The Metamorphoses

Latin for Books of Transformations, The Metamorphoses is Latin masterpiece narrative poem by the Ancient Roman poet Ovid. 250 myths contained in 15 books, it documents from creation to the rise of Julius Caesar.

In the poem Ovid depicts a group of irrational gods, holding Jupiter as an example. Lycaon, a man Jupiter decides to visit has tried to murder him in his sleep. Because of his single experience with Lycaon he decides all humans are evil and sends a flood to destroy humanity. This sounds a lot like the original idea Ridley Scott was presented with, that Jesus was an engineer emissary and because the Romans crucified him. The Engineers wanted to destroy mankind by unleashing their Black Liquid, wiping the Earth clean to start over. Ridley Scott thought it to be too on the nose, so he had it changed.

As the epic continues and we find out more about the behavior of the gods; Apollo, filled with lust attempts to rape Daphne, even after she’s turned into a tree. Jupiter is hypocritical; raping Io directly after sending the flood to wipe it clean the Earth of impious mortals. The other gods are no better, concerned about token gestures of respect rather than good behavior. When confronted with the possible destruction of humanity, they’re more worried about who would be left to pay them tribute. Which brings me to my next parallel, Das Rheingold.

David, in the extended cut of the Alien: Covenant prologue explains the opera Das Rheingold, specifically the third act, as requested by Peter Weyland.

“Tell me the story,” he prompted the performer. “This is the end of the opera Das Rheingold.” Despite the munificence of the music, David did not react with emotion. His voice stayed exactly the same as he played, whether the moment was pianissimo or fortissimo. At the proper moments the instrument shook beneath his fingers, but his words did not. “The gods have rejected mankind as weak, cruel, and filled with greed, so they are leaving the Earth forever and entering their perfect home in the heavens—the fortress of Valhalla. But every step they take is fraught with tragedy because the gods are doomed. They are fated to die in a cataclysmic fire destined to consume not only them, but Valhalla itself. They are as venal as the humans they have rejected, and their power is an illusion.” He stopped abruptly, somewhere in the middle of the rainbow bridge. “They are false gods.”

Ovid’s Metamorphoses would go on to influence the great writers of western literate such as Dante Alighieri who wrote the Divine Comedy which is one of the prime texts on which Alien: Covenant is based. On completing Metamorphoses Ovid was the most famous poet in Rome; poet Antonio Tebaldeo shared an anecdote on the effects of Ovid’s work on artists. He presented this exclamation from Andrea who was bed ridden and ill, supposedly being re-invigorated by touching a statue.

O wonderful hand of the maker, which not only gives this stone life, but gives it the power to give life. Your stones must yield, Deucalion! They were given life, but these ones, given life, are life-giving too. – Andrea Mantegna

When David is brought to life by Peter Weyland he touches the statue of David, his first act of independence. Choosing his name.

Optical perceptors stopped and identified Michelangelo’s statue of David, fashioned from Carrara marble. It-he could see the slight rises and indentations made by the cold chisel. A copy, perhaps, but one infused with real creativity. Not necessarily a contradiction. He walked over to it. “David,” he said. By Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. Finished and installed summer, 1504. “We are David.” It-he held out a hand and made contact with the stone. It was cool, dry, unyielding. Not human, yet so very human. “Beautiful and cold.” “Perfect in every way,” Weyland concurred. “David,” he murmured. – Alien: Covenant Novelisation

Ovid boasts within the epilogue, much like the poem Ozymandias.

Now I have finished my work, which neither Jove’s rage, nor fire, nor sword, nor the gnawing tooth of time shall ever be able to destroy.[…] Wherever Rome’s power extends over conquered lands, I will be read in the mouths of men, and through all ages, If the prophecies of poets have any truth, I will live on.

In 8AD he was banished from Rome for a misunderstanding and he never recovered from, burning his copy of Metamorphoses it only survived by the copies which were in possession of his friends.