Book I: Questions and Answers
1. How did Ovid modify the traditional Invocation to the Muse?
2. Who or what changed the original Chaos into the World we now have?
3. What was the form that the Earth took?
4. What were the Four Ages, and what were their characteristics?
5. What was the cause of the Flood?
6. What were the sins of Lycaon, and how was he punished?
7. Who or what was Python, and what was its fate?
8. What was the origin of the laurel tree?
9. Daphne, Io, and Syrinx have a common thread in their tales. What is it?
10. What was the taunt of Epaphus aimed at Phaethon? What was its result?
1. He simply expressed his intention to tell the stories with the possible help of the gods.
2. The change was the work of Nature or God.
3. Earth was a globe, not a flat disk as later “experts” claimed.
4. The Four Ages were: the Age of Gold, perfection; the Age of Silver, still very good, but with the coming of the seasons bringing extremes of heat and cold; the Age of Bronze, in which weapons were introduced; and finally, the Age of Iron, during which every evil was loosed upon the world. (Ovid adapted this theory from the Greek poet Hesiod.)
5. Jove saw the wickedness of mankind and persuaded the other gods to punish it.
6. Lyacon planned to murder Jove in his sleep (an extreme example of lack of hospitality); he also tried to feed him human flesh (cannibalism). He was also guilty of hubris, testing Jove’s omniscience and power.
7. Python was a monstrous serpent, a by-product of the second creation. Apollo killed the serpent with his arrows.
8. As Daphne was fleeing Apollo, Diana changed her into a laurel tree. Apollo then made the laurel the badge of victory in the Pythian Games, an antecedent of the Olympic Games.
9. All three maidens were pursued by gods who wanted to rape them.
10. Epaphus challenged Phaethon to prove that his mother was not a liar and that he was truly the son of the Sun-god.
Book II: Questions and Answers
1. What was the central imagery of the artwork on the gate on the Palace of the Sun?
2. Who or what were the companions of the Sun-god sitting on his throne?
3. Why did Phaethon ask for his fatal ride, and why did his father permit it?
4. Why is the Tiber, a small river, included in the list of great rivers?
5. How did the “almighty father” terminate the catastrophe of Phaethon’s folly?
6. Why did Jove descend to Arcady?
7. What is the significance of the fact that Callisto and Arcas must be “kept out of the water?”
8. How is Apollo’s grief over Coronis different from human grief?
9. What is the irony of the fate of the goddess Envy?
10. What were the transgressions of Aglauros?
1. Vulcan decorated it with images of the sea and creatures inhabiting the sea.
2. The god was attended by Days, Months, Years, Centuries, Hours, and Seasons.
3. The son was guilty of hubris, arrogant pride, imagining himself in the same class as his divine father; the father agreed out of overly permissive love.
4. The city of Rome, where Ovid and the emperor live, is on the Tiber.
5. Jove hurled his thunderbolt.
6. The god came to Arcady to assess the damage done by Phaethon’s disastrous fall and the fire which resulted.
7. The constellations of the Big Bear and Little Bear never set in the sea.
8. Gods cannot weep.
9. Envy’s successes are self-defeating; in hurting a mortal, she pleases a goddess.
10. She was guilty of disobedience and indiscretion, prying into Minerva’s secret, looking at the “boy without a mother.” She was also greedy and envious of her sister.
Book III: Questions and Answers
1. Which god is Cadmus attempting to honor when he sends his men into the forest?
2. Which god does he unintentionally offend?
3. Cite an obvious overstatement in the description of the serpent.
4. What prophecy does Cadmus hear after killing the serpent?
5. What was the name of the city founded by Cadmus?
6. Is it believable that the dogs would not have recognized their master, even if metamorphosed?
7. Characterize Jove’s behavior toward Semele before and after her destruction.
8. What is the meaning of Tiresias’ answer regarding Narcissus’ future?
9. Narcissus gave his name not only to a flower but to a psychological problem as well. What does it mean when a person is characterized as “narcissistic?”
10. What was the result of Pentheus’ death in the City of Thebes?
1. He wishes to honor Jove.
2. He offends Mars, to whom the serpent (some call it a dragon) is sacred.
3. It is said to have been as huge “as the great serpent of the constellations,” with the whole world beneath him.
4. He is told that he, too, will some day be a serpent.
5. The city of Cadmus and his descendants was Thebes.
6. It is difficult to believe that dogs would not recognize their master, no matter what; Ovid and his readers would have known that. This is an example which shows that these myths were intended to be symbolic and poetic, not realistic or factual.
7. While Semele was his lover, he tried to please her by promising to fulfill her wish, and even swore on the River Styx that he would do so. After her death, he went on relaxing and joking with his wife, Juno.
8. Tiresias’ riddling answer means that Narcissus will have a long life only if he never knows himself: he must not see his image either physically or emotionally—not know how beautiful and desirable he is.
9. A person is characterized as “narcissistic” when he or she becomes overly proud of some personal trait such as beauty, attractiveness, and, by extension, accomplishments, intelligence, etc., and treats others with disdain.
10. After the Thebans saw what happened to Pentheus, they thronged to the altars of Bacchus.
Book IV: Questions and Answers
1. Was the taboo against working on holidays a Greek specialty? What other religious traditions have similar prohibitions?
2. Book Four illustrates one of the manners in which myths have come down through ancient times. What was it?
3. How did women in ancient Greece occupy themselves?
4. What metamorphosis is explained by the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe?
5. What aspects of that myth did Shakespeare “borrow” for Romeo and Juliet?
6. In what way did he employ the same source in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
7. In many ancient societies, and in some societies even today, the punishment for a woman caught in adultery is instant death. How is the gods’ code different for the same offense, as shown by the treatment of Venus when caught in a net with Mars?
8. In what new role do we see Clytie in this book?
9. With all the tales of rapacious male gods, how does Ovid show that passionate pursuit is not a male prerogative?
10. What figure of speech is employed to characterize the attack of the monster on Perseus?
1. Most religions have a taboo against working on a holiday, for example, Jews are not supposed to work on the Sabbath, Christians on Sunday, Muslims on Friday.
2. While women did their spinning, weaving, and needleworking, one of them entertained the others with stories.
3. Women spun thread, wove cloth, and sewed garments and other necessities for themselves and others.
4. The mulberry tree’s fruit is white when unripe but turns red later.
5. In Romeo and Juliet, a young couple is kept apart by unreasonable parents; accidents and misunderstandings cause them to kill themselves, but their parents later regret their harsh treatment of them.
6. Shakespeare makes the tragic tale comical through the use of bungling actors and bizarre adaptations of the story line.
7. Instead of being punished with death, Venus shrugs off the incident, and the gods have a good laugh at the expense of the lovers, as well as of the cuckolded husband.
8. Clytie, fond mother of Phaethon in Book One, is now a jilted and jealous lover, causing her rival’s death.
9. The water-nymph Salmacis pursues and seduces Hermaphroditus.
10. The monster is compared to a galley bearing down on its target. The figure of speech is a simile.
Book V: Questions and Answers
1. Who was the first person to disturb the festivities at the wedding of Perseus and Andromeda?
2. What was the reason for the provocation?
3. What did Andromeda’s father point out?
4. Describe the fates of Athis and Lycabas.
5. How did Perseus dispatch Erytus?
6. Were there any neutrals present? What happened to them?
7. How did Perseus finally defeat Phineus?
8. Describe the treachery of Pyreneus.
9. Name some geographic terms that are “explained” by incidents in this Book.
10. What is peculiar in the way in which the Muses conduct their contest?
1. Phineus, brother of Andromeda’s father, disturbed the festivities.
2. He claimed that Andromeda had been promised to him. (This detail was added by Ovid.)
3. Cepheus pointed out that, without Perseus, the girl would now be dead.
4. The two boys, dear companions, were brutally slain by Perseus.
5. Perseus hit Erytus over the head with a large mixing-bowl.
6. Several would-be neutrals were also killed.
7. Perseus finally turned Phineus into stone by forcing him to look at Medusa.
8. Pyreneus offered protection to the Muses and then attacked them sexually.
9. To mention just a few: the Pyrenees, Arethusa, Cyane, Mt. Etna, and Sicily.
10. They act as contestants, judges, jury, and executioners of the punishment.
Book VI: Questions and Answers
1. What new traits of Minerva are displayed in this Book?
2. What fatal error does Arachne commit when visited by Minerva in disguise?
3. What is the insurmountable difference, therefore, between gods and mortals?
4. What was the common theme of the design in the corners of Minerva’s canvas?
5. What was the common theme running through Arachne’s work?
6. What was the irony of the motif that Minerva chose for the border of her work?
7. What was the irony of Niobe’s boast of her ancestors?
8. What was the response of the people to Latona’s vengeance?
9. What is peculiar about the response everyone, including the victim, expresses with respect to the rape of Philomela?
10. What distinguishes the metamorphoses of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela from the previous ones?
1. Minerva is arrogant, deceitful, and cruel.
2. Arachne is stubborn and overly proud; she is guilty of hubris.
3. Gods and mortals are not equal and mortals forget this fact at their own peril.
4. All four corners shouted “Danger!” at overly bold individuals.
5. Arachne depicted the misdeeds of gods.
6. It was ironic that Minerva used the olive, symbol of peace, in a canvas that was a not-so-concealed threat at Arachne.
7. Niobe’s ancestors, especially the Titans, Tantalus, and Atlas, were themselves punished by the Olympian gods.
8. The people reminded themselves that the gods must be feared.
9. It is peculiar that everyone, including Procne and Philomela herself, acted as though the victim had been somehow to blame for what happened.
10. In the case of these three people, we are not told that a god effected the transformation; it just “happened.”
Book VII: Questions and Answers
1. What are the contradictory claims in Medea’s heart while she soliloquizes?
2. The story of the dragons’ teeth echoes what earlier episode?
3. How did Jason overcome the “sown men”?
4. What well-known incident did Ovid omit after Jason’s victory over the bulls?
5. Ovid gives Jason an altruistic aspect with respect to his father. What is it?
6. What is the magic number connected with the cult of Hecate?
7. What was the most monstrous aspect of Medea’s treatment of Pelias?
8. What device does Ovid employ to sum up the deeds of Theseus?
9. Why did Juno hate Aeacus and his country?
(The entire section is 316 words.)
Book VIII: Questions and Answers
1. What was the guarantee of Nisus’ being able to keep his kingdom?
2. Ovid dismisses the outcome of the war in half a line. What was it?
3. What was the punishment of Scylla?
4. How did Minos show his gratitude to Jove?
5. What was the double relationship of Minos to bulls in the myths?
6. How does Ovid suggest in advance that Icarus will die?
7. How is the behavior of Meleander different from that of most other men with respect to women?
8. What was the dilemma of Althaea?
9. Wherein lies the injustice in the fate of Perimele?
10. What role does Pirithous perform during the tales of...
(The entire section is 293 words.)
Book IX: Questions and Answers
1. How would you characterize the tone of Ovid in the tale of Achelous’ wrestling match with Hercules?
2. Why did Hercules laugh when Achelous changed into a serpent and a bull?
3. What Christian scriptural passage is sometimes believed to be echoed by Hercules’ despairing comment, “And men can still believe / In gods!” Why does he say this?
4. How does Jove at last try to make up to his son for all the sufferings he had to endure? What is Juno’s reaction?
5. How did Juno try to prevent the birth of Hercules? How was she circumvented?
6. Which earlier tales are recalled by the metamorphoses of Lotis and Dryope?
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Book X: Questions and Answers
1. What warning does Ovid give that Orpheus’ marriage will be unhappy?
2. How does Orpheus explain his unusual request to the gods of the underworld?
3. What is the reaction of the shades in Hades?
4. What taboo does Orpheus break on their way up?
5. What are the two ways in which Hyacinthus is remembered?
6. Why was Venus angry at the women of Cyprus?
7. What is meant by: “The best art is that which conceals art?”
8. Pygmalion’s behavior toward Venus is different from that of Hippomenes. Explain. Venus’ attitude toward them is different also. Explain.
9. How does Ovid distance himself from the...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
Book XI: Questions and Answers
1. Why did the Ciconian women kill Orpheus?
2. What happened to his body and his ghost?
3. How did Bacchus respond to the acts of his crazed devotees?
4. Identify Midas, Eumolpus, and Silenus.
5. What was the foolish wish of Midas? What was the result?
6. How did Midas acquire “asses’ ears?”
7. What did Princess Hesione and the goddess Thetis have in common?
8. Why was the punishment of Daedalion appropriate to his personality?
9. Why was the punishment of Aesacus appropriate to his behavior?
10. What is the origin of the expression “halcyon days?”
(The entire section is 301 words.)
Book XII: Questions and Answers
1. Where did the Greek forces assemble before sailing for Troy?
2. What was the bad omen interpreted by Calchas?
3. What was the explanation of the invulnerability of Cygnus?
4. How does Nestor know all the details of the Battle of the Centaurs?
5. How did the other centaurs respond when Eurytus attacked the bride?
6. What happened to Phorbas, who lay, drunk and asleep, during the battle?
7. Why does Peleus appear so often in Nestor’s tale?
8. What makes the death of Cyllarus and Hylonome so poignant?
9. Why did Neptune and Apollo conspire to make Paris the killer of Achilles?
10. What is meant...
(The entire section is 221 words.)
Book XIII: Questions and Answers
1. In what mood did Ajax begin his argument about the armor?
2. From start to finish, what was his attitude toward Ulysses?
3. What arguments were used by both competitors to promote their claims?
4. How does Ulysses justify his not-always-honest methods?
5. How does Ovid characterize the outcome of the debate?
6. Quote the paradox summing up Ajax’ fate.
7. What provided the final blow to Troy?
8. What fate did Hecuba fear most?
9. What outrage did Agamemnon commit against a noncombatant, the priest Anius?
10. By what means does Ovid characterize the uncouthness of Polyphemus?
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Book XIV: Questions and Answers
1. According to the myth, Circe was the aunt of Medea. What similarities do you find in their characters ?
2. Explain the allusion that Venus, “angry about her father’s gossiping, / Had made her (Circe) what she was.”
3. The story of Aeneas and Dido, one of the chief plot elements of the Aeneid of Virgil, is told by Ovid in half a dozen lines. What effect, if any, do they have on the reader?
4. What well-known theme is repeated in the story of the wish of the Sibyl?
5. What great change has occurred in the fate of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, since his last appearance in the poem?
6. What common motifs appear in the tales about Scylla...
(The entire section is 389 words.)
Book XV: Questions and Answers
1. What was the role of Hercules in the history of Crotona?
2. What was the significance of the founding of Crotona?
3. What were the two main teachings of Pythagoras?
4. What personal testimony did Pythagoras give of metempsychosis?
5. To what episode in the Metamorphoses does “Salmacis” allude to?
6. Identify the allusions to Delos, the Argo, and the Clashing Rocks.
7. How could Pythagoras “remember” what Helenus told Aeneas?
8. What is the intention of Hippolytus in talking to Egeria?
9. Where is Etruria?
10. Why was Venus so interested in the destiny of Caesar?
(The entire section is 203 words.)