Ian Johnston
Vancouver Island University
Nanaimo, British Columbia


First published 2012, Minor revisions 2017.


For a Word (Rich Text Format) version of this entire translation, please use the following link: Metamorphoses (RTF)





For more specific details of the contents of a particular book, consult the summary provided at the opening of that book.



Invocation; Creation; Four Ages, War of the Giants; the Flood; Deucalion and Pyrrha; Apollo and Pytho; Apollo and Daphne; Io, Argus, and Mercury; Pan and Syrinx; Phaëton.



Phaëton; Callisto and Jupiter; Callisto and Arcas; Coronis and Apollo; Ocyroë; Battus and Mercury; Aglauros, Mercury, and Juno; Europa and Jupiter.



Cadmus and the Dragon; Actaeon and Diana; Semele, Jupiter, and Juno; Juno, Jupiter, and Teiresias; Echo and Narcissus, Pentheus and Bacchus.



The Daughters of Minyas; Pyramus and Thisbe; Mars and Venus; the Sun, Leucothea and Clytie; Salmacis and Hermaphroditus; Athamas and Ino; Cadmus and Harmonia, Perseus and Atlas; Perseus and Andromeda.



Perseus and Phineus; the Muses and Minerva; the Daughters of Pierus and the Muses; Typhoeus and the Gods; the Rape of Proserpine; Ceres and Cyrene; Arethusa and Alpheus; Triptolemus and Lyncus.



Arachne and Minerva; Niobe; Leto and the Lycians; Marsyas; Tereus and Philomela; Orithyia and Boreas.



Jason and Medea, Medea and Aeson, Medea and Pelias, Medea and Aegeus, Aeacus and the Myrmidons, Cephalus and Procris.



Minos and Scylla, Daedalus and Icarus, Calydonian Boar Hunt, Althaea and Meleager, Permela and Achelous, Baucis and Philemon, Erysichthon and Maestra.



Hercules and Achelous, Nessus and Hercules, Galanthis, Dryope, Iolaus, Byblis and Caunus, Iphis and Iänthe.



Orpheus and Eurydice, Attis and Cybele, Cyparissus, Hyacinthus and Apollo, The Propoetides, Pygmalion, Myrrha and Cinyras, Atalanta and Hippomenes, Adonis.



Death of Orpheus, Midas and Bacchus, Midas, Pan and Apollo, Peleus and Thetis, Chione and Daedalion, Peleus and Psamathe, Ceyx and Halcyone, Aesacus and Hesperië.



Agamemnon at Aulis, Cycnus and Achilles, Caeneus, the Centaurs and Lapiths, Periclymenus and Hercules, Death of Achilles.



Ajax and Ulysses, Hecuba and Polymnestor, Memnon, Aeneas and Acis, Galatea and Polyphemus, Glaucus.



Scylla and Circe, The Cercopes, The Cumaean Sibyl, Ulysses, Polyphemus and Circe, Picus and Circe, Diomedes in Italy, Aeneas in Latium; Vertumnus and Pomona; Iphis and Anaxarete; Romulus.



Mysceleus, Croton, Pythagoras. Egeria, Hippolytus, Tages, Cipus, Aesculapius, Julius Caesar, Augustus.






Lecture on Ovid’s Metamorphoses





This translation may be downloaded and distributed by students, teachers, artists, and members of the general public without permission and without charge. They may freely edit or adapt the text to suit their purposes. Commercial publication of this text in any form without the permission of the translator, however, is not permitted.


In this translation, the numbers in square brackets refer to Ovid’s Latin text, the numbers without brackets refer to the English text. In the latter, partial lines are counted together in the reckoning, so that two or three consecutive short lines are equivalent to one full line.

The explanatory endnotes, the side headings, and the summaries at the start of each book have been added by the translator.

A word on pronunciation of names: the letters –eus and –aus at the end of a name are normally two syllables in this translation: (e.g., Orpheus is pronounced Ór-phe-us, Pentheus is pronounced Pén-the-us, Menelaus is pronounced Me-ne-lá-us, and so on); a dieresis over a vowel indicates that it is pronounced by itself (e.g., Danaë is pronounced Dá-na-e, not Dá-nai, Nereïds is pronounced Né-re-ids, Caÿster is pronounced Ca-y-ster, and so on; final vowels are pronounced by themselves (as in Calliope, Penelope, Achaea, and so on), although there are several exceptions, usually when the name has long been adopted into English (e.g., Crete, Palatine, Rome, Ganymede, Nile).

Ovid’s text sometimes creates minor confusion with names either because he does not use a specific name (or uses it very sparingly) or because he identifies someone with a phrase which is not always immediately clear to the modern reader (e.g., “girl from Arcady,” “descendant of Abas,” “Cyllenean god,” and so on). I have in many cases inserted the more familiar name (e.g., Perseus, Mercury, Callisto), sometimes in addition to the original phrase, sometimes in place of it.

Another source of minor confusion is Ovid’s habit of changing verb tenses frequently from present to past and back again, often in mid-sentence. While this stylistic habit is not uncommon in conversational English, it is rare in formal English. Different translators handle this feature in different ways. Some put all verbs into the past tense, while others follow Ovid’s changes faithfully. Most recent translations (so far as I can tell) retain the movement back and forth between present and past tenses, but do so less frequently than Ovid does, so that there is more consistency within short passages of the English. This last-mentioned practice is the one I have followed in this translation.

Finally, Ovid’s speeches are sometimes difficult to keep track of, because he will have a speaker telling us what someone else said, and that account may include more direct speech also containing direct speech. At one point he has speeches within a speech within a speech within a speech. To avoid complex, awkward, and confusing punctuation, I have tried to stick to a simple use of quotation marks (double quotation marks for direct speech, and single quotation marks for all speeches within speeches) and have indented the left margin appropriately to indicate how direct or indirect a particular speech is.

I would like to acknowledge the great help I have received from other translations and commentaries, above all those by Mary M. Innes, A. S. Kline, Henry T. Riley, and A. D. Melville.




Ian Johnston is an Emeritus Professor at Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia. He is the author of The Ironies of War: An Introduction to Homer’s Iliad and of Essays and Arguments: A Handbook for Writing Student Essays. He also translated a number of works, including the following:

Aeschylus, Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides)
Aeschylus, Persians
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes
Aeschylus, Suppliant Women
Aristophanes, Birds
Aristophanes, Clouds
Aristophanes, Frogs
Aristophanes, Knights
Aristophanes, Lysistrata
Aristophanes, Peace
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Abridged)
Cuvier, Discourse on the Revolutionary Upheavals on the Surface of the Earth
Descartes, Discourse on Method
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
Diderot, A Conversation Between D’Alembert and Diderot
Diderot, D’Alembert’s Dream
Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew
Euripides, Bacchae
Euripides, Electra
Euripides, Hippolytus
Euripides, Medea
Euripides, Orestes
Homer, Iliad (Complete and Abridged)
Homer, Odyssey (Complete and Abridged)
Kafka, Metamorphosis
Kafka, Selected Shorter Writings
Kant, Universal History of Nature and Theory of Heaven
Kant, On Perpetual Peace
Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy, Volume I
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things
Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals
Nietzsche, On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life
Ovid, Metamorphoses
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men [Second Discourse]
Rousseau, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts [First Discourse]
Rousseau, Social Contract
Sophocles, Antigone
Sophocles, Ajax
Sophocles, Electra
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
Sophocles, Oedipus the King
Sophocles, Philoctetes
Wedekind, Castle Wetterstein
Wedekind, Marquis of Keith.


Most of these translations have been published as books or audiobooks (or both)—by Richer Resources Publications, Broadview Press, Naxos, Audible, and others.


Ian Johnston maintains a web site where texts of these translations are freely available to students, teachers, artists, and the general public. The site includes a number of Ian Johnston’s lectures on these (and other) works, handbooks, curricular materials, and essays, all freely available.

The addresses where these texts are available are as follows:





For comments and questions, please contact Ian Johnston.





[Link to Book 1]