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Glaucus asks Circe to help him win Scylla’s affections. But Circe is in love with Glaucus, so she refuses to help. Instead, she transforms Scylla into a monster by causing dogs to grow from her waist. Scylla rages at Circe and kills several of Ulysses’ men. Before she can destroy Aeneas’s fleet, she is turned into a crag. After a short stay in Dido’s kingdom, Aeneas goes to Sicily, where the Sibyl tells him he will find success. She also tells him that Apollo offered her anything she wanted in exchange for sex. She asked for longevity of life and he granted her this wish, but without the essential component of youth.
The narrative shifts to two Greek companions, Achaemenides and Macareus, who were separated after the Trojan War. Ulysses accidentally leaves Achaemenides behind on the island of Polyphemus. Achaemenides could not cry out for help for fear of Polyphemus detecting him. A ship rescues him. Meanwhile, Macareus and Ulysses barely escape Antiphates, the ruler of Lamos. They find Circe, who transforms the scouting party into pigs through a magical drink. One man manages to escape and call for Ulysses’ help. With Mercury, who offers protection from Circe’s magic, Ulysses rescues the men. They stay on the island for a year, hearing many interesting stories. Macareus learns the story of Picus, a son of Saturn, who is in love with Canens, a beautiful and musical nymph. Circe falls in love with Picus, who is faithful to Canens. Circe creates a phantom boar to entice Picus on a hunting trip. Still he denies her, so she changes him into a woodpecker.
Aeneas arrives on the shores of Latium. King Latinus welcomes Aeneas and offers his daughter in marriage. Turnus is outraged, because Latinus’s daughter has been promised to him. Turnus asks Diomedes, the famed Greek warrior, for support, but Diomedes turns him down. Turnus decides to attack anyway. His plans to burn Aeneas’s ships, but they miraculously turn into nymphs. He continues to fight and eventually dies. Aeneas fights so valiantly that he is made into a god. Ascanius, Aeneas’s son, rules over the Latin kingdom.
Pomona, a wood nymph, refuses countless suitors, including the god Vertumnus. Vertumnus disguises himself as an old woman and tells Pomona about Iphis, a man of humble origin, who loves Anaxarete, a noble girl. She does not love him, so he hangs himself. When she finds out, she turns to stone. After Vertumnus finishes the tale, he reveals himself. He is about to take Pomona by force, but his story has moved her, and she gives herself to him.
After Proca’s reign, a new war breaks out between the Romans and Sabines. When peace is established, Romulus brings both people under one law, and he is deified.
In Book XIV, Ovid continues to veer away from Virgil’s version of the Aeneid. Most noticeably, he does not develop Aeneas’s love affair with Dido. We might expect Ovid to make something of the relationship. Virgil devotes more than 700 lines to it. But Ovid covers it in four lines, and he does not even mention Dido by name. Instead, he calls her the Sidonian woman. Ovid does not disappoint those readers hoping for a love story, however. He offers not one, but two complicated love triangles.
If Ovid’s treatment of Aeneas and Dido’s love affair is anticlimactic, his treatment of Aeneas’s descent to the underworld is positively tongue-in-cheek. He strips it of all mystery, solemnity, gravity, and sense of destiny. In Virgil, Aeneas spends 637 lines in Dis’s realm; in Ovid, he spends four. Ovid has Aeneas pop in and out of the underworld with remarkable speed. Ovid divests Virgil’s underworld experience of its nationalistic overtones. Instead of focusing on Rome, Ovid sticks to the stories of individuals. Aeneas does not meet Anchises, and he has no sense of the glories the Roman people will achieve in the future. Rather, he is enlightened about yet another rape attempt. Ovid also declines in general to focus on Aeneas, the titular hero of Virgil’s Aeneid. He compresses Books VII–XII of Virgil’s poem into 130 lines. Even in these scant lines, Ovid often drifts away from the topic of Aeneas. In Ovid’s account, Aeneas hardly speaks. Indeed, he hardly acts. He is a silent and nearly inert hero.
Ovid closes this book with another story of rape. After thirteen books filled with countless rapes, this theme may seem well-worn. From a structural point of view, however, the placement of this rape is crucial, because it parallels the story of Apollo and Daphne. Ovid’s Metamorphoses begins with an account of the world and ends in Book XV with another account of the world. Before each of these accounts, Ovid places a rape scene. He creates a double frame. The larger frame concerns the principles of the world; the smaller frame concerns the sexual violence of the gods.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Metamorphoses!