The Madness of Epic: Reading Insanity from Homer to Statius

By Debra Hershkowitz | Go to book overview
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4
Ovid's Metamorphoses:
Shifting Boundaries of the Divided Self

Metamorphosis and Madness

In Metamorphoses4, Juno sends Tisiphone to drive Athamas and Ino mad:

inde duos mediis abrumpit crinibus angues 495
pestiferaque manu raptos inmisit; at illi
Inoosque sinus Athamanteosque pererrant
inspirantque graues animas: nec uulnera membris
ulla ferunt, mens est, quae diros sentiat ictus.
attulerat securn liquidi quoque monstra ueneni, 500
oris Cerberei spumas et uirus Echidnae
erroresque uagos caecaeque obliuia mentis
et scelus et lacrimas rabiemque et caedis amorem,
omnia trita simul; quae sanguine mixta recenti
coxerat aere cauo uiridi uersata cicuta; 505
dumque pauent illi, uertit furiale uenenum
pectus in amborum praecordiaque intima mouit.
tum face iactata per eundem saepius orbem
consequitur motis uelociter ignibus ignes.

Then she broke off two snakes from her hair and, snatching them, threw them With her plague-bearing hand. They wandered over the breasts of Ino and Athamas and exhaled their heavy breath. They bring no wounds to the limbs; it is the mind which feels the dire blows. Tisiphone also brought the horror of liquid poisons, froth from the mouth of Cerberus and the venom of the Hydra, erratic derangement and forgetfulness of the blinded mind, and crime and tears and frenzy and love of slaughter, all ground together, which, mixed with fresh blood, she had cooked in a bronze cauldron and stirred with a green hemlock stalk. And while they are terrified, she turns the maddening poison into both of their chests and moves their deepest insides. Then, hurling her torch around and through the same circle, she quickly follows whirled fire with fire. (4. 495-509)

Tisiphone's intervention recalls Allecto's visitations to Arnata and

-161-

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