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Compounding Compound Creatures

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The Catalogue of Hybrids in Tristia 4.7 and Empedocles

image of Mnemosyne

In Tristia 4.7, Ovid describes a series of mythological hybrid creatures. This paper will argue that this catalogue of hybrids alludes to scientific accounts of the primitive creatures that existed in the early stages in the evolution of living beings, as well as literary depictions of monstrous creatures. In particular it will argue that Ovid alludes to his own Metamorphoses, Vergil’s catalogue of insubstantial monsters at A. 6.285-289, Lucretius’ account of primitive creatures at DRN 5.890-894 (a model for both the Metamorphoses and the Vergilian catalogue), and most significantly Empedocles (fr. 60 DK). It will demonstrate that Ovid ‘remythologises’ this passage from Empedocles through the use of multiple allusions to both scientific and mythological discourse, in such a way as to question a series of distinctions, such as that between science and mythology. It will also discuss whether Ovid’s catalogue of hybrids could aid a reinterpretation of the compound creatures described by Empedocles.

Affiliations: 1: Classics Dep. NUI Galway University Road, Galway Ireland


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