Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 15: Egeria and Hippolytus Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Numa listens to the wise teachings of Pythagoras in Croton and then goes back to Rome to start his rule. He steers Rome away from its passion for war and towards a state of peace. When Numa dies, the Romans mourn. Egeria, Numa’s wife, hides in the woods and wails, ignoring the nymphs who beg her to cease lamenting. One day, Theseus’s son Hippolytus finds Egeria and urges her take comfort in the misfortunes of others. He tells her his own story: Hippolytus’s stepmother Phaedra had once tried to inveigle him to be her lover. When he refused, Phaedra got angry, accused him of her own crime, and persuaded his father Theseus to banish him.
When Numa dies, Egeria is so overcome with grief that she can no longer function. Hippolytus tries to get her mind off her own suffering by telling her his story. In this way, Hippolytus attempts to draw Egeria away from the extreme state towards which her grief is leading her: a state, like Canens’s, beyond that of a capable human being and a state that would result in her being transformed into something other than a human.
Themes
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Hippolytus left his homeland and traveled to another city. On the way, a tidal wave rose up, and a giant bull with menacing horns appeared in the crest. Hippolytus’s horses bolted in fright. Hippolytus managed to steer his chariot away from some rocks, but one of the wheels cracked against a tree. Hippolytus fell out of the chariot, got caught in the reins, and was dragged along the ground by the wild horses. He was mangled and beaten until his spirit descended into Hades.
Hippolytus’s story explains how he died and descended to Hades and then—seemingly miraculously—came back to land and to life. His story shows that, in this world, no person dies in the true sense of the word. A person changes form or changes location, descending to Hades, but they remain untouched in the sense that they remain conscious and can be reformed.
Themes
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Apollo’s son healed Hippolytus in a magical river and allowed him to leave Hades. Shocked by his scarred appearance, Diana hid Hippolytus behind the clouds. Then she transfigured Hippolytus’s features so he could reappear in public without causing alarm and settled him in the forest outside Rome. Hippolytus finishes his story, but Egeria is not comforted and continues to weep. Finally, Diana takes pity on her and turns her into a spring.
Egeria is not comforted by Hippolytus’s story of grief, meaning that she is too overcome by her emotions to take solace in the camaraderie of her kind. This suggests that, before Egeria is literally transformed, her grief figuratively transforms her into someone who no longer belongs in the human world.
Themes
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