Visualizing Speech and Speaking about Vision: Focalization in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 1 and 6

Daniel Libatique, College of the Holy Cross
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April 3, 2019 | CAMWS Annual Meeting
Lincoln, NE

Passages | Bibliography


1. Github repo for ARS Ovidiana.

Github repo for ARS Ovidiana

2. Apollo disparages Cupid and his weapons: Ovid Metamorphoses 1.454-462.

Delius hunc, nuper uicta serpente superbus,
uiderat adducto flectentem cornua neruo
‘quid’que ‘tibi, lasciue puer, cum fortibus armis?’

dixerat; ‘ista decent umeros gestamina nostros,
qui dare certa ferae, dare uulnera possumus hosti,
qui modo pestifero tot iugera uentre prementem
strauimus innumeris tumidum Pythona sagittis.
tu face nescioquos esto contentus amores
inritare tua, nec laudes adsere nostras.’

The Delian [Apollo], haughty because he just conquered the serpent, saw this boy bending his bow with a drawn bowstring and said, “What are you doing, lusty boy, with those brave weapons? Those arms befit our shoulders, we who can inflict certain wounds on a wild beast, inflict them on the enemy, we who just now laid out the swollen Python with uncountable arrows, the Python who covered so many acres with his plague-bearing belly. You, be content to stir up whatever love you want with your torch — and don’t lay claim to our praises.”

3. The sight of Daphne triggers Apollo’s desire: Ov. Met. 1.490-491, 497-502.

Phoebus amat uisaeque cupit conubia Daphnes
quodque cupit sperat suaque illum oracula fallunt…

spectat inornatos collo pendere capillos
et ‘quid, si comantur?’ ait; uidet igne micantes
sideribus similes
oculos; uidet oscula, quae non
uidisse satis; laudat digitosque manusque
et nudos media plus parte lacertos;
si qua latent, meliora putat.*

Phoebus loves and desires marriage with Daphne once she is seen, and he hopes for what he wants, and his own oracles deceive him. … He watches her undone hair hang on her neck and he says, “What if her hair were done up?” He sees her eyes like stars flashing with fire; he sees her mouth, which it is not enough to have seen; he praises her fingers and hands and arms and upper arms bare past the middle part. That which lies hidden, he thinks better.

4. Minerva appears to Arachne in disguise: Ov. Met. 6.26-33.

Pallas anum simulat falsosque in tempora canos
et infirmos baculo quos sustinet artus.
tum sic orsa loqui: ‘non omnia grandior aetas
quae fugiamus habet; seris uenit usus ab annis.
consilium ne sperne meum: tibi fama petatur
inter mortales faciendae maxima lanae.
cede deae
ueniamque tuis, temeraria, dictis

supplice uoce roga
; ueniam dabit illa roganti.’*

Pallas fakes the appearance of an old woman, and she adds false white hairs to her temples and shaky limbs which she supports with a walking stick. Then she began to speak thus: “Old age has some things that we shouldn’t flee; experience comes from advanced years. Don’t treat my advice lightly; you should seek the greatest reputation for making wool among mortals. Yield to the goddess and, rash one, ask with the voice of a suppliant for pardon for your words; she will grant forgiveness to the one who asks for it.”

5. Arachne castigates the disguised Minerva: Ov. Met. 6.34-42.

aspicit hanc toruis inceptaque fila relinquit
que manum retinens confessaque uultibus iram
talibus obscuram resecuta est Pallada dictis
‘mentis inops longaque uenis confecta senecta,
et nimium uixisse diu nocet. audiat istas,
si qua tibi nurus est, si qua est tibi filia, uoces.
consilii satis est in me mihi, neue monendo
profecisse putes, eadem est sententia nobis.
cur non ipsa uenit? cur haec certamina uitat?’

She looks at Minerva with fierce eyes and drops the threads that she had begun. Scarcely holding her hand back, betraying anger on her face, she replied to the hidden Pallas with the following words: “You are deficient in mind and finished off in your veins by your excessive old age, and it’s harmed you to have lived for far too long. If you have a daughter-in-law or daughter, let her hear what you have to say. I have enough counsel in me, and lest you think you’ve helped by warning me, our feeling is the same. Why is she not coming herself? Why does she avoid this contest?”

6. Minerva reveals herself: Ov. Met. 6.43-45.

tum dea ‘uenit!’ ait formamque remouit anilem
que exhibuit. uenerantur numina nymphae
Mygdonidesque nurus, sola est non territa uirgo.

Then the goddess said, “She has come!” and removed her old-woman appearance and showed forth Pallas. The nymphs and Mygdonian girls reverence her divinity; the maiden alone was not terrified.


Barchiesi, Alessandro. 2001. Speaking Volumes: Narrative and Intertext in Ovid and Other Latin Poets, translated by Matt Fox and Simone Marchesi. London.

———. 2002. “Narrative technique and narratology in the Metamorphoses.” In The Cambridge Companion to Ovid, edited by Philip Hardie, 180-199. Cambridge.

de Jong, Irene. 1987. Narrators and Focalizers: The Presentation of the Story in the Iliad. Amsterdam.

———. 2014. Narratology and Classics: A Practical Guide. Oxford.

Fowler, Don. 1990. “Deviant focalisation in Virgil’s Aeneid.” PCPhS 36: 42-63.

Libatique, Daniel. 2015. “A Narratological Investigation of Ovid’s Medea: Met. 7.1-424.” CW 109.1: 69-89.

Peek, Philip. 2003. “Procne, Philomela, Tereus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses: A Narratological Approach.” Antichthon 37: 36-51.

Rosati, Gianpiero. 2002. “Narrative Techniques and Narrative Structures in the Metamorphoses.” In Brill’s Companion to Ovid, edited by Barbara Weiden Boyd, 271-304. Leiden.

Salzman-Mitchell, Patricia. 2005. A Web of Fantasies: Gaze, Image, and Gender in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Columbus.

Tsitsiou-Chelidoni, C. 2003. Ovid: Metamorphosen Buch VIII. Narrative Technik und literarischer Kontext. Frankfurt.