The Metamorphoses of Ovid

by Ovid

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Chaos is divided by the Deity into four Elements: to these their respective inhabitants are assigned, and man is created from earth and water. The four Ages follow, and in the last of these the Giants aspire to the sovereignty of the heavens; being slain by Jupiter, a new race of men springs up from their blood. These becoming noted for their impiety, Jupiter not only transforms Lycaon into a wolf, but destroys the whole race of men and animals by a Deluge, with the exception of Deucalion and Pyrrha, who, when the waters have abated, renew the human race, by throwing stones behind them. Other animated beings are produced by heat and moisture: and, among them, the serpent Python. Phœbus slays him, and institutes the Pythian games as a memorial of the event, in which the conquerors are crowned with beech; for as yet the laurel does not exist, into which Daphne is changed soon after, while flying from Phœbus. On this taking place, the other rivers repair to her father Peneus, either to congratulate or to console him; but Inachus is not there, as he is grieving for his daughter Io, whom Jupiter, having first ravished her, has changed into a cow. She is entrusted by Juno to the care of Argus; Mercury having first related to him the transformation of the Nymph Syrinx into reeds, slays him, on which his eyes are placed by Juno in the tail of the peacock. Io, having recovered human shape, becomes the mother of Epaphus.

Book I
The Argument
Fable I: God reduces Chaos into order.
Fable II: God gives form and regularity to the universe.
Fable III: The Golden Age.
Fable IV: The Silver Age. The Brazen Age. The Iron Age.
Fable V: The Giants.
Fable VI: Jupiter determines to destroy the world.
Fable VII: Lycaon changes into a wolf.
Fable VIII: Jupiter resolves to extirpate mankind by a universal deluge.
Fable IX: Neptune appeases the angry waves. Deucalion and Pyrrha are the only persons saved from the deluge.
Fable X: Deucalion and Pyrrha re-people the earth.
Fable XI: Apollo institutes the Pythian games.
Fable XII: Apollo and Daphne.
Fable XIII: Jupiter and Io.
Fable XIV: Jupiter changes Io into a cow; the watchful Argus.
Fable XV: Pan and Syrinx.
Fable XVI: Juno places Argus’s eyes in the peacock’s tail.
Fable XVII: Io stops in Egypt, under the name of Isis.


Epaphus, having accused Phaëton of falsely asserting that Phœbus is his father, Phaëton requests Phœbus, as a proof of his affection towards his child, to allow him the guidance of the viii chariot of the Sun for one day. This being granted, the whole earth is set on fire by him, and the Æthiopians are turned black by the heat. Jupiter strikes Phaëton with a thunderbolt, and while his sisters and his kinsman Cyenus are lamenting him, the former are changed into trees, and Cyenus into a swan. On visiting the earth, that he may repair the damage caused by the conflagration, Jupiter sees Calisto, and, assuming the form of Diana, he debauches her. Juno, being enraged, changes Calisto into a bear; and her own son Arcas being about to pierce her with an arrow, Jupiter places them both among the Constellations. Juno having complained of this to Oceanus, is borne back to the heavens by her peacocks, who have so lately changed their colour; a thing which has also happened to the raven, which has been lately changed from white to black, he having refused to listen to the warnings of the crow (who relates the story of its own transformation, and of that of Nyctimene into an owl), and having persisted in informing Phœbus of the intrigues of Coronis. Her son Æsculapius being cut out of the womb of Coronis and carried to the cave of Chiron the Centaur, Ocyrrhoë, the daughter of Chiron, is changed into a mare, while she is prophesying. Her father in vain invokes the assistance of Apollo, for he, in the guise of a shepherd, is tending his oxen in the country of Elis. He neglecting his herd, Mercury takes the opportunity of stealing it; after which he changes Battus into a touchstone, for betraying him. Flying thence, Mercury beholds Herse, the daughter of Cecrops, and debauches her. Her sister Aglauros, being envious of her, is changed into a rock. Mercury returns to heaven, on which Jupiter orders him to drive the herds of Agenor towards the shore; and then, assuming the form of a bull, he carries Europa over the sea to the isle of Crete.

Book II
Fable I: Phaëton guides Apollo’s chariot.
Fable II: Phaëton falls into the river Eridanus.
Fable III: The sisters of Phaëton.
Fable IV: Cycnus is transformed into a swan.
Fable V: Jupiter and Calisto.
Fables VI and VII: Calisto is transformed into a Bear. Calisto and Arcas 
become the Great and the Little Bear. The raven is changed from white
to black.
Fable VIII: Ericthonius enclosed in a basket.
Fable IX: Nyctimene transformed into an owl.
Fable X: Ocyrrhoë, the daughter of Chiron, transformed into a mare.
Fable XI: Mercury steals the oxen of Apollo.
Fable XII: Mercury and Herse.
Fable XIII: Aglauros and Envy.
Fable XIV: Jupiter and Europa.


Agenor commands his son Cadmus to seek his sister Europa. While he is doing this, he slays a dragon in Bœotia; and having sowed its teeth in the earth, men are produced, with whose assistance he builds the walls of Thebes. His first cause of grief is the fate of his grandson Actæon, who, being changed into a stag, is torn to pieces by his own hounds. This, however, gives pleasure to Juno, who hates not only Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, and the favourite of Jupiter, but all the house of Agenor as well. Assuming the form of Beroë, she contrives the destruction of Semele by the lightnings of Jupiter; while Bacchus, being saved alive from his mother’s womb, is brought up on the earth. Jupiter has a discussion with Juno on the relative pleasures of the sexes, and they agree to ix refer the question to Tiresias, who has been of both sexes. He gives his decision in favour of Jupiter, on which Juno deprives him of sight; and, by way of recompense, Jupiter bestows on him the gift of prophesy. His first prediction is fulfilled in the case of Narcissus, who, despising the advances of all females (in whose number is Echo, who has been transformed into a sound), at last pines away with love for himself, and is changed into a flower which bears his name. Pentheus, however, derides the prophet; who predicts his fate, and his predictions are soon verified; for, on the celebration of the orgies, Bacchus having assumed a disguise, is brought before him; and having related to Pentheus the story of the transformation of the Etrurian sailors into dolphins, he is thrown into prison. On this, Pentheus is torn in pieces by the Bacchanals, and great respect is afterwards paid to the rites of Bacchus.

Book III
Fable I: Cadmus founds Bœotia.
Fable II: Cadmus and the dragon’s teeth. Cadmus founds Thebes.
Fable III: Actæon transformed into a stag.
Fable IV: Jupiter and Semele.
Fable V: Birth of Bacchus. Tiresias decides a dispute between Jupiter and Juno.
Fable VI: Echo and Narcissus.
Fable VII: Narcissus changed into a flower.
Fable VIII: Pentheus is torn to pieces by the Bacchantes.


Still Alcithoë and her sisters, neglecting the rites, attend to their spinning, during the festivities, and pass the time in telling stories; and, among others, that of Pyramus and Thisbe, by whose blood the mulberry is turned from white to black, and that of the discovery of the intrigues of Mars and Venus, on the information of the Sun. They also tell how the Sun assumed the form of Eurynome, that he might enjoy her daughter Leucothoë; how Clytie, becoming jealous of her sister, was transformed into a sun-flower; and how Salmacis and Hermaphroditus had become united into one body. After this, through the agency of Bacchus, the sisters are transformed into bats, and their webs are changed into vines. Ino rejoicing at this, Juno, in her hatred and indignation, sends one of the Furies to her, who causes her to be struck with insanity, on which she leaps into the sea, with her son Melicerta in her arms; but by the intercession of Venus, they become sea Deities, and their Sidonian attendants, who are bewailing them as dead, are changed into rocks. Cadmus, afflicted at this fresh calamity, retires from Thebes, and flies to Illyria, together with his wife, where they are both transformed into serpents. Of those who despise Bacchus, Acrisius alone remains, the grandfather of Perseus, who, having cut off the head of the Gorgon Medusa, serpents are produced by her blood. Perseus turns Atlas into a mountain, and having liberated Andromeda, he changes sea-weed into coral, and afterwards marries her.

Book IV
Fable I: The daughters of Minyas. Pyramus and Thisbe.
Fable II: Mars and Venus. The Sun and Leucothoë.
Fable III: Clytie buried alive.
Fable IV: Daphnis; Scython; Celmus; Crocus and Smilax; the Curetes.
Fable V: Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.
Fable VI: The daughters of Minyas.
Fable VII: Athamas and Ino.
Fable VIII: Cadmus leaves Thebes.
Fable IX: Perseus kills Medusa.
Fable X: Perseus and Andromeda. Medusa’s hair.


A tumult arising during the celebration of the nuptials, Phineus claims Andromeda, who has been betrothed to him; and x together with Prœtus, he and Polydectes are turned into stone. Pallas, who has aided Perseus, now leaves him, and goes to Helicon, to see the fountain of Hippocrene. The Muses tell her the story of Pyreneus and the Pierides, who were transformed into magpies after they had repeated various songs on the subjects of the transformation of the Deities into various forms of animals; the rape of Proserpine, the wanderings of Ceres, the change of Cyane into a fountain, of a boy into a lizard, of Ascalaphus into an owl, of the Sirens into birds in part, of Arethusa into a spring, of Lyncus into a lynx, and of the invention of agriculture by Triptolemus.

Book V
Fable I: Perseus’s marriage feast.
Fable II: Minerva and the Muses.
Fable III: The song of Calliope.
Fable IV: Pluto and Proserpina.
Fable V: Ceres searches for Proserpina.
Fable VI: Arethusa is changed into a fountain.
Fable VII: Lyncus is changed into a lynx; the Pierides are changed into magpies.


Influenced by the example of the Muses, Pallas determines on the destruction of Arachne. She enters with her into a contest for the superiority in the art of weaving. Each represents various transformations on her web, and then Arachne is changed into a spider. Niobe, however, is not deterred thereby from preferring her own lot to that of Latona; on account of which, all her children are slain by Apollo and Diana, and she is changed into a rock. On learning this, while one person relates the transformation by Latona of the Lycian rustics into frogs, another calls to mind how Marsyas was flayed by Apollo. Niobe is lamented by Pelops, whose shoulder is of ivory. To console the Thebans in their afflictions, ambassadors come from the adjacent cities. The Athenians alone are absent, as they are attacked by hordes of barbarians, who are routed by Tereus, who marries Progne, the daughter of Pandion. Tereus coming a second time to Athens, takes back with him to his kingdom Philomela, his wife’s sister; and having committed violence on her, with other enormities, he is transformed into a hoopoe, while Philomela is changed into a nightingale, and Progne becomes a swallow. Pandion, hearing of these wondrous events dies of grief. Erectheus succeeds him, whose daughter, Orithyia, is ravished by Boreas, and by him is the mother of Calais and Zethes, who are of the number of the Argonauts on the following occasion.

Book VI
Fable I: Arachne and Minerva.
Fable II: Niobe and her children.
Fable III: Latona and the frogs.
Fable IV: Marsyas is flayed alive.
Fable V: Tereus, Progne and Philomela.
Fable VI: Progne’s son Itys.
Fable VII: Boreas and Orithyïa.


Jason, by the aid of Medea, having conquered the bulls that breathe forth flames, having sowed the teeth of a serpent, from which armed men are produced, and having lulled the dragon to sleep, recovers the Golden Fleece. Medea, accompanying Jason to Greece, restores Æson to youth by the aid of drugs; and promising the same to Pelias, having first, as a specimen, changed a ram into a lamb, by stratagem she kills him. Passing through many places made remarkable by various transformations, and xi having slain her children, she marries Ægeus, when Theseus returns home, and narrowly escapes being poisoned by her magic potions. Minos interrupts the joy of Ægeus on the return of his son, and wages war against him; having collected troops from all parts, even from Paros, where Arne has been changed into a jackdaw. Minos endeavours to gain the alliance of Æacus, who, however, refuses it, and sends the Myrmidons, (who have been changed into ants from men after a severe pestilence), under the command of Cephalus to assist Ægeus. Cephalus relates to Phocus, the son of Æacus, how, being carried off by Aurora and assuming another shape, he had induced his wife Procris to prove faithless; and how he had received from her a dog and a javelin, the former of which, together with a fox, was changed into stone; while the latter, by inadvertence, caused the death of his wife.

Book VII
Fable I: Jason, the Golden Fleece and Medea.
Fable II: Medea restores Æson to youth. The daughters of Pelias.
Fable III: Medea in Corinth.
Fable IV: Hercules chains Cerberus. Theseus and Medea.
Fable V: Minos at Ægina. Cephalus at Ægina.
Fable VI: The Myrmidons.
Fable VII: Procris becomes a huntress. Œdipus and the Sphinx.
Fable VIII: Cephalus accidentally kills Procris.

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