| Quote #1
Before the sea and lands began to be,
These lines, from near the beginning of Ovid's poem, show his interest in scientific theories of nature. Even though he does include references (elsewhere than in these lines) to some unnamed "god" who was responsible for overseeing the creation of the universe, his account is much less mythological than that of other ancient authors. (Comparethe Theogony by the much earlier Greek poet Hesiod.) In fact, Ovid's account of the earth's shapelessness before it acquired its current form isn't all that different from modern scientific accounts of the origin of our planet.
| Quote #2
Fire, the weightless force of heaven's dome,
These lines, which come a little bit later in Ovid's account of the formation of the universe, combine his blending of scientific and mythological theories. As you can see, he does say that some "god" was involved in the process, but he also gives a more scientific account when he says how the different elements – Fire, Air, Earth, and Water – arrived at their separate positions in the cosmos. Some people claim that "observation" and "experiment" first came into being with modern science, but Ovid's account shows that this really isn't true. The observation that flame rises became evidence that flame was attracted to a higher position in the cosmos; this theory then seemed to be backed up by the fact that stars – which the ancients thought were made of fire – were seen at the highest level of the sky. Similarly, even though the ancients didn't know Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, it was their observations that made them think that earth and water tended to sink to the lowest level of the cosmos. Perhaps most striking is the intuition that the world was spherical – "a giant ball." Ovid would definitely not be a member of the Flat Earth Society.
| Quote #3
In recounting the story of Phaethon, Ovid imagines the sun as a chariot drawn by special horses that makes its way each day across the sky. Similarly, in contrast to modern scientific understanding, he describes the heavens as spinning around the earth, instead of the earth as rotating in space. (This view was not, however, contrary to the views of some ancient scientists.) Do you think Ovid necessarily believed that the sun was a chariot, or could he have just blended together different theories – scientific and mythological – for poetic effect?