Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 15: The Apotheosis of Julius Caesar Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While Aesculapius came to Rome from abroad, Julius Caesar was born in Rome. Caesar was a genius in matters of war and peace and did many heroic things, but his greatest achievement was fathering his son, Caesar Augustus. Before Augustus was born, Julius Caesar became a god. This is how it happened: Venus foresees that Julius Caesar is about to be murdered by traitors from his government and flies into a rage. She feels she has suffered an unfair amount of treachery: she had to fight against Juno’s rage to protect Aeneas, and now Aeneas’s only living descendent, Julius Caesar, is under threat.
Even though Rome comes to the height of its grandeur with Julius Caesar as its ruler, this state of glory cannot last for long, as no state in the Metamorphoses lasts for long. Venus is furious that Rome’s state has to change and that Caesar has to die, showing that the gods butt heads with the constantly changing nature of the universe. Since Venus can’t control fate or time, she is unable to immortalize Caesar on earth.
Themes
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Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
The gods are moved by Venus’s despair. Although they can’t alter Fate, they try to warn Rome of the imminent tragedy by filling the streets with omens. Blood rains from the clouds, owls hoot, dogs howl, priests botch the sacrifices, and the streets are haunted with ghosts. Despite these warnings, the two traitors enter the Senate hall holding swords. At this moment, Venus attempts to hide Julius Caesar in clouds.
The gods try to prevent Fate by filling the world with bad omens and signs. In contrast to the inflexible dictates of fate, the gods’ powers are merely aesthetic. All the gods can do is alter the makeup of the universe—transforming creatures and landforms—but they can’t affect actual historical changes.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
Jupiter asks Venus why she is fighting Fate. He has read the tablets written with the destiny of the world and knows that Julius Caesar has come to the end of his time. Venus will make him a god, and Caesar Augustus will avenge his death. In the ensuing battles between Rome and “barbarian lands,” Augustus will be the hero. When he has brought peace to the world, Augustus will return to Rome and rule it justly. When he dies, he too will be made a god. Jupiter tells Venus to rescue Julius Caesar’s soul from his dead body and make him a comet.
Jupiter describes Fate as a written document of future events that is utterly unchangeable. The fact that inflexible fate is written down suggests that writing has something to do with permanence. As in the story of Byblis and Caunus, when something is written, it cannot be unwritten or undone. In this way, writing is the one thing with permanence in the world of the Metamorphoses.
Themes
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
Quotes
Venus goes to the Senate hall in Rome and retrieves Caesar’s soul. As she carries it up to heaven, she feels it blaze. It escapes from her arms and flies higher than the moon, where it becomes a star. The people in Rome say that Caesar Augustus is an even greater emperor than his father, although Augustus won’t admit it. Throughout history, fathers yield their glory to their sons. Ovid calls on all the gods who fathered great men, praying that it will be a long time before the great Augustus leaves the world; he prays that, when Augustus does become a god, he will continue to listen to the prayers of his people.
After Julius Caesar is made a god, Rome hints that Caesar Augustus is a better ruler than his father was before him. In this way, lineage is a kind of transformative occurrence in which the social and political world ascends through generations. Ovid then asks the gods to delay Augustus’s transformation for as long as possible so that the world can enjoy him in human form. In a sense, then, Ovid concludes his work on transformation by praying for its postponement.
Themes
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