Ovid, Metamorphoses

Delahoyde & Hughes



In Book IV, Perseus cut a deal with King Cepheus and Queen Cassiope; they accepted a pact and promised their daughter in marriage to Perseus if he freed her from the chains of the monster. Perseus saved Andromache, a woman betrothed to Phineus, King Cepheus’ brother. So in Book V, Phineus is ready for violence. King Cepheus points out that he was not the one to save Andromache from the monster of the sea: he did nothing to try to save Andromeda. King Cepheus asks Phineus how he can now outcry against her marriage to Perseus when Perseus is the man who rescued her from death.

Phineus’ rage persists and he strikes out at Perseus with his spear. He misses. Perseus retrieves the spear and fires it back, missing the scrambling Phineus and hitting the face of Rhoetus. Violence and bloodshed result. Perseus is a formidable warrior but he is eventually hemmed in by Phineus and a thousand of his men. Perseus says,”You have compelled me to this step; from my own enemy I must seek help.” He raises the Gorgon’s head (104). “Two hundred saw that head and turned to stone” (105). Phineus half-apologizes, but Perseus mercilessly shoves Medusa’s head into his face.

  • What might the Gorgon signify in contemporary culture?

Minerva and the Muses:

We learn of the wonders of Pegasus and a challenge to the Muses. We hear about the gods disguising themselves as animals at one point (109). Ovid also supplies the story of Proserpine (in Greek, Persephone), her abduction by Pluto (Hades) when shot by Cupid, and the search conducted by her mother Ceres (Demeter). Unfortunately, Proserpine had eaten some pomegranate seeds in the underworld, and so can be only partially saved.

  • Ovid interjects that earth is not to be blamed for any willing aid in the ravishment. What part did earth play in this story?

Arethusa is chased, naked, and turns into a sacred spring. Etiologically, we hear of the origin of newts (113), owls (115-116), the lynx (119), and magpies (119-120).

Metamorphoses Book VI
Ovid Index
Orpheus: Roman Mythology