The Metamorphoses by Publius Ovidius Naso (43 B.C. - A.D. 17) has, over the centuries, been the most popular and influential work from our classical tradition. This extraordinary collection of some 250 Greek and Roman myths and folk tales has always been a popular favorite, and has decisively shaped western art and literature from the moment it was completed in A.D. 8.
The stories are particularly vivid when read by David Horovitch, in this new lively verse translation by Ian Johnston.
Public Domain (P)2012 Naxos AudioBooks
I put off reading Ovid for far too long; this outstanding audio version from Naxos finally pulled me in. Metamorphoses is a wide-ranging account of Greek mythology, focusing on changes. Sometimes the changes are simple changes in fortune, "from good fortune to bad," as Aristotle put it, but often they are changes in physical form: a rape victim is transformed into a bird, a self-obsessed youth is transformed into a flower. Jason and Medea are here; so are Achilles, Ulysses, Aeneas, and many of the Roman gods. The versions of myths given here underlie many of the references in Shakespeare and Dante. Listening to this audiobook is like finally getting past the footnotes to a rich primary source.
It doesn't hurt that David Horovitz's voice is wonderful - almost a physical pleasure to listen to. The translation is by Ian Johnston, who has provided, both online and through Naxos, wonderful versions of Homer.
Ovid's poem is famous for the subtle transitions from one story to the next. They are, at times, almost imperceptible; you start out listening to a story about Orpheus and Eurydice and suddenly realize Orpheus is now telling a story about Venus and Adonis. (And maybe within that story, Venus in turn tells a story about Atalanta.) It sounds more confusing than it is, but you do have to pay careful attention. I recommend keeping a table of contents handy. The PDF that comes with the audiobook provides a useful track listing, and there are other outlines of the structure available on the Internet.
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