Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Metamorphoses can help.

Metamorphoses: Book 12: The Death of Achilles Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After the Trojan War drags on for nine years, Neptune is still angry that Achilles killed Cycnus. Neptune goes to Apollo and asks if he takes pity on Troy and on Hector, whose corpse was dragged through Troy. Neptune points out that Achilles lives on, corrupted by bloodlust, and asks Apollo to kill him.
Ultimately, Greece’s greatest warrior is killed not by the Trojans but by the gods. Achilles’s death is the result of a personal insult he dealt to the gods, showing how the gods’ petty feelings hugely affect major events on earth.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Apollo enters the battle and notices Paris firing arrows at the Greeks. He tells Paris not to waste his arrows on the many soldiers but to target Achilles instead. He guides Paris’s arrow to point at Achilles’s heel. Paris shoots, and Achilles the war-hero is killed by “the coward” who stole his Greek host’s wife.
Ovid points out that, thanks to the gods’ intervention, a hero is killed by a “coward.” The irony and implausibility of a hero being killed by a coward points out how the gods’ intervention for petty reasons often makes the human world an irrational place.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Quotes
Achilles lives on as a legendary hero. After he dies, the warriors debate about who should carry his glorious shield, but no one feels worthy enough. At last, two skilled warriors—Ulysses and Ajax—each claim the right to the shield. King Agamemnon summons Greek chiefs to decide which one should have the shield.
The debate between Ulysses and Ajax over Achilles’s shield suggests that his legacy could go in a couple different directions. In this way, Ovid shows how, as time moves on, there are many turning points in history that have long-term consequences.
Themes
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon