Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 5: Minerva and the Muses Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After supporting Perseus, Minerva goes to visit the Muses—the sisters of the arts. She tells the Muses that she heard a rumor that a winged horse emerged from Medusa when she died, striking the earth with its hoof and causing a fountain to spout. The Muses take Minerva to the beautiful fountain.
The Muses are able to show Minerva the rumored fountain. In this way, the Muses—as the sisters of the arts—are able to confirm whether certain things are real or only fictional.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
The Muses confess to Minerva that they are frightened by how much crime has been happening lately. They tell of a wicked tyrant who deceptively welcomed the Muses inside to take shelter from the rain. When they tried to leave after the storm, the tyrant locked the door and tried to assault them. They took flight, and the tyrant climbed on the roof, calling after them in madness and finally falling to his death.
The increase in crime is reminiscent of the progression towards corruption that humanity followed after the first creation. This state of corruption leaves women, even the Muses, especially vulnerable to violence. 
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Suddenly, a group of magpies alight in a nearby tree. The Muses explain that these magpies used to be nine ignorant sisters who lost a contest with the Muses and were turned into birds. The sisters had come to the Muses, boasting that their voices were nicer than the Muses’ voices. The sisters suggested a contest, judged by nymphs, to determine the better singers. In the contest, one of the sisters sang a song that exalted the giants and belittled the gods. It told how the giants pursued the gods and forced them to transform into animals. The Muses then perform the song that they sang in response to the sisters, accompanied by Calliope—one of their band—on the lyre.
The story of the girls who competed with the Muses is an example of the kind of corruption that the Muses say has befallen the world. Not only did the girls dare to think they—as mere mortals—were better singers than the Muses—divine women—but they also competed with a song that scoffed at the gods and praised those who have tried to overthrow the heavens. This suggests that, from the divine point of view, arrogance and sacrilege are the worst crimes.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon