PASSAGES

GALLERY

OVERVIEW

Lyacaön

Man into Wolf

The gods become angry at humanity in general and Lyacaön in particular for their excessive wickedness.

Deucalion and Pyhrra

Stones into People

After a great flood destroys the earth (sort of like the story of Noah in the Bible), only Deucalion and his wife Pyhrra are left. The couple goes to the temple of Themis to ask how to restore the human race. The goddess tells them to take their mother’s bones and throw them over their shoulders. Disgusted at the idea of digging up their parents’ graves, they sit and ponder what Themis might have meant.

Woman into Cow (and back again)

 

Jove is trying to get with the nymph Iö when suddenly his wife, Juno, shows up.  Poor Iö is stuck as Juno’s bovine property for some time, but eventually the goddess gives up and lets her husband return the nymph to her human form.

Syrinx

Woman into Reeds

This story is a lot like Daphne’s, with Syrinx pursued by the god Pan. Different god, same result.

The Heliades

Women into Trees

Graphically, this too is similar to the story of Daphne. After Phaëthon’s death, his sisters mourn at his gravesite

Cycnus

Man into Swan

More bad luck for Phaëthon’s family, this time his cousin Cycnus. Who knew swans were afraid of lightning?

Callisto

Woman into Bear

Jove gets Callisto pregnant, which really pisses off the nymph’s patron goddess, Diana (who Jove was disguised as at the time).

The Crow

Woman into Bird

A Phocian princess begs the gods to help her escape the amorous clutches of Neptune.

Ocyrhoë

Woman into Horse

The centaur Chiron’s daughter Ocyrhoë angers the gods by predicting the future.

Battus

Man into Rock

Battus tries to cheat the god Mercury. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t end well for him.

Aglauros

Woman into Statue

Mercury plans to wed Herse, but her sister Aglauros is overcome by envy. She blocks the god’s path, saying she won’t budge an inch until he leaves.

Actaeon

Man into Deer

The hunter Actaeon accidentally stumbles upon Diana and her nymphs as they’re bathing in a stream. The goddess isn’t pleased. Her choice of deer for his new form is particularly cruel.  Because his dogs don’t recognize the deer as their master, they run him down.

Acoetes and the Lydian Pirates

Men into Dolphins

 

Lydian sailors hatch a scheme to kidnap a man and row away with him. Unfortunately for them, their victim turns out to be the god Bacchus in disguise. The god wraps the ship in a thick tangle of grape vines, and then ...

Clytie

Woman into Flower

Though Clytie loves the sun god, he doesn’t love her back. So she sits for nine days, refusing food and drink, just watching him move across the sky.

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus

Man and Woman Merged

The Naiad Salmacis is so infatuated with the youth Hermaphroditus that when she sees him bathing in a pool she rushes in, jumps on him and holds on tight.

The Daughters of Minyas

Women into Bats

Minyas’s daughters refuse to participate in the festival of Bacchus, staying home and weaving instead. Suddenly their threads turn to vines and the room fills with smoke. The terrified women try to hide.

Cadmus and Hermione

Man and Woman into Snakes

Finally overcome by all the grief heaped on him and his family, Cadmus begs the gods to turn him into a serpent.

Cyane

Woman into Water

The nymph grieves for the destruction of her spring and the kidnapping of the goddess Proserpine.

Ceres Angered

Boy into Salamander

Upset by her daughter’s kidnapping, the goddess Ceres pauses in her search to get something to drink. A less-than-wise boy shows up and insults her for no particular reason. So she throws her beer on him.

Ascalaphus

Man into Owl

Proserpine gets stuck in the land of the dead because she ate some pomegranate seeds while she was there. Nobody would have known about the seeds she ate if Ascalaphus hadn’t seen her do it. She pays him back for snitching.

The Pierides

Women into Birds

A group of boastful women challenge the Muses to a poetry contest. When the mortals lose, they start griping about fixed judging. The goddesses take their abuse for awhile, but eventually enough is enough.

Arachne

Woman into Spider

The best weaver in the world, Arachne boasts that she’s even better than the goddess Minerva. A contest ensues. While the quality of Arachne’s work is beyond dispute, her tapestry depicts the gods taking animal (and other) form to have sex with human women. Enraged, Minerva destroys the work.

The Lycian Peasants

Men into Frogs

Latona takes a break to drink from a pool in Lycia. Some locals insult her and stir up the mud in the bottom of the pool so she can’t drink anymore. She prays to heaven to have them turned into frogs. Prayer granted.

The Theban Dragon

Teeth into Soliders

Apparently bored after defeating fire-spitting bulls, the hero Jason plants dragon’s teeth in the earth.

Myrmidons

Ants into Men

His realm ravaged by plague, King Aeacus asks the gods to repopulate his land, making his people once again as numerous as a swarm of ants crawling on a nearby tree. The gods take the request literally.

Baucis and Philemon

People into Trees

The gods reward Baucis and Philemon – a poor, elderly couple – for their piety. The pair prays that neither has to watch the other die. To grant the wish, the gods perform a metamorphosis.

Lychas

Man into Stone (in midair, no less)

Hercules blames Lychas for poisoning him. The mighty hero scoops up his hapless victim and flings him away.

Galanthis

Woman into Weasel

In a fit of pique, the goddess Juno interferes with the mortal Lucina’s childbirth. Angered, Lucina’s servant Galanthis shows disrespect to the goddess.

Dryope

Woman into Tree

This is among the saddest of Ovid’s metamorphoses. Dryope picks a flower for her infant son, but the tree she picks it from turns out to be a transformed nymph. Even though the insult was an accident, Dryope is punished by being transformed into a tree as well. At least she gets to say goodbye to her family before tree bark encases her forever.

The Cerastae

Men into Bulls

The gods get mad at the Cerastae – men who have small horns on their heads – because they turn their guests into human sacrifices. Their first plan is to destroy the entire island of Cyprus, but Venus opts to punish only the men who are actually guilty.

Pygmalion

Statue into Woman

The sculptor Pygmalion creates a statue of a woman so realistic that he falls in love with her. So he goes to the temple of Venus and prays for his creation to come to life.

Myrrha

Woman into Tree

Myrrha falls in love with her father and tricks him into committing incest. Pregnant and despondent, she decides that she can’t stand either the thought of living or dying. So she asks the gods to be transformed into something else.

Hippomenes and Atalanta

Man and Woman into Lions

Venus helps Hippomenes win the hand of Atalanta. But he forgets to give the goddess proper thanks. So she waits until the young couple visits a temple, then fills the man’s heart with lust. Their blasphemous act inspires the temple gods to kill them, but Venus intercedes.

Adonis

Corpse into Flower

Even though Venus loves Adonis, the goddess is powerless to prevent his death. Still, she gives him a kind of immortality.

Maenads

Women into Trees

Female followers of Bacchus (the god of wine), the Maenads were legendary for their wild, drunken behavior. When the great musician Orpheus wouldn’t play for them (he was depressed because his wife died), they tore him limb from limb. This angered the god, who liked to listen to Orpheus’ songs in his honor.

Midas

Everything into Gold

Bacchus grants Midas a wish, and he asks that everything he touches turn to gold. It works well at first.

Midas

Ears Transformed

Midas is selected as one of the judges of a music competition between the gods Apollo and Pan. Though Apollo is the clear winner, Midas – who is friends with Pan – declares the verdict unjust. Apollo isn’t amused.

Daedalion

Man into Hawk

Grief-stricken over the death of his daughter, Daedalion tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. Apollo saves him by transforming him into a hawk, but the man’s anguish and rage live on even in bird form.

Alcyöne and Ceÿx

Woman and Man into Birds

Ceÿx drowns, and his corpse floats back to his homeland. His wife, Alcyöne, tries to reach his lifeless body.

Aesacus

Man into Bird

Aesacus accidentally causes the death of the nymph Hesperia, whom he loves. Guilt-ridden, he decides to kill himself.

Memnonides

Ashes into Birds

Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, mourns the loss of her son Memnon and begs the gods for some relief for her grief as his body burns. Then things get weird (even by Ovid’s standards).

Acis

Man into River

Polyphemus the Cyclops loves Galatea. But she loves the handsome youth Acis. When the monster finally comes to grips with the fact that his love will never love him back, he goes after his rival. Galatea tells the story of what happens next.

Glaucus

Man into Merman

The moral of this story appears to be “don’t eat grass.” Here in Glaucus’s words is what happened to him when he tried it.

Scylla

Woman into Monster

Glaucus asks the witch-goddess Circe for help winning the affections of Scylla. Unfortunately he didn’t count on Circe having a crush on him. The angry witch can’t bring herself to hurt Glaucus, so she takes her wrath out on his would-be girlfriend.

Macreus

Man into Pig (and back again)

In The Odyssey, Homer tells how the witch Circe turned Ulysses’s men into animals. Here one of those men gives a first-hand account of what it felt like.

Picus

Man into Woodpecker

More Circe, more trouble. This time around she falls in love with Picus, the king of Ausónia. When he rejects her, she doesn’t take it well.

Acmon

Men into Birds

In the wake of the Trojan War, Diomedes and his crew were beset with trouble trying to get home (their woes brought about by a fight with the goddess Venus during the war). Angry about all their trouble, the sailor Acmon began running his mouth about how the goddess couldn’t do anything to them that she hadn’t already done. Wrong.

Phrygian Vessels

Boats into Nymphs

The goddess Cybele decides to sink the Phrygians’ ships. But apparently some other higher power takes mercy on the vessels.

Ardea

Burned City into Bird

Prior to the founding of the city of Rome, the Trojans sack and burn the city of Ardea.

Anaxarete

Woman into Statue

Iphis courts Anaxarete without success. Depressed, he kills himself. She decides to watch his funeral procession go past her house.