Mythical epic “Metamorphoses” is a work by a Roman writer Ovid. It belongs to the middle phase of his literary work in which he wrote mythological poems, even though the influence of his first phase, in which he wrote love poetry, is felt.
“Metamorphoses” is consisted out of 246 stories of mythological thematic. The stories are about love troubles, have a lot of dramatic turns, betrayal, doubts and everything unrolls amongst gods. One of their special powers is the power of metamorphosis which allows them to transform into something else in order to get their revenge, get something they want or to transform other people and gods so they could punish them or ease someone’s tragic ending.
In “Metamorphoses” the gods’ lives, their rises and falls are being shown in a grotesque way. The relationships between them are dramatic and seldom have a happy ending because gods are by nature passionate, ruthless, prone to revenge and egoistic.
“Metamorphoses” have a clear, moral lesson because in them every flaw is being punished in some way, especially if that flaw is thoughtlessness. Every form of weakness, for example lack of own opinion, are shown in a negative way while the virtues like courage are always shown in the opposite way despite the fact that they are motivate with selfish intentions like revenge.
The mythological story about Venus and Adonis has a complex motivation. Adonis was born out of a tree after his mother was turned into one. His mother Myrrha was turned into a tree because she did an incest with her father and conceived Adonis with him. She ended up with her father because one of the Furies caused her to lust her own father.
With the help of her nanny Myrrha managed to get to her father in the middle of the night and when Cinyras realized what he had done he wanted to kill her with a sword. She ran away and wandered through the forest until the gods listened to her prayers and turned her into a myrrh tree. Venus used the prohibited love between Myrrha and her father to punish Myrrha’s mother Cenchreis because she praised her daughter to be more beautiful than the goddess. Adonis avenges his mother’s love with his beauty. The story can be found in the book 10.
Venus and Adonis (Metamorphoses, Book 10)
A goddess helper during birth comes to help Myrrha that was turned into a tree because she conceived a child with her own father. The tree broke and from the crack came out a child Adonis. He was placed onto the grass and covered in his mothers tears. The child’s beauty was praised even by Envy because it was as beautiful as Amor. When Adonis grew up, Venus grew to like him. Venus used the prohibited love between Myrrha and her father to punish Myrrha’s mother Cenchreis because she praised her daughter to be more beautiful than the goddess. Adonis avenges his mother’s love with his beauty. A goddess shot an arrow into Venus’s heart. The wound was deeper that it seemed but at first Venus didn’t care about it. With time Venus became obsessed with Adonis’ beauty and she stopped going to the sky because Adonis became her priority. She followed him all the time, got pretty for him, hunted animals but stayed away from the dangerous ones.
She always warned Adonis to stay away from the dangerous animals too. They were under a tree together when Venus started telling him the story about Atalanta. Her father forced her to get married and she agreed under one condition. She told him that any man who won’t be able to beat her in a race will be executed. Several men were killed but then Hippomenes came along and beat Atalanta with Venus’ help. Hippomenes wasn’t sure about entering the race but when he saw her body and face, he just had to do it. He wished for no man to be faster than her. When he saw her a race took place and Atalanta won. She got a wreath and the loser got his punishment. Hippomenes approached her and asked her why she competed with those weaker than her all the time and challenged her. Atalanta thought he was young, immature and had no knowledge about the fear of death. She had pity on him and thought about him no being scared after seeing all of those men being executed. If he was actually capable of winning he would be her future husband.
Hippomenes called for Venus’ help before the race. Venus then took him to a field where a temple dedicated to her was. In the middle of the field was a tree whose leaves were yellow and branches were covered with yellow gold. She took three apples and explained Hippomenes what they were for. The race began and both of them rushed. Atalanta stopped many times because she didn’t want to be too far away from him. Hippomenes dropped the first apple to the ground, Atalanta stopped, looked at it but soon she caught up with Hipommenes. He did the same thing with the second apple but still she managed to catch up with him. Hippomenes asked for Venus’ help again and the third apple was dropped but that one was heavier to carry and in the end Hippomenes won. Venus then asked Adonis if she deserved gratefulness and incense.
Hippomenes forgot to thank Venus or light up incense so she wanted to get her revenge. When Atalanta and Hippomenes saw each other outside a temple he kissed Atalanta, therefore he desecrate the temple. Both of them were turned into lions. When Venus finished her story she warned Adonis again about the dangerous animals. She didn’t want his heroism to hurt him or her. She warned him and went away on a carriage pulled by swans. Adonis didn’t listen to her. He went hunting and got hurt. While Venus was in her carriage she heard a scream and went to see what was going on. She saw half dead Adonis and cried about her evil faith. She declared Adonis an eternal monument of her grief. Adonis’ blood was turned into red flowers that looked like Rose Hip.
Atalanta – a beautiful girl forced to be married by her father. She showed her intelligence when she accepted to be married only with the man that can beat her in a race. The men that lost got executed. She knew perfectly her body limits and resistance. Venus managed to draw her attention away from the race but the marriage didn’t fall hard on her. She wanted to be married for a man like Hippomenes if the faith would allow it. Unfortunately she didn’t know that she desecrated the temple and her punishment was a transformation into a lion.
Venus – goddess of love. She was very irresponsible in her actions. Adonis was just one of her many lovers. She tried to protect him because she genuinely cared about him. As a lesson she told him the story about Hippomenes and Atalanta. She was ready to help everyone in their love problems and in return she expected respect, gratitude and a few gifts. When she felt she was not being praised enough for her services she became revengeful and she punished Hippomenes after she helped him get Atalanta. Despite Venus using the story as a lesson for Adonis she was punished for her immaturity and lust to show courage during hunting.
Publius Ovidius Naso Biography
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