The interpretation of Ovid's epic that is argued here has three related parts that have not been drawn together before:
I. Ovid's panoramic presentation of myth, the Metamorphoses, presents provocative reflections in dramatic guise concerning human psychology, society, and art. Ovid is an engaged poet as well as an amusing one.
II. The Metamorphoses include, under the mantle of myth, pointed criticisms of the Emperor Augustus and his program of social, spiritual, and religious reform.
III. Stories about artists in the Metamorphoses were invented or elaborated by Ovid in order to illustrate the primacy of art and its spiritual value. Respect for love, truth, and human wisdom counts for more than fealty to the artifice of the new Rome.
The relevance of these parts to each other and their consequences will be made clear in the Conclusion (IV), which examines the function of art in life for Ovid and his hopes for permanence in a world of transitions.