(Narrationes fabularum ovidianarum)
c. 5th c. BCE
trans. Jason Colavito (2011)
Unfortunately, virtually nothing is know of the author or authors who passed under the name of LACTANTIUS PLACIDUS, the attribution of the writer of a series of summaries of Ovid's Metamorphoses composed sometime in late Antiquity. Often called the Narrations in early English, the more correct title, from the Latin, would be the Summaries of the Stories of Ovid. These summaries were drastic condensations of Ovid's text, with some additional material related to Hyginus and Statius. As a convenient abstract of the Metamorphoses, these summaries were included in some copies of Ovid, and in the Renaissance they served as a handbook of mythology for, among others, Boccaccio. As late as the eighteenth century, versions of summaries appeared in published copies of Ovid. Nathan Bailey rendered an abridged version into English in 1724 as arguments to the Latin text of the Minellius Anglicanus. The versions below are translated directly and anew from the Latin edition prepared by Hugo Magnus in 1914.
Fabula I: The Teeth of a Dragon into Men
Jason, son of Aeson, was sent by Pelias, son of Neptune, with the nobles of Greece to Colchis to bring back the Golden Fleece, with Juno and Minerva as helpers so that he might reach the palace of Aeetes, son of the Sun, and with his beauty turn Medea against her father, so that she would prefer to advise him rather than her father. Therefore she bound Jason into a promise of matrimony. She began to prepare Jason with drugs and spells for the fire-breathing bulls and the dragon guarding the temple and the Golden Fleece so that he could sew the teeth of the dragon, from which armed men would arise. Among them, he was taught by Medea, he must throw a stone so that they would fight among themselves and kill one another. This he managed, and Jason fled to Corinth with Medea.
Fabula II: Aeson from Old Age to Youth
After carrying off Medea from her parents, Jason led her to Greece. With a promised marriage, he had sex with her. On account of the many fruits of her ingenious arts, he begged her to strike down his father Aeson’s old age and lead him back to youth. And she, not yet having put down her love for him that had seized her in youth, denied him nothing. She set up a bronze cauldron and cooked herbs of which she had knowledge, sought from various regions. She paid careful attention to a stake which was turning in the herbs. It changed into an olive tree laden with fruit, which having been removed from the bronze cauldron fell onto the ground. Thinking the time was right, killing Aeson, she mixed him with the moist herbs, and, as she had promised her husband, he was seen to be led from old age into pristine vigor.
Fabula III: The Nurses of Liber into Youth
Having seen Medea expel Aeson’s old age with her medicines, Father Liber asked her to help his nurses in the same way and lead them back to youthful vigor. Driven by his authority, by the medicines she had used on Aeson, she restored them to the first fruits of youth. She gave Liber an everlasting favor.
Fabula IV: A Ram Is Seen in the Appearance of a Lamb
After they saw a ram loaded down with years change form into a lamb, the Peliads, the daughters of Pelias, began ingratiatingly asking Medea to restore to their father Pelias the youth lost over the procession of time. She agreed, wanting to seize the opportunity to give punishment to the enemy of Jason. She impelled them to kill their father, and they dropped the cut up pieces of him into the boiling bronze cauldron. After this was done, Medea mounted a chariot drawn by dragons and, rising through the air, escaped from the sight of her enemies.
Hereafter, Lactantius summarizes Ovid’s description of Medea’s further adventures, noting that after much wandering on her “winged serpents” Medea came to Ephyra (the ancient name of Corinth), where, upon discovering Jason had remarried, by Medea's wrath Creon and Creusa were “set aflame by burning poison, the children abandoned by Jason done away with by her.” Lactantius then summarizes Medea’s adventures in Athens and beyond.
Translation copyright © 2011 Jason Colavito. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording and/or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Jason Colavito.