Lycian peasants

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The Lycian peasants were turned into frogs by the goddess Latona because they refused to let her drink from a lake.

After Latona was exiled to the island of Delos and had to give birth to her twins Apollo and Diana there , she fled to Lycia with the newborns . Completely exhausted, she explores the strange surroundings. She meets farmers at a lake who collect rushes and reeds. Near dying of thirst because of the summer heat, Latona asks for water for herself and her children politely and with many good reasons. But not only do the farmers forbid Latona to drink, they even stir up the mud from the bottom of the lake to make the water undrinkable. Then Latona curses her to live in this lake forever.

In their delusion, the peasants do not recognize their sin, but continue in their blasphemous goings-on: "Quamvis sint sub aqua, sub aqua maledicere temptant." ( Although they are under water, they still try to revile. ) This sentence is a sentiment from Ovid shaped speech joke is, since one "sub aqua quamvis ..., sub aqua" when reading aloud in onomatopoeic almost hear the typical noise of the frogs ( quack-quack ). This makes it clear what happened even without any mention of the animal species in the text. Only then does the explicit explanation appear in the text: “Terga caput tangunt, colla intercepta videntur, spina viret, venter, pars maxima corporis, albet, limosoque novae saliunt in gurgite ranae.” ( Back and head touch, the neck seems to have been removed, the The back is green, the belly, most of the body, is white, so they hop in the muddy water like new frogs. )

The Latona fountain in the park of the Palace of Versailles represents the moment of the peasants' transformation.

Latona argues as follows:

  • She has a legal right to the water, since the water belongs to everyone. ( Nature made neither sun, nor air nor water into property ) .
  • She just wants to have a drink and not wash in it. ( I don't want to wash our body parts and our skin, I want to quench our thirst. )
  • She can barely speak because her throat is too dry.
  • The farmers give their new life through the water.
  • If the farmers have no sympathy for her, then at least they should show sympathy for the small children.
  • The strongest argument, however, is the pleading request (“supplex peto”). According to the ancient understanding, the person so implored has basically no choice but to comply with a request made in this way. (That this expectation continued into the Middle Ages was shown, for example, when Liudolf , the son of Otto the Great , threw himself at his father's feet after his failed revolt against his father in 954 and thus obtained his forgiveness.) That the Farmers who violated the requirement to respond appropriately to the pleading request ultimately handed them over to punishment.

The transformation into frogs can also be interpreted in such a way that the farmers, by not showing any human feelings (compassion, pity) and not being convinced by Latona's arguments, have given up their humanity and thus no longer deserve to be human . This shows a motif that Ovid already described in the previous niobium story : the inside turns outwards. The animalism of the peasants turns outward when they become animals.


  1. ^ Ovid , Metamorphoses 6, 335-381
  2. ^ Antoninus Liberalis 35: Shepherds
  3. Ovid, Metamorphoses 6,376
  4. V. 349: “Quid prohibetis aquis? Usus communis aquarum est. ”( Why do you forbid me to use water? Everyone is allowed to use it. )
  5. V. 350-351a
  6. V. 352b-354a
  7. V. 352


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