Greek mythology

There are countless stories of transformation in Greek and Roman mythology.

Dionysius was believed to assume the form of a goat or of a bull, and Cronius was said to take the form of a horse.

Epona was a horse-goddess, and Callisto in an Arcadian myth was changed into a bear.

Citeus, son of Lycaon, laments the transformation of his daughter into a bear.

Iphigenia at the moment of sacrifice was changed into a fawn.

Osiris was mangled by a boar, or Typhon in the form of a boar ; — just as in the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne, the former’s foster brother was transformed into a boar.

Pomponius Mela attributes to the Druidical priestesses of Sena the knowledge of transforming themselves into animals at will.

 “There is a fixed time for each Neurian, at which they change, if they like, into wolves, and back again into their former condition.” (lib. ii. c. 1)


“It seems that the Neuri are sorcerers, if one is to believe the Scythians and the Greeks established in Scythia; for each Neurian changes himself, once in the year, into the form of a wolf, and he continues in that form for several days, after which he resumes his former shape.”–(Lib. iv. c. 105.)

But the most remarkable story among the ancients is that related by Ovid in his “Metamorphoses” of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, who, entertaining Jupiter one day, set before him a hash of human flesh, to prove his omniscience, whereupon the god transferred him into a wolf: Read the story


Proteus, according to Homer’s account, becomes a dragon, a lion, or a boar. Eustathius, the commentator, adds, ” not really changing but only appearing to do so.”

Proteus was an adroit worker of miracles, and was well acquainted with the secrets of Egyptian philosophy. He assumed animal shape in order to escape the necessity of foretelling the future when asked to do so but, whenever he saw his endeavours were of no avail, he resumed his natural appearance.

Empedocles believed he had passed through many forms, a bird and a fish among others.


Lucian’s story was of a Pythagorian cock which had been a man, a woman, a fish, a horse, and a frog, and of all states he thought that man was the most deplorably wretched of the animals.

After anointing himself with enchanted salve from Thessaly, Lucian was transformed into an ass and worked for seven years under a ” gardiner, a tyle man, a corier, and suchlike.”

At the end of the period he was restored to human shape by nibbling rose leaves.