Metamorphoses Book V, the story of Proserpina. At this point Ceres has just thrown some soup in an impertinent man's face and turned him into a lizard (as you do).

mirantem flentemque et tangere monstra parantem
fugit anum latebramque petit aptumque pudori
nomen habet variis stellatus corpora guttis.

I almost get this. Loeb has: "He has a name suited to his offence, since his body is starred with bright-coloured spots".

But I don't understand what is the subject of the final clause. It appears that stellatus can only be nom. m. s. So is it saying "the starred man" (NB lacerta in a previous line is f. so not "the starred lizard") "has a name appropriate to his shame"?

If that is the case, where is the "and" I might reasonably expect for "... AND a body (plural for singular) with variegated spots"?

Or... is it possible that corpora, although a n. pl. noun, is somehow able to function as a m. s. noun for the purposes of the participle/adjective stellatus? This wouldn't make all that much sense though, because it would then say "the starred body has a name...". Alternatively, if corpora is not the subect of habet, and in order to get to the Loeb meaning, somehow you would have to find the notion of "with a body starred with variegated specks". But corpora is either nom. or acc. and stellatus, as I say, must seemingly be nominative.

NB I am aware (from a footnote in Loeb) that stellio is another word for "lizard or newt". So there appears to be some play on words here, possibly.

  • @d_e You were right! It's the same as that other question.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 20:32
  • @cmw, yeah, but I saw you've already answered, so deleted it.
    – d_e
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 20:35
  • 1
    The plural replacing the singular is very common in poetry, for example in Catullo Fulsere vere tibi candidi soles. Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 16:37
  • 2
    @VincentKrebs Yep, and it's often referred to as the poetic plural. Nathaniel cites G&L here.
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 1:25
  • @cmw Yes, exactly. Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


Here corpora is what's sometimes called a Greek or synecdochical accusative (in Greek the accusative of respect).

Stellatus actually goes with the person whose body it is, and the accusative is the part that's affected. It's very common with body parts.

A way to render this would be, "He is starred with respect to his body."

That's a bit clumsy, especially with the ablative, so the translator put it into more natural English.

  • Another semi-literal translation could be “He is starred on the/his body”. Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 20:57
  • Thanks, one thing I've appreciated as I grind my way through Ovidius is how often some nouns, occasional accusatives, proper/place names, etc. are influenced by Greek. I've been aware for a long time that all cultured Romans knew Greek. And fortunately I'm also learning (Ancient) Greek. This is the first time I've seen a grammatical usage which appears to be a Hellenic innovation in Latin (your link says "... Greek Accusative, found in poetry and later Latin"). Does anyone know whether Ovidius was himself responsible for introducing it? Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 15:53
  • 1
    @mikerodent Nope, but not too far off. Apparently, Sallust was the first to do so. Gildersleeve notes a parallel construction (which he labels the "indefinite" type of Accusative of Respect) with cetera and cites Cicero for it, though it must be even earlier. But that seems different from the "definite" type found here in Ovid, which is rare until Vergil (and chiefly in poetry).
    – cmw
    Commented Feb 5, 2023 at 16:09
  • @mikerodent, I think we have this example in Lucretius: Volucres ... perculsae corda tuа̄ vi
    – d_e
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 12:09

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