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"Stanley Lombardo successfully matches Ovid's human drama, imaginative brio, and irresistible momentum; and Ralph Johnson's superb Introduction to Ovid's 'narratological paradise' is a bonus to this new and vigorous translation that should not be missed. Together, Introduction and text bring out the delightful unpredictability of Ovid's 'history of the world' down to his times."---Elaine Fantham, Giger Professor of Latin, Emerita, Princeton University" "Mercury was poised to tell the whole story, When he saw that all of the eyes had closed. He Stopped speaking and deepened Argus' slumber, By waving his wand over those languid orbs. And then he brought his sickled sword down, On that nodding head where it joined the neck, And sent it spattering down the steep rocks. Now you lie low, Argus, and all your lights are out, Those hundred eyes mastered by one dark night. (1.766-74)" "Ovid's Metamorphoses gains its ideal twenty-first-century herald in Stanley Lombardo's bracing translation of a wellspring of Western art and literature that is too often treated, even by poets, as a mere vehicle for the scores of myths it recasts and transmits rather than as a unified work of art with epicscale ambitions of its own. Such misconceptions are unlikely to survive a reading of Lombardo's rendering, which vividly mirrors the brutality, sadness, comedy, irony, tenderness, and eeriness of Ovid's vast world as well as the poem's effortless pacing. Under Lombardo's spell, neither Argus nor anyone else need fear nodding off." The translation is accompanied by an exhilarating Introduction by W. R. Johnson that unweaves and reweaves many of the poem's most important themes while showing how the poet achieves some of his most brilliant effects.

This new translation reproduces in modern idiom the graceful, fluent style of one of the great poets of classical antiquity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Reading Mandelbaum’s extraordinary translation, one imagines Ovid in his darkest moods with the heart of Baudelaire . . . Mandelbaum’s translation is brilliant. It throws off the stiff and mild homogeneity of former translations and exposes the vivid colors of mockery, laughter, and poison woven so beautifully by the master.” —Booklist
“Mandelbaum’s Ovid, like his Dante, is unlikely to be equalled for years to come.” —Bloomsbury Review
“The Metamorphoses is conceived on the grandest possible scale . . . The number and variety of the metamorphoses are stunning: gods and goddesses, heroes and nymphs, mortal men and women are changed into wolves and bears, frogs and pigs, bulls and cows, deer and birds, trees and flowers, rocks and rivers, spiders and snakes, mountains and stars, while ships become sea nymphs, ants and stones and statues become people, men become women and vice versa . . . An elegantly entertaining and enthralling narrative.”
—from the Introduction by  J. C. McKeown
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781603843089
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/2010
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 538
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID RAEBURN is a lecturer in Classics at Oxford. He has translated Sophocles & directed numerous school/ university productions of Greek tragedies. DENIS FEENEY is Professor of Classics at Princeton. RICHARD ASHDOWNE is in the Department of Comparative Philology, Linguisits and Phonetics, Oxford.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from the Introduction


Many periods in Rome’s long history produced great poets.From the end of the Republic in the mid-first century BC , we have Lucretius’s Epicurean masterpiece, On the Nature of Things, and the kaleidoscopic variety of Catullus’s oeuvre, ranging from the coarse obscenities of political epigram, through beautiful love lyrics, to the sophistication of epicizing mythological narrative. Nero (ruled AD 54 –68 ) had a high opinion of his own poetic talents, but they were quite eclipsed by the tragedies of his adviser, Seneca the Younger, and by the Civil War , the political epic of Seneca’s nephew, Lucan. The years before and after the richly deserved assassination of Domitian in AD 96  produced the stiletto wit of Martial’s epigrams and the powerful satires of Juvenal, as marvellously trenchant and memorable as they are intolerant and appalling. It is universally agreed, however, that the poetic achievements of no other period can stand comparison with those of the age of Augustus, the first emperor, who attained sole rule with his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC , and maintained it ever more firmly throughout his long reign – longer than that of any later emperor – eventually to die peacefully in his bed, a privilege enjoyed by very few of his rivals and enemies,

in AD 14 , at the age of seventy-five. In the 20 s BC , the literary salons controlled by Augustus’s chief political adviser, Maecenas, and by his military commander, Messalla Corvinus, provided a galaxy of great poets with a venue for the recitation of their latest works. Virgil had already established his reputation with his Eclogues , pastoral poetry in imitation of the third-century BC  Sicilian Greek poet Theocritus, and with his Georgics , a didactic poem on farming in four books, modelled on theWorks and Days , composed in the eighth century BC  by Hesiod, Greece’s earliest literate poet. He was now at work on his last and greatest poem, the Aeneid , an epic to rival both the Iliad  and the Odyssey . Horace had published his Satires  and Epodes  in the 30 s, and was to publish the  first three of his four books of Odes  in 23 BC . Love elegy also flourished in this decade. The genre appears to have been invented by Cornelius Gallus, a friend of Virgil and one of Octavian/Augustus’s most trusted lieutenants. In the late 40 s and early 30 s, Gallus had written four books of elegies, now almost entirely lost. He is the only one of the great Augustan poets to suff er this misfortune, which must be connected to some extent with his fall from favour with Augustus as a resultof his arrogance as the first Roman governor of Egypt, behaviour which compelled him to commit suicide in 27  or 26 . Gallus’s genre, however, lived on and prospered, first with Tibullus and Propertius, both of whom will have started to compose at about the beginning of the decade, and then with Ovid, for it was with love elegy that he began his poetic career, perhaps in 26  or 25 BC , when he was seventeen or eighteen years old.


The Amores  –Ovid’s earliest love poetry – follow the conventions laid down by his predecessors and older contemporaries, in that they are collections of poems recounting the vicissitudes of his relationship with his mistress. The elegies of both Tibullus and Propertius display a wide range of emotional levels, from the wittily whimsical to the passionately tragic, suggestive of the suff erings of the lover. Ovid, by contrast, achieves originality by narrowing the focus of his elegies very drastically, presenting the misfortunes he endures in his persona  as the elegiac lover in a consistently humorous manner that sometimes falls very little short of parody of the genre.

To give just one example of this approach:  whereas Propertius tries to convince Cynthia that she has no need of expensive jewellery to enhance her natural charms, Ovid pushes this theme of beauty unadorned to ridiculous but logical limits: when Corinna quite unnecessarily dyes her gorgeous hair, the procedure goes wrong and now she is completely bald. Such exploitation of already established conventions was to be a hallmark of all of Ovid’s later poetry, and of the Metamorphoses  in particular. One short elegy in the Amores  might indeed be viewed as a prototype for the Metamorphoses . In 2 .15 , Ovid  daydreams about how he would like to be transformed into the ring that he is sending as a gift to his mistress, for then he could always be with her. The fantasy ends abruptly when he says, with typical euphemism, that ‘if she wears me in the bath, my limbs will rise with lust’:  Ovid the ring will react to the situation as if it were still Ovid the man. The Narcissus episode in Metamorphoses  III is a nice illustration of the way in which he was to exploit these two typically Ovidian techniques, the deployment of conventional themes in unconventional contexts and the unusual perspective achieved, most often to witty effect, by splitting the personality and characteristics of the individual whose story is being narrated. Narcissus has fallen in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and will remain at the water’s edge till he is transformed into the flower that bears his name. Ovid has adapted to the myth that most typical scenario in love elegy:  the lover’s pleading for the door of his beloved’s house to be opened so that he may be with her. Narcissus is cast in the role not only of the lover, but also of the beloved, and the surface of the water represents the closed door. The same scenario recurs in the Metamorphoses  in the tales of Pyramus and Thisbe, separated by the wall made famous by Shakespeare, and of Polyphemus and Galatea, separated by the sea. Love and the conventions of love elegy are never far away in the Metamorphoses .

There is little firm evidence about the chronology of Ovid’s poetry, but we should perhaps assume that he continued writing Amores  poems for a decade or more, and that he was also engaged throughout much of this same period on his Heroides , letters from various mythological heroines to their absent husbands or lovers (e.g. Penelope to Ulysses, Dido to Aeneas), followed by a series of such pairs written between lovers (e.g. Paris and Helen). The Heroides  transformed and extended the elegiac genre by casting mythological figures in the roles more familiarly played by the elegiac poets and their mistresses;  for example, the exchange of letters between Helen and Paris focuses on the banquet given in Sparta in honour of Paris by Helen’s husband, Menelaus, reworking the scenario played out between the lover, his mistress, and her dull-witted husband in Amores 1 .4  and 2 .5 . The Amores  generally make very little use  of mythology, and it is the Heroides  that foreshadow the wealth of such tales in the Metamorphoses .

Ovid devised a further development of the conventions of love elegy when he wrote his Art of Love , a didactic poem providing instructions on how to ensure success in love affairs;  for example, the instructions which he gives to his mistress in Amores 1 .4  and 2 .5  on how to conduct herself at a banquet are turned into a general set of rules to be followed in such a context. The Art of Love  would seem to have been planned initially as a two-book work, offering advice to men, but its success induced Ovid to add a third book, offering corresponding advice to women. He even managed yet another variation on the conventional themes of love elegy, when, as a corollary to the Art of Love , he wrote his Remedies for Love;  whereas the Art  gives advice on winning and keeping a lover, Remedies  explains how to cure oneself of love, and the two poems thus form a didactic pair in much the same way as do the Poisonous Creatures  and the Cures for Poisons  by the Hellenistic Greek poet Nicander. Ovid was reluctant to give up his preoccupation with love elegy, which he evidently found so congenial. As late as 1 BC – AD 1 , at the fairly advanced age of forty-two or forty-three, he was still engaged with the genre, for that is when he published the third book of the Art of Love  and a second edition of the Amores , reduced from five books to three.

Even if he had restricted himself to love elegy, his reputation would have been assured, but he had higher literary aspirations. At some unknown date, perhaps around 15 BC , he wrote a tragedy, the Medea , of which only two short fragments, a total of twelve words, have survived. Apart from a translation of the Phaenomena , a poem on astronomy and weather signs by the Hellenistic court poet Aratus, it is his only substantial work known to be lost to us. This loss is a serious one, for all that the assessment ‘Ovid’s Medea  shows what he might have achieved if he had been willing to control his genius rather than indulge it’ comes from Quintilian, the great teacher of oratory, who is not remarkable for his literary critical acumen. It is perhaps surprising that Ovid, the master of subversive wit, should have been successful as a tragedian, and perhaps equally surprising that, as far as we know, the Medea  was his  only attempt at the genre. Why should he have abandoned tragedy after one initial success? Maybe it was simply ousted from his agenda by other, more attractive, projects. Whatever the reason, by AD 8 , Ovid had been working for an indeterminable number of years on two large-scale works, the Fasti  and the Metamorphoses . The Fasti  is a calendar of Roman festivals and history, written in elegiac couplets, on the model of Callimachus’s Aetia  (Causes), an account of the customs and rituals of various Greek states, which now survives mostly in distressingly brief fragments. Substantial as are the merits of the Fasti , no one would regard it quite so highly as the Metamorphoses , and it is our great good fortune that Ovid gave more attention to composing the latter poem, for by AD 8 , its fifteen books were almost complete, whereas only the first six books of the Fasti , treating the months of January to June, had been composed.

In that fatal year, Ovid’s life was changed utterly and forever. Augustus relegated him to the Greek trading post of Tomi on the coast of the Black Sea, modern day Costanza in Romania, at the edge of the empire, as far removed as possible from the sophisticated and cultured life of Rome, the milieu in which Ovid had thrived. For all that the reasons for his exile have been discussed voluminously by scholars, we shall probably never know why Augustus imposed this exquisitely sadistic punishment. Ovid felt unable to tell us anything, beyond saying that ‘two things destroyed me, a poem and a mistake’. The poem was the Art of Love , which ran counter to the spirit of Augustus’s moral reforms, and it is reasonable to assume that the mistake was political in nature. We know from the poetry he wrote from exile that he had friends who were very highly placed. It may be that Ovid did not merely enjoy the literary patronage of such people, but rather that he himself belonged to the elite of Roman society. At any rate, his stepdaughter was to marry a Senator:  her husband, Cornelius Fidus, once burst into tears in the Senate when Domitius Corbulo, Nero’s great general, called him a ‘plucked ostrich’ [struthocamelus depilatus ] (Seneca, On the Constancy of the Wise Man , 17 .1 ). Ovid languished at Tomi for at least a decade, and died there, a broken man whose every effort to obtain a recall was in vain.  To gain sympathy and a pardon, the Tristia  (Sad Things) and the Letters from the Black Sea  exaggerate the harshness of his new life:  it was not always winter, Tomi was not entirely barbaric, the natives were not forever shooting poisoned arrows over the walls. Though it is not entirely lacking in the familiar Ovidian wit, nevertheless his exile poetry makes for very sombre and depressing reading, for we are constantly aware of the disaster that had so suddenly befallen its author;  this was not the sort of poetry he should have felt forced to write. For a decade and a half, he had been unchallenged as Rome’s leading poet:  Virgil had died in 19 BC , Tibullus perhaps in the same year, there are no references in Propertius’s poetry to any event later than 16 , and with the death of Horace in 8 BC  Ovid was left as the sole survivor of the great Augustan poets. There is some evidence that he revised the Metamorphoses  and Fasti  at Tomi, but his heart was not in it. Being the compulsive poet that he was, he continued to write, but we are left to wonder what great works he might have composed had he been allowed to remain in Rome.

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Table of Contents

Analytical Table of Contents


Translator's Note

Note on the Text

Suggestions for Further Reading


Catalog of Transformations 446

Glossary of Names 461

Book 1

Invocation 1

Origin of the World 5

The Four Ages 90

The Giants 154

The Council of the Gods 167

Lycaon Zeus 216

The Flood 262

Deucalion and Pyrrha 324

Python 454

Apollo and Daphne 470

Io 602

Pan and Syrinx (as told by Mercury to Argus) 739

Phaethon and Clymene 803

Book 2

Phaethon and Phoebus 1

Epitaph for Phaethon 360

Callisto 445

Apollo and Coronis 593

The Crow and Minerva (as told by the Crow) 616

The Princess and the Sea God (as told by the Crow) 635

Nyctimene (as told by the Crow) 660

Ocyrhoe 709

Mercury and Battus 756

Mercury, Herse, and Aglauros 791

Jupiter and Europa 925

Book 3

Cadmus and the Earthborn People 1

Diana and Actaeon 148

Jupiter and Semele 268

Tiresias 343

Echo and Narcissus 371

Pentheus and Bacchus 562

Acoetes (as told by himself) 641

Book 4

The Daughters of Minyas 1

Pyramus and Thisbe (as told by a Daughter of Minyas) 65

Mars and Venus Leuconoe 189

Leucothoe and the Sun Leuconoe 212

Clytie and the Sun Leuconoe 262

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus Alcithoe 321

The Daughters of Minyas Become Bats 425

Athamas and Ino 454

Juno and the Theban Women 602

Cadmus and Harmonia 623

Perseus and Andromeda 669

Book 5

Perseus and Phineus 1

Minerva and the Muses 290

Pegasus and the Spring of the Muses Urania 296

Pyreneus and the Muses Urania 313

The Contest of the Muses and the Daughters of Pierus Urania 342

Song of Typhoeus (as sung by a Daughter of Pierus, as summarized by Urania) 373

Hymn to Ceres Urania 387

Arethusa and Alpheus Urania 659

Book 6

The Contest of Arachne and Minerva 1

"The Hill of Mars" Minerva 80

"The Rape of Europa" Arachne 115

Niobe and Latona 163

Thebes Responds to Niobe's Calamity 355

The Altar in the Pond Theban 361

Latona and the Lycians Theban 378

Marsyas and Apollo Theban 435

Pelops 458

Procne and Philomela 472

"The Rape of Philomela" Philomela 665

Boreas and Orithyia 781

Book 7

Jason and Medea 1

Hymn to Theseus Athenians 486

Minos' Embassy to Aegina 504

Cephalus' Embassy to Aegina 542

The Plague at Aegina Aeacus 570

The Origin of the Myrmidons Aeacus 670

Procris and Cephalus Cephalus 756

Book 8

Nisus and Scylla 1

Minos and the Minotaur 184

Daedalus and Icarus 221

Daedalus and His Nephew 279

Meleager and the Calydonian Boar 304

Tales from Achelous' Feast 626

Achelous and the Echinades Achelous 656

Achelous and Perimele Achelous 676

Philemon and Baucis Lelex 697

Erysichthon Achelous 818

Book 9

[Tales from Achelous' Feast (continued)]

Achelous and Hercules Achelous 1

Nessus and Deianeira 95

The Death of Hercules 147

The Grief of Alcmena and Iole 305

Alcmena and Galanthis Alcmena 316

Dryope Iole 366

Iolaus and the Bickering of the Gods 446

Byblis and Her Brother 519

Iphis and Ianthe 765

Inscription for Iphis 912

Book 10

Orpheus and Eurydice 1

Cyparissus and the Stag 110

The Songs of Orpheus 149

Jupiter and Ganymede Orpheus 162

Apollo and Hyacinthus Orpheus 170

The Cerastae Orpheus 234

The Daughters of Propoetus Orpheus 259

Pygmalion Orpheus 266

Myrrha and Cinryas Orpheus 332

Venus and Adonis Orpheus 594

Atalanta and Hippomenes Orpheus 645

Book 11

The Death of Orpheus 1

Midas 92

Laomedon 221

Peleus and Thetis 261

Peleus and the Wolf of the Marsh 314

Daedalion and Chione Ceyx 341

Ceyx and Alcyone 481

The Bird Sightings 863

Aesacus and Hesperia (as told by an Observer of birds) 867

Book 12

The Greeks at Aulis 1

The House of Rumor 51

Cygnus and Achilles 81

Tales from the Truce 173

The Origin of Caeneus Nestor 198

The Battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs Nestor 247

Hercules and Periclymenus Nestor 617

The Death of Achilles 664

Book 13

The Contest for Achilles' Arms 1

Ajax's Speech 6

Ulysses' Speech 148

The Fall of Troy 481

Polydorus and Polyxena 516

Hecuba 576

Memnon 694

Aeneas Comes to Delos 752

The Daughters of Anius Anius 774

"The Daughters of Orion" Alcon 814

Aeneas Comes to Scylla and Charybdis 848

Galatea and Polyphemus Galatea 899

Polyphemus' Song to Galatea Galatea 945

Glaucus' Transformation Glaucus 1069

Book 14

Glaucus, Circe, Scylla 1

Aeneas Comes to Cumae 81

Phoebus and the Sybil of Cumae Sybil 150

Two of Ulysses' Crewmembers Reunite 178

Stranded on the Isle of the Cyclopes Achaemenides 194

Aeolus, The Lastrygonians, and Circe Macareus 254

Picus (as told by an attendant of Circe, as relayed by Macareus) 369

Epitaph for Caieta 514

Aeneas Comes to Latium 521

Acmon Diomedes 540

The Apulian Shepherd 595

Aeneas' Ships 613

Ardea 652

The Death of Aeneas 671

Pomona and Vertumnus 716

Iphis and Anaxarete Vertumnus 804

The Sabines 891

Romulus 928

Hersilia 954

Book 15

Numa 1

The Founding of Croton Croton 13

The Teachings of Pythagoras 69

Hippolytus and Egeria 516

Hippolytus (as told by himself) 529

Cipus 603

Aesculapius 683

The Deification of Caesar 828

Envoi 981

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