The Metamorphoses of Ovid - Vol. I, Books I-VII
by Publius Ovidius Naso
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[Transcriber's Note:

This e-text is intended for users whose text readers cannot display the "real" or Unicode (utf-8) version of the file. Greek words in the Notes have been transliterated and shown between marks. The "oe" ligature is written as the separate letters "oe".

In the original text, words and phrases supplied by the translator were printed in italics. In this e-text they are shown in {braces}. Italics in the notes and commentary are shown conventionally with lines, boldface by marks.

Line numbers from the original Latin poem were printed as headnotes on each page. For this e-text, only the line numbers of each complete "Fable" are given. Line numbers used in footnotes are retained from the original text; these, too, refer to the Latin poem and are independent of line divisions in the translation.

Parts of this e-text use material from another edition of the Riley translation of the Metamorphoses: George Bell (London, 1893). Details are given at the end of the text, before the Errata. Each segment of the introductory material is individually identified.]


Vol. I—Books I-VII



With an Introduction by EDWARD BROOKS, JR.

Copyright, 1899, By David McKay

Press Of Sherman & Co., Philadelphia


[From Bell edition.]

The Metamorphoses of Ovid are a compendium of the Mythological narratives of ancient Greece and Rome, so ingeniously framed, as to embrace a large amount of information upon almost every subject connected with the learning, traditions, manners, and customs of antiquity, and have afforded a fertile field of investigation to the learned of the civilized world. To present to the public a faithful translation of a work, universally esteemed, not only for its varied information, but as being the masterpiece of one of the greatest Poets of ancient Rome, is the object of the present volume.

To render the work, which, from its nature and design, must, of necessity, be replete with matter of obscure meaning, more inviting to the scholar, and more intelligible to those who are unversed in Classical literature, the translation is accompanied with Notes and Explanations, which, it is believed, will be found to throw considerable light upon the origin and meaning of some of the traditions of heathen Mythology.

In the translation, the text of the Delphin edition has been generally adopted; and no deviation has been made from it, except in a few instances, where the reason for such a step is stated in the notes; at the same time, the texts of Burmann and Gierig have throughout been carefully consulted. The several editions vary materially in respect to punctuation; the Translator has consequently used his own discretion in adopting that which seemed to him the most fully to convey in each passage the intended meaning of the writer.

The Metamorphoses of Ovid have been frequently translated into the English language. On referring to Mr. Bohn's excellent Catalogue of the Greek and Latin Classics and their Translations, we find that the whole of the work has been twice translated into English Prose, while five translations in Verse are there enumerated. A prose version of the Metamorphoses was published by Joseph Davidson, about the middle of the last century, which professes to be "as near the original as the different idioms of the Latin and English will allow;" and to be "printed for the use of schools, as well as of private gentlemen." A few moments' perusal of this work will satisfy the reader that it has not the slightest pretension to be considered a literal translation, while, by its departure from the strict letter of the author, it has gained nothing in elegance of diction. It is accompanied by "critical, historical, geographical, and classical notes in English, from the best Commentators, both ancient and modern, beside a great number of notes, entirely new;" but notwithstanding this announcement, these annotations will be found to be but few in number, and, with some exceptions in the early part of the volume, to throw very little light on the obscurities of the text. A fifth edition of this translation was published so recently as 1822, but without any improvement, beyond the furbishing up of the old-fashioned language of the original preface. A far more literal translation of the Metamorphoses is that by John Clarke, which was first published about the year 1735, and had attained to a seventh edition in 1779. Although this version may be pronounced very nearly to fulfil the promise set forth in its title page, of being "as literal as possible," still, from the singular inelegance of its style, and the fact of its being couched in the conversational language of the early part of the last century, and being unaccompanied by any attempt at explanation, it may safely be pronounced to be ill adapted to the requirements of the present age. Indeed, it would not, perhaps, be too much to assert, that, although the translator may, in his own words, "have done an acceptable service to such gentlemen as are desirous of regaining or improving the skill they acquired at school," he has, in many instances, burlesqued rather than translated his author. Some of the curiosities of his version will be found set forth in the notes; but, for the purpose of the more readily justifying this assertion, a few of them are adduced: the word "nitidus" is always rendered "neat," whether applied to a fish, a cow, a chariot, a laurel, the steps of a temple, or the art of wrestling. He renders "horridus," "in a rude pickle;" "virgo" is generally translated "the young lady;" "vir" is "a gentleman;" "senex" and "senior" are indifferently "the old blade," "the old fellow," or "the old gentleman;" while "summa arx" is "the very tip-top." "Misera" is "poor soul;" "exsilio" means "to bounce forth;" "pellex" is "a miss;" "lumina" are "the peepers;" "turbatum fugere" is "to scower off in a mighty bustle;" "confundor" is "to be jumbled;" and "squalidus" is "in a sorry pickle." "Importuna" is "a plaguy baggage;" "adulterium" is rendered "her pranks;" "ambages" becomes either "a long rabble of words," "a long-winded detail," or "a tale of a tub;" "miserabile carmen" is "a dismal ditty;" "increpare hos" is "to rattle these blades;" "penetralia" means "the parlour;" while "accingere," more literally than elegantly, is translated "buckle to." "Situs" is "nasty stuff;" "oscula jungere" is "to tip him a kiss;" "pingue ingenium" is a circumlocution for "a blockhead;" "anilia instrumenta" are "his old woman's accoutrements;" and "repetito munere Bacchi" is conveyed to the sense of the reader as, "they return again to their bottle, and take the other glass." These are but a specimen of the blemishes which disfigure the most literal of the English translations of the Metamorphoses.

In the year 1656, a little volume was published, by J[ohn] B[ulloker,] entitled "Ovid's Metamorphosis, translated grammatically, and, according to the propriety of our English tongue, so far as grammar and the verse will bear, written chiefly for the use of schools, to be used according to the directions in the preface to the painfull schoolmaster, and more fully in the book called, 'Ludus Literarius, or the Grammar school, chap. 8.'" Notwithstanding a title so pretentious, it contains a translation of no more than the first 567 lines of the first Book, executed in a fanciful and pedantic manner; and its rarity is now the only merit of the volume. A literal interlinear translation of the first Book "on the plan recommended by Mr. Locke," was published in 1839, which had been already preceded by "a selection from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, adapted to the Hamiltonian system, by a literal and interlineal translation," published by James Hamilton, the author of the Hamiltonian system. This work contains selections only from the first six books, and consequently embraces but a very small portion of the entire work.

For the better elucidation of the different fabulous narratives and allusions, explanations have been added, which are principally derived from the writings of Herodotus, Apollodorus, Pausanias, Dio Cassius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Strabo, Hyginus, Nonnus, and others of the historians, philosophers, and mythologists of antiquity. A great number of these illustrations are collected in the elaborate edition of Ovid, published by the Abbe Banier, one of the most learned scholars of the last century; who has, therein, and in his "Explanations of the Fables of Antiquity," with indefatigable labour and research, culled from the works of ancient authors, all such information as he considered likely to throw any light upon the Mythology and history of Greece and Rome.

This course has been adopted, because it was considered that a statement of the opinions of contemporary authors would be the most likely to enable the reader to form his own ideas upon the various subjects presented to his notice. Indeed, except in two or three instances, space has been found too limited to allow of more than an occasional reference to the opinions of modern scholars. Such being the object of the explanations, the reader will not be surprised at the absence of critical and lengthened discussions on many of those moot points of Mythology and early history which have occupied, with no very positive result, the attention of Niebuhr, Lobeck, Mueller, Buttmann, and many other scholars of profound learning.

A SYNOPTICAL VIEW of the Principal Transformations Mentioned in THE METAMORPHOSES.

[From Bell edition, omitting Books VIII-XV.]


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. Phoebus 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 Phoebus. 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.


Epaphus, having accused Phaeton of falsely asserting that Phoebus is his father, Phaeton requests Phoebus, as a proof of his affection towards his child, to allow him the guidance of the chariot of the Sun for one day. This being granted, the whole earth is set on fire by him, and the AEthiopians are turned black by the heat. Jupiter strikes Phaeton 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 Phoebus of the intrigues of Coronis. Her son AEsculapius being cut out of the womb of Coronis and carried to the cave of Chiron the Centaur, Ocyrrhoe, 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.


Agenor commands his son Cadmus to seek his sister Europa. While he is doing this, he slays a dragon in Boeotia; 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 Actaeon, 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 Beroe, 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 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.


Still Alcithoe 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 Leucothoe; 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.


A tumult arising during the celebration of the nuptials, Phineus claims Andromeda, who has been betrothed to him; and together with Proetus, 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.


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.


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 AEson 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 having slain her children, she marries AEgeus, when Theseus returns home, and narrowly escapes being poisoned by her magic potions. Minos interrupts the joy of AEgeus 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 AEacus, 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 AEgeus. Cephalus relates to Phocus, the son of AEacus, 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.


[By Edward Brooks, Jr., from McKay edition.]

P. Ovidius Naso—commonly known as Ovid—was born at Sulmo, about, ninety miles from Rome, in the year 43 B.C. His father belonged to an old equestrian family, and at an early age brought his son to Rome, where he was educated under the most distinguished masters. Very little is known of the poet's life, except that which is gathered from his own writings. After finishing his education at home he visited Athens, in company with the poet Macer, for the purpose of completing his studies, and before returning visited the magnificent cities of Asia Minor and spent nearly a year in Sicily.

Although as a young man Ovid showed a natural taste and inclination for poetical composition, he was by no means encouraged to indulge in this pursuit. His father thought that the profession of law was much more apt to lead to distinction and political eminence than the vocation of a poet. He therefore dissuaded his son from writing poetry and urged him to devote himself to the legal profession. Compliance with his father's wishes led him to spend much time in the forum, and for a while poetry was abandoned. Upon attaining his majority, he held several minor offices of state; but neither his health nor his inclinations would permit him to perform the duties of public life. Poetry was his love, and in spite of the strong objections of his father, he resolved to abandon the law courts and devote himself to a more congenial occupation. He sought the society of the most distinguished poets of the day, and his admiration for them amounted almost to reverence. He numbered among his intimate friends the poets Macer, Propertius, Ponticus and Bassus, while AEmilius Macer, Virgil's contemporary, used to read his compositions to him, and even the fastidious Horace, it is said, occasionally delighted the young man's ear with the charm of his verse.

Ovid was married three times. His first wife he married when little more than a boy, and the union does not seem to have been a happy one, though it was probably due to no fault of the wife. His second wife seems also to have been of blameless character, but his love for her was of short duration. His third wife was a lady of the great Fabian house and a friend of the Empress Livia. She appears to have been a woman in every way worthy of the great and lasting love which the poet lavished upon her to the day of his death.

Up to the age of fifty Ovid had lived a life of prosperity and happiness. Though not a wealthy man, his means were such as to permit him to indulge in the luxuries of refined life, and his attainments as a poet had surrounded him with a circle of most desirable friends and admirers. He had even obtained the favor and patronage of the royal family. About the year 8 A.D. he, however, incurred the great displeasure of Augustus, and was ordered by him to withdraw from Rome and dwell in the colony of Tomi, on the shore of the Euxine sea. Leaving behind him a wife to whom he was devotedly attached he obeyed the edict of his emperor and entered upon an exile from which he was destined never to return. He died in banishment at Tomi in the year 18 A.D.

The exact reason for Ovid's banishment has never been clear, though there have been many conjectures as to the cause. About two years previous to his exile Ovid had published a composition which had greatly displeased Augustus, on account of its immoral tendency. Almost coincident with this publication was the discovery of the scandal relating to Julia, daughter of the emperor. It is probable that the proximity of these two events tended to intensify the imperial displeasure, and when some time later there was made public the intrigue of the emperor's granddaughter, the indignation of Augustus gave itself vent in the banishment of Ovid.

The writings of Ovid consist of the Amores in three books; the Heroic Epistles, twenty-one in number; the Ars Amatoria; the Remedia Amoris; the Metamorphoses, in fifteen books; the Fasti, in six books; the Tristia, in five books; the Epistles, in four books, and a few minor poems. In the following pages will be found a translation of the Metamorphoses.




My design leads me to speak of forms changed into new bodies.[1] Ye Gods, (for you it was who changed them,) favor my attempts,[2] and bring down the lengthened narrative from the very beginning of the world, {even} to my own times.[3]

[Footnote 1: Forms changed into new bodies.—Ver. 1. Some commentators cite these words as an instance of Hypallage as being used for 'corpora mutata in novas formas,' 'bodies changed into new forms;' and they fancy that there is a certain beauty in the circumstance that the proposition of a subject which treats of the changes and variations of bodies should be framed with a transposition of words. This supposition is perhaps based rather on the exuberance of a fanciful imagination than on solid grounds, as if it is an instance of Hypallage, it is most probably quite accidental; while the passage may be explained without any reference to Hypallage, as the word 'forma' is sometimes used to signify the thing itself; thus the words 'formae deorum' and 'ferarum' are used to signify 'the Gods,' or 'the wild beasts' themselves.]

[Footnote 2: Favor my attempts.—Ver. 3. This use of the word 'adspirate' is a metaphor taken from the winds, which, while they fill the ship's sails, were properly said 'adspirare.' It has been remarked, with some justice, that this invocation is not sufficiently long or elaborate for a work of so grave and dignified a nature as the Metamorphoses.]

[Footnote 3: To my own times.—Ver. 4. That is, to the days of Augustus Caesar.]

FABLE I. [I.5-31]

God reduces Chaos into order. He separates the four elements, and disposes the several bodies, of which the universe is formed, into their proper situations.

At first, the sea, the earth, and the heaven, which covers all things, were the only face of nature throughout the whole universe, which men have named Chaos; a rude and undigested mass,[4] and nothing {more} than an inert weight, and the discordant atoms of things not harmonizing, heaped together in the same spot. No Sun[5] as yet gave light to the world; nor did the Moon,[6] by increasing, recover her horns anew. The Earth did not {as yet} hang in the surrounding air, balanced by its own weight, nor had Amphitrite[7] stretched out her arms along the lengthened margin of the coasts. Wherever, too, was the land, there also was the sea and the air; {and} thus was the earth without firmness, the sea unnavigable, the air void of light; in no one {of them} did its {present} form exist. And one was {ever} obstructing the other; because in the same body the cold was striving with the hot, the moist with the dry, the soft with the hard, things having weight with {those} devoid of weight.

To this discord God and bounteous Nature[8] put an end; for he separated the earth from the heavens, and the waters from the earth, and distinguished the clear heavens from the gross atmosphere. And after he had unravelled these {elements}, and released them from {that} confused heap, he combined them, {thus} disjoined, in harmonious unison, {each} in {its proper} place. The element of the vaulted heaven,[9] fiery and without weight, shone forth, and selected a place for itself in the highest region; next after it, {both} in lightness and in place, was the air; the Earth was more weighty than these, and drew {with it} the more ponderous atoms, and was pressed together by its own gravity. The encircling waters sank to the lowermost place,[10] and surrounded the solid globe.

[Footnote 4: A rude and undigested mass.—Ver. 7. This is very similar to the words of the Scriptures, 'And the earth was without form and void,' Genesis, ch. i. ver. 2.]

[Footnote 5: No Sun.—Ver. 10. Titan. The Sun is so called, on account of his supposed father, Hyperion, who was one of the Titans. Hyperion is thought to have been the first who, by assiduous observation, discovered the course of the Sun, Moon, and other luminaries. By them he regulated the time for the seasons, and imparted this knowledge to others. Being thus, as it were, the father of astronomy, he has been feigned by the poets to have been the father of the Sun and the Moon.]

[Footnote 6: The Moon.—Ver. 11. Phoebe. The Moon is so called from the Greek phoibos, 'shining,' and as being the sister of Phoebus, Apollo, or the Sun.]

[Footnote 7: Amphitrite.—Ver. 14. She was the daughter of Oceanus and Doris, and the wife of Neptune, God of the Sea. Being the Goddess of the Ocean, her name is here used to signify the ocean itself.]

[Footnote 8: Nature.—Ver. 21. 'Natura' is a word often used by the Poet without any determinate signification, and to its operations are ascribed all those phenomena which it is found difficult or impossible to explain upon known and established principles. In the present instance it may be considered to mean the invisible agency of the Deity in reducing Chaos into a form of order and consistency. 'Et' is therefore here, as grammarians term it, an expositive particle; as if the Poet had said, 'Deus sive natura,' 'God, or in other words, nature.']

[Footnote 9: The element of the vaulted heaven.—Ver. 26. This is a periphrasis, signifying the regions of the firmament or upper air, in which the sun and stars move; which was supposed to be of the purest fire and the source of all flame. The heavens are called 'convex,' from being supposed to assume the same shape as the terrestrial globe which they surround.]

[Footnote 10: The lowermost place.—Ver. 31. 'Ultima' must not be here understood in the presence of 'infima,' or as signifying 'last,' or 'lowest,' in a strict philosophical sense, for that would contradict the account of the formation of the world given by Hesiod, and which is here closely followed by Ovid; indeed, it would contradict his own words,—'Circumfluus humor coercuit solidum orbem.' The meaning seems to be, that the waters possess the lowest place only in respect to the earth whereon we tread, and not relatively to the terrestrial globe, the supposed centre of the system, inasmuch as the external surface of the earth in some places rises considerably, and leaves the water to subside in channels.]


The ancient philosophers, unable to comprehend how something could be produced out of nothing, supposed a matter pre-existent to the Earth in its present shape, which afterwards received form and order from some powerful cause. According to them, God was not the Creator, but the Architect of the universe, in ranging and disposing the elements in situations most suitable to their respective qualities. This is the Chaos so often sung of by the poets, and which Hesiod was the first to mention.

It is clear that this system was but a confused and disfigured tradition of the creation of the world, as mentioned by Moses; and thus, beneath these fictions, there lies some faint glimmering of truth. The first two chapters of the book of Genesis will be found to throw considerable light on the foundation of this Mythological system of the world's formation.

Hesiod, the most ancient of the heathen writers who have enlarged upon this subject, seems to have derived much of his information from the works of Sanchoniatho, who is supposed to have borrowed his ideas concerning Chaos from that passage in the second verse of the first Chapter of Genesis, which mentions the darkness that was spread over the whole universe—'and darkness was upon the face of the deep'—for he expresses himself almost in those words. Sanchoniatho lived before the Trojan war, and professed to have received his information respecting the original construction of the world from a priest of 'Jehovah,' named Jerombaal. He wrote in the Phoenician language; but we have only a translation of his works, by Philo Judaeus, which is by many supposed to be spurious. It is, however, very probable, that from him the Greeks borrowed their notions regarding Chaos, which they mingled with fables of their own invention.

FABLE II. [I.32-88]

After the separation of matter, God gives form and regularity to the universe; and all other living creatures being produced, Prometheus moulds earth tempered with water, into a human form, which is animated by Minerva.

When thus he, whoever of the Gods he was,[11] had divided the mass {so} separated, and reduced it, so divided, into {distinct} members; in the first place, that it might not be unequal on any side, he gathered it up into the form of a vast globe; then he commanded the sea to be poured around it, and to grow boisterous with the raging winds, and to surround the shores of the Earth, encompassed {by it}; he added also springs, and numerous pools and lakes, and he bounded the rivers as they flowed downwards, with slanting banks. These, different in {different} places, are some of them swallowed up[12] by {the Earth} itself; some of them reach the ocean, and, received in the expanse of waters that take a freer range, beat against shores instead of banks.

He commanded the plains,[13] too, to be extended, the valleys to sink down, the woods to be clothed with green leaves, the craggy mountains to arise; and, as on the right-hand side,[14] two Zones intersect the heavens, and as many on the left; {and as} there is a fifth hotter than these, so did the care of the Deity distinguish this enclosed mass {of the Earth} by the same number, and as many climates are marked out upon the Earth. Of these, that which is the middle one[15] is not habitable on account of the heat; deep snow covers two[16] {of them}. Between either these he placed as many more,[17] and gave them a temperate climate, heat being mingled with cold.

Over these hangs the air, which is heavier than fire, in the same degree that the weight of water is lighter than the weight of the earth. Here he ordered vapors, here too, the clouds to take their station; the thunder, too, to terrify the minds of mortals, and with the lightnings, the winds that bring on cold. The Contriver of the World did not allow these indiscriminately to take possession of the sky. Even now, (although they each of them govern their own blasts in a distinct tract) they are with great difficulty prevented from rending the world asunder, so great is the discord of the brothers.[18] Eurus took his way[19] towards {the rising of} Aurora and the realms of Nabath[20] and Persia, and the mountain ridges exposed to the rays of the morning. The Evening star, and the shores which are warm with the setting sun, are bordering upon Zephyrus.[21] The terrible Boreas invaded Scythia,[22] and the regions of the North. The opposite quarter is wet with continual clouds, and the drizzling South Wind.[23] Over these he placed the firmament, clear and devoid of gravity, and not containing anything of the dregs of earth.

Scarcely had he separated all these by fixed limits, when the stars, which had long lain hid, concealed beneath that mass {of Chaos}, began to glow through the range of the heavens. And that no region might be destitute of its own {peculiar} animated beings, the stars and the forms of the Gods[24] possess the tract of heaven; the waters fell to be inhabited by the smooth fishes;[25] the Earth received the wild beasts, {and} the yielding air the birds.

{But} an animated being, more holy than these, more fitted to receive higher faculties, and which could rule over the rest,[26] was still wanting. {Then} Man was formed. Whether it was that the Artificer of all things, the original of the world in its improved state, framed him from divine elements;[27] or whether, the Earth, being newly made, and but lately divided from the lofty aether, still retained some atoms of its kindred heaven, which, tempered with the waters of the stream, the son of Iapetus fashioned after the image of the Gods, who rule over all things. And, whereas other animals bend their looks downwards upon the Earth, to Man he gave a countenance to look on high and to behold the heavens, and to raise his face erect to the stars. Thus, that which had been lately rude earth, and without any regular shape, being changed, assumed the form of Man, {till then} unknown.

[Footnote 11: Whoever of the Gods he was.—Ver. 32. By this expression the Poet perhaps may intend to intimate that the God who created the world was some more mighty Divinity than those who were commonly accounted Deities.]

[Footnote 12: Are some of them swallowed up.—Ver. 40. He here refers to those rivers which, at some distance from their sources, disappear and continue their course under ground. Such was the stream of Arethusa, the Lycus in Asia, the Erasinus in Argolis, the Alpheus in Peloponnesus, the Arcas in Spain, and the Rhone in France. Most of these, however, after descending into the earth, appear again and discharge their waters into the sea.]

[Footnote 13: He commanded the plains.—Ver. 43. The use here of the word 'jussit,' signifying 'ordered,' or 'commanded,' is considered as being remarkably sublime and appropriate, and serving well to express the ease wherewith an infinitely powerful Being accomplishes the most difficult works. There is the same beauty here that was long since remarked by Longinus, one of the most celebrated critics among the ancients, in the words used by Moses, 'And God said, Let there be light, and there was light,' Genesis, ch. i. ver. 3.]

[Footnote 14: On the right-hand side.—Ver. 45. The "right hand" here refers to the northern part of the globe, and the "left hand" to the southern. He here speaks of the zones. Astronomers have divided the heavens into five parallel circles. First, the equinoctial, which lies in the middle, between the poles of the earth, and obtains its name from the equality of days and nights on the earth while the sun is in its plane. On each side are the two tropics, at the distance of 23 deg. 30 min., and described by the sun when in his greatest declination north and south, or at the summer and winter solstices. That on the north side of the equinoctial is called the tropic of Cancer, because the sun describes it when in that sign of the ecliptic; and that on the south side is, for a similar reason, called the tropic of Capricorn. Again, at the distance of 231/2 degrees from the poles are two other parallels called the polar circles, either because they are near to the poles, or because, if we suppose the whole frame of the heavens to turn round on the plane of the equinoctial, these circles are marked out by the poles of the ecliptic. By means of these parallels, astronomers have divided the heavens into four zones or tracks. The whole space between the two tropics is the middle or torrid zone, which the equinoctial divides into two equal parts. On each side of this are the temperate zones, which extend from the tropics to the two polar circles. And lastly, the portions enclosed by the polar circles make up the frigid zones. As the planes of these circles produced till they reached the earth, would also impress similar parallels upon it, and divide it in the same manner as they divide the heavens, astronomers have conceived five zones upon the earth, corresponding to those in the heavens, and bounded by the same circles.]

[Footnote 15: That which is the middle one.—Ver. 49. The ecliptic in which the sun moves, cuts the equator in two opposite points, at an angle of 231/2 degrees; and runs obliquely from one tropic to another, and returns again in a corresponding direction. Hence, the sun, which in the space of a year, performs the revolution of this circle, must in that time be twice vertical to every place in the torrid zone, except directly under the tropics, and his greatest distance from their zenith at noon, cannot exceed 47 degrees. Thus his rays being often perpendicular, or nearly so, and never very oblique, must strike more forcibly, and cause more intense heat in that spot. Being little acquainted with the extent and situation of the earth, the ancients believed it uninhabitable. Modern discovery has shown that this is not the case as to a considerable part of the torrid zone, though with some parts of it our acquaintance is still very limited.]

[Footnote 16: Deep snow covers two.—Ver. 50. The two polar or frigid zones. For as the sun never approaches these nearer than the tropic on that side, and is, during one part of the year, removed by the additional extent of the whole torrid zone, his rays must be very oblique and faint, so as to leave these tracts exposed to almost perpetual cold.]

[Footnote 17: He placed as many more.—Ver. 51. The temperate zones, lying between the torrid and the frigid, partake of the character of each in a modified degree, and are of a middle temperature between hot and cold. Here, too, the distinction of the seasons is manifest. For in either temperate zone, when the sun is in that tropic, which borders upon it, being nearly vertical, the heat must be considerable, and produce summer; but when he is removed to the other tropic by a distance of 47 degrees, his rays will strike but faintly, and winter will be the consequence. The intermediate spaces, while he is moving from one tropic to the other, make spring and autumn.]

[Footnote 18: The brothers.—Ver. 60. That is, the winds, who, according to the Theogony of Hesiod, were the sons of Astreus, the giant, and Aurora.]

[Footnote 19: Eurus took his way.—Ver. 61. The Poet, after remarking that the air is the proper region of the winds, proceeds to take notice that God, to prevent them from making havoc of the creation, subjected them to particular laws, and assigned to each the quarter whence to direct his blasts. Eurus is the east wind, being so called from its name, because it blows from the east. As Aurora, or the morning, was always ushered in by the sun, who rises eastward, she was supposed to have her habitation in the eastern quarter of the world; and often, in the language of ancient poetry, her name signifies the east.]

[Footnote 20: The realms of Nabath.—Ver. 61. From Josephus we learn that Nabath, the son of Ishmael, with his eleven brothers, took possession of all the country from the river Euphrates to the Red Sea, and called it Nabathaea. Pliny the Elder and Strabo speak of the Nabataei as situated between Babylon and Arabia Felix, and call their capital Petra. Tacitus, in his Annals (Book ii. ch. 57), speaks of them as having a king. Perhaps the term 'Nabathaea regna' implies here, generally, the whole of Arabia.]

[Footnote 21: Are bordering upon Zephyrus.—Ver. 63. The region where the sun sets, that is to say, the western part of the world, was assigned by the ancients to the Zephyrs, or west winds, so called by a Greek derivation because they cherish and enliven nature.]

[Footnote 22: Boreas invaded Scythia.—Ver. 34. Under the name of Scythia, the ancients generally comprehended all the countries situate in the extreme northern regions. 'Septem trio,' meaning the northern region of the world, is so called from the 'Triones,' a constellation of seven stars, near the North Pole, known also as the Ursa Major, or Greater Bear, and among the country people of our time by the name of Charles's Wain. Boreas, one of the names of 'Aquilo,' or the 'north wind,' is derived from a Greek word, signifying 'an eddy.' This name was probably given to it from its causing whirlwinds occasionally by its violence.]

[Footnote 23: The drizzling South Wind.—Ver. 66. The South Wind is especially called rainy, because, blowing from the Mediterranean sea on the coast of France and Italy, it generally brings with it clouds and rain.]

[Footnote 24: The forms of the Gods.—Ver. 73. There is some doubt what the Poet here means by the 'forms of the Gods.' Some think that the stars are meant, as if it were to be understood that they are forms of the Gods. But it is most probably only a poetical expression for the Gods themselves, and he here assigns the heavens as the habitation of the Gods and the stars; these last, according to the notion of the Platonic philosophers being either intelligent beings, or guided and actuated by such.]

[Footnote 25: Inhabited by the smooth fishes.—Ver. 74. 'Cesserunt nitidis habitandae piscibus;' Clarke translates 'fell to the neat fishes to inhabit.']

[Footnote 26: Could rule over the rest.—Ver. 77. This strongly brings to mind the words of the Creator, described in the first chapter of Genesis, ver. 28. 'And God said unto them—have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.']

[Footnote 27: Framed him from divine elements.—Ver. 78. We have here strong grounds for contending that the ancient philosophers, and after them the poets, in their account of the creation of the world followed a tradition that had been copied from the Books of Moses. The formation of man, in Ovid, as well as in the Book of Genesis, is the last work of the Creator, and was, for the same purpose, that man might have dominion over the other animated works of the creation.]


According to Ovid, as in the book of Genesis, man is the last work of the Creator. The information derived from Holy Writ is here presented to us, in a disfigured form. Prometheus, who tempers the earth, and Minerva, who animates his workmanship, is God, who formed man, and 'breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.'

Some writers have labored to prove that this Prometheus, of the heathen Mythology, was a Scriptural character. Bochart believes him to have been the same with Magog, mentioned in the book of Genesis. Prometheus was the son of Iapetus, and Magog was the son of Japhet, who, according to that learned writer, was identical with Iapetus. He says, that as Magog went to settle in Scythia, so did Prometheus; as Magog either invented, or improved, the art of founding metals, and forging iron, so, according to the heathen poets, did Prometheus. Diodorus Siculus asserts that Prometheus was the first to teach mankind how to produce fire from the flint and steel.

The fable of Prometheus being devoured by an eagle, according to some, is founded on the name of Magog, which signifies 'a man devoured by sorrow.' Le Clerc, in his notes on Hesiod, says, that Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, was the same with the Gog of Scripture, the brother of Magog. Some writers, again, have exerted their ingenuity to prove that Prometheus is identical with the patriarch Noah.

FABLE III. [I.89-112]

The formation of man is followed by a succession of the four ages of the world. The first is the Golden Age, during which Innocence and Justice alone govern the world.

The Golden Age was first founded, which, without any avenger, of its own accord, without laws, practised both faith and rectitude. Punishment, and the fear {of it}, did not exist, and threatening decrees were not read upon the brazen {tables},[28] fixed up {to view}, nor {yet} did the suppliant multitude dread the countenance of its judge; but {all} were in safety without any avenger. The pine-tree, cut from its {native} mountains, had not yet descended to the flowing waves, that it might visit a foreign region; and mortals were acquainted with no shores beyond their own. Not as yet did deep ditches surround the towns; no trumpets of straightened, or clarions of crooked brass,[29] no helmets, no swords {then} existed. Without occasion for soldiers, the minds {of men}, free from care, enjoyed an easy tranquillity.

The Earth itself, too, in freedom, untouched by the harrow, and wounded by no ploughshares, of its own accord produced everything; and men, contented with the food created under no compulsion, gathered the fruit of the arbute-tree, and the strawberries of the mountain, and cornels, and blackberries adhering to the prickly bramble-bushes, and acorns which had fallen from the wide-spreading tree of Jove. {Then} it was an eternal spring; and the gentle Zephyrs, with their soothing breezes, cherished the flowers produced without any seed. Soon, too, the Earth unploughed yielded crops of grain, and the land, without being renewed, was whitened with the heavy ears of corn. Then, rivers of milk, then, rivers of nectar were flowing, and the yellow honey was distilled from the green holm oak.

[Footnote 28: Read upon the brazen tables.—Ver. 91. It was the custom among the Romans to engrave their laws on tables of brass, and fix them in the Capitol, or some other conspicuous place, that they might be open to the view of all.]

[Footnote 29: Clarions of crooked brass.—Ver. 98. 'Cornu' seems to have been a general name for the horn or trumpet; whereas the "tuba" was a straight trumpet, while the 'lituus' was bent into a spiral shape. Lydus says that the 'lituus' was the sacerdotal trumpet, and that it was employed by Romulus when he proclaimed the title of his newly-founded city. Acro says that it was peculiar to the cavalry, while the 'tuba' belonged to the infantry. The notes of the 'lituus' are usually described as harsh and shrill.]


The heathen poets had learned, most probably from tradition, that our first parents lived for some time in peaceful innocence; that, without tillage, the garden of Eden furnished them with fruit and food in abundance; and that the animals were submissive to their commands: that after the fall the ground became unfruitful, and yielded nothing without labor; and that nature no longer spontaneously acknowledged man for its master. The more happy days of our first parents they seem to have styled the Golden Age, each writer being desirous to make his own country the scene of those times of innocence. The Latin writers, for instance, have placed in Italy, and under the reign of Saturn and Janus, events, which, as they really happened, the Scriptures relate in the histories of Adam and of Noah.

FABLE IV. [I.113-150]

In the Silver Age, men begin not to be so just, nor, consequently, so happy, as in the Golden Age. In the Brazen Age, which succeeds, they become yet less virtuous; but their wickedness does not rise to its highest pitch until the Iron Age, when it makes its appearance in all its deformity.

Afterwards (Saturn being driven into the shady realms of Tartarus), the world was under the sway of Jupiter; {then} the Silver Age succeeded, inferior to {that of} gold, but more precious than {that of} yellow brass. Jupiter shortened the duration of the former spring, and divided the year into four periods by means of winters, and summers, and unsteady autumns, and short springs. Then, for the first time, did the parched air glow with sultry heat, and the ice, bound up by the winds, was pendant. Then, for the first time, did men enter houses; {those} houses were caverns, and thick shrubs, and twigs fastened together with bark. Then, for the first time, were the seeds of Ceres buried in long furrows, and the oxen groaned, pressed by the yoke {of the ploughshare}.

The Age of Brass succeeded, as the third {in order}, after these; fiercer in disposition, and more prone to horrible warfare, but yet free from impiety. The last {Age} was of hard iron. Immediately every species of crime burst forth, in this age of degenerated tendencies;[30] modesty, truth, and honor took flight; in their place succeeded fraud, deceit, treachery, violence, and the cursed hankering for acquisition. The sailor now spread his sails to the winds, and with these, as yet, he was but little acquainted; and {the trees}, which had long stood on the lofty mountains, now, {as} ships bounded[31] through the unknown waves. The ground, too, hitherto common as the light of the sun and the breezes, the cautious measurer marked out with his lengthened boundary.

And not only was the rich soil required to furnish corn and due sustenance, but men even descended into the entrails of the Earth; and riches were dug up, the incentives to vice, which the Earth had hidden, and had removed to the Stygian shades.[32] Then destructive iron came forth, and gold, more destructive than iron; then War came forth, that fights through the means of both,[33] and that brandishes in his blood-stained hands the clattering arms. Men live by rapine; the guest is not safe from his entertainer, nor the father-in-law from the son-in-law; good feeling, too, between brothers is a rarity. The husband is eager for the death of the wife, she {for that} of her husband. Horrible stepmothers {then} mingle the ghastly wolfsbane; the son prematurely makes inquiry[34] into the years of his father. Piety lies vanquished, and the virgin Astraea[35] is the last of the heavenly {Deities} to abandon the Earth, {now} drenched in slaughter.

[Footnote 30: Age of degenerated tendencies.—Ver. 128. 'Vena' signifies among other things, a vein or track of metal as it lies in the mine. Literally, 'venae pejoris' signifies 'of inferior metal.']

[Footnote 31: Now as ships bounded.—Ver. 134. 'Insultavere carinae.' This line is translated by Clarke, 'The keel-pieces bounced over unknown waves.']

[Footnote 32: To the Stygian shades.—Ver. 139. That is, in deep caverns, and towards the centre of the earth; for Styx was feigned to be a river of the Infernal Regions, situate in the depths of the earth.]

[Footnote 33: Through the means of both.—Ver. 142. Gold forms, perhaps, more properly the sinews of war than iron. The history of Philip of Macedon gives a proof of this, as he conquered Greece more by bribes than the sword, and used to say, that he deemed no fortress impregnable, where there was a gate large enough to admit a camel laden with gold.]

[Footnote 34: Prematurely makes inquiry.—Ver. 148. Namely, by inquiring of the magicians and astrologers, that by their skill in casting nativities, they might inform them the time when their parents were likely to die, and to leave them their property.]

[Footnote 35: Astraea.—Ver. 150. She was the daughter of Astraeus and Aurora, or of Jupiter and Themis, and was the Goddess of Justice. On leaving the earth, she was supposed to have taken her place among the stars as the Constellation of the Virgin.]


The Poet here informs us, that during the Golden Age, a perpetual spring reigned on the earth, and that the division of the year into seasons was not known until the Silver Age. This allusion to Eden is very generally to be found in the works of the heathen poets. The Silver Age is succeeded by the Brazen, and that is followed by the Iron Age, which still continues. The meaning is, that man gradually degenerated from his primeval innocence, and arrived at that state of wickedness and impiety, of which the history of all ages, ancient and modern, presents us with so many lamentable examples.

The limited nature of their views, and the fact that their exuberant fancy was the source from which they derived many of their alleged events, naturally betrayed the ancient writers into great inconsistencies. For in the Golden Age of Saturn, we find wars waged, and crimes committed. Saturn expelled his father, and seized his throne; Jupiter, his son, treated Saturn as he had done his father Uranus; and Jupiter, in his turn, had to wage war against the Giants, in their attempt to dispossess him of the heavens.

FABLE V. [I.151-162]

The Giants having attempted to render themselves masters of heaven, Jupiter buries them under the mountains which they have heaped together to facilitate their assault; and the Earth, animating their blood, forms out of it a cruel and fierce generation of men.

And that the lofty {realms of} aether might not be more safe than the Earth, they say that the Giants aspired to the sovereignty of Heaven, and piled the mountains, heaped together, even to the lofty stars. Then the omnipotent Father, hurling his lightnings, broke through Olympus,[36] and struck Ossa away from Pelion, that lay beneath it. While the dreadful carcasses lay overwhelmed beneath their own structure, they say that the Earth was wet, drenched with the plenteous blood of her sons, and that she gave life to the warm gore; and that, lest no memorial of this ruthless race should be surviving, she shaped them into the form of men. But that generation, too, was a despiser of the Gods above, and most greedy of ruthless slaughter, and full of violence: you might see that they derived their origin from blood.

[Footnote 36: Olympus.—Ver. 154. Olympus was a mountain between Thessaly and Macedonia. Pelion was a mountain of Thessaly, towards the Pelasgic gulf; and Ossa was a mountain between Olympus and Pelion. These the Giants are said to have heaped one on another, in order to scale heaven.]


The war of the giants, which is here mentioned, is not to be confounded with that between Jupiter and the Titans, who were inhabitants of heaven. The fall of the angels, as conveyed by tradition, probably gave rise to the story of the Titans; while, perhaps, the building of the tower of Babel may have laid the foundation of that of the attempt by the giants to reach heaven. Perhaps, too, the descendants of Cain, who are probably the persons mentioned in Scripture as the children 'of men' and 'giants,' were the race depicted under the form of the Giants, and the generation that sprung from their blood. See Genesis, ch. vi. ver. 2, 4.

FABLE VI. [I.163-215]

Jupiter, having seen the crimes of this impious race of men, calls a council of the Gods, and determines to destroy the world.

When the Father {of the Gods}, the son of Saturn, beheld this from his loftiest height, he groaned aloud; and recalling to memory the polluted banquet on the table of Lycaon, not yet publicly known, from the crime being but lately committed, he conceives in his mind vast wrath, and such as is worthy of Jove, and calls together a council; no delay detains them, thus summoned.

There is a way on high,[37] easily seen in a clear sky, and which, remarkable for its very whiteness, receives the name of the Milky {Way}. Along this is the way for the Gods above to the abode of the great Thunderer and his royal palace. On the right and on the left side the courts of the ennobled Deities[38] are thronged, with open gates. The {Gods of} lower rank[39] inhabit various places; in front {of the Way}, the powerful and illustrious inhabitants of Heaven have established their residence. This is the place which, if boldness may be allowed to my expression, I should not hesitate to style the palatial residence of Heaven. When, therefore, the Gods above had taken their seats in the marble hall of assembly; he himself, elevated on his seat, and leaning on his sceptre of ivory, three or four times shook the awful locks[40] of his head, with which he makes the Earth, the Seas, and the Stars to tremble. Then, after such manner as this, did he open his indignant lips:—

"Not {even} at that time was I more concerned for the empire of the universe, when each of the snake-footed monsters was endeavoring to lay his hundred arms on the captured skies. For although that was a dangerous enemy, yet that war was with but one stock, and sprang from a single origin. Now must the race of mortals be cut off by me, wherever Nereus[41] roars on all sides of the earth; {this} I swear by the Rivers of Hell, that glide in the Stygian grove beneath the earth. All methods have been already tried; but a wound that admits of no cure, must be cut away with the knife, that the sound parts may not be corrupted. I have {as subjects}, Demigods, and I have the rustic Deities, the Nymphs,[42] and the Fauns, and the Satyrs, and the Sylvans, the inhabitants of the mountains; these, though as yet, we have not thought them worthy of the honor of Heaven, let us, at least, permit to inhabit the earth which we have granted them. And do you, ye Gods of Heaven, believe that they will be in proper safety, when Lycaon remarkable for his cruelty, has formed a plot against {even} me, who own and hold sway over the thunder and yourselves?"

All shouted their assent aloud, and with ardent zeal they called for vengeance on one who dared such {crimes}. Thus, when an impious band[43] {madly} raged to extinguish the Roman name in the blood of Caesar, the human race was astonished with sudden terror at ruin so universal, and the whole earth shook with horror. Nor was the affectionate regard, Augustus, of thy subjects less grateful to thee, than that was to Jupiter. Who, after he had, by means of his voice and his hand, suppressed their murmurs, all of them kept silence. Soon as the clamor had ceased, checked by the authority of their ruler, Jupiter again broke silence in these words:

"He, indeed, (dismiss your cares) has suffered {dire} punishment; but what was the offence and what the retribution, I will inform you. The report of the iniquity of the age had reached my ears; wishing to find this not to be the truth, I descended from the top of Olympus, and, a God in a human shape, I surveyed the earth. 'Twere an endless task to enumerate how great an amount of guilt was everywhere discovered; the report itself was below the truth."

[Footnote 37: There is a way on high.—Ver. 168. The Poet here gives a description of the court of heaven; and supposing the galaxy, or Milky Way, to be the great road to the palace of Jupiter, places the habitations of the Gods on each side of it, and adjoining the palace itself. The mythologists also invented a story, that the Milky Way was a track left in the heavens by the milk of Juno flowing from the mouth of Hercules, when suckled by her. Aristotle, however, suspected what has been since confirmed by the investigations of modern science, that it was formed by the light of innumerable stars.]

[Footnote 38: The ennobled Deities.—Ver. 172. These were the superior Deities, who formed the privy councillors of Jupiter, and were called 'Di majorum gentium,' or, 'Di consentes.' Reckoning Jupiter as one, they were twelve in number, and are enumerated by Ennius in two limping hexameter lines:—

'Juno, Vesta, Minerva, Ceres, Diana, Venus, Mars, Mercurius, Jovis, Neptunus, Vulcanus, Apollo.']

[Footnote 39: The Gods of lower rank.—Ver. 173. These were the 'Dii minorum gentium,' or inferior Deities.]

[Footnote 40: Shook the awful locks.—Ver. 179. This awful nod of Jupiter, the sanction by which he confirms his decrees, is an idea taken from Homer; by whom it is so vividly depicted at the end of the first book of the Iliad, that Phidias, in his statue of that God, admired for the awful majesty of its looks, is said to have derived his conception of the features from that description. Virgil has the same idea in the AEneid, book x; 'Annuit, et totum metu tremefecit Olympum.']

[Footnote 41: Nereus.—Ver. 187. He was one of the most ancient of the Deities of the sea, and was the son of Oceanus and Tethys.]

[Footnote 42: The Nymphs.—Ver. 192. The terrestrial Nymphs were the Dryads and Hamadryads, who haunting the woods, and the duration of their existence depending upon the life of particular trees, derived their name from the Greek word drus, 'an oak.' The Oreades were nymphs who frequented the mountains, while the Napeae lived in the groves and valleys. There were also Nymphs of the sea and of the rivers; of which, the Nereids were so called from their father Nereus, and the Oceanitides, from Oceanus. There were also the Naiads, or nymphs of the fountains, and many others.]

[Footnote 43: Thus when an impious band.—Ver. 200. It is a matter of doubt whether he here refers to the conspiracies of Brutus and Cassius against Julius Caesar, or whether to that against Augustus, which is mentioned by Suetonius, in the nineteenth chapter of his History. As Augustus survived the latter conspiracy, and the parallel is thereby rendered more complete, probably this is the circumstance here alluded to.]


It is to be presumed, that Ovid here follows the prevailing tradition of his time; and it is surprising how closely that tradition adheres to the words of Scripture, relative to the determination of the Almighty to punish the earth by a deluge, as disclosed in the sixth chapter of Genesis. The Poet tells us, that the King of heaven calls the Gods to a grand council, to deliberate upon the punishment of mankind, in retribution for their wickedness. The words of Scripture are, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, 'I will destroy man, whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air: for it repenteth me that I have made them.'" —Genesis, ch. vi. ver. 5, 6, 7.

Tradition seems to have faithfully carried down the fact, that, amid this universal corruption, there was still at least one just man, and here it attributes to Deucalion the merit that belonged to Noah.

FABLE VII. [I.216-243]

Lycaon, king of Arcadia, in order to discover if it is Jupiter himself who has come to lodge in his palace, orders the body of an hostage, who had been sent to him, to be dressed and served up at a feast. The God, as a punishment, changes him into a wolf.

I had {now} passed Maenalus, to be dreaded for its dens of beasts of prey, and the pine-groves of cold Lycaeus, together with Cyllene.[44] After this, I entered the realms and the inhospitable abode of the Arcadian tyrant, just as the late twilight was bringing on the night. I gave a signal that a God had come, and the people commenced to pay their adorations. In the first place, Lycaon derided their pious supplications. Afterwards, he said, I will make trial, by a plain proof, whether this is a God, or whether he is a mortal; nor shall the truth remain a matter of doubt. He then makes preparations to destroy me, when sunk in sleep, by an unexpected death; this mode of testing the truth pleases him. And not content with that, with the sword he cuts the throat of an hostage that had been sent from the nation of the Molossians,[45] and then softens part of the quivering limbs, in boiling water, and part he roasts with fire placed beneath. Soon as he had placed these on the table, I, with avenging flames, overthrew the house upon the household Gods,[46] worthy of their master. Alarmed, he himself takes to flight, and having reached the solitude of the country, he howls aloud, and in vain attempts to speak; his mouth gathers rage from himself, and through its {usual} desire for slaughter, it is directed against the sheep, and even still delights in blood. His garments are changed into hair, his arms into legs; he becomes a wolf, and he still retains vestiges of his ancient form. His hoariness is still the same, the same violence {appears} in his features; his eyes are bright as before; {he is still} the same image of ferocity.

"Thus fell one house; but one house alone did not deserve to perish; wherever the earth extends, the savage Erinnys[47] reigns. You would suppose that men had conspired to be wicked; let all men speedily feel that vengeance which they deserve to endure, for such is my determination."

[Footnote 44: Together with Cyllene.—Ver. 217. Cyllenus, or Cyllene, was a mountain of Arcadia, sacred to Mercury, who was hence called by the poets Cyllenius. Lycaeus was also a mountain of Arcadia, sacred to Pan, and was covered with groves of pine-trees.]

[Footnote 45: Of the Molossians.—Ver. 226. The Molossi were a people of Epirus, on the eastern side of the Ambracian gulf. Ovid here commits a slight anachronism, as the name was derived from Molossus, the son of Neoptolemus, long after the time of Lycaon. Besides, as Burmann observes, who could believe that 'wars could be waged at such an early period between nations so distant as the Molossi and the Arcadians?' Apollodorus says, that it was a child of the same country, whose flesh Lycaon set before Jupiter. Other writers say that it was Nyctimus, the son of Lycaon, or Arcas, his grandson, that was slain by him.]

[Footnote 46: Upon the household Gods.—Ver. 231. This punishment was awarded to the Penates, or household Gods of Lycaon, for taking such a miscreant under their protection.]

[Footnote 47: The savage Erinnys.—Ver. 241. Erinnys was a general name given to the Furies by the Greeks. They were three in number—Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera. These were so called, either from the Greek eris nou, 'the discord of the mind,' or from en te era naiein, 'their inhabiting the earth,' watching the actions of men.]


If Ovid is not here committing an anachronism, and making Jupiter, before the deluge, relate the story of a historical personage, who existed long after it, the origin of the story of Lycaon must be sought in the antediluvian narrative. It is just possible that the guilty Cain may have been the original of Lycaon. The names are not very dissimilar: they are each mentioned as the first murderer; and the fact, that Cain murdered Abel at the moment when he was offering sacrifice to the Almighty, may have given rise to the tradition that Lycaon had set human flesh before the king of heaven. The Scripture, too, tells us, that Cain was personally called to account by the Almighty for his deed of blood.

The punishment here inflicted on Lycaon was not very dissimilar to that with which Cain was visited. Cain was sentenced to be a fugitive and a wanderer on the face of the earth; and such is essentially the character of the wolf, shunned by both men and animals. Of course, there are many points to which it is not possible to extend the parallel. Some of the ancient writers tell us, that there were two Lycaons, the first of whom was the son of Phoroneus, who reigned in Arcadia about the time of the patriarch Jacob; and the second, who succeeded him, polluted the festivals of the Gods by the sacrifice of the human race; for, having erected an altar to Jupiter, at the city of Lycosura, he slew human victims on it, whence arose the story related by the Poet. This solution is given by Pausanias, in his Arcadica. We are also told by that historian, and by Suidas, that Lycaon was, notwithstanding, a virtuous prince, the benefactor of his people, and the promoter of improvement.

FABLE VIII. [I.244-312]

Jupiter, not thinking the punishment of Lycaon sufficient to strike terror into the rest of mankind, resolves, on account of the universal corruption, to extirpate them by a universal deluge.

Some, by their words approve the speech of Jupiter, and give spur to him, {indignantly} exclaiming; others, by {silent} assent fulfil their parts. Yet the {entire} destruction of the human race is a cause of grief to them all, and they inquire what is to be the form of the earth in future, when destitute of mankind? who is to place frankincense[48] on the altars? and whether it is his design to give up the nations for a prey to the wild beasts? The ruler of the Gods forbids them making these enquiries, to be alarmed (for that the rest should be his care); and he promises, {that} from a wondrous source {he will raise} a generation unlike the preceding race.

And now he was about to scatter his thunder over all lands; but he was afraid lest, perchance, the sacred aether might catch fire, from so many flames, and the extended sky might become inflamed. He remembers, too, that it was in the {decrees of} Fate, that a time should come,[49] at which the sea, the earth, and the palace of heaven, seized {by the flames}, should be burned, and the laboriously-wrought fabric of the universe should be in danger of perishing. The weapons forged by the hands of the Cyclops are laid aside; a different {mode of} punishment pleases him: to destroy mankind beneath the waves, and to let loose the rains from the whole tract of Heaven. At once he shuts the North Wind in the caverns of AEolus, and {all} those blasts which dispel the clouds drawn over {the Earth}; and {then} he sends forth the South Wind. With soaking wings the South Wind flies abroad, having his terrible face covered with pitchy darkness; his beard {is} loaded with showers, the water streams down from his hoary locks, clouds gather upon his forehead, his wings and the folds of his robe[50] drip with wet; and, as with his broad hand he squeezes the hanging clouds, a crash arises, and thence showers are poured in torrents from the sky. Iris,[51] the messenger of Juno, clothed in various colors, collects the waters, and bears a supply {upwards} to the clouds.

The standing corn is beaten down, and the expectations of the husbandman, {now} lamented by him, are ruined, and the labors of a long year prematurely perish. Nor is the wrath of Jove satisfied with his own heaven; but {Neptune}, his azure brother, aids him with his auxiliary waves. He calls together the rivers, which, soon as they had entered the abode of their ruler, he says, "I must not now employ a lengthened exhortation; pour forth {all} your might, so the occasion requires. Open your abodes, and, {each} obstacle removed, give full rein to your streams." {Thus} he commanded; they return, and open the mouths of their fountains,[52] and roll on into the ocean with unobstructed course. He himself struck the Earth with his trident, {on which} it shook, and with a tremor laid open the sources of its waters. The rivers, breaking out, rush through the open plains, and bear away, together with the standing corn, the groves, flocks, men, houses, and temples, together with their sacred {utensils}. If any house remained, and, not thrown down, was able to resist ruin so vast, yet the waves, {rising} aloft, covered the roof of that {house}, and the towers tottered, overwhelmed beneath the stream. And now sea and land had no mark of distinction; everything now was ocean; and to that ocean shores were wanting. One man takes possession of a hill, another sits in a curved boat, and plies the oars there where he had lately ploughed; another sails over the standing corn, or the roof of his country-house under water; another catches a fish on the top of an elm-tree. An anchor (if chance so directs) is fastened in a green meadow, or the curving keels come in contact with the vineyards, {now} below them; and where of late the slender goats had cropped the grass, there unsightly sea-calves are now reposing their bodies.

The Nereids wonder at the groves, the cities, and the houses under water; dolphins get into the woods, and run against the lofty branches, and beat against the tossed oaks. The wolf swims[53] among the sheep; the wave carries along the tawny lions; the wave carries along the tigers. Neither does the powers of his lightning-shock avail the wild boar, nor his swift legs the stag, {now} borne away. The wandering bird, too, having long sought for land, where it may be allowed to light, its wings failing, falls down into the sea. The boundless range of the sea had overwhelmed the hills, and the stranger waves beat against the heights of the mountains. The greatest part is carried off by the water: those whom the water spares, long fastings overcome, through scantiness of food.

[Footnote 48: To place frankincense.—Ver. 249. In those early ages, corn or wheaten flour, was the customary offering to the Deities, and not frankincense, which was introduced among the luxuries of more refined times. Ovid is consequently guilty of an anachronism here.]

[Footnote 49: That a time should come.—Ver. 256. Lactantius informs us that the Sibyls predicted that the world should perish by fire. Seneca also, in his consolation to Marcia, and in his Quaestiones Naturales, mentions the same destined termination of the present state of the universe. It was a doctrine of the Stoic philosophers, that the stars were nurtured with moisture, and that on the cessation of this nourishment the conflagration of the universe would ensue.]

[Footnote 50: The folds of his robe.—Ver. 267. 'Rorant pennae sinusque,' is quaintly translated by Clarke, 'his wings and the plaits of his coat drop.']

[Footnote 51: Iris.—Ver. 271. The mention of Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, in connection with the flood of Deucalion, cannot fail to remind us of the 'bow set in the cloud, for a token of the covenant between God and the earth,' on the termination of Noah's flood.—Gen. x. 14.]

[Footnote 52: The mouths of their fountains.—Ver. 281. The expressions in this line and in line 283, are not unlike the words of the 11th verse of the 7th chapter of Genesis, 'The fountains of the great deep were broken up.']

[Footnote 53: The wolf swims.—Ver. 304. One commentator remarks here, that there was nothing very wonderful in a dead wolf swimming among the sheep without devouring them. Seneca is, however, too severe upon our author in saying that he is trifling here, in troubling himself on so serious an occasion with what sheep and wolves are doing: for he gravely means to say, that the beasts of prey are terrified to that degree that they forget their carnivorous propensities.]


Pausanias makes mention of five deluges. The two most celebrated happened in the time of Ogyges, and in that of Deucalion. Of the last Ovid here speaks; and though that deluge was generally said to have overflowed Thessaly only, he has evidently adopted in his narrative the tradition of the universal deluge, which all nations seem to have preserved. He says, that the sea joined its waters to those falling from heaven. The words of Scripture are (Genesis, vii. 11), 'All the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.' In speaking of the top of Parnassus alone being left uncovered, the tradition here followed by Ovid probably referred to Mount Ararat, where Noah's ark rested. Noah and his family are represented by Deucalion and Pyrrha. Both Noah and Deucalion were saved for their virtuous conduct; when Noah went out of the ark, he offered solemn sacrifices to God; and Pausanias tells us that Deucalion, when saved, raised an altar to Jupiter the Liberator. The Poet tells us, that Deucalion's deluge was to be the last: God promised the same thing to Noah. Josephus, in his Antiquities, Book i., tells us, that the history of the universal deluge was written by Nicolas of Damascus, Berosus, Mnaseas, and other ancient writers, from whom the Greeks and Romans received it.

FABLE IX. [I.313-366]

Neptune appeases the angry waves; and he commands Triton to sound his shell, that the sea may retire within its shores, and the rivers within their banks. Deucalion and Pyrrha are the only persons saved from the deluge.

Phocis separates the Aonian[54] from the Actaean region; a fruitful land while it was a land; but at that time {it had become} a part of the sea, and a wide plain of sudden waters. There a lofty mountain rises towards the stars, with two tops, by name Parnassus,[55] and advances beyond the clouds with its summit. When here Deucalion (for the sea had covered all other places), borne in a little ship, with the partner of his couch, {first} rested; they adored the Corycian Nymphs,[56] and the Deities of the mountain, and the prophetic Themis,[57] who at that time used to give out oracular responses. No man was there more upright than he, nor a greater lover of justice, nor was any woman more regardful of the Deities than she.

Soon as Jupiter {beholds} the world overflowed by liquid waters, and sees that but one man remains out of so many thousands of late, and sees that but one woman remains out of so many thousands of late, both guiltless, and both worshippers of the Gods, he disperses the clouds; and the showers being removed by the North Wind, he both lays open the earth to the heavens, and the heavens to the earth. The rage, too, of the sea does not continue; and his three-forked trident {now} laid aside, the ruler of the deep assuages the waters, and calls upon the azure Triton standing above the deep, and having his shoulders covered with the native purple shells;[58] and he bids him blow[59] his resounding trumpet, and, the signal being given, to call back the waves and the streams. The hollow-wreathed trumpet[60] is taken up by him, which grows to a {great} width from its lowest twist; the trumpet, which, soon as it receives the air in the middle of the sea, fills with its notes the shores lying under either sun. Then, too, as soon as it touched the lips of the God dripping with his wet beard, and being blown, sounded the bidden retreat;[61] it was heard by all the waters both of earth and sea, and stopped all those waters by which it was heard. Now the sea[62] {again} has a shore; their channels receive the full rivers; the rivers subside; the hills are seen to come forth. The ground rises, places increase {in extent} as the waters decrease; and after a length of time, the woods show their naked tops, and retain the mud left upon their branches.

The world was restored; which when Deucalion beheld to be empty, and how the desolate Earth kept a profound silence, he thus addressed Pyrrha, with tears bursting forth:—"O sister, O wife, O thou, the only woman surviving, whom a common origin,[63] and a kindred descent, and afterwards the marriage tie has united to me, and {whom} now dangers themselves unite to me; we two are the whole people of the earth, whatever {both} the East and the West behold; of all the rest, the sea has taken possession. And even now there is no certain assurance of our lives; even yet do the clouds terrify my mind. What would now have been thy feelings, if without me thou hadst been rescued from destruction, O thou deserving of compassion? In what manner couldst thou have been able alone to support {this} terror? With whom for a consoler, {to endure} these sorrows? For I, believe me, my wife, if the sea had only carried thee off, should have followed thee, and the sea should have carried me off as well. Oh that I could replace the people {that are lost} by the arts of my father,[64] and infuse the soul into the moulded earth! Now the mortal race exists in us two {alone}. Thus it has seemed good to the Gods, and we remain as {mere} samples of mankind."

[Footnote 54: The Aonian.—Ver. 313. Aonia was a mountainous region of Boeotia; and Actaea was an ancient name of Attica, from akte, the sea-shore.]

[Footnote 55: By name Parnassus.—Ver. 317. Mount Parnassus has two peaks, of which the one was called 'Tichoreum,' and was sacred to Bacchus; and the other 'Hypampeum,' and was devoted to Apollo and the Muses.]

[Footnote 56: The Corycian Nymphs.—Ver. 320. The Corycian Nymphs were so called from inhabiting the Corycian cavern in Mount Parnassus; they were fabled to be the daughters of Plistus, a river near Delphi. There was another Corycian cave in Cilicia, in Asia Minor.]

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