“And even though all other animals
Lean forward and look down toward the ground,
He gave to man a face that is uplifted,
And ordered him to stand erect and look
Directly up into the vaulted heavens
And turn his countenance to meet the stars;” [ I : 118-123]

Trans. by Charles Martin

Metamorphoses Cover

All of existence arose out of chaos, or so claims Ovid in his Metamorphoses. But this so-called “orderly” world has not forgotten its original nature as reflected in this compilation of Greek and Roman myths. Tragic yet comedic, thoughtful yet parodic, the epic flows, almost imperceptibly, from one extreme to another as it traverses the ages. It contains no central hero, no linear plot, and no unifying theme except that of transformation. Change is the one constant: an ironic concept for an ironic work. Categorizing Ovid’s Metamorphoses in its entirety amounts to a Sisyphean task; the challenge lies in its sheer scope. This work attempts to convey all of human existence, all of the joy, sorrow, love, hate, desire, anger, despair, and hope.

But I believe the key to understanding Ovid’s magnum opus lies within the passage above. The ability to stand and gaze upon the stars separates humans from birds and beasts. Those infinitesimal points of light that pierce the dark shroud of space lie forever beyond our reach but reside ever in our hearts. To gaze upon the distant and immortal stars is to become aware of a greater existence. They are beacons of stability in this ever-moving, ever-changing world.

 

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