873: The Metamorphoses of Ovid

by Gerard


873.01: Ovid. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated by Allen Mandelbaum. San Diego, CA: Harvest, 1993. 559 pp. ISBN 0-15-170529-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Latin and Italic literatures
  • 873: Latin epic poetry and fiction
  • 873.01: Latin fiction of the Roman period

To fully investigate the entirety of Greek and Roman mythology  would take a lifetime. Luckily, Ovid did all the heavy lifting two thousand years ago. Every mythological figure you can think of is in here—from Jupiter to Perseus to Jason to Pygmalion to Romulus. Ovid’s history start at the creation of the universe and goes up to the Caesars of Rome and paints the chronology as a series of changes. In fact, the first lines have the poet saying “My soul would sing of metamorphoses.” Also playing a heavy part is the role of the love god Amor, who is constantly affecting the course of history.

I can in no way speak to whether this is a faithful or true translation of Ovid’s work, but I can say that Mandelbaum’s translation is eminently readable and flows well. In some ways, I don’t care if the translation is good or not. It’s the story that matters. Many works of literature and art created since this reference these gods and goddesses, and it was nice to get back to the source material. It’s in Chaucer, in Dante, in Shakespeare, and even in modern jazz (see Patricia Barber and Branford Marsalis). This one may take a while, but it’s well worth the effort. A truly epic book.