Ovid- Metamorphoses

Ovid metamorphoses revision



Ovid wrote metamorphoses he had been banished by Emporer Augustus

  • exile in a barbarian country so no one could understand his work

His poems were mostly listened to not read silently

storytelling= popular occupation amongst romans as it was a form of entertainment

Nature is important in the poem because people then lived much closer to nature

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Why do people change shape?

  • an explanation of the existence of an object
    • pan pipes, the eyes in peacocks feathers (Io)
  • A release from an unpleasant situation where the victim is happy to except it
    • Daphne prays for escape from apollo
  • a just punishment
    • syclla deserves to be a small bird torn apart, erysichthon is justly treated for cutting down a sacred tree
  • A cruel punishment from a god
    • Actaeon, Pentheus, Semele all die unjustly
  • A gift from the Gods as a reward for piety
    • philemon and baucis
  • at the will of a shape changer
    • mestra- erysichthons daughter
  • A reflection of the personality
    • Lycaon= violent, changed into a wolf
  • A pretend metamorphoses
    • daedalus and Icarus
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The speed and Detail of metamorphoses

Some transformations happen off stage and come as a surprise

  • Nisus appears in bird form, narcissus suddenly appears as a flower

Some transformations are described in great detail:

  • Daphne- apollo offers evergreen leaves, granted wish to remain virgin
  • Actaeon- experience the horror, cruel change as his human senses remain

some are humorous:

  • the lydian sailors being changed to dolphins- arrogant pirates getting what deserve

Happy release= philemon and baucis

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Admirable characters who have a happy ending

Deucalion and Pyrrha

  • piety leads to them being chosen by jupiter to be the sole survivors of the flood.
  • their honest matter of fact reaction to being the only people in the world is touching but ridiculous and ovid pokes fun at them
  • the old people scatter stones which change into people

Philemon and Baucis

  • proof that the god's power is boundless, gives them reward of eternal companionship
  • Ovid pokes fun at them too, witness Baucis running around making the house look respectable, bringing out the best things, levelling the wobbly table etc
  • wine bowl keeps refilling itself- try and sacrifice only animal own to Gods
  • house is turned to a temple, request is to dies at the same time
  • oak and linden tree- grow side by side for eternity
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Innocent Victims of the Gods


  • runs away from jupiter but he ***** her, to avoid detection by juno she is turned into a cow, juno was suspicious and sends argus to guard her
  • she tries to communicate with her father
  • ovid stresses her terrible inability to communicate, timidity and innocence


  • another innocent girl who suffers unwanted attention from a god
  • apollo and daphne= victims of cupid's arrows (a= fall in love, d= repel love)
  • he pursues her, there is humour in his promise to slow down if she does
  • likening him to a hound
  • she prays to her father who turns her into a tree
  • apollo appears pathetic
  • metamorphoses is not unwelcome and she remains a virgin
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Victims manipulated by the Gods


  • original crime was that he killed two snakes- turned into a woman
  • gets blinded by juno for betraying women's secret
  • is given the gift of prophecy by jupiter as compensation
  • this enabled ovid to make him a useful link as he was a prophet


  • already pregnant by jupiter but she becomes a victim of Juno's plotting
  • she is naive which leads her to ask jupiter to appear to her in all his glory and she is consumed by Jupiter's fire bolt


  • is cursed by Juno for helping Jupiter and has fallen in love with Narcissus
  • the interchange between echo and narcissus is a comical in its misunderstandings
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Sons cursed from birth

Narcissus,he is attractive and arrogant, rejects all his admirers this builds up to the climax of falling in love with himself, we feel pity for his hurt and frustration that his love is hopeless

Meleager, blinded by his love for atalanta and leads him to present her with the boar,when he was faced with his companions anger he killed them, he is presented as a thoughtless young man, our sympathy for him is when his own mother kills him

Cadmus, went on a journey to find his sister Europa but he is going to have problems because of Junos hatred for Europa, we see how brave he is

Pentheus-rejected teiresias warnings and is punished by bacchus by a metamorphoses that was only seen by those attacking him, panic he shows is not unlike that of actaeon

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Victims of their own emotions


  • feel sorry for him when he witnesses his owns son death
  • there is poetic justice in this though as he had already attempt to kill his nephew because of jealousy


  • has dramatic conflict tormenting her, has a speech debating what to do
  • two names pull at her heart, cruel then compassionate, anger, mourning she then kills her son and herself


  • shows how obsession turns a young into a scheming murderess
  • falls in love with minos, ovid amuses us be describing her chain of thought in detail, she becomes angry when minos rejects her
  • romans would have been amused by the echoes in it from dido from the aeneid
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Immoral characters who deserve to be punished


  • cuts down the oak tree sacred to ceres and even kills a servant who objects
  • ovid pushes his hunger to a ridiculous extreme when he starts to 'bite his own limbs'
  • ovid does not give us a simple moral of crime and punishment as erysichthon sells his daughter for money for food as she is a shape shifter- element of black humour in his con trick
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Characters who provide a useful link between stori

Minos- innocent victim in the scylla story, he is then a central link who links book 8 through scylla, daedalus and thesus

Cadmus- has his own story but links together the other theban characters in book 3

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Relationships and emotion

Tender affection- deucalion and pyrrha, philemon and baucis and daedalus in the way he cares for his son, the fathers of Io and Daphne

Sadness and pain- Echo

Fear- pentheus and actaeon- fleeing attackers

Frustration- Acteaon, Pentheus- trying to communicate, Echo, Apollo, Narcissus

Love- sometimes unrequited- Apollo,Echo, Scylla, Pan for syrinx, Jupiter for io

Jealousy- causes juno to punish Io, semele and echo

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Relationships and Emotion

Anguish- explored deeply with Althaea

Grief- sisters of meleager

obsession- both narcissus and echo

spiteful resentment- cupids feelings for apollo, diana, bacchus and juno

pride and arrogance- downfall of humans who are punished- Pentheus, Erysichthon

pathos- deep emotion or suffering

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Metamorphoses and Family

Father and son- Daedulus and Icarus

Mother and son- Meleager and Althaea

Father and Daughter-  Scylla and her dad, Io and her dad, Daphne

Husband and Wife- Philemon and Baucis, Deucalion and Pyrrha

Uncle and nephew- daedulus and perdix

Brothers and sisters- sisters of meleager, cadmus and europa

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Where did the Roman gods come from?

  • romans knew that the gods where outside forces that could ruin them e.g. crops could be destroyed, sudden storms could wreck ships
  • If the sky went dark and there was thunder someone must be angry with you
  • something/someone was imagined to be man-like and had to be kept happy
  • once the power had a human form stories developed about it
  • poets and artists used their imaginations and added to it
  • ovid drew on ideas from homer, other poets and Greek tragedy
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  • Jupiter is first seen in book 1 when he kills the giants and he calls and assembly and his power is firmly established, all the gods respond to his summons
  • ovid gives us a picture of him enthroned on a dais clutching a sceptre
  • the mere shaking of his head causes the earth, sea and constellations to tremble
  • he is a figure of justice- lycaon into a wolf, rewarding philemon and baucis
  • he is often represented as a cheating husband who uses tricks to seduce females- Io, europa (he seduces her in the form of a bull) made semele pregnant
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  • is jupiters wife and is constantly trying to get her own back on him, she knows him too well and when it suddenly goes dark in the middle of the day she suspects Jupiter
  • familiar with his amorous tricks
  • she pursues the lovers with venom and enjoys getting revenge
  • when she discovers that semele is pregnant she takes pleasure in orchestrating her death 'i must target this woman and destroy her'
  • she is often 'blazing with anger'
  • teiresias it a victim of her anger, she resents his answer so blinds him
  • she curses echo because she helped Jupiter deceive her
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Other Gods are vindictive


sends pentheus to death being torn apart by his mother because he doubted the gods divinity


was upset that actaeon accidently saw her naked so changed him into a stag and is pleased when he was attacked by his own hounds


angered by a remark from apollo in his 'spiteful resentment' he shoots two arrows one at daphne and one at apollo


is severe in her punishment of erysichthon

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Gods are sometimes sympathetic

Neptune had ***** mestra in the past but takes pity on her by helping her escape her master

Apollo- is as helpless as some of the human victims as his love is rejected and he is pitiable when he clings to the tree

Jupiter feels sorry for Io

Ovid is not intent on directly preaching a moral lesson to his readers but his message comes over clearly that pride will be punished

No guarantee that the blameless person will remain safe- actaeon is innocent and suffers a horrible death

Ovid says 'count no man happy until he is dead and his body is laid to rest in the grave' a reminder that the gods are unpredictable and cruel and no human is ever safe from them

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