The Metamorphoses of Ovid

by Ovid

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How does the creation account in Ovid's Metamorphoses differ from that in Genesis?

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Since eNotes answers focus on no more than two topics, I will address the first two questions.

Although both accounts have a divine creator, in the Bible, there is a specific monotheistic God. In contrast, Ovid describes divine power rather ambiguously. Additionally, Ovid is clearly a polytheist, describing many gods, while Genesis is monotheistic. 

In the Bible, the world is shaped ex nihilo by divine commandment, but in Ovid, the elements of the world already exist and are jumbled together chaotically. They are then separated out by Nature or divine will. In both cases, the physical world is created first, and then it is populated. Genesis has a far more elaborate description of the creation of humanity and describes the two genders as being created differently, while Ovid treats humanity as a whole. The stories of decline also differ: Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden rather than the ordinary world, and the Bible gives a far more elaborate account of the specific human failings that led to the Flood. 

In both cases, humans start out living an idyllic life and gradually lose respect for the gods and the moral order. In response, the respective gods send a flood with only one pious couple allowed to survive. The flood stories in both Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Bible are strikingly similar, with Ovid's Deucalion and Pyrrha bearing strong similarities to the Biblical Noah and, alternatively, Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

In regards to Daphne, she does not wish to be raped by Apollo. The obvious answer is that no woman would wish to be raped. She is a young girl who wishes to stay with her friends and family and does not want to be taken off to someplace strange and alien. Even more important, she is a follower of Artemis, a virgin goddess. 

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It is interesting to compare Ovid’s account of creation, following Greek-Roman traditions, to the Judeo-Christian account as recorded in Genesis. There are some striking similarities between the two, but also important differences. The two accounts concur in their depiction of an orderly Universe brought out of original chaos by a creator, and various developments in stages thereafter, culminating in the formation of man from the clay. However, unlike in Genesis, which clearly relates the story of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, the first human beings created are not named, or even individualized, in Ovid’s account.

The two accounts are similar in depicting how to begin with humankind was good and pure but fell into sin, but the set-up in either case is quite different. In Genesis, the human fall from grace is enacted in the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, whereas in Ovid’s retelling,  this fall takes place over various ages; there is a gradual descent from the perfect age of gold, reigned over by Saturn, through silver and bronze, to the final age of iron which is full of wickedness.

Perhaps the most fundamentally important difference between the two accounts is that in Genesis, all of Creation is clearly attributed to God the Supreme Being, whereas the identity of the creator in Ovid’s account is considerably more haphazard. Ovid simply talks vaguely of a god, or Nature, being responsible for creation. This is in keeping with the whole world-view of the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed in the existence of a variety of gods, rather than a single supreme being, as in the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

To answer your second question, there is no particular reason given as to why Daphne should want to remain a virgin. However, there is a clue in her invocation of Diana/Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt, who always resolutely shunned all attention from would-be lovers, and indeed, often took violent action against them.   It seems that Diana is something of a role model for Daphne and that is why she behaves the way she does.

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