The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

March 20, 2014

March 20, 43 BCE

Ovid includes, among the many stories in his Metamorphoses, (according to scholar Sara Mack,) an account of an old story of a contest between the Muses and the Pierides, which was prompted by the Pierides' challenge to the right of the Muses to be goddesses of poetry. The story told by the Pierides, earthly folk, and summarized by Mack in Ovid (1988), involves belittling the gods with details like this:

[T]he gods concealed themselves in lying shapes-- Jupiter became a ram, leader of the flock, ...Apollo became a raven, Dionysus a goat, Diana, a cat, Juno a snow-white cow, Venus lurks in a fish, Mercury is a winged ibis....

Change, though, does not mean a necessary intent to deceive. Change, that which surrounds and pervades us all the time, is the edge that fascinates Ovid, and in his masterpiece, the Metamorphoses, he seeks, not to solve the question of why there is change, but to point his reader in the direction of seeing this mutability and mixing for themselves. Now it may seem that the changes from the times of Ovid, to that of a culture informed by a scientific world view, would have resolved the necessity to demonstrate transformation. Do we not know that vegetables eaten change into nutrients the body can utilize? And yet, it is conceivable that Ovid reaches beyond the scientist in insisting on the universality and actuality of the changing of our world and ourselves therein. In the words of Jane Alison, contributor to the OUP Blog, "The extraordinariness of living-change: this would be the life-breath of Ovid’s great Metamorphoses. " Such a spirit does not typify modernity.

One change with which Ovid 
(whose dates are March 20, 43 BCE to 17 or 18 CE), was not happy: his exile to the outskirts of civilization and empire: to a spot somewhat south of the Crimea. He spent the last decade of his life separated from the values and scenes he loved. 

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