Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Themes and Colors
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Metamorphoses, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Gods and Humans Theme Icon

Throughout the Metamorphoses, many human characters dare to think they are superior to the gods. Often, characters anger the gods by refusing to worship them, such as when the daughters of Minyas refuse to join Bacchus’s festival and he turns them into bats. In another instance, Niobe not only refuses to worship the goddess Latona, but also asserts she is superior to Latona because of her wealth, royalty, and dozens of beautiful children. In response, Latona murders all of Queen Niobe’s children and turns her into an eternally weeping statue. In taking away the very thing that made Queen Niobe feel superior, Latona reminds Niobe that the gods are more powerful than even the most fortunate mortal. These stories suggest that, if humans fail to reverence the gods as their superiors, they’ll be rightfully punished. On the other hand, although the gods’ punishments often humble human arrogance, their displays of power aren’t universally moral. For instance, when Arachne asserts that she is the best weaver of women and gods and dares Minerva (goddess of weaving) to a weaving contest, Arachne’s tapestry is undeniably superior to Minerva’s. Despite Arachne’s warranted pride, Minerva harshly punishes Arachne by turning her into a conniving spider. Such stories suggest that the gods’ omnipotence doesn’t consist in the superiority of their virtues, but in their sheer power to punish and manipulate humans. Significantly, Arachne’s superior tapestry depicts the gods disguising themselves so as to dupe humans, especially instances in which the gods have used their power to rape women. This suggests that, while the gods always have the upper hand when it comes to sheer power, they sometimes wield this power in cavalier ways that even degrade them. In this way, the Metamorphoses depicts an ambiguous relationship between gods and humans in which humans are obligated to revere gods who are their venerable superiors, yet often undeserving of reverence.

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Gods and Humans ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Gods and Humans appears in each chapter of Metamorphoses. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Gods and Humans Quotes in Metamorphoses

Below you will find the important quotes in Metamorphoses related to the theme of Gods and Humans.
Book 1: The Creation Quotes

Yet a holier living creature, more able to think high thoughts,
which could hold dominion over the rest, was still to be found.
So Man came into the world. […]
Thus clay, so lately no more than a crude and formless substance,
was metamorphosed to assume the strange new figure of Man.

Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1: The Four Ages Quotes

No pine tree had yet been felled from its home on the mountains and come down
into flowing waves for journeys to lands afar;
mortals were careful and never forsook the shores of their homeland.
No cities were yet ringed round with deep, precipitous earthworks; […]
swords were not carried nor helmets worn; no need for armies,
but nations were free to practice the gentle arts of peace.

Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1: Io (1) Quotes

If only words could have followed her tears, she’d have begged him for help;
she’d have told him her name and described her plight. Two letters were all
that could serve for words, two letters traced by a hoof in the dust,
which revealed her name and the sorry tale of her transformation.

Related Characters: Io
Related Symbols: Speech, Words, and Writing
Page Number: 647
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2: Europa Quotes

Love and regal dignity, scarcely the best of friends,
are rarely discovered together. And so the father and ruler
of all the gods, whose right hand wields the three-forked lightning,
whose nod can sway the whole world, discarded his mighty scepter
and clothed himself in the form of a bull.

Related Characters: Jupiter (Jove)
Page Number: 486
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 3: Pentheus and Bacchus (1) Quotes

Blood of the dragon’s teeth, you’re possessed! Are you so spellbound
by curling pipes of animal horn and clashing cymbals
to fall for this juggler’s tricks? You, who were never dismayed
by the threatening swords of the foe on the march or his blaring trumpets,
are now being worsted by screaming women, bibulous frenzy,
lewd and lecherous hordes and the futile banging of drums!
Elders, how can I respect you?

Related Characters: Pentheus (speaker), Bacchus
Page Number: 532
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6: Arachne Quotes

[Minerva] resented Arachne’s
success and ripped up the picture betraying the gods’ misdemeanors.
She was still holding her shuttle of […] boxwood
and used it to strike Arachne a number of times on the forehead.

Related Characters: Arachne , Minerva
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6: Niobe Quotes

I am undeniably blessed; and blessed I’ll continue to be,
without any doubt. My abundance assures me I’ll always be safe.
I am far too important a person for fortune’s changes to harm me.
However much I am robbed, far more will be left to enjoy.
My blessings are such that I have nothing to fear.

Related Characters: Niobe (speaker), Latona
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 12: The Death of Achilles Quotes

So Achilles who’d vanquished the mightiest heroes
was vanquished himself by a coward who’d stolen the wife of his Greek host.

Related Characters: Achilles
Page Number: 608
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 13: The Judgement of Arms Quotes

Your simple brawn must be measured
against my brains. In a ship the helmsman takes precedence over
the rower; in war the commander has more respect than the soldier;
so I must rank above you. In the make-up of human beings,
intelligence counts for more than our hands, and that is our true strength.

Related Characters: Ulysses (speaker), Ajax
Page Number: 365
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 14: The Mutinous Companions of Diomedes Quotes

What’s left to encounter that lies
beyond your endurance to bear? What further damage can Venus
inflict, supposing she wanted to? Prayers can avail, if worse
is yet to be feared; but when the worst has already occurred,
fear lies at our feet and the crown of misfortune is freedom from care.
No matter if Venus can hear my words; […]
we can treat her longing with scorn
to a man. Her power may be great, but it counts for little with us!

Related Characters: Venus
Page Number: 486
Explanation and Analysis: