Ovid's Metamorphoses: An Example of Chaos Versus Order
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Ovid's Metamorphoses is an example of chaos versus order. I think that is what makes it hard to follow. There is just so much chaos moving from one book to another with barely a transition. I think what the anti-epic is trying to show is that everyone has flaws.
In the beginning of time a flood changed the earth. The earth was made pure and two by two it began to prosper and grow again. This was chaos followed by order. The poem continues with Cupid being angry with Apollo and shooting him with his arrow. Apollo sees the beautiful Daphne and begins to chase her. This was the human instinct of desire and the power of love. She pleads with her father to change her form and help her to escape. She is changed into a laurel tree, but that does not stop Apollo from claiming her as his property. Apollo's son Phaethon drives the chariot of the sun and spins out of control, another example of chaos.
"Book One of Ovid's Metamorphoses establishes the book's theme of metamorphoses with a tale of creation that progresses into human stories leading to the current breed of man. The creation piece is followed by a flood story and a discussion of the ages of mankind. The ages of mankind - gold, silver, bronze, and iron - describe man's slow progression from a good, wholesome society into a miserable, self-destructive one. The next stories concern tales of gods and goddesses and their manipulations of the human population and each other. Book one ends (appropriately) with Phaethon's journey to meet his father, the sun, thus establishing Ovid's theme of quests for change."(auburn. edu)
The book continues with man's desire. Desire can rule the head and cripple the heart. These actions can lead to punishment. We are guided by our feelings. Juno is the jealous wife of Jove. Jove attempted to hide his rape of Io from Juno by transforming her into a white heifer. I don't know if it was love or shame that helped Jove give up Lo. Jove gave her up to Argus. Io could not ask for help because she could not speak. This is symbolic of rape because if she says something it might happen again. Rape changes you physically and mentally. Io's own father Inachus could not help her.
Argus, with his many eyes, drove her father away. The ruler of the gods didn't want to see Io suffer anymore. He instructed Mercury to murder Argus and he put him asleep with a music pipe. While Argus was asleep, the gods wanted to know how the pipe was invented. Mercury began to tell the story of Syrinx which means shepherds pipe was pursued by Pan. In the middle of his story he knocks the head of Argus off. Juno takes his eyes and places them on a sacred bird. Poor Io is exiled. Rape victims usually don't get their lives back. Jove asked Juno to end his punishment. He promised Juno that Io would never cause her anymore pain. When the Juno's anger was calmed Io was restored to her former form as a goddess.
"Book Two of Ovid's Metamorphoses focuses on the concept of punishment caused by either unattainable desires or merely the selfish desires of the gods. Both Phaethon and Ocyrhoe were punished because they refused to heed the warnings and/or commands of the gods regarding Apollo's chariot and the prophesying of future events that were to be kept secret. The gods also dealt punishment to those who interfered with their divine wishes; such as with Nonacris, who discovers Jove's affair, Aglauros, who was punished because of envy of Jove's love for her sister, even though it had been given by Minerva, and Battus, who was a witness to Mercury's crime. Also, the nymphs were transformed into ravens for being too outspoken about the gods' indulgences. These contrasting forms of punishment reveal a double standard between what is permissible for the gods versus that permissible for humans which are a recurring theme throughout the entire Metamorphoses."(auburn.edu)
When Jove returns to heaven his father asked him to find the land where his mother's star shines the brightest. Jove returns in the form of a bull. Agenor's daughter Europa is fascinated by the stately bull. She has a strong desire to be with the bull. Love can be so strong that it can cloud judgment and it can place us in dangerous situations. I think the symbolism of the black birds means that evil can do more harm than good.
"The five stories in book five of Ovid's Metamorphoses are tied together by a common thread in which passions such as pride, jealousy, and uncontrollable desire lead to conflicts between characters. These conflicts never go unresolved, and the resolutions always conclude with the unkind fate of another of Ovid's physical transformations. Phineus' anger at Perseus over the loss of his wife, the nine sisters' hubris in challenging the muses, Pluto's and Ceres' incessant desire for Proserpine, Alpheus' longing for Arethusa, and Lyncus' jealousy of Triptolemus are illustrations of these overwhelming passions. Emotions such as these lead to Phineus men being turned to stone in a fight with Perseus, the nine sisters becoming magpies upon losing to the muses, Arethusa morphing into water to escape Alpheus, and Ceres saving Triptolemus by transforming Lyncus to a lynx. Over two hundred transformations occur in book five as a result of these characters' overwhelming passions, and the graphic, violent nature of these five stories sets them apart from stories in other books of the Metamorphoses."(auburn.edu)
There are always innocent victims who get caught up in the moment of desire. The imagery in the epic helps to guide through the stories and change our emotions. It is the continued theme of desire, punishment, chaos and order.
"Book IX of Ovid's Metamorphoses consists of eight tales of birth, death and forbidden love. The plot begins with Hercules defeating Achelous along with Nessus in the name of his bride Deianira. The Hydra's poison that destroys Nessus also brings down Hercules, who does not die but is made a god. Upon his death, his mother, Alcmena, retells the story of Hercules' birth to Iole, and in turn she tells the story of her sister Dryope who was transformed into a tree once she touched the shrub-the nymph Lotis. Unusual love inhabits the last two stories in which Byblis loves her own brother, and Iphis, a girl in love with Ianthe a girl, is made a boy."(auburn.edu)
In Book IX Ligdus and Telethusa had a little girl, but in order to protect her; she was disguised as a boy. Ligdus wanted a boy because girls required more. Telethusa told the nurse to tell everyone that she had a boy. She even named the girl a neutral name, Iphis. The story begins leaning toward homosexuality. That is not normal in my opinion. I was glad when the metamorphoses began. The power of prayer and the desire to be something different was a good thing in this instance.
"Book X of Ovid's Metamorphoses begins with the death of Orpheus' wife Eurydice and his failed attempt to bring her back from the Underworld. Stricken with grief, Orpheus went to a hill and sang songs "Of boys beloved of gods and girls bewitched / by lawless fires who paid the price of lust" [Melvil1e, X, 52], charming the trees to the hill as he played. He recounted how Jupiter abducted Ganymede, how Apollo accidentally killed Hyacinth, how Pygmalion fell in love with a statue he made, and how Myrrha seduced her own father. He then recounted how Venus fell in love with Adonis and why she warned him to not hunt wild animals. She had helped Hippomenes win the heart of Atalanta and had turned them into lions for defiling an ancient shrine; but despite her warnings, Adonis killed himself hunting a boar."(auburn.edu)
Pygmalion has problems with his mind in Book X. He loves his own body. Sometimes we expect too much of ourselves. He desires his art and thinks it is real not ivory. He has a fetish with his art because of its beauty. He prays to the gods for a wife like the ivory girl. She lets him do whatever he wants without saying a word. I think this is strange. Venus finally grants his wish and the ivory girl becomes human. Pygmalion had a son named Paphos and Paphos had a son named Cinyras. The daughter of Cinyras, Myrra had an incestuous passion for her father. She attempted suicide, and was rescued by her nurse who promised to help her. The nurse took her to father and she slept with him. She became impregnate and fled to Sabaea. She knows it is a forbidden love and that she must be punished. She is turned into the myrrh-tree and tears seep. Adonis is born from the tree. Venus is pricked from Cupid's arrow and wants Adonis. Atalanta and Hippomenes turned into lions. She warned him to avoid savage creatures. He ignored her warning and is killed by a wild boar. This is violent sexual imagery. His blood was transformed into a windflower, the anemone.
This was truly a metamorphoses ever changing.
Hopkins, David Ovid Selected Poems
Phoenix Press Copyright 2003
Lawall, Sarah The Norton Anthology World Masterpieces Seventh Edition Volume 1
W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. Copyright 1984