Fama novi centum Cretaeas forsitan urbes
implesset monstri, si non miracula nuper
Iphide mutata Crete propiora tulisset.
proxima Cnosiaco nam quondam Phaestia regno
progenuit tellus ignotum nomine Ligdum, 670
ingenua de plebe virum, nec census in illo
nobilitate sua maior, sed vita fidesque
inculpata fuit. gravidae qui coniugis aures
vocibus his monuit, cum iam prope partus adesset.
'quae voveam, duo sunt: minimo ut relevere dolore, 675
utque marem parias. onerosior altera sors est,
et vires fortuna negat. quod abominor, ergo
edita forte tuo fuerit si femina partu,—
invitus mando; pietas, ignosce!—necetur.'
dixerat, et lacrimis vultum lavere profusis, 680
tam qui mandabat, quam cui mandata dabantur.
sed tamen usque suum vanis Telethusa maritum
sollicitat precibus, ne spem sibi ponat in arto.
certa sua est Ligdo sententia. iamque ferendo
vix erat illa gravem maturo pondere ventrem, 685
cum medio noctis spatio sub imagine somni
Inachis ante torum, pompa comitata sacrorum,
aut stetit aut visa est. inerant lunaria fronti
cornua cum spicis nitido flaventibus auro
et regale decus; cum qua latrator Anubis, 690
sanctaque Bubastis, variusque coloribus Apis,
quique premit vocem digitoque silentia suadet;
sistraque erant, numquamque satis quaesitus Osiris,
plenaque somniferis serpens peregrina venenis.
tum velut excussam somno et manifesta videntem 695
sic adfata dea est: 'pars o Telethusa mearum,
pone graves curas, mandataque falle mariti.
nec dubita, cum te partu Lucina levarit,
tollere quicquid erit. dea sum auxiliaris opemque
exorata fero; nec te coluisse quereris 700
ingratum numen.' monuit, thalamoque recessit.
laeta toro surgit, purasque ad sidera supplex
Cressa manus tollens, rata sint sua visa, precatur.
Ut dolor increvit, seque ipsum pondus in auras
expulit, et nata est ignaro femina patre, 705
iussit ali mater puerum mentita. fidemque
res habuit, neque erat ficti nisi conscia nutrix.
vota pater solvit, nomenque inponit avitum:
Iphis avus fuerat. gavisa est nomine mater,
quod commune foret, nec quemquam falleret illo. 710
inde incepta pia mendacia fraude latebant.
cultus erat pueri; facies, quam sive puellae,
sive dares puero, fuerat formosus uterque.
Tertius interea decimo successerat annus:
cum pater, Iphi, tibi flavam despondet Ianthen, 715
inter Phaestiadas quae laudatissima formae
dote fuit virgo, Dictaeo nata Teleste.
par aetas, par forma fuit, primasque magistris
accepere artes, elementa aetatis, ab isdem.
hinc amor ambarum tetigit rude pectus, et aequum 720
vulnus utrique dedit, sed erat fiducia dispar:
coniugium pactaeque exspectat tempora taedae,
quamque virum putat esse, virum fore credit Ianthe;
Iphis amat, qua posse frui desperat, et auget
hoc ipsum flammas, ardetque in virgine virgo, 725
vixque tenens lacrimas 'quis me manet exitus,' inquit
'cognita quam nulli, quam prodigiosa novaeque
cura tenet Veneris? si di mihi parcere vellent,
parcere debuerant; si non, et perdere vellent,
naturale malum saltem et de more dedissent. 730
nec vaccam vaccae, nec equas amor urit equarum:
urit oves aries, sequitur sua femina cervum.
sic et aves coeunt, interque animalia cuncta
femina femineo conrepta cupidine nulla est.
vellem nulla forem! ne non tamen omnia Crete 735
monstra ferat, taurum dilexit filia Solis,
femina nempe marem. meus est furiosior illo,
si verum profitemur, amor. tamen illa secuta est
spem Veneris; tamen illa dolis et imagine vaccae
passa bovem est, et erat, qui deciperetur, adulter. 740
huc licet ex toto sollertia confluat orbe,
ipse licet revolet ceratis Daedalus alis,
quid faciet? num me puerum de virgine doctis
artibus efficiet? num te mutabit, Ianthe?
'Quin animum firmas, teque ipsa recolligis, Iphi, 745
consiliique inopes et stultos excutis ignes?
quid sis nata, vide, nisi te quoque decipis ipsam,
et pete quod fas est, et ama quod femina debes!
spes est, quae faciat, spes est, quae pascat amorem.
hanc tibi res adimit. non te custodia caro 750
arcet ab amplexu, nec cauti cura mariti,
non patris asperitas, non se negat ipsa roganti,
nec tamen est potiunda tibi, nec, ut omnia fiant,
esse potes felix, ut dique hominesque laborent.
nunc quoque votorum nulla est pars vana meorum, 755
dique mihi faciles, quicquid valuere, dederunt;
quodque ego, vult genitor, vult ipsa, socerque futurus.
at non vult natura, potentior omnibus istis,
quae mihi sola nocet. venit ecce optabile tempus,
luxque iugalis adest, et iam mea fiet Ianthe— 760
nec mihi continget: mediis sitiemus in undis.
pronuba quid Iuno, quid ad haec, Hymenaee, venitis
sacra, quibus qui ducat abest, ubi nubimus ambae?'
pressit ab his vocem. nec lenius altera virgo
aestuat, utque celer venias, Hymenaee, precatur. 765
quae petit, haec Telethusa timens modo tempora differt,
nunc ficto languore moram trahit, omina saepe
visaque causatur. sed iam consumpserat omnem
materiam ficti, dilataque tempora taedae
institerant, unusque dies restabat. at illa 770
crinalem capiti vittam nataeque sibique
detrahit, et passis aram complexa capillis
'Isi, Paraetonium Mareoticaque arva Pharonque
quae colis, et septem digestum in cornua Nilum:
fer, precor,' inquit 'opem, nostroque medere timori! 775
te, dea, te quondam tuaque haec insignia vidi
cunctaque cognovi, sonitum comitantiaque aera
sistrorum, memorique animo tua iussa notavi.
quod videt haec lucem, quod non ego punior, ecce
consilium munusque tuum est. miserere duarum, 780
auxilioque iuva!' lacrimae sunt verba secutae.
visa dea est movisse suas (et moverat) aras,
et templi tremuere fores, imitataque lunam
cornua fulserunt, crepuitque sonabile sistrum.
non secura quidem, fausto tamen omine laeta 785
mater abit templo. sequitur comes Iphis euntem,
quam solita est, maiore gradu, nec candor in ore
permanet, et vires augentur, et acrior ipse est
vultus, et incomptis brevior mensura capillis,
plusque vigoris adest, habuit quam femina. nam quae 790
femina nuper eras, puer es! date munera templis,
nec timida gaudete fide! dant munera templis,
addunt et titulum: titulus breve carmen habebat:
DONA: PUER : SOLVIT: QUAE: FEMINA: VOVERAT: IPHIS.
postera lux radiis latum patefecerat orbem, 795
cum Venus et Iuno sociosque Hymenaeus ad ignes
conveniunt, potiturque sua puer Iphis Ianthe.
--Ovid, Metamorphoses IX.665-797
Perhaps the report of this new marvel would have filled Crete’s hundred cities, except Crete had a miracle of its own: the transformation of Iphis. For in Phaestus (a city near royal Knossos), a man was born named Ligdus. He was a local man, not high born, but pure in life and ways. When his wife was pregnant, he told her, “I pray for two things: that you give birth with minimal pain, and that you give birth to a boy. For girls are more of a burden, and they lack resources (vires). I hate to say this (pardon me, Pietas, for I say this out of necessity),if you give birth to a girl, kill it.”
He said this with tears in his eyes, and she wept hearing them. Telethusa pestered her husband, begging him to change his mind, but Ligdus remained firm.
Right before she gave birth, in the middle of the night, she dreamed that Inachus’ daughter Io / Isis stood beside her bed, accompanied by other immortals. The golden goddess crowned with twin horns of the moon, holding golden shafts of wheat and bearing other royal insignia and her sacred rattles (sistra). The barking god Anubis was there, too, along with sacred Bast, dappled Apis, as well as Harpocrates (the god who presses his finger to his lips to indicate silence), and Osiris, the one Isis sought and never found, as well as the wandering serpent whose venom brings sleep.
Telethusa woke, startled by the vision, and the goddess told her:
“O Telethusa, my follower, stop worrying! Don’t listen to your husband. Don’t doubt us. When Lucina eases your delivery, accept whatever you give birth to and raise it. I am a goddess who answers others’ prayers—don’t complain that I never answered yours.”
Isis finished speaking and left the room. Telethusa rose from her bed joyfully, raising her hands to the stars, praying that her dream was real.
Later when she went into labor, the fruit of her womb entered the world, and a girl was born. Father Ligdus never knew this; mother Telethusa had it raised as a boy. And everyone believed her; no one knew the truth except the child’s wetnurse.
The newly made father accepted the child and named the boy after its grandfather Iphis. Telethusa loved the name, because it was gender neutral [commune], so she wouldn’t need to be deceitful misgendering the child.
This pious act of naming sealed the deal. The child was raised a boy; he had a face you could think was a boy’s or a girl’s; the child was beautiful either way.
Iphis was thirteen years old when their father pledged him in marriage to golden-haired Ianthe, the prettiest girl in all Phaestus. They were the same in age, in beauty, and in lessons; they were even learning from the same teachers.Love inflamed their hearts from the start; both felt the wounds of passion, but they both had different coutcomes. For Ianthe expected marriage, a wedding bouquet, and a ceremony, because she thought Iphis was a man. Iphis loved her, knowing they were unable to fulfil their desires, but this fact made them burn even more: a girl in love with a girl [ardetque in virgine virgo]! Scarcely holding back tears, Iphis said, “What is to become of me, who loves a way none have loved before? If the gods wanted to spare me, they should have done it. If they wanted me dead, they should at least give me over to a conventional passion. For cows don’t lust after cows, mares don’t lust after mares. A sheep lusts after a ram, and a doe loves its buck. Even male and female birds mate in the animal kingdom. A woman *never* loves another woman.
“I wish I weren’t a girl! Crete already has an odd romance: Pasiphae loved a bull. But still, it was a woman who loved a male animal. My love is worse than hers! Pasiphae yearned for love, she dressed as a cow, and became an adulterer of a bull. But Daedalus, the most intelligent man in the entire world, the one who flew away with waxen wings, he invented a way to let it happen. Could he do the same for me: make a girl into a boy? Could he even change you, Ianthe?
“Make up your mind, pull yourself together! Think, don’t feel! Look, you were born a girl! Stop deceiving yourself, love what you’re supposed to [fas], love what a woman ought to! Hope creates love, and hope nourishes it, but reality is keeping you from her. Nothing else is keeping you from her embrace: no guardian, no husband, no stern father. She’s not keeping you away, either. Yet you cannot be happy, you cannot attain your heart’s desire, as gods and men work hard to attain.
"So far no part of my prayers have been in vain. The gods readily gave whatever they could to me and my family. They’ve provided what I want, what my father wants, what my father-in-law wants. But Nature herself doesn’t want this, and she overrides us all.
Look, the perfect occasion is here; the wedding day is here. Ianthe will soon be mine. But it’s no use! I thirst while drowning in waves. What’s the purpose of my matron of honor Juno being here? Why has Hymenaeus come? The groom is absent, but two brides are here [quibus qui ducat abest, ubi nubimus ambae?].”
Iphis finished their prayer. And Ianthe prayed just as fervently, praying for their wedding day to arrive.
Terrified of being discovered, Telethusa kept putting off the day, faking illness, using superstitious omens to delay the inevitable. But soon she ran out of excuses, and the night before the wedding arrived. Tearing off the headdress off her daughter’s head and her own, she let their hair down and embraced the altar, crying, “Isis, you who cherish Paraotorius and Maerotic lands, as well as Pharos and the seven mouths of the Nile, I beg you, help alleviate our fear! A long time ago, I saw your regal insignia, I recognized you and the sound of your bronze sistra. I kept your commands in my heart and I let my daughter live. I followed your advice, and I welcomed the girl as your gift. Pity us both! Help us!”
The goddess seemed to reply. The altar shook; the doors of the temple rumbled in an earthquake, and the moonlike horns on her statue glowed. Her sacred sistra rattled.
Happy from the good omen, but unsure of the outcome, both mother and daughter left the temple. But as Iphis followed, their gait changed, the womanly glow on their cheeks fled. Their strength increased, their facial features sharpened. Their hair grew shorter, less groomed. And where once a woman was—now there is a man! [nam quae femina nuper eras, puer es!] Praise the gods, Telethusa! Offer them gifts to their temples! Rejoice in their miracles!
So they gave a thanksgiving offering to the temples, and added the following inscription:
IPHIS THE BOY FULFILLS A VOW THAT HE MADE AS A GIRL.
The next day, when Venus, Juno, Hymenaeus and others assembled, beneath the sacred wedding torches the boy Iphis took Ianthe as his bride.
Name: Publius Ovidius Naso
Date: 43 BCE – 18 CE
Works: Ars Amatoria
Ovid was one of the most famous love poets of Rome’s Golden Age. His most famous work, the Metamorphoses, provides a history of the world through a series of interwoven myths. Most of his poetry is erotic in nature; for this reason, he fell into trouble during the conservative social reforms under the reign of the emperor Augustus. In 8 CE he was banished to Bithynia, where he spent the remainder of his life pining for his native homeland.
GOLDEN AGE ROME