Ovid, Metamorpheses Essay

1375 words - 6 pages

Ovid, Metamorphoses
During the time of Augustus, Greek literature and myths were highly influential throughout the Roman world. In particular, Ovid, a Roman poet born in 43 BC, retells and adjusts much of Greek mythology in a humorous yet personal style to suit himself and his audiences (Plant 2012, p. 298).

A close comparison of Ovid and Hesiod calls for similarities and differences in their accounts of the human races. In Book I of the Metamorphoses, Ovid accounts four “Ages of Humankind”. He begins with the Golden Ages, where he describes to be a time of purity in humanity and the fertile land continues to prosper throughout “everlasting spring” (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 89-12). This ...view middle of the document...

, 1998). As each stage of the world emerges, Ovid demonstrates change and like Hesiod, each age is far worse than the previous. On the other hand, while Hesiod focuses on the supernatural elements, such as the creation of the golden race by the gods (Hesiod, Work and Days 109- 110); Ovid focuses much on the natural transformation and progression of society from good to wickedness. Furthermore, Hesiod provides an in depth description of the beings in each stage, for instance, the god-like characteristics of the Golden Race and the stupidity of the Silver race (Hesiod, Work and Days 111-114; 132). In contrast, Ovid only provides a brief mention of such beings (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 149). Thus, while Ovid bases his writing on Hesiod’s recount, he remains closely rooted to the social and natural disorder of the world (such as Jupiter’s ruling conquest of Saturn ending in corruption of the word) with loose mentions of the some primary supernatural beings, consequently providing his audience with a more realistic perspective on the Ages of humankind (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 113-120).

Ovid’s interpretation of Apollo and Daphne’s myth is one of hidden connotations that voices Ovid’s opinion on the gods. In the myth, having offended Cupid, Apollo became a victim of his golden arrow, set to cause love (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 173); while Daphne, daughter of the river god Peneus, was shot with the blunt arrow that caused repent from love (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 172). As a result, Apollo’s love drove him to chase Daphne in hopes of persuading her to requite his love. Due to the effects of Cupid’s arrow, Daphne loathed affection as she sees it as a crime (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 485), thus, Apollo’s self-commendation only causes her to flee in fear (Williams 1999, pp. 45). Ovid does not exactly give positive ending to the myth as Daphne’s fear transforms her into a laurel tree (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1: 544-559), however, Apollo does end up with her one way or another.

There are two main approaches towards Daphne’s myth in interpreting the relationship between mortals and the Gods. On one hand, the anthropomorphism of Apollo is a personalizing a human experience of “blindly falling in love” and chasing a woman, allows the audience to level and experience the God’s emotions (Francese 2004). Therefore, in some sense, he creates a closer and realistic connection between humans and Gods. On the other hand, the condescending light Ovid places upon Apollo, questions the superiority of the gods. To succumb to such human emotions and experiences as Apollo had, results in the ignorance of wisdom and logic as shown in his own actions. Consequently, this also further supports Nagle (1984, 237) and Fulkerson’s (2006, pp. 13) notion that the God’s lack understanding of mortals, hence their love often ends in the destruction of humans, particularly women (For example, Daphne, Io and Danae).

Having born between 43 BC – AD 17, Ovid was born in a time of peace and...

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