The king of the gods. Jupiter is the son of Saturn, the husband and sister of Juno, and the brother of Neptune and Dis. He is often called Jove. Jupiter’s decisions drive much of the plot of the Metamorphoses. A violent and sexual god, he floods the earth and frequently rapes young maidens.

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The queen of the gods. Juno is the daughter of Saturn and the wife and sister of Jupiter. A wrathful woman, she often catches her husband cheating and seeks to punish his lovers.

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The god of the sun. Apollo is Jupiter’s son. A great archer, he is oftentimes hotheaded and lustful.

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The goddess of love. Venus is the daughter of Jupiter and Dione and the mother of Cupid and Aeneas.


The god of love. Cupid is the son of Venus and Mars. He often causes mischief. Many of the gods fall victim to his arrows, including Apollo, who falls in love with Daphne; Dis, who falls in love with Proserpina; and Venus, Cupid’s mother, who falls in love with Adonis.


The god of the sea. Neptune is the son of Saturn and the brother of Jupiter and Dis.


Jupiter’s messenger. Mercury is the son of Jupiter and Maia.


The god of wine. Bacchus is the son of Jupiter and Semele. He comes to full term in Jupiter’s thigh. As an adult, he takes vengeance on Pentheus and the daughters of Minyas.


A virgin warrior and the patron of Athens. Minerva is the daughter of Jupiter. She competes with Arachne in a weaving contest.


The queen of the underworld. Proserpina is the daughter of Jupiter and Ceres and the wife of Dis, who rapes her and takes her to the underworld.


The goddess of agriculture. Ceres is the sister of Jupiter, who is also the father of Ceres’s daughter, Proserpina, with Jupiter. She searches for Proserpina after Dis steals her.


The god of healing. Aesculapius is the son of Apollo and Coronis. He rids Rome of its plague in Book XV.


The god of the underworld. Dis is the son of Saturn, the brother of Jupiter and Neptune, and the husband of Proserpina, whom he forces into his kingdom.


The metal smith of the gods. Vulcan is the son of Juno and the husband of Venus.


The daughter of Inachus. Jupiter rapes Io and turns her into a bull. Later, she becomes Isis.


A river god and shape-shifter. Achelous fights Hercules for the hand of Deianira. Hercules overpowers him and breaks his horn.


The daughter of Titans Coeus and Phoebe and the mother of Apollo and Diana. Latona takes revenge on Niobe.


Three sisters and goddesses of vengeance. The Furies can cause living people to go mad.


A sea nymph. Thetis is the daughter of Nereus and Doris, the wife of Peleus, and the mother of Achilles.


A nymph. Salmacis seeks Hermaphroditus and becomes one with him.

Scylla (nymph)

A nymph. Scylla rejects Glaucus. Circe changes her into a monster.

Scylla (daughter of Nisus)

Another character named Scylla, this one is the daughter of Nisus, She falls in love with Minos and betrays her father and people.


A river god. Inachus is the father of Io.


The daughter of Peneus. Daphne is transformed into a laurel tree as Apollo seeks to rape her.


A nymph. Juno punishes Echo, making her unable to speak except to repeat the words of others. Echo loves Narcissus.


A nymph. Galatea loves Acis. Polyphemus loves Galatea.


A magician. Circe is the daughter of the Sun and the nymph Perse.


A famous bard and poet. Orpheus is the son of Apollo and Calliope and the husband of Eurydice. He sings in Books X and XI. He tells some of the most memorable stories in the poem, such as the tale of Pygmalion. He loses his wife twice but rejoins her in the underworld.

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A great artist. Pygmalion sculpts an ivory statue of a woman that comes to life.


A famed warrior. Theseus is the son of Aegeus, the husband of Phaedra, and the father of Hippolytus. He destroys the Minotaur.


The son of Agenor, the husband of Harmonia, and the founder of Thebes. He slays a serpent to establish Thebes, and at the end of his life he is turned into a serpent.


The King of Crete. Minos is the son of Europa and the husband of Pasiphae.


The grandson of Cadmus and the son of Autonoe. Diana turns Actaeon into a deer as a punishment for seeing her naked.


Minerva’s rival in the art of weaving. Arachne is the daughter of Idmon. Minerva transforms Arachne into a spider.


The King of Thebes. Pentheus is the son of Echion and Agave. He is a vocal opponent of the worship of Bacchus.


A comical Greek hero, in Ovid’s portrayal. Perseus is the son of Jupiter and Danae and the husband of Andromeda. Perseus slays Medusa and the sea monster.


Thisbe’s lover. Pyramus commits suicide because he believes Thisbe is dead.


The son of Aeson and the husband of Medea. Jason procures the Golden Fleece.


The Muse of poetry. Calliope is the mother of Orpheus. She sings in a contest against the Pierides in Book V.


A follower of Diana. Callisto is the daughter of Lycaon and the mother of Arcas. After Jupiter rapes Callisto, Juno transforms her into a bear. Finally, Jupiter makes her into a constellation.


A powerful magician. Medea is the daughter of Aeetes and the wife of Jason. She delivers the most soul-searching soliloquy in the Metamorphoses, in Book VII.


The son of Miletus and Cyanne and the twin brother of Byblis. Byblis falls in love with him.


The son of Cephisus, a river god, and Liriope, a nymph. Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection and dies.


The daughter of Cepheus and Cassiope. Perseus rescues Andromeda from the sea monster and marries her.


The daughter of Pandion, the sister of Philomela, the wife of the tyrant Tereus, and the mother of Itys.


The son of Clymene and the Sun. Phaethon takes his father’s chariot and almost destroys the world.


A shipmaster and a convert to Bacchus. Acoetes tries to convince Pentheus to worship Bacchus.


A great inventor. Daedalus is the father of Icarus. He creates the labyrinth and wings to flee from Crete.


The greatest Greek hero, and the first person to be deified in the Metamorphoses. Hercules is the son of Jupiter and Alcmena and the husband of Deianira and Hebe.


Prostitutes. Venus turns the Propoetides to stone for their shamelessness.


One of the two survivors of the flood. Pyrrha is the daughter of Epimetheus and the wife of Deucalion.


The mother of Hercules.


The son of Aeacus, the brother of Telamon, the husband of Thetis, and the father of Achilles.


The daughter of Cadmus, the lover of Jupiter, and the mother of Bacchus.


The priestess of Apollo at Cumae.


One of the two survivors of the flood. The son of Prometheus and the husband of Pyrrha.


Pyramus’s lover.


A nymph. Coronis is a lover of Apollo, who kills her in a fit of passion. She bears Aesculapius.


The King of Latium. Picus is the son of Saturn and the husband of Canens. Circe transforms him into a woodpecker after he spurns her love.


Nine daughters of Pierus. The Pierides challenge the Muses to a poetry contest. The Pierides lose, and the Muses turn them into magpies for their arrogance.


The son of Megareus. Venus turns Hippomenes into a lion for his ingratitude.


The son of Daedalus. Icarus flies too close to the sun and plunges to his death.


The daughter of Agenor and the mother of Minos and Rhadamanthus. Jupiter rapes Europa.


The daughter of Aeolus and the beloved wife of Ceyx. Alcyone is changed into a bird with her husband.


The King of Trachin. Ceyx is the husband of Alcyone. He dies in a storm and is changed into a bird with his wife.


A huntress in the Calydonian boar hunt. Atalanta is known for her speed.


The daughter of Cadmus, the mother of Actaeon, and the aunt of Pentheus. Autonoe rips off Pentheus’s arms in a bacchic frenzy.


The daughter of Miletus and Cyanee and the twin sister of Caunis. Byblis falls in love with her twin brother, Caunis.


The wife of Hercules. Deianira accidentally kills Hercules by giving him a poisoned robe.


The daughter of Phorcys and Keto. Neptune rapes Medusa, and Athena turns her into a monster. Medusa’s gaze turns people to stone.


The Phrygian king. Midas has a golden touch, and he is a poor literary critic. Apollo punishes him by giving him donkey ears.


The daughter of Cinyras. Myrrha falls in love with her father and manages to sleep with him. He is transformed into a Myrrh tree.


The son of Theseus and an Amazon woman. Hippolytus is falsely accused of sleeping with his father’s wife. He appears in a resuscitated form in Book XV.


A famously clever Greek soldier. Ulysses is the son of Laertes and the husband of Penelope. He defeats Ajax in a verbal contest for the arms of Achilles.


A Trojan hero and the founder of Rome. Aeneas is the son of Anchises and Venus and the father of Ascanius. Aeneas is the second person in the Metamorphoses to be deified.


A great Greek warrior. Ajax is the son of Telamon. He contends with Ulysses for Achilles’ armor and loses. He commits suicide and turns into a flower.


The greatest Greek warrior in the Trojan War. Achilles is the son of Peleus and Thetis. He kills Hector in hand-to-hand combat.

Julius Caesar

A Roman statesman and general. Julius Caesar is assassinated in 44 b.c. and deified. His nephew, Augustus, is the first emperor of Rome.


The son of Neleus. Nestor is fond of telling stories.


The first emperor of Rome. Augustus is the nephew of Julius Caesar. He may be equated with Jupiter in Book XV.


The invulnerable son of Neptune and Canace. Achilles strangles Cycnus in battle and kills him.


The champion of Troy. Hector is the son of Priam. Achilles bests him in battle in the Trojan War.


A great Greek warrior. Diomede is a friend of Ulysses’.


A Greek general and the king of Mycenae. Agamemnon is the son of Atreus.


The son of Mars and Ilia and the brother of Remus. Romulus is the third person to be deified in the Metamorphoses.


The father of Aeneas and a lover of Venus.


The first King of Alba Longa. Ascanius is the son of Aeneas and Creusa.