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Metamorphoses: Book 15: Myscelus Summary & Analysis

Rome debates who should replace Romulus as ruler. A man named Numa is chosen who is curious about history and religion. His interest leads him to explore beyond his homeland, traveling to Croton. In Croton, he asks an elder who founded this Greek city on Italian land. The elder answers that Hercules once took refuge in Croton with his cattle and prophesied that the land would one day be home to a city.
When Numa goes to Croton, the elder mentions that it had once been prophesied that Croton would become a huge city. This shows that Fate—which is set in stone and out of the gods’ control—not only contains the destinies of individuals, but also the rise and fall of major cities.
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The elder says that Hercules appeared in the dream of a man named Myscelus. Hercules instructed Myscelus to leave Argos and head for Croton. Myscelus woke up and debated whether to forsake the laws of his country, which forbid its citizens to leave. When Hercules appeared in his dreams again, threatening terrible things if he disobeyed, Myscelus prepared to depart. When his fellow citizens found out, they voted to convict him. Myscelus prayed to Hercules, and Hercules altered the votes to be in favor of releasing Myscelus. Myscelus thanked Hercules and set sail for Croton where he established the new city.
This passage provides another example for how banishment or strife is necessary for progress. Similar to Cadmus and Aeneas who were outcast, Myscelus forsakes his kingdom in order to establish Croton. With this example, Ovid claims that bad things are the necessary conditions for a transformation into something good; in this way, transformation applies not only to beings but also to events and fortune.
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