What was Ovid’s view of the gods’ ethical performance?

Whether he actually believed it or not, Ovid made clear in the metamorphoses, his view of the gods’ ethical performance.  He, in detail, described the systematic ethical process of the gods, and how they inflicted positive or negative sanctions accordingly.

Publius Ovidius Naso, known as Ovid (43 BC-AD 17) was a Roman poet active around the reign of Augustus.  In the year 8 AD, Augustus banished Ovid to the black sea region.  In 8 AD, Ovid wrote a series of poems which he called the metamorphoses.  In this series of poems he provide multiple examples that demonstrate his view of the gods’ ethical performance.

There is a basic theme, that is displayed in several different examples.  The ethical system of the gods is centered around pride.  Pride is the key factor for the gods when making ethical decisions.  The gods were prideful beings, and if an individual challenges a god’s pride, they will suffer extreme negative consequences.  However, if an individual respects gods’ pride, and is especially obedient to the will of particular gods, he will receive extreme positive sanctions.

In book 6, there is the story of “Rustics changed to frogs.”  Latona, a goddess, gave birth to two gods, and she suffered from extreme thirst.  She approached a pool, in which she would drink from.  However, upon entering the pool, she was told by the men there that she could not drink.  They, knowing she was a goddess, saw themselves as above the divine nature.  They felt prideful of themselves because they could prevent a divine being from satisfying her thirst.  After being constantly rejected, Latona prays.  The men surrounding the pool were then transformed into frogs.  These men would no longer have a relationship with the gods, and they could no longer impact the world.  The men were reduced to a simple object of nature.

The issue is pride.  When men get the sense that they are more powerful, or more wise than the gods; when they get too prideful, the gods in turn punish this.  There are multiple examples of this same ethical system, with different gods and slightly different situations.  If a man sees himself as equal to a divine figure, the given divine figure will reduce his position to an object of nature.  For instance, the men who were transformed to frogs could no longer have any influence in history.  They lost their position as men, by challenging the gods.

Ovid also demonstrates that it was possible for man to achieve divine nature.  For instance the goddess Venus, asked Jupiter for permission to let Aeneas become a god.  Jupiter gave her permission and she takes him to the river Numicius to cleanse him of his mortality.  This poses that within man there is a divine nature.  Mars asked Jupiter to turn Romulus into a god, and Jupiter complies to this request.  Ovid conveys in his poetry that it is possible for mankind to achieve divine nature.  To do this, individual must not speak out of turn, and must comply with the will of the gods.

Ovid’s view of the gods’ ethical performance regarding the imposition of negative sanctions was that the god’s pride could not be challenged.  If  the pride of the gods’ was challenged, at all, the challenger would be reduced to an object in nature.


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