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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.

The Metamorphoses ends with an epilogue (Book XV.871–9), one of only two surviving Latin epics to do so (the other being Statius' Thebaid).

There is a huge variety among the types of transformations that take place: from human to inanimate object (Nileus), constellation (Ariadne's Crown), animal (Perdix); from animal (Ants) and fungus (Mushrooms) to human; of sex (Hyenas); and of colour (Pebbles).

The metamorphoses themselves are often located metatextually within the poem, through grammatical or narratorial transformations.

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Ovid raises its significance explicitly in the opening lines of the poem: In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas / corpora; ("I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities;").This material was of varying quality and comprehensiveness — while some of it was "finely worked", in other cases Ovid may have been working from limited material.In the case of an oft-used myth such as that of Io in Book I, which was the subject of literary adaptation as early as the 5th century BC, and as recently as a generation prior to his own, Ovid reorganises and innovates existing material in order to foreground his favoured topics and to embody the key themes of the Metamorphoses.However, in a way that was typical for writers of the period, Ovid diverged significantly from his models.The Metamorphoses was longer than any previous collection of metamorphosis myths (Nicander's work consisted of probably four or five books) Some of the Metamorphoses derives from earlier literary and poetic treatment of the same myths.

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