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Metamorphoses: Book 1: The Flood Summary & Analysis

Jupiter starts to strike the earth with lightning, but he worries that the heavens will catch on fire. He remembers that the Fates once decreed that the throne of heaven would burn. So, Jove gathers storm-clouds instead. He imprisons all the winds, and then releases Notus, the wind of the South. Notus flies over the earth, bringing gloom and pouring rain. Farmers weep as their crops are flattened. Jove calls his brother, the sea god Neptune, and tells him to let loose his strength. Neptune strikes the earth with the sea, causing the rivers to burst their confines. Crops, livestock, and houses crumble under a gigantic wave.
Jupiter decides to punish humanity and purify the world from sin, not with his divine weapon—lightning—but with nature itself. In order to unleash the power of the universe’s natural elements, he reverses the counterbalance that was established between the winds. He also unleashes the sea from its position of restraint. In this way, he returns the universe to some of the chaos which governed it before the creation.
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After the flood, the land and the sea can no longer be distinguished. Men row their boats where their houses had been, the forests fill with dolphins, and wolves, sheep, and tigers swim together. The boar’s strength and the deer’s speed are useless. Only the peaks of mountains show above the water, and anyone who doesn’t drown in the flood dies later of starvation.
Jupiter returns the universe to the disorganized state of chaos that characterized it before the creation. In this way, Ovid reminds his audience that nothing can be destroyed, only re-formed. To obliterate the corrupt world, Jupiter can only rearrange and restructure it, just as the initial creation only rearranged and restructured what already existed.
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