The Loves of the Gods  

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Image:Jupiter and Io by Correggio.jpg
Jupiter and Io (c. 1530) by Correggio, one of the few paintings to leave the Orleans Collection before the French Revolution. (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

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The Loves of the Gods (Italian: Gli Amori Degli Dei) are a subheading of a number of stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses. These stories of Greek gods and goddesses include Apollo and Daphne, Io, Phaethon, Callisto, Apollo and Coronis (The Raven and the Crow), Mercury and Battus, Mercury and Aglauros, and Jupiter and Europa. The protagonist of these story is Zeus (Jupiter) and his loves.




The Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid is a narrative poem in fifteen books that describes the creation and history of the world. Completed in 8 AD, it has remained one of the most popular works of mythology, being the Classical work best known to medieval writers and thus having a great deal of influence on medieval poetry.

The recurring theme, as with nearly all of Ovid's work, is that of love — be that personal love or love personified in the figure of Amor (Cupid). Indeed, the other Roman gods are repeatedly perplexed, humiliated, and made ridiculous by Amor, an otherwise relatively minor god of the pantheon who is the closest thing this mock-epic has to a hero. Apollo comes in for particular ridicule as Ovid shows how irrational love can confound the god of pure reason. The work as a whole inverts the accepted order, elevating humans and human passions while making the gods and their desires and conquests objects of low humor.

Annibale Carracci frescos

The Loves of the Gods (Carracci)

The Loves of the Gods is a fresco cycle completed by Annibale Carracci and his studio in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, completed in 1608. The fresco series was greatly admired in its time, and was later felt to reflect a change in aesthetic in Rome from Mannerism to Baroque.

Loves of Zeus

Loves of Zeus

In Greek mythology Zeus was a notorious womanizer, according to Ovid's Metamorphoses. Among his most famous conquests and metamorphoses are those of Danaë, Io, Leda, Callisto, Antiope, and Europa. The vocabulary used in Zeus's seduction is rape or abduction and seduction, all of which can be used exchangeably, a concept that comes to mind is forced seduction.

His erotic escapades, included 17 goddesses (Aix, Ananke, Demeter, Dione, Thalassa, Gaia, Hera, Eos, Eris, Leto, Maia, Metis, Mnemosyne, Persephone, Selene, Themis); 26 mortals or nymphs (Aegina, Alcmene, Antiope, Callisto, Carme, Danaë, Elara, Electra, Europa, Eurynome, Himalia, Iodame, Io, Lamia, Laodamia, Leda, Maera , Niobe, Olympias, Othreis, Plouto, Podarge, Pyrrha, Semele, Taygete, Thalia) and at least three unknown mothers.

He also had at least one pederastic relationship, with Ganymede. His trysts resulted in many famous offspring.

He is known for his shapeshifting abilities, especially when he wanted to seduce. He transforms himself into a cloud (he hid himself in a cloud with Io), a golden shower with Danae, a swan with Leda, a bull with Europa, depending on whether he needed to be charming and beautiful or powerful and frightening in his conquest.

Erotes (mythology)

Erotes (mythology)

The Erotes are a group of winged gods and demi-gods from Classical mythology, associated with love and sex, and part of Aphrodite's retinue. The individual erotes are sometimes linked to particular aspects of love, such as unrequited love. The gods consist of Eros, Anteros, the god of requited love, Himeros, the god of unrequited love and Pothos.

Stories of the erotes' mischief or pranks were popular in Hellenistic culture. The figures were common motifs in classical art, often symbolizing various aspects of love. Other depictions include individual erotes as characters, particularly the offspring of Ares and Aphrodite: Eros, Anteros, Himeros, and Pothos.

Divine jealousy in Greek mythology

Divine jealousy in Greek mythology

The gods and goddesses of ancient Greek mythology were no strangers to romantic jealousy. No god or goddess illustrates this better than Hera. Hera was the wife of Zeus. Zeus, the leader of the gods on Mt. Olympus, frequently took lovers in addition to Hera. Hera in turn exacted jealous revenge against her romantic rivals:

  • Leto - When Hera discovered that Leto was pregnant and that Hera's husband, Zeus, was the father, she banned Leto from giving birth on "terra-firma", or the mainland, or any island at sea. Alternatively, Hera kidnapped Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. The other gods forced Hera to let her go.
  • Callisto/Arcas - A follower of Artemis, Callisto took a vow to remain a virgin. But Zeus fell in love with her and disguised himself as Apollo in order to lure her into his embrace. Hera then turned Callisto into a bear out of revenge.
  • Semele/Dionysus - In one of various birth myths of him, Dionysus was a son of Zeus by a mortal woman. A jealous Hera again attempted to kill the child, this time by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. Though Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena, Rhea, or Demeter.
  • Io - Hera almost caught Zeus with a mistress named Io, a fate avoided by Zeus turning Io into a beautiful white heifer. However, Hera was not completely fooled and demanded Zeus give her the heifer as a present. Once Io was given to Hera, she placed her in the charge of Argus to keep her separated from Zeus.
  • Lamia - Lamia was a queen of Libya, whom Zeus loved. Hera turned her into a monster and murdered their children. Or, alternately, she killed Lamia's children and the grief turned her into a monster. Lamia was cursed with the inability to close her eyes so that she would always obsess over the image of her dead children.

Zeus, or the other gods, would frequently intervene to undo some of the damage caused by Hera's vengeance. However, the message in these stories seems clear-- provoking divine jealousy can result in terrible suffering.



The term "demigod", meaning "half-god", is used to describe mythological figures whose one parent was a god and whose other parent was human. Demi-gods include Gilgamesh and Heracles.

The Ovid Room; Correggio's mythological cycle based on Ovid's Metamorphoses

The Ovid Room; Correggio's mythological cycle based on Ovid's Metamorphoses

Antonio da Correggio conceived a famous set of paintings depicting the Loves of Jupiter as described in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The voluptuous series was commissioned by Federico II Gonzaga of Mantua, probably to decorate his private Ovid Room in the Palazzo Te; however, they were gifted to Emperor Charles V, and subsequently the cycle was dispersed outside Italy.

The cycle includes Jupiter and Io (c. 1530), its companion piece Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle (1531-32), now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, Leda and the Swan (1532), now in Staatliche Museen of Berlin, Danaë (1531-1532), now in Rome's Borghese Gallery, and Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (c. 1528), now at the Musée du Louvre of Paris.

Titian's Poesies painted for Philip II of Spain

Titian's Poesies painted for Philip II of Spain

The poesies are a series of large mythological paintings by Italian Renaissance artist Titian painted for Philip II of Spain, mostly drawn from Ovid.

Between 1554 and 1562 Titian sent to the king of Spain six mythological paintings. They are regarded as among his greatest works. Thanks to the prudishness of Philip's successors, these were later mostly given as gifts and only two remain in the Prado. Titian was producing religious works for Philip at the same time. The "poesie" series began with Venus and Adonis, of which the original is in the Prado, but several versions exist, and Danaë, both sent to Philip in 1553. Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto, were despatched in 1559, then Perseus and Andromeda (Wallace Collection, now damaged) and the Rape of Europa (Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), delivered in 1562. The Death of Actaeon was begun in 1559 but worked on for many years, and never completed or delivered.

See also

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