Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives

By Peter Toohey | Go to book overview

8

OVID, METAMORPHOSES

In Ovid's epic, the Metamorphoses, there are approximately 250 separate stories. An attempt to provide an interpretative paraphrase of that sum would run two risks: confusion and boredom. To avoid such risks I will stick to the promise made at the beginning of the last chapter. My discussion will not follow sequentially Ovid's labyrinthine narrative. It will be arranged topically.


WHY DID HE DIE IN A FRONTIER TOWN?

My temples now are like swan's plumage, and my black hair is stained white with age; old age's weakness and laziness creep up on me; it's difficult now to keep on going. I should be at the end of my troubles, I should be living without fear, I should be enjoying my leisure and hobbies … the gods have not decreed it: I have been exiled across land and sea and thrown up on the coast of Sarmatia.

Ovid was about 53 when he wrote these lines from exile in Tomis (Tristia 4.8.1-6, 15-16). He was driven from Romein AD 8. His place of exile (modern Constanza near the mouth of the Danube) was no holiday resort. This is how Ovid describes its winter (Tristia 3.10.13-24):

The snow is there all the time. Once fallen, no sun or rain can melt it. The north wind sets it hard and makes it last for ever. One fall comes before another has melted. It can stay like this in some places for two years. The northern storm wind is so strong that it can level high towers and sweep away buildings. [The people of Tomis] keep out the evil cold with skins and stitched trousers. Only their faces are exposed. Their hair often

-144-

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Reading Epic: An Introduction to the Ancient Narratives
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Epic- The Genre, Its Characteristics 1
  • 2 - Homer, Iliad 20
  • 3 - Homer, Odyssey 44
  • 4 - Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 68
  • 5 - Beginning Epic in Rome 90
  • 6 - The Alexandrian Miniature Epic 100
  • 7 - Virgil, Aeneid 121
  • 8 - Ovid, Metamorphoses 144
  • 9 - Lucan, the Civil War 166
  • 10 - Roman Epic and the Emperor Domitian 186
  • 11 - Ends and Beginnings; Late Ancient Epic 211
  • Appendix- The Epic and the Novel 224
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 242
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