What is this story about? (Context)
In book XIV of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Ovid pauses his recounting of political history to tell the love story of “Pomona and Vertumnus.” Pomona, a nymph in the region of Latium, has many suitors, including the God of Seasons, Vertumnus. While Vertumnus's love for Pomona is greater than the rest of the suitors’, not even he can reach Pomona's heart. Instead of men, Pomona's love and passion is described as being solely dedicated to her garden and its fruits. Ovid describes how she bans all men from her garden. With this, Ovid creates an extended metaphor throughout the poem, relating Pomona’s virginity to her secluded fruits.
Spurred by love, Vertumnus disguises himself as an old woman to capture access to Pomona’s garden. Once in the restricted garden, Vertumnus, as the metaphor would suggest, has physical access to Pomona, and thus is now able to give her kisses: “…he kissed her, / not once, but over and over: no real old woman / kissed that way, ever” (653-655 Humphries). Still disguised, he tries but fails to persuade Pomona to marry Vertumnus. He then tells Pomona the heartbreaking story of “Iphis and Anaxarete”––a story that describes the unreciprocated love of a young man named Iphis, who, time after time, tries to persuade Anaxerete to love him but to no avail. Overcome with defeat and sorrow, Iphis takes his own life; however, his act is only met with cynicism from Anaxerete, who is then punished by Venus for her selfishness and cold-heartedness. Anaxerete is thus turned into stone. Once Vertumnus finishes telling the story, he is about to overpower Pomona with force; however, moved by the story, Pomona accepts him with his same passion.
This project will examine the story of “Iphis and Anaxerete”––its language and its structure––to understand how Pomona comes to open her heart to Vertumnus’s affections.