Although Ovid’s Metamorphoses is filled with selfish characters, Ovid, notably, chooses to laud their selfish behaviors. Ovid’s depiction of Perseus is particularly notable. The language Ovid uses to describe Perseus separates him from others in the story and thus celebrates him. Perseus, however, does not deserve his hero status because of his selfish and vengeful actions earlier in the poem. Thus, because of the poetic nuances he uses to laud the Perseus, Ovid also lauds selfishness and vengeance. This message, upon first glance, seems surprising—Ovid praises a sin. However, Ovid’s praise of selfishness connects with a larger point about the Emperor Augustus and the importance, or rather unimportance, of virtue in Roman culture. Thus, in a historical context, Ovid’s glorification of selfish acts makes sense.
Ovid poetically differentiates Perseus from others and thus makes him a hero; during the massacre in the Cepheus’ house, Ovid uses rhyme scheme to praise Perseus and portray him as a hero. When describing Perseus, Ovid says “While Fortune favored [Perseus], he also killed,” which falls into near perfect iambic pentameter (151). When describing his enemies, however, Ovid states “Clanis and Clytius: born of one mother,” which does not fit any prominent rhyme scheme in the stanza (150). To further compound this effect, this line does not rhyme with the next one: “they died of different wounds. The sturdy arm” (151). Thus, Ovid only uses beautiful rhyme to describe Perseus to differentiate him, in a positive way, from the rest of the characters.
Second, Ovid uses personification to protect Perseus and further elevate his status. Ovid says “Fortune favored [Perseus],” which, because of the personification of fortune, implies that the Gods protect Perseus (150). Ovid’s superfluous description implies that deities (because while fortune is not a deity, Fortune is) care for Perseus and that he is worthy of it as well. In addition, Fortune and favored is an alliteration which is another example of Ovid separating Perseus poetically. However, when describing Perseus’ enemies Ovid does not use any personification or alliteration. For example, to describe the death of Clytius, Ovid discloses that “ cast one