Metamorphoses "Time, Thou Devourer Of All Things"


"Time, Thou Devourer Of All Things"

Context: Publius Ovidius Naso caused a scandal with his Art of Love. For it he was banished in 8 B.C. by Emperor Augustus to a half-barbaric Rumanian town at the mouth of the Danube. There he died. More admirable was his fifteen-book Metamorphoses, written in hexameters. It is an account of miraculous transformations, from classical mythology to the story of Julius Caesar's metamorphosis into a star. In the final book, Ovid tells of the founding of Crotona, through the trickery of Hercules. It was here, says Ovid, that Pythagoras, a fugitive from Samos, tried to persuade men to be vegetarians, decrying the practice of eating the flesh of animals. He also preached the transmigration of the soul. Using the analogy of changes in nature during the annual cycle, Pythagoras brought up the birth and aging of man, using as examples powerful Milo, the Crotona athlete who could kill a bull with one blow of his fist, and lovely Helen of Troy, both later victims of "Tempus edax rerum (Time, the devourer of things)."

Milo, now grown old, weeps when he sees his arms, which once equalled those of Hercules in the massiveness of solid muscle, hang weak and exhausted. The daughter of Tyndarus (Helen) weeps, too, as she beholds in her mirror the wrinkles of old age, and enquires of herself why it is that she was twice ravished. Time, thou devourer of all things, and thou, hateful Old Age, together destroy all things; and by degrees ye consume each thing, decayed by the teeth of age, with a slow death.