In the first chapter of the Metamorphoses, Ovid describes the world as a jumble of indistinct parts “called Chaos.” The gods give order to this chaos by sorting out the elements by their weight and qualities. In this way, it seems that the gods are responsible for the universe, especially as they go on to have a huge influence over the world’s affairs. However, Ovid’s work presents other forces over which the gods themselves have no control. On occasions when gods try to alter a character’s age, Jupiter reminds them that only Fate has control over age. Later, when Venus hears that Julius Caesar is to be betrayed and murdered, she tries to save his life, but Jupiter reminds her that his death is already written on the tablets of Fate. These moments of the gods’ futility suggest that even they, the creators of the universe, must contend with the fact that the world they created cannot resist the march of time. In this way, time and fate, by propelling human characters and the universe towards certain fixed ends, assert themselves as the true driving forces of the universe. However, Ovid notably presents certain workarounds for the inexorability of time and fate. Venus gets around this problem by memorializing Julius Caesar as a god after he dies, thereby reasserting her dominance over the force of time. In the epilogue which follows directly after Caesar becomes a god, Ovid similarly asserts that he himself will live beyond his body’s decay as a posthumously famous poet. By making an analogy between himself as a writer and Caesar as a god, Ovid suggests that writing, as a work of creation, has a divine aspect and can even circumvent time and fate to a certain extent.
Time, Fate, and Poetry ThemeTracker
Time, Fate, and Poetry Quotes in Metamorphoses
Have you no respect for me? […]
Where will this end? Does anyone think they can really defy
the decrees of Fate? […]
You are all subject to Fate, and—if this makes your subjection
more easy to bear—so am I.
All is subject to change and nothing to death. The spirit
in each of us wanders from place to place; it enters whatever
body it pleases, crossing over from beast to man,
and back again to a beast. It never perishes wholly.
As pliable wax is easily stamped with a new impression
and never remains as it was nor preserves one single shape,
but still is the selfsame wax, so I say that our souls are always
the same, though they move from home to home in different bodies.
You may go yourself [to] […] visit the Records of Fortune,
a massive structure of tablets inscribed in brass and the solidest
iron. These tablets fear no clashing of clouds, nor the thunderbolt’s
wrath, nor destruction, however it come; they are safe and abiding.
There you will find your families’ destinies cast in enduring
That day which has power over nothing except this body of mine
may come when it will and end the uncertain part of my life.
But the finer part of myself shall sweep me into eternity,
higher than all the stars. My name shall be never forgotten.
Wherever the might of Rome extends in the lands she has conquered,
the people shall read and recite my words.