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From 6. If in Athens the Furies disguised their presence under a veneer of erotic furor , in Thrace they take cover behind Dionysiac revelry. His ubi nequiquam dictis experta Latinum contra stare videt, penitusque in viscera lapsum serpentis furiale malum totamque pererrat, tum vero infelix ingentibus excita monstris immensam sine more furit lymphata per urbem She stimulates Amata to act out the role of a maenad. The indefatigable Ovidian commentator notes that prior to Ovid furialis is used only in reference to the Furies, and that in the present passage we have an apparently unique transference to the furor bacchantium.

This conflation tends to occur in those places where sociopathic violence, such as infanticide, the ritual murder of children, intra-marital slaughter, or cannibalism, goes beyond even the rather wide remit of transgressions for which Dionysus is prepared to take responsibility.

Once reunited, they form a ruthless sisterhood determined to avenge a crime committed within the family — an early specialization of the Eumenides.


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Thus, at the beginning of the tale, the inhabitants of Thrace do not realize that events have been set in motion that will result in unspeakable suffering. In their ignorance, they celebrate the wedding of Tereus and Procne and the birth of Itys with thanksgivings to the gods. Later on, both the poet 6.

The metamorphoses are left unmotivated on both the divine and the human level, and although Procne is forever marked by her crime 6. Hic dolor ante diem longaeque extrema senectae tempora Tartareas Pandiona misit ad umbras.

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Because of the limited success of this pursuit, we now perhaps should realize that we can find Ovid more surely in the actual Roman world, as one who raises questions about Augustan values, explores the tragic failures of love, and evokes our sympathy with human feelings. Scholars analyzing the interplay of competing generic elements, an approach that works so well for Apollo and Daphne, Dis and Proserpina, and Polyphemus and Galatea, have generally steered clear of this part of the poem.

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In the early stages of this gruesome revenge narrative, Ovid deploys a poetics of perversion and paradox that corresponds to and complements his pernicious anthropology. The Metamorphoses is, to be sure, a poem that repeatedly probes and transgresses the putative conventions of the epic genre. Tereus bolsters his rhetorical performance with tears addidit et lacrimas , 6. Generic dissonance continues with the simile of the eagle and hare 6. After the rape, Philomela will again be equated to defenseless animals and Tereus to bestial predators 6.

In the ideal world of the Ars Amatoria communication between lovers, soft murmuring, and tender groaning spice up mutually pleasurable sex. The grotesque image of the dislocated tongue, twitching helplessly on the ground and murmuring into the black earth terraeque tremens immurmurat atrae thus emerges as a perverse substitute for the erotic ideal.

And even the habitually prurient narrative voice registers disgust when Tereus, after the mutilation, continues to rape his victim. Likewise, her resolve to butcher her son Itys is temporarily weakened by his childlike trust and innocence. But as Procne weighs the tragic choice of siding with sister or husband, she looks upon Philomela, condemned to eternal silence, and launches into a powerful auto-parainesis that contrasts mute sister and prattling son, culminating in the paradoxical realization scelus est pietas in coniuge Terei 6. The logic of the ius talionis has received ample discussion in the literature on revenge tragedy.

The similarities of the situations are made very clear … As Tereus flagrat , Procne ardet Finally, Procne exhibits crudelia gaudia at her triumph over Tereus himself described as crudelis. But further contemplation leads to an altogether more original path of revenge — and one that restores a sort of hellish parity. According to the somatic economy that governs the episode, Procne has achieved a fitting quid pro quo for the violation of her sister.

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Procne and Philomela] punished him more madly still through violence. For anyone who, when enraged by troubles, ministers a remedy worse than the illness, is a doctor unversed in ills. A pictorial representation risks the serious possibility of discovery by Tereus himself or one of his loyal servants. One might even ask how much graphic detail Philomela included in the depiction of her horrific experiences, whereas, in contrast, a text need only include several significant words.

Moreover, as Curley points out, purpureas… notas 6. The history of reception shows a distinct tendency of characters in literature written after Ovid to emulate the sisters, in what seems to be a hair-raising enactment of the anxiety of influence, as later authors try to outdo their predecessors by escalating the amount of depicted cruelty and bloodshed.

The spirited determination of the daughters of Pandion to surpass the criminal conduct of Tereus has lived on above all on the Western stage. The daughters of Pandion are drawn into the orbit of Thracian Tereus, and, as already noted, take on infernal attributes. The inescapable assimilation of perpetrator and victim through the act of retribution is a general problem in the ethics of revenge that has been well discussed by Kerrigan. Be that as it may, it remains true that the truly outrageous behavior in the epic, the most vicious rapes, the most cruel slaughter, and, with the qualified exception of Ceres, the resort to cannibalism, occur within the mortal domain, when human beings are left to their own devices a state of affairs already adumbrated in Book 1.

In this respect, a crucial feature of the Tereus, Procne and Philomela episode is its aforementioned godlessness, which results in a concomitant expansion of human agency. For the first time, a victim has free rein for retaliation, as she is dealing with a human rather than divine perpetrator. As a consequence, the ethics of revenge become a troublesome issue. New battle-lines are drawn, as the characters lose all moral grounding and are drawn into the perpetration of uncontrolled, orgiastic violence.

If one reads, with E. Schmidt, the half dozen or so anthropogonies that Ovid recounts in the opening book Prometheus, the four ages, the blood of giants etc. It is not by accident that he probes the most degraded human conduct in the context of Athenian myth. In the Greek imagination, of course, in wastelands such as Thrace, at the edges of the known world, the norms and values of Greek civilization did not apply. Instead we find an appalling array of barbarian practices, such as human sacrifice especially the sacrifice of foreigners, as a perversion of the Greek institution of xenia , female warriors, cannibalism, and so on.

Avenging agents and victims at the same time, the sisters become emblems of the porous interface between barbarity and civilization in Athenian society.

More generally, tragedy as a genre allowed the Athenians to articulate their obsession with unregenerate instincts and voice their anxieties about those boundaries that defined the Greek male identity. In effacing ethical distinctions between the various protagonists, he continues the tragic heritage in undermining conventional Hellenic cultural constructions.

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