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The Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses


by Ovid

The Metamorphoses Religion Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation, but these citations refer not to the lines in Mandelbaum's edition, but to the original Latin.

Quote #4

"O child, grow strong! You are to be
the healer of the world: how often shall
your skills save mortal bodies' life and health!
And you shall have the right to resurrect
the dead, a gift that Jove will then resent;
and when you've done this once (though he's your own
grandfather), he will hurl his thunderbolt
to thwart your doing it again; and you,
a god, shall then become a bloodless corpse;
but from a corpse you shall be changed once more
into a god: the fate you've known before
is to repeat itself." (2.642-648)

Ocyrhoe is here talking to Aesculapius, the mortal who became the god of healing. (He will come back for a longer appearance in Book 15.) Like the story of Io/Isis from the previous quotation, this passage shows that the boundaries between mortals and immortals were sometimes a bit hazy. Of course, some extraordinary transformation would be necessary for this boundary to be crossed – more fuel for Ovid's poetic fire, of course.

Quote #5

The grateful Cadmus'
lips kissed this foreign land – so did he greet
these fields he'd never seen before, these peaks.
But then, for the libations to complete
the sacrifice he now would offer Jove,
he needed living water from a spring:
and this he sent his servingmen to seek. (3.24-27)

Here, once again, we see a mortal acting with appropriate reverence towards the gods. Unfortunately, Cadmus's case shows that even piety won't keep you clear of trouble. Shortly after this, Cadmus is forced to face down a massive serpent.

Quote #6

foresee the day – and it is soon to come –
when Bacchus Liber, son of Semele,
shall come. If you don't worship that new god,
you will be torn into a thousand parts –
your scattered limbs tossed round about; your blood
will foul the woods and stain your mother and
your mother's sisters. This will come to pass.
You will not honor the new god; and then
you will complain that, in my blindness, I
saw far too well." (3.519-525)

Maybe the best way to think about the benefits of piety is as follows: if you do worship the gods, you still might come to a bad end. On the other hand, if you don't worship the gods, you're definitely in for trouble. This can be seen from the prediction Tiresias makes to Pentheus, the Prince of Thebes.

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