43 B.C.-17 or 18 A.D Ovid.

Pvbli Ovidi Nasonis. Poemata qvaedam excerpta. Selections from the poems of Ovid, chiefly from the Metamorphoses; online

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Poem s of Ovid



J. H. and W. F. ALLEN and J. B. GREENOUGH



/^ 1U^~^ _VP

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, h J


in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

Cambridge :
Press of John Wilson and Son.




This Selection follows generally the text of Merkel (1866), the
reading of Siebelis being preferred in one or two instances. We
have endeavored to exhibit as far as possible within our limits the
variety of Ovid's style and genius, and especially to preserve the
more interesting biographical hints of the Amores and the Tristia.
The greater portion of the book is however made up, necessarily,
from the Metamorphoses, of which we have taken about a third.
By help of the Argument, which is given in full, we aim not merely
to show the connection of the tales and the ingenuity of the transi-
tions, — necessary to comprehend the poem as a whole, — but to
put before the reader something like a complete picture of the
Greek mythology; at least of those narratives which have held
their permanent place in the modern mind and have entered more
or less into every modern literature.

The grammatical references are to Allen and Greenough's and
Gildersleeve's Latin Grammars.

Cambridge, January 15, 187s-

*j&a ( >A <in


Publius Ovidius Naso was a fashionable poet at Rome
in the reign of the Emperor Augustus, perhaps the most
fashionable after the death of Virgil (b. c. 19) and Horace
(b. c. 8).

All that is worth knowing about his life is told by himself
in a pleasing poem (Trist. iv. 10), which is given the last in-
the present collection. Like most of the literary men of
Rome, he was not a native of that city,* being born at Sulmo,
in the country of the Peligni, about 90 miles from Rome.
The year of his birth, b. c. 43, was that of Cicero's death.
His father, a man of respectable fortune, removed to Rome
to give his two boys a city education. Here the young poet
was trained in the usual course of rhetoric and oratory, which
he practised with fair success, going so far as to hold some
subordinate political offices. His father was quite earnest to
check his desire for a literary career. But the death of his
elder brother left him with fortune enough for independence,
and following his own strong bent Ovid became soon one
of the favorite court poets of the brilliant era of Augustus.
After a career of great prosperity, he was suddenly, at the
age of 51, banished to Tomi, a town on the shore of the
Black Sea, in the present Bulgaria. The cause of his banish-
ment can only be guessed from his allusions to the anger of

* Virgil was a native of Mantua, Horace of Venusia, Catullus of Verona, Propertius
of Urabria, Ovid of Sulmo, Cicero of Arpinum, Sallust of Amitermim, Livy of Pata-
vium. Of eminent writers of this age, only Caesar, Lucretius, and Tibullus were born in
Rome. But then Rome, socially as well as politically, comprised the whole of Italy.

vi The Life of Ovid.

the emperor at some weakness, folly, or fault, which he says
he is not free to tell. Some have thought he was indiscreet
enough to make love to Julia, the brilliant, witty, and erratic
daughter of the emperor, wife of the grave Agrippa ; others
that he unfortunately knew too much of some court scandal,
probably connected with Julia or her ill-famed and ill-fated
daughter ; others that Augustus, as public patron of morals,
took offence at the somewhat cynical indecorum of certain
of his poems. At any rate, the emperor was hardened
against all his flatteries and prayers, and after an exile of
about ten years he died at Tomi, a. d. 18.

Besides the poems represented in this volume, Ovid was
the author of the Ars Amatoria and the Remedium Amoris
(to which reference has just been made), and of numerous
" Elegies," including four books of letters written in exile
{Ex Ponto Libri iv.). As a poet, his fame is far below that
of Virgil and Horace, — deservedly, since his loose and easy
verse bears no comparison with the elaborate finish of theirs.
For fancy and fine poetic feeling, however, many of the
Elegies — both in the Tristia and the Amores — show a vein
of as good quality as either of his rivals ; while in absolute
ease of handling the artificial structure of Latin verse it may
be doubted whether he has ever had an equal. His chief
merit, however, is as an excellent story-teller, — smooth,
facile, fluent, sometimes, it must be confessed, inordinately
diffuse. As the most celebrated existing collection of the
most famous fables of the ancient world, the Metamorphoses,
in particular, makes the best of introductions to the nobler
and more difficult verse of Virgil.

Writings of Ovid. vii


1. Heroides : a collection of twenty-one elegies,* being letters
chiefly from leading M heroines " of the Homeric age.

2. Amores : forty-nine elegies, in three books ; miscellaneous,
but chiefly amatory or personal in their topics.

3. Ars Amatoria: three books, on the means of winning
and retaining the affections of a mistress ; and

4. Remedium Amoris : a poem prescribing the means by which
a foolish passion may be subdued. These two poems contain the
passages supposed to have excited the anger of Augustus.

5. Metamorphoseon Libri xv. The Metamorphoses was still
unfinished when Ovid went into exile, and he committed it to the
flames, apparently, with his own hand (Trist. i. 7. 1 1, seq.) ; but copies
had been preserved by his friends.

6. Fastorum Libri vi. : a poetic Calendar of the Roman months,
from January to June, designed to be continued to the end of the
year ; a storehouse of Roman custom and Italian legend.

7. Tristium Libri v. ; and

8. Epistolarum ex Ponto Libri iv. : elegies written in exile.
Many of the letters implore the intercession of friends at Rome, to
obtain favor from Augustus.

9. Ibis, a poem of 646 verses written in exile : a bitter invective
against some personal enemy.

10. Halieuticon Liber: 132 hexameter verses, a fragmentary
natural history of Fishes.

11. Medicamina Faciei : a fragment of 100 elegiac verses, on
the use of Cosmetics.

The following are included in some collections of Ovid's poems,
but are probably not genuine : —

Consolatio ad Liviam Augustam : an elegy of 474 verses
addressed to the Emperor's wife on the death of her son Drusus.

Nux (" the Nut-Tree ") : lamentation of a Walnut-tree by the
roadside, at the cruelties inflicted by wayfarers, and the vices of the
age in general.

* The word Elegies, in this connection, describes not the topic or style of treatment,
but only the versification, — hexameter verse alternating with pentameter making the
" elegiac stanza."




1. The Creation and the Flood (I. 1-415) 5

2. The Adventure of Phaethon (II. 1-400) 18

3. The Rape of Europa (II. 833-875) 31

4. The Search of Cadmus (III. 1-137) 33

5. Pyramus and Thisbe (IV. 55-166) 38

6. Perseus and Andromeda (IV. 613-803) 42

7. The Wandering of Ceres (V. 341-661) 49

8. The Pride and the Grief of Niobe (VI 165-312) ... 60

9. The Enchantments of Medea (VII. 1-293) 65

10. The Flight of Daedalus (VIII. 152-259) 75

11. The Calydonian Hunt (VIII. 260-525) 79

12. Philemon and Baucis (VIII. 620-724) 88

13. The Death of Hercules (IX. 134-272) 92

14. Orpheus and Eurydice (X. 1-77) 97

15. The Song of Orpheus (X. 86-219) 100

16. The Death of Orpheus (XI. 1-84) 104

17. The Story of Midas (XI. 85-193) 107

18. The Chiefs at Troy (XII. 1-145) in

19. Rivalry of Ajax and Ulysses (XIII. 1-398) 117

20. The Tale of Galatea (XIII. 750-897) 130

21. The Wisdom of King Numa (XVI. 1-487) 136

22. The Worship of jEsculapius (XV. 622-744) '45

23. The Apotheosis of Caesar (XV. 745-889) 149


Index of Selections,

i. The Fasti.

a. The Festival of Pales (IV. 721-808) . . . . . 155

b. The Founding of Rome (IV. 809-862) . . . . . 158

c. Ritual to avert Blight (IV. 901-942) 160

2. Heroides : Penelope to Ulysses 162

3. Amores.

a. The Poet of Idleness (I. 15) 166

b. Elegy on a Parrot (II. 6) 167

c. Farewell to the Loves (III. 15) 169

4. Tristia.

a. Banished from Rome (I. 3) 171

b. The Exile's Sick Chamber (III. 3) 174

c. Winter Scenes in Thrace (III. 10) 177

d. The Poet's Autobiography (IV. 10) 179




The Mythology of the Greeks, adopted by the Romans,
consists mainly of two distinct parts. The first is what is techni-
cally called Theogony, " the generation of the gods," and was
put in the shape best known to us by Hesiod, some time before
500 B.C. It began, there is no reason to doubt, with rude personi-
fications of the objects and forces of nature, such as would be
natural to a people of active intelligence, lively imagination, and
childlike ignorance on all matters of science. The Sun, the
Dawn, the Winds, the Floods, are easily conceived as superhuman
persons. Some of the earlier fables are hardly any thing more
than metaphors, or poetic images, put in the form of narrative.
That the Sun is figured as a shepherd, and the fleecy clouds his
flock, which are scattered by the wind and gathered again by his
beams, — a very old bit of Eastern poetry, — easily gives rise to the
stories of Apollo as the shepherd of Admetus, and that which tells
the stealing of his catde by the rogue Hermes. That the maiden
Artemis gazes with love, on the sleeping prince Endymion, is hardly
more than a poetical way of describing the beautiful spectacle of
a full moon rising opposite the sun at his going down. A season
of blasting drought and heat may have been described by saying
that the chariot of the Sun was driven from its course by the
unskilful, self-confident boy, whose fate is told in the wild tale of
Phaethon. And so on.

But few fables can be explained in this simple way.. By a very
natural. process, a group of divine or ideal Persons was. conceived,

2 Introduction to the

whose family history or personal adventures became the subject
of tales absolutely devoid of any symbolical meaning. In the
system found in the Greek and Roman poets, nature is full of
mythological beings, grouped — as subjects in a monarchy — about
the one celestial or royal family, which has its abode on Mount
Olympus. The King of Heaven, Zeus (Jupiter), with his sister-
queen Here (Juno), is the child of Kronos (Saturn) or Time,
who again is the son of Ouranos and Gaia (Heaven and Earth),
beyond which imagination did not seek to go. His brothers are
Poseidon (Neptune) and Hades (Pluto), kings of the Waters and
of the Lower World. His sisters are Demeter (Ceres) and Hestia
(Vesta), queens of the Harvest and of the Home. His sons are
Apollo, god of Light, Ares (Mars) of Strife, and Hermes
(Mercury) the Herald. His daughters are Athene (Minerva),
Aphrodite (Venus), and Artemis (Diana), goddesses of Wis-
dom, of Love, and of the Chase. These are the twelve great
divinities (dii majores). And about them, in nearer or remoter
kindred, are grouped the inferior deities, the heroes or demigods,
their children by half-mortal parentage, and the innumerable
progeny of fabulous beings inhabiting the kingdoms of sky,
water, or earth.

The other department of mythology is that with which this poem
chiefly deals. It consists of the miracles and adventures ascribed
to these superhuman persons, — a vast field, in which ancient fancy
rioted as freely as the modern fancy in novels and fairy-tales.
Some of them may possibly be explained as a picturesque way
of recounting natural phenomena, or as exaggerated tales of real
events. But in general they seem purely fictions of the imagina-
tion. In a very large proportion they take the form of metamor-
phoses, that is, transformations of men or other creatures into
various shapes ; and this feature gives the subject and the title of
the present poem (see the first lines of Book I.). It professes
simply to tell those stories which have in them this element of the
marvellous, — the transformations, particularly, of men into plants
or animals. But as nearly all myths introduce some such feature,
first or last, it manages to include nearly all the important ones
with more or less fulness. They are told in a rambling discursive
way, one story leading to another by the slightest possible link

Metamorphoses of Ovid. 3

of association, — sometimes by what seems merely the poet's
artifice, aiming to make a coherent tale out of the vast miscellany
at his command.*

With the primitive (fetichistic) notion of a separate life in
every object, and tne human soul differing in no essential regard
from the life that dwells in things, it was easy to imagine the spirit
of man, beast, or plant as passing from one dwelling to another, for
a longer or shorter stay. Such a transmigration was, in fact,
taught as a creed by the school of Pythagoras (see Metam. xv.
1-487). But, as against the Hindoo doctrine of transmigration
into the very life of other animals, the Greeks held to the identity
and continuity of the human soul, which after death had its abode
assigned in the Lower World. The metamorphosis, therefore,
is only an occasional miracle, not a real metempsychosis yf it did
not alter essentially the ordinary course of human life, but only
marked the intimate connection between that and the life of
external nature ; or, in a certain wild, pictorial way, showed the
workings of human fancy, to account for the first creation of plants
and animals, or other striking phenomena of the natural world, — a
clear water-spring in a little island (Arethusa), a mountain rid^e
of peculiar shape {Atlas), a bird of plaintive note {Philomela), or
a rock weeping with perpetual springs (A T io6e).

To give something like system, order, and development to this
world of fable seems to have been a favorite aim of poetical com-
position with the ancients. This aim is partly religious, and partly
scientific, — if that can be called scientific which only fills with
fancies a void that no science yet exists to fill. Thus the " Theo-
gony" of Hesiod groups together the myths relating to the birth
of gods and heroes — making a sort of pagan "Genesis" — in a
form partly chronological, partly picturesque and poetical. This

* The connecting links between the several narratives contained in the present
Selection are given, bracketed, in the headings, thus presenting the entire argument
of the Metamorphoses as a connected whole.

t Thus the princess Io is changed into a heifer (Met i. 611). She retains her human
consciousness, deplores the change, and writes her own name on the sand, to inform her
father of it. This is metamorphosis, or change of form. According to the oriental
doctrine taught by Pythagoras (Met. xv. 459), the heifer in your stall was doubtless or.ce a
human being, perhaps your own mother or sister: it would be wicked to kill her, and
impious to eat her flesh. But she has only a brute consciousness ; and simply shares :he
universal life of man and brute. This is metempsychosis, or change of soul.

4 Introduction .

is apparently the first attempt of human thought to deal systemati-
cally with the phenomena of nature — so as, in a manner, to
account for things — before men were sufficiently free from super-
stition to reject the early fables. The titles of several Greek works
of the same kind are known ; and Virgil, in the Sixth Eclogue,
puts a similar song into the mouth of Silenus.

Any thing like a real belief in these fables had passed away long
before the time of Ovid. He was the popular poet of a sensual
and artificial age, who found in these creations of ancient fancy
a group of subjects suited to his graceful, ornate, and marvellously
facile style of narrative, and who did not hesitate to alter or dress
them up to suit his purpose. The " Metamorphoses " — Libri xv.
Metamotphoseon (a Greek genitive) — is the most abundant and
rich collection of these fables that exists. They are told in a
diffuse, sentimental, often debased way, which contrasts strongly
with the serious meaning that originally belonged to these myths ;
but are wonderfully fluent, easy, and melodious in their language, and
show a skill of versification which seems never to halt or weary.
The poem begins with the first origin of things from chaos, the
four ages of gold, silver, brass, and iron, the deluge, followed by the
graceful and picturesque version of the tales of gods and heroes,
through a long narrative, — about 12,000 verses in all, — ending
with the apotheosis of Caesar, as the sequel of the tale of Troy.
The series purports to be chronological ; but the order is often
arbitrary and the connection forced or affected, as would naturally
be the case with an author res diversissimas in speciem unius
corporis colligentem (Quint, iv. 1, 77).

The mythology of Ovid and the other Roman poets was Greek
mythology dressed up in Roman names. It is not necessary to
remind the reader that the stories here told related to Zeus,
Athene, Artemis, and the other members of the Greek Olympus,
and could never have been attributed to the sober abstractions of
the Roman Pantheon. Nevertheless, in commenting upon Ovid,
it is impossible to avoid making use of the names in the same
sense that he did, — the names long familiar in modern litera-
ture, which took them from the Romans and not the Greeks.


I. The Creation and the Flood.

[Book I. — 1-415.]

Proem (1-4). Description of Chaos (5-20). The Creator assigns
the elements to their places, and divides the land from the waters :
the zones and climates (26-58). The heavens are clear, and living
things come forth upon the earth : lastly man, fashioned by Prome-
theus in the image of the immortals (69-88). The Four Ages :
description of the Golden Age (89-1 12). The Age of Silver, Brass,
and Iron : Astraea quits the earth ; the Giants, and men of violence
that sprang from their blood (1 13-162). Jupiter recounts the crimes
of Lycaon, and his transformation to a Wolf (163-243). He re-
solves to drown the world with a Flood rather than destroy it by
Fire : description of the Deluge (244-312) The righteous Deuca-
lion with his wife Pyrrha : when the waters are abated, they behold
the earth desolate, and beseech aid at the shrine of Themis
(313-380). Instructed by the oracle, they cast stones above their
heads, which are miraculously converted into human beings, and
thus repeople the earth (381-415).

TN nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas

■*■ corpora. Di, coeptis (nam vos mutastis et illas)

adspirate meis, primaque ab origine mundi

ad mea perpetuum deducite tempora carmen.

Ante mare et terras et (quod tegit omnia) caelum,
unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,
quern dixere Chaos : rudis indigestaque moles,
nee quicquam nisi pondus iners, congestaque eodem
non bene junctarum discordia semina rerum.
nullus adhuc mundo praebebat lumina Titan, 10

nee nova crescendo reparabat cornua Phoebe,

6 I. The Creation and the Flood. [Metam.

nee circumfuso pendebat in aere Tellus

ponderibus librata suis, nee brachia longo

margine terrarum porrexerat Amphitrite ;

qua que fuit tellus, illic et pontus et aer. 15

Sic erat instabilis tellus, innabilis unda,
lucis egens aer : nulli sua forma manebat,
obstabatque aliis aliud, quia corpore in uno
frigida pugnabant calidis, humentia siccis,
mollia cum duris, sine pondere habentia pondus. 20

Hanc deus et melior litem natura diremit.
nam caelo terras et terris abscidit undas,
et liquidum spisso secrevit ab aere caelum,
quae postquam evolvit caecoque exemit acervo,
dissociata locis concordi pace ligavit. 25

Ignea convexi vis et sine pondere caeli
emicuit, summaque locum sibi fecit in arce.
proximus est aer illi levitate locoque ;
densior his tellus, elementaque grandia traxit
et pressa est gravitate sua ; circumfluus humor 30

ultima possedit, solidumque coercuit orbem.

Sic ubi dispositam, quisquis fuit ille deorum,
congeriem secuit, sectamque in membra redegit,
principio terram, ne non aequalis ab omni
parte foret, magni speciem glomeravit in orbis. 35

turn freta diffudit, rapidisque tumescere ventis
jussit, et ambitae circumdare litora terrae.
addidit et fontes et stagna immensa lacusque,
fluminaque obliquis cinxit declivia ripis,
quae, diversa locis, partim sorbentur ab ipsa, 40

in mare perveniunt partim, campoque recepta
liberioris aquae pro ripis litora pulsant.
jussit et extendi campos, subsidere valles,
fronde tegi silvas, lapidosos surgere montes.

Utque duae dextra caelum totidemque sinistra 45

I. 79.] The Heavens: Creation of Man. 7

parte secant zonae, quinta est ardentior illis :
sic onus inclusum numero distinxit eodem
cura dei, totidemque plagae tellure premuntur.
quarum quae media est, non est habitabilis aestu ;
nix tegit alta duas ; totidem inter utramque locavit, 50
temperiemquededit, mixta cum frigore flamma.

Imminet his aer: qui, quanto est pondere terrae
pondus aquae levius, tanto est onerosior igni.
illic et nebulas, illic consistere nubes
jussit, et humanas motura tonitrua mentes, 55

et cum fulminibus facientes frigora ventos.
his quoque non passim mundi fabricator habendum
aera permisit : vix nunc obsistitur illis,
cum sua quisque regant diverso flamina tractu,
quin lanient mundum ; tanta est discordia fratrum. 60
Eurus ad auroram Nabataeaque regna recessit,
Persidaque et radiis juga subdita matutinis ;
Vesper et occiduo quae litora sole tepescunt,
proxima sunt Zephyro ; Scythiam septemque trionem
horrifer invasit Boreas ; contraria tellus 65

nubibus assiduis pluvioque madescit ab Austro.
haec super imposuit liquidum et gravitate carentem
aethera, nee quicquam terrenae faecis habentem.

Vix ita limitibus dissaepserat omnia certis,
cum quae pressa diu massa latuere sub ilia, 70

sidera coeperunt toto effervescere caelo :
neu regio foret ulla suis animantibus orba,
astra tenent caeleste solum formaeque deorum ;
cesserunt nitidis habitandae piscibus undae ;
terra feras cepit, volucres agitabilis aer. 75

Sanctius his animal mentisque capacius altae
deerat adhuc, et quod dominari in cetera posset,
natus homo est: sive hunc divino semine fecit
ille opifex rerum, mundi melioris origo,

8 i. The Creation and the Flood. [Metam.

sive recens tellus,seductaque nuper ab alto 80

aethere,cognati retinebat semina caeli,

quam satus Iapeto, mixtam fluvialibus undis,

finxit in effigiem moderantum cuncta deorum.

pronaque cum spectent animalia cetera terram,

os homini sublime dedit, caelumque tueri 85

jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.

sic, modo quae fuerat rudis et sine imagine, tellus

induit ignotas hominum conversa figuras.

Aurea prima sata est aetas, quae vindice nullo,
sponte sua, sine lege fidem rectumque colebat. 90

poena metusque aberant, nee verba minacia fixo
aere legebantur, nee supplex turba timebat
judicis ora sui, sed erant sine judice tuti.
nondum caesa suis, peregrinum ut viseret orbem,
montibus in liquidas pinus descenderat undas, 95

nullaque mortales praeter sua litora norant.
nondum praecipites cingebant oppida fossae :
non tuba directi, non aeris cornua flexi,
non galeae, non ensis erant; sine militis usu
mollia securae peragebant otia gentes. 100

ipsa quoque imraunis rastroque intacta, nee ullis
saucia vomeribus, per se dabat omnia tellus :
contentique cibis nullo cogente creatis,
arbuteos fetus montanaque fraga legebant,
cornaque et in duris haerentia mora rubetis, 105

et quae deciderant patula Jovis arbore glandes.
ver erat aeternum, placidique tepentibus auris
mulcebant zephyri natos sine semine flores.
mox etiam fruges tellus inarata ferebat,
nee renovatus ager gravidis canebat aristis : no

flumina jam lactis, jam flumina nectaris ibant,
flavaque de viridi stillabant ilice mella.

Postquam Saturno tenebrosa in Tartara misso

I. 147.] The Four Ages. 9

sub Jove mundus erat, subiit argentca proles,

auro deterior, fulvo pretiosior aere. 115

Juppiter antiqui contraxit tempora veris,

perque hiemes aestusque et inaequales autumnos

et breve ver spatiis exegit quattuor annum.

turn primum siccis aer fervoribus ustus

canduit, et ventis glacies adstricta pependit. 120

turn primum subiere domus : domus antra fuerunt

et densi frutices et vinctae cortice virgae.

semina turn primum longis Cerealia sulcis

obruta sunt, pressique jugo gemuere juvenci.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online Library43 B.C.-17 or 18 A.D OvidPvbli Ovidi Nasonis. Poemata qvaedam excerpta. Selections from the poems of Ovid, chiefly from the Metamorphoses; → online text (page 1 of 21)