Ovid's Metamorphoses: Ceres and Jupiter

This story is part of the Ovid's Metamorphoses unit. Story source: Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Tony Kline (2000).


Calliope sings: Ceres asks Jupiter’s help

Then Arethusa, once of Elis, whom Alpheus loved, lifted her head from her pool, and brushed the wet hair from her forehead, saying ‘O great goddess of the crops, mother of that virgin sought through all the earth, end your fruitless efforts, and do not anger yourself so deeply against the faithful land. The land does not deserve it: it opened to the rape against its will. It is not my country, I pray for: I came here as a stranger. Pisa is my country, and Elis is my source. I am a foreigner in Sicily, but its soil is more to me than other lands. Here is my home: here are my household gods. Most gentle one, preserve it. A fitting time will come for me to tell you, how I moved from my country, and came to Ortygia, over such a great expanse of sea, when you are free of care, and of happier countenance. The fissured earth showed me a way, and slipping below the deepest caverns, here, I lifted up my head, and saw the unfamiliar stars. So, while I glided underground down there, among Stygian streams, with these very eyes, I saw your Proserpine. She was sad indeed, but, though her face was fearful still, she was nevertheless a queen, the greatest one among the world of shadows, the powerful consort, nevertheless, of the king of hell!’


The mother was stunned to hear these words, as if petrified, and was, for a long time, like someone thunderstruck, until the blow of deep amazement became deep indignation. She rose, in her chariot, to the realms of heaven.

There, her whole face clouded with hate, she appeared before Jove with dishevelled hair. ‘Jupiter, I have come to you in entreaty for my child and for your own,’ she cried. ‘If the mother finds no favour with you, let the daughter move you, and do not let your concern for her be less, I beg you, because I gave her birth. See, the daughter I have searched for so long, has been found, if you call it finding to lose her more surely, if you call it finding merely to know where she is. I can bear the fact that she has been raped, if he will only return her! A spoiler is not worthy to be the husband of your daughter, even if she is no longer my daughter.’

Jupiter replied, ‘Our child is a pledge and a charge, between us, you and me. But if only we are willing to give things their right names, the thing is not an insult in itself: the truth is it is love. He would not be a shameful son-in-law for us, if only you would wish it, goddess. How great a thing it is to be Jupiter’s brother, even if all the rest is lacking! Why, what if there is nothing lacking at all, except what he yielded to me by lot? But if you have such a great desire to separate them, Proserpine shall return to heaven, but on only one condition, that no food has touched her lips, since that is the law, decreed by the Fates.’


(600 words)

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