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The Metamorphoses Sex 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 #7

This was the time when women, for nine nights,
shun union with their husbands; any touch
of man is banned. Cenchreis, the king's wife,
has joined the throng; she shares these secret rites.
When, in her wretched zeal, the old nurse finds
that Cinyras is drunk with wine, deprived,
without his lawful wife, she tells the king
that a young girl is now in love with him;
but she does not reveal the girl's true name –
the girl whose beauty she is quick to praise.
And when he wants to know the young girl's age,
she says, 'the same as Myrrha's.' When he tells
the nurse to fetch that girl, she runs to find
her Myrrha and, 'My dear, we've won,' she cries" (10.431-443)

The story of Cenchreis and his daughter Myrrha provides another case study in uncontrolled, destructive sexual desire. In this case, Cenchreis is so sex-crazed that he can't last the nine nights his wife is away; instead, he gets drunk and jumps at the first chance to hop into a bed with a girl his daughter's age. Later, when he finds out that it really is Myrrha, he tries to kill her. Sure, Myrrha might need some help, but Cenchreis should probably take a good look at his own overbearing desire.

Quote #8

(Venus, in Orpheus's song):
"I saw that I would have
to make them serve as an example: I
incited my own self against that pair.
One day, they chanced to pass before the shrine
that, to fulfill a vow that he had pledged,
Echion built: a temple for Cybele,
the Mother of the gods, a shrine that stood
concealed within the shadows of deep woods.
The pair had journeyed long; they needed rest;
and I ignited him: Hippomenes –
such is my power as a deity –
was struck with an indecent, sudden need
for Atalanta's body." (10.685-690)

These lines are yet another example in which sexual desire acts as a destructive force. This can be seen in the fact that Venus uses it to punish people she doesn't like. Here, she decides to get back at Hippomenes (who forgot to offer her sacrifices after she helped him score Atalanta as his wife) by giving him the uncontrollable urge to make love to Atalanta right there and then – which happens to be in the temple of Cybele, the earth-goddess. When Cybele finds out, she will be none too pleased.

Quote #9

Pomona feared the peasants' brutish ways,
fenced off her orchards, and avoided men –
she never let them in.
How hard they tried –
young Satyrs, with their dancing, leaping steps
and Paris, whose horns were garlanded with pines;
and he whose years were more than what he showed,
Silvanus; and Priapus, he whose scythes
and penis are a sight that terrifies
all thieves – they tried, but they did not succeed. (14.636-641)

We'll leave it up to you to find all the immature double-entendres Ovid has snuck into this passage. What we'd like to call attention to is something that already calls attention to itself: Priapus, "whose scythes / and penis are a sight that terrifies / all thieves." What the heck is that all about, you're probably wondering? What we've got here is an instance of sexuality portrayed in a positive light. The ancient Romans considered the male member a sign of fertility (makes sense), and, hence, as a sign of good luck. The god Priapus, who had the biggest male member in town (just do a Google image search on him and you'll see what we mean) was thus considered especially lucky. People would put a picture of him by the doors of their houses to ward off bringers of bad luck – like thieves.

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