Some are transformed just once
And live their whole lives after in that shape.
Others have a facility
For changing themselves as they please.
— Ted Hughes, Tales From Ovid
From the bright lights of the Broadway stage to the dimmer ambiance of the seminar room Ovid’s book of changes continues to engage, fascinate, and inspire audiences with tales from the volatile world of his hectic invention where bodies human and divine play out their epic scenarios of love, anger, and transformation. In recent decades Ovid’s carmen perpetuum has generated an immense amount of critical and creative activity in the form of commentary, interpretation, translation, and adaptation. And the source of all that activity is ultimately the material text of the Latin poem, the inescapable embodiment of Ovid’s poetic consciousness transmitted from his own day down to ours. All the wonderful qualities we associate with the poem, wit, sophistication, fluency, brilliance, narrative energy and ingenuity, originate in inked marks on the page; so it is important to recognize, if only for a moment or two before becoming immersed in the glorious make-believe of Ovid’s incomparable tales, that our construction of his poetic genius in the Met. is in large part the result of a centuries-old, collaborative editorial effort that has investigated and sorted out the manuscript tradition, and has established the poet’s meaning on the basis of that tradition, or restored it by conjecture where the tradition is deficient. We are the beneficiaries of that collaborative effort.
For nearly thirty years now W. S. Anderson’s critical edition of the poem, first published in 1977 and now in its ninth printing, has been a bestseller in the Teubner series and has provided the Latin text used in countless reshapings of the poem by critics, commentators, and writers. Despite shortcomings that resulted from too great a dependence on the authority of the primary witnesses, Anderson’s edition has held the field virtually unchallenged (though there are those who prefer G. P. Goold’s revision of F. J. Miller’s Loeb edition ). It now has a rival.
R. J. Tarrant’s long awaited edition of the Met. has appeared and will undoubtedly establish itself as the critical text that takes us from the twentieth into the twenty-first century of textual and literary scholarship on the poem. Readers who are familiar with the pre-publication version of his text printed alongside D. E. Hill’s fine translation will discover that their high expectations are here met or exceeded. Of editions of the Met. that are available to readers this is the only one that combines a full and accurate report of the manuscript tradition, presented in a well organized apparatus, with a text that is the product of, in the editor’s phrase, “an enlightened eclecticism” which accepts readings found in the twelfth and thirteenth century manuscripts, and is more open to conjectures than the conservatism of the twentieth century editors. The tyranny of the primary manuscripts, which was once strong enough to maintain the unmetrical Laertiadaeque (12.625) or the repetition of micant (3.34), to give just two examples, is over. Now Ovid’s brilliance will sparkle all the brighter.
The praefatio (v-xxxviii) gives a clear overview of the tradition, descriptions of forty-five manuscripts, fragmentary or complete (not counting codices deperditi), and a discussion of editorial methods. Tarrant has added a new witness to the ranks of the antiquiores, G, Sangallensis 866, s.xii, which lacks 8.548-10.428; it had previously been overlooked because it was wrongly dated. G contributes some new readings, or supports readings previously attested either in a minority of the primary manuscripts or only in the recentiores. Some of the more interesting of these are: 1.231 domino; 2.871 primis; 7.30 segeti; 7.786 morsus; 10.637 quod; 14.508 subitarum; 14.648 iurares; 15.502 finxit uoluisse; 15.729 omnis. The introductory matter also contains a list of editions (xxxix), a bibliography of textual studies (xl-xliii), and a helpful comparative table of manuscript abbreviations (xlvii-xlviii) used in the present edition and in the editions of Anderson, Magnus, and Slater ( apparatus only).
In the praefatio the editor, who in previous publications has contributed much to our understanding of the poem’s transmission, concentrates on three points: first, the tradition is a contaminated one in which comparison of manuscripts during copying and readers’ annotations generated by the frequent reading of this popular work led to the promiscuous exchange of readings among copies, good for bad and bad for good, so that no “pure” strain of the textual tradition can be identified; second, since, as a result of pervasive contamination, no one manuscript or family of manuscripts deserves preferential treatment of its readings, it must be recognized that good readings can turn up in the recentiores of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; as the editor himself well observed elsewhere, “… in the tradition of the Metamorphoses every lectio recentior is potentially a lectio vetustior for which an early witness does not happen to survive” ( Formative Stages of Classical Traditions (1995) 114); third, the most effective editorial method for dealing with this particular set of textual circumstances is eclecticism. Although this may not be exciting news to those who have been following the investigation of the transmission, there will nonetheless be considerable excitement when readers see the results of that method. Tarrant has cast his net over the wide and treacherous sea of codices antiquiores and recentiores, and scholarly conjecture; the harvest is rich and impressive.
Although eclecticism is the method employed for the evaluation of readings, the editor offers a stemma codicum (xxvii), with the caveat that it is not to used for the reconstruction of the readings of an archetype; contamination will not allow it. To avoid the suggestion of an archetype, the symbol
The stemma reproduces, apparently through some oversight in production, the stemma in Tarrant’s article in Texts and Transmission ( 282). As a result, not all the manuscript symbols used in the apparatus criticus and listed in the Sigla (xliv-xlv) correspond to the symbols used in the stemma because the editor has introduced new abbreviations for the fragmentary manuscripts, formerly designated by small case Greek letters, and for a few other manuscripts. The OCT stemma was not updated to include these changes. The most serious confusion results from the new symbol E; it now represents Additional 11967 (formerly
On xxxiii-xxxv the editor takes up the questions of interpolation and Doppelfassungen in the text. Both questions are too large and intricate to be reviewed here. Tarrant has made a major contribution to the study of interpolation in Ovid, especially with his development of a typology for the classification of interpolations by kind. His publications in this field, which readers should consult for his views on specific lines, put the detection of spurious verses on a surer footing. By my count one hundred twenty-two lines are bracketed in the text; six are deleted, five of which belong to a single passage, 12.434-438, in which readers are treated to the picture of Tectaphos’s gooey brains oozing out of his nostrils, eyes and mouth (a picture worthy of Lucan); another thirty-four lines labor under the cloud of editorial suspicion. This total does not represent a high percentage of interpolated and doubtful verses in a long and popular text that attracted readers in all stages of the transmission, some of whom were no doubt inspired to collaborate with the author. I am sad to see 2.226 in brackets, aeriaeque Alpes et nubifer Appenninus, though in the article cited below (428) Tarrant makes a convincing case against its authenticity. The lines that are bracketed, deleted, and branded suspecti are conveniently assembled in an appendix to the editor’s paper in HSCP 100 (2000) 425-438. With regard to the problem of those groups of verses that may represent a “double recension” by the poet, the editor states his position clearly: only one form of the text is genuine, the other is an interpolation (xxxv). In practical terms this means that a single Ovidian version is fashioned out of these controversial passages by means of deletion and rearrangement. The treatment of this highly complex aspect of the transmission in the apparatus is exemplary.
Before leaving the praefatio I would like to call attention to two things. With regard to the collation of the witnesses, the editor writes, “Omnes [testes] ex imaginibus lucis ope factis primum contuli, sed quosdam codices ipsos adii ut locos lectu difficiliores propius inspicerem” (vii). That adds up to a lot of hours feeding the microfilm reader and eating the dust of parchments. With regard to the overall condition of the text of the poem, the praefatio may leave impressionable readers with the optimistic view that the text is in good shape. To counteract that innocent optimism I quote two others who have studied the transmission: first Slater ( Towards a Text ( 38), “stabilem horum carminum textum et integrum non habemus”; and then Richmond ( Brill’s Companion to Ovid ( 470), “The loss of M N after Met. 14.830(838), and of the first hand of U after 15.493, gravely injures the textual state of the end of the poem” (470).
Readers will want to know what makes the text of this edition different from Anderson’s. The short answer is that Tarrant’s eclecticism, which embraces both the primary manuscripts and the recentiores, and his willingness to accept conjectures not only in places where the tradition is manifestly defective produce a better text. (The long answer will be found by collating Tarrant’s text against Anderson’s; samples will follow.) In this respect, I think it fair to say that the text of the OCT has more in common with the editions of Merkel (1875 2), Korn (1880), and Riese (1889 2) than it does with the editions of Magnus (1914), Ehwald (1915), and Anderson (1977). While the latter editors took the text of the primary manuscripts as far as it can go, and in so doing revealed just how unsatisfactory the result is, Tarrant has followed the more critical and the more difficult approach of his nineteenth century predecessors mentioned above. To give the reader a good idea of the general character of the edition, I offer a sample comparison of variants and conjectures printed by Tarrant with those printed by Anderson. In my judgment, the text of the OCT is superior in the following instances and reveals the high quality of Tarrant’s text. In all that follows the text of the OCT is given first. There is no point in repeating the manuscript sigla here; a reading is either a transmitted variant, or a conjecture identified by the name of its author. I do, however, indicate readings found only in manuscripts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries or later with an asterisk in order to show that the editor does indeed practice the eclecticism that he preaches. Those who want to know more about the manuscript sources of the readings should consult Tarrant’s apparatus.
1.53 pondus aquae leuius] pondere aquae leuior; 1.439 incognita] incognite (at last the gender problem of this snake is solved); 1.601 Argos L. Müller ] agros; 2.38 generis] genitor; 3.34 tres ( Bothe) *uibrant] tresque micant; 4.610 *Iouis 1 ] deum; 4.647 *moenibus] montibus; 5.181 miracula] oracula; 5.460 pudori] calori; 6.27 quos Riese ] quoque; 6.441 uisendae Heinsius ] uisendam; 7.30 segeti] segetis; 7.62 *concurrere] occurrere; 7.115 ignes Naugerius ] illos; 7.116 anhelatos ] anhelantes; 7.162 *cadit] facit; 7.224 altum] altus; 7.248 ciuit Heinsius ] lenit; 7.375 *spreto] stricto; 7.739 *paciscor] loquendo; 8.117 obstruximus orbem] exponimur orbae; 8.588 *partesque resoluit] pariterque reuellit; 8.820 *spargit] peragit (-at); 8.876 *deerantque] dederatque; 9.8 fando Burman ] tandem; 9.569 *paulum] pauidum; 9.796 *sociosque] sociusque; 10.65 Stygii Heinsius ] timidus; 10.325 dilectu] delicto; 10.423-424 gelidus … tremor] gelidos … artus; 10.590 ipse] ille; 10.733 caeno Merkel ] caelo; 11.361 templi] ponti; 11.368 fulmineos] fulmineus; 11.529 nouiens Merkel ] celsi; 12.510 insani Austri] inani Austri; 12. 581 Phaethontida] Cygneida; 12.625 *Laerteque] Laertiadaeque; 13.235 repono] reposco; 13.244 eadem] etiam; 13.482 quot … cruores] quid … cruoris; 13.694 pectora] uulnera; 13.724 linguis] pinnis; 14.169 *Ithaceque] Ithacique; 14.269 quoque] quoue; 14.804 accedere] excedere; 14.39 ius caeli Muretus ] cuius caelum; 15.715 *columbis] colubris.
In addition to this selection of readings and necessary conjectures, it will also be helpful to look at a selection of the conjectures printed by Tarrant. Although they may not strike all readers as certain or necessary, they nonetheless address difficulties in the transmitted text, and reveal the qualities of the editor’s judgment in operation:
1.345 iuga Slater ] loca; 1.426-427 quaedam perfecta … quaedam modo coepta van Leeuwen ] quaedam modo coepta … quaedam imperfecta; 1.441 numquam letabilis Housman ] et numquam talibus; 1.727 exercuit Postgate ] terruit;
2.278 fractaque Housman ] sacraque;
3.671 toto Shackleton Bailey ] coepit; 3.678 posse 1 Housman ] esse; 3.716 fremituque Schepper ] trepidumque; 3.724 dereptis Housman ] deiectis;
4.260 nimborum patiens Bentley ] nympahrum (im)patiens; 4.663 Aetnaeo Housman ] aeterno;
5.224 Perseus Bothe ] Phineu; 5.454 mixtae … polentae Kenney ] -ta … -ta;
6.635 Terei Slater ] Tereo;
7.12 nisi Heinsius ] quid; 7.317 medicamina corpus Korn ] ea corporis artus; 7.791 captare Polle ] latrare; 7.865 consortibus Housman ] cum fortibus;
8.53 rogare Reeve ] rogarem; 8.750 silua 2 Heinsius ] omnis; 8.829 incensaque Heinsius ] immensaque;
9.711 indetecta Shackleton Bailey ] indecepta;
10.225 ignarus sceleris Madvig ] +inlugubris sceleris+;
11.611 atricolor Heinsius ] unicolor;
12.61 repens Heinsius ] recens; 13.794 palma Siebelis ] pomis;
14.240 franguntque Kenney ] merguntque; 14.245 crede Shackleton Bailey ] uisa; 14.288 manerem Gruyter ] maneret; 14.765 formae deus apta senili Housman ] formas deus aptus in omnes;
15.478 cruore uacent Postgate ] uacent epulis; 15.625 adlegerit Housman ] adiecerit; 15.838 Pylios Heinsius ] similes.
To round out this sample of variants and conjectures, I include a list of the editor’s own conjectures printed in the text: 1.712 posuisse] tenuisse; 2.506 uolucri] pariter; 3.642 persequitur retinens] pro se quisque timet; 3.720 Autonoes ( palmary ] Autonoe; 3.731 derepta] direpta; 5.482 laesa] sparsa; 7.375 at] et; 7.741 male uictor ego en ego fictus] see apparatus for numerous variants; 9.728 me] mihi; 10.257 sed] et. The spelling Porthaoniae (8.542) and Porthaone (9.12) for Parth- of the manuscripts appears to be Slater’s.
Students of the poem will be discussing and debating the editor’s choices, both those presented here in the above selections and numerous others throughout the poem, for a long time to come. There is much here that is new, much that is exciting, and much that will command assent. But inevitably there will be disagreements. The fact that they are so few bears witness to the sharpness and steadiness of the editor’s judgment. The manuscript abbreviations of the OCT are used throughout.
2.83 Scorpion atque aliter curuantem bracchia Cancrum. Riese questioned the genuineness of this line (“interpolatus?”) and his doubt is worth recording. The repetition of the phrase curuantem bracchia in the same metrical position in 83 and 84 with no apparent rhetorical effect; the unusual, in epic poetry, use of aliter in the sense “in a different way”, i.e., in contrast to circuitu longo; and finally, Cancer’s rather tame attribute of stubby arms all suggest that 83 was cobbled together to identify Scorpio by name and to distinguish the long reach of that constellation’s fearsome claws from the shorter reach of Cancer.
2.326 saxum M c BG 3v L] fatum HN c B 2v FG 1 P factum N ac U. Modern editors without exception print saxum. But parallels (9.566, 14.433; Aen. 3.287) suggest that what is being commemorated, Phaethon’s fatum, should be the object of signant, rather than the location of the commemorative words. Fatum is the more expressive word and does not conjure up a picture of the Hesperian Naiads as stonecutters. The typographical device of inscriptional capitals for the text of 327-328 does not provide an argument in favor of saxum.
3.567 remoraminaque M 2v P] moderaminaque
8.237 limoso … elice (Auc. de dubiis nominibus GLK V.587)] ramosa … ilice
10.584 insidiasque Shackleton Bailey] inuidiamque
11.627 Herculea Trachine. The local ablative Herculea Trachine, construed with adeant, although accepted by all editors, is a solecism; “to go to Alcyone at Herculean Trachis” (Hill) is the English, not the Latin, idiom. The accusative, Herculeam Trachina, should be read. The accusative of the adjective is well attested by the manuscripts: herculeam M c N c FGL. And although there is no note in the apparatus for Trachine, M’s variant thracena, reported by Anderson, offers good evidence for the accusative. It is also worth mentioning that Planudes read Trachina.
12.278 at illud
12.492-493 caecamque … manum
13.243 sic N c
14.657 + tantoque potentior +] tantoque peritior N c U G 1 P. The variant tantoque peritior has been undeservedly neglected by editors. It is consistent with Pomona’s surpassing skill as an orchardist (14.623-627), and it gives excellent sense. When Vertumnus, disguised as an old woman, sees the proof of Pomona’s special abilty, he compliments her using a colloquial expression, tanto peritior, which accounts for laudatae in the following line. The agreement of U and P in reading peritior also suggests that it merits serious consideration.
14.466-467 alta cremata est Ilion
1.392: Ehwald’s punctuation of pia sunt … suadent as a parenthesis is worth mentioning. The parenthesis functions as a suspenseful postponement of the correct interpretation of the oracle, which then produces a better disjunction, aut fallax est sollertia nobis aut (pia … suadent) magna parens terra est.
2. 436-437 (Callisto is putting up a fight against Jupiter.) The punctuation adopted by all modern editors, a question mark after poterat in 437, with superum, an epithet of aethera, beginning a new sentence, spoils the sense. (Bömer notes that superum aethera is an unparalleled phrase.) The question mark belongs after superum, which is a partitive genitive dependent on both interrogatives, quem (436) and quis (437): “But whom of the gods could a girl overcome, or who of the gods could overcome Jupiter?” Ovid is clearly sympathetic to Callisto’s helplessness against such a powerful rapist and cleverly amplifies the magnitude of her disadvantage by pointing out that she is not only matched against a god but against a god whom no other god could defeat. To ask, in this context, who could whip Jupiter in a fight, without specifying that Jupiter’s opponent is a god, is inept; and to imply that the girl couldn’t whip anybody in a fight is scornfully dismissive and inappropriate to the poet’s concern for a victim who is overpowered by an invincible divinity. Note the wordplay: even beings who are superi cannot superare Jupiter.
6.8-9 pater huic Colophonius Idmon / Phocaico bibulas tingebat murice lanas. This one sentence is, I believe, two. Punctuate with a semi-colon after Idmon, “her father was Idmon of Colophon”; the next sentence gives the father’s occupation. Otherwise the dative would most naturally be taken to mean that the father dyed wool “for her”. The general assumption that huic here = huius needs to be reconsidered.
8.631: Ehwald’s semi-colon after sed pia provides the expected contrast to parua quidem. In addition, pia referring to the home of Philemon and Baucis, helps to explain the emphatic illa … illa … casa (633).
13.120: quid uerbis opus est is better punctuated with Ehwald as a parenthesis since denique functions best as the introduction to Ajax’s summation, spectemur agendo, and the impatient question regularly occurs without any introductory word or with sed.
14.159-160 The period at the end of 159 means that qui in 160 is to be taken as the connective relative. This punctuation, however, results in a violation of standard word order: the connective relative comes first in its sentence except when preceded by one other word, usually a preposition. Since qui in 160 is postponed to fourth position, it is very unlikely that it functions as the connective relative. A comma is needed at the end of 159. However, qui, which is found in one or more of the twelfth century manuscripts, is one variant among several; of all the variants N’s sub, defended by Helm ( GGA 177  549), seems right; Achaemenides was abandoned “under the heart of Aetna’s crags”, i.e., deep inside the Cyclops’s cave at the foot of the mountain.
The apparatus criticus is a model of clarity and concision; in fact, it is a miraculum worthy of the poet’s art, the transformation of a vast body of seemingly chaotic textual data into a well-ordered cosmos where one can chart the course of the transmission and study the evidence upon which countless textual decisions are based. Those qualities of clarity and concision are the result of an exemplary Editionstechnik that eschewed the accumulation of unnecessary information, such as the names of scholars who support various readings, and of information which is more conveniently presented elsewhere, such as variations in spelling and morphology. That material has been painstakingly gathered in the appendix orthographica et morphologica (483-501), an important contribution in itself to our understanding of this neglected field.
The text and apparatus have been produced with remarkable accuracy. I noticed only a handful of slips. 8.8 Alcathoi for Alcathoe is more than a spelling variant and should reported in the apparatus, not the orthographical appendix. 11.49: the adoption of the variant habuisse requires the change of the nominatives Naides and Dryades to the accusative, Naidas and Dryadas, but the nominatives remain in the text. 13. 843-844: something is missing in the note. The parenthesis ( nam … Iouem) is attributed to Magnus, but is found earlier than his edition. What Magnus suggested is that in caelo belongs in the parenthesis. In three places the note in the apparatus indicates that the wrong word has been printed in the text: 8.576, gerat/gerit; 13.460, ferrem/vellem; 14.272, omnia/omina. The apparatus is silent on the omission of 1.8 in Bern, and the variant coegit (1.33) in the same. There is no note on the variant potiremur at 13.130. According to the note at 7. 657, the line should be bracketed; apparently it has been promoted to the ranks of suspicious verses. There is a misprint at 10.380, intellige.
A full Index Nominum rounds out the volume. It contains at least one new entry, Lindius; cf. 13.684.
I close with a few conjectures.
3.241 circumfert tacitos tamquam sua bracchia uultus
3.642 persequitur retinens Tarrant] pro se quisque timet
4.341 ut puer (F 4 L) et uacuis (EM c) ut Heinsius] scilicet ut uacuus et
9.74 + reduxi +
9.365 + loton +
9.779 quod non ego +punior ecce+
10.637 quod facit G] quid facit
11.363-364 palus … quam … paludem
14.166 iam suus et
15.104 + deorum +
Tarrant’s OCT of the Metamorphoses will, in my judgment, be recognized as one of those rare critical editions which effects a permanent improvement of the text and sets a very high standard against which future editions of the poem will be measured. It was well worth the wait.