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Images in Psychiatry   |    
Iphis and Anaxarete in Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Poem of the Shut-Out Lover
Amir Garakani, M.D.; Nathaniel Mendelsohn, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2013;170:721-722. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12101297
View Author and Article Information

From the Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York; and Silver Hill Hospital, New Canaan, Conn.

Address correspondence to Dr. Garakani (amir.garakani@mssm.edu).

Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association

Accepted January , 2013.

 
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Vergilius Solis, Iphis et Anaxarete (woodcut used in the Ovid's Metamorphoses edition of Johann Postius von Gemersheim, Frankfurt, 1563), from the Ovidiana collection in the Special Collections of the Bailey-Howe Library at the University of Vermont; used by permission of Z. Philip Ambrose, Ph.D., and M.D. Usher, Ph.D., University of Vermont Department of Classics (http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/).

In Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the story of Iphis and Anaxarete (1, book 14:698–761). Iphis of Salamis, a young man overcome with desire for a princess named Anaxarete, brings garlands and poetry to her house. She spurns him, so he returns to her house one last time and says, “You win, Anaxarete, and no longer will you have to endure disgust with me…. For you win, and I die gladly. Come, iron-hearted one, rejoice!” (1, book 14.718–721). Ovid then writes, “He spoke, and raising his moist eyes and pale limbs to the door-posts decorated often by garlands, when he fastened the cord of the noose to the top of the door-posts, he said, ‘Are these garlands pleasing to you, cruel and wicked [woman]?’ and inserted his head, but even then turned to her, and his lifeless weight hung, his throat crushed” (1, book 14.733–738).

Anaxarete, unmoved by the suicide, watches his funeral procession taking place on her street. She goes to her window, looks out at Iphis’s body, and suddenly becomes hardened into stone by a vengeful Venus, Goddess of Love.

This poem is beautifully illustrated in a woodcut by Vergilius (Virgil) Solis from 1581 (shown above). Virgil Solis (1514–1562) was a German draftsman and engraver who made this woodcut as part of a series depicting scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (2). In the woodcut, different temporal portions of the tale occur simultaneously as narrative art. In the foreground, Iphis’s lifeless body hangs from the doorpost adjacent to the garlands that he had placed earlier, while in the window above stands Anaxerete’s body metamorphosed into a stone sculpture. Her gaze is fixed onto the background, showing the funeral procession for Iphis.

Paraclausithyron is a motif of Greek and Roman poetry that grew out of the kômos (rowdy, obscene ballad) into the story of the exclusus amator (shut-out lover) (3). It is a story of a young male suppliant, sometimes inebriated, presenting himself at the threshold of a woman’s home and singing a song or professing his love. He is then spurned by the cold-hearted woman, at which point he either falls asleep at her door or leaves. Catullus’s lighthearted take on paraclausithyron has the lover addressing the door directly, while Propertius tells the story from the perspective of the door itself (3). Ovid’s paraclausithyron, however, is grave in that the young man hangs himself, much like the garlands, on her threshold. Iphis, with his aggressively self-destructive act toward Anaxarete, represents infatuation, rejection sensitivity, and poor decision making, somewhat reminiscent of how we currently view borderline personality (4).

The motif of paraclausithyron has resonated with modern poets and songwriters. The symbolic imagery of a door separating lovers is central to Bob Dylan’s “Temporary Like Achilles” (5) and Steve Earle’s “More Than I Can Do” (6). In Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” (section 19), the narrator directly address the doors of the home of a former friend (7). Additionally, there are parallels between the rapping at the door in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and elegiac paraclausithyron (8). The door remains a powerful metaphor for the potentially permeable border between heartbreak and all-encompassing love.

The authors thank Z. Philip Ambrose, Ph.D., and M.D. Usher, Ph.D. (University of Vermont), and David Mankin, Ph.D. (Cornell University), for their input.

Anderson  WS (ed):  P Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoses .  Leipzig,  Teubner, 1977
 
Kinney  D;  Styron  E: Ovid Illustrated: The Reception of Ovid's Metamorphoses in Image and Text. http://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/about.html
 
Copley  FO:  Exclusus Amator: A Study in Latin Love Elegy .  Madison, Wis,  American Philological Association, 1956
 
Ayduk  O;  Zayas  V;  Downey  G;  Cole  AB;  Shoda  Y;  Mischel  W:  Rejection sensitivity and executive control: joint predictors of borderline personality features.  J Res Pers 2008; 42:151–168
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Dylan  B: Temporary like Achilles, on Blonde on Blonde.  New York, Columbia Records, 1966
 
Earle  S: More than I can do, on I Feel Alright.  Burbank, Calif, Warner Brothers Records, 1996
 
Markley  AA:  Stateliest Measure: Tennyson and the Literature of Greece and Rome .  Toronto,  University of Toronto Press, 2004
 
Maligec  CFS:  “The Raven” as an elegiac paraclausithyron.  Poe Studies 2009; 42:87–97
[CrossRef]
 
References Container

Vergilius Solis, Iphis et Anaxarete (woodcut used in the Ovid's Metamorphoses edition of Johann Postius von Gemersheim, Frankfurt, 1563), from the Ovidiana collection in the Special Collections of the Bailey-Howe Library at the University of Vermont; used by permission of Z. Philip Ambrose, Ph.D., and M.D. Usher, Ph.D., University of Vermont Department of Classics (http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/).

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References

Anderson  WS (ed):  P Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoses .  Leipzig,  Teubner, 1977
 
Kinney  D;  Styron  E: Ovid Illustrated: The Reception of Ovid's Metamorphoses in Image and Text. http://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/about.html
 
Copley  FO:  Exclusus Amator: A Study in Latin Love Elegy .  Madison, Wis,  American Philological Association, 1956
 
Ayduk  O;  Zayas  V;  Downey  G;  Cole  AB;  Shoda  Y;  Mischel  W:  Rejection sensitivity and executive control: joint predictors of borderline personality features.  J Res Pers 2008; 42:151–168
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Dylan  B: Temporary like Achilles, on Blonde on Blonde.  New York, Columbia Records, 1966
 
Earle  S: More than I can do, on I Feel Alright.  Burbank, Calif, Warner Brothers Records, 1996
 
Markley  AA:  Stateliest Measure: Tennyson and the Literature of Greece and Rome .  Toronto,  University of Toronto Press, 2004
 
Maligec  CFS:  “The Raven” as an elegiac paraclausithyron.  Poe Studies 2009; 42:87–97
[CrossRef]
 
References Container
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