Metamorpheses, by Ovid


Forthwith I overthrew

The house with just revenging fire upon the owner’s head,

Who seeing that, slipped out of doors amazed for fear, and fled

Into the wild and desert woods where, being all alone,

As he endeavoured (but in vain) to speak and make his moan,

He fell a-howling: wherewithall for very rage and mood

He ran me quite out of his wits and waxed furious wood* (*mad)

Still practising his wonted lust of slaughter on the poor

And silly cattle, thirsting still for blood as heretofore,

His garments turned to shaggy hair, his arms to rugged paws:

So is he made a ravening Wolf: whose shape expressly draws

To that the which he was before: his skin is hoary gray,

His look still grim with glaring eyes, and every kind of way

His cruel heart in outward shape doth well itself bewray.


Thus was one house destroyed quite, but that one house alone

Deserveth not to be destroyed: in all the Earth is none,

But that such vice doth reign therein, as that ye would believe,

That all had sworn and sold themselves to mischief, us to greve.

And therefore as they all offend: so am I fully bent,

That all forthwith (as they deserve) shall have due punishment.


In Greek Mythology, recorded by Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses,  there is a story of an Arcadian King called Lycaon who tested Zeus by serving him a dish of his slaughtered and dismembered son to see if Zeus was really all knowing. As punishment for his trickery, Zeus transformed Lycaon into a wolf and killed his 50 sons by lightning bolts, but supposedly revived Lycaon’s son Nyctimus, who the king had slaughtered. From the name Lycaon derives the word lycanthropy, which describes both the mythical transformation of a person into a wolf and the medieval belief in a form of madness, involving the delusion of being an animal, usually a wolf, with correspondingly altered behaviour. See the fate of the character Ferdinand in John Webster’s play, The Duchess of Malfi.

The Metamorphoses (‘Books of Transformations’) is a Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Ovid, considered his magnum opus. Comprising fifteen books and over 250 myths, the poem chronicles the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. More…

Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC – AD 17/18), known as Ovid  in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace with whom he is ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature.

The Imperial scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the Latin love elegists. He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, he was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, ‘a poem and a mistake, but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars. More…

IMAGE: Zeus turning Lycaon into a wolf; engraving by Hendrik Goltzius.


PicMonkey Collage


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