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Metamorphoses: Book 2: Battus Summary & Analysis

During this time, Apollo, who is dressing as a herdsman, is distracted by love, and his cattle wander off where Mercury finds them. Mercury stealthily herds the cattle and hides them away, seen by no one except an old man named Battus. Mercury gives Battus a cow in exchange for his silence. Battus accepts the gift but tells Mercury that the stones will tell on him. Mercury puts on a new disguise, returns, and promises Battus two cows if he’ll tell Mercury if he saw a man and a herd of cattle pass by. Battus confesses where he saw the man and the herd go, so Mercury transforms the traitor into a stone.
In this story, Mercury tests the character of a mortal. Mercury seems to at first expect Battus’s oath to be trustworthy, and then sets about determining whether or not it is. He then catches Battus in his betrayal and transforms him into the very thing that Battus said would give Mercury away—a stone. In this way, Mercury binds Battus to his own word in order to punish him for breaking his word.
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