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.



  • George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion (1913) updated Ovid's rendition of the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. In this work Professor Higgins (the modern 20th century Pygmalion) transforms a poor flower girl, who has a terrible Cockney accent, into a polished sophisticated lady many mistake for a duchess.
  • In 2002, author Mary Zimmerman adapted some of Ovid's myths into a play by the same title, and the open-air-theatre group London Bubble also adapted it in 2006.
  • Naomi Iizuka's Polaroid Stories also bases its format on Metamorphoses, adapting Ovid's poem to modern times with drug-addicted, teenage versions of many of the characters from the original play.
  • Acis and Galatea, a masque by Händel, is based on the eponymous characters out of the Metamorphoses, as is Lully's opera Acis et Galatée.
  • In 2010, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre presented a new adaptation of Metamorphoses at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[1]

Novels and other literature[edit]

Visual art[edit]


  • 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 Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf wrote twelve symphonies on selected stories of the Metamorphoses; only six survive, corresponding to stories from the first six books.[2]
  • 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.