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Ovid’s Jupiter and Io: Gods and Humans

In his poems, which Ovid wrote while being inspired by Roman folklore, he demonstrated the entire mythology of his time. In addition, the author also managed to illustrate through the prism of poetry the life of the people around him. Even though many of his characters are gods, they are depicted with human characteristics and flaws. For example, Jupiter, being the main deity of Olympus, has an inexhaustible desire for sensual love and passion. For this reason, he is in constant confrontation with the jealous and petty wife Juno. Jupiter cheats on her with several women; however, after encountering him they always suffer consequences. Thus, even though Jupiter is depicted in mythology as a strong heavenly ruler, through his actions, the poet shows the lowest manifestation of such type of love as Ludus. Nevertheless, even though it is Jupiter who initiates this connection, it is Io who is made to atone for this sin through transformation.

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For instance, when Jupiter falls in love with Io, she almost endures the wrath of his wife. Nevertheless, he manages to save her, and, to conceal his connection with Io, he turns the poor girl into a cow. Despite this fact, Juno sees through this lie and makes Io suffer by forcing her to stay in that form for a long time. She demanded to give her the animal and assigned the hundred-eyed giant Argos to guard her husband’s mistress. However, as Ovid states, even if the goddess won the trial, “the distrust lingered and still, she feared her husband’s tricks” (Ovid, 1960, p. 9). In this case, Juno, along with her husband, demonstrates flaws that make her more human-like. Just like any other woman, she is jealous and non-forgiving. Although Io is an ordinary woman, who is no match for the goddess, Juno feels competition between them for her husband’s attention. For this reason, she makes Io suffer and go through hardships.

Io herself, however, is depicted as a victim of god’s actions and her carelessness. As Jupiter fell in love with her, he would not stop pursuing her, and, then, she was made to experience captivity because Juno found out about their connection. She has been stripped of the opportunity to express her woes, speak with her parents, and live as a normal girl again. Moreover, the cow form was unpleasant to Io, as even her voice frightened her (Ovid, 1960). When her father meets and surprisingly recognizes her, he is devastated. All these facts make the reader sympathize with Io and root for her as she manages to escape from Argus and search for a way to regain her form. After Io go through many trials and reaches Egypt, Jupiter turns her into a girl again, and she lives happily ever after.

In conclusion, it would appear that this particular poem can be compared to a story of a fallen Christian woman who suffers the consequences of her sins. In the end, however, she manages to endure all misery and distress, and, for her obedience, she is made human again. In addition, Io even becomes a goddess herself, “famous, divine, and linen-robed adorers throng her shrine” (Ovid, 1960, p. 23). In this case, the author embodies the human soul who goes through the cycle of being punished and atoning for her sins.


Ovid. (1960). Metamorphoses. Indiana University Press.

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