Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Summary
Analysis
When Achaemenides finishes his story, Macareus tells how, when he was with the Greeks, Ulysses visited Aeolus, god of the sea-winds. Aeolus gave the Greeks a bag of wind to help them sail. They sailed for nine days with good winds until they became convinced that the bag contained gold. They tore open the bag to find out, and the winds blew away. The Greeks then went to a city where Antiphates—the cannibal king—ate several of them. King Antiphates threw rocks at the rest of the Greeks as they escaped, sinking several of their ships. Ulysses brought the remaining Greeks to Circe’s island.
The Greeks, led by Ulysses, succumb to the vice of greed, believing that the bag of wind contains something more valuable. This thought causes them to disobey a god and squander the gift he gave them. This is similar to Aglauros—the girl who once looked in the basket a goddess had told her not to look in and who wanted gold from Mercury. However, Aglauros is transformed by Minerva, whereas the Greeks are punished coincidentally by the cannibals.
Themes
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Wary after their encounters with the Cyclops and King Antiphates, only a small group of Greeks went to Circe’s palace. A pack of friendly lions and tigers greeted them at the entrance. Maidens escorted them to Circe’s throne. Circe greeted them and mixed them drinks. As soon as they swallowed the drinks, Circe touched the Greeks with her wand. They all turned into bristly pigs. Only one companion had not tasted the potion, and he returned to tell Ulysses what had happened.
Circe, who is likely still upset that Glaucus rejected her, transforms Ulysses’s men for no apparent reason. She deceives them by welcoming them inside with friendly maidens and animals and pretending to mix them refreshments. This shows how the gods’ palaces are not always safe havens for those in need, but that the gods vent their feelings on those unlucky enough to wander in.
Themes
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Ulysses entered Circe’s palace with a magical flower given to him by Mercury. When Circe offered Ulysses her potion, he pushed her away. Ulysses then had sex with Circe in exchange for her reversing the transformation of his companions. Circe sprinkled the disguised Greeks with another potion and they turned back into humans. They wept and embraced Ulysses.
Circe only reverses the transformation of Ulysses’s companions when Ulysses has sex with her. This shows that Circe was burning from the slight of being rejected and unwanted and was taking this emotion out on Ulysses’s innocent companions.
Themes
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Gods and Humans Theme Icon