Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Ovid, Metamorphoses



Glaucus, Circe, and Scylla:

Glaucus, whose story began in the previous book, goes to the enchantress Circe (whom we met in Homer’s Odyssey changing men into swine) and whines about Scylla spurning him. Circe falls in love with him, but he rejects her. Circe turns her anger on Scylla, poisoning a wading pool, so that when Scylla takes a dip, vicious dog-heads grow around her waist. Glaucus is saddened and flees. Scylla turns into a rock, dreaded by sailors (327).

Aeneas and the Sibyl:

We rejoin the travels of Aeneas and focus a while on the background of the Sibyl who escorts him into the underworld. Hundreds of years ago, Apollo had lusted after her and granted her a wish. She chose to live as many years as there were grains of sand in a big pile she pointed out. She forgot to ask for perpetual youth, though, which Apollo would have granted if she let him have his way with her. She refused. Shrivelling and withering, she still has three hundred years to go.


Achaemenides was one of Ulysses’ sailors left behind in the midst of their adventures on the island of the wrathful and bloodthirsty Cyclops. He was rescued by Aeneas. His old friend Macareus recounts quickly the further adventures of Ulysses that Achaemenides missed, especially the episode of Circe changing him and the others into pigs.

Picus and Canens:

Macareus recounts a story told to him about Saturn’s son, Picus, an Italian king in love with a nymph named Canens whose singing was superb. Circe falls for him and misleads him during a hunting expedition with a phantom boar. He rejects her, and she turns him into a woodpecker. His hunting comrades return and she turns them all into various creatures. Canens is distraught: her marrow dissolves and she vanishes” — she becomes a placename.


A return to the wanderings of Aeneas rapidly brings us to Diomedes’ story, starting with tribulations encountered after the fall of Troy. He had wounded Venus (see Book 5 of Homer’s Iliad) so the goddess harassed him and his sailors when they tried to return home. One guy, Acmon, rages about Venus and turns into a swan-like bird.

The End of the Aeneid:

So Diomedes is too weakened to help the group now known as the Latins fight for their new land. Aeneas finally prevails over Turnus. The gods are all pleased with the resolution, and since Iulus is sufficiently established, Aeneas can be removed from the scene by being deified. A series of Latin rulers is recited.

Pomona and Vertumnus:

Pomona the nymph tends her orchard lovingly. Guys come around but she wants nothing to do with them. Vertumnus is also smitten and adopts a series of disguises to get close, including that of an old woman. In this guise he tells Pomona a story in which the youth Iphis, ignored by Anaxarete, hangs himself. Anaxarete turns into a statue. The intended carpe diem story doesn’t really work, but when Vertumnus removes his disguise, Pomona is smitten anyway, so they become a successful couple.

More Roman History:

The book ends with another sequence of Roman leaders as myth becomes legend becomes history.

Metamorphoses Book XV
Ovid Index
Orpheus: Roman Mythology