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Juno and Diana’s Revenge: The Use of Satiare in Ovid’s Metamorphoses

India Watkins

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Throughout the Metamorphoses, Ovid associates the verb satiare with Diana rather than with Juno Saturnia, turning the Vergilian usage of the verb on its head. In the Aeneid, Vergil repeatedly plays with the poetic etymology between Saturnia and satiare to suggest that Juno is insatiable in her quest for revenge until the end of the poem, when she reconciles with Jupiter (12.791ff.) (O’Hara). The same etymological link between Juno Saturnia and satiare has been noted by commentators of the Metamorphoses (Bömer, Hill, Barchiesi, Anderson), but the other usages of satiare, particularly in reference to Diana, have thus far passed unnoticed.

Ovid reverses Vergil’s reconciliation between Jupiter and Juno by refocusing Juno’s grounds for anger towards Jove: while Juno’s anger in the Aeneid is also politically motivated (1.126–28), in the Metamorphoses she is frustrated in her role as Jove’s wife and expends her energy harassing Jupiter’s numerous rape victims. Thus, Ovid strips Juno of her political function in Vergil and draws attention to her sexual motivations. Alternatively, Diana’s self-imposed celibacy (Met. 1.487) is the root of her extreme ruthlessness (Janan), but Ovid pointedly associates satiare with Diana to show how she satiates herself with excessive bloodshed to fill the void her celibacy creates. By playing with his reader’s ex­pectations about the vocabulary used to describe these goddesses and by foregrounding the sexual motivations for their anger, Ovid highlights the ironies implicit in his usage of satiare: first, in Juno’s cruelty towards Jove’s pregnant rape victims despite her role as the goddess of marriage and childbirth, and second, in the virginal Diana’s unusual satisfaction in the gory, militaristic maintenance of her virginity.

The one time Ovid employs satiare in association with Juno, he deliberately misplaces it: Hercules, burning from Deianira’s poisoned cloak, mistakenly attributes his pain to his usual tormentor: ‘cladibus’ exclamat ‘Saturnia, pascere nostris! / pascere et hanc pestem specta, crudelis, ab alto / corque ferum satia! (9.176–78). Here, Ovid acknowledges the well-known poetic etymology of Saturnia but, in having Hercules bumble the Vergilian allusion, he also signifies his departure from Vergil’s use of satiare.

Satiare pointedly describes Diana’s satisfaction in Actaeon’s gory end: nec nisi finita per plurima vulnera vita / ira pharetrae fertur satiata Dianae (3.251–52). The word bookends Actaeon’s story: its introduction predicts that Actaeon’s own dogs will be glutted with their master’s blood (canes satiatae sanguine erili, 3.140). Ovid renders these dogs feminine in order to capitalize on “the symbolic opportunities that the cultural opposition of the male-female creates” (Franco 145), thus strengthening their connection with Diana. The emphatic positioning of satiata Dianae as the last two words of the episode further connects the goddess with the unstable, bloodthirsty dogs. With satiare, Ovid casts Diana as an aggressor, satisfied only when Actaeon has died a sufficiently bloody death. Similarly, her punishment of Meleager causes a string of murders and suicide and concludes with an image of her glutted on the family’s misfortune: quas Parthaoniae tandem Latonia clade / exsatiata domus (8.542–43). Here, Ovid connects this episode with Actaeon’s by using the participle satiata to clinch the story and continuing to associate satiare with vengeful Diana.

The ironies implicit in Juno and Diana’s respective roles, in light of the way satiare figures (or does not figure) into their descriptions, highlights their sexual, not political, preoccupations. By using satiare in moments of extreme gore to foreground these goddesses’ sexual motivations, Ovid returns to the original Greek versions of these myths in his portrayals of Juno and Diana. Ovid transforms a Vergilian epithet of Juno that describes her relentless persecution of her political enemies into a loaded word that draws attention to these female deities’ sexual motivations, thereby signaling his departure from Vergil and a return to the inherent Greek-ness of these myths.

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