Roman Mythology

Ovid: Metamorphoses

1st century BC, Latin, Ancient Roman.

Alcyone moves the very gods to take pity on them both and they transform Ceyx into a bird as well.

Born in 43 BC, Ovid collected together a mass of stories from Greek mythology and Roman folklore and created with it a masterpiece of Latin poetry dealing with instances of transformation, a work commonly known as his Metamorphoses. It is a treasure store of pagan myth and folktale.

Ceyx, the king of the land of Trachis, leaves his wife Alcyone and crosses the Aegean Sea to visit an oracle. Alcyone’s misgivings about his sea voyage are justified when the ship is visited by a terrible storm. The goddess Juno, growing tired of Alcyone’s constant prayers and offerings for the safekeeping of a man who has already drowned, finds means to present to this poor woman a vision of her dead husband. She sends her a nightmare, a sleeping image of the dripping body of Ceyx. Waking, Alcyone screams, tears at her hair and vows to join her husband in death. Beside herself with grief the following morning, she walks the shore where she last saw her husband; and there in the sea, too distant at first to make out clearly, floats a body. As it drifts nearer and nearer, and finally washes against the shingle, seeing that it is her husband, King Ceyx, Alcyone leaps onto an artificial breakwater, a barrier designed to prevent the sea from disturbing the shore and to lessen the force of the waves against the wooden ships that beach there. Alcyone jumps up onto this slippery pier, as the far-travelled storm waves crash and burst into spray about her – and turns into a bird! And as she soars into the air, a plaintive sound, a wail, as though from someone newly bereaved, comes from a beak that just a moment before had been Alcyone’s mouth. Trying to embrace the drenched corpse with her wings, she moves the very gods to take pity on them both and they transform Ceyx into a bird as well; and Alcyone and her husband soar into the sky, to rear a new family and to live a new life together.

It is hard to conceive of any other reason for Alcyone leaping onto a precipitous breakwater other than to take her own life. And so in death, she took on the form of a bird and rejoined her husband in the vastness of the sky.'

Story recounted from: Innes, Mary M., 1955. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. Translated from Latin with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Ovid: Metamorphoses, Book XI [394–750], pp 257–65.

See for yourself

Ovid – Wikipedia

Ovid's Metamorphoses – Wikipedia

Alcyone – Wikipedia

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

Birds and animals

Northern Line

animal montage
pencil drawing, a sleeping cat

Navigate the tunnel