March 13 , 2012
Lecture 9- From Troy to Rome: Ovids Metamorphoses and the Roman Appropriation of Greek Myth I
-midterm: identify quotes from texts and from in class
-identify source and talk about context
Ovid, Metamorphoses Books 1-5
-All of the texts weve looked at so far were written in Ancient Greek. Metamorphoses was written in
-Ovid was born in the year 43 BC and lived until 17 AD
-1 century B.C. Rome was a time full of civil strife. For several decades, there was civil war.
-one major event was the assassination of Caesar. Until then, Rome was a republic. Then his adoptive
son, Octavian, took up his cause and then there was a war between Octavian and Anthony.
-In the year 31 B.C. Octavian (later known as Augustus) defeats Anthony and Cleopatra and THIS POINT
was taken as the end point of the Hellenistic age and the beginning of Roman Imperial times.
-Ovid is often referred to as a writer of the Augustan age, which refers to this time where you have
Augustus as the ruler.
-Ovid began his career writing love poetry in elegiac meter. An elegy is a term describing the metrical
structure of a poem consisting of hexameters (as that in epics) and pentameters. Elegiac poetries consist
of alternations between hexameters and pentameters. An elegy is associated with particular types of
writing: on the one hand, lamentation and on the other, love poetry.
-Ovid was criticized for being irreverent
-Ovid also wrote a poem on the roman calendar, fafti
-And Ovid must have done something wrong to offend the emperor so he was exiled. Ovid was exiled
from the black sea , Tomi was the place of his exile.
-From exile, Ovid wrote poetic letters in which he laments about how he wasnt in Rome (??)
-He wrote in various genres; a lot of his work was written in elegiacs.
-Metamorphoses was written in hexameters; the meter of epics (same as in the Iliad and the Aeneid).
But its also a non-epic epic; doesnt really tell of stories like the Odyssey or the Iliad which are centred
around one exploit or one hero, but it offers a history of the world in terms of transformation and
change. The one theme in this work is METAMORPHOSIS (could refer to transformation of the world, of
natural phenomena, but also to physical transformations into other beings i.e. humans turning in
animals, the other sex, trees, etc)
-It was a highly influential work; inspired tons of artwork
-written in 15 books divided into three parts of five books each called a pentad a unit of five things
-in each of these three pentads, theres a different focus
-first five books: gods, next five: heroes, last five: historical rulers Book 1:
89-150 Ages of Mankind
163-252 Council of Gods
211-239 Jupiter as narrator: Lycaon
253-415 Flood, Deucalion and Pyrrha
452-567 Apollo and Daphne
568-746 Jupiter and Io
689-712 Mercury as narrator: Pan and Syrinx
747-779 Phaethon (-2.400)
We also get Ages of Mankind and the Cosmogony in the Hesiod
-Out of chaos, we get cosmos. Cosmos is order.
-However, in the Metamorphoses this order is destroyed twice. First by a flood then by a fire.
-In bold are stories told by an internal narrator, characters that tell you further stories within the
-The external narrator can be called Ovid
-Apollo and Daphne is the first love story within the metamorphoses (amor is Latin word for love)
Proem to the Metamorphoses
-written in hexameter
-very elegant, although not a literal translation
-for emphasis, Melville puts in rhymes
-states the subject matter of the work: transformation of forms into new bodies
-then he asks the gods to assist him in his enterprise, parenthesis [for you yourself has changed],
question is what have the gods changed?
-depending on how its read, there are different meanings. Either gods assist me in my enterprise for
you, yourselves would want to change these forms to new bodies OR gods assist my enterprise for
you, yourselves were the ones who changed my enterprise (???)
-in the middle of the second line, meter is changed to hexameter again. Gods have intervened; want him
to write epic and not elegiac anymore. So the first metamorphosis in the metamorphoses is the change
in genre, which was inspired by the gods
-perpetuum Carmen (continuous song) does a lot to characterize this work. Ovid says that he has a
perpetuum Carmen. But he also uses the word deducite. This word means to spin in a very fine manner.
Deducite is something a Callimachean poet would write. Perpetuum Carmen is something an epic poet
-by combining these two expressions, hes writing a Callimachean epic
-the last event told in Metamorphoses is the transformation of Caesar into a comet/starDivine assembly- Augustan references
Palatine is one of the hills in Rome. Thats where Augustuss palace was.
-Zeus palace is indirectly compared to Augustus palace. Then Zeus tells them about the wickedness of
Lycaon and the passage below tells of how the gods reacted.
-So the outrage of the gods in the face of Lycaons crime is similar to outrage of the people after
-Augustus is the ruler of Rome and is compared to the highest god. His subjects are as loyal to him as the
subjects of Zeus are as loyal to Zeus.
-Here, Ovid creates a universe where all the gods are supporting their highest leader
-The first metamorphosis of a human into an animal is that of Lycaon
-Zeus is the first internal narrator in the metamorphoses
-Within this work, hes called Jupiter.
-Story goes like this:
-Zeus went to visit Lycaon who tried to kill him in his sleep. Zeus was very angry and Lycaon was
transformed into a wolf as punishment
-Lycaon is wolf-like (is a savage, is a beast) and thus is changed into one so the transformation wasnt
-In addition, Jupiter decides to punish humanity with a flood.
On p.10, theres a scene where the citys underwater and the dolphins swim among the trees.
The Nereids see with awe beneath the waves
Cities and homes and groves, and in the woods
The dolphins live and high amo