Ovid's Idea Of The Creation Of The World In His Poem Metamorphoses
Hesiods’ account of creation, as we can read about in the Theogony, a poem originally written by him during the 8th-7th century BC, is much larger and has been explained more than Ovids’ account of Creation, mentioned in the beginning of the book ‘The Metamorphoses’, a Latin narrative poem written by Ovid himself, which is considered his magnum opus (masterpiece).
The focus of this essay will be about a few points on which Hesiods’ and Ovids’ account of creation differ as well as implying how significant and how big are these differences. There are many ways in which both theories differ which will be analyzed in depth, though it is important that both are well explained separately before proceeding to the next step which is the significance of the differences between the two theories.
A tale which has survived through all the writings that Hesiod has made is, in his legendary poem The Theogony, the telling of the creation of existence and the rise of the gods. This was in fact the answer to the most fundamental question for ancient Greeks. As with Greek mythology in general, the story of the creation of the world is covered in wonder and fantasy. It was mentioned that at the start of time there was chaos which existed without purpose or form. After that, Gaia came and she was the earth and the creator of all the land. Gaia was indeed the primordial being of Earth and she was the one to give birth to the heavens, also known as Uranus.
Both of them, who were the earth and the sky,had many children after becoming husband and wife. Gaia first gave birth to some strong Titans, which were actually immortal creatures that possessed great power. Hesiod described: “she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.” – Hesiod, from The Theogony.
Ovid, on the other hand, in his book ‘The Metamorphoses’, a Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet himself, considered his magnum opus (masterpiece) as well, he describes the world creation as everything starting as a total mess. Then there was a god (we aren’t told who) who came along to put all things in order. He let the lightest element, fire, shoot up to its natural place at literally the furthest places in the universe. Below fire came slightly heavier element, air. He put all the heavy elements below that such as dirt and rocks. All these elements have been collected at the center of the universe. For Ovid, the center of the universe is the planet Earth.
After that, he let water flow all over it. He had now gotten everything on the right shelves, which was then time to put things in order. He did some fancy decorating after having made the fields and mountains, sent all the different winds to their specific stations and organized the various regions of the earth and sky. The stars then thought it was safe to come out which is then what they did. Later, god made animals inhabit all the various regions in this world. Finally, but not over yet in the book, Ovid let us pick what comes next because he isn’t sure. He mentioned that humans definitely came up next, but he wasn’t sure whether they were made by the same god who made everything, or by the son of Lapetus, Prometheus.
There are many ways in which Hesiod’s and Ovid’s account of creation differ. Firstly, in Hesiod’s account of creation he mentioned that Gaia, the creator of planet Earth was the Earth herself as a personification, whereas in Ovid’s case it is said that the god who created Earth was unknown. This is a very significant difference because not only did Hesiod ‘’know’’ who the creator was, he also said that the planet Earth was the creator herself; Ovid only said that ‘some god’ created it, with no further details. Another significant difference is that Hesiod names most ‘’things’’ created as gods themselves. For example, he stated that Uranus, who was created by Gaia, was the ‘heavens’ also known as the earth and the sky and the earth and sky had many children, as if they were humans.
On the other hand, Ovid does not tell us that many of what’s on Earth are gods, he simply describes elements, mountains and water as what they are themselves on Planet Earth, in the centre of the universe, which then leads to the another minor difference: Hesiod, unlike Ovid did not mention the location of Planet Earth in the universe, which makes this part of the description of creation more vague than Ovid’s case. The difference of Hesiod stating many natural things such as the sky, the planet itself, earth etc. are gods, different to what Ovid said, is very significant due to the fact that it gives more importance to those creations on planet Earth.
Ovid simply states that they have been created by some god, which shows less importance. One other significant difference is that Ovid himself is not sure how humans are created. He said that it is probably Prometheus the titan himself, son Lapetus but that he would let the readers decide. Hesiod did not mention anything about human creation. Ovid’s take is realistic, while Hesiod did not mention anything, as Theogony is too focused on the gods.
To conclude, Ovid describes the birth of the world as a god that separated earth from heaven, land from sea and lighter air from heavier air. Later, he made beings to inhabit these new spaces: Gods and stars filled the heavens, beasts the land, birds the air and fish the seas. Men were created to rule the world. Hesiod in his famous poem the Theogony tells the earliest Greek version of genesis. Chaos (or yawning void) is the source creation; out of Chaos the universe was made.
Later Hesiod interpret Chaos as a mass of four elements earth, air, fire, and water from which the universe was created. From Hesiod’s Chaos came Gaia, Tartarus, Eros, Erebus, and Night. In brief, Ovid puts less importance in the gods than Hesiod. He believed that men are important, as he tried to influence Roman people that they have to rely more on themselves than the gods if they want to grow their empire. For instance, in Hesiod’s account of creation, Gaia was the personification of the Earth, in Ovid’s case it was just a mysterious god who created it in the centre of the Universe.
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