Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Punished for her Beauty: Callisto, Ovid, Fasti II.153-192

 TRIGGER WARNING: rape, victim shaming

Tertia nox veniat, Custodem protinus Ursae
     aspicies geminos exseruisse pedes.
inter hamadryadas iaculatricemque Dianam               
     Callisto sacri pars fuit una chori.
illa, deae tangens arcus, 'quos tangimus arcus,
     este meae testes virginitatis' ait.
Cynthia laudavit, 'promissa' que 'foedera serva,
     et comitum princeps tu mihi' dixit 'eris.'               
foedera servasset, si non formosa fuisset:
     cavit mortales, de Iove crimen habet.
mille feras Phoebe silvis venata redibat
     aut plus aut medium sole tenente diem;
ut tetigit lucum (densa niger ilice lucus,               
     in medio gelidae fons erat altus aquae),
'hic' ait 'in silva, virgo Tegeaea, lavemur';
     erubuit falso virginis illa sono.
dixerat et nymphis. nymphae velamina ponunt;
     hanc pudet, et tardae dat mala signa morae.               
exuerat tunicas; uteri manifesta tumore
     proditur indicio ponderis ipsa suo.
cui dea 'virgineos, periura Lycaoni, coetus
     desere, nec castas pollue' dixit 'aquas.'
luna novum decies implerat cornibus orbem:               
     quae fuerat virgo credita, mater erat.
laesa furit Iuno, formam mutatque puellae:
     quid facis? invito est pectore passa Iovem.
utque ferae vidit turpes in paelice voltus,
     'huius in amplexus, Iuppiter,' inquit 'eas.'               
ursa per incultos errabat squalida montes
     quae fuerat summo nuper amata Iovi.
iam tria lustra puer furto conceptus agebat,
     cum mater nato est obvia facta suo.
illa quidem, tamquam cognosceret, adstitit amens,               
     et gemuit: gemitus verba parentis erant.
hanc puer ignarus iaculo fixisset acuto
     ni foret in superas raptus uterque domos.
signa propinqua micant: prior est, quam dicimus Arcton,
     Arctophylax formam terga sequentis habet.               
saevit adhuc canamque rogat Saturnia Tethyn
     Maenaliam tactis ne lavet Arcton aquis.

--Ovid, Fasti II.153-192

Three days afterwards, you will see the Bear-Guardian (Arctophylax) 

cutting loose with both feet...

Callisto used to take part in a sacred troupe

With the hunter goddess Diana and her hamadryads.

Touching the goddess’ bow, Callisto vowed

“By your sacred bow I touch, I pledge witness to my virginity.”

The moon maiden praised her, and replied,

“Hold true to your pledge, and you shall be

The leader of my companions [comitum].”

She would have kept her vow, if she weren’t so dang pretty.

She was careful around mortals, but Jupiter was the source of her troubles.

Having hunted a thousand wild beasts of the forest,

Diana was returning around noon-time (give or take),

When she happened upon a grove

(it was a shady oak-grove, and there was a deep pool of cold water in the middle of it),

She said, “Hey, chaste Callisto [virgo], let’s bathe here in this forest!”

But Callisto blushed at the sound of the no longer true  word “chaste.”

Diana also told this to the nymphs. They pulled off their clothes, but Callisto felt embarrassed, and gave excuse after excuse.

When she finally took off her dress, her swollen belly provided its own confession.

And so Diana told her, “Descendant of Lycaon, you are a liar! Get out of our chaste group! Don’t sully these pure waters with your presence!”

For ten months the moon waxed and waned, and then,

The supposed virgin became a mother.

Juno was angry, and changed the woman’s shape:

But what had the poor girl done? Jupiter had raped her [passa]

Without her consent [invito...pectore].

When Juno saw her rival’s face transformed into an animal’s,

She said, “Try loving her now, Jupiter!”

Callisto, who had once been loved by Supreme Jupiter

Was now a mangy she-bear, wandering over uncharted mountains.

And fifteen years [tria lustra] later, she met her son face-to-face.

Although she recognized him, she stood there dumbstruck, not knowing what to do, and roared: it was all she could do.

Not recognizing her, her son would have slain her with his javelin, except both were taken into the night sky [as constellations].

Together they twinkle side-by-side: one of them, called The  Big Bear (Arctos), is right next to The Little Bear (the Bear Guardian, Arctophylax).

Juno is still ticked off: she asks the silver-haired Tethys

To keep this Arcadian Momma-Bear from dipping into water.



Name: Publius Ovidius Naso  

Date:  43 BCE – 18 CE

Works:  Ars Amatoria


              Tristia, etc.



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



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.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE


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