Ovid’s Never-Ending Metamorphoses

Wayne L. Rupp, Jr.

Tristia I.vii contains Ovid’s own commentary on the Metamorphoses in which he states that he was unable to finish the poem because of his exile by Augustus.  This is not the only place in which Ovid laments the unfinished state of the Metamorphoses.  Tristia II.63 reads “Inspice maius opus, quod adhuc sine fine reliqui.”   Scholars have noted that this may be interpreted as a reference to the poetic career of Vergil, who reportedly never had chance to add his finishing touches to the Aeneid and wished that it be burned instead of published.  Ovid wished the same fate for the Metamorphoses at Tristia I.vii.15-6 and III.xiv.19-23.  There is no doubt that Ovid sought to compare himself to the greatest poet of Rome, but I believe there is yet another interpretation of these lines, which is hinted at by various episodes in the Metamorphoses itself, including the speech of Pythagoras in Book XV.  The Metamorphoses, as a collection of bodies changed into new forms, can never end and never be truly finished; Ovid is joking with his readers and any claims of a finished draft of the poem are riddled with irony.

In this paper, I will examine previous scholarship that has dealt with the end of the Metamorphoses, the notion of the Metamorphoses as “carmen perpetuum,” and Pythagoras’ speech in Metamorphoses Bk. 15 such as G. Davis’ “The Problem of Closure in a Carmen Perpetuum” and P. Hardie’s “The Speech of Pythagoras in Ovid Metamorphoses 15:  Empedoclean Epos.”  I will also use Ovid’s poetry, in particular the Metamorphoses itself, to support my notion of Ovid’s inability to bring his “greater work” to a conclusion and to serve as demonstrations of Ovid’s wry sense of humor.

Back to the Meeting Program

[Home] [ About] [Awards and Scholarships] [Classical Journal] [Committees & Officers]
[Contacts & Email Directory
] [Links] [Meetings] [Membership] [News]