Christina Vasilevski

Toronto Writer/Editor for Content Strategy, Content Design & UX.

Thoughts on Ovid

The last few days have been pretty run-of-the mill in some ways, and special in others. Office work proceeds apace, but outside of that, I’m now part of a multi-user project that I was originally considering doing independently – a public domain podcast of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I’ve loved this particular book for quite some time, and was wondering whether it would be feasible to try podcasting the whole thing myself while adding commentary. The main thing holding me back was my preferred translation still  being under copyright protection.

Solution? Enter Librivox. Librivox has been providing audio versions of books in the public domain for a few years now, and over the holidays, they’ve been gathering people to narrate a public domain translation of the Metamorphoses in several sections. While this translation isn’t as lyrical as the one I know, it is more kosher from a legal/copyright perspective.

I happened upon the forum thread asking for more readers, and they still had some good sections of the story available. In particular, I’m looking forward to reading the story of Pomona and Vertumnus. So many of Ovid’s stories feature men and women pining away for love, dying for love, or being killed or transformed for not requiting someone else’s desire – worse yet, you could capture Jove’s eye, and earn Juno’s wrath. What sort of good is that?

Pomona and Vertumnus, on the other hand, I feel is unique – Pomona’s a beautiful, practical and competent woman who doesn’t really want love. Vertumnus is someone who loves Pomona for her dedication and skill, and her alone. So he comes to her in disguise, talks himself up in disguise, tells her all about how bad it is to refuse love, and charms her socks off. When summarized like that, it sounds like a bad rom-com movie, but for Roman myth, it’s pretty revolutionary:

  • The woman is more than just a pretty face
  • The person who is in love with her doesn’t chase her, abduct her or attempt to rape her (See: Io, Persephone, Medusa, Calisto, Caenis, Philomena, etc)
  • She doesn’t get punished for trying to avoid someone’s advances (See: Galatea and Polyphemus, Daphne, Hermaphrodite, Picus, etc)
  • She doesn’t turn into a tree for no good reason (See: Dryope)
  • Vertumnus actually talks to her and tells her to give him a chance – none of this “transform into a bull and get a lady to climb onto your back” crap (See: Europa)
  • Both people end up happy and still in their original forms!

In short, she has agency in a way that a lot of other Ovidian heroines don’t. Sure, a modern lady would have probably kicked him to the curb for doing the whole visiting-in-disguise thing, but Ovid doesn’t seem to like women being too independent. Pomona’s the best we can do right now.

Aside from that, I’ve decided to help a business contact get his own website working using WordPress. I’m looking forward to the challenge  of installing it for someone else and getting exposure to the backend of another hosting provider. More news to follow.