Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Book V

Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Book V

The fifth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells the story of the transformations of Cyane, a boy, Ascalaphus, the Sirens, Arethusa, Lyncus, and the Pierides. While the transformations of Cyane, the boy, Ascalaphus, the Sirens and Lyncus resulted from the rape of Proserpine, the transformations of Arethusa and the Pierides are incorporated with Calliope’s retelling of the tale of Proserpine. Cyane has transformed into a pond as she wept for witnessing the rape of Proserpine; Ceres transformed a boy into a newt for disrespecting her as she searches for her daughter;

Ascalaphus was turned into an owl for disclosing that Proserpine has eaten pomegranate from the underworld thus made her stay with her mother for only half the year and with Pluto for the other half; The Sirens were transformed from beautiful nymphs into creatures with woman’s head and bird’s body in their search for Proserpine; and Lyncus was transformed into a lynx by Ceres for attacking her messenger bearing her gifts. On the other hand, Arethusa related her story after she had told Ceres what she had witnessed regarding Ceres’ daughter and convinced her not to divert her wrath from the loss of her daughter to the earth.

Arethusa told Ceres that she transformed into a fountain as she sweat heavily from fear with her hair dripping with moisture while fleeing Alpheus that everywhere she put her feet a pool followed. Calliope sang these stories in response to a challenged imposed upon the muses by the Pierides from which the Pierides lost. Instead of accepting defeat, the Pierides insulted the muses after which they were punished by being transformed into magpies. While some of the transformations ended with the entities being the same, such as the case of Cyane, Arethusa and the Sirens, the others related the origins of some animals, such as the case of the newt, the lynx and the magpies.

Authors choose to write myths to explain the origins of things. These are based on religious beliefs rather than science and the stories are meant to explain the stories of their gods and goddesses and their heroes and entertain the people who hear or read the stories.


Ovid. Metamorphoses.

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