Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Phaëthon Character Analysis

Phaëthon is the son of the sun god, Phoebus. Doubtful that Phoebus is really his father, Phaëthon travels to the sun god’s palace for proof. After determining that Phoebus is his father, Phaëthon asks Phoebus if he can drive his chariot. Phoebus warns him that the chariot is too dangerous for a mortal to drive, but Phaëthon insists. Phaëthon quickly loses control of the fiery, spirited horses, and the chariot plummets to earth, setting fire to everything. Jupiter strikes Phaëthon dead with a lightning bolt to stop his dangerous path. Phaëthon is mourned by some, but also seen as an example of what happens to mortals who think they can do what the gods do.
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Phaëthon Character Timeline in Metamorphoses

The timeline below shows where the character Phaëthon appears in Metamorphoses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1: Phaëthon (1)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
...to be Jupiter’s son. When Épaphus starts school, he jeers at one of his peers, Phaëthon, for boasting that his father is the sun god. Phaëthon turns red with shame and... (full context)
Book 2: Phaëthon (2)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
...and the men and animals of the earth under the heavens with the zodiac signs. Phaëthon mounts the steps to the palace and marches boldly up to Phoebus—the Sun god whom... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
Phoebus begs Phaëthon to take back his request and explains that driving the sun god’s chariot is extremely... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Phaëthon ignores his father’s warnings and insists on driving the chariot. Reluctantly, Phoebus leads him to... (full context)
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
The Sun god’s fiery horses leap into the sky, flying upward. Phaëthon is lighter than Phoebus and the horses can’t feel his weight. They run wild, and... (full context)
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
...flames. The crops and forests burn, earth dries out, and the cities crumble to ashes. Phaëthon looks down at the blazing earth, and the floor of the chariot starts to burn... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
...the rain and clouds, but they are depleted. So, he launches a lightning bolt at Phaëthon instead, killing him. Phaëthon falls from the chariot and lands in a river far from... (full context)
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Phaëthon’s sisters also weep over Phaëthon’s grave. After several days, they start to transform into trees.... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
...driving the unruly horses so he can see how hard it is and regret punishing Phaëthon for his mistake. The rest of the gods beg Phoebus not to doom the world... (full context)