TSAT's thirtieth (and final) Classic tale may well be the best-known and most significant example of transformational literature of all time: Metamorphoses, by Publius Ovidius Naso (20 Mar 43 BC - 17 AD). Born to an old, respectable, and well-to-do family, Ovid was sent to Rome to be educated. There he studied rhetoric and could have been a good orator, except that he blew off his rhetoric classes to focus on poetry instead. As well as Rome, Ovid spent time in Athens, Asia Minor, and Sicily.

Metamorphoses was nearly complete in 8 AD -- the year its author was exiled to a barbaric Black Sea town called Tomis. The reasons for Ovid's exile are not entirely clear, but the most likely scenario is that he annoyed emperor Augustus Caesar. Ovid's 2 BC poem Ars amatoria ("The Art of Love"), a virtual textbook on how to seduce married women, contained a number of references to Augustus' personal prestige; in addition, it appeared a year after Augustus' grand-daughter, Julia, was banished for immorality, and at the same time as the emperor's daughter, also named Julia, recieved the same punishment for the same crime. Since Ovid retained both his property and his Roman citizenship, he probably didn't play a major part in the offense that got him exiled.

Go here for more information on Ovid.

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Book 12
by Ovidius Naso
from the Brooks More edition, Cornhill Publishing Co., 1922

"Another sight still comes before my eyes,
the centaur Phaeocomes with his log.
He wore six lion skins well wrapped around
his body, and with fixed connecting knots
they covered him, both horse and man. He hurled
a trunk two yokes of oxen scarce could move
and struck the hapless son of Olenus
a crushing blow upon the head. The broad
round dome was shattered, and his dying brains
oozed out through hollow nostrils, mouth, and ears,
as curdled milk seeps down through oaken twigs;
or other liquors, crushed out under weights,
flow through a well-pierced sieve and, thick,
squeeze out through numerous holes.

squeeze out through numerous holes. As he began
to spoil his victim -- and your father can
affirm the truth of this -- I thrust my sword
deep in the wretch's groin. Chthonius, too,
and Teleboas fell there by my sword.
The former had a two-pronged stick as his
sole weapon, and the other had a spear,
with which the wounded me. You see the scar.
The old scar still is surely visible!

"Those were my days of youth and strength, and then
I ought to have warred against the citadel
of Pergama. I could have checked, or even
vanquished, the arms of Hector: but, alas,
Hector had not been born, or was perhaps
a boy. Old age has dulled my youthful strength.
What use is it, to speak of Periphas,
who overcame Pyretus, double-formed?
Why tell of Ampyx, who with pointless shaft,
victorious thrust Echeclus through the face?
Macareus, hurling a heavy crowbar pierced
Erigdupus and laid him low.
A hunting spear that Nessus strongly hurled,
was buried in the groin of Cymelus.
Do not believe that Mopsus, son of Ampycus,
was merely a prophet of events to come,
he slew a daring two-formed monster there.
Hodites tried in vain to speak, before
his death, but could not, for his tongue was nailed
against his chin, his chin against his throat.

"Five of the centaurs Caeneus put to death:
Styphelus, Bromus, and Antimachus,
Elymus, and Pyracmos with his axe.
I have forgot their wounds but noted well
their names and number. Latreus, huge of limb,
had killed and stripped Emathian Halesus.
Now in his armor he came rushing out,
in years he was between old age and youth;
but he retained the vigor of his youth;
his temples showed his hair was mixed with grey.
Conspicuous for his Macedonian lance
and sword and shield, facing both sides -- each way,
he insolently clashed his arms; and while
he rode poured out these words in empty air.

" 'Shall I put up with one like you, O Caeneus?
For you are still a woman in my sight.
Have you forgot your birth or that disgrace
by which you won reward -- at what a price
you got the false resemblance to a man?!
Consider both your birth, and what you have
submitted to! Take up a distaff, and
wool basket! Twist your threads with practiced thumb!
Leave warfare to your men!'

Leave warfare to your men!' "While puffed-up pride
was vaunting out such nonsense, Caeneus hurled
a spear and pierced the stretched out running side,
just where the man was joined upon the horse.

"The Centaur, Latreus, raved with pain and struck
with his great pike, the face of Caeneus.
His pike rebounded as the hail that slants
up from the roof; or as a pebble might
rebound from hollow drum. Then coming near,
he tried to drive a sword into the hard side
of Caeneus, but it could not make a wound.
'Aha!' he cried, 'this will not get you off.
The good edge of my sword will take your life,
although the point is blunt!' He turned the edge
against the flank of Caeneus and swung round
the hero's loins with his long, curving arm.
The flesh resounded like a marble block,
the keen blade shattered on the unyielding skin.

"And, after Caeneus had exposed his limbs
unhurt to Latreus, who stood there amazed,
'Come now,' he said, 'and let us try my steel
against your body!' And, clear to the hilt,
down through the monster's shoulder-blade he plunged
his deadly sword and, turning it again,
deep in the Centaur's entrails, made new wounds
within his wound.

within his wound. "Then, quite beside themselves,
the double-natured monsters rushed against
that single-handed youth with huge uproar,
and thrust and hurled their weapons all at him.
Their blunted weapons fell and he remained
unharmed and without even a mark."

"That strange sight left them speechless. 'Oh what shame!'
at length cried Monychus, 'Our mighty host, --
a nation of us, are defeated and defied
by one who hardly is a man. Although
indeed, he is a man, and we have proved,
by our weak actions, we are certainly
what he was! Shame on us! Oh, what if we
have twofold strength, of what avail our huge
and mighty limbs, doubly united in
the strongest, hugest bodies in this world?
And how can I believe that we were born
of any goddess? It is surely vain
to claim descent of great Ixion, who
high-souled, sought Juno for his mighty mate;
imagine it, while we are conquered by
an enemy, who is but half a man!
Wake up! and let us heap tree-trunks and stones
and mountains on him! Crush his stubborn life!
Let forests smother him to death! Their weight
will be as deadly as a hundred wounds!'

"While he was raving, by some chance he found
a tree thrown down there by the boisterous wind:
example to the rest, he threw that tree
against the powerful foe; and in short time
Othrys was bare of trees, and Pelion had no shade.
Buried under that mountainous forest heap,
Caeneus heaved up against the weight of oaks
upon his brawny shoulders piled. But, as
the load increased above his face and head,
he could not draw a breath. Gasping for life,
he strove to lift his head into the air,
and sometimes he convulsed the towering mass,
as if great Ida, now before our eyes,
should tremble with some heaving of the earth.

"What happened to him could not well be known.
Some thought his body was borne down by weight
into the vast expanse of Tartarus.
The son of Ampycus did not agree,
for from the middle of the pile we saw
a bird with golden wings mount high in air.
Before or since, I never saw the like.

"When Mopsus was aware of that bird's flight --
it circled round the camp on rustling wings --
with eyes and mind he followed it and shouted aloud:
'Hail, glory of the Lapithaean race,
their greatest hero, now a bird unique!'
and we believed the verdict of the seer.

"Our grief increased resentment, and we bore
it with disgust that one was overwhelmed
by such a multitude. Then in revenge
we plied our swords, till half our foes were dead,
and only flight and darkness saved the rest."

Periclymenus in combat with Hercules

Nestor had hardly told this marvellous tale
of bitter strife betwixt the Lapithae
and those half-human, vanquished Centaurs, when
Tlepolemus, incensed because no word
of praise was given to Hercules, replied
in this way; "Old sir, it is very strange,
you have neglected to say one good word
in praise of Hercules. My father told
me often, that he overcame in battle
those cloud born centaurs."

those cloud born centaurs." Nestor, very loth,
replied, "Why force me to recall old wrongs,
to uncover sorrow buried by the years,
that made me hate your father? It is true
his deeds were wonderful beyond belief,
heaven knows, and filled the earth with well earned praise
which I should rather wish might be denied.
Deiphobus, the wise Polydamas, and even
great Hector get no praise from me.
Your father, I recall once overthrew
Messene's walls and with no cause destroyed
Elis and Pylos and with fire and sword
ruined my own loved home. I cannot name
all whom he killed. But there were twelve of us,
the sons of Neleus and all warrior youths,
and all those twelve but me alone he killed.
Ten of them met the common fate of war,
but sadder was the death of Periclymenus.

"Neptune, the founder of my family,
had granted him a power to assume
whatever shape he chose, and when he wished
to lay that shape aside. When he, in vain,
had been transformed to many other shapes
he turned into the form of that bird, which
is wont to carry in his crooked talons
the forked lightnings, favorite bird of Jove.
With wings and crooked bill and sharp-hooked talons,
he assailed and tore the face of Hercules.
But, when he soared away on eagle wings
up to the clouds and hovered, poised in air,
that hero aimed his too unerring bow
and hit him where the new wing joined his side.
The wound was not large, but his sinews cut
failed to uphold him, and denied his wings
their strength and motion. He fell down to earth;
his weakened pinions could not catch the air.
And the sharp arrow, which had lightly pierced
the wing, was driven upward through the side
into the left part of my brother's neck.

"O noble leader of the Rhodian fleet,
why should I sing the praise of Hercules?
But for my brothers I take no revenge
except withholding praise of his great deeds.
With you, my friendship will remain secure."

The death of Achilles

When Nestor with his honied tongue had told
these tales of old, they all took wine again
and they arose and gave the night to sleep.

But Neptune, who commands the ocean waves,
lamented with a father's grief his son,
whose person he had changed into a bird --
the swan of Phaethon, and towards Achilles,
grim victor in the fight, his lasting hate
made him pursue resentment far beyond
the ordinary manner of the gods.
After nine years of war he spoke these words,
addressing long haired Sminthean Apollo:

"O nephew the most dear to me of all
my brother's sons, with me you built in vain
the walls of Troy: you must be lost in grief,
when you look on those towers so soon to fall?
Or do you not lament the multitudes
slain in defence of them -- To name but one:

"Does not the ghost of Hector, dragged around
his Pergama, appear to you? And yet
the fierce Achilles, who is bloodstained more
than slaughtering war, lives on this earth,
for the destruction of our toil. Let him
once get into my power, and I will make
him feel the action of my triple spear.
But, since I may not meet him face to face,
do you with sudden arrow give him death."

The Delian god, Apollo, gave assent,
both for his own hate and his uncle's rage.
Veiled in a cloud, he found the Trojan host
and, there, while bloody strife went on, he saw
the hero Paris shoot at intervals
his arrows at the nameless host of Greeks.
Revealing his divinity, he said:

"Why spend your arrows on the common men
if you would serve your people, take good aim
at great Achilles and at last avenge
your hapless brothers whom he gave to death."
He pointed out Achilles -- laying low
the Trojan warriors with his mighty spear.
On him he turned the Trojan's willing bow
and guided with his hand the fatal shaft.
It was the first joy that old Priam knew
since Hector's death. So then Achilles you,
who overcame the mighty, were subdued
by a coward who seduced a Grecian wife!
Ah, if you could not die by manly hands,
your choice had been the axe.

Now that great terror of the Trojan race,
the glory and defence of the Pelasgians,
Achilles, first in war, lay on the pyre.
The god of Fire first armed, then burned, his limbs.
And now he is but ashes; and of him, so great,
renowned and mighty, but a pitiful
handful of small dust insufficient for
a little urn! But all his glory lives
enough to fill the world -- a great reward.
And in that glory is his real life:
in a true sense he will never know the void
of Tartarus.

of Tartarus. But soon his very shield --
that men might know to whom it had belonged --
brings war, and arms are taken for his arms.
Neither Diomed nor Ajax called the less
ventured to claim the hero's mighty shield.
Menelaus and other warlike chiefs,
even Agamemnon, all withdrew their claims.
Only the greater Ajax and Ulysses
had such assurance that they dared contest
for that great prize. Then Agamemnon chose
to avoid the odium of preferring one.
He bade the Argolic chieftains take their seats
within the camp and left to all of them
the hearing and decision of the cause.

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