Philosophy versus Cosmology
A Comparison of Creation in Hesiod’s Theogony and Ovid’s Metamorphoses By Catherine Franklin
To fully understand the poems; Metamorphoses and Theogony, one needs to understand more about the writers. Hesiod was a greek poet, who lived around 700BC, and was inspired by muses to write epic poetry. Theogony is considered one of earliest works and concerns itself with the cosmogony, or the origins of the world and theogony, or the gods, and pays specific detail to genealogy (West, 1996: 521). Ovid, on the other hand, was a Roman poet, born in 43 BC – the year after the assassination of Julius Caesar and lived during Augustus’s reign. It’s said that his father took him to Rome to become educated in the ways of a public speaker or a politician, but instead Ovid used his education to write poetry (Gill, 2013). Ovid wrote in a time called the Neoteric period, and the goal of the neoteric poets was to revitalise Latin poetry, to write about new things but in a completely original style. They didn’t want to to imitate other poets, such as Homer. Ovid’s metamorphoses is classified as an epyllion (little epic), almost as though Ovid was imitating a god himself by giving history some form. Ovid is the author of Metamorphoses. Secondly, one must be made familiar with the poems written by Ovid and Hesiod. The word theogony means birth of the Gods, and this is almost exactly what Hesiod does in his poetry – he speaks about the birth and life of the Gods. However, in this essay I will purely be focusing on the creation or birth of the Gods in Theogony. To Hesiod, the birth of the Gods and the creation of the world is the same thing, where the Gods actually form the world, with a giant emphasis on Zeus. However, Metamorphoses by Ovid takes on a slightly different approach. It describes the history of the world from the time of its creation until Caesar is assassinated and goes through apotheosis. While Hesiod’s poem follows a chronological order, Ovid’s poem seems to jump from one transformation tale to another, with no seeming connection. Metamorphoses, also tends to invert the accepted order by elevating humans and human passions and emotions while making Gods and their conquests into low humour. Ovid focuses on transformation, and the importance of men in his poetry emphasises the slightly more scientific point of view that Ovid has over Hesiod. However, both men are creationists in their ideas of how the world came to be, yet Ovid’s explanation contains hints of an evolutionists view. Now that we are more familiar with the context of the poems; Theogony and Metamorphoses, the comparison of creation viewpoints can be discussed. In Hesiod’s Theogony, there is an initial state of Chaos in the universe – a gaping void considered as a divine primordial condition, and from this abyss everything that exists appeared. First came Gaia, the physical form of Earth, Tartarus, a cave-like space under Earth, and Eros, who plays a role in sexual reproduction – before Eros became involved, all Gods reproduced asexually. From Chaos came Erebus, a place of darkness between Earth and the underworld, and Nyx or night. Erebus and Nyx proceeded to make Aether, the outer atmosphere where Gods breathed, and Hemera or day. Gaia then spawned a God equal to herself, with whom she could mate with, who was named Ouranos or the Heavens, as well as Pontus, the sea and Ourea, the mountains. Together, Gaia and Ouranos produced twelve Titans; Oceanus, Koios, Kreios, Hyperion, Iapetos, Thea, Rhea, Themis, Memory, Phoebe, Thethys and Kronos, who loathed his father. She also bored three cyclopes; Brontes, Steropes and Arges, also called Thunderer, Lightner and Whitebolt, who provided Zeus with his thunder, and forged his thunderbolt. These Cyclopes were like gods but only had one eye, hence they were given the name circle-eye, and strength, force and resource were their works. Lastly, she bore the three Hecatonchire, who were all male;...
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