“What was Ovid’s view of the gods’ ethical performance?”

In Ovid’s book Metamorphoses, he tells us many stories about the gods and their interaction with humans and the creation of certain objects. Lots of times in Metamorphoses there are stories where it is implied that humans are at heart part divine. And the way the god’s act shows this belief; as they quarrel among themselves, fight and use other people to get revenge, are deceitful, in short not perfect. I’m going to summarize a couple of the stories Ovid tells us; to answer the question I asked in the beginning.


“Daphne and Phoebus” this story involves Cupid, and of course Daphne and Phoebus (Apollo). This story is an excellent example of the gods’ childish behavior. The story begins with Phoebus taunting Cupid, for no reason whatsoever. Now Cupid is portrayed as a child, and as children can be sometimes he is quite childish. Phoebus taunts him by telling Cupid that his arrows aren’t as powerful as his. This upsets Cupid and he sets out to prove Phoebus wrong and to get revenge on him. So he shoots Phoebus with a golden arrow; of love and passion towards Daphne. And likewise he shoots Daphne; but he shoots her with a dark, iron arrow. That fills her with fear, and torment of Phoebus. This begins the chase, Phoebus filled with his undivided passion toward Daphne and Daphne filled with her fear and repulsion of Phoebus. Causes them to chase each other, Daphne tries to run away and this only causes Phoebus to chase after her harder. Later, Daphne is turned into a laurel tree by a gift from the gods so that she can hide from Phoebus. Now we can already see that the gods are: prideful, quarrelsome, and inconsiderate.


The next story is titled “Jupiter and Io”. The story beings with Ovid telling us that Jupiter raped Io. And Jupiter is known to be a player so his wife Juno, comes snooping around. Jupiter catches her and before she can find Io he turns her into a heifer. To cover up his adultery. Juno still not satisfied, asks Jupiter to give the heifer to her. He does and she takes the heifer and places her under the eye of the god Argo. Now Argo isn’t any ordinary god he has many eyes so he can see everything she does; whether he is turned around or sleeping. Well, Jupiter sends the god Mercury to get Io back. Mercury decapitates Argo but doesn’t succeed in getting Io. Juno takes Io to the Nile to find her from Jupiter. Then Jupiter finds them and vows to never be with Io again. Juno then permits Io to resume her human form. Again we can see the gods are: dishonest, Adulteress, not to be trusted, and lustful.


Ovid often implied as I said earlier that people were part divine. And because gods were part “human” we can see some of the human character traits shine through. And not good character traits. We can see that you do not want to be on the wrong side of the gods. Because they will use you, and they can not be trusted.



English, Essay 75


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