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American Philological Association Cupid and Venus in Ovid's Metamorphoses Author(s): Wade C. Stephens Reviewed

American Philological Association

Cupid and Venus in Ovid's Metamorphoses Author(s): Wade C. Stephens Reviewed work(s):

Source: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 89 (1958),

pp. 286-300 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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Wade C. Stephens


XXV. Cupid and Venus in Ovid's Metamorphoses




This study*is an investigationof thepossibilitythat a level of religious and philosophical significanceexists in Ovid's Meta-

especially-where Ovid concerns himself


with his favouritetheme, love. Indications may be found that Ovid makes use of traditionsin which Cupid and Venus have farmore than eroticimportance. It will be argued that Cupid is to be seen in the lightofthe " Orphic " Phanes and Empedocles' Philotes,and thatVenus is presentedin threedimensionsby Ovid, the cosmological and patrioticdimensionsas well as the erotic. Finally, it appears that Ovid has deepened the significanceof the love-motifitself, by adding implicationswhich are not to be foundin the earlier elegiac works. For manyyears,Ovid has been regardedas a poet whose work, at least before his exile, might be summed up as "cheerfully immoral" or even "naughty."'1 His concernwithlove-Roman love in the Amoresand Ars, mythical love in the Heroidesand

Metamorphoses-seemedto issue in sophisticated but morally subversivepoetry. Apparentlythat sternold moralistAugustus thoughtso, at any rate,2and thisman with a personal grievance against Ovid has been followed by the majority of modern critics. Love, in which the soul is laid most bare, had an undenied attractionforOvid, whose interestin psychologywas great. As Rand, Frankel,and Otis (among others)have shown,3the Amores delightsin the ironic twistsof the situation between lover and mistress: both here and in theArsOvid foundample scope forhis

* This paper was read in a slightlydifferentformat a meetingoftheConnecticut

October 18, 1958. To Prof.F. R. B.

Section,Classical AssociationofNew England,

Godolphin,forhis invaluable help, laus maximadebetur. 1The wordsare Highet's: Poetsina Landscape(New York 1957) 177.

2 Cf. Tristia2, passim.


K. Rand, "Ovid and

the Spirit of Metamorphosis" in HarvardEssays on Smyth(Cambridge, Mass. 1912) 209-38, especially


ClassicalSubjects,ed. by H. W.

229; Hermann Frankel, Ovid: A Poet betweenTwo Worlds(Berkeley1945) 10-35;

BrooksOtis, " Ovid and theAugustans,"TAPA 69 (1938)

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Cupid in Ovid's Metamorphoses



When he turned to myth, Ovid attempted to penetrate

more deeply into the soul, and both the Heroidesand the Meta-

morphosescontain many large-scale psychologicalstudies. These poems are less "naughty," more analytical.

Is theremore to the Metamorphosesthan this? The historiesof

literatureseem to say that the poem's chiefvalue is in pulling together an extraordinarilylarge range of mythology. An extremestatementof thisview calls the Metamorphoses"a sort of GoldenBoughin poetry: a collectionof all the strangestmyths."4

This approach suggeststo the reader that Ovid's epic is a mere versifiedhandbook, or a kind ofspicyBulfinch.

The Middle Ages

did not look upon Ovid in this way.5 His

workwas thoughtto be moreprofoundlymeaningful,even moral, when the reader went beneath its glitteringsurface. Ovide

moralisehas become something of a joke among scholars, yet Frankel has shown that morals may not inappropriately be drawn fromsome ofthestoriesin the Metamorphoses;6and Robert- son has argued powerfullyin defenseofthe mediaeval approach.7 Perhaps the most importantcontributionof these scholars has been the suggestion that Ovid's understandingof the human situationshinesthroughhis poetryand that we may have some- thing to learn fromit. By followingthis thought,the present studyseeks to examine the eroticelementof theMetamorphoses,to weigh the mediaeval belief that the poem contains important meaning.

A testofthisview is provided by the firstlove story. Afteran

introductoryphilosophical passage describingthe creation, and afteran account ofLycaon's crime,followedby the deluge and the repopulation of the earth, Ovid moves to the storyof Apollo's

destruction of Python. Immediately after this tale the love

4Highet (above, note 1) 183. I have quoted an extremeexample, but this attitudetowardthe poem seemsto prevailin the handbooks,givingthe studentthe notionthat thereis littlemore to findin the poem; e.g. W. Y. Sellar, The Roman PoetsoftheAugustanAge-HoraceandtheElegiacPoets(Oxford1899) 347; J.W. Mackail, LatinLiterature(New York 1895) 140-1; M. M. Crump, TheEpyllionfromTheocritus toOvid(Oxford1931) 200. ,'Cf. D. W. Robertson,"Chretien's Clige'sand the Ovidian Spirit,"Comparative Literature7 (1955) 34-7 and L. P. Wilkinson,OvidRecalled(Cambridge 1955) 383-4 forrecentdiscussionsofthismatter. B Cf. histreatmentoftheNarcissusstory(above, note3), 82-5. Above, note 5.

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Wade C. Stephens


theme is firstbrought into the poem. Apollo, pleased with his prowess,does not take the littleboy Cupid seriously(1.452- 65) 8

PrimusamorPhoebiDaphne Peneia,quem non

forsignaradedit,sed saeva Cupidinisira. Delius hunc nuper,victaserpentesuperbus, videratadductoflectentemcornuanervo " quid" que "tibi, lascivepuer,cum fortibusarmis?" dixerat:"ista decentumerosgestaminanostros,


qui modopestiferototiugeraventreprementem stravimusinnumeristumidumPythonasagittis. tu facenescioquos estocontentusamores inritaretua, nec laudes adserenostras!" filiushuicVeneris"figattuusomnia,Phoebe, te meusarcus" ait; "quantoque animaliacedunt cunctadeo, tantominoresttua glorianostra."

dare certaferae,dare vulnerapossumushosti,

Except thatJupiterhimselfappears in the storiesof Lycaon and the flood, thisis the firststoryin which the gods take any part; we may expect that Ovid would indicate here his attitudetoward them. While recognizingthatOvid's love ofparadox would add to his relish of Cupid's answer to Apollo, we may also find a deeper significancein the last sentence and in the subsequent fulfillmentof Cupid's threat, for, with Apollo's own weapons, Cupid demonstrateshis authority. And the substance of the Metamorphosesgoes to show that his superiorityextends over all

of the gods, as will be

seen below.

The passage begins with the simple wordsprimus amor(1.452),

a device which Tacitus was to employwhen he began his account

of Tiberius' principatewith the phraseprimumfacinus(Ann. 1.6). The implicationis clear: just as we are to view the principate as

a series of crimes, the Metamorphosesis meant to be a series of

love stories,of Apollo and of others. This is hardly surprising and accords very well with the usual interpretationof Ovid's %Vrlk But there mav be more here. The vervfirstnoem of the

8 The textusedin all quotationsoftheMetamorphosesis thatofM. Haupt, 0. Korn,

H. J. Muller, and R. Ehwald, Die MetamorphosendesP. OvidiusNaso (vol. 18, Berlin

1903; vol. 23, Berlin1898). QuotationsfromotherOvidian worksare takenfromthe

Loeb text.

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Cupid in Ovid's Metamorphoses


Amoresalso begins with a conflictof Cupid and Apollo (Am.


sunttibimagna,puer,nimiumquepotentiaregna; curopus adfectas,ambitiose,novum? an, quod ubique,tuumest? tua suntHeliconiatempe? vix etiamPhoebo iam lyratutasua est?

These lines say that Phoebus' lyre is no longer his, that Cupid encroaches on what was once Apollo's sole domain. Ovid is clearly employing his wittilyparadoxical manner. But to this meaning the passage fromthe Metamorphosesadds a wider signifi- cance, for Cupid now asserts and maintains his superiorityin gloria(1.465), showingthat he is supremeamong the gods. Because of his saeva ira (1.453), Cupid takes action against Apollo. Here may be seen a reflectionofthecommonthemeofa Wrathat thebeginningofan epic poem,but Ovid adds an element not present in Apollonius or Vergil, the fact that the victim deserves his fate. Apollo is superbus(1.454), insults Cupid as lascivepuer (1.456), and tells him to be content amoresinritare (1.461-2). His pride in his victory over Python makes him lose perspectiveon the relative power of Cupid and the other gods, and Cupid is compelled to teach him his place. It is noteworthythat Cupid meets Apollo on the latter'sown ground, defeatinghim with Apollo's characteristicweapons, the bow and arrow. In thisway Cupid assertshis supremacyin the mostconvincingway possible; perhaps it was forthisreason that Ovid chose this story to introduce the erotic theme. Apollo admits the conclusivenessof his defeat,using the veryword certa ofwhich in 1.458 he had boasted (1.519-20):

certaquidemnostraest,nostratamenuna sagitta certior

Apollo is forcedto yield,and Cupid's claim isjustified(1.464-5):

quantoqueanimaliacedunt cuncta deo, tanto minorest tua gloria nostra.

Apollo suffersfor his blindness. His failure to recognize Cupid's superiorityis symbolic of his devotion to the arts of strength-huntingand fighting. The Amoresmakes clear Ovid's sympathieson this question: he favorslove, which Apollo here


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thinkspuerile. The god, although confidentin his strength,is doomed. Parallel in some respectsis Ovid's account ofthedebate between Ajax and Ulysses over Achilles' armor (13.1-398). Strengthis not sufficient,forthe mental power of a Ulysses can overcomeit (13.383):

fortisqueviritulitarma disertus.

Mental or spiritualpower always wins out over the physical,and love is triumphantover violence. Cupid's firstappearance, then, serves to emphasize his great superiorityovertheothergods,who are as farbelow him as mortal beings are below the gods. That this is not too much to draw fromone passage in shownby an importantspeechofVenus to her son just beforethe rape of Proserpina (5.365-79):

" arma manusquemeae,mea, nate,potentia" dixit, "illa, quibussuperasomnes,cape tela,Cupido, inque dei pectusceleresmoliresagittas, cui tripliciscessitfortunanovissimaregni! tu superosipsumqueIovem,tu numinaponti victadomasipsumque,regitqui numinaponti:

Tartaraquid cessant?curnon matrisquetuumque imperiumprofers?agiturparstertiamundi, et tamenin caelo, quae iam patientianostraest, spernimur,ac mecumviresminuunturAmoris. Pallada nonnevidesiaculatricemqueDianam abscessissemihi? Cererisquoque filiavirgo, si patiemur,erit;nam spesadfectateasdem. at tu pro socio,si qua estea gratia,regno iungedeam patruo!"

The authorityofVenus and Cupid has been challenged by Hades


and Cupid act.

was in the Apollo storyand will be in Book 10, where the stories

ofVenus' vengeance are told. " Superasomnes,"saysVenus to Cupid (5.366), rightlyassumingas truewhat the Daphne and Apollo storyproved. Cupid rulesthe

gods on Olympus (superos,5.369), the gods ofthe sea (5.369), and

Neptune (5.370), as well as Jupiter himself(5.369).

serpinastory,amongitsotherfunctionsin thepoem,showsCupid's conquest of Hades (the thirdof thekinglybrothers)and of one of

by the virgingoddesses, and under this provocation Venus

Ovid is carefultojustifytheirretribution,as he

The Pro-

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the virgingoddesses. Only here in the traditiondoes the story of Proserpina emphasize the power of Cupid in such a way; only here is the motive Venus' anger at being slightedand the moral Cupid's irresistiblemight. Even Ovid's other version, in Fasti 4.419-620, does not give thisbackground. But here the storyis told to show Cupid's power,forafterhis mother'sappeal he once more asserts his supremacy by overcoming Dis and, throughhim,Proserpina. Later,Orpheus does notfailtomention this earlier occasion on which Love was victoriousover Hades


vos (sc. Dis and Proserpina)quoque iunxitAmor.

These two stories,the only exploitsof Cupid full detail, representhim as conquering gods

types:Apollo in theheavens,Proserpinaon earth,and Dis beneath

it. And we may be sure thattheseare not theonlyvictimsofthe god, forwe have Venus' words that Cupid conquers all the gods (5.369-70). None of theseotherconquestsis told at any length in the Metamorphoses,but thereis confirmationof Cupid's powers

in many storiesthroughoutthe poem.

foundin theaccount ofArachne'sweb (6.103-28), althoughCupid is not mentioned and the words caelestiacrimina(6.131) imply some responsibilityon the part of the gods fortheiractions,even in love. It is true that in most of the love storiesCupid is not named, but thereis no reason to doubt his activityin them. His specific denial of responsibilityforMyrrha'spassion (10.31 1):

which are told in of three different

Mention ofsome may be

ipse negatnocuissetibisua tela Cupido,

indicates that in most cases he is accountable.

Venus' words

quoted above may be taken as the truth;foronly Cupid has the power to make gods (even Venus, 10.525-30) fallin love, and no

god can harm him. For the purposes of his

poem, then, Ovid has established the

conventionthat Cupid is supreme among the gods, having the same relationshipto themthattheyhave tomortals. Even Venus

must seek his aid, as she does in Book 5.

over Dis he rules the triplekingdomof Heaven, Sea, and Hades.

And afterthe victory

It is to be expected that a poet of Ovid's temperamentwould

exalt Cupid.

But the storieswhich have just been considered

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Wade C. Stephens


seem to implya more than eroticsignificanceto the god, and only by insistingon viewing the Metamorphosesas nothingbut graceful mythologycan thispossibilitybe ignored. Such an insistencemust ignorethephilosophicalpassages (1.5-88 and 15.75-478), forthey indicate thatOvid triesto do morethan tell storiesforamusement alone. They mustbe examined beforewe dismissCupid as does Apollo, calling him lascivuspuerand allowing him no importance.

most clearly

has a seriouspurpose,perhapsin thema hintmay be foundgiving aid in the interpretationof the bulk of the poem. There is an interestingrelationshipbetween the two passages. Althoughthe firsthas stronglyStoic leanings,it also includes manyideas which are derived,perhaps indirectly,fromEmpedocles.9 The second passage is put into the mouthofPythagoras. Both ofthesephilo-

sophersare traditionallylinked with the ratheramorphous body of thoughtknown as "Orphism", theirvegetarianismand belief in reincarnationbeing the most importantconnections.10 Nor

Since it is in the philosophical passages that Ovid

9 Carlo Pascal, "L'imitazione di Empedocle nelle Metamorfosidi Ovidio" in his Graecia capta (Firenze 1905) 129-51, was the firstto notice many of the parallels. Some ofhis findingswerecriticizedby F. E. Robbins,"The CreationStoryin Ovid, Metamorphoses1," CP 8 (1913) 401-14, butforthemostpartPascal's conclusionsstand up. Amongtheimportantsimilaritiesmay be citedthefollowing:

Met. 1.5

parallel to Apollonius, Arg. 1.496-7 (Empedoclean, according to the scholiaston 1.498).

1.6 ,, Empedocles B 27.3-4.




Apollonius1.498 (a line whichOvid knew,and translatedin Fasti 1.107).



,, Empedocles B 27.1-2.



,, Empedocles B 35.3-5.



,, Empedocles B 62.4-5.

Furtherdiscussionof Ovid's debt to Empedocles may be found in Luigi Alfonsi, "L'inquadramento filosoficodelle Metamorfosiovidiane" in Ovidiana,ed. by N. I. Herescu (Paris 1958) 266. 10I do notwishto make much oftheword"Orphism," but it is necessaryto the argumentthat a minimumunderstandingbe reached. Destructivecriticism(e.g.

I. M. Linforth,The Artsof Orpheus(Berkeley1941)) has cleared away much of the confusionabout theword"Orphism," leavinga smallbutsolidfoundationon whichto build. Dodds provideswhat is perhapsthe bestsummaryofthecurrentsituation:

"I do know on

religiouspoems ascribed to Orpheus], namely,that thebody is the prisonhouseof the soul; that vegetarianismis an essentialrule of life; and that the unpleasant consequencesofsin,bothin thisworldand in thenext,can be washed away by ritual means. That theytaughtthemostfamousofso-called'Orphic' doctrines,the trans- migrationof souls,is not,as it happens,directlyattestedby anyonein the Classical

good authoritythat threethingswere taughtin some of [the early

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Cupid in Ovid's Metamorphoses


is thisthe only hint that Ovid is thinkingalong Orphic lines,for

Orpheus himselfis givenmore than an entirebook,

10.1-I 1.84, in

which his storyis told and in which he singsa long song detailing the power of love. This passage is placed at a climax of the Metamorphoses,where Ovid is on the point of shiftinghis focus fromthe realm of mythto the legendarypast of the Trojan War and Rome's genesis. Orpheus' song bringsto a virtual end the cycleofmythand introducesVenus as a powerfuldeityin herown right. "Orphism," we may say, formsa bridge in the Metamo7phoses, linkingthe Empedoclean beginningand the Pythagoreanending by means of Orpheus' song at the turningpoint. Ovid's use of Cupid, too, may be related to the Orphic tradition,at least in its roots,forthe Orphics thoughtof Eros or Phanes as the supreme deity,the oldestofthe gods and creatorof all.1' It was thisidea which Empedocles put into philosophical verse when he made Philotesthe organizingprincipleof the universe.12

Age; but it may,I think,be inferredwithoutunduerashnessfromtheconceptionofthe

body as a prisonwherethesoul is punishedforits past sins." GreeksandtheIrrational[Berkeley1951] 149.)

He adds, "There cannotin facthave been any veryclear-cutdistinctionbetweenthe Orphic teaching,at any rate in some ofitsforms,and Pythagoreanism." For the argumenthere,theimportantfactsare thebeliefin vegetarianismas "the

Orphic way of life" (Plato, Leg. 6.782c), the doctrineof transmigration(taughtby Pythagorasin Met. 15. 75-478), and thecloseconnectionbetweenOrphismand Pytha- goreanism. To this I would wish to add the connectionbetween Orphism and Empedocles,who also taughtvegetarianismand transmigrationofthesoul, and who was believed to have been a pupil of Pythagoras(Timaeus, apudDiogenes Laertius

(E. R. Dodds, The


An importantconnectionbetweenOrpheus and Pythagorasin the Metamorphoses has been noticedby R. Crahayand J. Hubaux, "Sous le masque de Pythagore"in Ovidiana(above, note9) 293. 11 W. K. C. Guthrie, Orpheusand GreekReligion2(London 1952) 95-7, argues convincinglyforthe identificationof Phanes Protogonosand Eros. Cf. 0. Kern,

Orphicorumfragmenta(Berlin 1922) frr. 1, beginningof Phaedrus' speech in Plato's

connection,because it seemsto give the ordinaryinterpretationof Eros in classical Athens.

12 It mayseemtobe goingtoofartocall Philotestheorganizingprinciple,inasmuch as Empedocles himselfsays nothingthat can be strictlyinterpretedto supportthe statement. But the Empedoclean line ofApollonius(1.498):

61, 72-4, 82-3, and 85, interalia; the Symposium178A-C is interestingin this

Ve KEOS g E{





indicatesthatan easysimplificationofthedoctrinewas commonlymade-that Strife causes disorderand Philotesorder. The Stoics,who were also an importantsourceforOvid's philosophicalpassages

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Wade C. Stephens


Seen in thisway, the supremacyof Cupid in the Metamorphoses seems no accident, nor is it simply a continuationof the erotic interestof the earlier elegies. Cupid's supremacy is associated withthephilosophicalbases ofthepoem: theEmpedoclean scheme of creation, and the Orphic-Pythagorean idea of reincarnation, which helps supporttheidea ofmetamorphosis. This association is the closer for the fact that the Daphne-Apollo storyfollows hard upon a briefaccount of the spontaneous generationof life (1.416-37) which owes much to Empedocles. The ideas of the

philosopherare in the backgroundofthewhole ofBook 1 and used to interpretthe storiestold there. Their presence allows us to give Cupid his due importance as cosmological force, not merelyemotion.


In many storiesVenus fulfillsthe same functionas Cupid in the storiesdiscussedabove. Again Ovid is using a deitywho may be thought of as a personificationof a natural force; Empedocles five times uses the name Aphrodite instead of the abstraction Philotls.13 To the Orphic, as to Lucretius (1.1-49), Aphroditeor Venus meant the source of all things,e.g. in her Orphic Hymn


7Ta(xV yap EK arEY EOrTV, VMTEgEV!U() SE

KMLtKpcLTEEtS Tpluwv


bLOLpwV, yEVV(g

OE Ta lTaVTa.

Later in the same Hymnshe is called biod6ti(55.12).

This GreeknotionofAphroditeis carriedoverinto Latin in the

concept of alma Venus,who appears

natura(1.2), at the very end of Horace's Odes (4.15.31-2), twice in the Aeneid(1.618 and 10.332), and four times in the Meta-

morphoses(10.230, 13.759, 14.478, and 15.844). The epithet alma applied to Venus may well be interpretedas having a cosmological significance,for the idea of fosteringis closely related to the thoughtsexpressedin the Orphic HymntoAphrodite ouoted above. And in Latin the notion of Venus as fostering is

at the beginningof De rerum

(cf. the noteson 1.5-88 and 15.75-478 in the editionofthe Metamorphosesby Haupt et at. (above, note 8)), seem to have followedsome ofEmpedocles' ideas on the im- portanceof love; cf. ErnestoRebechesu, L'interpretazionestoicadel mito(Todi 1924)


13 EmpedoclesB 17.24; 22.5; 71.4; 86.1; 87.1.

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Cupid in Ovid's Metamorphoses


inseparablylinkedto the idea ofVenus as ancestorofthe Roman

race throughherson Aeneas.

appears thricein the closingbooks ofthe Metamorphoses,afterthe theme of the Trojan migration to Italy has been introduced. Venus, then,has a triplefunctionin the poem: first,throughher usual positionas goddessoflove; secondly,throughher cosmologi- cal attributes,seen in Empedocles and some of the earlierstories in the Metamorphoses;finally,through her relationship to the Romans and the great metamorphosisof Troy into Rome at the

end of the poem.

functionsis involved. Venus does not appear prominentlyin the early books of the Metamorphoses.In 3.132 she is barely mentionedas the mother of Harmonia, in 4.288 as the mother of Hermaphroditus. In 4.171-92 Ovid borrows from Odyssey8.266-366 (the Lay of Demodocus) thestoryin whichHephaestus trapsAres and Aphro- dite in adultery. But afterBook 4 the storiesof Venus seem to take on a greatersignificance. We have already consideredthe

meaning of her speech in Book 5, assertingthe authorityof love over the gods. There are two long stretchesin the Metamorphoseswherespecial

attention is paid to Venus.

('10.148-739); thesecondis thelasttwoand a halfbooks,beginning

withthe introductionofAeneas in 13.625.

Venus is not mentionedat all in the intervalbetween these two places, nor does she appear from the middle of Book 5 until

9.424, where Ovid notes that she attempted to


The song of Orpheus, which comprisesalmost all of Book 10, has love forits theme. The singerannounces this (10.152-4):

It is forthisreasonthatthe epithet

In many of the storiesmore than one of these

The firstis Orpheus' long song


gain Anchises'

puerosque canamus



14 Crump (above, note 4) 274 remarksthat the Metamorphoseshas threemajor divisions,endingat 6.420, 11.193, and 15.879. Subtractingan introductionof451 linesfromthefirst,we findthateach divisionis ofapproximatelythesame length-

3836, 3774, and

importantway, it is near the end of one of thesesections,e.g. the Proserpinastory at theend ofthefirst,Orpheus'songin thesecond,and herappearancesas protectress ofRome from13.625 on.

3927 linesrespectively. Each timeVenus appearsin thepoem in an

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Wade C. Stephens


That Orpheus, himselfunhappy in love, should singon thistheme is not surprising,but it may add to our understandingofhis song

to realise that the Orphic traditionhas importantconnections

with the idea of love, as sketched above.

Orpheus is sometimesseen by Ovid as more than a legendary bard, as the eponymousancestorof the Orphic traditioncurrent

Is it possible that


Ovid's day? Venus is a leading figurein the storiesOrpheus tells,and a hint


what is to come is given in the first,briefsong at the court of

Dis (10.26-9):

vicitAmor. superadeushic bene notusin ora est; an sitet hic,dubito:sed et hic tamenauguroresse, famaquesi veterisnonestmentitarapinae, vos quoque iunxitAmor.

Orpheus is referringto the storyof Proserpina's rape, and in so doing he tiesBook 10 to Book 5, reinforcingthe connectionnoted above. The theme of love's poweris to run throughoutBook 10, where gods are shown succumbing to it and where the punish-

mentsof thosewho defyit are

Orpheus' longersong opens with the declaration,conventional

enough, that all thingsyield to the rule ofJupiter(10.148):


ceduntIovis omniaregno.

But what followsundercuts this traditionalbelief,forJupiteris

immediatelyshown to be

thingotherthan what he is (10.156-7):

subject to love and to wish to be some-

et inventumestaliquid,quod luppiteresse, quam quod erat,mallet.

A similar storyof homosexual attractionbetween a god and a

youth is the subsequent account of Apollo and Hyacinthus. Venus appears in neitherof these stories,but the more general

power ofAmormay be said to be operatinghere. Venus firstcomes on the scene in the storyof the Propoetides and the digressionabout the Cerastae. The latterwere impious

the veryaltar of

maidens who sacrificedtheirguests (10.228) on


Jupiter-undertook their punishment. Her intention was to leave thecityaltogether, but she rememberedtheinnocentpeople

Since theircitywas sacred to Venus, she-not

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Cupid in Ovid's Metamorphoses


there and determined to Cerastae alone (10.232-4):

inflict a special punishment on the

exiliopoenampotiusgensinpia pendat vel nece vel siquidmediumestmortisquefugaeque. idque quid essepotest,nisiversaepoena figurae?

The idea of metamorphosisas a compromisebetween two states

the song, in the storyof Myrrha, whose trans- treelefther betweentheworldsofthe livingand

the dead. The idea is crucial for an understandingof what metamorphosismeant to Ovid. The storyofthePropoetidesagain illustratesVenus' anger. In spiteofthehorribleexample oftheCerastae,who wereturnedinto bulls, the Propoetides scorned the divinity of Venus. They

showed their contempt of her by becoming prostitutesand fell victims to a curiously appropriate punishment,for they were


turnedto stone " as theirshame leftthem and the blood in

occurs again in formationinto a

facesbecame hard" (10.241), i.e., theywere unable to blush. The Pygmalionstory,whichfollowsimmediatelyand is indeed connected to the account of the Propoetides,is carefullyshaped

to providean exact reversalofthesituation.15 Pygmalionhad be-

come disgustedwith women because of the Propoetides,and

likeOrpheushimself,diuconsortecarebat(10.246). The Propoetides,

because they defied Venus, were turned to stone; Pygmalion's statue, because he honored Venus, was turned to human flesh. The similaritiesand differencesbetween the two situations,even to the blushing,are well summarizedin the lines (10.292-4):


dataque osculavirgo sensitet erubuittimidumquead luminalumen attollensparitercumcaelo viditamantem.

As, in a sense,Pygmalionmarriedhisdaughter,16thenextstory takes up a similar relationshipamong Pygmalion's descendants. But this time Venus and Cupid take no responsibilityfor the unhappy outcome (10.31 1):

ipse negatnocuissetibisua tela Cupido.


Frainkel(above, note 3) 95.

16 Ibid., 96.


Cf. also P. Ferrarino,"Laus Veneris" in Ovidiana(above, note 9)

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Wade C. Stephens


All blame fortheincestuouslove lieson thehuman plane.


again figuresin the succeeding story,which continuesthe history

of Pygmalion's family. The introductionshows Cupid's power even over his mother. While he was kissing her, one of his arrows grazed Venus, and she fell in love with Myrrha's son, Adonis. In her love for a mortal, she loses some of her divine


abstinetet caelo: caelo praeferturAdonis.

Smitten herself, she becomes helpless before mundane forces


non movetaetas nec faciesnec quae Veneremmovere,leones saetigerosquesuesoculosqueanimosqueferarum.

This love, like that ofApollo at the beginningofthe song, has an unhappy outcome, and all Venus can do afterAdonis' death is

transformhis blood

are reminded of the beginning, where Apollo performedthe same metamorphosison his lover's blood. The storyof Hippomenes and Atalanta is told as a digression in the middle oftheAdonis story. Once moreVenus is shown as the helper of love, ready to grant prayersmade to her. When mortals acknowledge her power, Venus is propitious. But the end of the story illustratesthe converse, that when Venus is neglectedor scorned,she punishesswiftly(10.682-5):

into a flower;here at the close ofthe song we

nec gratesinmemoregit, nec mihituradedit! subitamconvertorin iram, contemptuquedolens,ne simspernendafuturis, exemplocaveo meque ipsa exhortorin ambos .

When Hippomenes defilesCybele's temple,he and Atalanta are changed into lions, and Venus admits her part in causing their sin (10.689-90):

illicconcubitusintempestivacupido occupatHippomenen a numineconcitanostro.

This series of storiesmaking up Orpheus' song illustratesone

thisrespectOvid is

point: the overwhelmingpower of love. In

emphasizingnothingnew; but when Venus' son Aeneas is intro- duced (Cythereiusheros,13.625), Ovid beginsto place a new empha- sis on the goddess. Althoughthe significance which has already

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Vol. lxxxix]

Cupid in Ovid's Metamorphoses


been given her is not lost,she is seen more and more as the an-

cestressof the Roman

of theirnational life. That the conceptionsof Venus as natural


as protectressof Rome are not, forOvid, mutuallyex-

clusive is shown by an importantpassage of the Fasti (4.91-5,

people, guiding theirdestinyat the crises

117-9, 123-4):

illa (sc. alma Venus) quidemtotumdignissimatemperatorbem; illa tenetnulloregnaminoradeo, iuraque dat caelo, terrae,natalibusundis, perquesuosinituscontinetomnegenus. illa deos omnes(longumestnumerare)creavit.

quid, quod ubique potenstemplisquefrequentibusaucta, urbetamennostralus dea maiushabet? pro Troia, Romane,tua Venus arma ferebat.

Assariciquenurusdicta est,ut scilicetolim magnusIuleos Caesar haberetavos.

These lines show a clear progressionof thought,movingfromthe cosmologicalfunctionsofVenus inthefirstbitquoted,to herspecifi- cally patrioticfunctionin thethird. In a recentarticle,Ferrarino examinestheimportanceofVenus in Ovid's poetryas a whole and findsin her a symbol, "Venere civilizzatrice: dea della vita e

dell'amore, del progressocivile e del confortoumano."l7

although in the passage quoted above the cosmological and the

patrioticare not unrelated,the opening lines,fromVenus

in line 90, stressher functionas the foundationoflifeand creator

of the gods. The Roman theme is carried on in Books 14 and 15. Venus

watches Aeneas' triumphover Turnus and takes the initiativein securing her son's deification (14.584-608), as she had already

done forIno and Melicertes (4.531-42).

Ovid tells the storyof Venus' saving Rome at the time of the Sabine invasion (14.772-804). And finallyshe carries Caesar's soul to heaven (15.843-6):



At the end ofBook 14

Vix ea fatuserat,media cumsede senatus constititalma Venus nullicernendasuique Caesariseripuitmembrisnec in aera solvi passa recentemanimamcaelestibusintulitastris.

17 Op. cit.(above, note 16) 315.

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Wade C. Stephens


If thereis any seriousmeaningin the poem, much ofit mustlie in the extended significanceof Venus. Taking the guardian deity of his youthfulverse, Ovid adds philosophic and patriotic dimensionsto her; that change in the goddess is a mirrorof the change in the poetry. Much of the old erotic elementremains,

to be sure, but Ovid's new

while making use of it. Here is no real break with the earlier elegy,but a natural broadening ofits scope and meaning. The passage fromFasti 4.91-124 indicatesthatOvid was aware of the possible meaningsof his mythologicalfigures. The philo-

sophical significanceof love in Orphism and Empedocles, the patriotic element which Roman tradition assigned to Venus- both were available and knownto Ovid. When he demonstrates

the superiorityof love at the verybeginningof the Metamorphoses and a third of the way throughthe poem, when he stressesits powerfulinfluenceover the affairsof men and ofgods in Book 10 (where Orpheus is the speaker), and when Venus takes such a prominentpart in the patriotic climax, it is difficultto escape the conclusionthat Ovid intentionallyis using love as more than

a simplyeroticforce. Viewing the Metamnorphosesas sheer enter- tainmentmustneglectthesesignificantfactsand theirsignificant placing in thepoem. Ovid, as the Middle Ages saw, has inserted greatermeaning into his mythsthan appears on the surface.

concern transcends that element

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