Metaphysics of Ovid and Dante

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Ovid wrote the Metamorphoses nearly two thousand years ago and Dante wrote Purgatorio 1600 years after that - two pieces of literature that dealt with topics which transcend humanity's perceived reality. Each piece of literature attempts to arrive at a truth concerning the essence of human existence, Dante seeks answers within the confines of Catholic dogma while Ovid approaches existence from a paganistic perspective. This demonstrates two very different approaches to the same exact query. Mankind has questioned the existence of a metaphysical realm for generations and consequently shapes the nature of the supernatural world.

The complex pagan religious system of the Romans mirrored that of the Greeks, but what Ovid sought to create was a solid (nearly Bible-like) account of the formation of the world and the source of the multifarious gods. Essentially, Ovid is seeking to rationalize and dogmatize the dozens of deities. Ovid believed that the relationship between the gods and man was reciprocal; they depended on each other for existence:

Many are loud in favour of Jove's speech / And spur his anger; many give quiet assent; / But all deplore the loss of humankind, / And ask what would the future be like / Bereft of mortals? Who would cense their shrines? / Can Jove intend to abandon earth's domain / To the brute beasts to ravage and despoil? (Ovid, 8)

Without humanity, there is no one to worship the gods and likewise without the gods the "brute beasts" would "ravage and despoil" the earth. The physical world, then, is dependant on the supernatural world.

Clearly, there is a distinction between the world of the Roman gods and the world that everyday people live in. Man, according to Ovid, has experienced a gold, sil...

... middle of paper ... their mortal counterparts on earth. This is reflected between the physical and supernatural world - as the world of the human realm is faulty, so is that of the gods.

Christianity explicitly sought to connect the natural world and the supernatural world in the embodiment of Jesus. Since Jesus was the "son of G-d" in his incarnation on earth, the matter is not that the supernatural world is a part of mankind, but instead that mankind is a part of the supernatural. But, Jesus, being entirely divine in nature (as well as entirely human in nature) did not give into the same temptations as the Roman gods. Christianity stressed a connection between the world and G-d - since the Christian G-d is meant to be personal (the establishment of this personal bond would therefore be salvation). The Roman cults had no such concept - and so remained separate from humanity.
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