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Book III

Summary Book III

In this book, Ovid focuses on the danger of transgression. In almost all of the episodes, boundaries are crossed, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. Semele, a human, sleeps with Jupiter, a married god; Actaeon stumbles into the sacred and secret grove of Diana and sees something he should not; Tiresias lives as both a man and a woman and offers a verdict on pleasure and sexuality from the perspective of both; and Pentheus witnesses and unwillingly takes part in the secret the rites of Bacchus. The result of each of these boundary-crossings justifies Ovid’s dictum, “do not call someone happy until he dies and his funeral is over” (III.136137). When people cross boundaries, the result is blindness, death by sex, death by dogs, or an equally horrible fate. While Thebes is founded happily, its subsequent history quickly grows grim.