Translated by Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada


[For publication and copyright details, please use the following link: Table of Contents. Note that the numbers without brackets refer to the English text; those in square brackets refer to the Latin text.]




[The palace of the Sun; Phaëton asks to drive his father’s chariot; Apollo reluctantly agrees; Apollo instructs Phaëton how to drive the chariot; Phaëton sets out but loses control; the Earth catches fire; springs and rivers dry up; the Earth appeals to Jupiter; Jupiter destroys Phaëton; Phaëton’s family laments; the daughters of the Sun are turned into trees; Cyncus is transformed into a swan; the Sun reacts to Phaëton’s death; Jupiter seduces Callisto; Diana rejects Callisto; Juno punishes Callisto by turning her into a bear; Arcas meets his mother Callisto as a bear; Jupiter sets Arcas and Callisto in the constellations; Juno visits Tethys and Oceanus; the raven and the crow; the daughters of Cecrops; Minerva punishes the crow; how the daughter of Coroneus became a crow; the raven tells Apollo about Coronis; Apollo kills Coronis but rescues his child from the womb and gives him to Chiron; Apollo punishes the raven; Ocyrhoë is turned into a horse; Mercury turns Battus to stone; Mercury and Herse; Minerva visits Envy; Envy poisons Aglauros; Mercury turns Aglauros to stone; Jupiter and Europa; Jupiter abducts Europa.]

The palace of the Sun, high in the sky,                                            THE PALACE OF THE SUN
has soaring pillars, bright with gleaming gold
and fiery bronze, the highest pinnacles
are of white ivory, and double doors
give off a silver light. The artistry
is even finer than the materials,
for on it Mulciber has carved the seas
encircling lands lying in the centre,
the globe of Earth, and heaven suspended
above that globe.(1) The waves hold sea-green gods—                      10
echoing Triton, shifty Proteus,
Aegaeon with arms pressing the huge backs                                            [10]
of whales, along with Doris and her daughters
(some seem to be swimming, others sitting
on the shore, drying their green hair, and some
being carried on a fish—in appearance
all look different and yet somehow the same,
as sisters ought to).(2) The Earth has cities,
human beings, woods, wild beasts, rivers, nymphs,
and other rural deities. Above these                                                 20
is placed the image of a brilliant sky,
six constellations on the right-hand doors
and the same number on the left-hand side.(3)

After Phaëton, Clymene’s son, came                                                PHAËTON AND PHOEBUS
up the steep path and went inside the home
of the father he was not sure about,                                                         [20]
he instantly set out to make his way
into his father’s presence, but then stopped
some distance off. He could not continue
moving any closer to that brilliant light.                                           30
Wrapped in purple robes, Phoebus was sitting
on a throne sparkling with bright emeralds.(4)
To his right and left stood Day, Month, and Year,
Ages and Hours, spaced equally apart,
with the new Spring encircled by a crown
of flowers. And naked Summer stood there,
carrying garlands of wheat, Autumn, too,
stained with trodden grapes, and icy Winter
with untidy snow-white hair. Then the Sun,                                            [30]
placed in the middle of them all, with eyes                                       40
which perceive all things, noticed the young man
trembling at the strangeness of the palace
and said:


           “What has led you to travel here?
What are you seeking in my citadel,
Phaëton, child no parent should disown?”


Phaëton said:


                                            “O universal light
of the enormous world, Phoebus, father—
if I use that name with your permission
and if Clymene is not concealing
some crime under a deceitful picture,                                           50
give me a token, father, so that men
will believe I am a true child of yours.
Erase the doubts in my own mind.”


                                                     He spoke.
His father set aside the beams gleaming                                                  [40]
all around his head and told Phaëton
to come closer. Then he embraced the lad
and said:


             “You are a worthy son of mine—
that cannot be denied—and Clymene
has stated your true origin. Now ask
for any gift you like which will relieve                                            60
the doubts you feel, so I may offer it
and you receive it. Let Stygian pools,
which my eyes have not yet seen and which gods
swear by, be present here as witnesses
to what I promise.”


                                  He had scarcely finished,
when Phaëton asked for his father’s chariot,
the right to guide his wing-footed horses
for one day. Phoebus regretted the oath
he had just sworn. He shook his splendid head
two or three times and said:


                                      “Those words of yours                             70      [50]
have made my words reckless. I wish I could
take back what I have promised! I confess
this is the one thing, son, I would refuse.
Still, I can try to talk you out of it.
What you've requested is not safe, Phaeton.
The gift you want is just not suitable
for your strength or youth. Your fate is mortal,
but what you wish is not for mortal men.
In your ignorance, you are aspiring
for more than what is lawful to be done,                                      80
even with gods above. Each deity
is allowed to follow his own pleasure,
but no one, except myself, is able
to stand upon the fire-bearing axle.
Even the one who governs vast Olympus,                                            [60]
whose terrible right hand hurls thunderbolts,
does not drive this chariot. And what is there
more powerful than Jupiter? The track
is steep at the beginning—fresh horses
in the morning can hardly make the climb.                                   90
The highest part is in the middle of the sky,
where looking down upon the sea and land
is often frightening, even for me,
and giddy terror make my heart tremble.
The final section of the path slopes down.
It requires a steady hand. Moreover,
Tethys herself, whose waters down below
receive me, has a constant fear I’ll fall
too quickly.(5) Then, too, the sky rushes past                                       [70]
in a never-ending whirl, dragging stars                                         100
high up, spinning them in rapid circles.
I drive in the opposite direction.
Its force, which overpowers all things,
does not overpower me, as I move
against its rapid orbit. But suppose
you get the chariot. How would you manage?
Will you be able to make way against
the whirling heavens, so their swift motion
does not carry you away? Perhaps your mind
imagines there are groves up there, cities,                                    110
homes, and temples richly endowed with gifts.
The road passes through dangers and visions
of wild beasts. Even if you keep on course
and are not drawn astray, still you must move
through the opposing horns of that bull Taurus,                                [80]
the bow of Haemonian Sagittarius,
the maw of the fierce Lion, on one side
the savage claws of Scorpio bending
in a sweeping arc and, on the other,
the curved claws of the Crab.(6) And those horses—                    120
you will not find them easy to control,
those spirited beasts, whose mouths and nostrils
snort out the fires blazing in their chests.
They have trouble following my commands
when their fierce hearts are hot. Their necks fight back
against the reins. My son, you must take care
I don’t become the giver of a gift
which kills you. While conditions still permit,
change what you want. Of course, you still desire
sure evidence which will help you to believe                                 130     [90]
you are born of my own blood. But I provide
firm proof by fearing for you, and I show
I am your father by a father’s worries.
Look at my face! I wish you could insert
those eyes of yours into my heart and sense
my fatherly anxiety in there!
Finally, look around at whatever
the rich world contains and ask for something
great and good out of heaven, earth, and sea—
there are so many! I will not refuse.                                              140
This is the only thing I’m asking you
not to take—and, in truth, it should be called
a punishment rather than an honour.
Phaëton, you’re asking for a penalty
and not a gift. Why, in your ignorance,
my boy, do you put arms around my neck                                          [100]
to win me over? Do not have any doubt—
I shall give whatever you have chosen,
for I swore by the waters of the Styx.
But you must make a wiser choice.”


                                                      Phoebus                                         150
ends his words of warning, but Phaëton
rejects his father’s words and, all aflame
with desire to guide the chariot, holds out
for what he’s asked for. And so his father,
having delayed as long as possible,
leads the young man to the soaring chariot,
a gift from Vulcan. The axle is gold,
as is the pole and the curved outer rims
running around the wheels. The rows of spokes
are made of silver, while along the yoke                                           160
chrysolites and gems, set in a pattern,
cast their dazzling light back onto Phoebus.                                          [110]
While bold Phaeton is admiring these,
gazing at the artistry, lo and behold,
watchful Aurora from the shining east
opens up the purple doors to the hall
crammed full of roses. The stars all vanish,
their cohorts driven off by Lucifer,
the last to leave his station in the sky.(7)
When the Titan sees him go, as the earth                                         170
and world are growing redder and the horns
on the crescent moon appear to vanish,
he orders the swift Hours to yoke the horses.(8)
Those quick goddesses respond to his commands.
They lead the horses out from lofty stalls—
the beasts, filled with ambrosial nourishment,                                      [120]
are snorting fire!—and then attach to them
the jingling harnesses. Next, the father
rubs divine ointment on his young son’s face,
making it invulnerable to searing flames.                                         180
He sets his rays in his son’s hair, heaving
sighs from an anxious heart prophesying
disaster, and says:                                                                             PHOEBUS INSTRUCTS PHAËTON


                                  “My boy, if you can
at least listen to your father’s warnings,
spare the whip, and hold the reins more strongly.
These horses charge ahead all on their own.
What’s hard is holding them with their consent.
And do not be tempted by the pathway
directly through the five celestial zones.
There is a track carved out at an angle                                         190
in a wide curve contained inside three zones.                                     [130]
Avoid the Arctic and the southern poles,
and the Bear linked to the north.(9) Make your trip
along this route. You will see certain tracks
left by my wheels. And so heaven and earth
get equal heat, do not guide the chariot
too low or drive it through the upper sky.
If you go too high, you’ll burn up heaven’s roof,
and if too low, the earth. The safest course
to take is through the middle. Do not let                                      200
the right wheel make you turn aside towards
the twisted Snake or the left one lead you
to the low down Altar.(10) Maintain your course
between the two. All that remains I leave                                            [140]
to Fortune, who I pray will help you out
and take better care of you than you do.
While I tell you this, damp Night has touched
the boundaries placed on the western shore.
We do not have the freedom to delay.
We have been summoned! Bright Aurora shines,                         210
and the darkness has been driven away.
Your hands must seize the reins, or if your mind
has changed, take my advice, not my chariot,
while you still can, while you still have your feet
on solid ground, and while you are not yet
acting on your unfortunate desires
and, with no experience, standing there
inside the chariot. Let me provide the earth
with daylight, while you look on in safety.”


Phaëton, with his young body, takes his place                                 220    [150]
in the light chariot and waits there, happy
to have the reins now resting in his hands.
He thanks his reluctant father. Meanwhile,
the swift horses of the sun—Pyroeis,
Eoüs, Aethon, and the fourth one, Phlegon—                                PHAËTON STARTS HIS FLIGHT
keep whinnying—they fill the air with flames
and strike barriers with their hooves. Tethys,
who does not know her grandson’s destiny,
throws back the gates and offers those horses
the freedom of the boundless universe.                                             230
They race off on their journey, hooves speeding
through the air, slicing the opposing clouds.
Lifted on wings, they outstrip the eastern wind                                      [160]
rising from the same regions of the sky.
But for the horses of the Sun the weight
is much too light, for they longer pull
their customary load. Just as curved ships
without a proper ballast toss around,
when their lack of weight makes them unstable,
as they move through the sea, so that chariot,                                 240
without its usual freight, leaps through the air
and is tossed up high, like something empty.
As soon as the four-horse team observes this,                                PHAËTON LOSES CONTROL
they charge ahead, leaving the beaten track,
not running the same path they used before.
Phaëton, alarmed, unsure how to use
the reins entrusted to him, does not know
where the path might be, and even if he did,                                          [170]
he would still lack the strength to guide the team.
Then, for the first time, the cold Triones                                          250
were warmed by the sun’s rays and tried in vain
to dip down in the forbidden ocean.
The Serpent, closest to the frozen pole,
who earlier was sluggish with the cold
and not a threat to anyone, warmed up
and grew more fearful from the heat. They say
you, too, Boötes ran away confused,
though you were slow and held up by the Plough.(11)
But when unfortunate Phaëton looked
from high in the aether down on the earth                                      260
lying far, far underneath him, he turned pale.
His knees shook with sudden fear, and his eyes,                                     [180]
in such a powerful light, were obscured
by darkness. And now he would have preferred
never to have touched his father’s horses.
Now he is sorry he confirmed his birth
and managed to get what he requested.
Now he desires to be called Merops’ son,
as he is carried like a ship driven
by North Wind’s blasts, whose captain has let go                            270
the useless rudder and turned things over
to praying and the gods. What can he do?
A large part of the sky lies behind him,
but even more is there before his eyes.
In his mind he surveys them both, sometimes
glancing ahead towards the west, which Fate
will ensure he does not reach, and sometimes
looking back towards the east. Stupefied,                                                [190]
not knowing what to do, he is unable
to let go the reins or keep gripping them.                                         280
He does not even know the horses’ names.
He trembles to see astonishing things
and images of huge wild beasts scattered
in various places throughout the sky.
There is a place where Scorpio curves his claws
in two arcs and, with his tail and pincers
bending on either side, stretches his limbs
across the space of twin constellations.
When the boy sees this beast, moistened with sweat
from pitch black poison, threatening to attack                                 290
with his curved sting, cold terror numbs his mind,                                 [200]
and he lets go the reins. Once they drop down
and touch the horses’ backs along the top,
the team then swerves off course and runs ahead
without restraint, through regions of the air
unknown to them. Wherever their instincts
drive them, they race forward, with no control,
and charge at stars fixed high in lofty space,
hurtling the chariot through trackless places.
At times, they head for the highest regions,                                     300
and then at times are carried headlong down,
on a path much closer to the earth. Moon
is astounded that her brother’s horses
are racing on below her own. Scorched clouds
begin to smoke. In all the highest places,                                                 [210]
the land goes up in flames, then splits apart                                  EARTH CATCHES FIRE
into yawning cracks, and with its moisture
drawn away, dries up. All the grass turns white,
trees and leaves catch fire, and parched harvest crops
supply the fuel for their own destruction.                                         310


But these complaints are insignificant.
Great cities perish, walls and all. The flames
turn whole countries and their populations
into ash. Woods and mountains are consumed.
Athos burns, as do Cilician Taurus,
Tmolus, Oeta, Ida (once famous
for its springs but now dried out), Helicon
(home of the Muses), Haemus (not yet linked
to Oeagrus). Aetna is on fire, too,                                                             [220]
a tremendous blaze with redoubled flames,                                     320
along with twin-peaked Parnassus, Eryx,
Cynthus, Othrys, Rhodope (now at last
about to lose its snow), Mimas, Dindyma,
Mycale, and Cithaeron (which was made
for sacred rituals). Even Scythia
gets no protection from its icy cold.
Caucasus is on fire, as are Ossa,
Pindus, Olympus (greater than either one),
towering Alps, and cloud-capped Apennines.(12)


Then Phaëton sees all parts of the world                                           330
ablaze and cannot bear the intense heat.
His mouth inhales the scorching air, as if
from some deep furnace. He feels his chariot                                          [230]
get hot. He can no longer tolerate
the ash and sparks thrown up. On every side
he is surrounded by hot smoke. Darkness
swallows him up, and he has no idea
where he should go or where he is, carried
by the will of his swift horses. Men think
that at that time the Ethiopians                                                         340
had their blood drawn to the body surface
and turned black, and Libya was transformed
to an arid desert, all its moisture
drawn off by the heat. Back then, too, the nymphs,
their hair dishevelled, wept for springs and lakes.


Boeotia looks for Dirce’s liquid springs,                                           SPRINGS AND RIVERS BURN
Argos for Amymone’s fountain stream,
and Ephryre for Pirene’s waters.(13)                                                           [240]
And even rivers held in place by banks
spaced far apart are not safe—the Tanaïs                                          350
(its waters in the middle give off steam!),
old Peneus, Teuthrantian Caicus,
quick Ismenus, Phocean Erymanthus,
Xanthus (about to burn a second time),
yellow Lycormas and Maeander, too,
(whose waters play as they come twisting back),
Thracian Melas, and Taenarian Eurotas.
The Euphrates in Babylon caught fire,
as did Orontes and swift Thermodon,
the Ganges, Phasis, and the Ister, too.                                              360
Alpheus boils, banks of Spercheus blaze,                                                 [250]
The gold the Tagus carries in its stream
flows by on fire, and river birds whose song
made those shores in Maeonia famous
glow with heat midstream on Caÿster’s waves.
Nile flees in fear to earth’s most distant place
and hides his head, which still remains concealed.
Its seven mouths filled up with dust and empty,
seven beds without a stream. The same fate
dries up Ismarus, with Hebrus, Strymon,                                          370
and western rivers, too—Rhine, Rhone, Padus,
and Tiber (which has received a promise
it would rule the world).(14)


                                                       In every region
the ground breaks up and sunlight penetrates
down through the fissures right to Tartarus,                                           [260]
alarming the ruler of the Underworld
and his consort, too. The sea gets smaller.
What has recently been water now becomes
a field of arid sand. Mountains covered
by deep seas stand out, raising the number                                      380
of the scattered Cyclades.(15) Fish swim down
to the lowest depths, and curving dolphins
do not dare to leap above the water
up into the air, as is their custom.
In the sea, seals are on their backs, lying
lifeless on the surface. And men report
even Nereus himself, with Doris
and her daughters, lay hidden in warm caves.
Three times Neptune, looking grim, attempted                                       [270]
to extend his arms up from the waters.                                             390
Three times he could not stand the scalding air.


But fecund Earth, surrounded by the sea,                                      EARTH COMPLAINS TO JUPITER
between the ocean waters and the springs,
which were all shrinking, burying themselves
in the womb of their dark mother, lifted
her ravaged face, all scorched down to her neck,
set her hand against her forehead, making
all things shake with her powerful tremors,
sunk back a little and was lower down
than her usual level. In a broken voice,                                             400
she said these words:


                                      “O ruler of the gods,
if this is what you want, if this treatment
is something I deserve, then why hold back
your lightning? Let the power of your flames                                       [280]
destroy me, let me perish in your fires,
and let the majesty of the author
of this disaster mitigate its pain.
It’s hard for me to open up my jaws
to speak these words.”


                          (And, true enough, the heat
made speaking difficult).


                                                   “Look at my hair—                       410
it’s scorched—and all these ashes in my eyes,
over my whole face. Is this the reward,
the honour, you pay for my fertility
and service, because I endure the wounds
of the curved plough and harrow and am worked
the entire year, because I provide leaves
and tender nourishment for cattle herds,
grain crops for the human race, and incense
for you gods? Still, suppose I do deserve
to be destroyed, what have the waters done?                               420    [290]
Why does your brother deserve such treatment?
Why are those waters which chance committed
to his care shrinking and moving further
from the sky.(16) But if you are not concerned
about me or your brother, have pity
on your own heaven. Take a look around.
Both of the poles are steaming. And if fire
destroys the poles, then your own house will fall.
Look! Atlas himself is in great distress!
His shoulders can hardly hold up heaven—                                 430
it’s so white hot.(17) If the seas, if the earth,
if the celestial palace is destroyed,
we are thrown into primordial chaos.
Snatch from the flames whatever still remains,
and help preserve the safety of the world.”                                          [300]


Earth spoke. Then, unable any longer
to endure the heat or keep on talking,
she pulled her face back deep within herself,
into caves closer to the dead below.


But the all-powerful father, calling                                                    440
gods above (and especially the god                                                 JUPITER DESTROYS PHAËTON
who has loaned the chariot) to bear witness
how a dreadful fate will destroy all things,
if he does not help out, climbs way up high,
to the very heights of heaven, from where
he spreads the clouds across wide earth, stirs up
thunder, and hurls his pulsing lightning bolt.
But at that time he had no clouds to drag
across the land nor any rain to send                                                         [310]
down from the heavens. He thunders and hefts                               450
the lightning bolt by his right ear, hurls it
at the charioteer, and, in an instant,
drives him from the chariot and from life.
With his savage fire he puts out the fires.
The horses, in their confusion, all veer
in different directions, pull their necks
free of the yoke, and, with the harness torn,
run off. Reins lie in one spot, the axle,
torn off from the pole, lies in another,
spokes from the broken wheels are somewhere else,                        460
and the remnants of the shattered chariot
are scattered far and wide. But Phaëton,
his golden hair consumed by fire, is thrown
and carried headlong on a long pathway                                                 [320]
through the air, just as in a peaceful sky
a star sometimes seems to fall, even though
it has not really fallen. Far away
from his own land, in a distant region
of the world, Phaeton is taken in
by mighty Eridanus, who cleans off                                                   470
his blackened face.(18) The body, still smouldering
from the three-forked flame, Hesperian naiads
set in a grave and mark the stone with verse:


Here lies Phaëton, who wished to guide
his father’s chariot. And though he died,
there was great daring in what he tried.


But his sorrowing father, sick with grief,                                        PHAËTON’S FAMILY LAMENTS
had concealed his face, and, so people say
(if we can trust their word), one day went by                                          [330]
without the sun. The fires provided light,                                        480
so that disaster brought some benefits.
But when Clymene had said whatever
needed to be said at such times of grief,
distracted in her sorrow and tearing
at her breast, she roamed the entire world,
seeking first his lifeless limbs and then his bones.
She found the bones, but they’d been laid to rest
in a foreign riverbank. She sank down
in that place and with her tears bathed the name
she read there in the marble and warmed it                                     490
against her naked breast. The Heliades,
daughters of the sun, grieving just as much,                                            [340]
shed tears, vain offerings to Death, their hands
beating against their chests, while night and day
they cry for Phaëton (who will not hear
their sad laments) and lie down on his tomb.


Four times the moon joined up her horns and filled                      DAUGHTERS OF THE SUN ARE TRANSFORMED
her sphere. Those women, as was their custom
(for routine has made their grief a habit),
are offering their laments, when one of them,                                  500
Phaëthusa, the eldest sister, wishing
to throw herself down on the ground, complains
her feet are growing stiff. Fair Lampetie
then tries to go to her, but is held back,
suddenly rooted to the ground. A third,
trying to tear her hair with both her hands,                                             [350]
plucks out leaves. One cries that a wooden trunk
now holds her legs, another that her arms
are changing to long branches. While they watch,
amazed at what is going on, bark grows                                          510
around their groins and, by degrees, surrounds
their bellies, breasts, hands, and shoulders, leaving
uncovered nothing but their mouths calling
for their mother. What can a mother do,
other than run here and there, wherever
the impulse drives her, and kiss their mouths,
while she still can? But that is not enough.
She tries to tear the bodies from the trees
and snaps off tender branches with her hands.
But drops of blood come dripping from the breaks,                         520    [360]
as though they were a wound. Whichever child
is injured in this way cries out:


                                                 “Stop, mother!
Stop doing that! I’m begging you to stop!
Inside the tree my body is being torn.


                       The bark grows over her last words,
and tears flow from the place. Drops of amber,
dripping from the sprouting branches, harden
in the sun. Then clear streams take this amber
and send it to be worn by Latian brides.

Cycnus, son of Sthenelus, was present                                              530
at this remarkable event. And though
he was related to you, Phaëton,
by his mother’s blood, his feelings for you
made him even closer. He abandoned                                              CYCNUS IS TRANSFORMED
his royal power (for he ruled as king
of several cities in Liguria                                                                          [370]
and governed people there) and filled the banks
and streams of Eridanus with his cries,
and the forest, too, which, with those sisters,
had increased in size.(20) His voice becomes shrill,                           540
white feathers hide his hair, a lengthy neck
now stretches from his breast, a membrane links
his reddening fingers, wings dress his sides,
and his mouth now sprouts a beak without a point.
And Cycnus becomes a brand new bird—the swan.
He does not trust the sky or Jupiter,
for he remembers fire unjustly sent
from there. So he seeks out wide ponds and pools.
Hating fire, he chooses to live in streams,                                                [380]
the enemies of flame.

                               Meanwhile, Phoebus,                                          550
Phaëton’s father, mourning and bereft                                            PHOEBUS REACTS TO PHAËTON’S DEATH
of his good looks—the way he tends to be
when in eclipse—despises light, himself,
and the day. His mind gives way to sorrow,
and, adding anger to his grief, denies
the earth his services, saying:


                                                   “My fate
from the very beginning of the world
had been difficult enough. I am weary
of the tasks I have been carrying out.
They bring no honour, and they never end.                                  560
Let somebody else, anyone you like,
control that chariot which brings on daylight.
If no one will do that and all the gods
acknowledge they cannot guide the chariot,
let Jupiter do that himself. Then, at least,
while he is trying out our reins, he may                                               [390]
for a while set aside those lightning bolts
which deprive fathers of their sons. Then, too,
once he has experienced the power
in that team of horses with hooves of fire,                                     570
he will realize that the one who failed
to guide them well did not deserve to die.”


All the gods are standing around the Sun
as he says this, and in pleading voices
they beg him not to act on his desire
to plunge the world in darkness. Jupiter
also makes excuses for hurling fire,
mixing his regrets with regal warnings.
Phoebus gathers up the maddened horses,
still trembling with terror. Ill with grieving,                                      580
he takes stick and whip and turns his rage on them
(for he is still incensed), berating them
and blaming them for Phaeton’s death.                                                   [400]

The all-powerful father moves around                                            JUPITER AND CALLISTO
the mighty walls of heaven, checking them,
to see if any section has been harmed
by the fire’s power. After he confirms
they have their old solidity and strength,
he looks out on the earth and works of men.
But taking care of his own Arcadia                                                   590
is his main concern. He restores the springs
and rivers, which have not yet dared to flow,
gives grass to the earth, and leaves to the trees,
and tells the injured woods to grow once more.
As he moves back and forth, he often stops
to look at a young girl of Nonacris—
then passions kindled in his bones would blaze.(21)                                 [410]
She was not a girl who spent time working
to soften wool by teasing it or played
with stylish new arrangements for her hair.                                      600
A simple clasp held her dress together,
white ribbons kept her tangled hair in place.
Sometimes she carried a light javelin.
At other times a bow was in her hand,
for she was one of Phoebe’s warriors.
No nymph wandering on Mount Maenalus
was more pleasing to the goddess Trivia.(22)
But no power lasts for long.

                                                        When the sun,
high in the sky, had moved past the mid-point,
the nymph went to a grove which ages past                                     610
had left untouched. She set down the quiver
on her shoulder, loosed her bow, and lay down                                       [420]
on the ground in a patch of grass, setting
the painted quiver underneath her neck.
Jupiter spied Callisto there, tired out
and with no one to protect her. He said:


“My wife, I’m sure, won’t learn of my deceit.
And if she does, will that bickering of hers
really matter all that much?”


                                            Without delay,
Jupiter changes face and clothes to look                                           620
just like Diana and speaks up:


                                                       “Young girl,
one of my companions, in what mountains
did you hunt today?”


                               Rising from the grass,
Callisto says:


                    “Greetings to you, goddess
greater than Jupiter! I make that claim
though he himself may hear me!”


does hear and laughs, delighted that she thinks
he is greater than himself. He kisses her,                                               [430]
but not modestly, the way one ought to kiss
a virgin. She is ready to describe                                                        630
where she has just been hunting in the woods,
but he embraces her to halt her story.
and, to get what he desires, commits a crime.
She does fight back, as much as women can.
How I wish you had observed them, Juno!
You would have been much kinder to the girl.
But how could a young nymph conquer Jupiter?
Could anyone do that? Once he has his way,
Jupiter ascends to heaven above.


But Callisto now hates the forest                                                       640
(for the trees are aware of what she’s done).
As she leaves the place, she almost forgets
to collect her arrows in their quiver                                                          [440]
and the bow suspended there.

                                       Lo and behold,                                           CALLISTO AND DIANA
goddess Diana with her companions,
on her way over lofty Mount Maenalus,
proud of the creatures she had hunted down,
glimpsed Callisto and, having seen the nymph,
called out to her. Callisto fled the call,
afraid at first the goddess might well be                                           650
Jupiter in disguise. But when she saw
there were nymphs with her as well, she sensed
there was no trick involved and joined their group.
Alas, how difficult it is not to show
one has done wrong by how one looks! She finds
it hard to raise her eyes up from the ground.
She is not tied to the goddess’s side,
pre-eminent in that whole company,
the way she was before, but keeps silent,
and by blushing indicates her honour                                               660    [450]
has been shamed. If Diana had not been
a virgin, she would have perceived her guilt
from a thousand clues. People say the nymphs
all noticed it.

                         When the crescent moon                                        DIANA REJECTS CALLISTO
was rising once more, nine orbits later,
the goddess, tired from hunting in the light
of the Sun, her brother, entered a cool grove
where a stream flowed with a rippling murmur,
rolling the fine-grained sand. She praised the spot,
touching the surface waters with her foot.                                      670
Commending these as well, she then remarked:


“All witnesses are far away. Let’s bathe
our naked bodies in the flowing stream.”


Callisto was embarrassed. All the nymphs                                               [460]
took off their clothes. She was the only one
who tried to hold things up. Reluctantly
she took her garment off. When she did that,
her body, now exposed, revealed her shame.
She desperately tried to hide her belly
with her hands. Diana said:


                                               “Go away—                                      680
far from this place. Do not contaminate
the sacred springs.”


                                        And she commanded her
to leave their company.

                                                For some time, Juno,                         JUNO AND CALLISTO
the great Thunderer’s wife, had known all this,
but was postponing any punishment
until the time was right. And now there seemed
no reason to delay. For Callisto
had already given birth to a young boy,
Arcas. That, too, really angered Juno,
who thought she was a slut. So when she turned                             690
her eye and savage mind onto the child,                                                  [470]
she cried:


         “That’s the only thing that’s missing,
you adulteress—you would be fertile
and publicly proclaim the injury
by giving birth and thus acknowledging
the disgrace to Jupiter, my consort.
You wretched girl, you’ll get your punishment.
I’ll take away that shape of yours, which gave
you and my husband such delight.”


                                                             Juno spoke.
She grabbed Callisto’s hair above her forehead                                700
and threw her face down on the ground. The nymph
stretched out her arms in supplication, but then
rough black hair began to sprout on both her arms,
her hands curved inward, changing to bent claws,
and served as feet. Her mouth, which Jupiter                                          [480]
had earlier praised, became distended
and formed a massive jaw. In case her prayers
and passionate words might move his feelings,
Juno takes away her power to speak.
The voice which issues from her raucous throat                              710
is threatening, angry, full of menace.
Her mind still works the way it did before,
though she has now been changed into a bear.
She expresses her grief with constant groans,
raising her hands (such as they are) to heaven,
and even though she cannot speak of it,
she feels great Jupiter’s indifference.
O how often she was too afraid to sleep
in the solitary woods and wandered
beside the fields and home that once before                                    720    [490]
had been her own! How often barking dogs
drove her across the rocks, and the huntress
ran off in terror, fearful of the hunt.
And often, when she saw wild beasts, she hid,
forgetting what she was. She was a bear,
and yet she trembled when she saw a bear
up in the mountains. Wolves made her afraid,
though Lycaon, her father, was among them.

Now, Lycaon’s grown up grandson Arcas,                                       ARCAS AND CALLISTO
almost fifteen years old, was unaware                                               730
of his own mother. While he was chasing
wild beasts, selecting suitable thickets,
and setting his woven nets to enclose
the Erymanthian woods, he met her.
His mother saw Arcas and stopped, as if                                                  [500]
she recognized him. Not knowing who she was,
he moved back, worried that she kept her eyes,
which never wavered, staring right at him.
When she wished to move in closer to him,
he was about to jab her with his spear,                                             740
a lethal weapon, but great Jupiter
intervened, by removing both of them
(and the chance a crime might be committed).
Together they were seized and carried off
through empty space by a tremendous wind
and placed up in the sky as neighbouring stars.

When Juno saw that girl of Jupiter’s                                                JUNO VISITS TETHYS AND OCEANUS
shining among the stars, she swelled with rage
and went down into the sea to visit
white-haired Tethys and old Oceanus,                                             750
a pious couple whom the gods revere.                                                      [510]
When they asked the reason for her journey,
she answered them:


                                   “You are asking why I,
queen of the gods, leave my celestial home
to come here? Another woman now sits
in heaven in my place. I do not lie!
Once night comes and clothes the world in darkness,
you will observe some recent stars designed
to wound me, honoured by the highest place
in heaven, up there where the most distant                                 760
and the smallest circle in space orbits
the furthest pole. But why would anyone
not wish to injure Juno or worry
about offending me—the ones I harm
I only benefit. Just look how much
I have achieved! How vast my powers are!                                           [520]
I stopped her being human, and she is made
a goddess! That’s the sort of punishment
I inflict on evildoers! That shows
my great authority! Let him remove                                             770
her savage creature’s shape and then restore
the way she looked before, just as he did
earlier with Io, that Argive girl.
Why should he now not get rid of Juno,
wed the girl, set her in my marriage bed,
and take Lycaon for his father in law?
But if this slur to your scorned foster child
affects you, then make sure the seven stars
of that constellation are kept away
from your dark blue waters. Repel those stars                             780
which have been given a place in heaven
to reward their fornication. Make sure
that whore will never bathe in the pure sea.”(23)                                 [530]



The gods of the sea agreed to her request.                                     THE RAVEN AND THE CROW
Then Saturn’s daughter moves up to clear air,
her light chariot drawn by painted peacocks,
which have only recently been coloured,
at the time that Argus died, that moment
when you, chattering raven, not long since
had your wings altered suddenly to black,                                        790
although before that time you were pure white.
Earlier this bird had silver plumage
with snow-white wings, its colour rivalling
spotless doves, yielding nothing to those geese
whose watchful cries would save the Capitol,
or to river-loving swans.(24) But its tongue
betrayed it—that chattering voice changed things,                                 [540]
so what was white is now white’s opposite.


In all Haemonia no one was lovelier
than Coronis of Larissa. For you,                                                       800
god of Delphi, she was, beyond all doubt,
delightful, as long as she was faithful
or unobserved. But that bird of Phoebus,
an inveterate informer, spied out
her infidelity and winged his way
to his lord to reveal her hidden crime.(25)
The chattering Crow flew off after him
on flapping wings, to find out everything,
and once he heard about the raven’s trip,
he said:


                 “This journey you are going on                                     810
will be no use. Do not spurn prophecies                                              [550]
my voice delivers. Think of what I was                                        MINERVA AND THE CROW
and what I am. Ask if I deserve it.
You will find that the loyalty I showed
has done me harm. For once upon a time,
Pallas placed Erichthonius (a child
born without a mother) in a box
made of woven willow twigs from Actaea.(26)
She gave this box to three virgin daughters
of double-natured Cecrops, telling them                                      820
they were not to snoop into her secret.(27)
I was concealed in the light foliage
of a thick elm, observing what they did.
Two of the girls, Herse and Pandrosus,
did not cheat and followed their instructions.
But Aglauros calls her sisters cowards.
Her hands untie the knots. Inside the box                                           [560]
they see a baby and there beside him
is a snake stretched out. I tell the goddess
what those girls have done. And for my trouble                           830
this is the thanks I get—I am informed
I no longer have Minerva’s patronage.
I am being expelled, and my position
is now below the owl, the bird of night.(28)
My punishment should warn birds to beware
of running into danger when they talk.
In my view, she had come searching for me
all on her own. I was not requesting
any favours from her. You can ask her
all about this. Pallas may be angry,                                               840
but even in a rage she won’t deny it.

Famous Coroneus was my father
in the land of Phocis (what I’m saying
is well known). I was a royal virgin,                                                      [570]
and rich suitors sought my hand in marriage
(so don’t belittle me). But my beauty
was my downfall. Once when I was walking
along the sea shore, strolling leisurely
across the sand, the way I used to do,
a sea god noticed me and grew inflamed.                                     850
After wasting time with flattering words,
trying to seduce me, he is ready
to use force. He comes at me. I run off,
leaving the firm shore, and exhaust myself,
quite uselessly, in softer sand. From there
I appeal to gods and men, but my voice
does not reach any human ear. And then,
a virgin god was moved to help a virgin.
As I stretched my arms up to the heavens,                                          [580]
those arms started to turn dark, all covered                               860
with light feathers. I tried to shift my robe
down from my shoulders, but it had now become
more feathers, deeply rooted in my skin.
I made an effort to beat my naked breasts
with my own hands, but by this time I had
no hands, nor any naked breasts. I ran,
and the soft sand did not drag at my feet
the way it had before. I was raised up,
above the surface of the ground, and soon
was borne aloft, transported through the air.                              870
I was made an innocent companion
to Minerva. What use is that to me,
if Nyctimene, who became a bird
thanks to her dreadful crime, has now assumed                                  [590]
my honours? Or have you not heard the tale
(it’s common knowledge everywhere in Lesbos)
how Nyctimene stained her father’s bed?(29)
Yes, she is a bird, but she understands
her guilt and flies away from human eyes.
She conceals her shame in darkness. All birds                               880
have now banished her from all the heavens.”


Once the Crow says this, the Raven answers:


“I hope that your attempt to call me back
turns out bad for you. Empty prophecies
are something I despise.”


                                  With that, the Raven                                      APOLLO AND CORONIS
continued on the journey he had started
and told his master he had seen Coronis
lying beside a lad from Thessaly.
When Apollo, her lover, heard the charge,                                               [600]
the laurel wreath fell off his head—all at once,                                 890
the god’s face, colour, and his lyre collapsed.
Heart seething with swelling anger, he seized
his usual weapons. He pulled back on his bow
until the tips were bent and, with a shaft
which never missed its target, pierced those breasts
so often pressed against his own. The girl,
struck by the arrow, groaned. As it was pulled
out of her wound, her fair white limbs were soaked
in scarlet blood. She cried out:


                                                       “O Phoebus,
you could have let me give birth to my child                                900
before you punished me. Now in one death
two people die.”


                             Those were her last words.
Then her life and blood poured out together,                                          [610]
and icy death crept up her lifeless corpse.
Her lover now regrets his murderous act.
Alas, too late! And then he hates himself                                        APOLLO PUNISHES THE RAVEN
for listening to the tale and growing
so enraged. He hates the bird that forced him
to learn about the fault and caused his grief.
He hates his hand and bow, and, with that hand,                          910
those rash weapons, too, his arrows. He strokes her,
where she collapsed, and with his curing arts
tries to stave off fate. But he is too late.
The healing skills he used have no effect.
Once he saw that these attempts were futile
and that a funeral pyre had been prepared
to burn her body in a final blaze,                                                              [620]
then indeed Apollo gave out a groan
produced from somewhere deep inside his heart
(for tears are not permitted to flow down                                          920
celestial faces), a cry of grief and pain
just like a young cow makes when she beholds
the slaughterer raise his murderous axe
to his right ear and, with a splintering sound,
smash in the temples of her suckling calf.
Phoebus reluctantly poured incense out
onto her breast, embraced her, and finished
the rites which were her due, although her death
was far from just. But Phoebus could not bear
that his own child fall in those same ashes.                                      930
He ripped his son out of his mother’s womb,
right from the fire, and took him to the cave                                           [630]
of Chiron, a creature with a double form.(30)
As for the raven, who was looking forward
to getting a reward, because his tongue
had spoken the truth, Apollo told him
he was no longer to be included
among birds coloured white.


                                            Meanwhile, Chiron,                              CHIRON AND OCYRHOË
half-beast, half-man, pleased with a foster son
whose parent was a god, took great delight                                     940
in the obligation and the honour.
Then, lo and behold, the centaur’s daughter
comes to him, her red hair cascading down
across her shoulders. The nymph Chariclo,
some time past, had named her Ocyrhoë,
because she gave birth to the baby girl
beside a swift stream with that name. And now,
not content with knowing her father’s arts,
Ocyrhoë sang the secrets of the Fates.
So when, possessed by frenzied prophecies,                                    950    [640]
her mind had grown hot from the god enclosed
inside her heart, she gazed at the infant child
and cried:


         “Grow up, young boy, bringer of health
to all the world. Mortal men will often
be in your debt, and you will be allowed
to bring back life once it has been removed.
But if you dare to do that even once
against the wishes of the gods, then flames
from your grandfather’s lightning bolt will end
your power—you’ll not possess it anymore—                               960
and from being a god you will be turned
into a bloodless corpse, then to a god,
after being, some time before, quite dead,
thus changing your fate twice. You too, dear father,
now immortal and, by those laws set down                                         [650]
when you were born, created to live on
though all the ages, you will want to die
when you are being tormented by the blood
of that dreadful serpent, which you’ll absorb
through wounded limbs. The gods will alter you.                       970
From an eternal being you will change
to someone who can suffer death, and then,
those three fatal goddesses will cut your thread.”(31)


She still has to speak about some details
of their fates. But from the depths of her heart
she sighs, begins to weep, and then the tears
run down her cheeks. She cries out:


                                                     “The Fates
stand in my way and tell me not to speak
another word—I may not use my voice.
The arts which bring down on me the anger                                980
of the gods are not worth much. How I wish
I had never known about the future!                                                    [660]
Now my human shape seems to be going.
Now grass delights me as a food, and now
my instinct is to run in the wide fields.
I am being changed into a mare, a shape
linked to my family. But why completely?
For my father is half horse, half human.”


She spoke some words like these, but the last part                        OCYRHOË IS TRANSFORMED
of her complaint was hard to understand,                                        990
The words were so confused. And afterwards,
they did not sound like words or horses’ neighs,
but like an imitation of a horse.
A short time later, she gave out real neighs,
and her arms moved in the grass. Her fingers
then fused together, and one smooth hoof joined
five finger nails with solid horn. Her mouth                                            [670]
and neck grew larger. Most of her long cloak
became a tail, and her free-flowing hair
fell on her neck and changed into a mane                                         1000
on her right side. And then her voice and shape,
were both instantaneously transformed.
As a result of this amazing change,
she also got another name.

                                           Chiron,                                                             MERCURY AND BATTUS
semi-divine son of Philyra, wept
and called to you, Apollo, for your help.

But you could not overturn the orders
of great Jupiter, and if you could have,
you were not present at the time, but living
in Elis and Messenian lands. Back then,                                            1010
you wore a shepherd’s clothing made of skins,                                       [680]
with a wild olive stick in your left hand,
and in your right a pipe with seven reeds
of unequal lengths. While that pipe’s music
was soothing you and love was on your mind,
your cattle, so the story goes, wandered
unguarded into the land of Pylos.
Mercury, son of Maia, Atlas’ daughter,
up to his usual tricks, stole the herd
and hid it in the woods. No one observed                                         1020
the theft, except for an old man, well known
throughout that land, where, in every region,
men called him Battus. He was a herdsman,
who tended the grassy fields and pastures
of wealthy Neleus and catered to
his herds of well-bred mares. Now Mercury,                                            [690]
concerned about this man, took him aside
with a flattering hand and said:


whoever you are, if, by chance, anyone
should ask about these animals, just say                                      1030
you haven’t seen them. And to make quite sure
you get some recompense for what you’ve done,
take this glistening heifer as your reward.”


Mercury offered him the cow. The stranger
took it, pointed to a stone, and answered:


“Go on your way, and rest assured. That stone
will talk about your theft before I do.”


Jupiter’s son pretended he had left,
but came back with an altered shape and voice.
He spoke to Battus:


                            “You there, countryman,                                    1040
if you’ve caught sight of any cattle here,
along this path, help me. Don’t keep quiet                                          [700]
about those stolen beasts. I’ll offer you
a cow and her own bull as a reward.”


The old man, with the reward now doubled,


                     “The cattle will be over there,
below those hills.”


                            And that was where they were.
The grandson of Atlas chuckled and said:


“Liar! Will you betray me to myself,
telling me things to inform against me?”                                       1050


And he changed the perjured chest of Battus                               BATTUS IS TRANSFORMED
to solid flint, which is called, even now,
the touchstone, and this old disgrace is linked
to stone that has not merited the slur.

The god who carries the caduceus                                                  MERCURY AND HERSE
took himself from this place on matching wings,
and, as he flew, gazed down upon the fields
in Munychia, on land so pleasing
to Minerva, and on the well-tilled groves                                                 [710]
of Mount Lycaeus.(32) On that day, by chance,                                 1060
chaste young girls, according to their custom,
carried pure, sacred objects on their heads
in baskets crowned with flowers, on their way
to the festive citadel of Pallas.
The winged god sees them coming back from there.
He does not direct his course right at them,
but wheels in circles. And just as a hawk,
swiftest of all birds, when it sees entrails
but is still timid, since the attendants
stand in a dense crowd beside the sacrifice,                                     1070
circles around, not venturing to fly
any further off, and with beating wings
keeps moving greedily around the food
it hopes to seize—that’s how the agile god
from Mount Cyllene angles his flight then                                             [720]
above Actaean heights and circles there
in the same airy breezes. And just as
Lucifer shines brighter than the other stars
and golden Phoebe more than Lucifer,
that how much Herse, as she walked along,                                     1080
was lovelier than all the virgin girls.
Among her comrades in that procession
she was pre-eminent. Jupiter’s son
astounded by her beauty, hovered there,
in the air, growing hot with love, the way
a lead ball shot from a Balearic sling
gets hotter as it flies and, below the clouds,
discovers heat it did not have before.(33)
He shifts his course, moving down from heaven                                     [730]
and making for the earth, with no attempt                                      1090
to change the way he looks—he has such faith
in his own beauty. But still, even though
that beauty is complete, he takes the time
to tidy himself up. He smooths his hair
and tugs his cloak to hang the way it should
to show the fringe and all the golden thread.
In his right hand he holds his magic wand,
with which he brings on sleep or drives it off,
and on the god’s trim feet winged sandals gleam.


Deep inside the house were three rooms adorned                            1100
with ivory and tortoiseshell. In these,
Pandrosus lived on the right, Aglauros
on the left, and Herse had the middle.                                            AGLAUROS AND MERCURY
The girl who occupies the left-hand room                                               [740]
sees Mercury first, as he approaches

and goes to ask the god who he might be
and why he has come there. Answering her,
the grandson of Atlas and Pleione says:


“I am the one who carries through the air
what my father’s orders—and my father                                       1110
is Jupiter himself. I will not lie
about why I am here. Just be willing
to help your sister out and to be called
my young child’s aunt. The reason I am here
is Herse. I’m asking you to help out
someone who’s in love.”


                                                Aglauros looks at him
through the same eyes with which, not long ago,
she had pried into the hidden secrets
of golden-haired Minerva, then asks him
to give her, in return for her assistance,                                           1120    [750]
a heavy weight of gold. In the meantime,
she demands he leave the house.

                                                              Minerva,                             MINERVA AND AGLAUROS
the warrior goddess, turns her fierce eyeballs
on the girl. From deep inside her, she heaves
a sigh with such emotion that her heart
and the aegis resting on her sturdy chest
both shake.(34) Her mind remembers that this girl
with profane hands has earlier revealed
her secrets when, contravening orders
she had been given, she looked at the child                                      1130
Erichthonius, offspring of the god
who inhabits Lemnos, an infant born
without a mother. And now her sister
and the god will both be grateful to her.(35)
She will be rich, as well, once she receives
the gold demanded by her avarice.


Minerva leaves at once for Envy’s home,                                                 [760]
a filthy, black, corrupted place. The house,                                    MINERVA AND ENVY
crouched in the lowest fissures of a cave,
with no sunlight, closed off from every wind,                                   1140
is depressing and filled with numbing cold,
always lacking fire, always in the dark.
When the fearful warrior goddess gets there,
she stops before the house (for she believes
it is not right to go beneath its roof)
and hammers on the doorpost with her spear.
The doors shake and then fly open. She sees
Envy inside the house eating the flesh
of vipers, which nurtures her corruption.
Minerva looks and turns her eyes away.                                            1150    [770]
But Envy gets up slowly from the ground,
leaving the bodies of half-eaten snakes,
shuffles forward, and peers out at the goddess,
at her lovely shape and splendid weapons.
Her face distorts. Then she groans and gives off
the heaviest sigh. There is a pallor
smeared across her face, her entire body
is gaunt, her eyesight squints at everything,
her teeth are mouldy with decay, her heart
is green with bile, and her tongue drips poison.                               1160
She never laughs, except when she responds
to the sight of grieving, and never sleeps,
for gnawing cares keep her awake. She hates
to witness men’s success—the sight of it                                                 [780]
makes her waste away. She torments others
and, in that very moment, is tormented
and punishes herself. Though Tritonia
hated Envy, she spoke briefly to her,


                  “Infect one of Cecrops’ daughters
with your poison. That is a task for you.                                        1170
Aglauros is the one.”


                                     With no more words,
she left, pushing her spear into the earth
and springing upward.

                                                Envy, eyes askew,                             ENVY AND AGLAUROS
saw the goddess rush away, muttered softly,
unhappy that Minerva would succeed,
picked up a staff completely wrapped in thorns,
and, shrouded by black clouds, went on her way.                                   [790]
Wherever she goes, she tramples down fields
full of flowers, burns the grass, plucks the tops
of growing plants, and with her breath pollutes                               1180
cities and homes, entire communities.
At last, Envy sees Tritonia’s city,
so rich in intelligence, resources,
and joyful peace.(37) She finds it difficult
to hold back tears because she cannot see
a single thing to cry about. She goes in
the home of Cecrops’ daughter and performs
what she’s been ordered, touching the girl’s breast
with a rust-stained hand and filling her heart
with spiky thorns. She blows in harmful poison,                              1190    [800]
spreading black venom through her bones and lungs.
And to make sure the causes of her pain
do not wander far away, she places
before her eyes visions of her sister,
her sister’s happy marriage, and the god
whose outer form is so magnificent,
enlarging every detail. Aglauros,
Cecrops’ daughter, tormented by all this,
eaten up by hidden sorrow, groaning,
racked with pain at night and with pain by day,                              1200
wasting miserably from slow disease,
like ice melting from uncertain sunlight,
is burned by joyful Herse’s happy fate,
just as a fire placed under thorny plants                                                  [810]
which emit no flames, burns with a low heat.
Often she wished to die, so that she might
stop watching what was going on, often
to tell everything to her stern father,
as if it were a crime. Then finally,
to keep the god from entering the house,                                         1210
as he approached, she sat down by the door.
When he spoke flattering words, wished her well,                         AGLAUROS IS TRANSFORMED
and used his gentlest tone, she said:


                                                     “Stop that!
I am not going to move myself from here
until you are sent away.”


                                           The swift god
from Cyllene answered:


                                   “Let us make that
a pact between us.”


                                     With his magic wand
he opened the sculpted doors. Aglauros
attempted to get up but could not move
the parts she bent when she sat down—her limbs                           1220  [820]
were numb and sluggish. She really struggled
to raise herself and hold her body straight,
but her knees were locked, and an icy cold
was spreading through her nails. Her veins were pale
and had lost their blood, and just as cancer,
an incurable disease, tends to spread
far and wide and to transport the illness
to undamaged parts, so a lethal chill
by degrees moved to her chest, closing off
her breathing and her vital passageways.                                          1230
She made no attempt to speak—if she had,
there would have been no channel for her voice.
By now stone had seized her neck, and her mouth                                 [830]
grew hard. There she sat, a bloodless statue—
but not white stone, for her mind had stained her.

When the grandson of Atlas has imposed                                      JUPITER AND EUROPA
this punishment for what Aglauros said
and for her profane mind, he leaves the land
named after Pallas and, spreading his wings,
goes up into the aether. His father                                                    1240
calls him aside and, without revealing
what he wants (because he is in love), declares:


“My son, faithful servant of my commands,
do not delay, but with your usual speed,
glide down, and make for that land which gazes
up at your mother’s star from the left side.(38)
The natives call it Sidon. You’ll observe                                               [840]
a royal herd of cattle grazing there,
some distance off, on mountain grasses.
Take those animals towards the seashore.”                                   1250


Jupiter spoke. The herd, by now driven
from the mountains, was moving to the shore,
as Jupiter had bid. There Europa,
daughter of a mighty king, used to play,
accompanied by Tyrian virgins.
Majesty and love do not fit well together
and do not long remain in the same house.
So the father and ruler of the gods,
whose right hand is armed with triple lightning,
who, by nodding his head, can shake the world,                              1260
sets aside his weighty sceptre, takes on
the appearance of a bull, and then joins                                                   [850]
that cattle herd. Looking magnificent,
he lows and wanders through the tender grass.
His colour is like snow which no rough foot
has stepped in and left an imprint and which
the watery South Wind has not melted.
Muscles bulge around his neck, his dewlap
hangs down from his shoulders, his horns are bent,
but you would think they had been made by hand,                         1270
brighter than a perfect gem. His forehead
holds no threats, and there is nothing fearful
in his eye. He has a calm expression.
Europa, Agenor’s daughter, amazed
he is so lovely and unthreatening,
at first is fearful about touching him,                                                       [860]
for all his mildness. But soon she comes up
holding out flowers for his shining mouth.
The lover feels great joy. Until the time
the pleasure he is hoping for arrives,                                                 1280
he kisses her hands. He finds it difficult,
(O so difficult!) to postpone the rest.
Sometimes he plays and runs through the green grass,
and sometimes he sets down his snow-white side
on the yellow sand. Little by little,
Europa’s fear subsides. Now he offers
his chest for the virgin’s hand to stroke
and now his horns for her to decorate
with fresh-picked flowers. The royal maiden
even attempts to ride astride the bull                                               1290
not knowing she is sitting on a god,
who gradually, as he moves from the land                                                [870]
and from the dry seashore, sets the false hooves
on his feet in sea waves by the water’s edge.
From there he moves in further, carrying
his prize across the middle of the sea.
Terrified at being abducted, the girl
looks back to the shore she has abandoned,
clutching one of his horns in her right hand
and bracing the other hand along his back.                                     1300
Winds keep tugging at her trembling garments.





(1) Mulciber is another name for Vulcan, the divine artisan. [Back to Text]

(2) Triton, as we have seen in Book 1, has a conch shell whose noise resounds around the world. Proteus is a sea god who can change his shape at will. Aegaeon is a sea monster with a hundred arms. Doris is a sea nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys and wife of Nereus. [Back to Text]

(3) The constellations are the signs of zodiac. [Back to Text]

(4) Ovid here and elsewhere calls the sun god Phoebus, from the Greek word for “shining.” The name is most commonly associated with Apollo, whose identification as the god of the sun is not normally found in earlier Greek mythology, where the god involved with the sun is usually a Titan, not one of the Olympians. Ovid’s poem did much to establish Apollo as the Sun god in later appropriations of Greek mythology. Elsewhere in the poem Ovid sometimes makes the god of the sun a Titan (the son of Hyperion). [Back to Text]

(5) Tethys is a goddess of the sea and a Titan, daughter of the original gods Ouranos and Gaia. [Back to Text]

(6) Haemonian also means Thessalian. This is a reference to the centaur (half horse, half human being) Chiron, who, according to a number of writers, was placed in the zodiac as Sagittarius. [Back to Text]

(7) Lucifer is the morning star (i.e., Venus), which appears just before the dawn. [Back to Text]

(8) Ovid here calls Phoebus a Titan. The Greek sun god was usually the Titan (Helios or Hyperion), but Apollo is an Olympian god, not a Titan. [Back to Text]

(9) For a description of the earth’s five zones, see 1.63 ff. This advice appears to be warning Phaeton not to take a direct route across the five zones and crossing the poles, but to follow the sun’s usual path. The Bear (now often called the Plough or the Big Dipper) is a constellation close to the north star. [Back to Text]

(10) The Snake and the Altar are constellations. The former is high in the northern sky, the latter very low on the horizon. Since the Sun’s path is from east to west, the north will be to the right of the chariot. [Back to Text]

(11) The Triones, meaning ploughing oxen, are the Great Bear and the Little Bear constellations. The stars look something like a wagon with oxen attached. These stars, at the latitude of the Mediterranean, do not disappear below the horizon (i.e., are forbidden to dip into the sea). For the story of these constellations see the section on Callisto below. The Serpent (also called Draco and Anguis) is a constellation in the northern sky. Boötes (from the Greek word for ox driver) is a northern constellation. [Back to Text]

(12) This sequence of names refers to well-known mountains and mountain ranges: Athos in north-eastern Greece, Taurus in Asia Minor, Tmolus in Lydia, Oeta in Thessaly, Ida outside Troy, Helicon in Boeotia, Haemus in Thrace (where Orpheus, son of Oeagrus, was torn to pieces), Aetna and Eryx in Sicily, Cynthus in Delos, Rhodope in Trace, Mimas in Ionia, Dindyma near Troy, Myclae in Caria, Cithaeron outside Thebes, Caucasus in Asia, Alps in northern Italy, Apennines in Italy. [Back to Text]

(13) These are the names of famous springs in classical Greece: Dirce in Boeotia, Amymone in Argos, and Pyrene in Ephyre (Corinth). [Back to Text]

(14) These names list a series of rivers famous in myth and history: Tanais (now called the Don) in the north, Caicus in Mysia, Ismenus in Boeotia (near Thebes), Erymanthus in Arcadia, Xanthus near Troy (which is set on fire in the Iliad, hence the reference to its burning a second time), Lycormas in Aetolia, Maeander in Phrygia (famous for its very winding course), Melas in Trace, Thessaly, and Asia, Taenarian Eurotas in Sparta, Termodon in Cappadocia, Ganges in India, Phasis in Colchis, Ister (now called the Danube) in the north, Alpheus in Arcadia, Tagus in Spain, Caÿster in Lydia (also called Maeonia), Nile in Egypt, Strymon in Thrace, Rhine in northern Europe, Rhone in France, and Padus (now called Po) and Tiber in Italy. Ismarus is a mountain in Thrace. [Back to Text]

(15) The Cyclades are a group of islands in the Aegean Sea. [Back to Text]

(16) In Greek mythology, the three brothers Zeus (Jupiter), Poseidon (Neptune), and Hades (Pluto) drew lots to determine which of them should rule particular parts of the world. Neptune drew the lot for the sea, Pluto for the underworld, and Jupiter for the sky. [Back to Text]

(17) Atlas in Greek legend was a giant son of Iapetus. He was changed into a mountain in North Africa which supported the heavens and kept them apart from earth. For the story of his transformation see below 4.934 ff. [Back to Text]

(18) Eridanus is the Greek name for the Po River in northern Italy. [Back to Text]

(19) Tradition located the fall of Phaëton in northern Italy (hence, the naiads are from the Hesperides, meaning regions far to the west of Greece). [Back to Text]

(20) Liguria is a term referring to north Italy. The Eridanus is the Po river. [Back to Text]

(21) Nonacris is a city in Arcadia. [Back to Text]

(22) Trivia is an epithet for the goddess Diana, who is also called Phoebe. She was worshipped in places where three roads met. Maenalus is a mountain in Arcadia. [Back to Text]

(23) At the latitude of the Mediterranean, the stars of the Bear constellations do not disappear below the horizon (i.e., bathe in the sea), but are visible through their whole orbit. [Back to Text]

(24) The Roman historian Livy tells a famous story in the early history of Rome how some geese on the Capitoline Hill heard an enemy army approaching and warned the garrison in time to save the city. [Back to Text]

(25) The bird of Phoebus Apollo is the raven. [Back to Text]

(26) Pallas is a common name for Athena or Minerva. Actaea is an early name for Attica, the region around Athens. Erichthonius was born from the soil, when some of Vulcan’s sperm dripped onto the ground. [Back to Text]

(27) Cecrops, an ancient king of Athens, had two natures because he was part man and part fish (or serpent). [Back to Text]

(28) Minerva is the Roman equivalent to the Greek goddess Athena. The name Pallas is frequently used instead of either name. [Back to Text]

(29) Nyctimene, daughter of the king of Lesbos, had sex with her father and, in shame, hid in the forest. Minerva pitied her, changed her into an owl, and made the owl her favourite bird. [Back to Text]

(30) The child’s name was Asculapius. He became a very famous healer. Chiron was a centaur, with the body of a horse and the torso, head, and arms of a human being. [Back to Text]

(31) The serpent whose blood will make Chiron suffer is the Hydra. The blood was used as a poison on a weapon which injured Chiron. The three goddesses are the Fates who spin one’s thread of life, measure it, and cut it to indicate when death will come. [Back to Text]

(32) Munychia is a small piece of land close to Athens. The caduceus is the special messenger’s staff carried by Mercury. It is commonly depicted as having two snakes entwined around it and a pair of wings at the top. [Back to Text]

(33) The Balearic Islands are near the coast of Spain. The residents were well known for their use of the sling. [Back to Text]

(34) The aegis is a special divine shield, which has the power to terrify human beings and make them run away. It is commonly associated with Jupiter (Zeus) and Minerva (Athena). [Back to Text]

(35) Erichthonius was produced from the sperm of Vulcan, god of the forge, who is associated with Lemnos. His semen fell into the earth, as a result of which Erichthonius was created. [Back to Text]

(36) Tritonia is another name for Minerva. It’s not clear what it means (perhaps a reference to the place where she is supposed to have been born). [Back to Text]

(37) Tritonia’s city is Athens. [Back to Text]

(38) Mercury’s mother, Maia, is one of the seven stars in the constellation of the Pleiades. [Back to Text]



[Link to Metamorphoses, Book 3]


[Link to Metamorphoses, Table of Contents]