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"flavaque de viridi stillabant ilice mella." —Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Bk.I:112
The Metamorphoses, completed in 8 AD, is a Narrative Poem by the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso, better known today as Ovid. The fifteen books of the poem consist of many stories from Greek and Roman mythology.
These stories range from the origin of the world from Chaos to the deification of Caesar and the celebration of Augustus's rule over Rome. Countless tales from mythology are told in between, including the stories of "Apollo and Daphne," "Orpheus and Eurydice," "Baucis and Philemon," "Daedalus and Icarus," et cetera.
The Metamorphoses has served as an enormous influence throughout the ages; today, it remains one of the best classical sources for many myths. Shakespeare, notably, borrowed from or was inspired by various stories in the collection. Romeo and Juliet parallels many aspects of "Pyramus and Thisbe", a myth which also appears as a play within a play in A Midsummer Nights Dream. In Act V of The Tempest, one of Prospero's speeches is strikingly similar to a speech Medea makes in Book VII of The Metamorphoses. Additionally, Titus Andronicus bears various similarities to the story of Philomena, and Lavinia actually points out the passage to tell her father and uncle what had happened to her.
The Metamorphoses provides examples of:
- Adam and Eve Plot: The story of Deucalion and Pyrrha.
- All-Star Cast: The stories center on many well known figures and heroes. The Calydonian Boar Hunt in particular brings many of them together.
- A Load of Bull: The Minotaur.
- Angel Unaware
- The Archer: Paris is at one point seen firing arrows at unsuspecting Greeks; with Apollo's help, he even kills Achilles.
- Author Tract: Possibly Pythagoras' hella long speech near the end of the poem.
- Baleful Polymorph: Many examples, inflicted upon mere mortals by the gods.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Midas.
- Bifauxnen: Apparently Iphis, considering that Ianthe (who ignores her true gender) can't wait for their wedding night...
- Bittersweet Ending: More often than not.
- Blind Seer: Tiresias.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Oh so many. There is a graphic depiction of a satyr being flayed alive for judging against Apollo in a musical contest. Additionally, Actaeon is transformed into a stag and torn apart by his own dogs (See Does Not Like Men, below).
- Dead Baby Comedy: Icarus' death is written in a playful manner in the original Latin. In English, the humor has been Lost in Translation.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Juno, especially. For example, she sends a horrific plague upon the island of Aegina, killing hundreds. Why? Because the island is named after a woman who slept with Jupiter, king of the gods. See also the above example of the flaying.
- Does Not Like Men: Diana. She reacts poorly when Actaeon accidentally stumbles across the pool where she's bathing.
- Driven by Envy
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin
- Extra Eyes: Argus, though they don't help him once he falls asleep.
- Friend to All Living Things: Orpheus.
- Food Chains: Persephone in the Underworld.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Daedalus. Also his young nephew, Perdix/Talus, who gets tossed down the Acropolis and turned into a bird.
- Gender Bender: Mostly female-to-male transformations, though Tiresias went male-to-female and back again.
- Gotterdammerung: The beginning of the poem, with the deposing of the Titans.
- The Great Flood
- Happily Married: Baucis and Philemon.
- Hide Your Lesbians: Despite their love, Iphis can't be happy with Ianthe until she's finally turned into a boy. Mainly because of Values Dissonance.
- I Want Grandkids: Said to Daphne by her father. Often.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Medea. Unlike in other versions of the story where she is a tragic figure, Ovid's version has her using her magic to kill random people for no reason, even before Jason ever wrongs her. No explanation is ever given for her actions.
- Jumping the Gender Barrier: Iphis for Ianthe.
- Love At First Sight: Not that it's requited, mind you.
- Love Imbues Life: Galatea.
- Love Makes You Crazy
- Metamorphosis: Mostly into birds and trees, and mostly as punishment.
- The Mourning After: Defied with Baucis and Philemon; their wish to die at the same time is granted by the gods.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Ovid uses language and style associated with epics to describe things like the appetizers in Roman peasants' dinner.
- Offing the Offspring
- Our Werewolves Are Different: The gods punish Lycaon by transforming him into a wolf.
- The Power of Love
- Plot Hole: There are several, since it is based on conflicting mythology.
- Pygmalion Plot: One of the stories told in the poem, and one of the few with a truly happy ending.
- Raised as the Opposite Gender: Iphis' mother raises her daughter as a boy on divine orders to avoid exposing her at birth.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Iphis and Ianthe, though the former doesn't dare to reveal her true sex and the latter thinks (s)he's her groom-to-be.
- Sacred Hospitality: Hospitality is extremely important, particularly in the Baucis and Philemon story. They get turned into trees for their trouble (it's actually rather sweet).
- Scylla and Charybdis: Faced by Aeneas at one point.
- Second Hand Storytelling: The whole thing is a collection of earlier myths and folktales, which are occasionally told by characters in-story. If you're not paying close attention, it can get confusing...
- Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter: Myrrha, after she gets pregnant with her father's child. She gets turned into a myrrh tree, but still gives birth to a boy.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Pyramus and Thisbe.
- Talking the Monster to Death
- To Hell and Back: Orpheus and Eurydice.
- Trapped in Another World: Persephone is abducted and brought to the Underworld.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Not very common (except when used by gods), but the daughter of Erysichthon has this ability.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Since Iphis' father wanted a male heir so badly, her true sex was concealed and she was raised as a man.
- Woman Scorned: Juno and Medea are the most egregious examples.
- Word of Dante
- You Can't Fight Fate: With the Greek myths, which take up a good three-quarters of the poem. The Roman myths? Not so much.
- You Can't Go Home Again: This was the case for Aeneas in one of the many stories, who had escaped the recently destroyed Troy.
- ↑ (And golden honey was dripping from a green oak tree.)