Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 11: Aesacus Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
An old man watches two birds—formerly Alcyone and Ceyx—circle over the sea. Another man draws his attention to a bird skimming the sea with its wings. The bird used to be Aesacus, descended from the founders of Troy and brother to Hector, the famous Trojan. Aesacus, however, was a river god’s child and was born on a secluded mountain. Aesacus didn’t like cities and shunned Troy. However, he was in love with Hesperia, the daughter of another river god. 
The story of Ceyx and Alcyone, as remembered through the two birds who fly together, leads to the story of Aesacus, the diving bird. This shows both how the stories in this world lead to one another, filling out a whole history, and also that things aren’t always what they appear but often are metamorphoses of something else.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
One day, Aesacus spies Hesperia drying her hair by a riverbank. He ambushes her and chases after her. As she runs, a poisonous snake bites Hesperia’s ankle, and she drops down dead. Aesacus clutches her body and weeps, rebuking himself for chasing her. He feels that he is as much her murderer as the venomous snake.
Aesacus isn’t actually responsible for Hesperia’s death, but his pursuit causes her to run into the snake. In realizing that his actions led to Hesperia’s death, Aesacus is one of the first men in the Metamorphoses who confronts the consequences of acting predatorily towards a woman.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
To relieve his guilt, Aesacus jumps off a cliff, hoping to drown. To his dismay, a river goddess transforms him into a diving bird. Still wanting to die, Aesacus throws himself against the rocks, but his feathers cushion the blow. He resorts to diving deep into the sea, continuously trying to die.
Propelled by his guilt, Aesacus wants to die, but instead he is transformed into a bird that continually mimics suicide. This situation shows that in the world of these stories, no one completely dies, even if they want to. Instead, they are transformed into a new form. Rather than annihilation, death means change in the Metamorphoses.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Quotes