Roman Mythology

Ovid: Metamorphoses

1st century BC, Latin, Ancient Roman.

Arachne depicted the god Neptune as a bull and as a ram, as a horse and as a dolphin.

Arachne was a girl of humble origins living in Lydia, in Asia Minor, but she was a supreme artisan. She could turn a bale of wool into the most beautiful cloth imaginable. Her skills at spinning and weaving and embroidery were second to none – which proved to be her undoing.

Through her own pride and arrogance, she found herself engaged in a contest with the Roman goddess Minerva, who was the Greek goddess Pallas Athene in a different guise. And the theme of their work was disguise. Minerva depicted the queen of the pygmies being turned into a crane by the goddess Juno, Antigone being turned into a white stork for daring to compete with Juno; she showed Cinyras clutching the stone steps that his daughters had been reduced to.

Arachne for her part depicted upon her cloth Europa when she was being approached by Zeus in the shape of a bull and Leda receiving the amorous attentions of Zeus as a swan. She wove Neptune in the form of a bull and again as a ram, as a horse and as a dolphin. He appeared before the snaky-haired Medusa on her cloth as a bird. She depicted Apollo as a hawk, and as a lion, and as a shepherd. She wove Saturn in the form of a horse, when he fathered the centaur Chiron, who was half-horse, half-man.

Minerva inspected the work when it was finished – but how can a god admit defeat at the hands of a mere mortal? So she turned Arachne into a spider!

Story fragment recounted from: Innes, Mary M., 1955. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated from Latin with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Ovid: Metamorphoses, Book VI [1–168], pp 134–8.

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Ovid – Wikipedia

Ovid's Metamorphoses – Wikipedia

Arachne — Wikipedia

Roman goddess Minerva – Wikipedia

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

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