Athena's Web

  Week of April 19th - April 25th,  2002

Ovid's Fasti
III. ID. 11th

The complete text for Feb 11th

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   Come the third night, thou shalt straightway remark that the Bear-Ward(1) has thrust forth both his feet. Among the Hamadryads(2) in the train of the archeress Diana one of the sacred band was Callisto. Laying her hand on the bow of the goddess, "Thou bow," quoth she, " which thus I touch, bear witness to my virginity." Cynthia approved the vow, and said, "Keep but thy plighted troth(3) and thou shalt be the foremost of my company." Her troth she would have kept if she had not been fair. With mortals she was on her guard; it was with Jove she sinned. Of wild beasts in the forest Phoebe(4) had chased full many a score, and home she was returning at noon or after noon. No sooner had she reached the grove- the grove where the thick holm-oaks cast a gloom and in the midst a deep fountain of cool water rose- than the goddess spake: "Here in the wood," quoth she, "let's bath, thou maid of Arcady(5)." At the false name of maid the other blushed. The goddess spoke to the nymphs as well, and they put off their robes. Callisto was ashamed and bashfully delayed. But when she doffed her tunic, too plainly, self-convicted, her big belly betrayed the weight she bore. To whom the goddess spake: "Daughter of Lycaon(6) forsworn, forsake the company of maids and defile not the pure waters." Ten times(7) the horned moon had filled her orb afresh, when she who had been thought a maid was proved a mother. The injured Juno raged and changed the damsel's shape. Why so? Against her will Jove ravished her. And when in the leman(8) she beheld the ugly features of the brute, quote Juno, "Let Jupiter now court her embraces." But she, who of late had been beloved by highest Jove, now roamed, a shaggy she-bear, the mountains wild. The child she had conceived in sin was now in his third lustre(9) when his mother met him. She indeed, as if she knew him, stood distraught and growled; a growl was all the mother's speech. Her the stripling with his sharp javelin would have pierced, but that they both were caught up into the mansions on high. As constellations they sparkle beside each other. First comes what we call the Bear; the Bear-Ward seems to follow at her back. Still Saturn's daughter(10) frets and begs grey Tethys(11) never to touch and wash with her waters the Bear of Maenalus(12).


   (1) Bear-Ward = the constellation we think of as Bootes, but which the Greeks knew as Arctophylax, the Bear Keeper, which is thought to watch over Ursa Major (Roman) or Arctos (Greek), the Great Bear.
   (2) Hamadryads = Nymphs who lived in the country, and presided over trees, with which they were said to live and die.
   (3) troth = noun. Good faith, fidelity. One's pledged fidelity, betrothal. plight- to promise or bind by a solemn pledge; especially to betroth, to give one's solemn oath.
   (4) Phoebe = One of many Roman names for the Moon.
   (5) Arcady = After Arcadia, the land from whence Callisto was said to have been born. It was part of the central mountainous interior of the Peloponnesus, the southern peninsula of Greece.
   (6) Lycaon = The first king of Arcadia (see 5). Callisto was indeed said to have been his daughter.
   (7) Pregnancy = Today we think of pregnancy as lasting for nine months, but the Romans used inclusive counting, which adds one to the sum. Hence, this ritual day is labeled by Ovid as III ID., indicating the third day before the Ides, or Full Moon on the 13th (in the Julian Calendar). We would think of this as two days before the Ides.
   (8) leman = A lover, a mistress. Archaic.
   (9) lustre = -from lustrum. A ceremonial purification of the entire ancient Roman population after the census every five years, a period of five years; hence 'in his third lustre' would indicate that he was between fifteen and nineteen years old.
   (10) Saturn's daughter = Juno, one of the children of Saturn.
   (11) Tethys = The greatest of the sea deities, the wife of Oceanus, daughter of Uranus and Terra (Sky and Earth). She was the mother to the major rivers of the world, and was often invoked by the poets as a metaphor for the sea.
   (12) Maenalus = One of the mountains of Arcadia, sacred to the god Pan, and often frequented by shepards. It was said to be covered in pine trees, one of the trees thought by the Romans to represent immortality, in as it never shed its 'leaves' during the winter.


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