History of Literature



illustrations by Francois Chauveau and Noel Le Mire


"The Art of Love" illustrations by Salvador Dali


  "Metamorphoses"  contents:
1 The Creation of the World
2 The Story of Phaeton
3 The Story of of Cadmus
4 The Story of Alcithoe and her Sisters
5 The Story of Perseus continu'd
6 The Transformation of Arachne into a Spider
7 The Story of Medea and Jason
8 The Story of Nisus and Scylla
9 The Story of Achelous and Hercules
10 The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice
11 The Death of Orpheus
12 The Trojan War
13 The Speeches of Ajax and Ulysses





born March 20, 43 BC, Sulmo, Roman Empire [now Sulmona, Italy]
died AD 17, , Tomis, Moesia [nowConstanţa, Rom.]

Latin in full Publius Ovidius Naso Roman poet noted especially for his Ars amatoria and Metamorphoses. His verse had immense influence both by its imaginative interpretations of classical myth and as an example of supreme technical accomplishment.


Publius Ovidius Naso was, like most Roman men of letters, aprovincial. He was born at Sulmo, a small town about 90 miles (140 km) east of Rome. The main events of his life are described in an autobiographical poem in the Tristia (Sorrows). His family was old and respectable, and sufficiently well-to-do for his father to be able to send him and his elder brother to Rome to be educated. At Rome he embarked, under the best teachers of the day, on the study of rhetoric. Ovid was thought to have the makings of a good orator, but in spite of his father's admonitions he neglected his studies for the verse-writing that came so naturally to him.

As a member of the Roman knightly class (whose rank lay between the commons and the Senate) Ovid was marked by his position, and intended by his father, for an official career.First, however, he spent some time at Athens (then a favourite finishing school for young men of the upper classes) and traveled in Asia Minor and Sicily. Afterward he dutifully held some minor judicial posts, the first steps on the official ladder, but he soon decided that public life did not suit him. From then on he abandoned his official career tocultivate poetry and the society of poets.

Ovid's first work, the Amores (The Loves), had an immediate success and was followed, in rapid succession, by the Epistolae Heroidum, or Heroides (Epistles of the Heroines), the Medicamina faciei (“Cosmetics”; Eng. trans. The Art of Beauty), the Ars ama to ria (The Art of Love), and the Remedia amoris (Remedies for Love), all reflecting the brilliant, sophisticated, pleasure-seeking society in which hemoved. The common theme of these early poems is love and amorous intrigue, but it is unlikely that they mirror Ovid's own life very closely. Of his three marriages the first two were short-lived, but his third wife, of whom he speaks with respect and affection, remained constant to him until his death. At Rome Ovid enjoyed the friendship and encouragement of Marcus Valerius Messalla, the patron of a circle which included Tibullus, whom Ovid knew only for a short time before his untimely death. Ovid's other friends included Horace, Sextus Propertius, and the grammarian Hyginus.

Having won an assured position among the poets of the day, Ovid turned to more ambitious projects, the Metamorphosesand the Fasti (“Calendar”). The former was nearly complete, the latter half finished, when his life was shattered by a sudden and crushing blow. In AD 8 the emperor Augustus banished him to Tomis (or Tomi; near modern Constanţa, Romania) on the Black Sea. The reasons for Ovid's exile will never be fully known. Ovid specifies two, his Ars amatoria and an offense which he does not describe beyond insisting that it was an indiscretion (error), not a crime (scelus). Of the many explanations that have been offered of this mysterious indiscretion, the most probable is that he had become an involuntary accomplice in the adultery of Augustus' granddaughter, the younger Julia, who also was banished at the same time. In 2 BC her mother, the elder Julia, had similarly been banished for immorality, and the Ars amatoria had appeared while this scandal was still fresh in the public mind. These coincidences, together with the tone of Ovid's reference to his offense, suggest that he behaved in some way that was damaging both to Augustus' program of moral reform and to the honour of the imperial family. Since his punishment, which was the milder form of banishment called relegation, did not entail confiscation of property or loss of citizenship, his wife, who was well-connected, remained in Rome to protect his interests and to intercede for him.

Exile at Tomis, a half-Greek, half-barbarian port on the extreme confines of the Roman Empire, was a cruel punishment for a man of Ovid's temperament and habits. Henever ceased to hope, if not for pardon, at least for mitigation of sentence, keeping up in the Tristia and the Epistulae ex Ponto (“Letters from the Black Sea”) a ceaseless stream of pathetic pleas, chiefly through his wife and friends, to the emperor. But neither Augustus nor his successor Tiberius relented, and there are hints in the later poems that Ovid was even becoming reconciled to his fate when death released him.


Ovid's extant poems are all written in elegiac couplets except for the Metamorphoses. His first poems, the Amores (The Loves ), were published at intervals, beginning about 20 BC, in five books. They form a series of short poems depictingthe various phases of a love affair with a woman called Corinna. Their keynote is not passion but the witty and rhetorical exploitation of erotic commonplace; they chronicle not a real relationship between Ovid and Corinna (who is a literary construct rather than a real woman) but all the vicissitudes of a typical affair with a woman of the demimonde.

In the Heroides (Heroines) Ovid developed an idea already used by Propertius into something like a new literary genre. The first 15 of these letters are purportedly from legendary ladies such as Penelope, Dido, and Ariadne to absent husbands or lovers. The letters are really dramatic monologues, in which the lessons of Ovid's rhetorical education, particularly the exercises called ethopoiea (“character drawing”), are brilliantly exploited. The inherent monotony of subject and treatment, which all Ovid's skill could not completely disguise, is adroitly transcended in the six later epistles of the Heroides. These form three pairs, the lover addressing and being answered by the lady. In them, Ovid's treatment of his literary sources is particularly ingenious; the correspondence of Paris and Helen is one of antiquity's minor masterpieces.

Turning next to didactic poetry, Ovid composed the Medicamina faciei, a witty exercise of which only 100 lines survive. This frivolous but harmless poem was followed in 1 BC by the notorious Ars amatoria, a manual of seduction and intrigue for the man about town. The lover's quarry, in this work, is ostensibly to be sought in the demimonde (i.e., among women on the fringes of respectable society who are supported by wealthy lovers), and Ovid explicitly disclaims the intention of teaching adultery; but all of his teaching could in fact be applied to the seduction of married women. Such a work constituted a challenge, no less effective for being flippant, to Augustus' cherished moral reforms, and it included a number of references, in this context tactless if not indeed provocative, to symbols of the emperor's personal prestige. The first two books, addressed to men, were the original extent of the work; a third, in response to popular demand, was added for women. For many modern readers the Ars amatoria is Ovid's masterpiece, a brilliant medley of social and personal satire, vignettes of Roman life and manners, and charming mythological digressions. It was followed by a mock recantation, the Remedia amoris, also a burlesque of an established genre, which can have done little to make amends for the Ars. The possibilities for exploiting love-elegy were now effectively exhausted, and Ovid turned to new types of poetry in which he could use his supreme narrative and descriptive gifts.

Ovid's Fasti (“Calendar”) is an account of the Roman year and its religious festivals, consisting of 12 books, one to each month, of which the first six survive. The various festivals are described as they occur and are traced to their legendary origins. The Fasti was a national poem, intended to take its place in the Augustan literary program and perhaps designed to rehabilitate its author in the eyes of theruling dynasty. It contains a good deal of flattery of the imperial family and much patriotism, for which the undoubted brilliance of the narrative passages does not altogether atone.

Ovid's next work, the Metamorphoses, must also be interpreted against its contemporary literary background, particularly in regard to Virgil's Aeneid . The unique character of Virgil's poem, which had been canonized as the national epic, posed a problem for his successors, since afterthe Aeneid a straightforward historical or mythological epic would represent an anticlimax. Ovid was warned against this pitfall alike by his instincts and his intelligence; he chose, as Virgil had done, to write an epic on a new plan, unique and individual to himself.

The Metamorphoses is a long poem in 15 books written in hexameter verse and totaling nearly 12,000 lines. It is a collection of mythological and legendary stories in which metamorphosis (transformation) plays some part, however minor. The stories are told in chronological order from the creation of the universe (the first metamorphosis, of chaos into order) to the death and deification of Julius Caesar (the culminating metamorphosis, again of chaos—that is, the Civil Wars—into order—that is, the Augustan Peace). In manyof the stories, mythical characters are used to illustrate examples of obedience or disobedience toward the gods, and for their actions are either rewarded or punished by a final transformation into some animal, vegetable, or astronomical form. The importance of metamorphosis is more apparent than real, however; the essential theme of the poem is passion (pathos), and this gives it more unity than all the ingenious linking and framing devices the poet uses. The erotic emphasis that had dominated Ovid's earlier poetry is broadened and deepened into an exploration of nearly every variety of human emotion—for his gods are nothing if not human. This undertaking brought out, as his earlier work had not, Ovid's full powers: his wit and rhetorical brilliance, his mythological learning, and the peculiar qualities of his fertile imagination. The vast quantities of verse in both Greek and Latin that Ovid had read and assimilated are transformed, through a process of creative adaptation, into original and unforeseen guises. By his genius for narrative and vivid description, Ovid gave to scores of Greek legends, some of them little known before, their definitive form for subsequent generations. No single work of literature has done more to transmit the riches of the Greek imagination to posterity. By AD 8, the Metamorphoses was complete, if not yet formally published; and it was at that moment, when Ovid seemed securely placed on a pinnacle of successful achievement, that he was banished toTomis by the emperor.

Ovid arrived at his place of exile in the spring of AD 9. Tomis was a semi-Hellenized port exposed to periodic attacks by the surrounding barbarian tribes. Books and civilized society were lacking; little Latin was spoken; and the climate was severe. In his solitude and depression, Ovid turned again to poetry, now of a more personal and introspective sort. The Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto were written and sent to Romeat the rate of about a book a year from AD 9 on; they consist of letters to the emperor and to Ovid's wife and friends describing his miseries and appealing for clemency. For all his depression and self-pity, Ovid never retreats from the one position with which his self-respect was identified—his status as a poet. This is particularly evident in his ironical defense of the Ars in Book ii of the Tristia.

That Ovid's poetical powers were not as yet seriously impaired is shown by his poem Ibis. This, written not long after his arrival at Tomis, is a long and elaborate curse directed at an anonymous enemy. It is a tour de force of abstruse mythological learning, composed largely without the aid of books. But in the absence of any sign of encouragement from home, Ovid lacked the heart to continue to write the sort of poetry that had made him famous, and the later Epistulae ex Ponto make melancholy reading.

The loss of Ovid's tragedy Medea, which he wrote while still in Rome, is particularly to be deplored; it was praised by the critic Quintilian and the historian Tacitus and can hardly have failed to influence Seneca's play on the same theme.


In classical antiquity, Ovid's influence on later Latin poetry was primarily technical. He succeeded in the difficult task of adapting the intractable Latin language to dactylic Greek metres, and thereby perfected both the elegiac couplet and the hexameter as all-purpose metres and as instruments of fluent communication. Ovid's verse is remarkable for its smoothness, fluency, and balance. The elegance of his verse masks its extreme artificiality, and the casual reader may overlook the quiet ruthlessness of Ovid's linguistic innovations, particularly in vocabulary. Ovid's hexameters in the Metamorphoses are a superb vehicle for rapid narrative and description.

To this technical facility Ovid added an unrivaled power of invention that enabled him to exploit ideas and situations to the utmost, chiefly through the use of vivid and telling details. His undoubted rhetorical gifts have caused him to bedubbed insincere and even heartless, and he seems indeed to have lacked the capacity for strong emotion or religious feeling. Judged, however, by his gift for fantasy, Ovid is one of the great poets of all time. In the Metamorphoses he created a Nabokovian caricature of the actual world, the setting for a cosmic comedy of manners in which the endlessflux and reflux of the universe itself is reflected in the often paradoxical and always arbitrary fate of the characters, human and divine. Pathos, humour, beauty, and cruelty are mingled in a unique individual vision. Ovid's talent is not of that highest order which can pierce the outward semblance of men and things and receive intimations of a deeper reality; but what he could do, few if any poets have ever done better.


Ovid's immense popularity during his lifetime continued after his death and was little affected by the action of Augustus, who banned his works from the public libraries. From about 1100 onward Ovid's fame, which during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages had been to some extent eclipsed, began to rival and even at times to surpass Virgil's. The 12th and 13th centuries have with some justice been called “the age of Ovid.” Indeed, he was esteemed in this period not only as entertaining but also as instructive, and his works were read in schools. His poetry is full of epigrammatic maxims and sententious utterances which, lifted from their contexts, made a respectable appearance in the excerpts in which medieval readers often studied their classics. Ovid's popularity was part, however, of a general secularization and awakening to the beauties of profane literature; he was the poet of the wandering scholars as well as of the vernacular poets, the troubadours and minnesingers; and when the concept of romantic love, in its new chivalrous or “courtly” guise, was developed in France, it was Ovid's influence that dominated the book in which its philosophy was expounded, the Roman de la rose.

Ovid's popularity grew during the Renaissance, particularly among humanists who were striving to re-create ancient modes of thought and feeling, and printed editions of his works followed each other in an unending stream from 1471. A knowledge of his verse came to be taken for granted in an educated man, and in the 15th–17th centuries it would be difficult to name a poet or painter of note who was not in some degree indebted to him. The Metamorphoses, in particular, offered one of the most accessible and attractive avenues to the riches of Greek mythology. But Ovid's chief appeal stems from the humanity of his writing: its gaiety, its sympathy, its exuberance, its pictorial and sensuous quality. It is these things that have recommended him, down the ages, to the troubadours and the poets of courtly love, to Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, J.W. von Goethe, and Ezra Pound.

Edward John Kenney


Ovid "Metamorphoses" llustration by F. Chauveau




b.43 BCE (ltaly),d.1 7 CE

Ovid's Metamorphoses, which assembles some two hundred and fifty stories from classical antiquity into one continuous narrative, is a mythological history of the world, beginning with the Creation and ending with the foundation of Rome and the apotheosis of Julius Caesar.The constant questioning of tradition and power is something encountered in many of Ovid's narratives: Arachne challenges the goddess Athene to a tapestry-making contest; Phaethon insists on taking the reins of the sun chariot from his father; Daphne escapes from Apollo's clutches by praying to a river god, who changes her into a tree. When Ovid retells stories of heroism, it is in a comic,deflating way, reminiscent of mock-epic. Whenever Perseus kills his enemies by turning them to stone with the head of the Medusa which he carries in a bag, it is not the heroic that we see, but the use of a disproportionate force not unlike employing nuclear weapons in a pub brawl.
The Metamorphoses' incorporation of dialogue within a narrative,along with its wit, playfulness,and sheer sense of fun, exemplifies much of what we now associate with the novel. Today Ovid's work continues to be metamorphosed, and has had an impact on a dazzling array of contemporary novelists, from Salman Rushdie and A.S. Byatt, to Cees Nooteboom and Marina Warner.



Type of work: Poetry
Author: Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 B.C.-A.D. 17)
First published: с AD. 8


Ovid had published two books, the Ars amatoria (c. 2 B.C.; Art of Love) and Remedia amoris (before A.D. 8; Cure for Love), which with their erotic content flouted the gravity of Emperor Augustus' moral reformation. The poet appears also to have been privy or accessory to some morally questionable activity on the part of Augustus' grandaughter Julia. It was possibly for either or both of these offenses, and certainly for still another which no historian has been able to identify, that Ovid was exiled in A.D. 8 to Tomis (modern Constanja), a frontier town on the west coast of the Black Sea. At this time, whether in spiteful resentment over his expulsion or from dissatisfaction with the poem's compositional state, he commanded the destruction of his Metamorphoses. If the directive was carried out, at least a single available copy was preserved; thus one of the greatest literary achievements of Roman antiquity remained extant.
It is difficult to believe that Ovid wanted the work destroyed by reason of its imperfection. The faults that can be discerned in it are patently venial and do not impair the fluidity and profundity that perennially ingratiate it to readers. Questionable lines or troublesome cruces may have owed more to the errors of copyists than to Ovid's hand. Questions about contradictions—for example, the continuance of Lycaon's lineage after Lycaon and everyone else except Deucalion and Pyrrha were drowned in the Flood—are not material in the context of myth; and the context of the Metamorphoses is myth. It is the mythological history of the world from the Creation to the time of Augustus. It is written in fifteen books, comprising 11,992 lines of dactylic hexameter, the meter of classical epic. Each segment of each book includes an episode of myth, and each mythic episode includes at least one metamorphosis. The music of the metric, the unobtrusive transition from story to story, the ingenious use of rhetorical and syntactical figures, and the resultant compendium of Greek and Roman myth, interlaced with natural and human history, all attest a literary master-work that a proven poet would be unlikely to choose to destroy as a failure in artistry.
Its uniqueness among epics is variously evident. While it begins with the epic conventions of statement and invocation of divine muse, it does not leap in medias res, as epics by standard definition do. Moreover, it does not center its narrative upon a contest of antagonists (like Achilles and Hector in the Iliad), a hero (like Odysseus in the Odyssey), or a bonded pair in mission (like Aeneas and Achates in Vergil's Aeneid). It is closer in texture to the Aeneid than to the Greek epics, not only because Vergil and Ovid wrote in Latin but also because the two Roman poets both moved their episodic narratives toward a grand terminus that was the city of Rome itself, a city that was for both poets also an empire and a conceptual efflorescence of human destiny. Where Vergil sees Rome as the culmination of human history, however, Ovid views Rome as the manifestation of ameliorative change.
Ovid is true to his theme of change; and it is with this theme that he differs from all ancient writers of epic except possibly Lucretius (c. 98-55 B.C.), if one accepts as an epic his poeticized scientific treatise De rerum natura (c. 60 B.C.; On the Nature of Things), Lucretius elucidates change, among other facts of physicality, in his epitome of Epicurus' materialistic theory of atomism. Ovid illustrates Pythagoras' theory of constant change: He assigns to Pythagoras the words omnia mutantur nihil interit (everything changes, nothing dies) and adopts the Pythagorean theory of number, by which the earth was proved to be a sphere.
The theme of change is expressed and rhetorically exemplified in the first four lines of the poem. Here Ovid speaks of forms materializing as various bodies, not of bodies changing physical form, because his abstract constant, like Plato's forms, is taken as the insubstantial reality of all concretions. He uses the rhetorical device of chiasmus (symmetrically balanced word order, such as abba), to intimate the cyclic nature of change and that of anaphora (repetitively balanced word order, such as abab) to intimate the linear continuity of change.
The episodes of the fifteen books are similarly balanced in both symmetrical and repetitive sequences. In the first book, physical chaos becomes order, God creates humankind, and humankind is destroyed and restored; the symmetrical reverse appears in the last book, as Pythagoras teaches that life is destroyed and restored, as a created human (Julius Caesar) becomes a god, and as political disorder becomes order. The first two books contain a notable repetitive sequence in describing the destruction of the earth by the Flood, followed by its restoration, and then the destruction of the earth by the descent of the sun, again followed by the earth's restoration. Ovid incorporates the excesses of change in this sequence, showing an earth that fails from too much water and the same earth failing from not enough water, His echo of the Greek concept of the golden mean reverberates in books 5 and 6, where humans hubristically challenge gods: In their excessive pride the Pierides (challenging the Muses in song), Arachne (challenging Minerva in weaving), and Niobe (challenging Latona in maternity) are all appropriately transformed, the Pierides into magpies, Arachne into a spider, and Niobe into a mountain whose melting snows constitute tears shed for her slain children. The golden mean reverberates as well in book 8, in the figure of Icarus, who is cautioned by his father, Daedalus, not to fly too high or too low on the wings that Daedalus has fashioned of feathers and wax. "Proceed in the middle path" is the father's warning, but Icarus flies too high and is destroyed. The story of Icarus is in thematic balance with the story of Phaeton in book 2: Phaeton, assuming in his pride that he can do what in fact he has not the skill to do, drives the chariot of the sun too low and brings about the above-mentioned dehydration of the earth.
The moral content of the Metamorphoses, along with its currents of history and science (or philosophy—the two were not differentiated in classical antiquity) is overshadowed by the sensual character, a carryover from his amatory works, of Ovid's mythography. Indeed, during the Middle Ages dependence upon the text for mythological information had to be justified by a specially contrived moralistic reading: Compilations of Ovide moralise (moralized Ovid) were produced in poetry and prose in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in France.
Actually, the moral fabric of Ovid's epic is more integumentary than interstitial. Apart from the kind of allegorical inference that justifies the inclusion of the Song of Songs in the Bible, Ovid's moral underpinnings can be seen in his story of the Four Ages—Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron—during which human life moved from golden bliss to iron-hard travail, suffering duress in proportion to human moral failings. Ovid adapted the story of the Five Ages, and indeed much else, from the Greek didactic poet Hesiod (late eighth century B.C.), eliminating the post-Bronze pre-Iron Heroic Age as well as Hesiod's alternative account of the deterioration of human morals, the story of Pandora's box. The story of the Flood is moralistic; likewise, there are many stories of transformation in the context of morality, particularly the series of episodes in books 9 through 11, in which models of righteousness alternate with examples of immorality. The righteous include Iolaus, Iphis, Ganymede, Hyacinthus, Pygmalion, and Atalanta. Immorality is exemplified by Byblis, seeker of incestuous relations with her brother the murderous Cerastae; horned women, transformed into bulls; the profane Propoetides, who became the first prostitutes and were changed into stone; Myrrha, who seduced her father; Orpheus, who loses his wife, Euryd-ice, through his possessiveness and is slain by Bacchantes in punishment for his subsequent misogyny; and Midas, the prototype of material greed.
The morally oriented metamorphoses are not consistently matters of reward and punishment. Some are retributive, particularly those by which the wrongdoer is translated into her or his excess: Lycaon becomes his rapacity in the body of a wolf; Ascalaphus becomes a screech owl, the embodiment of his inability to maintain discreet silence; the Sibyl, avid for long years of life, becomes those years as her body and all but her voice disintegrate in time. Some are remunerative: Hercules, Aeneas, Romulus, Hersilia, and Julius Caesar are all deified for their achievements. Virtue is not, however, regularly rewarded, nor vice regularly punished: Echo, who helps Jupiter to conceal his amours and whose love is not requited by the insufferably vain Narcissus, becomes, like the sibyl, a disembodied voice; Semele, beloved by Jupiter, is, like the great Achilles, reduced to ashes. In the Metamorphoses, morality, like time and physicality, is a symptom of change, not a determinant of evaluative quality.
The moral current of Ovid's epic moves generally from an unregenerate humankind punished by the Flood toward a gradually improving humankind whose greatest representatives merit apotheosis. This current is inseparable from the flow of the narrative. Books 1 and 2 move from the Creation and the modes of control exercised by Jupiter and Apollo to the Theban-centered myths of Greece in books 3 and 4 and the exploits of Perseus in books 4 and 5; books 5 and 6 offer their studies in hubris; books 7 through 9 focus on the figures of Jason, Theseus, and Hercules, the last more exemplary than the second, the second more than the first. After the specific examples of moral goodness and badness in books 10 and 11, the epic glides into the Trojan War (book 12) and the exploits of Ulysses (book 13) and Aeneas (book 14) in the Ovidian rehearsal of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. Book 15 resolves the direction of the work with its highly moralistic Pythagorean peroration and its conclusion in Roman history from Romulus to Augustus. The accolade to Augustus at the end of the poem clearly had no effect upon the emperor's decision to exile the poet, and this may account in part for Ovid's order to destroy the manuscript.
The Pythagorean essay calls for vegetarianism and a respect for nature in its cycles of change. The invocation of the epic, directed to di (gods) as both inclusive of the Muses and productive of changes, is iterated in Pythagoras' intimations that change is divinely ordained; it is a universal force, the foremost representatives of which, throughout the epic, are Jupiter and Apollo.
The temple to Jupiter on Rome's Capitoline Hill was balanced by the temple to Apollo, constructed on the adjacent Palatine Hill by order of Augustus, ostensibly in gratitude for the emperor's naval victory at Actium in 30 В ,C. Ovid maintains an effective Jupiter-Apollo equipollence in the Metamorphoses. In book 1 the series of episodes from the Creation to the Flood center on Jupiter; the series is followed by the stories of the postdiluvian Python, slain by Apollo, and Daphne, pursued by Apollo; and book 1 concludes with a framing story of Jupiter and Io. In book 2 the framing story of Apollo's impetuous son Phaeton is followed by the episode in which Jupiter pursues Callisto, which in turn is followed by Apollo's affair with Coronis and the birth of his son Aesculapius, who will reappear in book 15 as the healer of Rome. The Jupiter-Apollo-Jupiter and Apollo-Jupiter-Apollo sequences are the initial means of emphasizing Rome's culminate gods; the second means of emphasis is the constant reference to stones, symbolic of Jupiter, and serpents, symbolic of Apollo. Each of the fifteen books includes specific references to both stones and serpents; in book 15 Aesculapius, the son of Apollo, glides in the body of a serpent over the stone steps of his father's temple to travel to Rome and relieve the city of suffering wrought by plague.
Ovid's beneficent Aesculapius ends his journey to Rome by residing on Tiber Island, which in modern times became, suitably, the site of a hospital. Like Aesculapius' journey from Delphi over the Ionian and Mediterranean seas to the Tiber River and Rome, Ovid's Metamorphoses, in winding its way through the ages to modern times, lavished its own beneficence on literary traditions, from his contemporaries to the medieval moralizers to enlightened neo-Augustans such as Alexander Pope. T. S. Eliot's use of Ovid's Sophoclean Teresias theme for the focal configuration of The Waste Land (1922) substantiates the claim that, in its epical amalgamation of Greco-Roman lyric and didactic mythography, the Metamorphoses required no moralizing apologists any more than it ever needed critical apologists for its artistry.



"The Art of Love"
 Illustrations by Salvador Dali






Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy