Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 1: The Four Ages Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ovid explains that the first Age on earth is the Golden Age. This Age has no laws or punishments, and the people do what is right of their own free will. People have not started cutting down trees, ploughing the earth, or travelling away from their homelands. No cities put up barricades, and no wars start. The people practice peace and enjoy eternal spring. The earth yields fruits in plenty, and rivers of milk and honey.
During this time, nothing changes: humans don’t alter the earth, and the earth doesn’t change seasons. Ovid presents this healthy relationship between humans and nature as ideal but unsustainable. This supports Ovid’s theme that everything changes and no state remains the same.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Quotes
When Saturn is banished to Tartarus, the dungeon of the gods, Jupiter, Saturn’s son, takes the throne and the Silver Age starts. Spring is broken into summer, fall, winter, and a short spring. People, who used to live in caves, take shelter from the weather in houses. They plough the fields and yoke the oxen. Then the Bronze Age comes, bringing weapons.
This passage suggests that Jupiter’s ascension to the throne of the gods catalyzes the universe’s movement into the Silver Age. This shows that dissension and movement in the world of the gods affects the changes that occur on the earth.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Next the Iron Age comes, and evil invades the earth. Cruelty and deception replace loyalty and truth. People become violent, lustful, and greedy. They sail from their homelands, chop down the trees, and put boundaries around their cities. They strip the earth of its food and mine for gold and iron to make weapons. Wars break out. Sons deceive their fathers and husbands and wives plot each other’s deaths. Finally, Justice the Maiden abandons the bloody earth.
Ovid’s description of the Iron Age suggests a connection between humanity’s moral decline and the abuse of the natural world. As soon as human beings start mining the earth for metals, they start making weapons. Similarly, as soon as human beings start travelling, they start warring and stealing. This description of the Iron Age shows a connection between the corruption of human nature and the exploitation of natural resources. As soon as humans start abusing their dominion over the earth, they develop vices like greed and violence, and vice versa, in a self-perpetuating cycle.
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon