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Magda El-Nowieemy

Magda El-Nowieemy

The Various Voices of the Talking Sky in the Myth of Phaethon in Ovid's Metamorphoses


Latin literature is rich in examples that reflect the strong connections between man and the Sky. One of the most revealing is the myth of Phaethon related by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC- AD 17) in his masterpiece, the Metamorphoses (I.747-2.400).

This episode comes in the tradition of cosmological poetry. It deals with the myth of Phaethon, son of the Sun-god, starting from the very point of Phaethon's decision to visit his father in the Sky to prove his paternity, driving the chariot of the Sun, the disastrous journey he experienced, Phaethon's fall to earth, and the catastrophe that entailed, till Jupiter intervened and struck Phaethon with his thunderbolt.

The talking Sky has various voices in this myth that move from divine, semi-human, and cosmic. The aim of my present paper is to investigate these voices, which Ovid employed through dramatic suspense and dramatic irony, in the context of Roman culture, showing how the Sky is motivated by what is going on earth, and how earth is affected by the dangers caused by the Sky.


Professor of Graeco-Roman Studies, with focus on Latin Literature, Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University.

Among her research interests is the investigation of cosmological and astronomical phenomena in Classical literature. She participated by reading papers in many conferences in Egypt, France, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Jordan, Sharjah, and Saudi Arabia. Among her conference papers:

  • "From Alexandria to Rome: Poetical Astronomy and Female Psychology"
  • "Hellenistic Astronomical Elements in Catullus' Lock of Berenice (Coma Berenices)"
  • "Silenus on the Universe: Philosophy and Cosmogony in Virgil's Eclogue 6"



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