Classical Mythology Images and Insight, Third Edition

Following is an outline of the chapter along with the main learning objectives.  To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the learning objectives are organized to match your textbook.  This organization is also utilized in the chapter review section.

Part 1: Ovid

  1. You should be aware of the elegant, sophisticated character of Ovid's writings, in works such as "Art of Love" and Metamorphoses; the poet's historical background, including banishment by an offended Caesar Augustus.

  2. You should be able to discuss the significance of Ovid's banishment from Rome because of his cynical (if comic) portrayal of thelecherous pursuits of the Gods and humans that undermined the "official" image of a sober Roman citizen and satirized the Gods. 

Part 2: The Metamorphoses: Significant Themes and Characters

  1. You should be able to discuss the main theme of Ovid's Metamorphoses in terms of  -- "bodies changed", considering such changes as; the creation of the universe -- change of the body of the cosmos; the changes of the Earth which he concieved as going through cyclic changes of earth, water, air and fire to earth again; characters, including the Gods, who change from human to animal and other forms; Troy as it is transformed into Rome; and including the narrative transitions that flow between and merge the collection of myths.

  2. You should be able to discuss the nature of the predominant "changes" in the narrative of Metamorphoses in terms of the Roman concern with order, with boundaries between  social classes, even among the Gods, giving to the very nature of the cosmos a grim beginning in Chaos with all elements warring until order is established and all creation is subdivided, with each element in its proper order.

  3. You should be able to discuss the element of "bathos" (a sudden dropping off in tone) as Ovid's tale moves from Mount Olympus to the undercurrents that perhaps are satires of Caesar Augustus and his court, and serving to bring the myths into the realm of ordinary human experience.

  4. You should be able to discuss the "twin" follies of Echo and Narcissus in terms of:

  1. Echo, who was unable to begin or end a conversation on her own initiative, and that of Narcissus who carries self-absorption to extreme and fatally falls in love with his reflection in a pool, to ultimately dissolve and transform into the flower that bears his name; the woman who cannot express what is inside herself paired with a man who cannot respond to anything outside himself
  2. The involvement of the Gods -- Echo was chattering too much for the Goddess Juno to distract the Goddess while her husband, the God Jove makes love to nameless nymphs
  3. Narcissus, punished by the Goddess of vengeance, Nemesis when one of the young men rejected by Narcissus prays that Narcissus should suffer the pangs of unrequited love.
  1. You should be able to discuss the tension created in the narrative by the contemporary concerns of Ovid's contemporary Romans; that of the need for order and the necessity to use arms to impose order on the world; the fear that the price of such order is too high; and that these concerns are reflected in the Roman nostalgia for the Golden, pastoral Age. 
  2. You should be able to discuss the significance of the nightmare elements in the narrative, especially as humans seem forced to resort to transforming themselves into inanimate trees and rocks to escape the god-driven or uncontrollable inner urges of other character.
  3. You should be able to discuss the significance of this the prevalence, in these Roman myths, for characters to become "immobilized", especially as it relates to the concept that Romans, in their striving for permanence, "petrify " Greek myths, relating such plots as that of: 
  1. Perseus' use of the Gorgon's head as well as the fate of Perseus and Andromeda (they are turned into constellations).
  2. The God Apollo, whose unwelcome advances toward Daphne bring her father to transform her into a laurel tree.
  1. You should be able to discuss the concept that many of the myths and references are (possibly) intended as corollaries or warnings to Roman contemporaries, especially Caesar Augustus, such as depicting the God Apollo (whose worship Caesar Augustus was trying to revive) as love-driven.
  2. You should be able to discuss the dominant themes in the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; his descent to rescue from death his love who died before her "ripeness of years"; who temporary charms the forces of death by his song but ultimately cannot bring Eurydice back to life; Orpheus' subsequent rejection of women in favor of young men and the additional image of trees springing from the footsteps as Orpheus wanders; the resonance of this in the next part of the work linking a myth of the God Apollo whose unwanted love for a young man results in the young man's escape into the eternally-sorrowful form of the cypress tree.
  3. You should be able to discuss the significance of the death of Orpheus in terms of its place in the narrative (resuming his myth after the story of the Goddess Venus and the God Adonis); his demise at the hands of a wild band of Maenads in an act of sparagmos -- and the comparison to the tale of Acteon who is killed by another group of wild women (who Ovid compares to Acteon's hounds); the transformation of Orpheus' head to stone (freezing" it) by the compassion of the God Apollo.
  4. You should be able to discuss the concept that through the narrative Ovid suggests a tension between the God Apollo and the God Bacchus and resolves it  -- implying perhaps the dual sides of Opheus' character.
  5. You should be able to discuss the parallels of the last chapters of the work with the contemporary culture, especially in terms of the stability of Rome (that should Roman vigilance ever slip, the world would revert to chaos) and its assurance, in Ovid's view, that his work would get a chance to survive.
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