Roman Mythology

Ovid: Metamorphoses

1st century BC, Latin, Ancient Roman.

The goddess Circe turned Picus into a woodpecker, and all his followers into beasts of the forest.

It was the goddess Circe whom Odysseus came across on an island crowded with animals that had once been men. She turned the first arrivals to her palace from Odysseus's crew into pigs and sent them to live in her sties.

The Roman author Ovid adds to Homer’s tale from the Odyssey by having the Trojan Aeneas, whilst he is sailing to Latium, come across one of the sailors who had been on board ship with Odysseus. This man tells Aeneas how, when he had arrived at Circe’s island with Odysseus and his comrades, he had been turned into a pig. Then, when Odysseus and Circe had became lovers and he was back in a man’s body again, he had come across a statue of a handsome youth with a woodpecker on his head. A servant girl had explained to him its significance:

In Latium once – she had said – there had been a young man called Picus who was married to a beautiful lady who had been born on the Palatine hill in Rome. Whilst out hunting one day, he was seen by the goddess Circe, daughter of the sun, who was out gathering the herbs she needed for her magic. She fell in love with him at once, caused a mist to descend, trapped him in a dense woodland away from his followers and declared her love for him. He protested that he was already married and had no desire to take a mistress. In a rage, she turned him into a woodpecker and all his followers into beasts of the forest.'

Story fragment recounted from: Innes, Mary M., 1955. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated from Latin with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Ovid: Metamorphoses, Book XIV [289–400], pp 319–21.

See for yourself

Ovid – Wikipedia

Ovid's Metamorphoses – Wikipedia

Greek goddess Circe – Wikipedia

Ovid's Metamorphoses, a complete English translation – translated by Anthony S Kline

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