Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 3: Cadmus Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jupiter carries Europa to the opposite shore where he drops his bull’s disguise. Meanwhile, Agenor—Europa’s father—tells his son Cadmus to find Europa or else be exiled from his homeland. Cadmus searches everywhere and at last asks Phoebus where he should make his new home. Phoebus says that he will soon meet a wild cow and tells him to follow this cow to where it stops to graze and found a city there. Cadmus does as he’s told, following a cow to a green pasture surrounded by an untouched forest.
Jupiter’s capture of Europa spurs yet more change and the development of a legacy by pushing Cadmus out of his homeland, too. Cadmus, in trying to find Europa and in becoming homeless, is led to receive Phoebus’s instruction to found a new city. In this way, the development of the primitive world is spurred on by Jupiter’s interests in human mistresses.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Cadmus sends a group of companions to the river to collect libations for a sacrifice to Jupiter. As soon as the men start to collect water, a fiery dragon that lurks in a cave beneath the river appears. The men try to kill the dragon with swords, but it crushes them to death.
Cadmus’s men have to confront an ancient dragon in order to claim the new location for their city. This is an example of how humans battle against nature in order to establish their own power.
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Cadmus goes to look for his companions and finds the dragon lapping blood from their corpses on the riverbank. Cadmus hurls a massive boulder at the dragon, but it glances off the dragon’s shiny scales. Cadmus then impales the dragon with his javelin. The dragon pulls out the javelin, but the spike remains imbedded in his chest. Howling in pain and anger, the dragon rears for another attack. Cadmus impales the dragon with his spear and nails his neck to a tree.
Cadmus’s fight with the dragon presents a condensed example of the adoption of weapons and war skills that takes place in the development of the human race. Cadmus first uses a natural weapon—a boulder—to try and defeat the dragon, and then resorts to his javelin and a more sophisticated attack. This scene indicates humanity’s re-adoption of the martial qualities of the Iron Age.
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
A voice rings out, accusing Cadmus of staring at the dead dragon. It says that he will suffer the same fate. Then the goddess Pallas appears and tells Cadmus to sow the teeth of the dragon like seeds. Cadmus obeys, and before long, an armor-clad army rises from the earth. Cadmus starts to fight them, but one of the soldiers tells him it is a family feud. The soldiers fight amongst themselves while Cadmus looks on. The armies kill each other, and finally, only five soldiers remain. These five soldiers help build the city that Phoebus told Cadmus to build.
Similar to the stones that Deucalion and Pyrrha threw that turned into people, the dragon’s teeth turn into a new population of humans. This time, however, the newly transformed people are soldiers who are engaged in a civil war with each other. Whereas Deucalion and Pyrrha’s new population possessed the hardworking qualities of rocks, Cadmus’s possess the fiery, threatening spirit of the dragon.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
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