Ovid Book 1, 2 and 3 Summaries

Brief summaries of all 3 books that need to be studied for GCSE Classics

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Isobel Ryan-Dalton GCSE Classics
Book I
Ovid begins the Metamorphoses by invoking the gods. He asks them to
inspire his work, which opens with the creation of the world and continues
on to the present day, and is about the
transformation of bodies. After this short
prayer, Ovid describes the birth of the world.
A creator separated earth from heaven, sea
from land, and lighter air from heavier air.
He then made be ings to inhabit these new
spaces: Gods and stars filled the heavens,
fish the seas, beasts the land, and birds the
air. Man was created to rule the world. Four ages
followed. The age of gold was a time of trust,
moral goodness, fruitfulness, constant spring and
rivers of milk and honey. In the age of silver, people
had to work for food; there were now four seasons
and homes. The age of bronze saw the first wars,
but some semblance of morality persisted. In the
age of iron, however, nothing is sacred. Even family
ties lead to bloodshed. Man sails to far of lands,
land now had boundaries, mining began and they
lost all respect for the god's demonstrated by the
attack of the giants who piled mountain on
mountain and attempted to climb them, Jupiter
launched his lightening bolt and the giants were crushed by the mountains
, mother nature then turned the giants blood into human form as she did
not want to see the fruits of her womb lost.
In the Iron Age, the gods appear and
witness human impiety. In particular,
Jupiter visits the house of the
Lycaon, who treats Jupiter with the
greatest disrespect, planning to
murder him in his sleep but instead
serving him a meal of human flesh
(this was further aggravated as it
was a hostage and all hostages were
sacred to Jupiter). Outraged, Jupiter
decides to punish Lycaon by turning him into a wolf and punishing
humanity with a flood. Because of their piety,
Deucalion and Pyrrha survive however this was
not planned. No one else does. Themis gives
Deucalion and Pyrrha cryptic advice about how to
repopulate the earth: They must cover their
heads, let their garments loose, and cast the
bones of their great mother behind their backs.

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Isobel Ryan-Dalton GCSE Classics
Initially, Pyrrha is disheartened, because she interprets this advice as
sacrilegious. How can she desecrate her mother's bones? Deucalion has a
different interpretation. He thinks Themis was referring not to their
actual mothers, but to the earth. They try throwing stones behind them,
and the stones morph into people.
In this new world animals appear from the mud, including
a massive Python that Apollo then kills. Apollo speaks
disparagingly to Cupid, who shoots two arrows in
retaliation.…read more

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Isobel Ryan-Dalton GCSE Classics
Book III
Europa's father, Agenor, threatens Cadmus
with exile if he does not find Europa who was
kidnapped by Jupiter disguised as a cow in
Book 7. Cadmus tries and fails. He can't go
home, so he prays to Apollo about where he
should live. Apollo says he a pristine heifer
will lead him to a place where he will
establish a city. Apollo's prophecy is born out.
However, Cadmus's men encounter an enormous dragon, which kills them.…read more

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Jupiter. In her anger, Juno turns Tiresias blind. Jupiter compensates
Tiresias by giving him supernatural foresight. Ovid records Tiresias's first
prediction: that Narcissus will live a long life as long as he does not know
himself.…read more

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Minos attacks the city of Alcathoe, which is ruled
by Nisus. During the siege, Scylla, the daughter of
Nisus, falls in love with Minos. She scalps her father
to give his power, contained in a lock of crimson
hair, to Minos. Minos is horrified by
her betrayal (Ovid agrees and
suggests to the reader throughout this story that what
Scylla has done is wicked). He decides to impose the fairest
terms on the defeated city, and he leaves.…read more

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Isobel Ryan-Dalton GCSE Classics
hunt (i.e. The boar). This angers the men, especially the uncles of
Meleager--Plexippus and Toxeus. After a fight, Meleager kills his two
uncles. Althaea, Meleager's mother, is outraged by the death of her
brothers. She remembers an old prophecy that as long as a certain log is
not consumed by fire, Meleager will live. After debating what to do,
Althaea decides to throw the log into the fire. As the log burns, Meleager's
life fades away.…read more

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granted the ability to change forms by Neptune, who previously raped her,
so she could run away. Erysichthon took advantage of this and repeatedly
sold her however this was not enough and he eventually ate his own limbs,
killing himself.…read more


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