Practice Question
What do the Cyclops, Argus, Oedipus and the
Graiae have in common?
a) They are all characters in Athenian tragedy.
b) They are all characters from the Odyssey.
c) They are all creatures of fantasy.
d) They are all deprived of their sight.
e) They all are tricked.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Poet as Hero
• Roman poet 43 BC - 17 AD
• Educated, sophisticated, witty
• Extensive references to both Greek and Latin
• A favourite theme: erotic love
– Contrast Virgil
• Exiled by Augustus in 8 AD
• Epic poem, 15 books
• Ambitious: the history of the world from
creation to Augustan Rome (chaos to order)
• Unifying theme: changing forms
• Special focus on myths of metamorphosis
• Narrative structure reflects theme
• An important source for later writers and
artists (e.g. Shakespeare)
• Creation and the Four Ages (962-965)
– Compare Hesiod
• Lycaon (evil) and the flood (965-969)
– Compare Gilgamesh
• Deucalion and Pyrrha (virtue) (969-972;
• Apollo and Daphne (972-975; review)
• Perseus (980-984; review)
• Orpheus and Eurydice (984-989)
• Apotheosis of Caesar (989-992)
Ovid’s Story of Creation
Chaos, a shapeless confusion
Order: separation and boundaries
Humans can look up to heaven
Four Ages
• Golden (Saturn)
– Peace, abundance, spring
• Silver (Jupiter)
– Seasons, houses, agriculture
• Bronze
– War
• Iron
– Evil, violence, greed, mining, impiety, injustice,
assaults on Heaven
Lycaon (966-968)
• Assembly of gods, Jupiter’s tale
• Lycaon an example of evil, hybris
• Resists worship, serves flesh of his
• Lightning and metamorphosis
• Plan to eradicate human race
Flood (968-969)
Inversion of natural order
Deucalion and Pyrrha alone survive
Repopulation of earth
Metamorphosis: stones into humans
Apollo and Daphne (972-975)
• Cupid vs Apollo
• Apollo cannot heal his wound
• Metamorphosis into laurel tree
Orpheus and Eurydice
• What is Orpheus’ “heroic” quality?
• Reason for katabasis?
• Compare with:
– Aeneid
– Odyssey
– Bacchae
– Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Deification of Julius Caesar
• How is Julius Caesar deified?
• What has he done to deserve
• How does Ovid incorporate Virgil and
Greek myth into this story?
• For what accomplishments is Augustus
Epilogue (992)
• What is the place of the poet in the
order of the universe?