus dealt with a savage wolf by having Thetis transform it into marble. The section ends with the tale of Aesacus. Aesacus, the brother of Hector, liked to wander in wildernesses by himself. He was entranced with the nymph Hesperie. Hesperie was sacred of him, though, and in her flight was bitten by a snake, which took her life. Remorseful over what he did, Aesacus leapt from a cliff, only to be turned into a bird: “He spoke; then climb’d a cliff’s o’er-hanging side, / And, resolute, leap’d on the foaming tide. / Tethys receiv’d him gently on the wave; / The death he sought deny’d, and fathers gave. / Debarr’d the surest remedy of grief, / And forc’d to live, he curst th’ unask’d relief. / Then on his airy pinions upward flies, / And at a second fall successless tries; / The downy plume a quick descent denies. / Enrag’d, he often dives beneath the wave, / And there in vain expects to find a grave. / His ceaseless sorrow for th’ unhappy maid, / Meager’d his look, and his spirits prey’d. / Still near the sounding deep he lives; his name / From frequent diving and emerging came.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book X

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components. Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book X: 

Book X starts with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, a legendary player of the lyre, lost his wife Eurydice when she was bitten by a snake. Heartbroken, he goes into the underworld to plead with Hades and Persephone to let his wife return to the world of the living: “Inflam’d by love, and urg’d by deep despair, / He leaves the realms of light, and upper air; / Daring to tread the dark Tenarian road, / And tempt the shades in their obscure abode; / Thro’ gliding spectres of th’ interr’d to go, / And phantom people of the world below: / Persephone he seeks, and him who reigns / O’er ghosts, and Hell’s uncomfortable plains. / Arriv’d, he, tuning to his voice his strings, / Thus to the king and queen of shadows sings.” He informs them that he is there for his wife and desires her because of the relationship they shared before. Moreover, he tells them that she died when she was very young. To placate Hades, he says that he’ll claim all mortal lives sooner or later anyways, and that Eurydice and he himself will eventually come back: “Let me again Eurydice receive, / Let Fate her quick-spun thread of life re-weave. / All our possessions are but loans from you, / And soon, or late, you must be paid your due; / Hither we haste to human-kind’s last seat, / Your endless empire, and our sure treat. / She too, when ripen’d years she shall attain, / Must, of avoidless right, be yours again: / I but the transient use of that require, / Which soon, too soon, I must resign entire. / But if the destinies refuse my vow, / And no remissino of her doom allow; / Know, I’m determin’d to return no more; / So both retain, or both to life restore.” While making his petition, he played his lyre so movingly that even those in the Fields of Punishment and the ruthless (though fair) Furies forgot where they were and watched him with awe: “Ev’n Tantalus his flood unthirsty views, / Nor flies the stream, nor he the stream pursues; / Ixion’s wond’ring wheel its whirl suspends, / And the voracious vulture, charm’d, attends; / No more the Belides their toil bemoan, / And Sisiphus reclin’d, sits list’ning on his stone. / Then first (‘tis said) by sacred verse subdu’d, / The Furies felt their cheeks with tears bedew’d: / Nor could the rigid king, or queen of Hell, / Th’ impulse of pity in their hearts repell.” Hades granted Orpheus’s wish, though with a price: he can indeed have Eurydice back, but he must demonstrate that he trusts her by leading her out of the underworld without looking back at her. Interestingly enough, it is stated that the shades have the injuries they sustained in life: Eurydice had the bite mark of the serpent on her heel still. Orpheus led his wife through the underworld, but just before they left the underworld, he turned and looked at her out of fear and impatience, losing her for the rest of his mortal life: “Now thro’ the noiseless throng their way they bend, / And both with pain the rugged road ascend; / Dark was the path, and difficult, and steep, / And thick with vapours from the smoaky deep. / They well-nigh now had pass’d the bounds of night, / And just approach’d the margin of the light, / When he, mistrusting lest her steps might stray, / And gladsome of the glympse of dawning day, / His longing eyes, impatient, backward cast / To catch a lover’s look, but look’d his last; / For, instant dying, she again descends, / While he to empty air his arms extends.” Attempting to try again, he is rebuffed by the ferryman Charon. For seven days on the banks of the river Styx he hysterically mourns and is extremely disheveled, half-mad: “Sev’n days entire, along th’ infernal shores, / Disconsolate, the bard Eurydice deplores; / Defil’d with filth his robe, with tears his cheeks, / No sustenance but grief, and cares, he seeks: / Of rigid Fate incessant he complains, / And Hell’s inexorable Gods arraigns.” Orpheus eventually went back to the world of the living but lost his zest for life, spurning romance and dedicating himself to being a living corpse. He eventually goes to an area with many trees, which is filled with nymphs. One of them, Cyparissus, was loved by many. Unfortunately, one day he accidentally killed a stag he cared about when he absent-mindedly threw a dart. He was remorseful to such a degree that he begged to to be able to mourn forever. The gods granted his wish, transforming him into a tree whose leaves would be used in solemn events like funerals: “And now, of blood exhausted he appears, / Drain’d by a torrent of continual tears; / The fleshy colour in his body fades, / And a green tincture all his limbs invades; / From his fair head, where curling locks late hung, / A horrid bush with bristled branches sprung, / Which stiffning by degrees, its stem extends, / ‘Till to the starry skies the spire ascends. / Apollo [his friend who tried to comfort him but failed] sad look’d on, and sighing, cry’d, / Then, be for ever, what thy pray’r imply’d: / Bemoan’d by me, in others grief excite; / And still preside at ev’ry funeral rite.” 

Another story is then narrated by Orpheus: Ganymede of Troy was an attractive young man, so much so that Jove turned into an eagle and dragged him to Olympus. He replaced Hebe at serving nectar the gods, much to Juno’s annoyance. The next tale is that of Hyacinthus of Sparta, a youth whom Phoebus had a romantic relationship. One day, as they were throwing discs, Phoebus accidentally killed him by throwing a disc that collided with his face: “A well-pois’d disk first hasty Phoebus threw, / It cleft the air, and whistled as it flew; / It reach’d the mark, a most surprising length; / Which spoke an equal share of art, and strength. / Scarce was it fall’n, when with too eager hand / Young Hyacinth ran to snatch it from the sand; / But the curst orb, which met a stony soil, / Flew in his face with violent recoil. / Both faint, both pale, and breathless now appear, / The boy with pain, the am’rous God with fear. / He ran, and rais’d him bleeding from the ground, / Chafes his cold limbs, and wipes the fatal wound: / Then herbs of noblest juice in vain applies; / The wound is mortal, and his skill defies.” Phoebus curses fate, saying that the power to heal fatal injuries was beyond even him. Hycainthus’s blood stains the ground but then disappears, with a lily, a hyacinth, sprouting from where it once was. The story ends with a declaration that the Spartans were proud of having produced Hyacinthus, as noted in how they celebrated annually a feast in his honor. The Cerastae were males who were punished for being impious with horns that sprouted from their heads. That is, they had murdered their guests, so Jove gave them their horns as punishment. The Propoetides were females who prostituted themselves en masse: Venus, in retribution, transformed them into stone. The sculptor Pygmalion, disgusted by the behavior of the people around him, resolved to be a bachelor. One day he fell in love with a statue that he formed, wishing that it was real. He decorated it to make it seem more lifelike: “Rich fashionable robes her person deck, / Pendants her ears, and pearls adorn her neck: / Her taper’d fingers too with rings are grac’d, / And an embroider’d zone surrounds her slender waist. / Thus like a queen array’d, so richly dress’d, / Beauteous she shew’d, but naked shew’d the best.” A holiday celebrating Venus soon came, and Pygmalion wished for a woman like his statue. Venus rewarded his sincerity by making his statue come to life. Pygmalion married his statue and had a son with it, Paphos: “The Goddess, present at the match she made, / So bless’d the bed, such fruitfulness convey’d, / That ere ten months had sharpen’d either horn, / To crown their bliss, a lovely boy was born; / Paphos his name, who grown to manhood, wall’d / The city Paphos, from the founder call’d.” Paphos had a son named Cinryas who had a daughter named Myrrha. Ovid narrates that what Myrrha did was twisted and disgusting and that it is horrible to even dwell on it. That is, Myrrha became obsessed with her father and tricked him into sleeping with her on multiple evenings by pretending that she was a secret admirer and wasn’t his daughter. She was eventually exposed when Cinryas used a candle to see who she truly was. Horrified at what he had done, he grabbed his sword and chased her, intending to slay her for what she made him do. Myrrha escaped while pregnant. Remorseful, she states that if she lives she’ll be guilty, and if dies she’ll pollute the company of the dead. Begging for transformation, her wish is granted and she’s turned into a tree: “A middle state your mercy may bestow, / Betwixt the realms above, and those below: / Some other form to wretched Myrrha give, / Nor let her wholly die, nor wholly live.” Some time later, the tree that was once Myrrha gave birth to a son. The nymphs took it and named it Adonis. Adonis was physically attractive and one day Cupid accidentally sent an arrow into Venus while she was near Adonis. Falling in love with him, Ovid remarks that “Now to the queen of love he gave desires, / And, with her pains, reveng’d his mother’s fires.” Venus became infatuated with him and spent a huge amount of her time with him.

 Venus tells him of Atalanta, an athletic, fierce woman who was irritated by a wide horde of suitors. She offered to marry the one who could beat her in a foot race. If they lose, whoever, she’ll kill them. Hippomenes was able to succeed by asking Venus for help: she gave him three golden apples that would distract Atalanta and give him enough time to complete the race. They eventually married, but Adonis was so caught up in his relationship that he forgot to give the necessary thanks to Venus, Venus, irritated, inflamed Hippomenes and Atalanta with lust while they were in the temple of Cybele, “mother of the gods,” who transformed them into lions. Ovid fantastically writes, “Might I, Adonis, now not hope to see / His grateful thanks pour’d out for victory? / His pious incense on my altars laid? / But he nor grateful thanks, nor incense paid. / Enrag’d I vow’d, that with the yoth the fair, / For his contempt, should my keen vengeance share; / That future lovers might my pow’r revere, / And, from their sad examples, learn to fear. / The silent fanes, the sanctify’d abodes, / Of Cybele, great mother of the Gods, / Rais’d by Echion in a lonely wood, / And full of brown, religious horror stood. / By a long painful journey faint, they chose! / Their weary limbs here secret to repose. / But soon my pow’r inflam’d the lustful boy, / Careless of rest he sought untimely joy. / A hallow’d gloomy cave, with moss o’er-grown, / The temple join’d, of native pumice-stone, / Where antique images of priests were kept. / … the rash Hippomenes retires, / And gives a loose to all his wild desires, / And the chaste cell pollutes with wanton fires. / The sacred statues trembled with surprise, / The tow’ry Goddess, blushing, veiled’ her eyes; / And the lewd pair to Stygian sounds had sent, / But vengeful seem’d that punishment, / A heavier doom such black prophaneness draws, / Their taper figures turn to crooked paws. / No more their necks the smoothness can retain, / Now cover’d sudden with a yellow man. / Arms change to legs: each finds the hard’ning breast / Of rage unknown, and won’drous strength possessed.” They then went into the woods and were tamed by Cybele, who made them pull her chariot. Venus tells Adonis the theme of the story: to beware of wild animals in the woods. She spends even more time with her, but one day, while he was hunting, he tried to kill a wild boar but was gored to death (which is a perfectly acceptable outcome, in my opinion: those that are willing to kill others for sport should have their own lives put on the online too): “His faithful hounds, led by the tained wind, / Lodg’d in thick coverts chanc’d a boar to find. / The callow hero show’d a manly heart, / And pierc’d the savage with a side-long dart. / The flying savage, wounded, turn’d again, / Wrench’d out the gory dart, nad foam’d with pain. / The trembling boy by flight his safety sought, / And now recall’d the lore, which Venus taught; / But now too late to fly the boar he strove, / Who in the groin his tusks impetuous drove, / On the discolour’d grass Adonis lay, / The monster trampling o’er his beauteous prey.” Venus soon found him as he was dying, and went through much grief. She decides to commemorate his memory by transforming his blood into a red flower, an anemone/windflower: “Then on the blood sweet nectar she bestows, / The scented blood in little bubbles rose: / Little as rainy drops, which flutt’ring fly, / Born by the winds, along a low’ring sky. / Short time ensu’d, ‘till where the blood was shed, / A flow’r began to rear its purple head: / Such, as on Punick apples is reveal’d, / Or in the filmy rind but half conceal’d. / Still here the Fate of lovely forms we see, / So sudden fades the sweet Anemonie. / The feeble stems, to stormy blasts a prey, / Their sickly beauties droop, and pine away. / The winds forbid the flow’rs to flourish long, / Which owe to winds their names in Grecian song.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book IX

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book IX: 

Book IX begins with the river god Achelous recounting how he tried to marry Deianira, the daughter of a king, but was rebuffed by Hercules. Achelous said that he wished to wed her because of her physical attractiveness, but had Hercules for competition. He tells Hercules that he’s a deity while he’s “only” a demigod: “Can mortals then (said I), with Gods compare? / Behold a God; mine is the watry care: / Through your wide realms I take my mazy way, / Branch into streams, and o’er the region stray: / No foreign guest your daughter’s charms adores, / But one who rises in your native shores. / Let not his punishment your pity move; / Is Juno’s hate an argument for love? / Though you your life from fair Alcmena drew, / Jove’s a feign’d father, or by fraud a true. / Chuse then; confess thy mother’s honour lost, / Or thy descent from Jove no longer boast.” Hercules, irritated, began wrestling with him. He eventually succeeded by overpowering Achelous and breaking off one of his goat horns, which later became the inspiration for the cornucopia, a symbol of material prosperity: “Thus vanquish’d too, a third form still remains, / Chang’d to a bull, my lowing fills the plains. / Strait on the left his nervous arms were thrown / Upon my brindled neck, and tugg’d it down; / Then deep he struck my horn into the sand, / And fell’d my bulk among the dusty land. / Nor yet his fury cool’d; ‘twixt rage and scorn, / From my maim’d front he tore the stubborn horn: / This, heap’d with flow’rs, and fruits, the Naiads bear, / Sacred to plenty, and the bounteous year.” Achelous, upon leaving the scene, wears willow leaves to cover his injury: “Achelous in his oozy bed / Deep hides his brow deform’d, and rustick head: / No real wound the victor’s triump show’d, / But his lost honours grief’d the watry God; / Yet ev’n that loss the willow’s leaves o’erspread, / And verdant reeds, in garlands, bind his head.” Hercules married Deianira. Not long afterwards, a centaur named Nessus tried to kidnap her; he pretended that he was willing to take her across the river. However, once she was on his back, he bolted into the woods. Hercules gave chase and killed with by shooting him with arrows, but not before cursing his dishonesty: “Nessus, to thee I call (aloud he cries) / Vain is thy trust in flight, be timely wise: / Thou monster double-shap’d, my right set free; / If thou no rev’rence owe my fame and me, / Yet kindred should thy lawless lust deny; / Think not, perfidious wretch, from me to fly, / Tho’ wing’d with horse’s speed; wounds shall pursue; / Swift as his words the fatal arrow flew: / The centaur’s back admits the feather’d wood, / And thro’ his breast the barbed weapon stood; / Which when, in anguish, thro’ the flesh he tore, / From both the wounds gush’d forth the spumy gore / Mix’d with Lernacean venom; this he took, / Nor dire revenge his dying breast foresook. / His garment, in the reeking purple dy’d, / To rouse love’s passion, he presents the bride.” That is, as he lay dying, he offered Deianira his clothing, for he claimed that the blood of centaurs serves as a love potion; this was actually false, for it was actually a poison. Nessus died as he lived, scheming to injure others. After “a long interval of time,” Jove returned from a conquest with the woman Iole as a war captive. Deianira, worried that he was about to desert her, informed her servant Lychas to deliver Nessus’s robe to Hercules. Hercules, unsuspecting of the poison in the cloak, put it on, only to be seized by physical agony: “the rising flame / Sudden dissolves the subtle pois’nous juice, / Which taints his blood, and all his nerves bedews. / With wonted fortitude he bore the smart, / And not a groan confess’d his burning heart. / At length his patience was subdu’d by pain, / He rends the sacred altar from the plain; / Oete’s wide forests echo with his cries: / Now to rip off the deathful robe he tries. / Where-e’er he plucks the vest, the skin he tears, / The mangled muscles, and huge bones he bares / (A ghastful sight!), or raging with his pain, / To rend the sticking plague he tugs in vain.” Hercules exclaims that despite all of his achievements, he still can’t beat the poison coursing through his bloodstream: “Did not this neck the heav’nly globe sustain? / … Yet no fatigue hath slack’d these valiant hands. / But now new plagues pursue me, neither force, / Nor arms, nor darts can stop their raging course. / Devouring flame thro’ my rack’d entrails strays, / And on my lungs and shrivel’d muscles preys. / Yet still Eurystheus breathes the vital air. / What mortal now shall seke the Gods with pray’r?” 

Hercules curses Lychas for presenting him with the item of his destruction. Lychas begs for mercy but is thrown by Hercules into the air. Before he lands and falls to his death, he is transformed into a rock. Ovid portrays, “Far o’er th’ Eubaean main aloof he flies, / And hardens by degrees amid the skies. / So showry drops, when chilly tempests blow, / Thicken at first, then whiten into snow, / In balls congeal’d the rolling fleeces bound, / In solid hail result upon the ground. / Thus, whirl’d with nervous force thro’ distant air, / The purple tide foresook his veins, with fear; / All moisture left his limbs. Transform’d to stone, / In ancient days the craggy flint was known; / Still in the Eubaean waves his front he rears, / Still the same rock in human form appears, / And still the name of hapless Lychas bears.” Hercules builds his funeral pyre and ascends it, going up into flames. Jove, seeing his son, declares his pride for him and announces he plans to apotheosize him. None of the gods object to Jove’s proposal and Hercules is taken to Olympus. The next section of Book IX has to do with Alcmene and Iolo, who are respectively Hercules’s mother and daughter. Alceme describes how Juno prevented her from giving birth for a full week until her servant girl Galanthis tricks Juno into thinking that Alceme had already given birth: “Among the Theban dames Galanthis stands, / Strong limb’d, red hair’d, and just to my commands: / She first perceiv’d that all these racking woes / From the persisting hate of Juno rose. / As here and there she pass’d, by chance she sees / The seated Goddess; on her close-ressed knees / Her fast-knit hands she leans; with chearful voice / Galanthis cries, Whole’er thou art, rejoice, / Congratulate the dame, she lies at rest, / At length the Gods Alcemna’s womb have blest. / Swift from her seat the startled Goddess springs, / No more conceal’d, her hands abroad she flings; / The charm unloos’d, the birth my pangs reliev’d; / Galanthis’ laughter vex’d the Pow’r deceived.” Juno, enraged, transforms her into a weasel. Juno also said that since she allowed Alcmene to give birth by lying through her mouth, her offspring will likewise exit orally. Galanthis the weasel remains near the house of Alcmene. Iole states her tale: her half-sister Dryope was sexually assaulted by Phoebus and married Andraemon. One day, as she was going through a field with her infant son, she picked up a lotus plant to entertain her child. However, the plant she picked was once a nymph who was transformed into a plant because (you guessed it) she was running away from a male who desired her (Priapus). In retribution for her accidental crime, Dryope was transformed into a tree. Andraemon and her father Eurytus tried to find her, only to be told by Iole (who was there at the scene) that she had turned into a tree. Dryope still had her face (which was the trunk of the tree, which was quite creepy) and told them that she had committed her misdeed by accident. She also asked for her son to be raised well and to be instructed to be careful regarding vegetation, seeing his mother’s fate: “If to the wretched any faith be giv’n, / I swear by all th’ unpitying Pow’rs of Heav’n, / No wilful crime this heavy vengeance bred, / In mutual innocence our lives we led. / If this be false, let these new greens decay. / Let sounding axes lop my limbs away, / And crackling flames on all my honours prey. / Now from my branching arms this infant bear, / Let some kind nurse supply a mother’s care: / Yet to his mother let him oft bed led, / Sport in her shades, and in her shades be fed; / Teach him, when first his infant voice shall frame / Imperfect words, and lisp his mother’s name, / To hail this tree, and say with weeping eyes, / Within this plant my hapless parent lies; / And when in youth he seeks the shady woods, / Oh, let him fly the chrystal lakes and floods, / Nor touch the fatal flow’rs; but warn’d by me, / Believe a Goddess shrin’d in ev’ry tree.” Dryope’s transformation is soon compete and she stops talking, though the tree is warm to the touch. At that moment, Iolaus, the comrade and nephew of Hercules, appeared as a young man: Hercules, upon becoming a god, had wed Hebe, and she made him young once more at the behest of her husband, seeing how he was one of the closest companions of Hercules throughout his travels and troubles. Hebe vows that the gift of youth will only be given to Iolaus. Themis, a major soothsayer, prophecies that war will come, leading to events such as the two sins of Oedipus—Polynices and Eteocles—killing each other on the battlefield over the kingship of Thebes. The gods, complaining how Iolaus was made young again while there were so many other deserving mortals, were rebuffed by Jove. Jove tells them that Iolaus became young again due to fate: fate is such a thing, he declares, that affects even them. The gods then assent to Iolaus becoming young again. 

The next story is bizarre, so I’ll go through it briefly. In short, a girl named Byblis fell in love with her twin brother Caunus. Ovid hilariously describes that she thought she just felt sisterly affection for him, only to realize that her feelings went deeper than that. Conflicted, she justifies her romantic feelings for him by telling herself that the gods frequently married their siblings (which is why science is better than mythology). She writes a letter and tells her servant to deliver it to Caunus. Caunus, upon seeing it, was so enraged he threatened to kill the servant unless he would immediately leave his sight: “The half-read lines by his fierce rage were torn; / Hence, hence, he cry’d, thou pandar to her lust, / Bear hence the triumph of thy impious trust: / Thy instant death will but divulge her shame, / Or thy life’s blood shou’d quench the guilty flame.” The servant informed Byblis what had happened, and she was so disappointed she almost passed out. She asks herself why she didn’t go to him herself and plead her case (which would be very awkward) and states that she would rather die than give up on him. Caunus eventually was so scared of her that he fled, and while she tried to follow, she couldn’t find him, until she was turned into a spring in her tears: “Repuls’d and baffled, fierce still she burns, / And Caunus with disdain her impious love returns. / He saw no end of her injurious flame, / And fled his country to avoid the shame. / Forsaken Byblis, who had hopes no more; / Burst out in rage, and her loose robes she tore; / With her fair hands she smote her tender breast, / And to the wond’ring world her love confess’d; / O’er hills and dales, o’er rocks and streams she flew, / But still in vain did her wild lust pursue: / Wearied at length, on the cold earth she fell, / And now in tears alone could her sad story tell. / Relenting Gods in pity fix’d her there, / And to a fountain turn’d the weeping fair.” The final story is the tale of Iphis and Ianthe. Lidgus of Crete, who was described as a poor though honest man, was married with Telethusa. He says that because females are less profitable to raise than males, if they have a child and it’s a girl, she must be abandoned to die. Eventually Telethusa gave birth to a girl and succeeded in tricking her husband into thinking that it was a male. Lidgus, pleased, names his child Iphis, which, interestingly enough, is a name that can be used by both genders. When Iphis was thirteen years old, it was arranged by Lidgus that she would marry Ianthe, a neighbor’s daughter: “Now thirteen years of age were swiftly run, / When the fond father thought the time drew on / Of settling in the world his only son,. / Ianthe was his choice; so wondrous fair, / Her form alone with Iphis cou’d compare; / A neighbour’s daughter of his own degree, / And not more bless’d with Fortune’s goods than he.” Iphis and Ianthe quickly grew to become very close. However, though they were very affectionate for each other, Iphis cursed how she was a female. Ovid humorously writes: “They felt, before they knew, the same desires. / Equal their flame, unequal was their care; / One lov’d with hope, one languish’d in despair. / … Iphis bends beneath a greater grief; / As fiercely burns, but hopes for no relief.” Emotionally stupefied and unhappy about her situation, Telethusa prays to the goddess Isis (of of Egypt) for deliverance. Isis grants her wish by transforming Iphis into a male. Book IX ends with the following lines: “Iphis follow’d with a larger stride: / The whiteness of her skin foresook her face; / Her looks embolden’d with an awful grace; / Her features, and her strength together grew, / And her long hair to curling locks withdrew. / Her sparkling eyes with manly vigour shone, / Big was her voice, audacious was her tone. / The latent parts, at length reveal’d, began / To shoot, and spread, and burnish into man. / The maid becomes a youth; no more delay / Your vows, but look, and confidently pay. / … Now when the star of day had shewn his face, / Venus and Juno with their presence grace / The nuptial rites, and Hymen from above / Descending to compleat their happy love; / The Gods of marriage lend their mutual aid; / And the warm youth enjoys the lovely maid.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book VIII

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book VIII: 

This part of the story is that of Scylla and Minos. In this tale MInos declared war on the city Alcathous and comes close to capturing it: “King Minos, on the Attick strand, / Displays his martial skill, and wastes the land. / His army lies encampt upon the plains, / Before Alcathoe’s walls, where Nisus [the king] reigns; / On whose grey head a lock of purple hue, / The strength, and fortune of his kingdom, grew.” Some time (“Six moons were gone”) later, the battle appeared to be at a stalemate. The tide was turned in Minos’s favor, though, when Scylla, the daughter of Nisus, became obsessed with Minos upon seeing him: “But when the helm put off, display’d to sight, / And set his features in an open light; / When, vaulting to his seat, his steed he prest, / Caparison’d in gold, and richly drest; / HImself in scarlet sumptuously array’d, / New passions rise, and fire the frantic maid. / O happy spear! she cries, that feels his touch; / Nay, ev’n the reins he holds are blest too much. / Oh! were it lawful, she cou’d wing her way / Thro’ the stern hostile troops without dismay; / Or throw her body to the distant ground, / And in the Cretans happy camp be found. / Wou’d Minos but desire it! she’d expose / Her native country to her country’s foes; / Unbar the gates, the town with flames infest, / Or any thing that Minos shou’d request.” Thinking about what to do, she is initially hesitant about betraying her city. However, not too long afterwards, she decides that it would be for the best because (1) Minos’s attacking the area was understandable because his son was killed there (albeit by accident, making her infatuation with him even more inappropriate, given the considerable age difference) and (2) and the fact that the amount of bloodshed could be greatly decreased if the conflict is brought to a halt. In Scylla’s own words considering what she’ll do, “But I’m resolv’d, and fix’d in this decree, / My father’s country shall my dowry be. / Thus I prevent the loss of life and blood, / And, in effect, the action must be good.” The time quickly transitioned to night, and Scylla went into her house and scalped her father while he was asleep to remove the main opponent of what she plans to do and to obtain his purple hair, killing him: “Scylla with silent tread / Urg’d her approach to Nisus’ royal bed: / There, of the fatal lock (accursed theft!) / She her unwitting father’s head bereft. / In safe possession of her impious prey, / Out at a postern gate she takes her way. / Embolden’d, by the merit of the deed / She traverses the adverse camp with speed, / ‘Till Minos’ tent she reach’d: the righteous king / She thus bespoke, who shiver’d at the thing.” Scylla proclaims her love for Minos and offers him the kingdom, but Minos is understandably disgusted and orders her to get away from him: “Perdition seize thee, thou, thy kind’s disgrace! / May thy devoted carcass find no place / In earth, or air, or sea, by all out-cast! / Shall Minos, with so foul a monster, blast / His Cretan world, where cradled Jove was nurst? / Forbid it Heav’n!- away, thou most accurst!” Minos took control of Alcathous and demonstrated a very large degree of fairness (which would eventually lead to his becoming one of the three judges of the underworld) towards the conquered, for he brought up fair laws and refrained from committing wanton deeds: “”And now Alcathoe, its lord exchang’d, / Was under Minos’ domination rang’d. / While the most equal king his care applies / To curb the conquer’d, and new laws devise, / The fleet, by his command, with hoisted sails, / And ready oars, invites the murm’ring gales. / At length the Cretan hero anchor weigh’d, / Repaying, with neglect, th’ abandon’d maid. / Deaf to her cries, he furrows up the main: / In vain she prays, solicits him in vain.” Scylla curses Minos in rage and mentions his stepson, the Minotaur: “Exult, o city, by my baseness sold: / Minos, obdurate, has aveng’d ye all; / But ‘twere more just by those I wrong’d to fall: / For why shou’dst thou, who only didst subdue / By my offending, my offence pursue? / Well art thou match to one whose am’rous flame / Too fiercely rag’d, for human-kind to tame; / One who, within a wooden heifer thrust, / Courted a low’ring bull’s mistaken lust; / And, from whose monster-teeming womb, the Earth / Receiv’d, what much it mourn’d, a bi-form birth. / But what avails my plaints? the whistling wind, / Which bears him far away, leaves them behind. / Well weigh’d Pasiphae, when she prefer’d / A bull to thee, more brutish than the herd.” Crazed, she declares she’ll follow MInos to the end of the Earth but is stopped by her father Nisus, who manifested himself as an osprey: “Think not, ungrateful man, the liquid way / And threat’ning billows shall inforce my stay. / I’ll follow thee in spite: My arms I’ll throw / Around the oars, or grasp thy crooked prow, / And drag thro’ drenching seas. Her eager tongue / Had hardly clos’d the speech, when forth she sprung / And prov’d the deep. Cupid with added force / Recruits each nerve, and aids her wat’ry course. / Soon she the ship attains, unwelcome guest; / And, as with close embrace its side she prest, / A hawk from upper air came pouring down / (‘Twas Nisus cleft the sky with wings new grown). / At Scylla’s head his horny bill he aims; / She, fearful of the blow, the ship disclaims, / Quitting her hold: and yet she fell not far, / But wond’ring, finds her self sustain’d in air. / Chang’d to a lark, she mottled pinions shook, / And, from the ravish’d lock, the name of Ciris took.” 

Minos’s story is then examined. As mentioned before, his wife Pasiphae was bewitched by Neptune and Venus to fall in love with a bull that Neptune had given him, which eventually produced a half-human, half-bull creature, the Minotaur. The reason this was done was that Neptune had sent Minos the bull as a signature of approval, for Minos, who wished to be validated in front of his people, silently requested from Neptune a miracle. When the bull appeared, instead of sacrificing it as he promised, he kept it for himself. As can be noted here, the hypocrisy and injustice of the situation can be easily noted: while it was Minos who did the wrong thing, his wife was the one punished instead. When Minos returned from his campaign at Alcathous, he sacrificed one hundred oxen to Jove for his victory. He then set out to hide the Minotaur, which possessed enormous strength, away from others while utilizing it as a tool to enforce his rule. He found his answer in Daedalus, who was famed for his genius for engineering. Daedalus formed the labyrinth, an enormous maze which would keep the Minotaur imprisoned. It was also utilized as a tool to heighten public fear, for those that committed crimes and the tributes from Athens would be sent inside to be devoured. Ovid writes, “These private walls the Minotaur include, / Who twice was glutted with Athenian blood: / But the third tribute more successful prov’d, / Slew the foul monster, and the plague remov’d. / When Theseus, aided by the virgin’s [Ariadne] art, / Had trac’d the guiding thread thro’ ev’ry part, / He took the gentle maid, that set him free, / And, bound for Dias, cut the briny sea. / There, quickly cloy’d, ungrateful, and unkind, / Left his fair consort in the isle behind”. Although Theseus proved himself an ingrate by abandoning Ariadne after she rescued him, it proved to be for the better, as she soon encountered Bacchus, who made her immortal and appreciated her: “Bacchus saw, and straining in his arms / Her rifled bloom, and violated charms, / Resolves, for this, the dear engaging dame / Shou’d shine for ever in the rolls of Fame; / And bids her crown among the stars be plac’d, / With an eternal constellation grac’d. / The golden circlect mounts; and, as it flies, / Its diamonds twinkle in the distant skies; / There, in their pristin form, the gemmy rays / Between Alcides, and the dragon blaze.” Daedalus had a son named Icarus. Afraid for their safety and despising his imprisonment (because he was the one who created the bull costume for Pasiphae), he firmly decided to escape with his son by constructing wings that they can use to fly away: “Daedalus languish’d for his native land: / The sea foreclos’d his flight; yet thus he said: / Tho’ Earth and water in subjection laid, / O cruel Minos, thy dominion be, / Wel’ll go thro’ air; for sure the air is free. / … A row of quills in gradual order plac’d, / Rise by degrees in length from first to last; / As on a cliff th’ ascending thicket grows, / Or, different reeds the rural pipe compose. / Along the middle runs a twine of flax, / The bottom stems are joyn’d by pliant wax. / Thus, well compact, a hollow bending brings / The fine composure into real wings.” His son Icarus was extremely different from him, for he was light-hearted and playful. Daedalus instructed his son to refrain from flying too low or too high, for if he does the former, his wings will become soaked and stop working, and if he does the latter the wax holding the wings together will melt. They then escaped from their captivity. Icarus, exhilarated with his newfound talents, flew too high and plunged into the sea, perishing: “When now the boy, whose childish thoughts aspire / To loftier aims, and make him ramble high’r, / Grown wild, and wanton, more embolden’d flies / Far from his guide, and soars among the skies. / The soft’ning wax, that felt a nearer sun, / Dissolv’d apace, and soon began to run. / The youth in vain his melting pinions shakes, / His fathers gone, no longer air he takes: / Oh! Father, father, as he strove to cry, / Down to the sea he tumbled from on high, / And found his Fate; yet still subsists by fame, / Among those waters that retain his name [the Ionian Sea].” Daedalus mourned, and recounted why he was banished in the first place: in a fit of envy, he murdered his nephew and was subsequently thrown out of his native land. To be specific, his nephew had come up with the idea of the saw after examining the skeletons of fish. His nephew presented him with the saw when he at a high altitude, and he pushed him off. However, Minerva prevented him from meeting the ground by transforming him into a bird. 

The next tale is that of Meleager and Atalanta. Meleager was the prince of the Calydonians, who were being tormented by a large boar. Atalanta, a renowned hunter, joined the chase. Taking down the boar proved to be both difficult and dangerous, for its size and strength were to such a degree that it destroyed much property and people. Along with Atalanta were other qualified heroes, with many being descendants from gods. Regardless, there were still many failures when it came to taking down the creature: “Echion threw his first, but miss’d his mark, / And stuck his boar-spear on a maple’s bark. / Then Jason; and his javelin seem’d to take, / But fail’d with over-force, and whiz’d above his back. / Mopsus was next; but e’er he threw, address’d / To Phoebus, thus: / O patron, help thy priest: / If I adore, and ever have ador’d / Thy pow’r divine, thy present aid afford; / That I may reach the beast. The God allow’d / His pray’r, and smiling, gave him what he cou’d: / He reach’d the savage, but no blood he drew: / Dian unarm’d the javelin, as it flew.” The boar was only irritated by its hunters and almost killed some of them (including Eupalamos and Pelagon), but after an arduous struggle Atalanta succeeded in wounding it and Meleager slays it. He states that the prize should go to her due to her performing the first deed that led to the defeat of the boar, but his two uncles, Plexippus and Toxeus, are irritated. They steal Atalanta’s prize (the hide of the boar), and Mealager kills them both. His mother, upon hearing of what he did, recollected how it was once stated while he was still an infant that as long as a certain piece of wood is in good condition, he will continue to live. She resolves to murder her own son by burning it, and she succeeds: “she lifts her hand, / Averts her eyes, and, half unwilling, drops the brand. / The brand, amid the flaming fewel thrown, / Or drew, or seem’d to draw, a dying groan; / The fires themselves but faintly lick’d their prey, / Then loath’d their impious food, and would have shrunk away. / Just then the heroe cast a doleful cry, / And in those absent flames began to fry: / The blind contagion rag’d within his veins; / But he with manly patience bore his pains: / He fear’d not Fate, but only grief’d to die / Without an honest wound, … / … For as the flames augment, and as they stay / At their full height, then languish to decay, / They rise and sink by fits; at last they soar / In one bright blaze, and then descend no more: / Just so his inward heats, at height, impair, / ‘Till the last burning breath shouts out the osul in air.” Calydonia is left as a mess. Meleager’s father curses his fate and his mother stabs herself to death out of grief. Meleager is given an honorable burial and Diana, the goddess responsible for the Calydonian boar (she felt unhappy that the people of the area forgot to give sacrifices to her), is at last appeased. 

The story picks up with Theseus; as he was going home, he encountered Achelous the river god. He tells him that the islands in the surrounding area were naiads; he transformed them into their present forms as punishment for their not inviting him to a dinner party. As Ovid puts it, “These once proud Naiads were, before their change. / ‘Twas on a day more solemn than the rest, / Ten bullocks slain, a sacrificial feast: / The rural Gods of all the region near / They bid to dance, and taste the hallow’d cheer. / Me they forgot: affronted with the slight, / My rage, and stream swell’d to the greatest height; / And with the torrent of my flooding store, / Large woods from woods, and fields from fields I tore. / The guilty nymphs, oh! Then, remembring me, / I, with their country, wash’d into the sea; / And joining waters with the social main, / Rent the gross land, and split the firm champagne. / Since, the Echinades, remote from shore / Are view’d as many isles, as nymphs before.” Achelous then tells Theseus of Perimele, a girl whom he had a romantic relationship with. Unfortunately, when her father discovered that she was pregnant, he pushed her off a cliff into the water. Because of Achelous’s requests, Poseidon transformed her into an island rather than let her drown. As an island she has the same name. The proceeding plot is that of Baucis and Philemon. They were initially a poor, old couple, but they were of good character and deeply cared for each other. One day, Mercury and Jove visited their area and took the forms of travellers to test the people of the area. Of all the places they went to, only Baucis and Philemon let them in and gave them good treatment. Mercury and Jove in turn spared their lives when he destroyed the area to punish its inhabitants for their selfishness (irony, considering what they did for the sake of gratifying their base appetites) and offered them a wish. Baucis and Philemon combined their wishes, asking to live together in harmony while looking after their temple: “A-while they whisper; then, to Jove address’d, / Philemon thus prefers their joint request: / We crave to serve before your sacred shrine, / And offer at your altars rites divine: / And since not any action of our life / Has been polluted with domestick strife; / We beg one hour of death, that neither she / With widow’s tears may live to bury me, / Nor weeping I, with wither’d arms may bear / my breathless Baucis to the sepulcher.” Years later, their time as mortals came to an end. However, instead of rotting away and dying apart from each other, they were given a dignified, pleasant end, for they were transformed into trees: “Old Baucis is by old Philemon seen / Sprouting with sudden leaves of spritely green: / Old Baucis look’d where old Philemon stood, / And saw his lengthen’d arms a sprouting wood: / New roots their fasten’d feet begin to bind, / Their bodies stiffen in a rising rind: / Then, ere the bark above their shoulders grew, / They give, and take at once their last adieu. / At once, Farewell, o faithful spouse, they said: / At once th’ encroaching rinds their closing lips invade.” Proteus as a character is discussed next: he can shape-shift into virtually anything he wishes. The final tale of this section is discussed next. Erisichthon was a wealthy man who slighted the gods by going to the sacred grove of Ceres and trying to cut down the trees. As he attempted to cut one down, he noticed that blood gushed out. Still obstinate and refusing to examine the situation, he kept at his deed, until Ceres was notified and informed Famine to punish him by making him permanently hungry. Famine is described as thus: “The nymph, accepting of the granted carr, / Sprung to the seat, and posted thro’ the air; / Nor stop’d till she to a bleak mountain came / Of wondrous height, and Caucasus its name. / There in a stony field the fiend she found, / Herbs gnawing, and roots scratching from the ground. / Her elfelock hair in matted tresses grew, / Sunk were her eyes, and pale her ghastly hue, / Wan were her lips, and foul with clammy glew. / Her throat was furr’d, her guts appear’d within / With snaky crawlings thro’ her parchment skin. / Her jutting hips seem’d starting from their place, / And for a belly was a belly’s space, / Her dugs hung dangling from her craggy spine, / Loose to her breast, and fasten’d to her chine. / Her joints protuberant by leanness grown, / Consumption sunk the flesh, and rais’d the bone. / Her kenes large orbits bunch’d to monstrous size, / And ankles to undue proportion rise.” Famine obeyed the command of Ceres and went to Erisichthon, who was sleeping. She breaths into his body, infecting his senses and vitals with permanent hunger. Upon awaking, he is starving and couldn’t make himself feel full. His desperation increased as his symptoms worsened, so much os that he squandered all his wealth and repeatedly sold his daughter into slavery (Neptune changed her into various forms, such as a fisherman, on numerous occasions for her in exchange for copulation). Eventually, his pangs of starvation became so intense that he devoured himself and at last expired: “His muscles with a furious bite he tore, / Gorg’d his own tatter’d flesh, and gulph’d his gore. / Wounds were his feast, his life to life a prey, / Supporting Nature by its own decay.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book VII

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book VII: 

The story of Medea and Jason commence this section of the text. The blind sage Phineus, who can tell the future, is tormented by Harpies to prevent him from making too much use of his skill: “The Argonauts now stemm’d the foaming tide, / And to Arcadia’s shore their course apply’d; / Where sightless Phineus spent his age in grief, / And boreas’ sons engage in his relief; / And those unwelcome guests, the odious race / Of Harpyes, from the monarch’s table chase.” As stated in the sentence, Jason and his Argonauts went to him to learn how to get to Corinth. They are doing this because when Jason demanded the throne from a tyrannical relative; he states that he’ll give him it if he gets the Golden Fleece, an object of great worth. When Jason arrived at Corinth after going through the sympheglades (clashing rocks, which kill almost everyone that goes between them), King Aeetes states that he’ll give him the fleece only if he performs impossible labors. His daughter Medea fell desperately in love with Jason. Ovid describes, “Medea, seiz’d with fierce desire, / By reason strives to quench the raging fire; / But strives in vain!- Some God (she said) withstands, / And reason baffl’d council countermands. / What unseen Pow’r does this disorder move? / … Why, royal maid, shou’dst thou desire to wed / A wanderer, and court a foreign bed? / … Yet, if I help him not, the flaming breath / Of bulls, and earth-born foes, must be his death. / Or, should he through these dangers force his way, / At last he must be made the dragon’s prey. / If no remorse for such distress I feel, / I am a tigress, and my breast is steel. / Why do I scruple then to see him slain, / And with the tragic scene my eyes prophane?” She then asks herself whether Jason will actually come to love her, and states that she believes he will, as her intuition appears to ensure his honesty. However, despite her infatuation, she still has reservations, for she’ll have to betray her country, abandon her family, and go to a foreign land: “Will thou, Medea, by vain wishes led, / To sister, brother, father bid adieu? / Forsake thy country’s Gods, and country too? / My father’s harsh, my brother but a child, / My sister rivals me, my country’s wild; / And for its Gods, the greatest of ‘em all / Inspires my breast, and I obey his call. / … And, what I prize above the world beside, / Enjoy my Jason- and when once his bride, / Be more than mortal, and to Gods ally’d.” Medea then went to the goddess of magic Hecate’s shrine to meditate on her course of action. After some deliberation, she decides to help him, and he swears (falsely) to be loyal to her: “But when he spoke, and prest her trembling hand, / And did with tender words her aid demand, / With vows, and oaths to make her soon his bride, / She wept a flood of tears, and thus reply’d: / … Your life I’ll guard, and only crave of you / To swear once more- and to your oath be true. / He swears by Hecate he would all fulfil, / And by her grandfather’s prophetic skill, / By ev’ry thing that doubting love cou’d press, / His present danger, and desir’d success. She credits him, and kindly does produce / Enchanted herbs, and teaches him their use: / Their mystick names, and virtue he admires, / And with his booty joyfully retires.” The following day, he isn’t burned to death by Aeetes’s cattle and succeeds in utilizing them to plow the field. He then places dragon teeth into the ground and waters them with blood, causing powerful warriors to emerge from the ground. However, he remembered the advice Medea gave him and threw a rock into their midst, causing them to hack each other to death. The Greeks’ reaction was priceless and a favorable one: “The Greeks, transported with the strange success, / Leap from their seats the conqu’ror to caress; / Commend, and kiss, and clasp him in their arms: / So would the kind contriver of the charms; / But her, who felt the tenderest concern, / Honour condemns in secret flames to burn; / Committed by a double guard of fame, / Aw’d by a virgin’s, and a princess’ name. / But thoughts are free, and fancy unconfin’d, / She kisses, courts, and hugs him in her mind; / To fav’ring Pow’rs her silent thanks she gives, / By whose indulgence her lov’d hero lives.” The last task consists of appeasing a dragon. He succeeds with the aid of Medea’s magic: “Yet him, besprinkled with Lethaean dew, / The fair inchantress into slumber threw; / And then, to fix him, thrice she did repeat / The rhyme, that makes the raging winds retreat, / In stormy seas can halcyon seasons make, / Turn rapid streams into a standing lake; / While the soft guest his drowsy eye’lids seals, / Th’ ungarded golden fleece the stranger steals; / Proud to possess the purchase of his toil, / Proud of his royal bride, the richer spoil; / To sea both prize, and patroness he bore, / And lands triumphant on his native shore.” Upon returning back to Greece, Jason, though cheered and praised, was in a poor mood, for his father Aeson was greatly aged, so much so that he neared death. Offering to give his own vitality to restore his father, Medea agrees to do something better. Ascending into the heavens with her pet dragons, she collectes the necessary resources to make Aeson young again, though it takes more than a week to do so and required all her attention. Going back to where Aeson lived, she gave him blood transfusions and medicines until he was as good as new: “She cuts her patients throat; th’ exhausted blood / Recruiting with her new enchanted flood; / While at his mouth, and thro’ his op’ning wound, / A double inlet her infusion found; / His feeble frame resumes a youthful air, / A glossy brown his hoary beard and hair. / The meager paleness from his aspect fled, / And in its room sprang up a florid red; / Thro’ all his limbs a youthful vigor flies, / His empty’d art’ries swell with fresh supplies: / But Aeson is the most surpriz’d to find / A happy change in body and in mind; / In sense and constitution the same man, / As when his fortieth active year began.” 

Upon restoring Aeson, she plans to give her husband the throne of Iolcus by assassinating Pelias, Jason’s relative who promised him the kingdom but still refused to do so. Pretending that she had a falling out with her husband, she told Pelias’s daughters of how to make their father young again. She then slays a dilapidated ram and brings it back to life. Pelias’s daughters beg her to make their father young once more, and she lies to them by promising that she will. They eventually killed their father in a vain attempt to bring him back, and Medea, afraid of retribution, escapes on her dragon-chariot. Her journey was described as being one frightful to the passerby because of the fact that she was flying around with dragons. When she eventually went back to return to her husband, she discovered that she was betrayed and opts for revenge by serial murder: “But here Medea finds her bed supply’d, / During her absence, by another bride; / And hopeless to recover her lost game, / She sets both bride and palace in a flame. / Nor could a rival’s death her wrath asswage, / Nor stopt at Creon’s family her rage, / She murders her own infants, in despight / To faithless Jason, and in Jason’s sight; / Yet e’er his sword could reach her, up she springs, / Securely mounted on her dragon’s wings.” Going to Athens, the king of the city, Aegeus, marries her, with Ovid offering the following remark: “Here Aegeus so engaging she address, / That first he treats her like a royal guest; / Then takes the sorc’ress for his wedded wife; / The only blemish of his prudent life.” Aegeus’s son eventually arrives to announce his existence to his father, and Medea, afraid of being supplanted, plans to poison him. However, because Aegeus recognized his son at the last moment through his sword hilt. He then tries to kill Medea, but she escapes by causing herself to disappear. He celebrates his son through a massive festival. Theseus informs his father that as he travelled to Athens, he put down many criminals, including Periphetes (who beat people into the ground with his club), Sinis (who would tear travellers in half by attaching each of their arms to a separate pine tree), the Crommyonian Sow (a dangerous pig that destroyed property and people’s lives), Sciron (a narcissist who would force travellers to wash his feet and kick them into the ocean where a giant turtle lived), Cercyon (the psychopathic king of Eleusis who would wrestle people to the death), and Procrustes (a surgeon gone rogue who would force people to lie in a bed that was either too short or too long; for the short bed he’ll sever parts off a person until they fit its length and for the long one he’ll rack them). The next story involves the Myrmidons: the king Aeacus was pressured by Minos to raise soldiers and money to aid him in avenging his dead son against Athens, who was accidentally killed there during a festival. Aeacus refuses, for his city enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Athens, not-mentioning how a pestilence has greatly weakened his forces: “What you request, thus Aeacus replies, / Not I, but truth and common sense denies; / Athens and we have long been sworn allies: / Our leagues are fix’d, confed’rate are our pow’rs, / And who declare themselves their foes, are ours. / Minos rejoins, Your League shall dearly cost / (Yet, mindful how much safer ‘twas to boast, / Than there to waste his forces, and his fame, / Before in field with his grand foe he came), / Parts without blows”. 

A plague then struck the area. Ovid describes its progress in haunting detail: “The young disease with milder force began, / And rag’d on birds, and beasts, excusing Man. / The lab’ring oxen fall before the plow, / Th’ unhappy plow-men stare, and wonder how: / The tabid sheep, with sickly bleatings, pines; / Its wool decreasing, as its strength declines: / The warlike steed, by inward foes compell’d, / Neglects his honours, and deserts the field; / Unnerv’d, and languid, seeks a base retreat, / And at the manger groans, but wish’d a nobler fate: / The stags forget their speed, the boars their rage, / … And in the woods, and fields, promiscuously they fall. / The air receives the stench and (strange to say) / Th’ rav’nous birds and beasts avoid the prey: / Th’ offensive bodies rot upon the ground, / And spread the dire contagion all around.” As it grew worse, it decimated people: “the plague, grown to a larger size, / Riots on Man, and scorns a meaner prize. / Intestine heats begin the civil war, / And flushings first the latent flame declare, / And breath inspir’d, which seem’d like fiery air. / Their black dry tongues are swell’d, and scarce can move, / And short thick sighs from panting lung are drove. / They gape for air, with flatt’ring hopes t’ abate / Their raging flames, but that augments their heat. / No bed, no cov’ring can the wretches bear, / But on the ground, expos’d to open air, / They lye, and hope to find a pleasing coolness there. / The suff’ring Earth with that oppression curst, / Returns the heat which they imparted first.” Worse, nothing that was done seemed to be able to stay the fury of the epidemic. Aeacus, moved for his people, prayed to the gods for deliverance, offering himself as a sacrifice if they desired it: “Despairing under grief’s oppressive weight, / And sunk by these tempestuous blasts of Fate, / O Jove, said I, if common fame says true, / If e’er Aegina gave those joys to you, / If e’er you lay enclos’d in her embrace, / Fond of her charms, and eager to possess; / O father, if you do not yet disclaim / Paternal care, nor yet disown the name; / Grant my petitions, and with speed restore / My subjects num’rous as they were before, / Or make me partner of the fate they bore.” Thunder then boomed, signifying that Aeacus’s wish was granted. The ants on the ground transformed into fully trained soldiers, restoring the city’s future: “As many ants the num’rous branches bear, / The same their labour, and their frugal care; / The branches too a like commotion sound, / And shook th’ industrious creatures on the ground, / Who, by degrees (what’s scarce to be believ’d) / A nobler form, and larger bulk receiv’d, / And on the earth walk’d an unusual pace, / With manly strides, and an erected face- / Their num’rous legs, and former colour lost, / The insect cou’d a human figure boast.” Aeacus praised Jove and paid him his respect, thus concluding the tale of Aeacus and his country regarding its role in the text. The proceeding tale is that of Cephalus and Procris. Cephalus was a king who, while hunting, encountered the goddess Aurora, who expressed her romantic interest in him. He responded by cursing his fate, saying that he loves Procris, who is his wife. Aurora responds, “Ingrateful boy / Go to your Procris, take your fatal joy”. Upon returning, he was paranoid that his wife was unfaithful, leading him to return in a disguise. He found her mourning, yet she was willing to sleep with him regardless: “Aurora’s envy aided my design, / And lent me features far unlike to mine. / In this disguise to my own house I came, / … And then beheld her weeping on the ground / For her lost husband; hardly I retain’d / My purpose, scarce the wish’d embrace refrain’d. / How charming was her grief! Then, Phocus, guess / What killing beauties waited on her dress. / Her constant answer, when my suit I prest, / Forbear, my lord’s dear image guards this breast; / Where-e’er he is, my heart unmov’d remains. / What greater proofs of truth than these cou’d be? / Yet I persist, and urge my destiny. / At length, she found, when my own form return’d, / Her jealous lover there, whose loss she mourn’d. / Enrag’d with my suspicion, swift as wind, / She fled at once from me and all mankind”. Regretful that he had tested his wife by toying with her emotions, he asked for forgiveness and received it. For a time all was well, until one day he received a notification that a dangerous beast was in the area. Taking his gear, he bade farewell to Procris and went into the woods to look for it. When he took a break, he called for light “(Aura”) to refresh him along with the gentle breeze. A person passing by heard his words, and believing that “Aura” was the name of a woman he had been seeing, went to his wife. Upon learning of it, she almost fainted and decided to spy on him. The next day, he went back to hunting and again invoked “Aura.” Behind him he heard rustling, and thinking it was the beast, threw his spear towards it. However, it turned out to be his wife. She eventually died, shattering his heart, but before she did so she told him not to let Aura take her place, which only made him more regretful of the misunderstanding. Ovid narrates, “Next morn I to the woods again repair, / And, weary with the chase, invoke the air: / Approach, dear Aura, and my bosom chear: / At which a mournful sound did strike my ear; / Yet I proceeded, ‘till the thicket by, / With rustling noise and motion, drew my eye: / I thought some beast of prey was shelter’d there, / And to the covert threw my certain spear; / From whence a tender sigh my soul did wound, / Ah me! it cry’d, and did like Procis sound. / Procris was there, too well the voice I knew, / And to the place with headlong horror flew; / Where I beheld her gasping on the ground, / In vain attempting from the deadly wound / To draw the dart, her love’s dear fatal gift!” As for her demise, “My guilty arms had scarce the strength to lift / The beauteous load; my silks, and hair I tore / (If possible) to stanch the pressing gore; / For pity beg’d her keep her flitting breath, / And not to leave my guilty of her death. / While I intreat she fainted fast away, / And these few words had only strength soay: / By all the sacred bonds of plighted love, / By all your rev’rence to the Pow’rs above, / By all the truth for which you held me dear, / And lost by love, the cause through which I bleed, / Let Aura never to my bed succeed. / I then perceiv’d the error of our fate, / And told it her, but found and told too late! / I felt her lower to my bosom fall, / And while her eyes had any sight at all, / On mine she fix’d them; in her pangs still prest / My hand, and sigh’d her soul into my breast; / Yet, being undeceiv’d, resign’d her breath / Methought more chearfully, and smil’d in death.” Book VII concludes with the following lines, “With such concern the weeping heroe told / This tale, that none who heard him cou’d with-hold / From melting into sympathizing tears”.

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book VI

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book VI: 

Book VI starts at the end of Book V. Minerva, upon hearing the tale of the Pierides, remembers how she once punished a mortal, Arachne, for insulting the gods (for good reason). Arachne was born poor but distinguished herself through her talent at weaving: “One at the loom so excellently skill’d, / That to the Goddess she refus’d to yield. / Low was her birth, and small her native town, / She from her art alone obtain’d renown. / Idmon, her father, made it his employ, / To give the spongy fleece a purple dye: / Of vulgar strain her mother, lately dead, / With her own rank had been content to wed; / Yet she their daughter, tho’ her time was spent / In a small hamlet, and of mean descent, / Thro’ the great towns of Lydia gain’d a name, / And fill’d the neighb’ring countries with her fame.” In fact, Arachne was so good at weaving that sentient beings would travel long distances just to see her at her craft. Minerva, hearing of her fame and her claims of superiority, took the appearance of an old woman and went to her. In her form she advised Arachne to be modest and to state that she’s not as skilled as Minerva. Arachne: “Young maid attend, nor stubbornly despise / The admonitions of the old, and wise; / For age, tho’ scorned, a ripe experience bears, / That golden fruit, unknown to blooming years: / Still may remotest fame your labours crown, / And mortals your superior genius own; / But to the Goddess yield, and humbly meek / A pardon for your bold presumption seek; / The Goddess will forgive.” Arachne, incensed at being suggested to seek forgiveness when she had distinguished herself through her effort, states that perhaps she’ll do so if the goddess comes to her. Thus commenced a competition to form the best tapestry. While Athena portrayed the glory of the Olympians in her tapestry, Arachne visualized the countless abominations they committed. She especially focused on their predatory behavior that in today’s era would earn an individual a life sentence: “Arachne drew the fam’d intrigues of Jove, / Changed to a bull to gratify his love; / How thro’ the briny tide all foaming hoar, / Lovely Europa on his back he bore. / The sea seem’d waving, and the trembling maid / Shrunk up her tender feet, as if afraid; / And, looking back on the forsaken strand, / To her companions wafts her distant hand. / Next she design’d Asteria’s fabled rape, / When Jove assum’d a soaring eagle’s shape: / And shew’d how Leda lay supinely press’d, / Whilst the soft snowy swan sate hov’ring o’er her breast, / How in a satyr’s form the God beguild’, / When fair Antiope with twins he fill’d. / Then, like Amphytrion, but a real Jove, / In fair Alcmena’s arms he cool’d his love. / In fluid gold to Danae’s heart he came, / Aegina felt him in a lambent flame. / He took Mnemosyne in shepherd’s make, / And for Deois was a speckled snake.” Minerva, upon looking at Arachne’s tapestry, greatly admired the skill with which it was formed, but couldn’t handle the truth of what she and the other gods did to various innocents for the trivial sake of gratifying their appetites; thus, she tore Arachne’s tapestry to shreds and physically abused her by hitting her with her shuttle, a clear demonstration that agents capable of reflection frequently respond with anger and violence when they’re logically cornered. Arachne, embarrassed, hangs herself. Minerva chooses to punish her still further by transforming her into a spider, calling into question how she could be called the goddess of wisdom (unless that wisdom is of a Machiavellian sort belonging to psychopathic hairless apes). Ovid writes that Minerva stated, “Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cry’d, / Doom’d in suspense for ever to be ty’d; / That all your race, to utmost date of time, / May feel the vengeance, and detest the crime. / Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice, / Which leaves of baneful aconites produce. / Touch’d with the pois’nou drug, her flowing hair / Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare; / Her usual features vanish’d from their place, / Her body lessen’d all, but most her face. / Her slender fingers, hanging on each side / With many joynts, the use of legs supply’d: / A spider’s bag the rest, from which she gives / A thread, and still by constant weaving lives.” 

The succeeding story is that of Niobe. Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus and the husband of Amphion, who was the king of Thebes. She showed little regard for Latona, the mother of Diana and Phoebus, boasting that while Latona had only two kids, she had fourteen. To be specific, she had seven sons and seven daughters. Latona, angry, orders her two children to brutally kill all of Niobe’s children to achieve her petty, moronic, sinister revenge. Phoebus promises that he’ll enjoy the task (just illustrating how horrible people’s behavior was in the past and in the modern era). He and his sister first kill all of Niobe’s sons. Devastated, she becomes even more so when they show up in front of her and her seven daughters to eradicate the rest of her offspring. Killing six of them rapidly utilizing their arrows, Niobe shields the body of her last daughter, begging for forgiveness to no avail, with her daughter expiring in her arms. She was so heartbroken (and Latona, that devilish fiend, like most of the entities of Greek mythology, probably rejoiced; she would make Ted Bundy embarrassed) that she turned into a rock. Ovid movingly writes that she was “A doleful sight, among the dead she sate; / Harden’d with woes, a statue of despair, / To ev’ry breath of wind unmov’d her hair; / Her cheek still red’ning, but its colour dead, / Faded her eyes, and set within her head. / No more her pliant tongue its motion keeps, / But stands congeal’d within her frozen lips. / Stagnate, and dull, within her purple veins, / Its current stop’d, the lifeless blood remains. / Her feet their usual offices refuse, / Her arms, and neck their graceful gestures lose: / Action, and life from ev’ry part are gone, / And ev’n her entrails turn to solid stone; / Yet still she weeps, and whirl’d by stormy winds, / Born thro’ the air, her native country finds; / There fix’d, she stands upon a bleaky hill, / There yet her marble cheeks eternal tears distil.” With the deaths of Niobe’s children (and her husband Amphion, who was likewise struck down as collateral damage), the people of Thebes are terrified and worship Latona (thus showing that fear is the parent of cruelty, as was aptly noted by numerous individuals in the past). The narration of the tale of the peasants of Lycia then appears: when Latona was pregnant with Diana and Mercury by Jove, she was hounded by Juno (though it served her right for acting as she did despite knowing better). Exhausted, she tried to drink at a lake named Lycia. However, the people of that area, knowing Juno swore to punish whoever would aid Latona, tried to drive her off. Narcissistic as usual, Latona wished for them to be forever condemned to that body of water: they became frogs. Ovid remarks, “now they [the people of Lycia] chuse / To plunge, and dive among the watry ooze; / Sometimes they shew their head above the brim, / And on the glassy surface spread to swim; / Often upon the bank their station take, / Then spring, and leap into the cooly lake. / Still, void of shame, they lead a clam’rous life, / And, croaking, still scold on in endless strife; / Compel’d to live beneath the liquid stream, / Where still they quarrel, and attempt to skream.” The focus then shifts to Phoebus: he once flayed alive a satyr named Marsyas who became overconfident due to his skill at playing the lyre. That’s right: because he was jealous, he put another individual through unbearable agony. Ovid writes, “Why do you tear me from my self, he cries? / Ah cruel! must my skin be made the prize? / This for a silly pipe? he roaring said, / Mean-while the skin from off his limbs was flay’d. / All bare, and raw, one large continu’d wound, / With streams of blood his body bath’d the ground. / The blueish veins their trembling pulse disclos’d, / The stringy nerves lay naked, and expos’d; / His guts appear’d, distinctly each express’d, / With ev’ry shining fibre of his breast.” His companions wept for his demise so much that their tears became a river, which was then named Marsya to commemorate him. The following tale involves Pelops, the son of Tantalus who was butchered and turned into a stew for the gods to eat. In a rare display of compassion (for the Olympians almost never act on their better instincts), they brought him back to life. However, he missed a shoulder due to their already having eaten it, leading them to give him one formed of metal.  The story of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela is an extremely disturbing and utterly depraved one, so I’ll tell it as quickly as possible. The king Tereus was the king of Thrace and was once married to Procne. Procne, missing her sister Philomela, asks to see her. Tereus agrees, deciding to escort her to his kingdom. However, upon first laying his eyes on her, he’s filled with uncontrollable lust, leading her to bring her to a hut in the woods, incapacitate her, and rape her repeatedly. To ensure that she wouldn’t inform anyone of his crimes, he keeps her under lock and key and even severs her tongue. Tereus then tells Procne that her sister died; she believes it due to her husband never having shown any deranged tendencies over the course of their marriage that had produced a five-year-old son named Itys. After a year, Philomela forms a tapestry that details what happened: a servant that was sympathetic to her delivered it to Procne, who realized with the utmost horror what had actually occurred. She visits her sister and decides to kill Itys to damage Tereus, seeing how he wanted an heir. She and Philomela prepare his body and serve it to Tereus. Once he is done eating, Procne screams at Tereus that he deserved to be punished and that he had consumed his son. Philomela appears and throws Itys’s head at Tereus. Tereus vomits up his son and buries him. He then grabbed a sword and chased his wife and her sister to slay them both. However, before he reached them, they were transformed into birds. Ovid details, “In close pursuit he drives Pandion’s [the father of Procne and Philomela and the king of Athens] breed; / Whose nimble feet spring with so swift a force / Across the fields, they seem to swing their course. / And now, on real wings themselves they raise, / And steer their airy flight by diff’rent ways; / One to the woodland’s shady covert hies, / Around the smoaky roof the other flies; / Whose fathers yet the marks of murder stain, / Where stampt upon her breast, the crimson spots remain. / Tereus, through grief, and haste to be reveng’d, / Shares the like fate, and to a bird is chang’d: / Fix’d on his head, the crested plumes appear, / Long is his beak, and sharpen’d like a spear; / Thus arm’d, his looks his inward mind display, / And, to a lapwing turn’d, he fans his way.” Pandion is devastated after hearing the news and passes away. Erechtheus, the son of Pandion, comes into power. He has four sons and four daughters. One of them, Orithyia, is paid court by Boreas, the god of the north wind. However, he is rebuffed by her family because he comes from Thrace, the dominion of Tereus. After waiting for some time, he decides to kidnap Orithyia. He succeeds, they leave the area, and they twins whose names were Zetes and Calais. They grew regularly until they grew wings when they were adolescents. Eventually, they went aboard the Argo under Jason, the captain of the ship. Ovid describes them as follows, “Two lovely twins, th’ effect of this embrace, / Crown their soft labours, and their nuptials grace; / Who, like their mother, beautiful, and fair, / Their father’s strength, and father’d pinions share: / Yet these, at first, were wanting, as ‘tis said, / And after, as they grew, their shoulders spread. / Zethes and Calais, the pretty twins, / Remain’d unfledg’d, while smooth their beardless chins; / But when, in time, the budding silver down / Shaded their face, and on their cheeks was grown, / Two sprouting wings upon their shoulders sprung, / Like those in birds, that veil the callow young. / … With Jason’s Argonauts they cross’d the seas, / Embark’d in quest of the fam’d golden fleece; / There, with the rest, the first frail vessel try’d, / And boldly ventur’d on the swelling tide.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book V

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book V: 

Book V begins with the continuation of the story of Perseus. Perseus, at the wedding feast with Andromeda, was attacked by Phineus, who planned to marry her but gave up when she was offered to the sea monster. Grabbing his spear, as he prepared to murder Perseus, Andromeda’s father Cepheus tried to talk reason into him: “Hold, brother, hold; what brutal rage has made / Your frantic mind so black a crime conceive? / Are these the thanks that you to Perseus give? / This the reward that to his worth you pay, / Whose timely valour sav’d Andromeda? / Nor was it he, if you would reason right, / That forc’d her from you, but the jealous spight / Of envious Nereids, and Jove’s high decree; / And that devouring monster of the sea, / That ready with his jaws wide gaping stood / To eat my child, the fairest of my blood.” Phineus, still refusing to be reasonable, launched his spear at Perseus but failed, for it hit his chair. Perseus arose, took his sword, and engaged in close quarter combat. Ovid portrays, “Perseus …  / … springing nimbly up, return’d the dart, / And almost plung’d it in his rival’s heart; / But he for safety to the altar ran, / Unfit protection for so vile a man; / Yet was the stroke not vain, as Rhaetus found, / Who in his brow receiv’d a mortal wound; / Headlong he tumbled, when his skull was broke, / From which his friends the fatal weapon took, / While he lay trembling, and his gushing blood / In crimson streams around the table flow’d. / But this provok’d th’ unruly rabble worse, / They flung their darts, and some in loud discourse / To death young Perseus”. Perseus defended herself with the help of Pallas and disfigured the son of the nymph Limnate, “Daughter of Ganges,” by beating his face in with a piece of hot wood: “When Perseus snatching up a flaming brand, / Whirl’d sudden at his face the burning wood, / Crush’d his eyes in, and quench’d the fire with blood; / Thro’ the soft skin the splinter’s bones appear, / And spoil’d the face that lately was so fair.” Perseus then stabbed a man named Lycabas to death by piercing his heart. He continues to slaughter people: “eager Phorbas, old Methion’s son, / Came rushing forward with Amphimedon; / When the smooth pavement, slippery made with gore, / Trip’d up their feet, and flung ‘em on the floor; / The sword of Perseus, who by chance was nigh, / Prevents their rise, and where they fall, they lye: / Full in his ribs Amphimedon he smote, / And then stuck fiery Phorbas in the throat. / Eurythus lifting up his ax, the blow / Was thus prevented by his nimble foe; / A golden cup he seizes, high embost, / And at his head the massy goblet tost: / It hits, and from his forehead bruis’d rebounds, / And blood, and brains he vomits from his wounds; / With his slain fellows on the floor he lies, / And death for ever shuts his swimming eyes.” Perseus kills other people and is described by Ovid as “triumphant,” showing the attitude at the time towards bloodshed and slaughter. Perseus eventually finishes off all his attackers by talking out Medusa’s head and turning all the onlookers into stone; his friend Aconteus accidentally looks and is likewise petrified. It is reflected that “The vulgar deaths ‘twere tedious to rehearse, / And fates below the dignity of verse; / Their safety in their flight two hundred found, / Two hundred, by Medusa’s head were ston’d. / Fierce Phineus now repents the wrongful fight, / And views his varied friends, a dreadful sight”. Phineus, the sole survivor, is repentant and begs Perseus for forgiveness. Perseus tells him he won’t spill his blood and takes out the head of Medusa, petrifying him: “where Phineus turn’d to shun the shield / Full in his face the staring head he held; / As here and there he strove to turn aside, / The wonder wrought, the man was petrify’d: / All marble was his frame, his humid eyes / Drop’d tears, which hung upon the stone like ice. / In suppliant posture, with uplifted hands, / And fearful look, the guilty statue stands.” Perseus went back to his home city and gave Proteus, a benefactor, the throne over the previous ruler, his brother, who put him in much danger: “He re-instates his grandsire in the throne. / Praetus, his brother dispossess’d by might, / His realm enjoy’d, and still detain’d his right: / But Perseus pull’d the haughty tyrant down, / And to the rightful king restor’d the throne. / Weak was th’ usurper, as his cause was wrong; / Where Gorgon’s head appears, what arms are strong? / When Perseus to his host the monster held, / They soon were statues, and their king expel’d.” He then went to Seriphus and established dominance over a small island by turning the previous ruler into stone: “Thence, to Seriphus with the head he sails, / Whose prince his story treats as idle tales: / Lord of a little isle, he scorns to seem / Too credulous, but laughs at that, and him. / … The Argive prince, at his contempt enrag’d, / To force his faith by fatal proof engag’d. / Friends, shut your eyes, he cries; his shield he takes, / And to the king expos’d Medusa’s snakes. / The monarch felt the pow’r he wou’d not own, / And stood convict of folly in the stone.” 

The next section of the story is about Minerva, who after guiding Perseus went to Helicon to relax. She tells the nine Muses that they’re lucky to have easygoing, pleasant lives without hardship and striving. One of the Muses tells her that she shouldn’t envy them, because her talents dictate that she should receive more responsibility, as noted in her high position. They also inform her that a king, Pyrenees, once held them all hostage to ensure that his kingdom would always have good weather. However, they utilized their powers to transform into birds and flew away. He tried to chase after them but fell off a cliff and promptly perished: “But he, by lust and indignation fir’d, / Up to his highest tow’r with speed retir’d, / And cries, In vain you from my arms withdrew, / The way you go your lover will pursue. / Then, in a flying posture wildly plac’d, / And daring from that height himself to cast, / The wretch fell headlong, and the ground bestrew’d / With broken bones, and stains of guilty blood.” The Muses then informed Minerva that the nine magpies above them were once the Pierides, nine sisters who once challenged the Muses to a singing contest. They, like Arachne, depicted the gods as what they really were: immature, dangerous, spoiled brats. When they were done, Calliope, the Muse of eloquence and epic poetry, sang on behalf of her side. To be specific, she narrated the tale of Ceres, Proserpina, and Pluto. Proserpina was the daughter of Ceres. Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, had Proserpina when she was assaulted by Jove. Pluto, the god of the underworld and the brother of Jove, became obsessed with Proserpina when Venus told her son/assistant Cupid to make him lose his sense to show that she’s superior to every other deity (again showing how terrible the deities here are). He almost immediately kidnaps Proserpina, literally opening a way to Hades to escape. Cyane, a friend of Proserpina, is heartbroken that she was unable to do anything, so much so that she weeps in her “‘dumb sorrow’” until she becomes a fountain. Ceres, while searching for her daughter, turned an adolescent who insulted her into a lizard. Ceres wanders the lands for an extremely long time and in her fury made all the crops of the world stop growing, especially at Sicily. People and other sentient beings starve, and Arethusa, the goddess of a spring, informs Proserpina that Pluto is to blame for abducting her daughter. Going to Jove, she is told by him that Pluto should have Proserpina because of his honest feeling towards her, not-mentioning the power he possesses. Jove informs Ceres that she can get her daughter back, so long as she didn’t eat anything while in the underworld. His words also give interesting insight into their relationship: “It equally belongs / To both, to guard our common pledge from wrongs. / But if to things we proper names apply, / This hardly can be call’d an injury. / The theft is love; nor need we blush to own / The thief, if I can judge, to be our son. / Had you of his desert no other proof, / To be Jove’s brother is methinks enough. / Nor was my throne by worth superior got, / Heav’n fell to me, as Hell to him, by lot: / If you are still resolv’d her loss to mourn, / And nothing less will serve than her return; / Upon these terms she may again be yours / (Th’ irrevocable terms of fate, not ours), / Of Stygian food if she did never taste, / Hell’s bounds may then, and only then, be past.” Going to the underworld, Ceres discovered, to her horror, that her daughter had eaten seven pomegranate seeds. Ascalaphus, the son of the river Acheron (river of pain in the underworld) and Orphne, a prominent nymph of the underworld, informed Pluto of what Proserpina did. Ceres punishes him by transforming him into a screech owl. It was eventually decided that Proserpina would live for six months aboveground and six months in the underworld; when she is with Ceres, the story goes, there is fair weather and a growing season. Conversely, when she is with Pluto, Ceres, unhappy, stops the growing of crops. 

Ceres, after getting back her daughter, went to Athens and gave a previous benefactor, Triptolemus, magical seeds that are guaranteed to lead to a bountiful harvest. The king of Scythia, Lyncus, tried to murder him for them, but was transformed as punishment by Ceres into a lynx: “Soon as the secret to the king was known, / He grudg’d the glory of the service done, / And wickedly resolv’d to make it all his own. / To hide his purpose, he invites his guest, / The friend of Ceres, to a royal feasts, / And when sweet sleep his heavy eyes had seiz’d, / The tyrant with his steel attempts his breast. / Him strait a lynx’s shape the Goddess gives, / Ahd home the youth her sacred dragons drives.” The Pierides, beaten by the nymphs, jeer at them. Calliope states that for their insolence, they’ll be transformed into birds: “The nymphs unanimous decree the bays, / And give the Heliconian Goddesses the praise. / Then, far from vain that we shou’d thus prevail, / But much provok’d to hear the vanquish’d rail, / Calliope resumes,: Too long we’ve born / Your daring taunts, and your affronting scorn; / Your challenge justly merited a curse, / And this unmanner’d railing makes it worse. / Since you refuse us calmly to enjoy / Our patience, next our passions we’ll employ; / The dictates of a mind enrag’d pursue, / And, when our just resentment bids us, do.” The transformation of the Pierides is portrayed as follows: “The railers laugh, our threats and wrath despise, / And clap their hands, and make a scolding noise: / But in the fact they’re seiz’d; beneath their nails / Feathers they feel, and on their faces scales; / Their horny beaks at once each other scare, / Their arms are plum’d, and on their backs they bear / Py’d wings, and flutter in the fleeting air. / Chatt’ring, the scandal of the woods they fly, / And there continue still their clam’rous cry: / The same their eloquence, as maids, or bids, / Now only noise, and nothing then but words.”

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm

“The Metamorphoses” – Book IV

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book IV: 

Book IV heavily revolves around the three daughters of a king named Mineus. They were described as being disrespectful; that is, “Too rash, and madly bold,” for they demanded Bacchus to demonstrate to them why they should praise him. Despite being warned by a priest of their consequences, they decided to refuse to worship Bacchus: “Be this a solemn feast, the priest had said; / Be, with each mistress, unemploy’d each maid. / With skins of beasts yoru tender limbs enclose, / And with an ivy-crown adorn your brows, / The leafy Thyrsus high in triumph bear, / And give your locks to wanton in the air.” Ovid then describes how the daughters were an anomaly: “Matrons and pious wives obedience show, / Distaffs, and wooll, half spun, away they throw: / … But Mineus’ daughters, while these rites were pay’d, / At home, impertinently busie, stay’d. / Their wicked tasks they ply with various art, / And thro’ the loom the sliding shuttle dart; / Or at the fire to comb the wooll they stand, / Or twirl the spindle with a dext’rous hand. / Guilty themselves, they force the guiltless in; / Their maids, who share the labour, share the sin.” One of the sisters declares that to pass the time, they should take turns telling stories. One of them takes her up to task by narrating the unfortunate affair of Pyramus and Thisbe. The story goes that Pyramus and Thisbe were two good-looking youths who lived in Babylon many years before and who fell in love (expectedly, as evolutionary psychology and basic biology demonstrates). Unfortunately, their families were feuding and accordingly forbade them from meeting each other. Fortunately, they lived right next to each other and communicated by speaking through a shared wall with a crack in it that allowed for the transmission of sound. As Ovid put it, “with fierce flames young Pyramus still burn’d, / And grateful Thisbe flames as fierce return’d. / Aloud in words their thoughts they dare not break, / But silent stand; and silent looks can speak. / The fire of love the more it is supprest, / The more it glaws, and rages in the breast.” As for the wall, “When the division-wall was built, a chink / Was left, the cement unobserv’d to shrink. / So slight the cranny, that it still had been / For centuries unclos’d, because unseen. / But oh! what thing so small, so secret lies, / Which scapes, if form’d for love, a lover’s eyes? / Ev’n in this narrow chink they quickly found / A friendly passage for a trackless sound.” Humorously, they expressed their discontent that the wall existed by describing how it obstructs their being together, but they show gratitude to it for allowing them to speak with each other: “Malicious wall, thus lovers to divide! / Suppose, thou should’st a-while to us give place / To lock, and fasten in a close embrace: / But if too much to grant so sweet a bliss, / Indulge at least the pleasure of a kiss. / We scorn ingratitude: to thee, we know, / This safe conveyance of our minds we owe.” Not long after, they had enough of being separated and resolved once and for all to meet in a nearby grove, under a mulberry tree. Thisbe got there first, but encountered a lioness that had just devoured an ox: in her desperation to escape, she left her veil on the ground. The lion then chewed on it before dropping it back onto the ground before skulking off. Pyramus showed up at the scene and quickly spotted the mangled veil. Believing that Thisbe was dead, he slew himself in an attempt to join her: “‘Tis I am guilty, I have thee betray’d, / Who came not early, as my charming maid. / Whatever slew thee, I the cause remain, / I nam’d, and fix’d the place where thou wast slain. / Ye lions from your neighb’ring dens respair, / Pity the wretch, this impious body tear! / But cowards thus for death can idly cry; / The brave still have it in their pow’r to die. / … Then in his breast his shining sword he drown’d, / And fell supine, extended on the ground. / As out again the blade lie drying drew, / Out spun the blood, and streaming upwards flew.” Ovid compares the leaking of blood out of Pyramus’s body to the bursting of liquids from a pipe. The berries of the mulberry tree became stained with Pyramus’s blood. Thisbe eventually returned and spotted Pyramus’s corpse. Ovid states, “She shriek’d, she tore her hair, she beat her breast. / She rais’d the body, and embrac’d it round, / And bath’d with tears unfeign’d the gaping wound.” Thisbe verbally spoke to herself, noting that it was too late to revive him and followed him in death, though not before praying to their parents that their ashes can be placed together: “She said, but love first taught that hand to wound, / Ev’n I for thee as bold a hand can show, / And love, which shall as true direct the blow. / I will against the woman’s weakness strive, / And never thee, lamented youth, survive. / The world may say, I caus’d, alas! thy death, / But saw thee breathless, and resign’d my breath. / Fate, tho’ it conquers, shall no triumph gain, / Fate, that divides us, still divides in vain. / … see our ashes in one urn confin’d, / … The bliss, you envy’d, is not our request; / Lovers, when dead, may sure together rest.” Thisbe then stabbed herself with Pyramus’s sword and perished at his side. To honor their memory, the gods turned the fruit of the mulberry tree red. As for their parents, they honored Thisbe’s wishes: “both their parents their lost children mourn, / And mix their ashes in one golden urn.” 

The second sister then began her story. In her tale, the Sun (Phoebus) exposed the infidelity of Venus and Mars, leading them both to be humiliated. That is, the official husband of Venus, Vulcan, upon hearing from the Sun of his wife’s actions (though he really shouldn’t have been surprised, given her utter lack of character), threw a powerful yet almost invisible web atop his bed: “He forms, and next a wond’rous net prepares, / Drawn with such curious art, so nicely sly, / Unseen the mashes cheat the searching eye. / Not half so thin their webs the spiders weave, / Which the most wary, buzzing prey deceive. / These chains, obedient to the touch, he spread / In secret foldings o’er the conscious bed: / The conscious bed again was quickly prest / By the fond pair , in lawless raptures blest. / More wonder’d at his Cytherea’s charms, / More fast than ever lock’d within her arms. / While Vulcan th’ iv’ry doors unbarr’d with care, / Then call’d the Gods to view the sportive pair: / The Gods throng’d in, and saw in open day, / Where Mars, and beauty’s queen, all naked, lay.” Venus and Mars were released when Venus assented to divorce Vulcan and Mars relinquished some of his treasures to compensate for his misdeeds. Upon being freed, Venus caused the Sun to fall in love with a young woman named Leucothoe. Infatuated, the Sun succeeded in engaging in coitus with her. In the sexist language that was typical of that of Rome, Ovid writes that Leucothoe, “Too weak to bear a God’s impetuous storm: / No more against the dazzling youth she strove, / But silent yielded, and indulg’d his love.” Clytie, an entity who was madly in love with Phoebus, became so enraged that she went to Leucothoe’s father and told her what was going on. Enraged, he had his own daughter buried alive. She eventually died of suffocation, and her body was transformed by Phoebus into frankincense. Phoebus refused to reciprocate Clytie’s feelings due to her role in Leucothoe’s fate, eventually causing her to transform into vegetation: “angry Phoebus hears, unmov’d, her sings, / And scornful from her loath’d embraces flies. / All day, all night, in trackless wilds, alone / She pin’d, and taught the list’ning rocks her moan. / On the bare earth she lies, her bosom bare, / Loose her attire, dishevel’d is her hair. / … Her looks their paleness in a flow’r retain’d, / But here, and there, some purple streaks they gain’d. / Still the lov’d object the fond leafs pursue, / Still move their root, the moving Sun to view, / And in the Heliotrope the nymph is true.” The third story involves the nymph Salmacis and the youth Hermaphroditus. Salmacis lived in a pool of water and one day spotted Hermaphroditus, who was only fifteen at the time. Obsessed with him, she tried to convince him to be with her, but he rejected her. Having had enough, when she saw him jump into her pool, she quickly grabbed him and asked to become one with him. Her wish was granted, for their forms were combined, with the end product being the body of Hermaphroditus with feminine attributes, hence the word “hermaphrodite” being used to categorize organisms that can switch between both genders: “Last in one face are both their faces join’d, / As when the stock and grafted twig combin’d / Shoot up the same, and wear a common rind: / Both bodies in a single body mix, / A single body with a double sex.” Unhappy with what he experienced, Hermaphroditus, “The boy, thus lost in woman,” asked for the stream to make any male feminine. The gods, as expected, granted his request: “The heav’nly parents answer’d from on high, / Their two shap’d son, the double votary / Then gave a secret virtue to the flood, and ting’d its source to make his wishes good.” Back in real time, the daughters of Mineus are turned into bats by an angry Bacchus. Ovid chronicles their metamorphoses as follows: “Their arms were lost in pinions, as they fled, / And subtle films each slender limb o’er-spread. / Their later’d forms their senses soon reveal’d; / Their forms, how altar’d, darkness still ocnceal’d. / Close to the roof each, wond’ring, upwards springs, / Born on unknown, transparent, plumeless wings. / They strove for words; their little bodies found / No words, but murmur’d in a fainting sound. / In towns, not woods, the sooty bats delight, / And, never, ‘till the dusk, begin their flight.” 

The following story involves Juno getting her revenge on the family of Cadmus because of Europa. She decides to do by utilizing Tisiphone the Fury: she is sent to destroy the family of Cadmus. Ovid writes that Juno told Tisiphone everything and what she was to do: “What caus’d her hate, the Goddess thus confest, / What caus’d her journey now was more than guest. / That hate, relentless, its revenge did want, / And that revenge the Furies soon could grant: / They could the glory of proud Thebes efface, / And hide in ruin the Cadmean race. / For this she largely promises, entreats, / And to intreaties adds imperial threats. / Then fell Tisiphone with rage was stung, / And from her mouth th’ untwisted serpents flung. / … The faithful Fury, guiltless of delays, / With cruel haste the dire command obeys. / Girt in a bloody gown, a torch she shakes, / And round her neck twines speckled wreaths of snakes. / Fear, and dismay, and agonizing pain, / With frantic rage, compleat her loveless train. / To Thebes her flight she sped, and Hell foresook; / At her approach the Theban turrets shook: / The sun shrunk back, thick clouds the day o’er-cast, / And springing greens were wither’d as she past.” Entering the house of Athamas, a relative of Cadmus, she utilized her powers and poison (which came from Cerberus, a hydra, hemlock, and aconite) to drive Athamas utterly insane. That is, he believed that he saw a lioness and her two cubs in the vicinity: in actuality, they were his wife and two children. He quickly grabbed his infant son Learchus, and in his madness slew him in cold blood whilst Juno celebrated, demonstrating that she’s a depraved abomination: “Then tore Learchus from her [his wife] breast: the child / Stretch’d little arms, and on its father smil’d: / A father now no more, who now begun / Around his head to whirl his giddy son, / And, quite insensible to Nature’s call, / The helpless infant flung against the wall.” His wife, whose name was Ino, escaped with their remaining son. Seeing that their only option was to be slain by Athamas, given that there was apparently no escape, she leapt while holding her child into the ocean. However, Neptune took pity on them and turned them into immortals: “Neptune nodded his assent, and free / Both soon became from frail mortality. / He gave them form, and majesty divine, / And bade them glide along the foamy brine. / For Melicerta is Palaemon known, / And Ino once, Leucothoe is grown.” Many of the women of Troy cursed Juno for what she did, and Juno continued her fiendish rampage by turning them into birds. When “wretched Cadmus” heard what had happened in Thebes, he was so heartbroken that he wished to become a snake so that he doesn’t have to feel guilty about what occurred. His wish was granted, and his wife Harmonia prayed to join him. Her wish was likewise conducted: “May Heav’n conclude it with one sad event; / To an extended serpent change the man: / And while he spook, the wish’d-for change began. / His skin with sea-green spots was vary’d ‘round, / And on his belly prone he prest the ground. / He glitter’d soon with many a golden scale, / And his shrunk legs clos’d in a spiry tail. / Arms yet remain’d, remaining arms he spread / To his lov’d wife, and human tears yet shed. / … he had spoke, but strove to speak in vain, / The forky tongue refus’d to tell his pain, / And learn’d in hissings only to complain. / Then shriek’d Harmonia, … / … Chang’d is thy visage, chang’d is all thy frame; / Cadmus is only Cadmus now in name. / Ye Gods, my Cadmus to himself restore, / Or me like him transform; I ask no more.” After transforming into serpents, Cadmus and Harmonia still possessed their memories, and they were comfortable living in the vicinity of people: “Both, serpents now, with fold involv’d in fold, / To the next covert amicably roul’d. / There curl’d they lie, or wave along the green, / Fearless see men, by men are fearless seen, / Still mild, and conscious what they once have been.” The succeeding story is that of Perseus, who was the son of Jove and Danae. His grandfather, Acrisius, is described as being a sacrilegious individual (given how the Greeks were quite religious) who was responsible for almost killing him and his mother by having them put into a box and thrown into the ocean. They survived because Jove made sure they wouldn’t die of starvation or dehydration. When he matured, on one of his adventures, he neared the Titan Atlas. As he did so, the dawn came: “Lucifer begun / To wake the morn, the morn to wake the sun.” Atlas at the time was the ruler of a mighty kingdom and was extremely wealthy. When Perseus asked for a place to rest, he denied him his request and threatened him, which led Perseus to use the head of Medusa to turn him into a stone, leading him to become a mountain, Mount Atlas. Next, Perseus rescued the princess Andromeda from a sea monster. Perseus rescued Andromeda because he found her attractive, and negotiated with her father that if he rescued her, she would agree to marry him. Moreover, the reason there was a sea monster in the area was because Andromeda’s mother, Cassieopia, bragged that she was prettier than the Nereids (maids of the ocean), causing an irritated Neptune to punish her by sending the creature to assault her citizens. Perseus rescues Andromeda by stabbing the sea monster to death: “the vast monster gores. / Full in his back, swift stooping from above, / The crooked sabre to its hilt he drove. / The monster rag’d, impatient of the pain, / First bounded high, and then sunk low again. / Now, like a savage boar, when chaf’d with wounds, / And bay’d with opening mouths of hungry hounds, / He on the foe turns with collected might, / Who still eludes him with an airy flight; / And wheeling round, the scaly armour tries / Of his thick sides; his thinner tall now plies: / ‘Till from repeated strokes out gush’d a flood, / And the waves redden’d with the streaming blood. / At last the dropping wings, befoam’d all o’er, / With flaggy heaviness their master bore: / A rock he spy’d, whose humble head was low, / Bare at an ebb, but cover’d at a flow. / A ridgy hold, he, thither, flying, gain’d, / And with one hand his bending weight sustain’d; / With th’ other, vig’rous blows he dealt around, / And the home-thrusts the expiring monster own’d.” Once the creature was dead, Perseus married Andromeda, became the king’s successor, and celebrated. As for Medusa’s head, he gave it to Minerva, who put it on her shield that is known as “Aegis.” It is then revealed that Medusa was once a human woman who was raped by Neptune in the temple of Minerva. Minerva couldn’t really punish Neptune, so she exacted her vengeance on Medusa by turning her into a gorgon. Furthermore, when Perseus decapitated her in her sleep, two entities, Chrysaor (a warrior) and Pegasus (the flying horses) flew out of the stump that was her neck, for she became pregnant when she was sexually assaulted by Neptune, demonstrating just how awful and wicked the deities of Greek mythology truly are.

Read The Metamorphoses online: 

http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.html

https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Ovhome.htm