Cultural influence of Metamorphoses

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Metamorphoses (Latin: Metamorphoseon libri: "Books of Transformations") is a Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Ovid, considered his magnum opus. Comprising fifteen books and over 250 myths, the poem chronicles the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. Although meeting the criteria for an epic, the poem defies simple genre classification by its use of varying themes and tones.

Considered one of the most influential works of art in Western culture, particularly European, Metamorphoses has inspired such authors as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio. Numerous episodes from the poem have been depicted in sculptures and paintings by artists such as Titian. Although Ovid's reputation faded after the Renaissance, towards the end of the twentieth century there was a resurgence of interest in his work; today, Metamorphoses continues to inspire and be retold through various media.



First American serialized printing of Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion (November 1914).

Novels and other literature[edit]

  • In 1613, Spanish poet Luis de Góngora wrote an illustrious poem titled La Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea that retells the story of Polyphemus, Galatea and Acis found in Book XIII of the Metamorphoses.
  • In 1988, author Christoph Ransmayr reworked a great number of characters from the Metamorphoses in his The Last World.
  • In 1997, the British poet laureate Ted Hughes adapted twenty-four stories from the Metamorphoses into his volume of poetry Tales from Ovid. This was later adapted for the stage in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1999, the year after Hughes's death.
  • In 2000, author Phillip Terry edited a collection of modern adaptations of some of Ovid's myths as Ovid Metamorphosed. Contributors included Margaret Atwood.
  • In 2009, British author Adrian Mitchell wrote a collection entitled Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses, intended for young adult readers. This is one of Mitchell's last books, as he died in 2008, and it was published posthumously.
  • Australian writer Ursula Dubosarsky adapted ten of the stories from the Metamorphoses into plays for children. These were first published in the School Magazine, a publication of the New South Wales Department of Education, from 2006.
  • Published in 2018, The Overstory by Richard Powers makes frequent allusion to the Metamorphoses. It contains recurring quotations of the line from a children's translation of Metamorphoses: “Let me sing to you now, about how people turn into other things.” [2]

Visual art[edit]


  • In 1743, George Frideric Handel composed Semele. Based on a pre-existent libretto by William Congreve, the story of this Baroque oratorio comes from the episode of Semele and the birth of Bacchus from Book III.
  • In 1746, French composer Jean-Marie Leclair wrote an opera (tragédie en musique) Scylla et Glaucus based on the books 10, 13 and 14.
  • In 1767, 11-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38. The opera is based on Metamorphoses. It is credited as Mozart's first opera.
  • In 1783, Austrian composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf wrote twelve symphonies on selected stories of the Metamorphoses; only six survive, corresponding to stories from the first six books.[3]
  • Ruben Dario's Collection of poems, Prosas Profanas (1896) contains the poem "Coloquio de los Centauros" based upon Ovid's Metamorphoses.
  • In 1951, British composer Benjamin Britten wrote a piece for solo oboe incorporating six of Ovid's mythical characters.
  • Jazz artist Patricia Barber's 2006 album, Mythologies, is a set of songs based on Ovid's Metamorphoses.
  • Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis's 2009 album Metamorphosen is based on Ovid's epic Metamorphoses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Carl (Apr 27, 2018). "The Overstory by Richard Powers — a Great American eco-novel". THE FINANCIAL TIMES LTD 2020. Retrieved Oct 29, 2020.
  3. ^ under "About this Recording" at bottom left. Keith Anderson, liner notes for The 18th Century Symphony: Dittersdorf: Sinfonias on Ovid's Metamorphoses Nos. 1 - 3, 1995

Further reading[edit]

  • Enenkel, Karl A. E.; Jong, Jan L. de, eds. (2020). Re-inventing Ovid's Metamorphoses: Pictorial and Literary Transformations in Various Media, 1400–1800. Intersections. 70. Leiden and Boston: Brill. doi:10.1163/9789004437890. ISBN 978-90-04-43789-0.