The Depiction of Brute Force in Ovid's Metamorphoses

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There have been many symbolic events of violence, leading to carnage and death. Though these events are generally perceived as detrimental to the advancement of the human race, some of these have triggered a rebuild of our societies, leading to innovation and improvement. This helped the human race evolve and stride into the future. Both Ovid’s essays (43 BCE to 18 CE) and the Crusades lead by Pope Urban II (11th to 15th century CE) provide examples to prove the point that violence is sometimes a necessity to rebuild societies with shared beliefs and to create peace. Both Ovid and Pope Urban II believed that violence is a necessity to lead people under a stable leadership towards a common goal and to maintain peace.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a raging battle between Jupiter and Saturn takes place for control of the world. Saturn’s son, Jupiter, wants to take control of the throne and make the world more peaceful. Jupiter and Saturn have a disastrous war, but “when Saturn was dispatched to Tartarus, Jove ruled the world; the silver race appeared, less dear than gold, but costlier than bronze.” (Martin, p19 li 155-157) With Saturn in Tartarus and Jupiter in control, humanity advanced from the “bronze” race to the “silver” race. Jupiter made room for the “silver” age which was a first big step towards the future, by dethroning Saturn and replacing his rule with a much more peaceful and organized rule. Under Jupiter’s control, many new things were created; such as the creation of the seasons – “Jupiter made the ancient springtime shorter by adding onto it three seasons more: now winter, summer, an erratic fall, and a brief spring filled out the fourfold year.” (Martin, p19) These four seasons gave yield to new crops and activities. Along with the creation of seasons, ships now sailed the seas and borders were drawn. The new system of law was more orderly and allowed humanity to prosper.

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Sometimes, brute force is needed to expand a religion both quantitatively in numbers and qualitatively by influence. Catholicism is a religion that took full advantage of their military power and to overcome almost anybody that opposed them. A significant event that highlights the Catholic church overthrowing an enemy force is the “First Crusade”. The Crusades were a bloody massacre between the Christians and the Muslims to regain control of the Holy land that both sides considered sacred. Pope Urban II used his political power to rally troops by promising that for those “who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights.”(Doc G) Using his authority, he was able to convince all the civilians who had been wasting their lives to dedicate their lives to a “better” cause. With the military that he gathered, he marched on to the holy land to reclaim “their” territory. Once the Christians had won, they continued to use force to expand their religion and empire across the world. During these lengthy wars and travels, trade flourished and people started writing and publishing their adventures.

It is universal human nature never to be content with one’s current state. When humans get complacent, they start to get greedy, and this greed turns into strong desire and finally leads to violence. The Crusades were brought about by Pope Urban II when he decided that the land and power the Catholic church already possessed was not enough. He wanted to wage war against the Muslims to gain more power. He promised that “all who die by the way, whether by land or by sea or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins.”(Doc G). Pope Urban used his self-appointed power to ensure that anyone who was to die for his cause would have “immediate remission of sins,” and they would go to Heaven. Just like Pope Urban, Ovid also believed that violence was the key to finding stability. In Metamorphoses, Ovid writes about how “men demand that the rich earth provide more than the crops and sustenance it owes.”(Martin, p20). He portrays the selfish desires that are born from boredom. Violence is a necessity, and without destruction, there cannot be creation. They believed that you need to break something all the way down before you build it back up.

Violence may seem like a destructive force, but that is not entirely true. It is a part of the natural cycle of life, similar to how one rebuilds after a calamity strikes. Without the war between Saturn and Jupiter and the eventual rule of Jupiter, many advancements in human society like seasons and laws would not have been established. Similarly, without the occurrence of the “First Crusade” in the middle ages, the Muslims and Christians would not have united, Mediterranean trade would not have accelerated, elaborate writing about adventurous trips would not have triggered a passion for writing and reading. Most importantly, our future generations would not have had a real-life example to learn the importance of moral standards and the need for secular states where all religions are equally respected. Ovid, through his vivid stories and the First Crusade through their long religious wars, suggest that the seemingly negative forces of violence and destruction can have a positive outcome for the future.

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