Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Ovid, Metamorphoses

Delahoyde

Orpheus

OVID
METAMORPHOSES
BOOK XII


The Invasion of Troy:

Ovid dodges repetition of the material everyone knows from the Homeric epics and instead dwells more on the prelude and the side materials: the early omens, the murder of Iphegenia, etc. Ovid tells of the force of Rumour (275) right at this point: why? (It might remind you of Chaucer’s House of Fame.)

We hear a second origin of cygnus, the swan: rage-aholic Achilles is frustrated that he cannot wound Cycnus, and eventually beats him to near-death before Neptune saves him with the swan metamorphosis. Achilles sacrifices a heifer and offers the gods blood and entrails (278).

Caenis:

Nestor acknowledges his old age and narrates briefly the story of Caenis, a woman who chooses to turn into a man after Neptune rapes her (280).

*The Battle with the Centaurs*:

Just where in the sequence of events the great Trojan War should appear, Ovid gives us the rambling Nestor telling of another kind of fight: at a wedding, the drunk and horny centaurs cause a bar-room brawl. [Centaurs have been infantalized by Disney in Fantasia (1940).] The long (epic?) description is part grim slapstick and part Homeric parody, with arbitrary wounds described similarly.

*The Omission of Hercules*:

  • Is Nestor senile?
  • Nestor tries to justify his failure to mention Hercules. What is his explanation?
  • What questions does Ovid raise about the reporting of legend and why?

Nestor tries to justify his failure to include even mention of Hercules by saying that “we never praise” others including Hector (290), which is, of course, patently wrong. Mostly, though, Hercules killed all of Nestor’s brothers. So he’s left out of this unreliable narrator’s tales.

Leaping to post-Iliad material, the death of Achilles by the arrow of Paris is reported, leading to the debate over the arms of Achilles in the next book.


Metamorphoses Book XIII
Ovid Index
Orpheus: Roman Mythology