CLA204H5 Lecture Notes - Ascanius, Anaxarete, Helenus
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April 3rd, 2012
Lecture 12: Ovid Metamorphoses 12-15
Another bird transformation: Hector's brother Aesacus changed into a thin bird with long
slender legs. He fell in love with Hesperie, the River Cebren's daughter, who was killed by a
serpent's bite while he pursued her. Mad with grief, he threw himself from a cliff,
and Tethys chose to save him by transforming him into a bird. He acquired his enlongated shape
because he continued to attempt suicide, diving off the cliffs; this repetition stretched his form.
Aesacus' father Priam and his brothers mourn him, unaware that he lives on as a bird. Paris fails
to mourn him because he is busy stealing Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, and
fleeing with her to Troy. Meanwhile, the Greeks form an army to win Helen back. They run into
wayward winds at Boeotia and must sacrifice a virgin to appease Diana. After much
persuasion, Agamemnon agrees to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia, whom Diana is substituted
through a deer and carried on. The winds subside and the Greeks continue toward Troy.
Does not tell the story of the Trojan War in the same way as the Iliad. Achilles is still the main
focus. Ovid however tells stories that are not present in the Iliad. Ovid fills in the gaps; he just
does not retell Homers stories.
Get a description of the house of fama personification of rumour. Ovid in this context is
competing with Virgil, one the most memorable scenes in Aeneid is the personification of
Rumour (Ovid -describes the house that rumour lives in), who lives at the center of the world,
spreads news to Troy that the Greeks are approaching; thus begins the famous Trojan War.
Achilles, Greece's champion tries to kill Cycnus with a spear but cannot because Cycnus is
Neptune's son. His weapons prove useless, yet Achilles persists, finally strangling Cycnus until
Neptune transforms his son into a bird rather than see him die. After this, the armies agree to a
long truce, during which the generals of the Greek army tell stories of other battles and other
Ovid tells us the Greeks gathered at night they are drinking and having fun telling stories. One
the stories told is that of the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths.
Nestor in the Iliad is the guy who talks and talks. Ovid ridicules him and makes him take more in
his metamorphoses by telling the story of the battle of Centaurs and Lapiths.
Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths
A huge description of a battle that occurs during a wedding. Nestor declares that Caeneus was
just as durable as Cycnus, and changed sexes to boot. Caeneus was once the loveliest virgin in
Thessaly, but resisted marriage; finally Neptune raped her and afterwards granted her a wish.
She wished to be changed into a man so that she could never be raped again. Neptune obeyed,
also making Caeneus invulnerable to weapons. Nestor continues, relating that he and Caeneus
attended the wedding of Pirithous and Hippodame. They stupidly invited centaurs, one of
whom, named Eurytus, tried to carry off the bride, and the rest of whom attacked the other
Lapiths legendary people of Greece said to live in Sicily.
Description of this battle is in place of the battle told in the Iliad.
The battle tells us that cutlery was thrown in place of regular weapons.
Ovid’s description is so cruel that it is laughable.
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Theseus killed Eurytus with a mixing bowl to the face, and thus a great fight began between
centaurs and men with the wedding mise-en-scene as makeshift weapons. Latreus the centaur
taunted Caeneus, alluding to his past femininity, but couldn't kill him (invulnerable). Caeneus
killed Latreus, prompting Monychus and the other centaurs to bury Caeneus beneath a
mountain of boulders and tree-trunks (Achilles does the same thing with Cycnus). Caeneus' is
transformed into a bird and flew away. (lock at picture on slide)
Nestor who is telling this story, claims he participated in this battle. As Nestor finishes his
story, Tlepolemus reminds the old man that his father, Hercules, killed many of the centaurs.
Nestor declares that he will never praise Hercules (personal faux) because that hero destroyed
his house and murdered his brothers, when he had attacked his city. Nestor’s oldest brother
Periclymenus is also killed (he had the ability to change his shape).
Instead of Ovid going back to the account of the Iliad, Ovid just says that a lot of things
happened and Achilles died.
Neptune plots Achilles' death as revenge for Cycnus' defeat. Ten years later, Neptune convinces
Apollo that Achilles should die; Apollo arranges that one of Paris' arrows, which the spoiled
prince is arcing half-heartedly at the Greek line, strikes Achilles in his only vulnerable spot, his
heel. Achilles lies dead, and Ajax and Odysseus both strive to inherit his sacred armor. (look at
picture on slide)
Contest over Achilles’ Arms
Dispute between Ajax and Odysseus.
Ancient training for the most part was rhetorical training. This is also reflected in Ovid’s text.
Just by the arrangement of the two speeches you know who the winner is. The one who comes
second is the winner for the most part.
Ajax is a very forceful and powerful character and he also knows himself that he does not know
how to speak.
Ovid brings the Iliad accounts from the back door; he does not speak of them directly but has
other characters talk about it.
The Greeks gather to decide whether Ulysses or Ajax is more worthy of receiving Achilles' armor.
Ajax's major arguments:
o Deeds versus words: trying to pre-empt Ulysses' eloquence, Ajax says it characterizes his
life, all talk and no action.
o Heritage: Ajax has Jove as his great grandfather and Achilles for a cousin, whereas
Ulysses' father was the disreputable Sisyphus, now punished in Hades
o Ulysses tried to avoid the war by pretending to be mad, yoking a horse and an ox
together and sowing salt in his fields. Suspecting a trick, Palamedes threw Ulysses' son
Telemachus in front of the plow and Ulysses stopped, demonstrating his sanity. Later
Ulysses planted false evidence and got Palamedes convicted of treason. (Homer never
o Ulysses mistreated Philoctetes, abandoning him on the island of Lemnos because his
wound stank so much (a snake bit him).
o Ajax threw the boulder at Hector.
o Ulysses acts mostly under the cover of night, and has shown cowardice in battle,
abandoning Nestor but crying for Ajax's aid himself.
o Ajax doesn't merely deserve these arms. These arms deserve a great warrior.
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o Ulysses doesn't need armor since he never uses it, relying on trickery instead of hand-
to-hand combat. When he inevitably runs away, the armor will only slow him down.
Ulysses' shield has suffered no damage, whereas Ajax bears many marks of combat and
he needs a new one.
o Main argument is brain is more valuable than muscles
o He begins by playing off listeners' emotions for Achilles, associating himself with the
great hero; "I brought him to you, thus his victories are in part mine.”
o When Achilles was a youth, Calchas prophesied that Troy could not be conquered
without him, so his mother disguised him as a girl. Ulysses tricked Achilles into revealing
his true nature by displaying women's trinkets along with weapons, and Achilles showed
interest in the latter.
o A person's heritage counts for nothing his son is more closely related, only his deeds
matter. Nevertheless, he denies the scandalous rumor that Sisyphus slept with his
mother, claiming Laertes as his father.
o He convinced Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter (Iphigenia), or else the fleet would
never have sailed.
o Ulysses convinced Agamemnon not to give up the fight in the last year. Ajax was ready
to leave Troy. Since Ulysses forced Ajax back to the fight, he deserves credit for Ajax's
accomplishments in the final year of the war.
o Diomedes as Ulysses' sidekick simply means that of the thousands of Greek warriors,
Ulysses was his pick.
o Ulysses has wounds, whereas Ajax has none (but Ajax is the greater hero so you cannot
really hold it against him).
o Ajax might have saved the Greeks but other was involved too.
o Odysseus points out he saved the Greeks twice.
o Ajax is too stupid to appreciate Hephaestus' fine handwork in the shield.
o Odysseus also says that if you want to blame madness, Achilles was also mad because
he dressed up like a girl so he did not fight.
o Next he projects guilt onto his audience: "don't blame me for Palamedes and Philoctetes
-- you agreed to it!
o Troy will only fall when the palladion is removed from the city, he was the one who
removed the palladion
o Then he plays his bargaining chip: "You still need me to convince Philoctetes to return
with Heracles' bow to kill Paris."
o He is the trickster and turns everything around throws it back at you.
Ajax comments suicide falls onto a sword (look at picture on slide); he is turned into a flower
(hyacin) that is inscribed with “ai ai” Greek exclamation of mourning.
Ajax is dead, Troy falls.
The Trojan women are seized and the women are supposed to sold into slavery.
Hecuba has lost everything, her husband (Priam) and children, expect for her daughter Polycexa
and her son Polydorus.
The ghost of Achilles demands that the Greeks sacrifice Polyxena to him. She gives a noble
speech, which brings her slayers to tears before they butcher her. So after everyone thought
that Achilles' vengeance had ended with his death, even Achilles' ashes rage (322).
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