The goddess Flora tells of how Juno [Hera] conceived Mars [Ares] without a father:
Mars quoque, si nescis, per nostras
Iuppiter hoc, ut adhuc, nesciat usque, precor. 230
sancta Iovem Iuno nata sine matre Minerva
officio doluit non eguisse suo.
ibat ut Oceano quereretur facta mariti;
restitit ad nostras fessa labore fores.
quam simul aspexi, "quid te, Saturnia", dixi 235
"attulit?" exponit, quem petat, illa, locum;
addidit et causam. verbis solabar amicis.
"non" inquit "verbis cura levanda mea est.
si pater est factus neglecto coniugis usu
Iuppiter, et solus nomen utrumque tenet, 240
cur ego desperem fieri sine coniuge mater,
et parere intacto, dummodo casta, viro?
omnia temptabo latis medicamina terris,
et freta Tartareos excutiamque sinus."
vox erat in cursu: voltum dubitantis habebam. 245
"nescioquid, nymphe, posse videris" ait.
ter volui promittere opem, ter lingua retenta est:
ira Iovis magni causa timoris erat.
"fer, precor, auxilium" dixit, "celabitur auctor",
et Stygiae numen testificatur aquae. 250
"quod petis, Oleniis" inquam "mihi missus ab arvis
flos dabit: est hortis unicus ille meis.
qui dabat, 'hoc' dixit 'sterilem quoque tange iuvencam,
mater erit': tetigi, nec mora, mater erat."
protinus haerentem decerpsi pollice florem; 255
tangitur, et tacto concipit illa sinu.
iamque gravis Thracen et laeva Propontidos intrat,
fitque potens voti, Marsque creatus erat.
If you didn’t know already, Mars [Ares] was also born through my craft;
(and Jupiter [Zeus] still doesn’t know this, so please keep it that way).
Juno [Hera] was upset that Jupiter created his daughter Minerva [Athena] without a mother,
and didn’t need her to create a kid.
So she went to the Ocean to complain about her husband’s deeds,
And, tired from her travels, stopped outside my door.
When I saw her, I said, “Hey, what brings you here, child of Saturn [Juno]?”
She explained where she was headed, and explained why.
I comforted her with friendly words.
She said, “I won’t feel better with just words.
If Jupiter can become a father without his spouse’s help,
And alone holds both names of parent [mother & father],
Why should I worry about being a mother without a spouse,
And give birth without a man’s help, still remaining chaste?
I’ll try any medicine from around the world,
I’ll try the depths of Tartarus, too.”
She kept going; I kept my poker face.
She said, “You seem like you can help somehow, nymph.”
Three times I wanted to promise to help her,
Three times I held my tongue (I was really scared of Jupiter).
She said, “I beseech you, help me! I won’t tell who did it,”
And swore an oath on the river Styx.
I told her, “What you’re looking for is a flower from the Olenian fields:
It is unique in my garden.
The one who gave it to me told me, ‘touch a sterile cow with this flower, and she will conceive!’
I did—and immediately the cow gave birth!”
Straightaway I plucked the flower with my thumbs,
I touched Juno’s lap with it, and she conceived.
And Juno left me, pregnant now, and wandered Thrace and the left side of Propontis.
She got what she’d wished for: Mars was born.
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