Chapter 17 The Books of Fate: The Venus-Jupiter Scene in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 15 and Its Epic Models

In: Ovid, Death and Transfiguration
Sergio Casali Università di Roma Tor Vergata

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1 Jupiter and Fate from Iliad 16 to Metamorphoses 15 (via Aeneid 10)

When Venus at same time understands that, in order for the future Augustus not to be born of mortal seed, it is necessary for Caesar to be made a god, and sees that a grim death is being prepared for Caesar by the weapons of the conspirators, she grows pale and starts lamenting with every god she meets, asking them to thwart that murderous attempt. But the gods, though moved by her words, “cannot break the iron decrees of the ancient sisters (the Parcae)” (rumpere …/ ferrea non possunt veterum decreta sororum, 15.780–781), and limit themselves to manifesting their grief with a series of horrendous omens. Then, at 803–806 Venus meditates on hiding Caesar in a cloud and snatching him from death, as once she had done with Paris (at Il. 3.374–382) and with Aeneas (at Il. 5.311–317):

tum vero Cytherea manu percussit utraque
pectus et Aeneaden molitur condere nube,
qua prius infesto Paris est ereptus Atridae,
et Diomedeos Aeneas fugerat enses.1
Met. 15.803–806

Then in truth Venus struck her breast with both hands, and tries to hide the descendant of Aeneas in that same cloud in which she once had snatched away Paris from the attack of the son of Atreus, and Aeneas had escaped Diomedes’ sword.2

Jupiter intervenes and asks her if she alone intends to move unconquerable Fate: Caesar’s destiny is written in the tabularia of the Parcae, and can be read by Venus herself, if she goes there; he has read and memorized it,3 and now he will recount it to her (15.807–815):

talibus hanc genitor: “sola insuperabile fatum,
nata, movere paras? intres licet ipsa sororum
tecta trium; cernes illic molimine vasto
ex aere et solido rerum tabularia ferro,
quae neque concursum caeli neque fulminis iram
nec metuunt ullas tuta atque aeterna ruinas.
invenies illic incisa adamante perenni
fata tui generis; legi ipse animoque notavi
et referam, ne sis etiamnum ignara futuri.”

Thus the father spoke: “Alone, daughter, do you prepare to move unconquerable Fate? You yourself are allowed to enter the dwelling of the three sisters: there you will see, with their massive structure, the archives of the world, made of bronze and solid iron, which fear neither the crashing of the sky nor the anger of the lightning bolt or any destruction, being safe and eternal; there you will find the fates of your descendants engraved on everlasting adamant. I read them myself and noted them in my mind and will relate them, lest you be even now unknowing of the future.”

The primary model for this scene is clearly the dialogue between Jupiter and Venus in Aen. 1, as we shall see; but this sequence, not by chance introduced by two Homeric references,4 also alludes to the sequence at Il. 16.431–457, the dialogue between Zeus and Hera about the impending death of Sarpedon.5 There, it is Zeus himself who sees that death is approaching his son Sarpedon, and it is he who meditates upon snatching him from death (Il. 16.433–438):

ὤ μοι ἐγών, ὅ τέ μοι Σαρπηδόνα φίλτατον ἀνδρῶν
μοῖρ᾽ ὑπὸ Πατρόκλοιο Μενοιτιάδαο δαμῆναι.
διχθὰ δέ μοι κραδίη μέμονε φρεσὶν ὁρμαίνοντι,
ἤ μιν ζωὸν ἐόντα μάχης ἄπο δακρυοέσσης
θείω ἀναρπάξας Λυκίης ἐν πίονι δήμῳ,
ἦ ἤδη ὑπὸ χερσὶ Μενοιτιάδαο δαμάσσω.

Alas, that it is fated that Sarpedon, whom I love more than any man, be killed by Patroclus, son of Menoetius! And my heart is divided in two as I meditate in my thought whether I shall snatch him up while he is still alive and set him down in the rich land of Lycia, far from the tear-filled war, or whether I shall slay him now under the hands of the son of Menoetius.

The first word Jupiter addresses to Venus, sola (“on your own,” “all by yourself,” but also “you alone”), has multiple ironic resonances. It is, in fact, a witty reminder of the long series of precedents for the scene to follow: first, Venus is surely not “alone” in wanting to “move unconquerable Fate,” for Juno has repeatedly attempted to do the same in the Aeneid (as Venus has just recalled in her previous speech to the gods, 768–774). Secondly, she is also definitely not “alone” specifically in wanting to snatch a divine son from fated death; Jupiter/Zeus himself had had the same thought in Il. 16, and there too he was prevented from acting in favor of his son by the intervention of another divinity, Hera, who reminded him of the inevitability of Fate for mortals (Il. 16.440–449). What the Homeric Hera suggested that Zeus do, was to leave Sarpedon to die, and then, as soon as breath and life had abandoned him, to send Thanatos and Hypnos to seize his body and bring it to Lycia, where it would be honored with funeral rites by his brothers and comrades (450–457). This is the model for Jupiter’s instructions to Venus: she should let Caesar die, and then seize his soul and change it into a star (15.840–842):

hanc animam interea caeso de corpore raptam
fac iubar, ut semper Capitolia nostra forumque
Divus ab excelsa prospectet Iulius aede!

Meanwhile snatch his soul from his murdered body and make a star out of it, so that the deified Julius may always look down from his lofty dwelling on our Capitol and Forum.

True, Venus’ intervention as suggested by Jupiter is much more invasive and radical than that suggested by Hera to Zeus in Il. 16: Venus is ordered to create a new star, while Zeus was simply allowed to transport a dead body to its fatherland. But the sequence (a) a divine parent is tempted to snatch his/her son from death; (b) is reminded by another god/dess of the inevitability of Fate; (c) is allowed to do at least something to alleviate his/her grief after the death of the son, is clearly the same in Homer as in Ovid.6

The Homeric Zeus evidently has, at least in this passage, the power of subverting Fate, since Hera considers as a possibility that he may in fact choose to save Sarpedon; the only problem would be the angry reaction of all the other gods—even if that very reaction, as foreseen by Hera, means that Zeus at least is not expected to do things contrary to Fate.7 Anyway, the god learns his lesson. In the adaptation of the Zeus-Hera scene of Il. 16 at Aen. 10.464–473, it is Jupiter who plays the role of the Homeric Hera, reminding Hercules of the inevitability of Fate (even by self-reflexively using the very example of Sarpedon’s death).8 While Jupiter’s words do not explicitly clarify anything about the relationship between Jupiter’s will and Fate, the context clearly suggests that Vergil is hinting here at a notion of Jupiter’s will as subordinated to Fate: here, there is not even a question of subverting Pallas’ destined death; Hercules, unlike Zeus in Il. 16, is not thinking about saving Pallas, but is just mourning his impending death, and the possibility that Jupiter might save Pallas is not contemplated, while the god concludes his speech by saying that “Turnus too is called by his fates, and has come to the end of the lifetime that has been given to him” (etiam sua Turnum fata vocant metasque dati pervenit ad aevi, 471–472). It is difficult not to feel that here Jupiter attributes the inevitability of death for mortals to something different from his own will.9 However, this contrasts with other passages of the Aeneid which clearly imply, as we shall see, an identification of Fate with Jupiter’s will, and, after all, in this very passage of Aen. 10, Vergil is ambiguous: could Jupiter have saved Pallas? The fact that this possibility is not hinted at in his speech does not necessarily mean that it would be impossible for Jupiter to prevent Pallas’ death. Perhaps what is understood is that he can prevent Pallas’ death but chooses not to do so, for the same reasons expounded by the Homeric Hera; or perhaps what is understood is that he really cannot subvert the “will” of Fate.10

The incoherencies of Vergil’s theology reflect and reproduce the incoherencies of Homer’s theology.11 It is not a coincidence if the critics of Homer and those of Vergil often share the same vocabulary and the same expressions when speaking of the difficult problem of the relationship of Zeus/Jupiter with Fate: is Zeus subject to Fate? Is mortals’ moira identical with Zeus’s will? Vergil decides to reproduce Homer’s incoherence; Ovid simplifies and brings order to Vergil’s confusion: it is crystal clear that his Jupiter is subordinate to the decisions of Fate, and it is equally clear that this position of Ovid’s is meant to be read as a comment on Vergil’s bewildering confusion of this matter.12

1 Jupiter and the Book of Fate in Aeneid 1, Metamorphoses 15, and Vergil’s Ancient Exegesis

Let’s approach the issue this time starting from the influence of the dialogue between Venus and Jupiter in Aen. 1 on the Venus-Jupiter scene in Met. 15. Ovid reworks at the same time the Zeus-Hera scene in Il. 16 (and through it Vergil’s adaptation in Aen. 10) and the Venus-Jupiter scene in Aen. 1. From the first context come both Venus’ project of Homerically snatching away Caesar from impending death and Jupiter’s concession to her of at least something, that is, the possibility of making a star out of his soul; from the second comes the bulk of Jupiter’s speech, with the prophecy about Augustus’ future greatness, which corresponds to the Roman and Augustan prophecy of Vergil’s Jupiter.13

Jupiter’s words at the beginning of his speech to Venus (sola insuperabile fatum, / nata, movere paras, 807–808) obviously echo those addressed by the god to Venus at the beginning of his prophetic speech in Aeneid 1: parce metu, Cytherea, manent immota tuorum / fata tibi (“spare yourself these fears, Cytherea: the destinies of your descendants remain unchanged,” Aen. 1.257–258).14 In both contexts the point revolves around the inevitability of Fate, but in Aen. 1 the problem is that Venus fears that the destinies of her descendants might have changed, and Jupiter reassures her that everything will go according to his old promises (whereas in fact Vergil is indeed introducing here major changes to the destinies of Venus’ descendants from the versions of Naevius and Ennius, to which Venus herself seems to allude by recalling, at 1.234–237, Jupiter’s old promises: see below).15 In Ovid, instead, Venus wants to change the fate of her descendant, Caesar, by saving him from being killed, while Jupiter admonishes her that his fate is immutable. Also, a major irony here is that, in this very moment, and with these very words, Ovid too is “changing” the fate of Caesar, by inventing the notion of the fated inevitability of his death, and by creating this kind of divine charade around the events surrounding it.16

Another marker of Ovid’s repetition of the scene in Aeneid 1 is found in Met. 15.809: cernes illic molimine vasto / ex aere et solido rerum tabularia ferro. The verb cernes is a clear signal that Jupiter is reworking his prophecy of Aeneid 1: the verb occurs in the same metrical position at Aen. 1.258–259 cernes urbem et promissa Lauini / moenia (“you will see the city and the promised walls of Lavinium”), and these are the only occurrences of this word in this metrical position in both the Aeneid and the Metamorphoses. In the Aeneid, cernes is a direct part of Jupiter’s own prophecy: he predicts that Venus “will see” Lavinium, as promised; in the Metamorphoses, cernes is no longer part of Jupiter’s prophecy: the god only says that, if Venus enters the house of the Parcae, she “will see” the tablets containing the fates of her descendants.17 This highlights the fact that Ovid’s Jupiter, while “quoting” his own Vergilian prophecy, is no longer actually prophesying: rather, he has memorized the prophecy contained in the tablets he has read in the house of the Parcae, and now he limits himself to repeating it for Venus’ benefit.

This brings us back to Ovid’s “clarification” of the relationship between Jupiter and Fate. In the Aeneid there are two conflicting views: sometimes Jupiter appears to be only a mouthpiece of Fate; most of the time, however, Fate seems to be identified with Jupiter’s will itself. It is not by chance that many distinguished Vergilianists wish to propose the second view as the “official” view of Jupiter within the Aeneid.18 As a matter of fact, the Venus-Jupiter scene in Aen. 1 is one of the passages which modern critics tend to use to support the idea of an identification of Fate with Jupiter’s will. Already Venus in her complaint refers to Jupiter’s previous promises and opinion, thus highlighting the importance of his will in deciding the destiny of the Trojans and of their descendants (pollicitus: quae te, genitor, sententia vertit? “you promised: what opinion, father, has turned you?” 235), though it is not altogether clear how this reference to Jupiter’s will is to be combined with her “weighting fates against opposed fates” (fatis contraria fata rependens, 239); it seems impossible to understand here exactly which idea of the relationship Jupiter-Fate(s) Venus has in mind. In his speech, however, Jupiter is apparently explicit in equating Fate with his own will, as the etymological wordplay fabor … fatorum would also seem to suggest (fabor enim, quando haec te cura remordet, / longius et volvens fatorum arcana movebo, “for, since this worry torments you, I will speak, and, further unrolling the secrets of fate, I will ‘move’ them,” 261–262).19 The future destiny of Aeneas and his descendants is presented as determined by what he thinks and does: neque me sententia vertit (“no thought has changed me,” 260); his ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono: / imperium sine fine dedi (“to them I set no limits of fortune or time: I gave them a power without end,” 278–279); sic placitum (“so it is decided,” 283, where, in the light of the previous first person verbs, it is easiest to understand mihi, though the absence of an explicit dative is in itself suggestive).20 However, the very line containing the word fata (longius et volvens fatorum arcana movebo), notwithstanding the above mentioned cluster fabor … fatorum, creates a problem: does movebo here mean “I will stir up,” implying that the course of future events is actually set in motion by Jupiter’s words, or does it mean “I will reveal, relate,” so potentially suggesting that Jupiter is here but a mere mouthpiece of the will of Fate (even if, of course, movebo could still mean “I will relate my decisions”)? Are fata here just “the things Jupiter has said,” or are they some power distinct from the god?

The issue is even more interesting if we reflect on the implications of volvens, which suggests the unrolling of a scroll, and hence the reading of a book.21 Jupiter’s words are ambiguous: is he referring to a “book of Fate” independent from his will (so DServ. Aen. 10.8, quoted above), or, as the etymological wordplay fabor … fatorum would seem to suggest, the “book of Fate” contains his own very words?22 That ancient exegetes of the Aeneid—as we are about to see—read this line as implying the first alternative is very suggestive in view of Ovid’s decision to develop the hint of writing in Jupiter’s speech into an elaborate description of the tabularia written (evidently; at least preserved) by the Parcae, which he himself has read and memorized, and which he will now reveal to his daughter.23

The ancient exegesis of the Aeneid was interestingly well aware of the problems presented by 1.262, for the line is cited as an example of the distinction between Fate and divine will in Servius Danielis’ note on 10.8:24

abnveram bello italiam concvrrere tevcris quo modo “abnueram,” cum ipse in primo dixerit bellum ingens geret Italia? [1.263] sed secundum sapientes quosdam alia est necessitas fati, alia voluntas deorum, ⟨etsi contra fatum deorum⟩ [suppl. Timpanaro 1270] vis nulla est:25 quod ipse manifestius in quinto ostendit his versibus vel quae portenderet ira / magna deum uel quae fatorum posceret ordo [5.706–707]: nam et in primo de ira Iunonis ait acti fatis maria omnia circum [1.32], et iterum in primo fatorum arcana se dixit moturum [1.262], non suam voluntatem ostensurum. sed ibi secreto filiae dicit, hic aliter [Daniel, Timpanaro 1278, Murgia: alter F, Thilo] idem invidiose diis omnibus praesentibus videtur loqui propter removendam eorum dissensionem.

I had prohibited Italy from clashing in war with the Teucrians: how can he say “I had prohibited,” when he himself in book 1 has said “Aeneas will wage a great war in Italy” (1.263)? But according to some wise men the necessity of Fate is one thing and the will of the gods another, even if the gods are powerless against Fate. This is shown even more clearly by Virgil himself in these lines from book 5: [Pallas giving Nautes answers] “telling either what the mighty wrath of the gods portended, or what the course of Fate demanded” (5.706–707); after all, in book 1, Virgil said of the wrath of Juno, “driven by the fates all over the seas” (1.32), and again, in book 1, Jupiter said that he would have revealed the secrets of the fates (1.262), and not shown his own will. But there [i.e. at 1.263] he speaks in secret to his daughter, whereas here [i.e. at 10.8], differently, the same Jupiter appears to speak manipulatively26 to the assembly of all the gods, in order to remove their disagreement.

Servius Danielis addresses here a notorious difficulty: in the council of the gods at the beginning of Book 10, Jupiter says that at some point in the past he had prohibited a war in Italy, also implying that the gods had given their assent to his order (10.6–7 quianam sententia vobis / versa retro …? “Why have you changed your mind?”), whereas in his dialogue with Venus in Book 1, he had predicted the war to come (bellum ingens geret Italia etc., 1.263).27 Servius Danielis cites the view of “some wise men,” according to whom Vergil would posit a difference between the necessity of Fate and the will of the gods, and hence, of Jupiter himself. Three passages would sustain this view: 5.706–707, where the narrator, apparently, makes a distinction (vel … vel) between the anger (and hence the will) of the gods and the course of the fates; 1.32, where the narrator speaks of the fates which drive the Trojans all over the seas, so implying, evidently, that there are two different causes for the Trojan wanderings, Fate and the wrath of Juno;28 and, most importantly because it involves Jupiter himself, 1.262, Jupiter’s reference to his “revealing” (since this is clearly what DServ. takes movebo to mean) of the fatorum arcana in his dialogue with Venus.

In Servius Danielis’ note there follows a rather difficult transition, again introduced by sed.29 The “solution” eventually given to the problem of 10.6–10 is that ibi (that is, at 1.263 bellum ingens geret Italia etc., and not at 1.262 longius et volvens, etc.) Jupiter speaks in secret to his daughter—and so presumably speaks sincerely, telling her truthfully that a war in Latium is foreseen by Fate—whereas hic (that is, at 10.6–9) the god speaks to the assembly of the gods—and so presumably dissimulates that truth, presenting the war in Latium as something that could have been avoided.

It is not clear if this solution to the problem of 10.6–9 is to be connected with the view of the sapientes that Jupiter’s will is something potentially distinct from Fate, or if instead Servius Danielis is leaving unexplained the relevance of this view to the problem of 10.6–10. If we were to accept the second possibility, we could think that the relevance of the thesis according to which in the Aeneid (at least sometimes) there is a distinction between Fate and the will of Jupiter, to the problem of 10.6–10—left unexplained by Servius Danielis—could be that at a certain point in the past Jupiter had expressed his will, prohibiting a war in Italy; then, however, Juno’s will interfered with that of Jupiter’s, provoking the war all the same. Accordingly, in Book 10 he reminds the gods of his previous prohibition, while in Book 1 he had rhetorically represented to Venus that the war in Italy, the future result of Juno’s intervention (which he was evidently able to foresee), was something positively fated to happen. This solution would be almost the opposite of Servius Danielis’ ultimate one (sed ibi secreto filiae dicit etc.), because in this solution the war in Latium is to be seen as not fated to happen, but only provoked by Juno’s intervention, notwithstanding Jupiter’s original prohibition, and, in Book 1, Jupiter would have falsely presented the war in Latium as something decided by Fate in order to reassure his daughter.30

Otherwise, if we instead think that Servius Danielis’ “ultimate” solution to the problem of 10.6–10 is to be connected with the view of the sapientes that Jupiter’s will is something potentially distinct from Fate, we should probably imagine that the commentator thinks that Jupiter, at some point in the past, would have forbidden a war in Italy, notwithstanding his knowledge of the fact that it was fated to happen; at 1.293 he would have revealed to Venus, in a private conversation, that he knew the truth—that is, the fated nature of the future war in Latium, while in Book 10 he would have referred to his previous prohibition, and to the gods’ acceptance of it, in order to appease the riotous assembly of the gods. This would imply the distinction of the sapientes between Jupiter’s will (contrary to the war) and the decrees of Fate (which instead schedules a war), and above all would cohere with Servius Danielis’ final explanation. Harrison approvingly summarizes Servius’ Danielis view with these words: “the politic Jupiter adapts his words to the situation, saying one thing to Venus alone in book 1 and another to pacify the assembled and at least partly rebellious gods in book 10” (Harrison 1991, 60). From Harrison’s note, however, it is not possible to understand clearly what he thinks about the details of this solution. In fact, this cannot simply mean that Jupiter is lying to the assembled gods in Book 10, since it must be true that he had once expressed his opposition to the war (for at 10.6–7 the gods themselves are said to have accepted that prohibition), and so we should confront here two issues: (i) a clear distinction between Jupiter’s will and the decrees of Fate, as was said above; and (ii) the strange idea that Jupiter would have once tried to forbid something which he knew was fated to happen.31

At any rate, that this is what (the source of) Servius Danielis has in his mind is confirmed by the fact that his “ultimate” solution to the problem of 10.6–10 had already been advanced by Servius on 1.261: tibi fabor enim] hoc loco excusat quaestionem futuram, quasi Veneri dolenti quae vera sunt dicat, sed aliter loquatur cunctis praesentibus dis: dicet enim in decimo [8] “abnueram bello Italiam concurrere Teucris” (for i will tell you] in this place [i.e. by emphatically saying tibi] he prevents a future problem, as if he were saying the truth to Venus in her grief, when he speaks differently to all the gods in assembly; for in Book 10 [line 8] he will say “I had prohibited Italy to move war against the Teucrians”). Here, quae vera sunt must mean “the war in Latium as decreed by Fate,” whereas when Jupiter speaks to the assembled gods in Aen. 10 he refers evidently to something which is not true, and which cannot but be the fact that the war in Latium was not decreed by Fate, but instead has been provoked by the gods’ intervention, in violation of his previous prohibition. Also in this formulation, this explanation presupposes both a distinction between Jupiter’s will and Fate, and the awkward situation of a Jupiter attempting to prohibit the fulfillment of the decrees of Fate.

The contradiction in Aen. 10 is an intriguing problem, but what interests us now is the Servian thesis in itself; that is, the idea that in the Aeneid there is no coincidence between Jupiter’s will and the decrees of Fate. The ancient exegetes tend to underline the difference between Fate and Jupiter’s will, and this obviously means that they were well aware of the contradictoriness of Vergil’s position about Jupiter and Fate (cf., explicitly, DServ. Aen. 8.398 nec pater omnipotens Troiam nec fata vetabant: notandum quod hic Iovem a fatis separat, cum alibi iungat, ut “sic fata deum rex / sortitur” (3.375–376), “we must notice that here he separates Jupiter from the fates, while elsewhere he unites them, as at ‘thus does the king of the gods cast the lots of fate’ ”). There is no way of overlooking those passages which clearly do imply an identification of the two powers, and elsewhere Servius himself sustains this identification: see e.g. on 10.628, quae voce gravaris] quae negas fato; vox enim Iovis fatum est: Statius [Theb. 1.213] “et vocem [sc. Iovis] fata secuntur” etc. (“what you refuse with your voice] what you refuse by fate: for fate is the voice of Jupiter: Statius ‘and fates follow Jupiter’s voice’ ”);32 and on 12.808, sed Iuno, sciens fatum esse quicquid Iuppiter dixerit (but Juno, knowing that anything Jupiter might say is fate).33 Ovid, faced with this quaestio (what is exactly the relationship between Jupiter and Fate in the Aeneid?), chooses to embrace the same view of the sapientes cited by Servius Danielis on 10.8, that of a complete separation between Jupiter and Fate. He does so in a typically exaggerated way, very clearly showing that he is developing a parody of a critical discourse on the Aeneid and its contradictions—and specifically on the self-contradictory prophecy of Jupiter in Aeneid 1. On the eve of the killing of Caesar, Ovid drastically and parodically simplifies Vergil’s complexity and contradictoriness. If I have insisted on the reaction of the ancient exegetes to the problems posited by Jupiter and Fate in the Aeneid, it is because I think that we should be prepared to consider the possibility that Ovid himself is already reading an “annotated” Aeneid, so to speak, in which such quaestiones as the contradiction between different views on the Jupiter/Fate relationship in the Aeneid are already part of the critical debate.34

2 Jupiter and Fate in the Rest of the Metamorphoses

Ovid provides clarity where Vergil had been obscure and complicated. In Ovid’s view, the Parcae, not Jupiter, are responsible for the destiny of the world. The Parcae are present also in the Aeneid,35 but their role there is wholly mysterious, and there is no way of locating them in a triangulation with Jupiter and Fate. In the Metamorphoses, instead, the role of the Parcae as a power superior to that of Jupiter is maintained through the whole poem. At Met. 5.532 the first and only occurrence of the name of the Parcae in the poem appears in Jupiter’s mouth. Ceres asks Jupiter about allowing Proserpina to come back to the world of the living. The god, after saying that, after all, Pluto is really in love with her daughter, and that in any case he would not be an unworthy husband for her, assures her that, if Ceres really wants to part them, Proserpina will reach the sky again—but only if in the Underworld she has touched no food: nam sic Parcarum foedere cautum est (“for such is the rule decreed by the Parcae,” 5.532). Ceres is determined to win her daughter back, but “Fate does not allow that” (non ita fata sinunt, 534), because she has eaten seven seeds from a pomegranate.36 Already in this passage, then, the subordination of Jupiter’s will to the decrees of the Parcae is clear. Ovid is explicit and coherent on this matter.

Ovid’s vision of the relationship between Jupiter and Fate is confirmed by the passage in Book 1 where Jupiter is about to blast mankind with thunderbolts, but suddenly remembers that it was fated that some day the universe would collapse, devoured by a cosmic conflagration (1.253–258):

Iamque erat in totas sparsurus fulmina terras,
sed timuit, ne forte sacer tot ab ignibus aether
conciperet flammas longusque ardesceret axis.
esse quoque in fatis reminiscitur, adfore tempus,
quo mare, quo tellus correptaque regia caeli
ardeat et mundi moles operosa laboret.37

And he was already ready to scatter lightning bolts all over the earth, but he feared that the sacred aether might be ignited by so many fires and that the distant axis of the world might burn. He also remembers that Fate had decreed that there would come a time when sea, land, and the royal palace of the sky would be seized by fire and burn, and the elaborate structure of the universe would be in distress.

There is a witty irony here: in a passage where Ovid most clearly affirms Jupiter’s independence from Fate, what the god suddenly remembers is the Stoic doctrine of the final ἐκπύρωσις.38 Also according to mainstream Stoic doctrine, however, Jupiter is of course to be identified with Fate: see e.g. Cic. ND 1.40 idemque (sc. Chrysippus) etiam legis perpetuae et aeternae vim, quae quasi dux vitae et magistra officiorum sit, Iovem dicit esse eandemque [eundemque Roby] fatalem necessitatem appellat, sempiternam rerum futurarum veritatem (“He also states that the power of the enduring and eternal law, which he calls the guide of life and mentor in our duties, is Jupiter, and he calls that law (or, with Roby, calls him) the necessity of Fate, the enduring truth of future events,” trans. Walsh).39 What Ovid presents here is a contradiction in terms: it is a profoundly un-Stoic Jupiter who remembers a doctrine about a fated, final, and Stoic, ἐκπύρωσις.40 The philosophical paradox here highlights the fact that, already in this passage, Ovid shows us a Jupiter entirely subordinated to Fate.

Finally, there is a third passage in the Metamorphoses where Ovid theorizes about the relationship between Jupiter and Fate, the speech Jupiter gives to the assembled gods about the rejuvenation of Iolaus and the sudden growth of Callirhoe’s sons at Met. 9.426–438. This passage has been studied by Luigi Galasso in an excellent article, and I will limit myself here to highlighting some of its Vergilian connections.41

As Barchiesi (2001, 131) says, Jupiter’s description of the tabularia of Fate arrives “just in time, since the poem has had little to say about Fate.” It is true that the Metamorphoses had little to say about Fate, but that little is always associated with the role of Jupiter vis-à-vis Fate, is always developed in relationship with the Aeneid, especially with Jupiter’s prophecy in Book 1 and his intervention in the council of Book 10, and is also pointedly coherent—pointedly, that is, in constant and polemical contrast with Vergil’s incoherence on this matter. However, especially in the council scene of Book 9, some of Vergil’s more problematic approaches to the relationship of Jupiter with Fate might also be reproduced, or at least hinted at, by Ovid.

After the miraculous rejuvenation of Iolaus through Hercules and Hebe’s intercession, the goddess Themis makes a prophetic speech in which she announces, among other things, that the children of Callirhoe are also about to be miraculously transformed into grown-up men, courtesy of Jupiter himself. The other gods are outraged by this news, and each of them would like to be able to rejuvenate their sons. Jupiter intervenes to rebuke the riotous gods, and to explain that those miracles can happen only because they are required by Fate, which is a power stronger than all the other gods, including Jupiter himself (9.426–438):

cui studeat, deus omnis habet, crescitque favore
turbida seditio, donec sua Iuppiter ora
solvit, et “o! nostri siqua est reverentia” dixit
“quo ruitis? tantumne aliquis sibi posse videtur,
fata quoque ut superet? fatis Iolaus in annos, 430
quos egit, rediit; fatis iuvenescere debent
Calliroe geniti, non ambitione nec armis.
vos etiam, quoque hoc animo meliore feratis,
me quoque fata regunt. quae si mutare valerem,
nec nostrum seri curvarent Aeacon anni, 435
perpetuumque aevi florem Rhadamanthus haberet
cum Minoe meo, qui propter amara senectae
pondera despicitur, nec quo prius ordine regnat.”

Each god has someone whose cause they support, and because of their partiality the turbulent mutiny grows, until Jupiter opens his mouth and says: “Oh, if you have any reverence for me, where are you rushing to? Does anyone think he is so powerful as to overcome Fate as well? By Fate Iolaus was restored to the years which he had passed. By Fate the children of Callirhoe must become men before their time, not by ambition or arms. Fate rules even you, and, yes, even me, so that you can tolerate this with a better mind. If I had power to alter it, old age would not bend low my Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus would enjoy a perpetual youth with my Minos, who is now despised because of the bitter weight of old age, and no longer reigns in his former majesty.”

Let us see how Ovid develops here his critical discourse about Jupiter and Fate in the Aeneid.42 Jupiter’s address to the seditious gods at Met. 9.428–438 clearly recalls Jupiter’s addresses to the less literally seditious but still riotous gods at Aen. 10.6–15 and 104–112.43 On the other hand, the more general context rather recalls the other “fateful” passage in Aen. 10, that is the Hercules-Jupiter scene at 10.464–473; in both cases the issue revolves around the possibility of subverting Fate as far as regards the destiny of a son of a divinity, to be saved from death in the Aeneid, from old age in the Metamorphoses; and in both cases Jupiter reminds his interlocutor(s) that he himself has suffered similar tragedies (respectively, the death of Sarpedon, and the old age of Rhadamanthus and Minos).44

Ovid once again interprets and corrects Vergil and his view of the relationship Jupiter-Fate. In this case, he makes explicit what in the Hercules-Jupiter passage was, as we have seen above, ambiguously expressed. While Homer’s Zeus in Iliad 16 was clearly presented as more powerful than Fate, which was then possibly to be identified with his own will (for Hera says that he could have saved Sarpedon from his fated death), Vergil’s Jupiter, though directly echoing the words of Zeus, was ambiguously presented as acquiescing to a Fate about which it was unclear whether he could have subverted it or not. Why is Zeus letting Sarpedon die? We cannot know: no explanation is given for his behavior. Ovid’s Jupiter, on the contrary, is very clear, and removes all doubts: me quoque fata regunt. quae si mutare valerem etc. (434).

Additionally, the intertextuality of the scene in Metamorphoses 9 with the council of the gods that opens Aen. 10 can be seen as an interpretative and corrective move. In this case, Vergil’s Jupiter was also unclear and contradictory regarding his relationship with Fate. In his first, opening speech he refers to a past prohibition on his part, a move which might seem to suggest that his power is stronger than that of Fate (even if the other gods evidently have in their turn the power of contesting it); furthermore, the prophecy of the Punic Wars (adveniet iustum pugnae (ne arcessite) tempus etc., “there shall come the right time for war, do not hasten it,” 11–14) which he delivers immediately afterwards contains no reference to Fate as having any role in its historical necessity. His second and final speech, however, closes with a declaration which since antiquity has been seen as hinting at a different conception: rex Iuppiter omnibus idem. / fata viam invenient (“Jupiter is an equal king for everybody. The Fates will find their way,” 112–113). Servius Danielis observes: et videtur hic ostendisse, aliud esse fata, aliud Iovem (“and here he seems to show that Fate is one thing, Jupiter another”). What is more, Servius’ comment here implies a further distinction between Jupiter and Fate: scit enim hoc esse fatale, ut Aeneas imperet in Italia (“for Jupiter knows that it is fated that Aeneas rule over Italy”): once again, Jupiter is not identified with Fate; he is the one who knows Fate (Timpanaro 1989, 1272). Harrison himself in his note here refers to Jupiter’s “apparent separation of his own powers from those of destiny” (Harrison 1991, 90).45 Ovid removes the contradiction inherent in Vergil’s depiction of Jupiter in the council of the gods, again resolutely “following” the “Servian” approach to the problem—so that once again we might wonder if discussions of the kind presupposed by the Servian commentary were perhaps already current at the time of the composition of the Metamorphoses.

But let us come back to the other major contradiction aroused by Jupiter’s speeches in the council of Aeneid 10, that between his reference to the war in Latium as something he had previously forbidden (6–10) and what he has said to Venus in Book 1 (293 bellum ingens geret Italia etc.). According to the most popular critical approach to this issue, which is ultimately inspired by Servius Danielis’ note on 10.8, which we have discussed above, Jupiter is here mendacious in his information to the other gods: his words to Venus in Book 1 would demonstrate that he fully knows that the war in Latium was fated to happen, or even that he wanted the war to happen.46 Though the problem is very complicated, and probably insoluble, the inconsistency here between Aeneid 1 and 10 is unmistakable. Now, if there are no inconsistencies in Ovid’s depiction of the relationship Jupiter-Fate inside the episode of Book 9 we are considering—Jupiter’s speech to the rebellious gods about the rejuvenation of Iolaus and the sudden growth of the sons of Callirhoe—and between this depiction and that which Ovid will give in Book 15, there are perhaps at least some degrees of inconsistency between this episode and what preceded it in Book 9 itself.

In his speech to the rebellious gods, Jupiter insists most clearly and most resolutely that the miracles that have outraged them had been decreed by Fate. As Galasso says, “Non c’è nessun passo nella poesia ovidiana in cui la parola fatum venga ripetuta con un pathos anche lontanamente simile. Giove ha qualche difficoltà a spiegare che si tratta di una forza al di sopra degli dèi, dovendo al contempo giustificare il ringiovanimento di Iolao e la crescita dei figli di Calliroe” (2002, 129–130). The emphasis Jupiter places on the superiority of Fate over all other powers, himself included, betrays the difficulty he encounters in explaining to the other gods that the rejuvenation of Iolaus and the growth of the sons of Callirhoe have happened because of the decrees of Fate, since nothing in the previous narrative had even remotely suggested that such was the case. Both the cases which have provoked the indignation of the gods in Metamorphoses 9 have been described as gifts conceded by some god or goddess as a response to someone else’s prayers: Iolaus has been rejuvenated by Hebe, conquered by the prayers of his husband Hercules (hoc illi dederat Iunonia muneris Hebe, / victa viri precibus, 400–401); no reason is given for Hebe’s request for the rejuvenation of Iolaus, but we know from Euripides’ Heraclidae (849–858) that it had been Iolaus himself who had asked Hebe and Zeus about being made young again (for one day only) in order to seek revenge on his enemy Eurystheus: a very human and, apparently, scarcely a “fateful” reason. And of course, Iolaus invokes Hebe because she is the wife of his dear friend Hercules. As for the sons of Callirhoe, in Themis’ prophecy, it is Jupiter himself who will concede to the suppliant Callirhoe “the gifts of his stepdaughter and daughter-in-law” (i.e. of Hebe), that is, will transform her sons into men while they are still in their childhood years (tum demum magno petet hos Acheloia supplex / ab Iove Calliroe natis infantibus annos; / … / Iuppiter his motus privignae dona nurusque / praecipiet, facietque viros inpubibus annis, 413–417). If the troublesome line 415 (neve necem sinat esse diu victoris inultam, “and he will not allow the death of the winner be unavenged”) were to be parenthesized, as in Tarrant’s text, Themis would not even explain the reason for Callirhoe’s rather peculiar request—in any case, we know from other sources that she wanted her sons to avenge the killing of her husband Alcmaeon: vengeance, again. And while Themis does not say anything either about why Jupiter did accede to Callirhoe’s request, we know from Ps.-Apollodorus (3.91) that the two were lovers.47

There is no hint of Fate in these divine actions, either in what Ovid says or in what he left implicit and to be reconstructed by the astute reader.48 This applies also to Jupiter’s speech to the rebellious gods in Metamorphoses 9, in which, just as in his words to the equally rebellious gods in Aeneid 10, there is a strong suspicion that he may be not wholly honest in his insistence on the key role of Fate in human affairs.

Perhaps, then, Ovid not only interprets Vergil’s inconsistencies in matters of Fate in order to “correct” them (his Jupiter is most clearly and explicitly dominated by Fate); he also hints at them in order to reproduce them, but more subtly.

3 Venus and Jupiter from Naevius to Ovid

We have seen above the metanarrative significance of sola, the word with which Jupiter addresses Venus at the beginning of his speech at Met. 15.807: the goddess is not “alone” in wanting to save her son from fated death; Jupiter himself had wished to save his son Sarpedon from fated death in Iliad 16. Similar metanarrative implications are also present in the last words of this first, introductory section of Jupiter’s speech to his daughter: invenies illic incisa adamante perenni / fata tui generis: legi ipse animoque notavi / et referam, ne sis etiamnum ignara futuri (813–815): the importance of etiamnum has been remarked upon by both Barchiesi and Hardie: “What follows clearly shows that Jupiter can speak thus because he has read the Aeneid, and he is going to replay for Venus’ behalf—who must be a little absent minded, cf. 815: ne sis etiamnum ignara futuri—the prophecy concerning the fate of the Julian line that he had already expounded for her in Aeneid 1” (Barchiesi 2001, 131); “Etiamnum potrebbe esprimere sorpresa che Venere debba ancora sentirsi ricordare il futuro: dopo tutto, proprio lei aveva portato il profetico scudo a Enea” (Hardie 2015, 604, with reference to Barchiesi). The reference to Jupiter’s prophecy in Aeneid 1 is of course especially appropriate, since here Ovid is reworking that very scene. This cross-reference to a previous meeting of Jupiter and Venus in the epic tradition is not just a typically Ovidian move, but fits into an already Vergilian pattern of cross-referencing between epic divine dialogues which Ovid, once again, both exaggerates and “clarifies.”

A problematic aspect of the passages of the Aeneid dealing with divine assemblies or dialogues is that they constantly refer to an epic tradition of divine communications which is difficult or impossible to reconstruct, and not only because of the loss of Naevius’ and Ennius’ poems. For example: (i) in Book 1 Venus refers to promises that Jupiter had made to her in the past; when and where this happened we do not know, even if the reader acquainted with Ennius and Naevius was certainly in a better position than we are in today to recognize this reference; (ii) at 4.227–228 Jupiter refers to some unknown episode in which Venus vouched for her son to him: non illum nobis genetrix pulcherrima talem / promisit (“It was not such a man as this that his beautiful mother promised us”); (iii) as we have seen, in the divine assembly of Book 10, Jupiter refers to some unknown meeting in which he had prohibited the war in Latium. Vagueness and confusion also characterize the possibility of foreseeing future divine communications: at 1.279–282 Jupiter predicts a reconciliation of Juno, but it is not immediately clear when this will happen, and it took Feeney’s 1984 article to clarify once and for all that this reconciliation is not to be identified with the scene between Jupiter and Juno in Book 12.

The references of Vergil’s Venus to Jupiter’s past promises about the glorious future of the Trojans/Romans at Aen. 1.234–237 are particularly interesting from the perspective of the Venus-Jupiter scene in Met. 15. As was said above, in all probability there is here cross-referencing between the Aeneid and the epic poems of Naevius and Ennius. In the surviving fragments of Ennius’ Annals there are of course (scanty) traces of the council of the gods in which the destiny of Romulus was discussed (Ann. 51–55 Sk.), but we have no knowledge of any “private” meeting between Jupiter and Venus in that poem. However, as is well known, such a meeting was featured in Naevius’ Bellum Poenicum, and the Venus-Jupiter scene of Aen. 1 is allegedly modeled on it: hic locus [i.e. the storm and the Venus-Jupiter meeting in Aen. 1] totus sumptus a Naeuio est ex primo libro Belli Punici. illic enim aeque Venus Troianis tempestate laborantibus cum Iove queritur et sequuntur verba Iouis filiam consolantis spe futurorum (“all of this passage is derived from the first book of Naevius’ Bellum Poenicum, for there too Venus complains to Jupiter while the Trojans are tossed by a tempest, and there follow Jupiter’s words consoling his daughter with the hope of future things,” Macrob. Sat. 6.2.30 = Naev. BP fr. 14 Strz.). It is probable that, while consoling Venus “with the hope of future things,” Jupiter gave her those “books of the future” that (as we know from another source), the goddess gave in her turn to Anchises: Naevius enim dicit Venerem libros futura continentes Anchisae dedisse (“for Naevius says that Venus had given to Anchises books containing the future,” Schol. cod. Par. lat. 7930 (11th century) on Aen. 7.123 = fr. 9 Strz.). This is a further reason to see a reference to the unrolling of a scroll of fata at Aen. 1.262 longius et voluens fatorum arcana movebo (see above),49 and it raises further complications in Ovid’s depiction of Jupiter consulting the tabularia of the Parcae: is Ovid “returning” to Naevius’ version of the dialogue between Venus and Jupiter? That is, was Naevius’ Jupiter already just a simple reader of books of Fate written by other powers, or were those books his own work? We cannot know, but what is certain is that there is a “book of Fate”-related thread which connects the three Venus-Jupiter scenes in Naevius, Vergil, and Ovid.

In the Metamorphoses Ovid repeatedly plays upon the Vergilian difficulties concerning the cross-references between past and present divine meetings, both exaggerating and clarifying them. Mars’ famous quotation of the words of Ennius’ Jupiter at Met. 14.814 (= Enn. Ann. 54 Sk.) is to be seen in such terms, as an exaggeration of a Vergilian tendency to refer to past divine promises and past assemblies about which it is not very clear where and when they happened; Ovid, instead, is, once again, very clear. Furthermore, on the occasion of the apotheosis of Aeneas, Ovid ironically multiplies the reconciliations of Juno (14.581–582, 592–593), as a comment on the plurality of Juno’s reconciliations in the Aeneid and the epic tradition.50 On the other hand, in contrast with the remarkable memory of Mars in the later scene of the apotheosis of Romulus, and in striking contrast with the Vergilian tendency to refer to past promises and previous encounters, both Venus and Juno are presented as completely forgetful of Jupiter’s promises of immortality for Aeneas in the Aeneid.51

Venus’ forgetfulness resurfaces here in Metamorphoses 15 on the occasion of her dialogue with Jupiter. After all, Venus’ forgetfulness has been literally evoked by the goddess herself in the speech she gives to every god she encounters at 765–778: quid nunc antiqua recordor / damna mei generis? timor hic meminisse priorum / non sinit (“Why do I remember now the ancient sufferings of my descendants? This present fear does not allow me to remember the past,” 774–776). At the same time, we must bear in mind two further complications: (i) in his prophecy in Aen. 1, Jupiter has said nothing about the circumstances of the death of Julius Caesar, so Venus has at least some justification in her worrying about the homicidal conspiracy she is looking at; above all, (ii) in that prophecy it is also famously unclear whether Jupiter is referring to Caesar or to Augustus when he speaks of the Troianus … Caesar, a Iulius descended from Iulus, whose power will end with the Ocean, and fame with the stars, and whom Venus will one day welcome in the sky as a god (Aen. 1.286–290). It is not easy to discern what exactly Ovid is doing with this Vergilian ambiguity. Surely, he once again clarifies: in the prophecy of Ovid’s Jupiter, where both rulers are mentioned, it is very clear what refers to whom—what to Caesar, and what to Augustus—and already this might be clarification enough. Hardie, however, is probably right when he says that Ovid is primarily interested in supporting an identification of the Troianus … Caesar with Julius Caesar rather than with Augustus: “Quando Giove conclude il suo discorso con un’istruzione a Venere di trasformare Giulio in un dio, ci può essere implicita una lettura del Caesar di Aen. 1.286–290 come Giulio piuttosto che come Augusto (289–290 hunc tu olim caelo … / accipies secura, ‘un giorno lo accoglierai sicura in cielo,’ ” Hardie 2015, 602). Where Vergil is obscure and ambiguous, Ovid corrects him.


The text of the Metamorphoses is that of Tarrant 2004; that of the Aeneid of Conte 2019.


On how Ovid, with this passage, “casts Caesar’s historical situation in terms of the epic tradition, thus bringing to bear the weight of that tradition going back to Homer on recent history,” see Smith 1994, 47 = 1997, 123.


Jupiter’s words (legi ipse animoque notavi / et referam, 814–815) self-reflexively echo Mars’ words at 14.813 (nam memoro memorique animo pia uerba notavi, “for I remember and noted in my retentive mind your loving words”), where they introduced a direct quotation of Ennius (14.814 = Ann. 54 Sk.); here the reader might have expected to follow some direct quotation of the Aeneid, but any expectation raised by 814–815 this time goes frustrated. The verbal reminiscences of Aen. 1.286–291 at Met. 15.818–821 (found by Smith 1994, 49–50 = 1997, 126–127) are in fact very fleeting.


Venus has already referred to a Homeric passage at 769 (her wounding by Diomedes in Il. 5), and “[w]ith this allusion to Homer, Ovid sets an ‘epic’ stage that informs the way Venus is to be viewed in this passage of the Metamorphoses” (Smith 1994, 46 = 1997, 122).


See Hardie 2015, 602, on 15.807–842: “Il discorso di Giove comincia con un ammonimento a Venere per il suo tentativo di sovvertire il fato, come Era aveva ammonito Zeus in Il. 16.441–442 sul destino di morte di Sarpedonte (episodio imitato in Aen. 10.464–473 dove Giove avverte Ercole che Pallante non può sfuggire al suo fato di morte).”


At Il. 22.166–187 there is a similar scene between Zeus and Athena regarding Hector’s impending death, but there, of course, there is no question of anybody removing the corpse of Hector.


See Janko 1994, 375: “His protest against fate does not prove that he can reverse it, although Here implies this; the question of relative power, though posed, is left unanswered.”


See Barchiesi 1984, esp. 18–19 = 2015, 6–7.


Explicitly so, e.g. MacInnes 1910, 172 and n. 2; contra, e.g. Bailey 1935, 230–231.


The bibliography on Fate in the Aeneid is understandably huge, and this is not the place to examine the question thoroughly; see especially MacInnes 1910; Heinze 1915, 193–198 = 1993, 236–239; Matthaei 1917; Bailey 1935, 204–240; Boyancé 1963, 39–57; Tracy 1964; La Penna 1966, lxxv–vii; Camps 1969, 41–50; Pötscher 1977, 7–95 (with a review of the bibliography at 7–16); Bianchi 1985; Lyne 1987, 71–75; Binder 2019, 165–170.


Some scholars prefer to contrast Homer’s complexity with Vergil’s supposed “clarity”: see e.g. Heinze 1915, 293–294 = 1993, 236: “The Homeric Μοῖρα is an intangible power standing alongside the gods, in no actual relationship to Zeus. Virgil leaves us in no doubt that Fate is really nothing else but the will of the highest god.” In general, I am much more sympathetic to those who underline Vergil’s theological lack of clarity: see e.g. Matthaei 1917, 14: “The system of the Olympian gods intrudes hopelessly on the mystic Vergilian Stoico-Epicurean philosophy, and makes—there is no denying it—one glorious muddle”; Tracy 1964, 192: “there is a non sequitur in the relations of Fate, Jupiter, Juno, and Venus”; La Penna 1966, lxvii: “Probabilmente è impossibile conciliare in una concezione chiara e logica le varie rappresentazioni del fato.”


Note that the “systematic Ovidian expression of the subordination of Jupiter to Fatum is unprecedented in the Greco-Roman epic tradition” (Criado 2013, 212).


“[Jupiter’s] speech at 15.807–842 owes its very existence to another text, the Speech of Jupiter in Aeneid 1” (Hardie 1997, 192).


insuperabile fatum is in itself highly Vergilian, varying the line-ending at Aen. 8.334 ineluctabile fatum (cf. also Geo. 2.491 inexorabile fatum) with an adjective from the line ending at Aen. 4.40 genus insuperabile bello—already clearly echoed at Met. 12.613 caput insuperabile bello; these are the first occurrences in Latin poetry both of the iunctura in(…)abile fatum and of the adjective insuperabilis.


For the metapoetic ironies here, see Casali 2007a, 123–124.


In Fasti 3.701–704, all is changed again: we find there a completely different version of the events surrounding Caesar’s murder and apotheosis. According to Vesta herself, at the moment of the killing, she snatched away Caesar’s body (and soul), left in its place “a bare phantom” (simulacra … nuda), a “shadow” (umbra), and placed Caesar in the sky as an Olympian god; no reference is made to any stellar destiny for him. It is obvious that these two versions of Caesar’s death and apotheosis are mutually exclusive: not a good move on Ovid’s part if he ever had wanted to be taken seriously on this sensitive matter. On Caesar’s apotheosis and catasterism or “cometification” in Met. 15, see the chapter by Volk in this volume.


See also Gladhill 2012, 8.


See esp. Heinze 1915, 293–297 = 1993, 236–238 (see above n. 11); Bailey 1935, 228–232; Lyne 1987, 73–74. Camps 1969, 42–43 first says that the will of Jupiter “is always identified with the ordinances of Fate,” and immediately after goes on to say that “Whether [Jupiter] is author as well as executor of these ordinances is not always clear, and no doubt depends more on the poet’s feeling in a given context than on any doctrinal theory.” Most recently, Binder 2019, 165–170 also seemingly identifies Fate with Jupiter’s will, though his very formulation betrays the difficulties inherent in such an approach: “Iuppiter ist nicht das Fatum, aber er identifiziert sich mit dem Fatum, das somit wesentlich als sein Wille erscheint und dessen Inhalt als der Plan, den er mit der Welt verfolgt […]. Selbst Iuppiter kann den Inhalt des Fatums nicht verändern” (167). Decidedly against the identification of Fate with the will of Jupiter is MacInnes 1910, 171–172.


But see below for complications here.


sic placitum is even defined as “a colourless impersonal expression” by Wilson 1979, 361.


See e.g. Austin 1971 and Williams 1972 ad loc.


Modern critics favor the second alternative: see Heinze 1915, 293 n. 3 = 1993, 276 n. 36; O’Hara 1990, 137; Feeney 1991, 139–140. Boyancé 1963, 48 is particularly lucid here: “Cependant ce livre des destins, suggéré par ce texte, Jupiter l’a-t-il écrit? Se contente-t-il de le réciter? D’en être le solennel interprète? Virgile peut sembler laisser la place ouverte à l’une et à l’autre hypothèse.” For the two alternatives see also e.g. Bailey 1935, 206; Lowrie 2009, 5.


See e.g. Wheeler 1999, 56: “[Ovid’s] Jupiter transforms Vergil’s metaphorical book into the fantasy of an indestructible, monumental office of public records in which the documents of Fate are stored in imperishable adamant.” See also Gladhill 2012, 8: “Vergil seems to suggest that the fata Jupiter unfolds are written on the papyrus of a book roll. Ovid responds with fata inscribed in bronze and iron and stored in an Olympian tabularium.”


On Servius’ and Servius Danielis’ treatment of the problem of the relationship between Fate and Jupiter’s will in the Aeneid, see Timpanaro 1989.


Murgia 2018, 115, ignoring Timpanaro’s suggestion, prints alia voluntas deorum (vis enim alia est), where enim alia is his own conjecture for nulla of F. In his view, the parenthesis would contain words added by the compiler to his source. I do not understand, however, what exactly Murgia thinks the meaning of vis enim alia est should be.


Timpanaro 1989, 1278 translates the adverb invidiose as “con subdola polemica,” defining it as a technical term of rhetorical language having a rather negative connotation; see G.N. Knauer, TLL–68.


Even Heinze (1915, 297 n. 1 = 1993, 278 n. 43) admits the presence of a contradiction here.


In Servius’ and Servius Danielis’ note on 1.32, the difficulty envisaged in the passage (si “fatis” nulla Iunonis invidia; si odio Iunonis, quo modo “acti fatis”? if “by fate,” there is no question of Juno’s hatred; if by Juno’s hatred, how “driven by fate”? DServ. and similarly, Servius) is solved either by positing that Juno’s hatred is itself fated, or by taking fatis as “by the will of Juno” (Serv.); DServ. adds that fatis might be = malis; see Timpanaro 1989, 1271 n. 10.


As noticed by Timpanaro 1989, 1278, when DServ. says sed ibi secreto filiae dicit, etc., there is implied something like sed, ⟨ut alii dicunt⟩, ibi etc. or sed ⟨fortasse notandum quod⟩ ibi etc., even if there is probably no need to supply those thoughts in the text itself.


Similarly Lyne 1987, 79–81.


Considering that both in Naevius and in Ennius there was no war in Latium, we might even think that the peaceful settlement of the Trojans in Latium in the archaic poems was portrayed as motivated by an explicit intervention of Jupiter; so it is conceivable that at Aen. 10.8 (abnueram bello Italiam concurrere Teucris) the god refers to “what he had said” in Naevius or Ennius, rather than just “irrationally” echoing Zeus’s prohibition at Il. 8.5–27.


Cf. Serv. on Aen. 2.54 “fata” modo participium est, hoc est “quae dii loquuntur”; 2.777, fata sunt quae dii fantur (in both cases with the same reference to Statius’ passage).


Cf. also Serv. on Aen. 1.382 “data fata secutus” scilicet a Iove. For an explicit remark about Vergil’s oscillations regarding the concept of Fate, cf. Serv. on Aen. 4.697 sed misera ante diem] non est contrarium quod dicit in decimo (467) “stat sua cuique dies,” nam, ut saepe diximus, secundum sectas loquitur; et hoc secundum alios, illud secundum alios dictum est (“this does not contradict what he says at 10.467, ‘each man’s day is fixed,’ for, as we have often said, he speaks according to the various philosophical schools, and now things are said according to one school, now according to another”); cf. Serv. on Aen. 1.257 manent immota tuorum / fata tibi] et simul per transitum dogma Stoicorum ostendit, nulla ratione posse fata mutari (“and here, en passant, he refers to the Stoic dogma that fates cannot be changed for any reason”); a long disquisition on the Stoic concept of Fate at DServ. on Aen. 4.696; see Setaioli 2004, 13–18. Wilson 1979, 361 n. 2 associates Heinze’s view of Fate as coincident with Jupiter’s will with DServ. on Aen. 4.614 “fata” dicta, id est Iovis voluntas, but the case there is quite specific (fata Iovis poscunt), and the Servian note goes on to say: hic ergo participium est, non nomen. For traces of debates on the meaning of fata see also DServ. on Aen. 1.204 sedes ubi fata quietas / ostendunt] “fata” autem quidam hic deorum responsa accipiunt (“some take fata here to mean ‘responses of the gods’ ”).


On Ovid’s Metamorphoses as “reflect[ing] some evidently very early criticisms otherwise known from later commentators,” see Cameron 2011, 591–592, with reference to Casali 2007b.


Seven times: 1.22, 3.379–380, 5.798, 9.107, 10.419, 814–816, 12.147.


The only direct appearance of the Parcae in the Metamorphoses is at 8.451–456, in the story of Althaea and Meleager: right after Meleager’s birth, the three sisters had placed in the fire a log, staminaque impresso fatalia police nentes, / “tempora” dixerunt “eadem lignoque tibique, / o modo nate, damus.” quo postquam carmine dicto / excessere deae … (“and as they spun, with firm-pressed thumbs, the threads of fate, they said: ‘We give to you, newly born child, and to this log, the same-life span.’ After speaking this prophecy, the goddesses vanished,” 8.453–456).


At 1.258 moles operosa (printed, among others, by Tarrant) is probably correct against the variant proles obsessa (also attested are moles obsessa and m. onerosa); at the very least, mundi moles is guaranteed by the echo (see e.g. Bömer 1969 and Barchiesi 2005 ad loc.) of Lucr. 5.94–96 tris species tam dissimilis, tria talia texta / una dies dabit exitio, multosque per annos / sustentata ruet moles et machina mundi (“three aspects so dissimilar, three such fabrics a single day will cause to die, and the massive structure of the world, sustained for many years, will collapse”). As Wheeler 2000, 27 notices, reminiscitur is the signal that Jupiter is remembering a specific text. Vanhaegendoren 2005 defends proles obsessa, but his arguments are inconclusive.


See e.g. Bömer 1969 and Barchiesi 2005 ad loc.


For a list of “passages in which the identity of the Stoic εἰμαρμένη and Zeus is declared,” see Pease 1955, 269.


Vanhaegendoren 2005, 203 sees the humor of the passage in the fact that the god is apparently unaware that at the moment of the ekpyrosis “everything and everyone in the universe will burn except Jupiter” (my emphasis); but Jupiter can all the same be legitimately worried of the premature destruction of the universe, including the regia caeli, that his thunderbolts might provoke; Ovid does not say that Jupiter is concerned about his own survival.


Galasso 2002 not only discusses well the passage of Book 9 in its literary and ideological context, but also notices how Ovid intends to contrast his view of the relationship Jupiter/Fate to that of Vergil, and to correct it (130–131): “La struttura diversa dell’epos virgiliana gli è naturalmente ben presente: c’è una chiara volontà di opposizione-correzione quando inserisce la profezia consolatoria di Giove a Venere nell’ultimo libro (vv. 807–842) dopo aver qui ben chiarito la questione del rapporto tra gli dèi e il fato, eliminando così ogni possibilità di fraintendimento ο confusione.”


The gods’ “rebellion” as described at Met. 9.418–427 also recalls the rebellion of the ignobile vulgus in the first simile of the Aeneid at 1.148–150; in the Aeneid the word seditio occurs only there (1.149) and at 9.340 (Drances seditione potens); in the Met. (in the nominative as at Aen. 1.49) only at 9.427; see Galasso 2000, 1244, “Ovidio usa per il concilio divino le espressioni che Virgilio adopera per l’ignobile uulgus” (cf. Galasso 2002, 129). The scandalized reaction of the gods to the “miracles” of Met. 9, and their desire to rejuvenate their own sons, also “realize” what Hera feared would have happened if Jupiter had saved Sarpedon at Il. 16.443–449.


See Galasso 2002, 130: “Questo invito alla concordia può ricordarci quello che si ha in Virgilio, nel concilio degli dei del libro X (v. 9).”


Kenney 1986, 429 (on 9.430 fata quoque ut superet) prefers to refer the reader to the Homeric scene which is the model of the Vergilian one: “ ‘To conquer fate’: this recalls the scene in the Iliad in which Zeus debates whether to save Sarpedon from death at the hands of Patroclus and is rebuked by Hera, who remarks that if Sarpedon is spared all the other gods will claim exemption for their own favourites (Iliad xvi. 440 ff.).” But this Homeric reference cannot but recall also the Hercules-Jupiter scene in Aen. 10. Both passages are appropriately cited by Galasso 2002, 130: “Il concilio degli dèi si chiude quindi con una confessione di impotenza. Tuttavia forse potremmo individuare l’effetto di una suggestione del colloquio tra Ercole e Giove nel X libro dell’Eneide, in cui Giove, per far accettare ad Ercole la morte di Pallante, ricorda come egli (e lo stesso è toccato ad altri dèi) abbia dovuto sopportare l’uccisione di Sarpedone, suo figlio, davanti alle mura di Troia (470 s. Quin occidit una / Sarpedon, mea progenies; cf. anche Il. 16.433 …).”


The close of Jupiter’s second speech, of course, prepares the way for an interpretation of the Hercules-Jupiter scene later in the book as implying a Jupiter powerless before Fate.


Harrison 1991, 59–60; Hardie 1998, 95–96; Thomas 2004–2005, 145–146; O’Hara 2007, 103 (“deceptive rhetoric”).


See Galasso 2002, 125–126.


It might be relevant to notice that Book 9 had already seen another “miracle” determined by Jupiter’s will without any reference to Fate: the apotheosis of Hercules at Met. 9.239–258 is decided by a personal initiative of Jupiter’s, and the god’s speech to the assembled gods is replete with verbs in the first person, exactly as is the speech of the “powerful” Jupiter of Aen. 1; there is even a precise verbal echo (noticed by Bömer 1977 ad loc.) of Jupiter’s prophecy at Met. 9.254–255, idque ego defunctum terra caelestibus oris / accipiam; this clearly alludes to Jupiter’s words to Venus at Aen. 1.289–290 hunc tu olim caelo spoliis Orientis onustum / accipies secura. And note also Kenney 2011, 422: “il suo atteggiamento pacato [at Met. 9.242–243 quos ita, sensit enim, laeto Saturnius ore / Iuppiter adloquitur] richiama la scena dell’Eneide in cui rassicura Venere sul fatto che Enea, dopo tutti i suoi guai, fonderà una nuova città e sarà da lei accolto in cielo (Aen. 1.254–256).” Hercules’ apotheosis is discussed in connection with Jupiter’s speech at Met. 9.426–438, with a slightly different emphasis, by Galasso 2002, esp. 119–121.


Notice that the phrase fatorum arcana recurs both at 1.262 and at 7.123, where there is another allusion to the Naevian “books of the future.” The scholium which preserves B.P. fr. 9 Strz. explains reliquit at Aen. 7.122–123 genitor mihi talia [i.e. the eating of the tables] namque / (nunc repeto) Anchises fatorum arcana reliquit (“for my father Anchises (now I remember it) left me the secrets of fate”) as meaning either mandavit (i.e., evidently, “left me verbal record of the secrets of Fate”) or “libros reliquit” qui haec responsa continebant (“ ‘left me the books’ which contained those responses”). The scholiast is clearly right, even if this is not an either/or situation: obviously, Anchises did not leave any books to Aeneas in the Aeneid (nor did he make any prophecy at all about the eaten tables, for that matter), but, using the verb reliquit, Vergil does allude to the Naevian version he has discarded (pace Horsfall 2000, 122: “nothing here suggests that Aen.’s inheritance was other than verbal fatorum arcana”).


See Tissol 2002, 329–330, Casali 2018, 362–365.


See Casali 2018, 365–367.

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