Prima ab origine mundi, ad mea perpetuum
tempora carmen, "from the very beginning of the world, in an unbroken poem, to my own time" (Metamorphoses 1.3-4). Publius Ovidius Naso also known as Ovid wrote Metamorphoses, which combines hundreds of stories from Greek mythology and Roman traditions. He stitched many of them together in a very peculiar epic poem in fifteen books. The central theme of the book is transformation "from the earliest beginnings of the world, down to my own times." Ovid sweeps down from the creation to the Augustan era. Metamorphoses or Transformations refers to the change of shape and form of the characters of the poem. The theme is presented in the opening lines of the poem, where the poet invokes the gods who are responsible for the changes to look favorably on his efforts to compose. The main agent of transformation is love, represented by Venus and her youthful and mischievous son, Cupid. The changes are of many kinds: from human to animal, animal to human, thing to human, human to thing. Some changes are reversed: human to animal to human. Sometimes the transformations are partial, and physical features and personal qualities of the earlier being are preserved in mutated form.
All of Ovid's tales involve metamorphoses, but some stories (Phaethon (Book 2), Pentheus (Book3), and Heracles (Book 9)) only have metamorphosis tacked on as a casual element, almost as an afterthought. Ovid seems to be more interested in metamorphosis as a universal principal which explains the nature of the world: Troy falls, Rome rises. Nothing is permanent. The chronological progression of the poem is also disorganized. Ovid begins his poem with the story of creation and the flood, and ends in his own day with Augustus on the throne. However, chronology becomes unimportant in
the middle section of the work, as seen by the many anachronisms throughout (Callisto (Book 2), Atlas (Book 4), and Cygnus (Book 11). The transitions of the books are very...
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