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‘The Metamorphoses of Ovid’ is among the best works in history that offer extensive knowledge on ancient Greek and Roman culture. Ovid is a prowess in the field of storytelling and is careful not to lose the reader as he unfolds this mystical story. He narrates with so much passion and enthusiasm on matters to do with love and loss, conquests among the gods and their imperfections among many other themes. Metamorphoses remain the predominant theme throughout the book.
To introduce his main theme Ovid begins by saying, “My mind leads me to something new, to tell of forms changed to other bodies.” In the very first chapter of book 1, he is quick to describe how the earth undergoes a complete change of physical form from its state of chaos to a more organized appearance. The earth as he describes it had been like a void, formless and lifeless-a rough disordered mass of elements he calls it. A god came, who set everything in its rightful place or rather where he thought they ought to have been. He separated the heavens from the earth, the land from the sea until everything was the way it currently is. The god also gave the once lifeless earth inhabitants and from there originated the human race.
Another change clearly depicted in the book is the behavioral change in the human race. Humans start turning against each other, stealing from each other and doing all sorts of immoral things. A man, for example, anticipates the early death of his wife while his wife hoped for the same in return. Wrangles are experienced within family ties, and people bring an end to each other’s lives in bloody slaughter. The giants inhabiting the earth wanted to get a hold of the kingdom of the gods so, they set up mountains upon mountains each other in a bid to reach the skies and take over from the gods. In this view, the gods held a meeting to discuss what the consequences of such misdeeds would be. This provoked the god’s anger who in turn decided to do away with the entire human race except for Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha. Everything else was swept away, and upon this two, the entire mortal race was created.
Apollo reproaches Cupid for misusing the bow.
Cupid used the bow to ignite love between people, which got Apollo exceedingly furious. He claims the bow was his creation and he, being the creator, best knew what its purposes were and not for the games of love Cupid had used it for. Cupid did not take the reproach lightly and took it upon himself to revenge by shooting Apollo with a golden pointed arrow that provoked love and shooting Daphne, daughter of Peneus, with an arrow having a lead-pointed end that repelled love. Apollo thus fell in love with Daphne while she did not even seem to have taken note of this. In fact, she aspired to be like Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt causing her to escape every time Apollo called out to her. Apollo kept chasing after her trying to explain that he was seriously in love with her, but she would hear none of this and did not give up running away from him.
This is symbolic and applies to the modern society and the endless pursuit of women by men. Though, unlike Apollo, who was stricken by a ‘love-arrow’, what drives the modern man seems to be lust and will stop at nothing in his pursuit of the woman he is after. Daphne though seems to be a protagonist as she goes against the Greek mythology of a woman. According to the Greeks, a woman was to be submissive to a man especially if he illustrates any interest in her. Daphne goes against this by refusing the god Apollo’s love; therefore, she is contravening the Greek society. He comes in for certain ridicule as Ovid illustrates how irrational this emotion called love can bring the god out of his intellect. Men were considered more valuable than women. It is also clear that men are cautious of the power women hold over them. Jove, for example, despite being a god was overwhelmed by Juno’s jealousy and her vengeance on his women and had to seek a way out even with the authority he commanded.
The men’s need to institute authority over women is evident in keeping with the ancient Greek mythology of male superiority in society. Religion also seems to support this whole issue of male chauvinism as it points to male gods as being superior to female gods.
As she runs through the bushes and shrubs, she bruises herself and Apollo keeps calling out to her urging her to be careful not to hurt herself, but his words fall on deaf ears (Feldherr) Apollo follows closely behind her after noticing her weary state, and that she is losing strength. She sees her father the river ahead, and pleads to disguise her by destroying her beauty which to her had brought her misery and frustration. Peneus has no choice but to turn her daughter into a Laurel tree to save her from her state of suffering. Even that did not stop Apollo from loving her, and he opts to make the Laurel his sacred tree. He wraps his bow and lyre in laurel garlands and wears it in his hair. He also makes it the honorary decoration of the conquering lords of Rome.
Ovid’s tale shifts attention to another of the gods’ love, that of Jove and Lo. Lo, like Daphne, also opts to be alone, but her admirer Jove is not at all impressed with this idea. He formulates a way to see to it that his desires are fulfilled. He covers the earth with smog and rapes her. Violence occurs in almost every story in Metamorphoses mostly in seeking for vengeance. Here, Jove forces himself on Lo going to extraordinary lengths to have his way, not caring that she does not have even the least interest in him. Juno, the jealous queen of the gods and wife to Jove are suspicious of her husband on seeing the mist. She clears out the mist around her so as to have a better view and clear out her suspicions by getting to the root of the matter. In the meantime, Jove transforms Lo into a cow so as to avoid getting caught in infidelity and to fool her wife who turns out to be wiser and claims ownership of the cow.
This whole scenario is as real in the modern society as many marriages are being ambushed by romantic affairs of either one of the partners, either man or wife. Lust seems to draw them elsewhere seeking for satisfaction and fulfillment of their own desires. However, people are getting enlightened about unfaithfulness and women mostly, as Juno have learnt to tell when things are falling apart in their marriages. They can read signs and interpret situations to know when something has gone astray. Men however, like Jove, are learning how to get themselves out of the trap by deception and blackmail.
On possession of the cow, Juno gives Lo to Argus, the watchman who has one hundred eyes and never at any one time does he shut them, for safe keeping. She is able to communicate with her father, by drawing in the dirt on her hoof. He laments for her but is unable to stop Argus from taking her to the pastures to graze. This is a true picture of how much pain parent are usually in when their children are suffering, and the parent may not be able to help their very own flesh and blood. Like Lo’s father who truly desires to save her from her distress, but does not have the means. Many parents even in this present day and age are helpless when it comes to rescuing their children from certain situations, and mostly in relationships.
Jove who was responsible for her current state orders for the murder of Argus by Mercury. Mercury pretends to be a shepherd and tries to make Argus fall asleep. He eventually succeeds and executes Jove’s plan and beheads him. Juno on the realization that she has been tricked calls for a chase after Lo who has already escaped to the Nile where she persuades Jove to try appeal to his wife to return her to human form. She grieves so deeply that Jove is moved and begs is wife to lift the curse, swearing that he would never again be unfaithful to her. Juno felt an achievement on making her husband swear, and so restored Lo’s human form that became a goddess and bore a son by the name Epaphus. Even in modern times, there is a feeling of pride in women, just like Juno felt, in making a man, who is esteemed higher in society, to submit to their demands or their wishes.
Revenge seems to be the motivation behind the transformations unfolding in the story. The gods are constantly in a war among themselves in a bid to outdo each other and in the process keep changing mortal into other forms such as beasts or birds of the air. Juno’s action, for example, to turn Lo into a cow is seeking vengeance even though Lo was a rap victim of her husband. She is a jealous goddess and sine she cannot take it out on him as he is the chief god thus superior to her; she takes most of her anger out on innocent Lo. Many people nowadays are like Juno and love to be driven by their emotions not taking to analyze and source out facts from tales. Many have also fallen victim like Lo due to some irrational behavior by others.
The work generally reverses the accepted order, elevating humans and their passions wile demoralizing gods, and causing them to be objects of ridicule and sources of humor (Simpson). Ovid depicts the gods as wrathful and full of vengeance. They are constantly turning their powers against the weaker mortals especially females in a bid to prove their superiority. This idea got its inspiration from Ovid’s own experience as a poet exiled by Augustus because of his rationalism. Since he was in power at the time, Augustus did not seek to give to Ovid the justice he deserved but rather was more keen on execution of his powers to get what he needed forfeiting an innocent soul.
In the same way, the gods did not stop to think that hey were dealing with mortal men who were not able to defend themselves. They were rather consumed by the idea of proving their might. By the end of the poem, everything seems to have experienced metamorphoses or undergone substantial change that gave it a turn around. Some seem to have undergone change that led them the wrong direction while others were served best by the changes they experienced. Humans should seek to pursue only those transformations that are inclined to the positive and that have a fruitful impact on them and those around.
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