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date: 03 October 2022



  • H. S. Versnel


A type of tale focusing on a miraculous transformation into a new shape. Tales of transformations of a divine or human being into an animal, plant, or inanimate object were very popular throughout antiquity. Already attested in Homer, they were given a literary form later. Collections of these tales are known to have existed from the Hellenistic period onwards. *Nicander of Colophon (2nd cent. bce) wrote Ἑτεροιούμενα, *Parthenius of Nicaea (1st cent. bce) Μεταμορφώσεις. These and similar collections are now lost except for a book of excerpts by *Antoninus Liberalis. They provided the model and material for Ovid's Metamorphoses, recording some 250 transformations from the creation of the world to the reign of Augustus. After Ovid the most famous literary metamorphosis is that in *Apuleius' Metamorphoses (2nd cent. ce), relating the transformation of Lucius into an ass and his final, miraculous, restoration to human shape by the goddess Isis. Outside the realm of fiction, magicians (and gods) were generally believed to be able to change their own shapes and those of others.


  • Roman Myth and Religion

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