Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 205
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

rgprice wrote: Tue Aug 29, 2023 3:25 am
Nor were the Gods themselves more safe above;
Against beleaguer'd Heav'n the giants move.
Hills pil'd on hills, on mountains mountains lie,
To make their mad approaches to the skie.
'Till Jove, no longer patient, took his time
T' avenge with thunder their audacious crime:
Red light'ning plaid along the firmament,
And their demolish'd works to pieces rent.
Sing'd with the flames, and with the bolts transfixt,
With native Earth, their blood the monsters mixt;
The blood, indu'd with animating heat,
Did in th' impregnant Earth new sons beget:
They, like the seed from which they sprung, accurst,
Against the Gods immortal hatred nurst,
An impious, arrogant, and cruel brood;
Expressing their original from blood.

This of course parallels the story of the Tower of Babel.
The last quoted section is just the standard Greek Titanomachy (War of the Titans) and has nothing to do with Genesis.
StephenGoranson
Posts: 1677
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by StephenGoranson »

About a passage of Ovid he cited above, rgprice declared
"This of course parallels the story of the Tower of Babel."
I don't see that.
So, in this case, apparently, I agree with the dismissal of that assertion by Russell Gmirkin.
rgprice
Posts: 1590
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by rgprice »

StephenGoranson wrote: Mon Sep 04, 2023 8:47 am About a passage of Ovid he cited above, rgprice declared
"This of course parallels the story of the Tower of Babel."
I don't see that.
So, in this case, apparently, I agree with the dismissal of that assertion by Russell Gmirkin.
If I read this right, the mortals are attempting to reach the gods by climbing to the sky, but God destroys their efforts.
rgprice
Posts: 1590
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by rgprice »

Russell Gmirkin wrote: Sun Sep 03, 2023 4:10 am The opening sections are heavily dependent on Plato's Timaeus with its description of the primordial chaos (the formless material Receptacle), and the subsequent separation of the four elements when the Demiurge began to order creation, and the earth, oceans, air and heavens took their present separate positions. See detailed discussion in Chapter 5 ("Genesis 1 as Science") in my 2022 Plato's Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts.
That may be, but do you not agree that Metamorphoses and Genesis look more similar to each other than Timaeus? Are you suggesting that they both derive from Timaeus independently, and that the writers just happened to have made many similar choices?
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 205
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

rgprice wrote: Tue Sep 05, 2023 8:34 am If I read this right, the mortals are attempting to reach the gods by climbing to the sky, but God destroys their efforts.
The oldest version of the Titanomachy is found in Hesiod, Theogony, 617ff (conveniently quoted at https://www.theoi.com/Titan/Titanes.html). In Ovid, the Titans become Giants and Zeus is Jove. The Giants/Titans are not mortals, but gods, including Prometheus, Helios, Atlas, Titan and other immortals (not all of whom are explicitly mentioned as fighting in the war). The main battle (that culminated the ten year war) appears as follows:

So he said: and the gods, givers of good things, applauded when they heard his word, and their spirit longed for war even more than before, and they all, both male and female, stirred up hated battle that day, the Titan gods, and all that were born of Kronos together with those dread, mighty ones of overwhelming strength whom Zeus brought up to the light from Erebos (Erebus) beneath the earth. An hundred arms sprang from the shoulders of all alike, and each had fifty heads growing upon his shoulders upon stout limbs. These, then, stood against the Titanes in grim strife, holding huge rocks in their strong hands. And on the other part the Titanes eagerly strengthened their ranks, and both sides at one time showed the work of their hands and their might. The boundless sea rang terribly around, and the earth crashed loudly: wide Heaven was shaken and groaned, and high Olympos reeled from its foundation u nder the charge of the undying gods, and a heavy quaking reached dim Tartaros (Tartarus) and the deep sound of their feet in the fearful onset and of their hard missiles. So, then, they launched their grievous shafts upon one another, and the cry of both armies as they shouted reached to starry heaven; and they met together with a great battle-cry.

Then Zeus no longer held back his might; but straight his heart was filled with fury and he showed forth all his strength. From Heaven and from Olympos he came forthwith, hurling his lightning: the bold flew thick and fast from his strong hand together with thunder and lightning, whirling an awesome flame.The life-giving earth crashed around in burning, and the vast wood crackled loud with fire all about.All the land seethed, and Okeanos' (Oceanus') streams and the unfruitful sea. The hot vapour lapped round the Titenes Khthonios (Chthonian Titans) (Earthly): flame unspeakable rose to the bright upper air (aither): the flashing glare of the thunder-stone and lightning blinded their eyes for all that there were strong. Astounding heat seized air (khaos): and to see with eyes and to hear the sound with ears it seemed even as if Earth (Gaia) and wide Heaven (Ouranos) above came together; for such a mighty crash would have arisen if Earth (Gaia) were being hurled to ruin, and Heaven (Ouranos) from on high were hurling her down; so great a crash was there while the gods were meeting together in strife. Also the winds brought rumbling earthquake and duststorm, thunder and lightning and the lurid thunderbolt, which are the shafts of great Zeus, and carried the clangour and the warcry into the midst of the two hosts. An horrible uproar of terrible strife arose: mighty deeds were shown and the battle inclined. But until then, they kept at one another and fought continually in cruel war.

And amongst the foremost Kottos (Cottus) and Briareos (Briareus) and Gyes insatiate for war raised fierce fighting : three hundred rocks, one upon another, they launched from their strong hands and overshadowed the Titanes with their missiles, and buried them beneath the wide-pathed earth, and bound them in bitter chains when they had conquered them by their strength for all their great spirit, as far beneath the earth to Tartaros . . . There by the counsel of Zeus who drives the clouds the Titan gods are hidden under misty gloom, in a dank place where are the ends of the huge earth. And they may not go out; for Poseidon fixed gates of bronze upon it, and a wall runs all round it on every side.There [the Hekatonkheires] Gyes and Kottos and great-souled Obriareus live, trusty warders of Zeus who holds the aegis . . . But when Zeus had driven the Titanes from heaven [then Gaia bore the monstrous giant Typhoeus to oppose Zeus]."

It's true that Ovid has an ascent of the Giants up mountains reaching up to the gods, but in the traditional Titanomachy as described in Hesiod was a battle between the Titans on Mount Othrys against the gods of Mount Olympus, both mountains reaching up to the heavens. "The Olympian akropolis lay above the clouds and the paths of the stars, near the apex of the solid bronze-dome of the sky. It existed in the zone known as the aither--the bright upper-air of heaven or shining blue of the sky."

"For the Titan gods and as many as sprang from Kronos [Zeus, Poseidon and Haides] had long been fighting together in stubborn war with heart-grieving toil, the lordly Titenes (Titans) from high [Mount] Othrys, but the gods, givers of good, whom rich-haired Rhea bare in union with Kronos (Cronus), from Olympos. So they, with bitter wrath, were fighting continually with one another at that time for ten full years, and the hard strife had no close or end for either side, and the issue of the war hung evenly balanced."

Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 205
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

rgprice wrote: Tue Sep 05, 2023 8:38 am
Russell Gmirkin wrote: Sun Sep 03, 2023 4:10 am The opening sections are heavily dependent on Plato's Timaeus with its description of the primordial chaos (the formless material Receptacle), and the subsequent separation of the four elements when the Demiurge began to order creation, and the earth, oceans, air and heavens took their present separate positions. See detailed discussion in Chapter 5 ("Genesis 1 as Science") in my 2022 Plato's Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts.
That may be, but do you not agree that Metamorphoses and Genesis look more similar to each other than Timaeus? Are you suggesting that they both derive from Timaeus independently, and that the writers just happened to have made many similar choices?
A lot of Metamorphoses (especially lines 5-31, 69-75) contains many details that come directly from Timaeus but are not found in Genesis, so a literary dependence on the former seems certain. So I would say they both independently made use of Timaeus, and really the outline of both was dictated by the basic storyline of Greek cosmogonies, namely the scientifically comprehensible emergence of the present orderly world out of primordial chaos.

I would agree that Ovid puts things into sequential order, like Genesis, while Plato's Timaeus discusses things out of order. First Plato discusses the creation or ordering of the world by the Demiurge (with many parallels to Gen. 1:3-29) and then discusses the primordial chaos out of which the world was fashioned (with parallels to Gen. 1:2), and lastly how the lesser gods fashioned humans (with parallels to the so-called second creation of Genesis 2). Plato's order of discussion was dictated by the philosophical issues that governed his treatment of the origins of the universe. But both Genesis and Ovid transformed his cosmogony into a simple linear narrative or story, which I think explains their similarities. Ovid, as poet, also filled out a lot of extra detail, such as in lines 32-68, that are found in neither the Timaeus nor Genesis.
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 205
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

I should note that most scholars identify a variety of Greek philosophical sources behind Ovid's creation account. Robinson ("Ovid and the Timaeus") argued that Ovid drew on Cicero's translation of the Timaeus into Latin. Others have seen additional influences from Empedocles, Posidonius, the song of Orpheus, and so forth. Ovid's depiction of the Creator as Craftsman seems to directly echo the Demiurge of Plato's Timaeus.
rgprice
Posts: 1590
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by rgprice »

To me it appears that there is some connections between Metamorphoses and Genesis beyond simply that they both were influenced by Timaeus. I see that argument is no different that people claiming that both "Matthew" and "Luke" independently integrated "Q" with Mark. Nonsense. Two people don't independently make dozens of the same choices over and over again.

Something is going on here.

Obviously the first option to consider is the dependence of Metamorphoses on Genesis. That's the simple explanation, and by any timeline is certainly possible. If true, this has certain interesting implications for our understanding of the origins of Christianity. For example it also appears likely that the Jewish Sibylline Oracles had gotten integrated into the Senatorial Roman collection in the first century BCE and that Virgil's Fourth Eclogue was influenced by his reading of Jewish Sibylline Oracles.

However, I would say its also possible that both Genesis and Metamorphoses were independently conforming to some other work or archetype. Independent use of Timaeus is not really enough here. As you acknowledge, Metamorphoses and Genesis have virtually identical ordering of events, which is not shared with Timaeus.

I mean here is a standard synopsis of Metamorphoses, my own notes inserted:

Fable I: God reduces Chaos into order.
Fable II: God gives form and regularity to the universe [ending with the creation of humans].
Fable III: The Golden Age.
Fable IV: The Silver Age. The Brazen Age. The Iron Age.
Fable V: The Giants. [attempt to climb to the heavens to reach the gods]
Fable VI: Jupiter determines to destroy the world.
Fable VII: Lycaon changes into a wolf.
Fable VIII: Jupiter resolves to extirpate mankind by a universal deluge.
Fable IX: Neptune appeases the angry waves. Deucalion and Pyrrha are the only persons saved from the deluge.
Fable X: Deucalion and Pyrrha re-people the earth.

Genesis, my own synopsis :
1: God reduces Chaos into order.
2: God gives form and regularity to the universe ending with the creation of humans.
3: The Garden of Eden [The Golden Age]
4: Cast out of Eden, Cain & Abel, beginning of civilization [The Silver Age. The Brazen Age. The Iron Age]
5: God determines to destroy the world.
6: God resolves to extirpate mankind by a universal deluge.
7: Noah and his family are the only persons saved from the deluge.
8: Noah and his family re-people the earth.
9: The people attempt to climb to the heavens to reach the gods.

I mean come on...


And not only that, but:

Metamorphoses 1:
At first, the sea, the earth, and the heaven, which covers all things, were the only face of nature throughout the whole universe, which men have named Chaos; a rude and undigested mass, and nothing more than an inert weight, and the discordant atoms of things not harmonizing, heaped together in the same spot. No Sun as yet gave light to the world; nor did the Moon, by increasing, recover her horns anew. The Earth did not as yet hang in the surrounding air, balanced by its own weight, nor had Amphitrite stretched out her arms along the lengthened margin of the coasts. Wherever, too, was the land, there also was the sea and the air; and thus was the earth without firmness, the sea unnavigable, the air void of light; in no one of them did its present form exist. And one was ever obstructing the other; because in the same body the cold was striving with the hot, the moist with the dry, the soft with the hard, things having weight with those devoid of weight.

To this discord God and bounteous Nature put an end; for he separated the earth from the heavens, and the waters from the earth, and distinguished the clear heavens from the gross atmosphere. And after he had unravelled these elements, and released them from that confused heap, he combined them, thus disjoined, in harmonious unison, each in its proper place. The element of the vaulted heaven, fiery and without weight, shone forth, and selected a place for itself in the highest region; next after it, both in lightness and in place, was the air; the Earth was more weighty than these, and drew with it the more ponderous atoms, and was pressed together by its own gravity. The encircling waters sank to the lowermost place, and surrounded the solid globe.


Genesis 1:
1 When God began to create the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was complete chaos, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

andrewcriddle
Posts: 2653
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by andrewcriddle »

There is an interesting account of the sources of Ovid's creation account here

Andrew Criddle
Russell Gmirkin
Posts: 205
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:53 am

Re: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Genesis

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Sep 14, 2023 8:06 am There is an interesting account of the sources of Ovid's creation account here

Andrew Criddle
Yes, although the author doesn't take into account that the rhetorical aims of Ovid's Metamorphosis and Plato's Timaeus were different: Ovid, to write a poetic narrative, and Plato, to give a philosophical account about the Craftsman's metamorphosis of chaos into the present physical world. I think their different aims (poetry vs. philosophy) adequately explains why Ovid didn't put more emphasis on the Craftsman's inherent goodness (which was Plato's major philosophical/theological thesis).
Post Reply