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Metamorphoses, poem in 15 books, written in Latin about 8 ce by Ovid. The work is a collection of mythological and legendary stories, many taken from Greek sources, in which transformation (metamorphosis) plays a role, however minor. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a nexus of some
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- Kicking against the pricks
- Guide to the classics: Ovid's Metamorphoses and reading rape
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Metamorphoses , poem in 15 books, written in Latin about 8 ce by Ovid.
Kicking against the pricks
It is written in hexameter verse. The work is a collection of mythological and legendary stories, many taken from Greek sources, in which transformation metamorphosis plays a role, however minor. The stories, which are unrelated, are told in chronological order from the creation of the world the first metamorphosis , of chaos into order to the death and deification of Julius Caesar the culminating metamorphosis. The importance of the theme of metamorphosis is more apparent than real; passion is the essential theme of the poem, and passion imparts more unity to the work than do the transformation devices employed by Ovid.
The work is noted for its wit, rhetorical brilliance, and narrative and descriptive qualities. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions.
Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. Metamorphoses poem by Ovid. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: He created a convincing imaginative world with a magical logic of its own.
His continuous poem, meandering from the creation of the world to the apotheosis of Julius Caesar, is a great Baroque conception,…. The two traditions thus start with an adequate source of cosmic imagery, and both envisage a universe full of mysterious signs and symbolic strata. But thereafter the two cultures diverge. This is most apparent in the way that the style of the body of…. The earth is fashioned in the form of a perfectly round ball.
Oceans take shape and rise in waves spurred on by winds. Springs, pools and lakes appear and above the valleys and plains and mountains is the sky. Lastly, humankind is made and so begins the mythical Ages of Man. And, as each Age progresses — from Gold, to Silver, to Bronze and finally to Iron — humankind becomes increasingly corrupt. Throughout the epic, the setting that emerges in Book I functions as a brilliantly appropriate dystopic stage on which the poet-cum-puppeteer orchestrates his spectacles. Drawing on the Greek mythology inherited by the Romans, Ovid directs his dramas one after another, relentlessly bombarding his readers with beautiful metrics and awe-inspiring imagery as that of Deucalion and Pyrrha , Arachne , Daphne and Apollo , Europa and the Bull , Leda and the Swan.
Hundreds of hapless mortals, heroes, heroines, gods and goddesses rise victorious, experience defeat, endure rape, and inevitably metamorphose into something other than their original forms. Chaos begins the world, and so into Chaos we are born, live and die. As the offspring of the Age of Iron, we must endure and struggle against corruption, brutality and injustice. Ovid experienced a world of chaos and iron firsthand when, in AD 8, he was banished by Augustus. Interestingly, the third volume was written for women — quite a revolutionary move in view of the gender inequality in the twilight years of the 1st century BC.
Guide to the classics: Ovid's Metamorphoses and reading rape
What irritated Augustus sufficiently enough to relegate the poet to the middle of nowhere was his perception that the Ars Amatoria made a mockery of his moral reforms. Not one for frolic, Augustus had spearheaded and implemented a series of legislative campaigns that raised the moral bar for the goodly citizens of Rome. Adultery, while always illegal in Rome, was made especially so under the watchful eye of the emperor and legal ramifications were more actively enforced than in previous decades. The mistake that Ovid mentions is more difficult to identify — with scholarly opinions differing on what it was Ovid actually did to offend Augustus.
Tomis, at the very edges of the Roman Empire, was regarded as a barbaric, frightening and uncivilised place. For the optimal punishment of Ovid, Augustus chose his location well, and he never reneged on his decision. This may not initially appear to have any bearing on its content or intent, yet Richlin suggests a profound relevance:.
Rape is undoubtedly the most controversial and confronting theme of the Metamorphoses. It is the ultimate manifestation of male power in the poem and the hundreds of transformations that occur are often the means of escaping it. An early tale of attempted rape is narrated in Book I, involving the nymph, Daphne and the god, Apollo.
Intent on raping Daphne, Apollo chases her through the forest until, utterly exhausted, she calls out to her father, the river god Peneus to rescue her:. Destroy the shape, which pleases too well, with transformation!
The tale of Daphne and Apollo, like so many stories in the Metamorphoses, is classified as an aetiological myth; that is, a narrative that explains an origin. But, as the excerpt above testifies, it is so much more than that. During the last few years, the Metamorphoses has been challenged as a legitimate text for tertiary Humanities students. Defying the hundreds of years of pedagogical tradition that has seen the poem set for both Latin students and, more recently, literary students who study it in translation, the Metamorphoses has not only been interrogated by scholars such as Richlin, but has also been the subject of increased student complaints and calls for trigger-warnings.
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In response to the growing number of objections to the work, academic and university executives have been called on to take a position — not only in relation to the Metamorphoses, but in response to other materials that are perceived to render the tertiary experience unsafe. The Chancellor at Oxford, Chris Patten, has been quoted as saying that history cannot be rewritten to suit contemporary western morals. Equally as important to the debate, and the decisions that may ultimately result from it, is the life-experience of every individual in the classroom. Amid a class of students taking notes from a lecture on the Metamorphoses, for example, may be a rape survivor.
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Current statistics from the United States in particular suggest that the likelihood of this is exceptionally high. Emerging statistics from across Australia are painting a similar picture. Such a situation requires alertness and sensitivity when handling texts such as the Metamorphoses. But should the work of Ovid be banned or placed among the shelves marked "Warning: What would such measures ultimately achieve?
Would it augment safe spaces? Or, would it censor discussions around rape and shut down interrogations of sex, violence and female exploitation? Would it silence one of the means of opposition to the societal sickness of rape?
The Metamorphoses of Ovid has had a long and fascinating history. Its presence among the literary canon of the West has functioned as a strange but valuable mirror that has, for over two millennia, reflected social, moral and artistic customs. Pets in Victorian paintings — Egham, Surrey. The history of pets and family life — Egham, Surrey. Available editions United Kingdom.