Notes for

Ovid, Heroides XI


Aeolus:  Ruler of the winds; father of Canace and Macareus.  He was either a god or a uniquely favored mortal king.  He lived happily on an island with his family.  He kept the winds pent up in a cave on the island, releasing them or restraining them as the need presented itself.  According to Homer, he entertained Ulysses (Odysseus) and his men hospitably, and gave Ulysses the winds imprisoned in a bag in order to allow him to sail safely home.  Ulysses' men, thinking the bag contained hidden treasure, opened it when they were almost home, and were blown right back to Aeolus' island.  Aeolus refused to help a second time since Ulysses was obviously not favored by the gods.  In Ovid's story, he is presented as a stern and angry father who is outraged by his daughter's incestuous affair with her brother.  He orders the death of their illegitimate child and the suicide of Canace herself.

brother:  Macareus.

Canace:  Daughter of Aeolus, lord of the winds; sister of Macareus.  Canace fell in love with her brother, Macareus, and had an incestuous affair with him.  She became pregnant and secretly gave birth to a child by him.  Her old nurse attempted to smuggle the child out of the palace, but was discovered by Canace's father, Aeolus.  Aeolus was furious at his daughter's sin, and ordered the child "exposed"--i.e., left unprotected in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.  He then sent a sword to Canace, which she used to commit suicide.  In some versions, both she and Macareus commit suicide.  Canace is also supposed to have been the lover of the god of the sea, Neptune, and to have had several children by him before her affair with Macareus.

east winds:  Personified and called "Eurus" in Latin.  The east (or southeast) wind was supposed to be especially rough and boisterous.

enemy:  Aeolus.

Fate:  The three Fates, or Parcae, were the goddesses who governed the duration of human life.  They were often seen as governing human "fate" in a more general sense, as well.

father:  Aeolus.  

Furies:  The Erinyes--goddesses of punishment and vengeance, who pursued and tormented their victims, often driving them insane.  They were terrifying in appearance and often carried smoking torches.

grandfather:  Aeolus.

He commands:  Canace's father, Aeolus, was the ruler of the winds.

Hymen:  God of marriage.  Generally represented as a youthful, handsome man, carrying a marriage torch and blessing a wedding.

its author:  Aeolus, who sent Canace the sword with which she was to commit suicide.

Jove:  King of the gods.  His relationship to Canace is unclear.  Canace's father, Aeolus, was generally seen as either the son of a mortal, Hippotes, or as the son of the god of the sea, Neptune.  At least one account mentions Jove as a possible grandfather for Canace.

Lucina:  Goddess who presided over childbirth, and could ease the pains of labor.

Macareus:  Son of Aeolus, lord of the winds; brother of Canace.  Macareus had an incestuous affair with his own sister, Canace.  She became pregnant and secretly gave birth to a child by him.  When Aeolus discovered the child, he ordered it destroyed and sent Canace a sword, with which she committed suicide.  In some versions, both Macareus and Canace committed suicide.  For more details, see the note on Canace.

one vainly hoped for by your wretched sister:  Macareus.  

sister:  Canace.  

sister of Phoebus:  Diana, the goddess of the moon.  She was also a goddess of hunting and chastity, and was the sister of Phoebus Apollo, a sun-god.

Sithonian north wind:  The north wind was personified and called "Aquilo" in Latin.  Sithonia was a peninsula in northeastern Greece, occupied by the Thracians.  "Sithonian" was often used as a synonym for "Thracian," and the north wind is seen here as originating in this northern area.

south wind:  Personified and called "Notus" in Latin.

sword:  After discovering the illegitimate (and incestuous) child that Canace had borne, her father, Aeolus, sent her a sword with which to commit suicide.

west wind:  Personified and called "Zephyrus" in Latin.  It was seen as a warm and often gentle wind.

you:  Macareus.

 

 

 

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Last updated 06/23/2013