Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Metamorphoses can help.

Metamorphoses: Book 2: Callisto Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jupiter inspects heaven to make sure it hasn’t been damaged by the fire from the sun’s chariot. Then he goes down to Earth to restore it from the burn. He catches sight of a beautiful virgin huntress named Callisto who is the favorite of the virgin goddess Diana. Jupiter spies Callisto taking a nap alone in the forest and decides that the pleasure of being with Callisto will make up for Queen Juno’s anger. Jupiter disguises himself as Diana and approaches Callisto, who rises and expresses her love for Diana. Jupiter kisses Callisto, giving away his true identity. Callisto struggles, but Jupiter overpowers her and rapes her.
Jupiter is quickly distracted from his job as overseer of the Earth and the heavens by another love interest. Thus Jupiter shows himself to be incapable of resisting sex, a very earthly desire. Jupiter also uses his power and his ability to disguise himself to rape his love interests. In this way, Jupiter’s dealings with love paint him both as a god with base weaknesses and as a god who abuses his power to cruel ends.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Jupiter leaves Callisto. Diana appears with her group of virgins, but Callisto runs away, fearing Diana is Jupiter again. When she spots Diana’s followers, however, she is reassured. However, she is ashamed that she is no longer a virgin and looks down at the ground. Guessing Callisto’s secret, Diana leads the virgins to a stream and tells them to undress and bathe. Callisto tries to hide her belly as she undresses, but the virgins notice her pregnancy and banish her.
Although Jupiter raped Callisto against her will, Callisto is still blamed by Diana for losing her virginity. This shows that love has a uniquely destructive effect on women. Not only are they often forced to be with the men who desire them, but they are then blamed for the outcome. Under these circumstances, love is often seen by women as a predatory enemy in the Metamorphoses.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Queen Juno hears of Jupiter’s infidelity. Furious, she finds Callisto, who has just given birth to Jupiter’s son, Arcas. The Queen grabs Callisto’s hair and calls her a whore. She transforms Callisto into a hideous bear so that her beauty won’t tempt Jupiter again. She takes away her voice so she can’t plead with Jupiter. Jupiter takes no mercy on Callisto, and she wanders the earth running in fear from other wild beasts.
Not only is Callisto blamed by Diana for losing her virginity, but she is also blamed by Juno for causing Jupiter to cheat on her. The Metamorphoses depicts how women are caught in a web of blame when they are raped, forced to betray both themselves and other women, and therefore it presents love as a destructive force.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Quotes
Arcas grows up to be 15 years old. One day, while hunting, he encounters a bear. He runs from it, unaware that it is his mother. He tries to kill the bear with his spear, but Jupiter blocks the blow. Jupiter then transports mother and son through space and implants them as constellations in the sky. Juno is furious to see her rival celebrated in the sky and goes to visit the ancient gods of the Ocean to implore them to reject these new constellations. They agree. Juno hopes Jupiter will restore Callisto to human form so that she won’t usurp the Queen’s place as Jupiter’s wife.
Because Callisto loses her voice when she is transformed into a bear, she cannot tell her son who she is. In this way, Juno puts Callisto in danger of being killed by her own son. Just in time, Jupiter rescues Callisto from this fate. This again illustrates how the ongoing battle between Jupiter and Juno, sparked by Jupiter’s affairs with human women, accounts for much of the action in the Metamorphoses. Petty fighting, rather than something like wise discussion, often rules the universe.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Get the entire Metamorphoses LitChart as a printable PDF.
Metamorphoses PDF