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Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.511-733

Ingo Gildenhard
Andrew Zissos



Texte intégral


cognita res meritam vati per Achaidas urbes
attulerat famam, nomenque erat auguris ingens;
spernit Echionides tamen hunc ex omnibus unus
contemptor superum Pentheus praesagaque ridet
verba senis tenebrasque et cladem lucis ademptae [515]
obicit. ille movens albentia tempora canis
‘quam felix esses, si tu quoque luminis huius
orbus’ait ‘fieres, ne Bacchica sacra videres!

Study Questions

  • What is the res mentioned in 511?

  • What noun does the adjective meritam (511) agree with? What is name for this kind of separation of attribute and noun? What is the effect of its use here?

  • Parse vati.

  • Parse attulerat.

  • What is the subject of spernit (513)?

  • Identify the respective accusative object (s) of spernit (513), ridet (514), and obicit (516).

  • Parse superum.

  • What does the -que after praesaga (514) link? The -que after tenebras (515)? The et in 515?

  • Parse senis.

  • Parse canis — how does it fit into the sentence?

  • What type of conditional clause does si (517) introduce? What is its protasis?

  • Parse fieres.

  • How does Ovid bring the theme of ‘blindness and insight’ into play here?

Stylistic Appreciation

1Analyze the rhetorical design of spernit Echionides tamen hunc ex omnibus unus | contemptor superum Pentheus praesagaque ridet | verba senis tenebrasque et cladem lucis ademptae | obicit (513–16), paying attention not least to Ovid’s placement of words in the nominative, accusative objects, and verbs.

Discussion Points

2How does Ovid characterize Pentheus and Tiresias here? What type of power do these figures represent, respectively? Can you think of similar conflicts elsewhere in classical (and contemporary) literature and culture?

cognosco, -oscere, -ovi, -itum

to get to know in the perfect often = to know

vates/ vatis, -is, m./f.

prophet, seer; poet

Achais, -idos, f. adj.


augur, -uris, m.

prophet, seer; augur


(patronymic) ‘son of Echion’

praesagus, -a, -um

portending, ominous

superi, -orum (or superum)

those who dwell above; gods

adimo, -imere, -emi, -emptum

to remove by physical force, take away

obicio, -icere, -ieci, -iectum

to throw in the way/in one’s teeth

albeo, -ere

to be white (with), appear white

tempus, -oris, n.

the side of the forehead, temple (a less common sense of the Latin word for ‘time’)

cani, -orum, m. pl. [= cani capilli]

grey hairs (not to be confused with canis, -is, m./f., ‘dog’)

orbus, -a, -um

deprived (of), bereaved, orphaned


namque dies aderit, quam non procul auguror esse,
qua novus huc veniat, proles Semeleia, Liber, [520]
quem nisi templorum fueris dignatus honore,
mille lacer spargere locis et sanguine silvas
foedabis matremque tuam matrisque sorores.
eveniet! neque enim dignabere numen honore,
meque sub his tenebris nimium vidisse quereris’. [525]
talia dicentem proturbat Echione natus.

Study Questions

  • Explain the syntax of quam non procul auguror esse (519).

  • How does Semeleia (520) scan — and why?

  • Why type of condition does nisi (521) introduce?

  • On what noun does the genitive templorum (521) depend?

  • What word does mille (522) modify?

  • How does lacer fit into the syntax of the sentence?

  • Parse spargere (522).

  • What does the-que after matrem (523) link? And what the -que after matris (523)?

  • Parse and scan eveniet (524)

  • Parse dignabere (524).

  • What does the -que after me (525) link?

  • Explain the syntax of me (525).

  • Parse dicentem.

  • What kind of ablative is Echione (526)?

Stylistic Appreciation

3Discuss Ovid’s use of tense (present; future; future perfect) and repetition (e.g. fueris dignatus ~ dignabere) in this segment. How does it enhance the authority of Tiresias?

Discussion Points

4Tiresias here announces that what soon will go down in the text is the epic equivalent of a modern splatter-movie: horror is in store, as well as the graphic portrayal of gore and violence (see esp. 522–23: mille lacer spargere locis et sanguine silvas | foedabis matremque tuam matrisque sorores). Do you really want to read on? And if so, why?

auguro, -are, -avi, -atum or (as here) as deponent: auguror, -ari, -atus

to foretell by augury, predict, prophesy

procul (adv.)

some way off, (far) away

proles, -is, f.


digno, -are, -avi, -atum or (as here) as deponent: dignor, -ari, -atus

to consider worthy

lacer, -era, -um

mutilated, mangled; torn, rent

spargo, -gere, -si, -sum

to scatter, sprinkle, strew, disperse

foedo, -are, -avi, -atum

to make filthy/unclean, soil, stain, befoul

numen, -inis, n.

divine power, divinity

proturbo, -are, -avi, -atum

to drive forth, push out of the way


dicta fides sequitur, responsaque vatis aguntur.
Liber adest, festisque fremunt ululatibus agri:
turba ruit, mixtaeque viris matresque nurusque
vulgusque proceresque ignota ad sacra feruntur. [530]
‘Quis furor, anguigenae, proles Mavortia, vestras
attonuit mentes?’ Pentheus ait; ‘aerane tantum
aere repulsa valent et adunco tibia cornu
et magicae fraudes, ut, quos non bellicus ensis,
non tuba terruerit, non strictis agmina telis, [535]
femineae voces et mota insania vino
obscenique greges et inania tympana vincant?

Study Questions

  • Parse dicta.

  • Who is Liber?

  • What is the subject of fremunt (528)? What is the effect of its placement in the sentence?

  • Sort out what each of the five-que in 529–30 (festisque, mixtaeque, matresque, nurusque, vulgusque, proceresque) links. Which one is technically speaking superfluous? Why does Ovid use it nevertheless?

  • What is the case of anguigenae and proles Mavortia (531)?

  • Identify the three subjects of valent (the main verb of the sentence) (533).

  • What type of clause does ut (534) introduce?

  • What is the antecedent of the relative pronoun quos?

  • Identify the three subjects of terruerit (the verb of the relative clause introduced by quos) (535).

  • Identify the four subjects of vincant (the verb of the ut-clause) (537).

Stylistic Appreciation

  • How does Ovid bring out stylistically the Dionysiac spirit that has gripped the inhabitants of Thebes in 527–30? (Include consideration of the use of the connective-que.)

  • Analyze the overall design of Pentheus’rhetorical question aerane… vincant? (532–37).

Discussion Points

  • Why is Pentheus so upset about the behaviour of his subjects? To what does he object specifically?

  • Discuss the role of gender in Pentheus’ rhetoric.

  • What ‘character type’ does Pentheus conform to? Can you think of contemporary public figures who exhibit similar traits?

Liber, -eri, m.


festus, -a, -um

festive, merry

(cf. dies festus

a holiday observed in honour of a god)

fremo, -ere, -ui, -itum

to rumble, roar, hum, buzz

ululatus, -us, m.

drawn-out cries, howling, yelling

ruo, -ere, -i

to rush

misceo, -ere, -ui, mixtum

to mix, blend, mingle, confound

nurus, -us, f.


(here: in poetry, usually in plural)

young (married) woman

proceres, -um, m. pl.

the leading men of a country

anguigena,-ae, m. [anguis + genus]

offspring of a serpent or dragon

Mavortius, -a, -um

of or belonging to Mars, warlike

attono, -are, -ui, -itum

to strike with lightening, drive crazy

aes, aeris, n.

copper, bronze, brass (musical) instrument made thereof

tantum (adverbial use of the acc. of tantus)

to such an extent/degree

repello, -ere, reppuli, repulsum

to drive back, repel, repulse

aduncus, -a, -um

hooked, curved

tibia, -ae, f.


(cf. tibia curva

a pipe with a curved end, associated with Eastern religious rites)

cornu, -us, n.


fraus, -dis, f.

mischief, crime, deceit, trickery

ensis, -is, m.


Stringo , -ngere, -nxi, -ctum

to bind fast, secure; draw tight; scratch (here) to bare, unsheathe

insania, -ae, f.

madness, frenzy, folly

obscenus, -a, -um

disgusting, filthy, loathsome, lewd

grex, -egis m.

flock, herd, band, troop

inanis, -is, -e

empty, hollow

tympanum, -i, n.

percussive instrument, drum


vosne, senes, mirer, qui longa per aequora vecti
hac Tyron, hac profugos posuistis sede penates,
nunc sinitis sine Marte capi? vosne, acrior aetas, [540]
o iuvenes, propiorque meae, quos arma tenere,
non thyrsos, galeaque tegi, non fronde decebat?
este, precor, memores, qua sitis stirpe creati,
illiusque animos, qui multos perdidit unus,
sumite serpentis! pro fontibus ille lacuque [545]
interiit: at vos pro fama vincite vestra!
ille dedit leto fortes: vos pellite molles
et patrium retinete decus! si fata vetabant
stare diu Thebas, utinam tormenta virique
moenia diruerent, ferrumque ignisque sonarent! [550]

Study Questions

  • What case is senes (538)?

  • Identify and explain the mood of mirer (538).

  • What noun do the demonstrative adjectives hachac (539) modify?

  • What construction does sinitis (540) introduce and what part of it has been omitted (and needs to be supplied mentally)?

  • Explain the case of meae. What noun has to be supplied mentally after meae?

  • What is the antecedent of quos (541)? Why is quos in the accusative?

  • Parse este (543).

  • Identify and explain the mood of sitis… creati (543).

  • What noun does illius (544) modify?

  • What does the -que after illius (544) link?

  • On what noun does the genitive serpentis (545) depend?

  • What does the -que after lacu (545) link?

  • Parse vos (546).

  • What kind of conditional sequence does si (548) introduce? (Note: the combination imperfect indicative (vetabant) in the protasis + imperfect subjunctive (diruerent, sonarent) in the apodosis does not easily match onto any type you will find in grammars.)

  • Explain the form of Thebas (549).

here passive in middle sense

to convey, carry
to travel, sail, ride

Tyros, i, f.

Tyre (a city on the Phoenician coast)

profugus, -a, -um

fugitive, exiled

penates, -ium, m. pl.

tutelary divinities of the household

acer, acris, acre

sharp, fierce, vigorous, energetic

thyrsus, -i, m.

a wand crowned with ivy used in the worship of Bacchus

galea, -ae, f.

a soldier’s helmet

frons, frondis, f.

foliage, leafy boughs, garlands

memor, -oris (adjective)


fons, -ntis, m.

spring, well, fountain

lacus,-us, m.

lake, pond, pool

intereo, -ire, -ii, -itum

to die, perish

decus, -oris, n.

high esteem, honour, glory

patrius, -a, -um

of/belonging to a father, ancestral, native

Thebae, -arum, f. pl.


tormentum, -i, n.

rope, catapult; torture, agony

diruo, -ere, -i, -tum

to demolish, wreck

Stylistic Appreciation

5Analyze the rhetorical techniques Pentheus uses in his appeal to the Thebans. Are they effective?

Discussion Points

  • What other epic famously features exiles who sailed across the sea with their tutelary household divinities? Are the parallels significant?

  • What do you make of the fact that Pentheus upholds the murderous dragon of Mars who killed off most of the companions of his grandfather Cadmus upon his arrival at the future site of Thebes (see Met. 3.1–49) as a positive role-model?


essemus miseri sine crimine, sorsque querenda,
non celanda foret, lacrimaeque pudore carerent;
at nunc a puero Thebae capientur inermi,
quem neque bella iuvant nec tela nec usus equorum,
sed madidus murra crinis mollesque coronae [555]
purpuraque et pictis intextum vestibus aurum,
quem quidem ego actutum (modo vos absistite) cogam
adsumptumque patrem commentaque sacra fateri.
an satis Acrisio est animi, contemnere vanum
numen et Argolicas venienti claudere portas: [560]
Penthea terrebit cum totis advena Thebis?

Study Questions

  • Identify and explain the tense and mood of essemus, querenda + celanda foret, and carerent (551–52)

  • What kind of ablative is pudore (552)?

  • What is the subject of capientur (553)?

  • Identify the seven (!) subjects (three negatives, four positives) that go with iuvant (554–56).

  • Explain the grammar and discuss the meaning and design of pictis intextum vestibus aurum (556).

  • Explain how the infinitive fateri (558) fits into the sentence. What kind of construction does it introduce?

  • What kind of genitive is animi (559)? On what word does it depend?

  • Parse venienti. How does it fit into the sentence?

  • Parse Penthea (561).

Stylistic Appreciation

  • What formal devices does Pentheus use to reinforce his mockery of Bacchus?

  • Looking back over the speech, analyze its overall design with particular attention to Pentheus’ (changing) interaction with his audience.

Discussion Points

  • In his portrayal of Bacchus, Pentheus uses several stereotypes to characterize him as strange and foreign — a technique called ‘othering’ (to make someone look different from oneself). What are these stereotypes? Do they still have currency in contemporary culture? If so, where?

  • Bacchus demands infraction and suspension of the norms and expectations that bind (a) society. Tabulate these as Pentheus’speech captures them.

sors, -tis, f.

lot, fortune, destiny

queror, -ri, -stus

to regret, complain, protest

celo, -are, -avi, -atum

to conceal from view, hide

pudor, -oris, m.

feeling of shame; dishonour

inermis, -is,-e

unarmed, lacking military power

murra, -ae, f.


crinis, -is, m.


purpura, -ae, f.

shellfish yielding purple dye; purple dye; purple-dyed cloth

pingo, -ere, pinxi, pictum

to adorn with colour, paint, embroider

intexo, -ere, -ui, -tum

to weave into, embroider on

actutum (adverb)

forthwith, immediately

assumo, -ere, -psi, -ptum

to insert, add; choose for oneself, adopt here: to lay claim to (wrongly)

comminiscor, -inisci, -entus

to think up, contrive, invent, fabricate

advena, ae, m./f.

new arrival, foreigner, stranger


ite citi’ (famulis hoc imperat), ‘ite ducemque
attrahite huc vinctum! iussis mora segnis abesto!’
hunc avus, hunc Athamas, hunc cetera turba suorum
corripiunt dictis frustraque inhibere laborant. [565]
acrior admonitu est inritaturque retenta
et crescit rabies moderaminaque ipsa nocebant:
sic ego torrentem, qua nil obstabat eunti,
lenius et modico strepitu decurrere vidi;
at quacumque trabes obstructaque saxa tenebant, [570]
spumeus et fervens et ab obice saevior ibat.

Study Questions

  • Parse ite (562). What is the rhetorical effect of its repetition (ite — ite)?

  • What is the rhetorical effect of the parenthesis famulis hoc imperat?

  • Parse vinctum (563).

  • What noun does the adjective segnis (563) modify?

  • Parse abesto (563).

  • Ponder Ovid’s use of tense in 564–67: corripiunt — laborant — est — inritatur — crescit — nocebant.

  • What noun do the attributes acrior and retenta (566) modify? What is the rhetorical effect of this kind of placement?

  • Parse eunti (568). What noun does it modify?

  • Parse lenius (569).

  • What is the subject of ibat (571)?

Stylistic Appreciation

  • What is the technical term for the repetition of hunc (564)? What is its rhetorical effect here?

  • Discuss Ovid’s use of the simile in lines 568–71: how do the components of the simile match up to the surrounding narrative? How does Ovid draw on nature to illustrate an emotional condition?

  • Who makes the claim of autopsy (ego… vidi) and what effect does this have?

Discussion Points

6Does the phenomenon Ovid here describes, i.e. that attempts at diffusing Pentheus’anger actually worsen his condition, ring psychologically true? Why would that be the case? Can you think of other literary figures (or real-life persons) who manifest similar tendencies?

famulus, -i, m.

servant, attendant

attraho, -here,-xi, -ctum

to draw with force, drag in

vincio, -cire, vinxi, vinctum

to tie up, bind

[cf. vinco, -ere, vici, victum

to win, conquer]

mora, -ae, f.


Segnis, -is, -e

slothful, inactive, sluggish

avus,-i, m.


corripio,- ipere, -ipui, -eptum

to seize, grasp to censure, rebuke, find fault with

inrito, -are, -avi, -atum

to move to anger, provoke, annoy

retineo, -ere, -ui, retentum

to hold fast, detain; delay, check

moderamen, -inis, n.


torrens, -ntis, m.

rushing stream, torrent

strepitus, -us, m.

noise, clamour, uproar, din, turmoil

trabs, -bis, f.

tree-trunk, beam

obstruo, -xi,-ctum

to build before or against; to impede, obstruct, barricade

saxa obstructa

stones placed in the way

obex, -icis, m./f.

bar, bolt; barrier, obstacle


ecce cruentati redeunt et, Bacchus ubi esset,
quaerenti domino Bacchum vidisse negarunt;
‘hunc’ dixere ‘tamen comitem famulumque sacrorum
cepimus’et tradunt manibus post terga ligatis [575]
sacra dei quendam Tyrrhena gente secutum.
adspicit hunc Pentheus oculis, quos ira tremendos
fecerat, et quamquam poenae vix tempora differt,
‘o periture tuaque aliis documenta dature
morte’, ait, ‘ede tuum nomen nomenque parentum [580]
et patriam, morisque novi cur sacra frequentes!’

Study Questions

  • Identify and explain the tense and mood of esset (572).

  • Parse quaerenti (573).

  • Parse negarunt (573). What construction does it introduce?

  • Parse dixere (574).

  • What is the accusative object of tradunt (575)? And what is the accusative object of the participle secutum (576)?

  • What construction is manibus post terga legatis?

  • What kind of ablative is Tyrrhena gente (576)?

  • What does the et between fecerat and quamquam link (578)?

  • Parse periture and dature (579).

  • Scan lines 579–80. What noun does the attribute tua modify?

  • Parse parentum (580).

  • What does the-que after moris link?

  • Identify and explain the mood of frequentes (581).

Stylistic Appreciation

7Discuss the dramatic force of the geminations Bacchus (573) ~ Bacchum (574) and tuum nomen nomenque parentum (580), and of the polyptoton sacrorum (574), sacra dei (576), sacra (581).

Discussion Points

8Comment on how Ovid handles the theme of sight in these lines. You may wish to focus on lexical items to do with seeing (ecce, vidisse, adspicit, oculis) and words that evoke graphic images (cruentati, tremendos). Who sees what?

ecce (interjection)

See! Behold! Look! Lo and behold!

cruento, -are, -avi, -atus

to stain with blood; to pollute with blood-guiltiness

comes, -itis, m. (f.)


ligo, -are, -avi, -atum

to fasten, bind, attach

quidam, quaedam, quiddam

a certain (unspecified) person, someone


Tuscan, Etruscan

gens,-tis, f.

race, nation, people; a (Roman) clan

tremendus, -a, -um

such as to cause dread, awe-inspiring

differo, -rre, distuli, dilatum

to scatter; to postpone, defer, put off

documentum, -i, n.

an example (serving as a precedent, warning, instruction)

edo, -ere, -idi, -itum

to emit; bring forth; utter; declare to make known in words, disclose, tell

mos, moris, m.

established practice, custom

frequento, -are, -avi, -atum

to populate, make crowded to visit or attend (a person) constantly to celebrate, observe


ille metu vacuus ‘nomen mihi’ dixit ‘Acoetes,
patria Maeonia est, humili de plebe parentes.
non mihi quae duri colerent pater arva iuvenci,
lanigerosve greges, non ulla armenta reliquit; [585]
pauper et ipse fuit linoque solebat et hamis
decipere et calamo salientis ducere pisces.
ars illi sua census erat; cum traderet artem,
‘accipe, quas habeo, studii successor et heres’,
dixit ‘opes’, moriensque mihi nihil ille reliquit [590]
praeter aquas: unum hoc possum appellare paternum.

Study Questions

  • What kind of ablative is metu (582)?

  • Lines 584–85 jumble a main clause and a relative clause: rewrite in standard prose order.

  • What is the antecedent of the relative pronoun quae (584)?

  • Identify the subject and the object of colerent (584)

  • What is the mood of colerent (584) and why?

  • Identify the subject and the (three) accusative objects of reliquit (585).

  • What is the direct object of decipere (587)?

  • Parse salientis (587). What noun does it agree with?

  • What kind of dative is illi (588)?

  • What is the accusative object of accipe and the antecedent of quas (589)?

Stylistic Appreciation

9Discuss the devices by which Acoetes manages to take nine lines to say ‘my parents were poor and I inherited nothing’. Can you detect touches of irony, more specifically formulations reminiscent of elevated epic style that are here used to express the unremarkable and the everyday?

Discussion Points

  • What do you make of the presence of words such as plebs (583) and census (588) that evoke the political culture of republican and early imperial Rome?

  • What might make you wonder if this sounds like Bacchus, god and metonymy of wine, talking?

Maeonia, -ae, f.

Lydia Etruria (because the Etruscans were said to be descended from the Lydians)

humilis, -is,-e

low, base, humble, obscure, poor

plebs, -bis, f.

the common people, lower class

iuvencus, -i, m.

a young bullock

laniger, -gera, -gerum

wool-bearing, fleecy

grex, gregis, m.

flock, herd; troop, band

armentum, -i, n.

cattle for ploughing

pauper, paupera, pauperum


linum, -i, n.

thread, rope, cable; net

hamus, -i, m.


decipio, -ere, -cepi, -ceptum

to catch, ensnare, entrap, beguile

calamus, -i, m.

reed; object made thereof, such as: fishing-rod

salio, -ire, salui

to leap, spring, bound

piscis, -is, m.


census, -us, m.

a registering and rating of Roman citizens or property hence: wealth, riches, property

trado, -ere, tradidi, traditum

to hand over, transmit, betray, surrender

heres, heredis

heir, heiress

ops, opis, f.

power, might; property, wealth; help

appello, -are, -avi, -atum

to drive toward, accost to address, speak to, call upon * to call, term, entitle, declare

paternus, -a, -um

belonging to a father, paternal


mox ego, ne scopulis haererem semper in isdem,
addidici regimen dextra moderante carinae
flectere et Oleniae sidus pluviale Capellae
Taygetenque Hyadasque oculis Arctonque notavi [595]
ventorumque domos et portus puppibus aptos.
forte petens Delon Chiae telluris ad oras
applicor et dextris adducor litora remis
doque levis saltus udaeque inmittor harenae:

Study Questions

  • What type of subordinate clause does ne (592) introduce?

  • What is the force of ad- in addidici (593)?

  • What kind of construction is dextra moderante (593)?

  • On what noun does the genitive carinae (593) depend?

  • What is the accusative object of flectere (594)?

  • Identify the six accusative objects of notavi (595).

  • Scan line 599 — how does the scanning help in figuring out grammar and meaning?

  • Identify and explain the voice of applicor (598), adducor (598) and immittor (599).

Stylistic Appreciation

10Acoetes continues to take long to say little. Discuss the techniques by which he beefs up ‘I learned to be a helmsman and happened to land on Chios’.

Discussion Points

11Can you identify the stars and constellations Ovid mentions here on a starchart? Why has he chosen those and not others? Do they add up to a coherent picture?

scopulus, -i, m.

rock, cliff, crag

haereo, -ere, haesi, haesum

to hang, stick, cleave, cling, sit fast

addisco, -scere, -dici (here + inf.)

to learn in addition, learn further

moderor, -ari,-atus

to moderate, temper; guide, govern

regimen, -inis, n.

here: ‘steering-oar’

Olenius, -a, -um [= Gk Ôlenios]

Olenian, poetic for Achaian

pluvialis,-is, -e


capella, -ae, f.

she-goat; star in the constellation Auriga

Taygete, -es, f.

a daughter of Atlas and Pleione one of the Pleiades

Hyades, -um, f.

the Hyades (a group of seven stars) daughters of Atlas, sisters of the Pleiades

Arctos, -i, f.

Great and Lesser Bear, North Pole

puppis, -is, f.

stern; ship

forte (adverb; from fors)


Chius, -a, -um

of the island Chios, Chian

applico, -are, -avi, -atum (ad)

to bring into contact, put in (at)

here middle/ passive:

(of persons): to land (at)

adduco, -cere, -xi, -ctum

to lead or bring

here middle/passive:

(of persons): to sail (a ship) to

levis, -is, -e

light (with short-e-) [contrast lêvis = smooth]

saltus, -us, m.

a jump, leap

udus, -a, -um

wet, moist, damp, humid

immitto, -ittere, -isi, -issum

to cause to go, send

middle/passive (+ dat.):

to throw oneself, leap (on or into)


nox ibi consumpta est; aurora rubescere primo [600]
coeperat: exsurgo laticesque inferre recentis
admoneo monstroque viam, quae ducat ad undas;
ipse quid aura mihi tumulo promittat ab alto
prospicio comitesque voco repetoque carinam.
“adsumus en” inquit sociorum primus Opheltes, [605]
utque putat, praedam deserto nactus in agro,
virginea puerum ducit per litora forma.
ille mero somnoque gravis titubare videtur
vixque sequi; specto cultum faciemque gradumque:
nil ibi, quod credi posset mortale, videbam. [610]

Study Questions

  • Identify and explain the mood of ducat (602).

  • Identify and explain the mood of promittat (603).

  • What kind of clause does ut (606) introduce? (Consider the mood of putat.)

  • What does the-que after ut (606) link?

  • What kind of ablative is virginea… forma?

  • What kind of ablatives are mero and somno?

  • Parse credi (610).

  • Identify and explain the mood of posset (610).

Stylistic Appreciation

  • Analyze the rhetorical design of 601 (exsurgo...) — 604 (... carinam), paying particular attention to symmetry and order.

  • Analyze the design of 607 and the gender-issues it raises.

Discussion Points

  • Why does Opheltes believe that a beautiful, intoxicated young boy they chanced upon in an empty field makes for a suitable victim of kidnapping? What kind of character/society does his reaction evoke?

  • How does Acoetes identify Bacchus?

consumo, -ere, -sumpsi,-sumptum

to take up, consume; of time: to spend, pass

rubesco, -ere, rubui

to grow red, turn red, redden

exsurgo, -ere, surrexi

to rise up, get up

latex, -icis, m.

liquid, fluid, water

recens, -entis

fresh, young, recent

promitto, -ere, -misi, -missum

to send/put forth
to forebode, foretell, predict
to promise, hold out, cause to expect

prospicio, -ere, -exi, -ectum

to look forward/into the distance
to look out, exercise foresight, discern

en (interjection)

lo! behold! see! see there!

nanciscor, -i, nactus/nanctus

to get, obtain; meet with, stumble on

virgineus, -a, -um

maidenly, virginal

merum, -i, n.

pure, unmixed wine

titubo, -are, -avi, -atum

to stagger, totter, reel

cultus, -us, m.

care, cultivation, refinement, style
style of dress, external appearance, garb

gradus, -us, m.

step, pace


et sensi et dixi sociis: “quod numen in isto
corpore sit, dubito; sed corpore numen in isto est!
quisquis es, o faveas nostrisque laboribus adsis;
his quoque des veniam!” “pro nobis mitte precari!”
Dictys ait, quo non alius conscendere summas [615]
ocior antemnas prensoque rudente relabi.
hoc Libys, hoc flavus, prorae tutela, Melanthus,
hoc probat Alcimedon et, qui requiemque modumque
voce dabat remis, animorum hortator, Epopeus,
hoc omnes alii: praedae tam caeca cupido est. [620]

Study Questions

  • Explain why sit (612) is in the subjunctive.

  • Explain why faveas, adsis (613), and des (614) are in the subjunctive.

  • Parse mitte (614).

  • What kind of ablative is the relative pronoun quo (615)?

  • What is the verb of the relative clause introduced by quo (615–16)?

  • How do the infinitives conscendere (615) and relabi (616) fit into the syntax of the sentence?

  • What kind of construction is prenso rudente (616)?

  • What does the-que after prenso (616) link?

  • Explain the syntax of prorae tutela (617) and animorum hortator (619).

  • Identify the five subjects (and four accusative objects) of probat (618).

  • What is the antecedent of qui (618)?

  • What type of genitive is praedae (620)?

dubito, -are, -avi, -atum

to be uncertain, be in doubt, waver

faveo, -ere, favi, fautum

to be favourable, be well disposed

venia, -ae, f.

indulgence, kindness; permission; forbearance, pardon, forgiveness

conscendere, -ere, -i, -nsum

to mount, ascend; to embark

antemna, -ae, f.

a sail yard

prendo, -ere, -di, -sum

to lay hold of, grasp, snatch, seize

rudens, -entis, m.

rope, line, cord

relabor, -bi, -lapsus

to slide or glide back; slide down

flavus, -a, -um

golden-yellow, blond

prora, -ae, f.

forepart of a ship, prow

tutela, -ae, f.

charge, care, safeguard; guardianship keeper, warder, guardian

remus, -i, m.


Stylistic Appreciation

  • What is the term for the stylistic device that Ovid uses in 611–12 quod numen in isto corpore sit, dubito; sed corpore numen in isto est! What is its effect here?

  • What is the technical term for, and the rhetorical effect of, the fourfold repetition of hoc in 617–20?

  • How does Ovid generate interest in the catalogue of the members of the crew?

  • Why is flavus… Melanthus (617) funny?

  • What kind of figure is prorae tutela (617)?

  • How does Ovid use style to reinforce the contrast between Acoetes and his crew?

Discussion Points

12Discuss the psychology/ motivation behind the positions of Acoetes and the rest of crew. Consider the social dynamics that unfold here, with one lone voice taking a principled if seemingly hopeless stance against the rest. Where else in ancient and modern literature do we find this situation?


“non tamen hanc sacro violari pondere pinum
perpetiar” dixi; “pars hic mihi maxima iuris”
inque aditu obsisto: furit audacissimus omni
de numero Lycabas, qui Tusca pulsus ab urbe
exilium dira poenam pro caede luebat; [625]
is mihi, dum resto, iuvenali guttura pugno
rupit et excussum misisset in aequora, si non
haesissem, quamvis amens, in fune retentus.
inpia turba probat factum; tum denique Bacchus
(Bacchus enim fuerat), veluti clamore solutus [630]
sit sopor aque mero redeant in pectora sensus,
“quid facitis? quis clamor?” ait “qua, dicite, nautae,
huc ope perveni? quo me deferre paratis?”

Study Questions

  • What noun does the demonstrative adjective hanc (621) modify?

  • Parse perpetiar (622).

  • What is the verb in the clause pars hic mihi maxima iuris (622)?

  • Identify and explain the case of mihi (622).

  • What kind of genitive is iuris (622)? On what noun does it depend?

  • What kind of ablative is iuvenali… pugno (626)?

  • What kind of condition does si non (627) introduce? What is the apodosis?

  • What is the main verb of the sentence that starts with tum denique Bacchus (629)?

  • What kind of ablative is clamore (630)?

  • What does the-que after the preposition a (631) link?

  • What noun does the interrogative adjective qua (632) modify?

Stylistic Appreciation

  • Discuss how the Latin re-enacts the way Bacchus gradually emerges out of his drunken stupor.

  • Is there a point to the s-alliteration solutus | sit sopor… sensus?

Discussion Points

13Why do things turn violent?

pinus, -us (and-i), f.

pine, pine-tree; anything made of pine-wood; ship

perpetior, -ti, -ssus

to suffer to the full; tolerate, put up with

aditus, -us, m.

approach, entry, entrance

obsisto, -ere, -stiti, -stitum

to set oneself before; to oppose, resist

pello, -ere, -pepuli, pulsus

to strike; here: to drive into exile, banish

Tuscus, -a, -um

of Etruria or its inhabitants, Etruscan

luo, -ere, lui

to pay a debt or penalty

luere poenam/ poenas

to suffer/undergo as punishment

resto, -are, restiti

to stop behind; to withstand, resist, oppose

iuvenalis, -is, -e


guttur, -uris, n.

gullet, throat

pugnus, -i, m.


rumpo, -ere, rupi, ruptum

to break, burst, tear, rend, rupture

excutio, -tere, -ssi, -ssum

to shake off, throw

funis, -is, m.

rope, cord


(adv.) ever so much, exceedingly; (conj.) although, albeit

retineo, -ere, -ui, -tentum

to hold/keep back, not let go, hold fast

solvo, -ere, solvi, solutum

to free, set free, release

sopor, -oris, m.

sleep; drowsiness

defero, -ferre, -tuli, -latum

to bear or bring away; impeach, accuse


“pone metum” Proreus, “et quos contingere portus
ede velis!” dixit; “terra sistere petita”. [635]
“Naxon” ait Liber “cursus advertite vestros!
illa mihi domus est, vobis erit hospita tellus”.
per mare fallaces perque omnia numina iurant
sic fore meque iubent pictae dare vela carinae.
dextera Naxos erat: dextra mihi lintea danti [640]
“quid facis, o demens? quis te furor”, inquit “Acoete”,
pro se quisque, “tenet? laevam pete!” maxima nutu
pars mihi significat, pars quid velit ore susurro.

Study Questions

  • Parse pone (634) and ede (635).

  • What does the et in line 634 link?

  • What kind of subordinate clause does quos introduce? What noun does it modify? What are the subject and the verb of the subordinate clause?

  • Parse velis (635).

  • Scan line 635 and parse terra and sistere.

  • What kind of accusative is Naxon?

  • What kinds of dative are mihi and vobis (637)?

  • What kind of clause does iurant (638) introduce?

  • Parse fore (639).

  • What kind of clause does iubent (639) introduce?

  • Parse danti (640).

  • What case is demens (641) in?

  • Why is velit (643) in the subjunctive?

contingo, -ere, -tigi, -tactum

to touch, take hold of, seize
to reach, come to, arrive at, meet with

hospes, -itis, m./ hospita, -ae, f.

host; guest used adjectively: hospitable

fallax, -acis

deceitful, deceptive

pingo, -ere, pinxi, pictum

to adorn with colour, paint, embroider

linteum, -i, n.

linen cloth; sail

nutus, -us, m.

a nod

significo, -are, -avi, -atum

to show (by signs), point out, intimate

os, oris, n.


susurrus, -a, -um

muttering, whispering

Stylistic Appreciation

14This is a highly ‘dramatic’ sequence, with a lot of direct speech (including imperatives and vocatives) along with whispering and accompanying gestures and movements. One way to appreciate the theatrical quality is to reconceive the passage as a script with stage directions:

Proreus (fallaciter): ‘pone metum et ede quos portus contingere velis! terra petita sistere’.

Liber: ‘Cursus vestros Naxon advertite! illa mihi domus est, tellus vobis hospita erit’.

Omnes (fallaciter): ‘per mare et per omnia numina sic fore iuramus. Acoete, vela da ventis !’

Pro se quisque (pars nutu, pars ore susurro): ‘quid facis, o demens? quis te furor, Acoete, tenet? laevam pete!’

Discussion Points

15The action that unfolds here resembles a farce, mime, or comedy — that is, dramatic genres of slapstick-entertainment value that are far less elevated than epic or tragedy. Why do you think Ovid lets rip like this in terms of his generic registers?


obstipui “capiat” que “aliquis moderamina!” dixi
meque ministerio scelerisque artisque removi. [645]
increpor a cunctis, totumque inmurmurat agmen;
e quibus Aethalion “te scilicet omnis in uno
nostra salus posita est!” ait et subit ipse meumque
explet opus Naxoque petit diversa relicta.
tum deus inludens, tamquam modo denique fraudem [650]
senserit, e puppi pontum prospectat adunca
et flenti similis “non haec mihi litora, nautae,
promisistis” ait, “non haec mihi terra rogata est!
quo merui poenam facto? quae gloria vestra est,
si puerum iuvenes, si multi fallitis unum?” [655]

Study Questions

  • What does the que after capiat (644) link? What the-que after me (645)?

  • Parse te (647).

  • What is the rhetorical force of scilicet (647)?

  • What kind of construction is Naxo… relicta (649)?

  • What is the main verb of the sentence that begins with tum deus (650)?

  • Parse senserit (651) and explain the mood.

  • What does the et at the beginning of line 652 link?

  • What noun does the attribute adunca (651) modify?

  • Parse flenti (652).

  • What kinds (plural!) of dative are mihi in 652 and mihi in 653?

  • What noun does the interrogative adjective quo modify (654)? What case is it in?

Stylistic Appreciation

16Discuss the rhetorical devices Bacchus uses to express his outrage at the crew’s treachery, with particular attention to the design of 655.

Discussion Points

17Can you think of other moments in literature (or other media, such as cinema) in which an all-powerful character initially ‘plays possum’ or feigns naïveté when set upon by a gang of toughs, only to emerge victoriously? What makes this scenario so attractive?

obstipesco, -ere, obstipui

to be stupefied; be amazed; struck dumb

moderamen, -inis, n.

means of managing; rudder, helm

ministerium, -ii, n.

office, function, service; administration

increpo, -are, increpui, increpitum

to make a noise; to upbraid loudly, chide

immurmuro, -are, -avi,-atum

to murmur in, at, or against

agmen, -inis, n.

multitude (in motion), group, band, army

scilicet (adverb)

it is evident, clear, plain, manifest of course, naturally, undoubtedly ironically: of course, doubtless, forsooth

subeo, -ire,-ii, -itum

to come or go under; to take the place of

expleo, -ere,-evi, -etum

to fill up; to complete, finish

diversus, -a, -um

different, opposite, contrary, conflicting

inludo, -ere, -si, -sum

to mock, ridicule; to play at


as if

fraus, fraudis, f.

deceit, fraud, deception; offence, crime

puppis, -is, f.

the hinder part of the ship, stern

pontus, -i, m.

the sea

aduncus, -a, -um

hooked; curved

fleo, -ere, flevi, fletum

to weep, cry, shed tears

similis, -e (with gen. or, as here, dat.)

like, resembling, similar

mereo, -ere, -ui, -itum

to deserve, merit, be entitled to; earn

fallo, -ere, fefelli, falsum

to deceive, trick, dupe, cheat


iamdudum flebam: lacrimas manus inpia nostras
ridet et inpellit properantibus aequora remis.
per tibi nunc ipsum (nec enim praesentior illo
est deus) adiuro, tam me tibi vera referre
quam veri maiora fide: stetit aequore puppis [660]
haud aliter quam si siccum navale teneret.
illi admirantes remorum in verbere perstant
velaque deducunt geminaque ope currere temptant:
inpediunt hederae remos nexuque recurvo
serpunt et gravidis distinguunt vela corymbis. [665]

Study Questions

  • Explain the tense of flebam.

  • What kind of construction is properantibus… remis (657)?

  • What word does the preposition per (658) govern?

  • What kind of ablative is illo (658)?

  • What is the subject accusative, what the infinitive of the indirect statement introduced by adiuro (659)?

  • What are the two accusative objects of referre (659)?

  • What kind of ablative is fide (660)?

  • Explain the mood of teneret (661).

  • On what noun does the genitive remorum (662) depend?

  • What is the subject of inpediunt (664), serpunt (665) and distinguunt (665)?

Stylistic Appreciation

  • Analyze the rhetorical design of lines 662–65, with special attention to stylistic symmetries.

  • Scan line 662 and explore possible links between metre and sense.

Discussion Points

18What are the rhetorical strategies Acoetes employs to render the incredible truthful? Compare them to those found in other texts (such as the Bible) that are invested in portraying divine interventions in human life that defy empirical plausibility as historical facts.


long since, a long time ago

fleo, -ere, flevi, fletum

to weep, cry, shed tears; bewail, lament

propero, -are, -avi,-atum

to hasten, quicken; make haste

adiuro, -are, -avi,-atum

to swear to, confirm by oath

verum, -i, n.

what is true or real; the truth, reality, fact

fides, -ei, f.

faith, confidence, credence, belief trustworthiness, faithfulness, credibility

siccus, -a, -um


navale, -is, n.

dock, dockyard

verber, -eris, n.

lash, whip, scourge, rod; stroke, blow

Persto, -are, -stiti

to stand firm, continue; persist

deduco, -ere, -xi, -ctum

to lead, fetch, bring down

geminus, -a, -um

born at the same time, twin-born paired, double, both, two

impedio, -ire, -ivi, -itum

to entangle, ensnare, shackle, hamper to hold fast, detain, obstruct

hedera, -ae, f.


recurvus, -a, -um

bent back on itself, bent round

serpo, -ere, -si

to crawl [cf. serpens, -ntis: snake]

gravidus, -a, -um

pregnant; laden, filled, full

distinguo, -guere, -xi, -ctum

to divide off, mark out; embellish, adorn

corymbus, -i, m.

a cluster of ivy-berries


ipse racemiferis frontem circumdatus uvis
pampineis agitat velatam frondibus hastam;
quem circa tigres simulacraque inania lyncum
pictarumque iacent fera corpora pantherarum.
exsiluere viri, sive hoc insania fecit [670]
sive timor, primusque Medon nigrescere coepit
corpore et expresso spinae curvamine flecti.
incipit huic Lycabas “in quae miracula” dixit
“verteris?” et lati rictus et panda loquenti
naris erat, squamamque cutis durata trahebat. [675]

Study Questions

  • What kind of accusative is frontem (666)?

  • What noun does racemiferis modify?

  • Identify the accusative object of agitat (667).

  • Scan line 669: what is unusual about its metrical design?

  • Parse exsiluere (670).

  • What does the et after corpore (672) link?

  • What kind of construction is expresso… curvamine (672)?

  • Parse verteris (674).

  • What is the verb of the clause starting with lati rictus (674)?

  • Parse loquenti (674).

  • What does the-que after squamam (675) link?

Stylistic Appreciation

19How does Ovid render Bacchus’ epiphany graphic and effective? (Be sure to include comments on its impact on the audience in the text.) How does he manage to visualize the phenomenon of transformation?

Discussion Points

20This block of text brings together gods, humans, and beasts (including the transformation of humans into beasts). Discuss how ancient (and modern) cultures configure these three ‘life-forms’ and their interrelation.

racemifer, -era, -erum

bearing clusters [of grapes]

uva, -ae, f.


pampineus, -a, -um

full of tendrils or vine-leaves

velo, -are, -avi, -atum

to cover (up), wrap, envelop, veil

hasta, -ae, f.

lance, spear

circa (adverb)

around, round about, all around

simulacrum, -i, n.

likeness, image, form, figure

inanis, -is, -e

empty, void; lifeless, dead

lynx, lyncis, f.

a lynx

panthera, -ae, f.

a panther

exsilio, -ire, -ui

to spring out, bound forth, leap up

nigresco, -ere, -grui

to become black, grow dark

exprimo, -ere, -pressi, -pressum

to press or squeeze out, force out

curvamen, -inis, n.

curvature; curved form; arc

verto, -ere, -ti, -sum

to turn; to change, alter, transform; to translate; to overturn, overthrow

latus, -a, -um

broad, wide, extended

rictus, -us, m.

the mouth wide-open; gaping jaws

pandus, -a, -um

bent, crooked, curved

naris, -is, f.


squama, -ae, f.

a scale

cutis, -is, f.



at Libys obstantis dum vult obvertere remos,
in spatium resilire manus breve vidit et illas
iam non posse manus, iam pinnas posse vocari.
alter ad intortos cupiens dare bracchia funes
bracchia non habuit truncoque repandus in undas [680]
corpore desiluit: falcata novissima cauda est,
qualia dividuae sinuantur cornua lunae.
undique dant saltus multaque adspergine rorant
emerguntque iterum redeuntque sub aequora rursus
inque chori ludunt speciem lascivaque iactant [685]
corpora et acceptum patulis mare naribus efflant.

Study Questions

  • Parse and scan obstantis (676). What noun does it modify? How does metre reinforce meaning?

  • Parse manus (677) and explain its syntactical function in the sentence.

  • What noun does the attribute breve (677) agree with?

  • What construction does vidit (677) introduce?

  • What noun does the attribute dividuae (682) modify?

  • Parse saltus (683).

  • On what noun does the genitive chori (685) depend?

Stylistic Appreciation

  • Discuss the ways in which Ovid represents the disappearance of human anatomy — and the appearance of dolphinesque features.

  • How do lines 683–86 enact the frolicking of dolphins in the sea?

Discussion Points

21Has the transformation into dolphins also altered the character of the sailors?

obverto, -ere, -ti, -sum

to turn towards/against; direct towards

resilio, -ire, -ui (-ii)

to jump back, rebound, shrink

penna, ae f. / pinna, ae f.

feather, wing; fin

intorqueo, -ere, -torsi, -tortum

to twist, turn round; brandish, hurl

intortus, -a, -um

twisted (made by twisting) involved, entwined

bracchium, -ii, n.

arm, forearm (from hand to elbow)

funis, -is, m.


truncus, -a, -um

maimed, mutilated, disfigured

repandus, -a, -um

bent backwards, turned up

falcatus, -a, -um [from falx: sickle]

armed with scythes; sickle-shaped, curved

cauda, -ae, f.


dividuus, -a, -um

divided, separated; with luna: half-moon

sinuo, -are, -avi, -atum

to bend, wind, curve

roro, -are, -avi, -atum [ ros + o]

(intr.) to shed moisture, to drizzle

aspergo, -ginis f.

action of sprinkling; what is sprinkled here: spraying

rursus (adverb)

back again, again

chorus, -i, m.

dance; chorus

species, -ei, f.

sight, appearance

in speciem

so as to give an appearance/impression

lascivus, -a, -um

playful, frisky, frolicsome; mischievous

patulus, -a, -um

wide-open, gaping

accipio, -ere, accepi, acceptum

to take, receive

efflo, -are, -avi, -atum

to blow out, breathe out


de modo viginti (tot enim ratis illa ferebat)
restabam solus: pavidum gelidoque trementem
corpore vixque meo firmat deus “excute” dicens
“corde metum Dianque tene!” delatus in illam [690]
accessi sacris Baccheaque sacra frequento’.
‘Praebuimus longis’ Pentheus ‘ambagibus aures’,
inquit ‘ut ira mora vires absumere posset.
praecipitem, famuli, rapite hunc cruciataque diris
corpora tormentis Stygiae demittite nocti!’ [695]

Study Questions

  • What is the accusative object of ferebat (687)?

  • What kind of ablative is corde (690)?

  • What words does the-que after Diam link?

  • Parse tene (690).

  • Scan line 691. Why does the-e- in Bacchea scan long?

  • Scan line 693. What case is ira, what case mora?

  • What case is famuli (694)?

  • What does the-que after cruciata link?

Stylistic Appreciation

22How does Ovid bring out Pentheus’pent-up anger?

Discussion Points

23Does Pentheus have a point when he calls Acoetes’story ‘a long-winded runaround’ (cf. longis… ambagibus)?

viginti (numeral adjective, indeclinable)


modo (adverb)

only, merely; of time just passed: a moment ago

ratis, -is, f.

a wooden vessel, raft, boat

tremo, -ere, -ui

to shake, quake, quiver, tremble

firmo, -are, -avi, -atum

to strengthen, fortify, support, encourage

excutio, -ere, -cussi, -cussum

to shake out or off; remove, banish

cor, cordis, n.


Dia, -ae, f.

an old name for the island of Naxos

defero, -ferre, -tuli, -latum

to bear, carry, bring; transfer, deliver

accedo, -ere, -essi, -cessum

to go/come near, approach; enter upon

Baccheus, -a, -um

of Bacchus, Bacchic

praebeo, -ere, -ui, -itum

to hold forth, reach out; give, furnish

ambages, -is, f.

a going around, roundabout way circumlocution, evasion, riddle

auris, -is, f.

ear [not to be confused with aura,-ae, f. = breeze]

absumo, -ere, -psi, -ptum

to use up, consume, exhaust

praeceps, -ipitis

headlong, impetuous

crucio, -are, -avi, -atum

to put to the rack, torture, torment

dirus, -a, -um

fearful, awful; ill-omened, ominous

Stygius, -a, -um

Stygian, hellish, infernal

demitto, -ittere, -isi, -issum

to let fall, make descend, send down


protinus abstractus solidis Tyrrhenus Acoetes
clauditur in tectis; et dum crudelia iussae
instrumenta necis ferrumque ignesque parantur,
sponte sua patuisse fores lapsasque lacertis
sponte sua fama est nullo solvente catenas. [700]
perstat Echionides, nec iam iubet ire, sed ipse
vadit ubi electus facienda ad sacra Cithaeron
cantibus et clara bacchantum voce sonabat.
ut fremit acer equus, cum bellicus aere canoro
signa dedit tubicen pugnaeque adsumit amorem, [705]
Penthea sic ictus longis ululatibus aether
movit, et audito clamore recanduit ira.

Study Questions

  • What noun does the attribute solidis (696) modify? How does the word order enact meaning?

  • Parse iussae (697). What noun does it agree with?

  • What type of ablative is lacertis (699)?

  • What does the-que after lapsas (699) link?

  • Identify the two subject accusatives and the two infinitives of the indirect statement introduced by fama est (700).

  • What construction is nullo solvente (700)?

  • Parse bacchantum (703).

  • What noun does the attribute bellicus (704) modify?

  • What kind of genitive is pugnae (705)?

  • Parse ictus (706). What noun does it agree with?

  • What type of ablative is longis ululatibus (706)?

  • What kind of construction is audito clamore (707)?

Stylistic Appreciation

  • How does Ovid generate a sense of marvel at the liberation of Acoetes?

  • Discuss the illustrative value of the simile in lines 704–05.

Discussion Points

24Profile Pentheus’state of mind. Why does he remain unimpressed by the miraculous liberation of Acoetes? What makes him rush to his doom on Mount Cithaeron?


right on, straightaway, immediately

abstraho, -here, -xi, -ctum

to drag away, remove forcibly

sponte sua

of itself, spontaneously

foris, -is, mainly in plural: fores, -um, f.

door, gate

labor, -bi, -psus

to move, glide; to slip, fall

lacertus, -i, m.

upper arm (from shoulder to elbow)

Catena, -ae, f.

fetter, shackle, chain

persto, -are, -stiti

to stand firmly, remain steadfast, persist

Vado, -ere

to go, walk, rush

Cithairon/ Cithaeron, -onis, m.

Cithaeron (mountain in Boeotia)

eligo, -igere, -egi, -ectum

to select, choose, pick out

bacchor, -ari, -atus

to celebrate the rites of Bacchus, to act like a Bacchante, rave, rage

fremo, -ere, -ui, -itum

to roar, resound, growl, grumble

canorus, -a, -um

melodious, euphonious

tubicen, -cinis, m.

a trumpeter

icio, -ere, -i, -tum

to strike, smite

recandesco, -ere, -dui

to grow white/hot (again), glow


monte fere medio est, cingentibus ultima silvis,
purus ab arboribus, spectabilis undique, campus:
hic oculis illum cernentem sacra profanis [710]
prima videt, prima est insano concita cursu,
prima suum misso violavit Penthea thyrso
mater et ‘o geminae’ clamavit ‘adeste sorores!
ille aper, in nostris errat qui maximus agris,
ille mihi feriendus aper’. ruit omnis in unum [715]
turba furens; cunctae coeunt trepidumque sequuntur,
iam trepidum, iam verba minus violenta loquentem,
iam se damnantem, iam se peccasse fatentem.

Study Questions

  • What is the subject of the sentence starting monte fere medio est... (708–09)?

  • What kind of construction is cingentibus ultima silvis (708)? How does ultima fit in?

  • What is the subject of the sentence starting hic oculis... (710–13)?

  • What kind of construction does videt (711) govern?

  • What kind of construction is misso… thyrso (712)?

  • What type of dative is mihi (715)?

  • What construction does fatentem introduce (718)?

Stylistic Appreciation

25How does Ovid rhetorically embellish the final show down between Pentheus and his mother (as well as the rest of the Maenads)?

Discussion Points

26Discuss the drama of sight that plays itself out in these lines: who sees whom seeing what from where? Should the transformative visions induced by madness and hallucination count as types of metamorphosis?

mons, -ntis, m.


cingo, -ere,-xi, -nctum

to circle, surround, encompass

purus, -a, -um

clean, free, clear; undefiled, unstained

spectabilis, -is,-e

that may be seen; visible

undique (adverb)

from all parts, on all sides

hîc (adverb of place)

in this place, here

concieo, -ciere, -civi,-citum

to urge, bring or assemble together to move violently, shake, stir up, rouse

thyrsus, -i, m.

Bacchic staff, thyrsus

geminus, -a, -um

born at the same time, twin-born paired, double, both, *two

aper, -pri, m.


ferio, -ire

to knock, strike; to slay, kill

pecco, -are, -avi, -atum

to transgress, commit a fault, offend

fateor, -eri, fassus

to confess, own, grant


saucius ille tamen ‘fer opem, matertera’ dixit
‘Autonoe! moveant animos Actaeonis umbrae!’ [720]
illa, quis Actaeon, nescit dextramque precantis
abstulit, Inoo lacerata est altera raptu.
non habet infelix quae matri bracchia tendat,
trunca sed ostendens dereptis vulnera membris
‘adspice, mater!’ ait. visis ululavit Agave [725]
collaque iactavit movitque per aera crinem
avulsumque caput digitis conplexa cruentis
clamat: ‘io comites, opus hoc victoria nostra est!’

Study Questions

  • Parse fer (719).

  • Explain the tense and mood of moveant (720). What is its subject?

  • What verb needs to be supplied with quis Actaeon (721)?

  • Parse precantis (721).

  • What noun does the adjective Inoo (722) modify?

  • What noun has to be supplied mentally after altera (722)?

  • What is the accusative object of habet and antecedent of quae (723)?

  • What noun does trunca (724) modify?

  • What construction is dereptis… membris (724)?

  • What kind of ablative is visis?

Stylistic Appreciation

27Compare Ovid’s techniques in describing the dismemberment of Pentheus with those used in contemporary splatter-movies.

Discussion Points

28What are the ethics of depicting extreme forms of violence? Is there an aesthetics of the gruesome? Is Ovid’s description of Pentheus’dismemberment entertaining — or even witty? Or rather grotesque and revolting?

saucius, -a, -um

wounded, hurt, injured

matertera, ae, f.

aunt (a mother’s sister)

Actaeon, -onis, m.


umbra, -ae, f.

shade, shadow; shade, ghost

aufero, auferre, abstuli, ablatum

to take off, carry off, remove, snatch off

Inous, -a, -um

of or belonging to Ino

lacero, -are,-avi,-atum

to tear to pieces, mangle, rend, mutilate

raptus, -us, m.

a carrying off by force; violent rending


maimed, mutilated, mangled, disfigured

deripio, -ere, -ripui, -reptum

to tear off, tear away, remove violently

visum, i, n. (ppp of video)

something seen, sight, appearance, vision

collum, -i, n.


iacto, -are, -avi, -atum

to throw, scatter; to toss, shake

avello, -ere, -velli, -vulsum

to pull off/ away, to rend off, tear away

digitus, -i, m.


cruentus, -a, -um

stained with blood, bloody

complector, complecti, complexus

to entwine; to clasp, embrace


non citius frondes autumni frigore tactas
iamque male haerentes alta rapit arbore ventus, [730]
quam sunt membra viri manibus direpta nefandis.
talibus exemplis monitae nova sacra frequentant
turaque dant sanctasque colunt Ismenides aras.

Study Questions

  • Parse citius (729).

  • What are the subject and the verb of the sentence starting with non citius... (729–30)?

  • What kind of ablative is alta… arbore (730)?

  • What kind of ablative is manibus… nefandis (731)?

  • What is the subject of the sentence starting with talibus exemplis... (732–33)?

Stylistic Appreciation

29Assess the explanatory value and the appropriateness of the simile Ovid uses to illustrate Pentheus’ dismemberment.

Discussion Points

30Why does Ovid turn the doom of Pentheus into an exemplum that stimulates religious worship — despite the fact that he stated earlier that the Theban king was the only one in Thebes who refused to honour Bacchus with cultic veneration? (Note that Ovid specifies the Theban women as the ones taught Bacchus’ lesson.) What do you make of a religion/divinity who practises this sort of didacticism? Are there hints in the text that Ovid disapproves of Pentheus’ punishment?

autumnus,-i, m.


frigor, -oris, m.


tango, -ere, tetigi, tactum

to touch, take hold of

diripio, -ere, -pui, direptum

to tear asunder/ in pieces, lay waste

moneo, -ere, -ui, monitum

to remind; to admonish, advice, warn; to instruct, teach

tus, turis, n.

incense, frankincense

Ismenis, -idis, f.

a Theban woman [from Ismenus, a river of Boeotia near Thebes]



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