What examples do you find of the scientific theory of spontaneous generation (i.e., that when the four elements mix together, life is generated spontaneously) in Deucalion and Pyrrha and in the Speech of Pythagoras.

Ovid supports the theory of spontaneous generation as scientifically valid through the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, through rocks generating life and through Pythagoras’s observations on natural phenomena, including the origins of marine animals. The four elements that combine to make new life are earth, air, fire, and water.

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In the Metamorphoses, Ovid supports the concept of spontaneous generation with several examples. In book 1, through a mythical story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, Ovid presents an instance of the four elements coming together to create life. In book 15, he relies extensively to Pythagoras for evidence of the...

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In the Metamorphoses, Ovid supports the concept of spontaneous generation with several examples. In book 1, through a mythical story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, Ovid presents an instance of the four elements coming together to create life. In book 15, he relies extensively to Pythagoras for evidence of the idea’s validity. The Greek philosopher’s monologue refers to the effects of the elements on each other and offers examples drawn from his observations of otherwise inexplicable changes in the earth’s surface.

Following the instructions of the Titan Thetis, Deucalion and Pyrrha tossed rocks onto the ground in order to create new life. Overcoming their initial doubt and confusion, they realized that Thetis’s command to throw the “bones” of the great mother referred to rocks. In the open air, once moistened by water, the rocks first softened, and then their exterior and interior turned into flesh and bone, respectively. The “fire” part of the process is the sun’s heat. More generally, Ovid deduces, this process can create new life forms, some of which are “monsters.”

Ovid uses a lengthy monologue by Pythagoras to reveals the Greeks’ interpretation of this type of phenomenon. Pythagoras laid out the transformation that the elements themselves undergo. As it condenses, fire turns into a dense kind of air; this dense air then turns to water, which in turn solidifies and becomes earth. His evidence for this theorizing comes from observation of formerly firm land turning into sea. He also believes that marine materials on dry land must have been produced that way, giving the example of sea shells found far from the ocean.

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