To persuade Pomona to accept a lover, Vertumnus, disguised as an old woman, tells her this story: a low-class boy named Iphis falls in love with a beautiful princess, Anaxarete. Unable to control his desire, Iphis goes to Anaxarete’s palace and pleads with her servants to let him see the princess. He sends her gifts and letters and delivers impassioned speeches on her threshold. Anaxarete arrogantly scorns him and mocks him harshly.
Iphis and Anaxarete’s story shows a general trend towards using methods of persuasion, rather than force, to be with a beloved person. However, their story also shows that, when force leaves the picture, other things such as class disparity come into play to prevent men and women from reaching an understanding.
Utterly disheartened by Anaxarete’s insults, Iphis wails that he will happily die. Iphis wants the princess to see his lifeless body and to repent that she scorned such a faithful lover. He knows that his name will go down in history. Iphis ties a noose to the doorway and hangs himself. Anaxarete’s servants find his body and carry it to his parents’ house. His mother weeps over his body, then leads a dismal funeral procession through the town.
In the first half of the Metamorphoses, the passion of love led to rape, but the second half shows that the rejection of love leads to intense heartbreak. In this way, the Metamorphoses shows pity towards both men and women in love: love destroys women when their refusal is ignored, and love destroys men when their proposal is rejected.
Anaxarete watches the funeral from her window. As she gazes at Iphis’s corpse, she feels herself turn to stone. Her city preserves this statue as proof of what happens to those who have cold hearts. Vertumnus finishes his story by entreating Pomona to accept her lover, but she refuses. Vertumnus changes back into a human, planning to rape Pomona, but she is captivated by his transformation into a handsome youth and reciprocates his passion.
Venus punishes Anaxarete’s heartless rejection of Iphis by turning her into a statue—a cold, heartless form. In this way, Venus claims that rejecting a person’s heartfelt love is a crime worthy of severe punishment. Therefore, the Metamorphoses portrays rape and rejection as comparable ways in which men and women wrong each other.