Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 12: The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nestor’s story then tells of the time he attended a royal wedding in Thessaly: the palace is filled with guests, including the centaurs that inhabit the nearby forest. The wedding hymn starts and the bride enters. A centaur named Eurytus, already drunk, lusts after the bride and seizes her. Chaos ensues as the other centaurs grab the women they want. Nestor and Theseus rise and confront Eurytus, who starts punching Theseus. Theseus picks up a table and throws it at Eurytus, who is now vomiting wine.
The story of the fight that breaks out between the Lapiths and the centaurs at a wedding is reminiscent of the war that breaks out between Phineus and Perseus at Perseus’s wedding to Andromeda. Together, these two stories show how weddings can be disastrous and divisive, particularly when two different groups live together in the same area.
Themes
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The drunk centaurs throw glasses of wine at the Lapiths. They throw a table holding candles and the wedding altar, then use the broken pieces to beat their enemies. The Lapiths fight back, using whatever they find in the palace as weapons. One of the centaurs is killed while he sleeps, too drunk to wake up.
The centaurs are portrayed as animalistic and crude, getting drunk and using sloppy tactics in battle. Their undignified natures illustrate that they possess only half of human nature, being half man and half horse. 
Themes
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The fight spills outside where the centaurs uproot trees and rocks to throw at the Lapiths. Theseus hops on one of the centaur’s backs and strangles him while Peleus kills several with his javelin and sword. A beautiful centaur with gold hair is killed. Many female centaurs had tried to woo this centaur, but only one had succeeded. The beautiful centaur’s girlfriend kills herself beside him.
Nestor introduces the different people who are casualties of the fight between the Lapiths and the centaurs. In this way, he illustrates the damage that war does across the lines. No matter what side of a war a person chooses to be on, there are always unfair deaths on both sides.
Themes
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Nestor explains that he killed a few centaurs with his javelin and shows the Greeks his scars from the battle. At that time, Nestor was in fit shape for the Trojan War, but it would not start for many years. Returning to his story, Nestor explains that Caenis kills five centaurs. One of the centaurs taunts Caenis, saying that he’ll always be a girl and telling him to go back to spinning wool. The centaur tries to stab Caenis, but his sword can’t pierce him. At last, Caenis kills the centaur with his sword; Caenis is unwounded.
The contention between men and women during war provides another example of the dysfunction between the sexes. Women resent men for overpowering them, whereas war makes it clear that men resent the times when they can’t overpower women. Men believe that women are weaker by nature and not meant to be soldiers and so despise seeing them fight in war.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
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Metamorphoses PDF
The centaurs are embarrassed that their strength has been beaten by a man who used to be a woman. They start hurling trees and rocks at Caenis, burying him under a massive pile. Caenis attempts to roll the pile off him, but it is too heavy. Caenis dies, but some see a bird fly up from the pile. They hail the bird as Caenis, then turn to kill the rest of the centaurs.
In defeating the centaurs, Caenis makes them feel effeminate because he used to be a woman. This suggests that a person breaking out of the confines of their gender’s stereotypes can be destabilizing for others as well as freeing for them.
Themes
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