Journal of Classical Studies
Online ISSN : 2424-1520
Print ISSN : 0447-9114
ISSN-L : 0447-9114
Cephalus, His Story : Ovid's Metamorphoses 7.661-865
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1996 Volume 44 Pages 96-108


This paper reexamines an inconsistency considering the fatal spear in the Cephalus-Procris episode in Met. 7 : one of the companions of Cephalus says that the spear flies back spontaneously after hitting the target, whereas it remains stuck in Procris at the ending of the story told by Cephalus. It will be suggested that the inconsistency hints at a transformation of the story as narrated by Cephalus. I have observed three recurrent story patterns in the episode : someone (thing)comes back after being lost(or gone) (P1) ; a rumor is believed before eventually turning out to be false(P2) ; happiness follows a disaster (P3). P1 fails only at the ending, where Procris dies, never to return. This failure of P1 corresponds to the inconsistency about the spear, since its power to fly back after launched exactly matches P1, whereas it did not return when piercing Procris. Why not an ending that would imply a return of Procris, in accord with P1? We note that there is no metamorphosis of a main character in the episode, that the spear is almost identical to Procris with regard to fate (7531, 846) , beauty(679, 730) , and name(Procris<procuris ; cf. Fasti 2.477), and that mirabere(682)is one of the words suggestive of metamorphosis(cf. mirandum 758). Seeing these points, it would not be quite hard to imagine that, the moment Procris dies, her soul enters the spear to give it the miracle power, so that, every time Cephalus launches the spear, it would come back into his hands, as she did in her life. This would have happened, if only Procris had not emitted her soul in the mouth of Cephalus(861) , but into the spear. With this ending by metamorphosis, the inconsistency about the spear would not have occurred, since it obtained its power after she died, but, instead, an eternal, spiritual union of the couple would have been achieved, quite a suitable finish for the story of mutual love (800). Considering P2 and P3, we should note that Cephalus echoes the phrases in the Orithyia story in Bk. 6(esp., 681f.). When Cephalus comments that he was said(dicebar 698)to be happy, he seems to presume that such a rumor is prevalent(cf. also 694), coming from the story told in Bk. 6. He rejects it as untrue with his tragic story, which fits in P2, but, it would be different with the ending by metamorphosis, which implies a kind of bliss for Cephalus as Procris' spear never goes without returning as if to ease his bad conscience, granting pardon for his wrongdoing. This version would match P3, and support the rumor of Cephalus' happy marriage with Procris. Then, we may assume that Cephalus did not speak of the metamorphosis because he intended to deny the rumor about his marriage, and I think this is where the inconsistency arises. What, then, was his motivation? On his arrival at Aegina he was spectabilis hews, which is a reminiscence of what he looked like(496f.), and Procris, when dying, was looking at him as long as possible(dumque aliquid spectare potest, me spectat 860). Then, after she exhales her soul(if exhaled into the spear, there would have been the metamorphosis), that is, at the end of his story, Cephalus appears as lacrimans hews (863). It looks as if, instead of narrating the metamorphosis of Procris, Cephalus himself has transformed from a good-looking hero into a hero in tears. Why, then, in tears? Presumably because it is a mark of great heroes, to Cephalus' eyes. In fact, Cephalus is presenting himself as a great hero like Odysseus or Aeneas, not only in his marital or tragic love as pointed out by Labate and Segal, but also in his story-telling, which takes place at the palace of a king(or queen), whose assistance the hero needs to return home, as in Od. Bks. 8-12 and Aen. Bks. 2-3. It is such an enchanting tale of his own sufferings that causes all listeners to cry. A tragic story like this, which enables Cephalus to play a role of great hero, would have been

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