The Metamorphoses of Ovid

by Ovid

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Phaëton, insulted by Epaphus, goes to the Palace of Apollo, to beseech him to give some token that he is his son. Apollo, having sworn, by the river Styx, to refuse him nothing that he should desire, he immediately asks to guide his chariot for one day. He is unsuccessful in the attempt, and, the horses running away, the world is in danger of being consumed.

The palace of the Sun was raised high, on stately columns, bright with radiant gold, and carbuncle that rivals the flames; polished ivory covered its highest top, and double folding doors shone with the brightness of silver. The workmanship even exceeded the material; for there Mulciber had carved the sea circling round the encompassed Earth; and the orb of the Earth, and the Heavens which hang over that orb. There the waves have in them the azure Deities, both Triton, sounding with his shell, and the changing Proteus, and Ægeon,1 pressing the huge backs of whales with his arms; Doris,2 too, and her daughters, part of whom appear to be swimming, part, sitting on the bank, to be drying their green hair; some are seen borne upon fishes. The features in all are not the same, nor, however, remarkably different: they are such as those of sisters ought to be. The Earth has upon it men and cities, and woods, and wild beasts, and rivers, and Nymphs, and other Deities of the country. Over these is placed the figure of the shining Heaven, and there are six Signs of the Zodiac on the right door, and as many on the left.

58II. 19-49

Soon as the son of Clymene had arrived thither by an ascending path, and entered the house of his parent, thus doubted of; he immediately turned his steps to the presence 47 II. 20-57 of his father, and stood at a distance, for he could not bear the refulgence nearer. Arrayed in a purple garment, Phœbus was seated on a throne sparkling with brilliant emeralds. On his right hand, and on his left, the Days, the Months, the Years, the Ages, and the Hours were arranged, at corresponding distances, and the fresh Spring was standing, crowned with a chaplet of blossoms; Summer was standing naked, and wearing garlands made of ears of corn; Autumn, too, was standing besmeared with the trodden-out grapes; and icy Winter, rough with his hoary hair.

Then the Sun, from the midst of this place, with those eyes with which he beholds all things, sees the young man struck with fear at the novelty of these things, and says, “What is the occasion of thy journey hither? What dost thou seek, Phaëton, in this my palace, a son not to be denied by his parent?”

He answers, “O thou universal Light of the unbounded World, Phœbus, my father, if thou grantest me the use of that name; and if Clymene is not concealing an error under a false pretext, give me, my parent, some token, by which I may be believed to be really thy progeny; and remove this uncertainty from my mind.” Thus he spoke; but his parent took off the rays shining all around his head, and commanded him to come nearer; and, having embraced him, he says, “And neither art thou deserving to be denied to be mine, and Clymene has told thee thy true origin; and that thou mayst have the less doubt, ask any gift thou mayst please, that thou mayst receive it from me bestowing it. Let the lake, by which the Gods are wont to swear, and which is unseen, even by my eyes, be as a witness of my promise.”

Hardly had he well finished, when he asks for his father’s chariot, and for the command and guidance of the wing-footed horses for one day. His father repented that he had so sworn, and shaking his splendid head 59 II. 49-77 three or four times, he said, “By thine have my words been made rash. I wish I were allowed not to grant what I have promised! I confess, my son, that this alone I would deny thee. Still, I may dissuade thee: thy desire is not attended with safety. Thou desirest, Phaëton, a gift too great, and one which is suited neither to thy strength, nor to such youthful years. Thy lot is that of a mortal; that which thou desirest, belongs not to mortals. Nay, thou 48 II. 57-86 aimest, in thy ignorance, at even more than it is allowed the Gods above to obtain. Let every one be self-satisfied, if he likes; still, with the exception of myself, no one is able to take his stand upon the fire-bearing axle-tree. Even the Ruler of vast Olympus, who hurls the ruthless bolts with his terrific right hand, cannot guide this chariot; and yet, what have we greater than Jupiter? The first part of the road is steep, and such as the horses, though fresh in the morning, can hardly climb. In the middle of the heavens it is high aloft, from whence it is often a source of fear, even to myself, to look down upon the sea and the earth, and my breast trembles with fearful apprehensions. The last stage is a steep descent, and requires a sure command of the horses. Then, too, Tethys3 herself, who receives me in her waves, extended below, is often wont to fear, lest I should be borne headlong from above. Besides, the heavens are carried round4 with a constant rotation, and carry with them the lofty stars, and whirl them with rapid revolution. Against this I have to contend; and that force which overcomes all other things, does not overcome me; and I am carried in a contrary direction to the rapid world. Suppose the chariot given to thee; what couldst thou do? Couldst thou proceed, opposed to the whirling poles, so that the rapid heavens should not carry thee away? Perhaps, too, thou dost fancy in thy mind that there are groves, and cities of the Gods, and temples 60 II. 77-103 enriched with gifts: whereas, the way is through dangers, and the forms of wild beasts;5 and though thou shouldst keep on thy road, and be drawn aside by no wanderings, still thou must pass amid the horns of the threatening Bull, and the Hæmonian6 bow, and before the visage of the raging Lion, and the Scorpion, bending his cruel claws with a wide compass, and the Crab, that bends his claws in a different manner; nor is it easy for thee to govern the 49 II. 86-121 steeds spirited by those fires which they have in their breasts, and which they breathe forth from their mouths and their nostrils. Hardly are they restrained by me, when their high-mettled spirit is once heated, and their necks struggle against the reins. But do thou have a care, my son, that I be not the occasion of a gift fatal to thee, and while the matter still permits, alter thy intentions. Thou askest, forsooth, a sure proof that thou mayst believe thyself sprung from my blood? I give thee a sure proof in thus being alarmed for thee; and by my paternal apprehensions, I am shown to be thy father. Lo, behold my countenance! I wish, too, that thou couldst direct thy eyes into my breast, and discover my fatherly concern within! Finally, look around thee, upon whatever the rich world contains, and ask for anything out of the blessings, so many and so great, of heaven, of earth, and of sea; and thou shalt suffer no denial. In this one thing alone I beg to be excused, which, called by its right name, is a penalty, and not an honor; thou art asking, Phaëton, a punishment instead of a gift. Why, in thy ignorance, art thou embracing my neck with caressing arms? Doubt not; whatever thou shalt desire shall be granted thee (by the Stygian waves I have sworn it); but do thou make thy desire more considerately.”

He had finished his admonitions; and yet Phaëton 61 II. 103-129 resists his advice, and presses his point, and burns with eagerness for the chariot. Wherefore, his parent having delayed as long as he could, leads the young man to the lofty chariot, the gift of Vulcan. The axle-tree was of gold, the poles were of gold; the circumference of the exterior of the wheel was of gold; the range of the spokes was of silver. Chrysolites and gems placed along the yoke in order, gave a bright light from the reflected sun. And while the aspiring Phaëton is admiring these things, and is examining the workmanship, behold! the watchful Aurora opened her purple doors in the ruddy east, and her halls filled with roses. The stars disappear, the troops whereof Lucifer gathers, and moves the last from his station in the heavens. But the father Titan, when he beheld the earth and the universe growing red, and the horns of the far-distant Moon, as if about to vanish, orders the swift Hours to yoke the horses. The Goddesses speedily perform his commands, and lead forth the steeds from the lofty stalls, 50 II. 121-148 snorting forth flames, and filled with the juice of Ambrosia; and then they put on the sounding bits.

Then the father touched the face of his son with a hallowed drug, and made it able to endure the burning flames, and placed the rays upon his locks, and fetching from his troubled heart sighs presaging his sorrow, he said: “If thou canst here at least, my boy, obey the advice of thy father, be sparing of the whip, and use the bridle with nerve. Of their own accord they are wont to hasten on; the difficulty is to check them in their full career. And let not the way attract thee through the five direct circles.7 There is a track cut 62 II. 130-164 obliquely, with a broad curvature, and bounded by the extremities of three zones, and so it shuns the South pole, and the Bear united to the North. Let thy way be here; thou wilt perceive distinct traces of the wheels. And that heaven and earth may endure equal heat, neither drive too low, nor urge the chariot along the summit of the sky. Going forth too high, thou wilt set on fire the signs of the heavens; too low, the earth; in the middle course thou will go most safely. Neither let the right wheel bear thee off towards the twisted Serpent, nor let the left lead thee to the low Altar; hold thy course between them. The rest I leave to Fortune, who, I pray, may aid thee, and take more care of thee, than thou dost of thyself. Whilst I am speaking, the moist Night has touched the goals placed on the Western shores; delay is not allowed me. I am required; the Morning is shining forth, the darkness being dispersed. Seize the reins with thy hands; or if thou hast a mind capable of change, make use of my advice, and not my chariot, while thou art still able, and art even yet standing upon solid ground; and while thou art not yet in thy ignorance filling the chariot that thou didst so unfortunately covet.”

51II. 149-181

The other leaps into the light chariot with his youthful body, and stands aloft, and rejoices to take in his hand the reins presented to him, and then gives thanks to his reluctant parent. In the meantime the swift Pyroeis, and Eoüs and Æthon, the horses of the sun, and Phlegon, making the fourth, fill the air with neighings, sending forth flames, and beat the barriers with their feet. After Tethys, ignorant of the destiny of her grandson, had removed these, and the scope of the boundless universe was given them, they take the road, and moving their feet through the air, they cleave the resisting clouds, and raised aloft by their wings, they pass by the East winds that had arisen from the same parts. But the weight was light; and such as the horses of the sun could not feel; and the yoke was deficient of its wonted weight. And as the curving ships, without proper ballast, are tossed about, and unsteady, through their too great lightness, are borne through 63 II. 165-191 the sea, so does the chariot give bounds8 in the air, unimpeded by its usual burden, and is tossed on high, and is just like an empty one.

Soon as the steeds have perceived this, they rush on, and leave the beaten track, and run not in the order in which they did before. He himself becomes alarmed; and knows not which way to turn the reins entrusted to him, nor does he know where the way is, nor, if he did know, could he control them. Then, for the first time, did the cold Triones grow warm with sunbeams, and attempt, in vain, to be dipped in the sea that was forbidden to them. And the Serpent which is situate next to the icy pole, being before torpid with cold, and formidable to no one, grew warm, and regained new rage from the heat. They say, too,9 that thou, Boötes, being disturbed, took to flight; although thou wast but slow, and thy wain impeded thee. But when, from the height of the skies, the unhappy Phaëton looked down upon the earth, lying far, very far beneath, he grew pale, and his knees shook with a sudden terror; and in a light so great, darkness overspread 52 II. 181-216 his eyes. And now he could wish that he had never touched the horses of his father; and now he is sorry that he knew his descent, and that he prevailed in his request; now desiring to be called the son of Merops. He is borne along, just as a ship driven by the furious Boreas, to which its pilot has given up the overpowered helm, and which he has resigned to the Gods and the effect of his supplications. What can he do? much of heaven is left behind his back; still more is before his eyes. Either space he measures in his mind; and at one moment he is looking forward to the West, which it is not allowed him by fate to reach; and sometimes he looks back upon the East. Ignorant what to do, he is stupeified; 64 II. 191-217 and he neither lets go the reins, nor is he able to retain them; nor does he know the names of the horses. In his fright, too, he sees strange objects scattered everywhere in various parts of the heavens, and the forms of huge wild beasts. There is a spot where the Scorpion bends his arms into two curves, and with his tail and claws bending on either side, he extends his limbs through the space of two signs of the Zodiac. As soon as the youth beheld him wet with the sweat of black venom, and threatening wounds with the barbed point of his tail, bereft of sense, he let go the reins, in a chill of horror. Soon as they, falling down, have touched the top of their backs, the horses range at large: and no one restraining them, they go through the air of an unknown region; and where their fury drives them thither, without check, do they hurry along, and they rush on to the stars fixed in the sky, and drag the chariot through pathless places. One while they are mounting aloft, and now they are borne through steep places, and along headlong paths in a tract nearer to the earth.

The Moon, too, wonders that her brother’s horses run lower than her own, and the scorched clouds send forth smoke. As each region is most elevated, it is caught by the flames, and cleft, it makes vast chasms, and becomes dry, its moisture being carried away. The grass grows pale; the trees, with their foliage, are burnt up; and the dry standing corn affords fuel for its own destruction. But I am complaining of trifling ills. Great cities perish, together with their fortifications, and the flames turn whole nations, with their populations, into ashes; woods, together with mountains, 53 II. 216-223 are on fire. Athos10 burns, and the Cilician Taurus,11 and Tmolus,12 65 II. 217-226 and Œta,13 and Ida,14 now dry, but once most famed for its springs; and Helicon,15 the resort of the Virgin Muses, and Hæmus,16 not yet called Œagrian. Ætna17 burns intensely with redoubled flames, and Parnassus, with its two summits, and Eryx,18 and Cynthus,19 and Othrys, and Rhodope,20 at length to be despoiled of its snows, and Mimas,21 and Dindyma,22 and Mycale,23 and Cithæron,24 created for the 54 II. 223-241 performance of sacred rites. Nor does its cold avail even Scythia; Caucasus25 is on fire, and Ossa with Pindus, and Olympus, greater than them both, and the lofty Alps,26 and the cloud-bearing Apennines.27

66II. 227-243

Then, indeed, Phaëton beholds the world set on fire on all sides, and he cannot endure heat so great, and he inhales with his mouth scorching air, as though from a deep furnace, and perceives his own chariot to be on fire. And neither is he able now to bear the ashes and the emitted embers; and, on every side, he is involved in heated smoke. Covered with a pitchy darkness, he knows not whither he is going, nor where he is, and is hurried away at the pleasure of the winged steeds. They believe that it was then that the nations of the Æthiopians contracted their black hue,28 the blood being attracted into the surface of the body. Then was Libya29 made dry by the heat, the moisture being carried off; then, with dishevelled hair, the Nymphs lamented the springs and the lakes. Bœotia bewails Dirce,30 Argos Amymone,31 and Ephyre32 the waters of Pirene. Nor do rivers that have got banks distant in 55 II. 241-251 situation, remain secure; Tanais33 smokes in the midst of its waters, and the aged Peneus, and Teuthrantian 67 II. 243-251 Caïcus,34 and rapid Ismenus,35 with Phocean Erymanthus,36 and Xanthus37 again to burn, and yellow Lycormas,38 and Mæander,39 which sports with winding streams, and the Mygdonian Melas,40 and the Tænarian Eurotas.41 The Babylonian Euphrates, too, was on fire, Orontes42 was in flames, and the swift Thermodon43 and Ganges,44 and Phasis,45 and Ister.46 Alpheus47 boils; the banks of Spercheus burn; and the gold which Tagus48 carries 56 II. 251-276 with its stream, melts in the flames. 68 II. 252-275 The river birds too, which made famous the Mæonian49 banks of the river with their song, grew hot in the middle of Caÿster. The Nile, affrighted, fled to the remotest parts of the earth, and concealed his head, which still lies hid; his seven last mouths are empty, become seven mere channels, without any stream. The same fate dries up the Ismarian rivers, Hebrus together with Strymon,50 and the Hesperian51 streams, the Rhine, and the Rhone, and the Po, and the Tiber, to which was promised the sovereignty of the world.

All the ground bursts asunder; and through the chinks, the light penetrates into Tartarus, and startles the Infernal King with his spouse. The Ocean too, is contracted, and that which lately was sea, is a surface of parched sand; and the mountains which the deep sea had covered, start up and increase the number of the scattered Cyclades.52 The fishes sink to the bottom, and the crooked Dolphins do not care to raise themselves on the surface into the air, as usual. The bodies of sea calves float lifeless on their backs, on the top of the water. The story, too, is, that even Nereus himself, and Doris and their daughters, lay hid in the heated caverns. Three times had Neptune ventured, with a stern countenance, to thrust his arms out of the water; three times he was unable to endure the scorching heat of the air. However, the genial Earth, as she was surrounded with sea, amid the waters of the main, and the springs, dried up on every side, which had hidden themselves in the bowels of their cavernous parent, burnt-up, lifted up her all-productive face53 as far as 69 II. 275-302 her neck, and placed her hands to her forehead, 57 II. 276-303 and shaking all things with a vast trembling, she sank down a little, and retired below the spot where she is wont to be, and thus she spoke, with a parched voice: “O sovereign of the Gods, if thou approvest of this, if I have deserved it, why do thy lightnings linger? Let me, if doomed to perish by the force of fire, perish by thy flames; and alleviate my misfortune, by being the author of it. With difficulty, indeed, do I open my mouth for these very words;” (the vapor had oppressed her utterance.) “Behold my scorched hair, and such a quantity of ashes over my eyes, so much too, over my features. And dost thou give this as my recompense? this, as the reward of my fertility and of my duty, in that I endure wounds from the crooked plough and harrows, and am harassed all the year through? In that I supply green leaves for the cattle, and corn, a wholesome food for mankind, and frankincense for yourselves? But still, suppose that I am deserving of destruction, why have the waves deserved this? Why has thy brother deserved it? Why do the seas, delivered to him by lot, decrease, and why do they recede still further from the sky? But if regard for neither thy brother nor for myself influences thee, still have consideration for thy own skies; look around, on either side, how each pole is smoking; if the fire shall injure them, thy palace will fall in ruins. See! Atlas54 himself is struggling, and hardly can he bear the glowing heavens on his shoulders. If the sea, if the earth perishes, if the palace of heaven, we are thrown55 into the confused state of ancient chaos. Save it from the flames, if aught still survives, and provide for the preservation of the universe.”

Thus spoke the Earth; nor, indeed, could she any longer endure the vapor, nor say more; and she withdrew 70 II. 303-304 her face within herself, and the caverns neighboring to the shades below.


If we were to regard this fable solely as an allegory intended to convey 58 II. 304-310 a moral, we should at once perceive that the adventure of Phaëton represents the wilful folly of a rash young man, who consults his own inclination, rather than the dictates of wisdom and prudence. Some ancient writers tell us that Phaëton was the son of Phœbus and Clymene, while others make the nymph Rhoda to have been his mother. Apollodorus, following Hesiod, says that Hersa, the daughter of Cecrops, king of Athens, was the mother of Cephalus, who was carried away by Aurora; which probably means that he left Greece for the purpose of settling in the East. Cephalus had a son named Tithonus, the father of Phaëton. Thus Phaëton was the fourth in lineal descent from Cecrops, who reigned at Athens about 1580, B.C. The story is most probably based upon the fact of some excessive heat that happened in his time. Aristotle supposes that at that period flames fell from heaven, which ravaged several countries. Possibly the burning of the cities of the plain, or the stay of the sun in his course at the command of Joshua, may have been the foundation of the story. St. Chrysostom suggests that it is based upon an imperfect version of the ascent of Elijah in a chariot of fire; that name, or rather ‘Elias,’ the Greek form of it, bearing a strong resemblance to Ἥλιος, the Greek name of the sun. Vossius suggests that this is an Egyptian history, and considers the story of the grief of Phœbus for the loss of his son to be another version of the sorrows of the Egyptians for the death of Osiris. The tears of the Heliades, or sisters of Phaëton, he conceives to be identical with the lamentations of the women who wept for the death of Thammuz. The Poet, when he tells us that Phaëton abandoned his chariot on seeing The Scorpion, probably intends to show that the event of which he treats happened in the month in which the sun enters that sign.

Plutarch and Tzetzes tell us that Phaëton was a king of the Molossians, who drowned himself in the Po; that he was a student of astronomy, and foretold an excessive heat which happened in his reign, and laid waste his kingdom. Lucian, also, in his Discourse on Astronomy, gives a similar explanation of the story, and says that this prince dying very young, left his observations imperfect, which gave rise to the fable that he did not know how to drive the chariot of the sun to the end of its course.


Jupiter, to save the universe from being consumed, hurls his thunder at Phaëton, on which he falls headlong into the river Eridanus.

But the omnipotent father, having called the Gods 71 II. 305-330 above to witness, and him, too, who had given the chariot to Phaëton, that unless he gives assistance, all things will perish in direful ruin, mounts aloft to the highest eminence, from which he is wont to spread the clouds over the spacious earth; from which he moves his thunders, and hurls the brandished lightnings. But then, he had neither clouds that he could 59 II. 310-335 draw over the earth, nor showers that he could pour down from the sky. He thundered aloud, and darted the poised lightning from his right ear against the charioteer, and at the same moment deprived him both of his life and his seat, and by his ruthless fires restrained the flames. The horses are affrighted, and, making a bound in an opposite direction, they shake the yoke from off their necks, and disengage themselves from the torn harness. In one place lie the reins; in another, the axle-tree wrenched away from the pole; in another part are the spokes of the broken wheels; and the fragments of the chariot torn in pieces are scattered far and wide. But Phaëton, the flames consuming his yellow hair, is hurled headlong, and is borne in a long tract through the air; as sometimes a star from the serene sky may appear to fall, although it really has not fallen. Him the great Eridanus receives, in a part of the world far distant from his country, and bathes his foaming face.


The sisters of Phaëton are changed into poplars, and their tears become amber distilling from those trees.

The Hesperian Naiads56 commit his body, smoking from the three-forked flames, to the tomb, and inscribe these verses on the stone:—“Here is Phaëton buried, the driver of his father’s chariot, which if he did not manage, still he miscarried in a great attempt.” But his wretched father had hidden his face, overcast with bitter sorrow, and, if only we can believe it, they say 72 II. 331-359 that one day passed without the sun.57 The flames afforded light; and so far, there was some advantage in that disaster. But Clymene, after she had said whatever things were to be said amid misfortunes so great, traversed the whole earth, full of woe, and distracted, and tearing her bosom. 60 II. 335-366 And first seeking his lifeless limbs, and then his bones, she found his bones, however, buried on a foreign bank. She laid herself down on the spot; and bathed with tears the name she read on the marble, and warmed it with her open breast. The daughters of the Sun mourn no less, and give tears, an unavailing gift, to his death; and beating their breasts with their hands, they call Phaëton both night and day, who is doomed not to hear their sad complaints; and they lie scattered about the tomb.

The Moon had four times filled her disk, by joining her horns; they, according to their custom (for use had made custom), uttered lamentations; among whom Phaëthusa, the eldest of the sisters, when she was desirous to lie on the ground, complained that her feet had grown stiff; to whom the fair Lampetie attempting to come, was detained by a root suddenly formed. A third, when she is endeavoring to tear her hair with her hands, tears off leaves; one complains that her legs are held fast by the trunk of a tree, another that her arms are become long branches. And while they are wondering at these things, bark closes upon their loins; and by degrees, it encompasses their stomachs, their breasts, their shoulders, and their hands; and only their mouths are left uncovered, calling upon their mother. What is their mother to do? but run here and there, whither frenzy leads her, and join her lips with theirs, while yet she may? That is not enough; she tries to pull their bodies out of the trunks of the trees, and with her hands to tear away the tender 73 II. 360-380 branches; but from thence drops of blood flow as from a wound. Whichever of them is wounded, cries out, “Spare me, mother, O spare me, I pray; in the tree my body is being torn. And now farewell.” The bark came over the last words.

Thence tears flow forth; and amber distilling from the new-formed branches, hardens in the sun; which the clear river receives and sends to be worn by the Latian matrons.

61II. 367-391


Cycnus, king of Liguria, inconsolable for the death of Phaëton, is transformed into a swan.

Cycnus, the son of Sthenelus,58 was present at this strange event; who, although he was related to thee, Phaëton, on his mother’s side, was yet more nearly allied in affection. He having left his kingdom (for he reigned over the people and the great cities of the Ligurians59) was filling the verdant banks and the river Eridanus, and the wood, now augmented by the sisters, with his complaints; when the man’s voice became shrill, and gray feathers concealed his hair. A long neck, too, extends from his breast, and a membrane joins his reddening toes; feathers clothe his sides, and his mouth holds a bill without a point. Cycnus becomes a new bird; but he trusts himself not to the heavens or the air, as being mindful of the fire unjustly sent from thence. He frequents the pools and the wide lakes, and abhorring fire, he chooses the streams, the very contrary of flames.

74II. 381-400

Meanwhile, the father of Phaëton, in squalid garb, and destitute of his comeliness, just as he is wont to be when he suffers an eclipse of his disk, abhors both the light, himself, and the day; and gives his mind up to grief, and adds resentment to his sorrow, and denies his services to the world. “My lot,” says he, “has been restless enough from the very beginning of time, and I am tired of labors endured by me, without end and without honor. Let any one else drive the chariot that carries the light. If there is no one, and all the Gods confess that they cannot do it, let Jupiter himself drive it; that, at least, while he is trying my reins, he may for a time lay aside the lightnings that bereave fathers. Then he will know, 62 II. 392-408 having made trial of the strength of the flame-footed steeds, that he who did not successfully guide them, did not deserve death.”

All the Deities stand around the Sun, as he says such things; and they entreat him, with suppliant voice, not to determine to bring darkness over the world. Jupiter, as well, excuses the hurling of his lightnings, and imperiously adds threats to entreaties. Phœbus calls together his steeds, maddened and still trembling with terror, and, subduing them, vents his fury both with whip and lash; for he is furious, and upbraids them with his son, and charges his death upon them.


Plutarch places the tomb of Phaëton on the banks of the river Po; and it is not improbable that his mother and sisters, grieving at his fate, ended their lives in the neighborhood of his tomb, being overcome with grief, which gave rise to the story that they were changed into the poplars on its banks, which distilled amber. Some writers say, that they were changed into larch trees, and not poplars. Hesiod and Pindar also make mention of this tradition. Possibly, Cycnus, being a friend of Phaëton, may have died from grief at his loss, on which the poets graced his attachment with the story that he was changed into a swan. Apollodorus mentions two other persons of the name of Cycnus. One was the son of Mars, and was killed before Troy; the other, as Hesiod tells us, was killed by Hercules. Lucian, in his satirical vein, tells us, that inquiring on the banks of the Po for the swans, and the poplars distilling amber, he was told that no such things had ever been seen there; and that even the tradition of Phaëton and his sisters was utterly unknown to the inhabitants of those parts.

75II. 401-422


Jupiter, while taking a survey of the world, to extinguish the remains of the fire, falls in love with Calisto, whom he sees in Arcadia; and, in order to seduce that Nymph, he assumes the form of Diana. Her sister Nymphs disclose her misfortune before the Goddess, who drives her from her company, on account of the violation of her vow of chastity.

But the omnipotent father surveys the vast walls of heaven, and carefully searches, that no part, impaired by the violence of the fire, may fall to ruin. After he has seen them to be secure and in their own full strength, he examines the earth, and the works of man; yet a care for his own Arcadia is more particularly his object. He restores, too, the springs and the rivers, that had not yet dared to flow, he gives grass to the earth: green leaves to the trees; and orders the injured forests 63 II. 408-438 again to be green. While thus he often went to and fro, he stopped short on seeing a virgin of Nonacris, and the fires engendered within his bones received fresh heat. It was not her employment to soften the wool by teasing, nor to vary her tresses in their arrangement; while a buckle fastened her garment, and a white fillet her hair, carelessly flowing; and at one time she bore in her hand a light javelin, at another, a bow. She was a warrior of Phœbe; nor did any Nymph frequent Mænalus, more beloved by Trivia,60 than she; but no influence is of long duration. The lofty Sun had now obtained a position beyond the mid course, when she enters a grove which no generation had ever cut. Here she puts her quiver off from her shoulders, and unbends her pliant bow, and lies down on the ground, which the grass had covered, and presses her painted quiver, with her neck laid on it. When Jupiter saw her thus weary, and without a protector, 76 II. 423-449 he said, “For certain, my wife will know nothing of this stolen embrace; or, if she should chance to know, is her scolding, is it, I say, of such great consequence?”

Immediately he puts on the form and dress of Diana, and says, “O Virgin! one portion of my train, upon what mountains hast thou been hunting?” The virgin raises herself from the turf, and says, “Hail, Goddess! that art, in my opinion, greater than Jove, even if he himself should hear it.” He both smiles and he hears it, and is pleased at being preferred to himself; and he gives her kisses, not very moderate, nor such as would be given by a virgin. He stops her as she is preparing to tell him in what wood she has been hunting, by an embrace, and he does not betray himself without the commission of violence. She, indeed, on the other hand, as far as a woman could do (would that thou hadst seen her, daughter of Saturn, then thou wouldst have been more merciful), she, indeed, I say, resists; but what damsel, or who besides, could prevail against Jupiter? Jove, now the conqueror, seeks the heavens above; the grove and the conscious 64 II. 438-465 wood is now her aversion. Making her retreat thence, she is almost forgetting to take away her quiver with her arrows, and the bow which she had hung up.

Behold, Dictynna,61 attended by her train, as she goes along the lofty Mænalus, and exulting in the slaughter of the wild beasts, beholds her, and calls her, thus seen. Being so called, she drew back, and at first was afraid lest Jupiter might be under her shape; but after she saw the Nymphs walking along with her, she perceived that there was no deceit,62 and she approached their train. Alas! how difficult it is not to betray a crime by one’s looks! She scarce raises her eyes from the ground, nor, as she used to do, does she walk by the side of the Goddess, nor is she the foremost in the whole company; 77 II. 450-470 but she is silent, and by her blushes she gives signs of her injured honor. And Diana, but for the fact, that she is a virgin, might have perceived her fault by a thousand indications; the Nymphs are said to have perceived it.

The horns of the Moon were now rising again in her ninth course, when the hunting Goddess, faint from her brother’s flames, lighted on a cool grove, out of which a stream ran, flowing with its murmuring noise, and borne along the sand worn fine by its action. When she had approved of the spot, she touched the surface of the water with her foot; and commending it as well, she says, “All overlookers are far off; let us bathe our bodies, with the stream poured over them.” She of Parrhasia63 blushed; they all put off their clothes; she alone sought an excuse for delay. Her garment was removed as she hesitated, which being put off, her fault was exposed with her naked body. Cynthia said to her, in confusion, and endeavoring to conceal her stomach with her hands, “Begone afar hence! and pollute not the sacred springs;” and she ordered her to leave her train.

65II. 465-486


Juno, being jealous that Calisto has attracted Jupiter, transforms her into a Bear. Her son, Arcas, not recognizing his mother in that shape, is about to kill her; but Jupiter removes them both to the skies, where they form the Constellations of the Great and the Little Bear. The raven, as a punishment for his garrulity, is changed from white to black.

The spouse of the great Thunderer had perceived this some time before, and had put off the severe punishment designed for her, to a proper time. There is now no reason for delay; and now the boy Arcas (that, too, was a grief to Juno) was born of the mistress of her husband. Wherefore, she turned her thoughts, full of 78 II. 470-494 resentment, and her eyes upon her, and said, “This thing, forsooth, alone was wanting, thou adulteress, that thou shouldst be pregnant, and that my injury should become notorious by thy labors, and that thereby the disgraceful conduct of my husband, Jupiter, should be openly declared. Thou shalt not go unpunished; for I will spoil that shape of thine, on which thou pridest thyself, and by which thou, mischievous one,64 dost charm my husband.”

Thus she spoke; and seizing her straight in front by the hair,65 threw her on her face to the ground. She suppliantly stretched forth her arms; those arms began to grow rough with black hair,66 and her hands to be bent, and to increase to hooked claws, and to do the duty of feet, and the mouth, that was once admired by Jupiter, to become deformed with a wide opening; and lest her prayers, and words not needed, should influence her feelings, the power of speech is taken from her; an angry and threatening voice, and full of terror, is uttered from her hoarse throat. Still, her former understanding remains in her, even thus become a bear; and expressing her 66 II. 486-519 sorrows by her repeated groans, she lifts up her hands, such as they are, to heaven and to the stars, and she deems Jove ungrateful, though she cannot call him so. Ah! how often, not daring to rest in the lonely wood, did she wander about before her own house, and in the fields once her own. Ah! how often was she driven over the crags by the cry of the hounds; and, a huntress herself, she fled in alarm, through fear of the hunters! Often, seeing the wild beasts, did she 79 II. 494-521 lie concealed, forgetting what she was; and, a bear herself, dreaded the he-bears seen on the mountains, and was alarmed at the wolves, though her father was among them.

Behold! Arcas, the offspring of the daughter of Lycaon, ignorant of who is his parent, approaches her, thrice five birthdays being now nearly past; and while he is following the wild beasts, while he is choosing the proper woods, and is enclosing the Erymanthian forests67 with his platted nets, he meets with his mother. She stood still, upon seeing Arcas, and was like one recognizing another. He drew back, and, in his ignorance, was alarmed at her keeping her eyes fixed upon him without ceasing; and, as she was desirous to approach still nearer, he would have pierced her breast with the wounding spear. Omnipotent Jove averted this, and removed both them and such wickedness; and placed them, carried through vacant space with a rapid wind, in the heavens, and made them neighboring Constellations.

Juno swelled with rage after the mistress shone amid the stars, and descended on the sea to the hoary Tethys, and the aged Ocean, a regard for whom has often influenced the Gods; and said to them, inquiring the reason of her coming, “Do you inquire why I, the queen of the Gods, am come hither from the æthereal abodes? Another has possession of heaven in my stead. May I be deemed untruthful, if, when the night has made the world dark, you see not in the highest part of heaven stars but lately thus honored to my affliction; there, where the last and most limited circle surrounds the extreme part of the axis of the world. Is there, then, any ground why one should hesitate to affront Juno, and dread my being offended, who only benefit them by my resentment? 67 II. 520-550 See what a great thing I have done! How vast is my power! I forbade her to be of human shape; she has been made a Goddess; ’tis thus that I inflict punishment on offenders; such is my 80 II. 522-550 mighty power! Let him obtain for her her former shape, and let him remove this form of a wild beast; as he formerly did for the Argive Phoronis. Why does he not marry her as well, divorcing Juno, and place her in my couch, and take Lycaon for his father-in-law? But if the wrong done to your injured foster-child affects you, drive the seven Triones away from your azure waters, and expel the stars received into heaven as the reward of adultery, that a concubine may not be received into your pure waves.”

The Gods of the sea granted her request. The daughter of Saturn enters the liquid air in her graceful chariot,68 with her variegated peacocks; peacocks just as lately tinted, upon the killing of Argus, as thou, garrulous raven, hadst been suddenly transformed into a bird having black wings, whereas thou hadst been white before. For this bird was formerly of a silver hue, with snow-white feathers, so that he equalled the doves entirely without spot; nor would he give place to the geese that were to save the Capitol by their watchful voice, nor to the swan haunting the streams. His tongue was the cause of his disgrace; his chattering tongue being the cause, that the color which was white is now the reverse of white.

There was no one more beauteous in all Hæmonia than Larissæan69 Coronis. At least, she pleased thee, Delphian God, as long as she continued chaste, or was not the object of remark. But the bird of Phœbus found out her infidelity;70 and the inexorable informer winged his way to his master, that he might disclose the hidden offence. Him the prattling crow follows, with flapping wings, to make all inquiries of him. And having heard the occasion of his journey, she says, “Thou art going on a fruitless errand; do not despise the presages of my voice.”

81II. 550-564]68II. 550-567


Cicero (On the Nature of the Gods, Book iii.) tells us, that Lycaon had a daughter who delighted in the chase, and that Jupiter, the second of that name, the king of Arcadia, fell in love with her. This was the ground on which she was said to have been a favorite of Diana. The story of Calisto having been received into Heaven, and forming the Constellation of the Bear, was perhaps grounded on the fact of Lycaon, her father, having been the first known to take particular notice of this Constellation. The story of the request of Juno, that Tethys will not receive this new Constellation into the Ocean, is probably derived from the circumstance, that the Bear, as well as the other stars within the Arctic Circle, never sets.

Possibly, Arcas, the son of Calisto, dying at a youthful age, may have been the origin of the Constellation of the Lesser Bear.


A virgin, the favorite of Apollo, of the same name with Coronis, is changed into a crow, for a story which she tells Minerva, concerning the basket in which Ericthonius was enclosed.

“Consider what I was, and what I am, and inquire into my deserts. Thou wilt find that my fidelity was my ruin. For once upon a time, Pallas had enclosed Ericthonius, an offspring born without a mother, in a basket made of Actæan twigs; and had given it to keep to the three virgins born of the two-shaped71 Cecrops, and had given them this injunction, that they should not inquire into her secrets. I, being hidden among the light foliage, was watching from a thick elm what they were doing. Two of them, Pandrosos and Herse, observe their charge without any treachery; Aglauros alone calls her sisters cowards, and unties the knots with her hand; but within they behold a child, and a dragon extended by him. I told the Goddess what was done; for which such a return as this is made to me, that I am said to have been banished from the protection of Minerva, and am placed after the bird of the night. My punishment may warn birds not to incur 82 II. 564-590 dangers, by their chattering. But I consider that she courted me with no inclination of my own, nor asking for any such favors. This thou mayst ask of Pallas thyself; 69 II. 567-590 although she is angry, she will not, with all her anger, deny this. For Coroneus, one famous in the land of Phocis (I mention what is well known) begot me: and so I was a virgin of royal birth, and was courted by rich suitors (so despise me not). My beauty was the cause of my misfortune; for while I was passing with slow steps along the sea-shore, on the surface of the sand, as I was wont to do, the God of the Ocean beheld me, and was inflamed; and when he had consumed his time to no purpose, in entreating me with soft words, he prepared to use violence, and followed me. I fled, and I left the firm shore, and wearied myself in vain on the yielding sand. Then I invoked both Gods and men; but my voice did not reach any mortal. A virgin was moved for a virgin, and gave me assistance. I was extending my arms toward heaven; when those arms began to grow black with light feathers. I struggled to throw my garments from off my shoulders, but they were feathers, and had taken deep root in my skin. I tried to beat my naked breast with my hands, but I had now neither hands nor naked breast. I ran; and the sand did not retard my feet as before, and I was lifted up from the surface of the ground. After that, being lifted up, I was carried through the air, and was assigned, as a faultless companion, to Minerva. Yet what does this avail me, if Nyctimene, made a bird for a horrid crime, has succeeded me in my honor?”


Ericthonius was fabled to be the son, or foster-child, of Athene, or Minerva, perhaps because he was the son of the daughter of Cranaus, who had the name of Athene, by a priest of Vulcan, which Divinity was said to have been his progenitor. St. Augustine alleges that he was exposed, and found in a temple dedicated to Minerva and Vulcan. His name being composed of two words, ἔρις and χθὼν, signifying ‘contention,’ and ‘earth,’ Strabo imagines that he was the son of Vulcan and the Earth. But it seems that the real ground on which he was called by that name was, that he disputed the right to the crown of Athens with Amphictyon, on the death of Cranaus, the second king. Amphictyon prevailed, but Ericthonius succeeded him. To hide his legs, which were deformed, he is said 83 II. 590-605 to have invented chariots; though that is not likely, as Egypt, from which Greece had received many colonies, was acquainted with the use of them from the earliest times. He is also said to have instituted the festival of the Panathenæa, at Athens, whence, in process of time, it was adopted by the whole of Greece.

Hyginus tells us, that after his death he was received into heaven as the 70 II. 590-611 constellation ‘Auriga,’ or ‘the Charioteer;’ and he further informs us, that the deformity of his legs gave occasion to the saying, that he was half man and half a serpent. Apollodorus says that he was born in Attica; that he was the son of Cranaë, the daughter of Attis; and that he dethroned Amphictyon, and became the fourth king of Athens.


Nyctimene having entertained a criminal passion for her father, Nycteus, the Gods, to punish her incest, transform her into an owl. Apollo pierces the breast of Coronis with an arrow, on the raven informing him of the infidelity of his mistress.

“Has not the thing, which is very well known throughout the whole of Lesbos,72 been heard of by thee, that Nyctimene defiled the bed of her father? She is a bird indeed; but being conscious of her crime, she avoids the human gaze and the light, and conceals her shame in the darkness; and by all the birds she is expelled entirely from the sky.”

The raven says to him, saying such things, “May this, thy calling of me back, prove a mischief to thee, I pray; I despise the worthless omen.” Nor does he drop his intended journey; and he tells his master, that he has seen Coronis lying down with a youth of Hæmonia. On hearing the crime of his mistress, his laurel fell down; and at the same moment his usual looks, his plectrum,73 and his color, forsook the God. And as his mind was now burning with swelling rage, he took up his wonted arms, and levelled his bow bent from the extremities, and pierced, with an unerring shaft, that bosom, that had been so oft pressed to his 84 II. 605-632 own breast. Wounded, she uttered a groan, and, drawing the steel from out of the wound, she bathed her white limbs with purple blood; and she said, “I might justly, Phœbus, have been punished by thee, but still I might have first brought forth; now we two shall die in one.” Thus far she spoke; and she poured forth her life, together with her blood. A deadly coldness took possession of her body deprived of life.

71II. 611-632

The lover, too late, alas! repents of his cruel vengeance, and blames himself that he listened to the bird, and that he was so infuriated. He hates the bird, through which he was forced to know of the crime and the cause of his sorrow; he hates, too, the string, the bow, and his hand; and together with his hand, those rash weapons, the arrows. He cherishes her fallen to the ground, and by late resources endeavors to conquer her destiny; and in vain he practices his physical arts.

When he found that these attempts were made in vain, and that the funeral pile was being prepared, and that her limbs were about to be burnt in the closing flames, then, in truth, he gave utterance to sighs fetched from the bottom of his heart (for it is not allowed the celestial features to be bathed with tears). No otherwise than, as when an axe, poised from the right ear of the butcher, dashes to pieces, with a clean stroke, the hollow temples of the sucking calf, while the dam looks on. Yet after Phœbus had poured the unavailing perfumes on her breast, when he had given the last embrace and had performed the due obsequies prematurely hastened, he did not suffer his own offspring to sink into the same ashes; but he snatched the child from the flames and from the womb of his mother, and carried him into the cave of the two-formed Chiron. And he forbade the raven, expecting for himself the reward of his tongue that told no untruth, to perch any longer among the white birds.


History does not afford us the least insight into the foundation of the story of Coronis transformed into a crow, for making too faithful a report, nor that of the raven changed from white to black, 85 II. 632-651 for talking too much. If they are based upon some events which really happened, we must be content to acknowledge that these Fables refer to the history of two persons entirely unknown to us, and who, perhaps, lived as far back as the time of the daughters of Cecrops, to whom the story seems to bear some relation. Coronis being the name of a crow as well as of a Nymph, Lucian and other writers have fabled that her son, Æsculapius, was produced from the egg of that bird, and was born in the shape of a serpent, under which form he was very generally worshipped.

72II. 632-658


Ocyrrhoë, the daughter of the Centaur Chiron, attempting to predict future events, tells her father the fate of the child Æsculapius, on which the Gods transform her into a mare.

In the meantime the half-beast Chiron was proud of a pupil of Divine origin, and rejoiced in the honor annexed to the responsibility. Behold! the daughter of the Centaur comes, having her shoulders covered with her yellow hair; whom once the nymph Chariclo,74 having borne her on the banks of a rapid stream, called Ocyrrhoë. She was not contented to learn her father’s arts only; but she sang the secrets of the Fates. Therefore, when she had conceived in her mind the prophetic transports, and grew warm with the God, whom she held confined within her breast, she beheld the infant, and she said, “Grow on, child, the giver of health to the whole world; the bodies of mortals shall often owe their own existence to thee. To thee will it be allowed to restore life when taken away; and daring to do that once against the will of the Gods, thou wilt be hindered by the bolts of thy grandsire from being able any more to grant that boon. And from a God thou shalt become a lifeless carcase; and a God again, who lately wast a carcase; and twice shalt thou renew thy destiny. Thou likewise, dear father, now immortal, and produced at thy nativity, on the condition of enduring for ever, wilt then wish that thou couldst die, when thou shalt be 86 II. 652-675 tormented on receiving the blood of a baneful serpent75 in thy wounded limbs; and the Gods shall make thee from an immortal being, subject to death, and the three Goddesses76 shall cut thy threads.”

Something still remained in addition to what she had said. She heaved a sigh from the bottom of her breast, and the tears bursting forth, trickled down her cheeks, and thus she said: “The Fates prevent me, and I am forbidden to say any more, 73 II. 658-682 and the use of my voice is precluded. My arts, which have brought the wrath of a Divinity upon me, were not of so much value; I wish that I had not been acquainted with the future. Now the human shape seems to be withdrawing from me; now grass pleases me for my food; now I have a desire to range over the extended plains; I am turned into a mare, and into a shape kindred to that of my father. But yet, why entirely? For my father partakes of both forms.”

As she was uttering such words as these, the last part of her complaint was but little understood; and her words were confused. And presently neither were they words indeed, nor did it appear to be the voice of a mare, but of one imitating a mare. And in a little time she uttered perfect neighing, and stretched her arms upon the grass. Then did her fingers grow together, and a smooth hoof united five nails in one continued piece of horn. The length of her face and of her neck increased; the greatest part of her long hair became a tail. And as the hairs lay scattered about her neck, they were transformed into a mane lying upon the right side; at once both her voice and her shape were changed. And this wondrous change gave her the new name of Enippe.

87II. 676-693


Mercury, having stolen the oxen of Apollo, and Battus having perceived the theft, he engages him, by a present, to keep the matter secret. Mistrusting, however, his fidelity, he assumes another shape, and tempting him with presents, he succeeds in corrupting him. To punish his treachery, the God changes him into a touchstone.

The Philyrean77 hero wept, and in vain, God of Delphi, implored thy assistance; but neither couldst thou reverse the orders of great Jupiter, nor, if thou couldst have reversed them wast thou then present; for then thou wast dwelling in Elis and the Messenian78 fields. This was the time when a shepherd’s skin garment was covering thee, and a stick cut out of the wood was the burden of thy left hand, and of the other, 74 II. 682-707 a pipe unequal with its seven reeds. And while love is thy concern, while thy pipe is soothing thee, some cows are said to have strayed unobserved into the plains of Pylos.79 The son of Maia the daughter of Atlas, observes them, and with his usual skill hides them, driven off, in the woods. Nobody but an old man, well-known in that country, had noticed the theft: all the neighborhood called him Battus. He was keeping the forests and the grassy pastures, and the set of fine-bred mares of the rich Neleus.80

Mercury was afraid of him, and took him aside with a gentle hand, and said to him, “Come, stranger, whoever thou art, if, perchance any one should ask after these herds, deny that thou hast seen them; and, lest 88 II. 694-707 no requital be paid thee for so doing, take a handsome cow as thy reward;” and thereupon he gave him one. On receiving it, the stranger returned this answer: “Thou mayst go in safety. May that stone first make mention of thy theft;” and he pointed to a stone. The son of Jupiter feigned to go away. But soon he returned, and changing his form, together with his voice, he said, “Countryman, if thou hast seen any cows pass along this way, give me thy help, and break silence about the theft; a female, coupled together with its bull shall be presented thee as a reward.” But the old man,81 after his reward was thus doubled, said, “They will be beneath those hills;” and beneath those hills they really were. The son of Atlas laughed and said, “Dost thou, treacherous man, betray me to my own self? Dost betray me to myself?” and then he turned his perjured breast into a hard stone, which even now is called the “Touchstone;”82 and this old disgrace is attached to the stone that really deserves it not.

75II. 708-718


The Centaurs, fabulous monsters, half men and half horses, were perhaps the first horsemen in Thessaly and its neighborhood. It is also probable that Chiron, who was one of these, acquired great fame by the knowledge he had acquired at a time and in a country where learning was little cultivated. The ancients regarded him as the first promulgator of the utility of medicines, in which he was said to have instructed his pupil Æsculapius. He was also considered to be an excellent musician and a good astronomer, as we learn from Homer, Diodorus Siculus, and other authors. Most of the heroes of that age, and among them Hercules and Jason, studied under him. Very probably, the only foundation for the story of the transformation of Ocyrrhoë, was the skill and address which, under her father’s instruction, she acquired in riding and 89 II. 708-726 the management of horses. For if, as it seems really was the case, the horsemen of that age were taken for monsters, half men and half horses, it is not surprising to find the story that the daughter of a Centaur was transformed into a mare.

Chiron is generally supposed to have marked out the Constellations, for the purpose of directing the Argonauts in their voyage for the recovery of the Golden Fleece.


Mercury, falling in love with Herse, the daughter of Cecrops, endeavors to engage Aglauros in his interest, and by her means, to obtain access to her sister. She refuses to assist him, unless he promises to present her with a large sum of money.

Hence, the bearer of the caduceus raised himself upon equal wings; and as he flew, he looked down upon the fields of Munychia,83 and the land pleasing to Minerva, and the groves of the well-planted Lycæus. On that day, by chance, the chaste virgins were, in their purity, carrying the sacred offerings in baskets crowned with flowers, upon their heads to the joyful citadel of Pallas. The winged God beholds them returning thence; and he does not shape his course directly forward, but wheels round in the same circle. As that bird swiftest in speed, the kite, on espying the entrails, while he is afraid, and the priests stand in numbers around the sacrifice, wings his flight in circles, and yet ventures not to go far away, 76 II. 719-736 and greedily hovers around the object of his hopes with waving wings, so does the active Cyllenian God bend his course over the Actæan towers, and circles round in the same air. As much as Lucifer shines more brightly than the other stars, and as much as the golden Phœbe shines more brightly than thee, O Lucifer, so much superior was Herse, as she went, to all the other virgins, and was the ornament of the solemnity and of her companions. The son of Jupiter was astonished at her beauty; and as he hung in the air, he burned no otherwise than as when the 90 II. 727-741 Balearic84 sling throws forth the plummet of lead; it flies and becomes red hot in its course, and finds beneath the clouds the fires which it had not before.

He alters his course, and, having left heaven, goes a different way; nor does he disguise himself; so great is his confidence in his beauty. This, though it is every way complete, still he improves by care, and smooths his hair and adjusts his mantle,85 that it may hang properly, so that the fringe and all the gold may be seen; and minds that his long smooth wand, with which he induces and drives away sleep, is in his 77 II. 736-764 right hand, and that his wings86 shine upon his beauteous feet.

A private part of the house had three bed-chambers, adorned with ivory and with tortoiseshell, of which thou, Pandrosos, hadst the right-hand one, Aglauros the left-hand, and Herse had the one in the middle. She that occupied the left-hand one was the first to remark Mercury approaching, and she ventured to ask 91 II. 741-764 the name of the God, and the occasion of his coming. To her thus answered the grandson of Atlas and of Pleione: “I am he who carries the commands of my father through the air. Jupiter himself is my father. Nor will I invent pretences; do thou only be willing to be attached to thy sister, and to be called the aunt of my offspring. Herse is the cause of my coming; I pray thee to favor one in love.” Aglauros looks upon him with the same eyes with which she had lately looked upon the hidden mysteries of the yellow-haired Minerva, and demands for her agency gold of great weight; and, in the meantime, obliges him to go out of the house. The warlike Goddess turned upon her the orbs of her stern eyes, and drew a sigh from the bottom of her heart, with so great a motion, that she heaved both her breast and the Ægis placed before her valiant breast. It occurred to her that she had laid open her secrets with a profane hand, at the time when she beheld progeny created for the God who inhabits Lemnos,87 without a mother, and contrary to the assigned laws; and that she could now be agreeable both to the God and to the sister of Aglauros, and that she would be enriched by taking the gold, which she, in her avarice, had demanded. Forthwith she repairs to the abode of Envy, hideous with black gore. Her abode is concealed in the lowest recesses of a cave, wanting sun, and not pervious to any wind, dismal and filled with benumbing cold; and which is ever without fire, and ever abounding with darkness.


Cicero tells us, that there were several persons in ancient times named Mercury. The probability is, that one of them fell in love with Herse, one of the daughters of Cecrops, king of Athens; and that Aglauros becoming jealous of her, this tradition was built upon facts of so ordinary a nature.

92II. 765-78978II. 765-791


Pallas commands Envy to make Aglauros jealous of her sister Herse. Envy obeys the request of the Goddess; and Aglauros, stung with that passion, continues obstinate in opposing Mercury’s passage to her sister’s apartment, for which the God changes her into a statue.

When the female warrior, to be dreaded in battle, came hither, she stood before the abode (for she did not consider it lawful to go under the roof), and she struck the door-posts with the end of the spear. The doors, being shaken, flew open; she sees Envy within, eating the flesh of vipers, the nutriment of her own bad propensities; and when she sees her, she turns away her eyes. But the other rises sluggishly from the ground, and leaves the bodies of the serpents half devoured, and stalks along with sullen pace. And when she sees the Goddess graced with beauty and with splendid arms, she groans, and fetches a deep sigh at her appearance. A paleness rests on her face, and leanness in all her body; she never looks direct on you; her teeth are black with rust; her breast is green with gall; her tongue is dripping with venom. Smiles there are none, except such as the sight of grief has excited. Nor does she enjoy sleep, being kept awake with watchful cares; but sees with sorrow the successes of men, and pines away at seeing them. She both torments and is tormented at the same moment, and is ever her own punishment. Yet, though Tritonia88 hated her, she spoke to her briefly in such words as these: “Infect one of the daughters of Cecrops with thy poison; there is occasion so to do; Aglauros is she.”

Saying no more, she departed, and spurned the ground with her spear impressed on it. She, beholding the Goddess as she departed, with a look askance, uttered a few murmurs, and grieved at the success of Minerva; and took her staff, which wreaths of thorns entirely 93 II. 790-822 surrounded; and veiled in black clouds, wherever she goes she tramples down the blooming 79 II. 791-829 fields, and burns up the grass, and crops the tops of the flowers. With her breath, too, she pollutes both nations and cities, and houses; and at last she descries the Tritonian89 citadel, flourishing in arts and riches, and cheerful peace. Hardly does she restrain her tears, because she sees nothing to weep at. But after she has entered the chamber of the daughter of Cecrops, she executes her orders; and touches her breast with her hand stained with rust, and fills her heart with jagged thorns. She breathes into her as well the noxious venom, and spreads the poison black as pitch throughout her bones, and lodges it in the midst of her lungs.

And that these causes of mischief may not wander through too wide a space, she places her sister before her eyes, and the fortunate marriage of that sister, and the God under his beauteous appearance, and aggravates each particular. By this, the daughter of Cecrops being irritated, is gnawed by a secret grief, and groans, tormented by night, tormented by day, and wastes away in extreme wretchedness, with a slow consumption, as ice smitten upon by a sun often clouded. She burns at the good fortune of the happy Herse, no otherwise than as when fire is placed beneath thorny reeds, which do not send forth flames, and burn with a gentle heat. Often does she wish to die, that she may not be a witness to any such thing; often, to tell the matters, as criminal, to her severe father. At last, she sat herself down in the front of the threshold, in order to exclude the God when he came; to whom, as he proffered blandishments and entreaties, and words of extreme kindness, she said, “Cease all this; I shall not remove myself hence, until thou art repulsed.” “Let us stand to that agreement,” says the active Cyllenian God; and he opens the carved door with his wand. But in her, as she endeavors to arise, the parts which we bend in sitting cannot be moved, through their numbing weight. She, indeed, struggles to raise herself, with her body, 94 II. 823-840 upright; but the joints of her knees are stiff, and a chill runs through her nails, and her veins are pallid, through the loss of blood.

And as the disease of an incurable cancer is wont to spread in all directions, and to add the uninjured parts to the tainted; so, by degrees, did a deadly chill enter her breast, and stop the passages of life, and her respiration. She did not endeavor 80 II. 829-849 to speak; but if she had endeavored, she had no passage for her voice. Stone had now possession of her neck; her face was grown hard, and she sat, a bloodless statue. Nor was the stone white; her mind had stained it.


Pausanias, in his Attica, somewhat varies this story, and says that the daughters of Cecrops, running mad, threw themselves from the top of a tower. It is very probable that on the introduction of the worship of Pallas, or Minerva, into Attica, these daughters of Cecrops may have hesitated to encourage the innovation, and the story was promulgated that the Goddess had in that manner punished their impiety. This seems the more likely, from the fact mentioned by Pausanias that Pandrosos, the third daughter of Cecrops, had, after her death, a temple built in honor of her, near that of Minerva, because she had continued faithful to that Goddess, and had not disobeyed her, as her sisters had done. The reputation and good fame of Herse and Aglauros had, however, been restored by the time of Herodotus, since he informs us that they both had their temples at Athens.


Jupiter assumes the shape of a Bull, and carrying off Europa, swims with her on his back to the isle of Crete.

When the grandson of Atlas had inflicted this punishment upon her words and her profane disposition, he left the lands named after Pallas, and entered the skies with his waving wings. His father calls him on one side; and, not owning the cause of his love, he says, “My son, the trusty minister of my commands, banish delay, and swiftly descend with thy usual speed, and repair to the region which looks towards thy Constellation mother on the left side, (the natives call it 95 II. 840-870 Sidonis90 by name) and drive towards the sea-shore, the herd belonging to the king, which thou seest feeding afar upon the grass of the mountain.”

Thus he spoke; and already were the bullocks, driven from the mountain, making for the shore named, where the daughter of the great king, attended by Tyrian virgins, was wont to amuse herself. Majesty and love but ill accord, nor can they continue in the same abode. The father and the ruler of the Gods, whose right hand is armed with the three-forked flames, 81 II. 849-875 who shakes the world with his nod, laying aside the dignity of empire, assumes the appearance of a bull; and mixing with the oxen, he lows, and, in all his beauty, walks about upon the shooting grass. For his color is that of snow, which neither the soles of hard feet have trodden upon, nor the watery South wind melted. His neck swells with muscles; dewlaps hang from between his shoulders. His horns are small indeed, but such as you might maintain were made with the hand, and more transparent than a bright gem. There is nothing threatening in his forehead; nor is his eye formidable; his countenance expresses peace.

The daughter of Agenor is surprised that he is so beautiful, and that he threatens no attack; but although so gentle, she is at first afraid to touch him. By and by she approaches him, and holds out flowers to his white mouth. The lover rejoices, and till his hoped-for pleasure comes, he gives kisses to her hands; scarcely, oh, scarcely, does he defer the rest. And now he plays with her, and skips upon the green grass; and now he lays his snow-white side upon the yellow sand. And, her fear now removed by degrees, at one moment he gives his breast to be patted by the hand of the virgin; at another, his horns to be wreathed with new-made garlands. The virgin of royal birth even ventured to sit down upon the back of the bull, not knowing upon whom she was pressing. Then the God, by degrees moving from the land, and from the dry shore, places 96 II. 870-875 the fictitious hoofs of his feet in the waves near the brink. Then he goes still further, and carries his prize over the expanse of the midst of the ocean. She is affrighted, and, borne off, looks back on the shore she has left; and with her right hand she grasps his horn, while the other is placed on his back; her waving garments are ruffled by the breeze.


This Fable depicts one of the most famous events in the ancient Mythology. As we have already remarked, it is supposed that there were several persons of the name of Zeus, or Jupiter; though there is great difficulty in assigning to each individual his own peculiar adventures. Vossius refers the adventure of Niobe, the daughter of Phoroneus, to Jupiter Apis, the king of Argos, who reigned about B.C. 1770; and that of Danaë to Jupiter Prœtus, who lived about 1350 years before the Christian era. It was Jupiter Tantalus, according to him, that carried off Ganymede; and it was Jupiter, the father of Hercules, that deceived Leda. He says 72 that the subject of the present Fable was Jupiter Asterius, who reigned about B.C. 1400. Diodorus Siculus tells us that he was the son of Teutamus, who, having married the daughter of Creteus, went with some Pelasgians to settle in the island of Crete, of which he was the first king. We may then conclude, that Jupiter Asterius, having heard of the beauty of Europa, the daughter of Agenor, King of Tyre, fitted out a ship, for the purpose of carrying her off by force. This is the less improbable, as we learn from Herodotus, that the custom of carrying those away by force, who could not be obtained by fair means, was very common in these rude ages.

The ship in which Asterius made his voyage, had, very probably, the form of a bull for its figure-head; which, in time, occasioned those who related the adventure, to say, that Jupiter concealed himself under the shape of that animal, to carry off his mistress. Palæphatus and Tzetzes suggest, that the story took its rise from the name of the general of Asterius, who was called Taurus, which is also the Greek name for a bull. Bochart has an ingenious suggestion, based upon etymological grounds. He thinks that the twofold meaning of the word ‘Alpha,’ or ‘Ilpha,’ which, in the Phœnician dialect, meant either a ship or a bull, gave occasion to the fable; and that the Greeks, on reading the annals of the Phœnicians, by mistake, took the word in the latter sense.

Europa was honored as a Divinity after her death, and a festival was instituted in her memory, which Hesychius calls ‘Hellotia,’ from Ἑλλωτὶς, the name she received after her death.

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