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Metamorphoses

Category: Books sutras and myths

 

 

Metamorphoses is a Latin narrative poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet Ovid, describing the history of the world from its creation.  It has a ‘loose mythico-historical framework’. Completed in AD 8, it is recognized as a masterpiece of Golden Age Latin literature.

It only just  survived the Roman period of Christianization and was classified as a  "A dangerously pagan work". Thankfully the poems survived this early onslaught and retained their  popularity throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.  It was one of the most-read of all classical works during the Middle Ages.

Many of the stories are the retelling of the Greek myths.  The recurring theme, as with nearly all of Ovid's work, is love—be it personal love or love personified in the figure of Cupid. Indeed, the other gods are repeatedly perplexed, humiliated, and made ridiculous by Cupid.  Apollo comes in for particular ridicule as Ovid shows how irrational love can be and confound even this god beyond reason.

It is thus a description in encapsulated form of all the different ways in which love can provoke spiritual experience – from lost love to passionate love from unrequited love to tragic love.  It is also full of symbolism and thus of especial interest. 

It has inspired numerous writers, sculptors, poets, artists, composers, for example, Luis de Góngora,  Gian Lorenzo Bernini,  Richard Strauss,  Ruben Dario, Handel, Benjamin Britten and Ted Hughes.  And the stories have been adapted in numerous subsequent works by other people – from Shakespeare [Romeo and Juliet] to Geoffrey Chaucer [Canterbury Tales, where it forms the basis for the Manciple's tale] 

The main books are 

  • Book I: Cosmogony, Ages of Man, Gigantes, Daphne, Io;
  • Book II: Phaëton, Callisto, Jupiter and Europa;
  • Book III: Cadmus, Actaeon, Echo, Narcissus, and Pentheus;
  • Book IV: Pyramus and Thisbe, Hermaphroditus and Salmacis, Perseus and Andromeda
  • Book V: Phineus, the Rape of Proserpina;
  • Book VI: Arachne, Niobe, Philomela and Procne;
  • Book VII: Medea, Cephalus and Procris;
  • Book VIII: Nisos and Scylla, Daedalus and Icarus, Baucis and Philemon;
  • Book IX: Heracles, Byblis;
  • Book X: Eurydice, Hyacinth, Pygmalion, Myrrha, Adonis, Atalanta, Cyparissus;
  • Book XI: Orpheus, Midas, Alcyone and Ceyx, Aesacus;
  • Book XII: Iphigeneia, Centaurs, Achilles;
  • Book XIII: the Sack of Troy, Aeneas;
  • Book XIV: Scylla, Aeneas, Romulus;
  • Book XV: Pythagoras, Hippolytus, Aesculapius, Caesar

All the observations from this book are grouped under Ovid