from Ovid’s Metamorphoses 9.669-797
The land of Phaestum, near the realm of Cnossos,
once bore an undistinguished man named Ligdus,
a freeborn pleb. Though he was no more rich
than he was noble, he was true and blameless.
And when his wife was pregnant, nearly due,
he gave her this command: “I have two prayers—
that you give birth with little pain and bear
a male. The other sex is too expensive,
and fortune makes us poor. Heaven forbid,
but if by chance you give birth to a female
(I order this unwillingly—forgive
me, Duty!), she’ll be put to death.” He’d spoken.
Tears washed their faces, his who gave the order
and hers to whom the order had been given.
Yet Telethusa never stops entreating
her husband not to dash her hopes—in vain.
Ligdus’ mind is firm. And when her womb
had grown so heavy with its full-term burden
that she could scarcely carry it, she dreamed
deep in the night that Isis stood or seemed
to stand before her bed in holy pomp.
Her brow wore lunar horns and golden grain
that shimmered and a regal diadem.
Barking Anubis joined her, as did sacred
Bubastis, dappled Apis, and that god
who holds his finger to his lips for silence.
And there were rattles and Osiris, who
was never fully found, and an Egyptian
serpent that swelled with soporific venom.
The goddess spoke to her as if she were
awake and seeing clearly: “Telethusa,
my devotee, dismiss your heavy cares
and foil your husband’s orders. When Lucina
assists this birth, don’t hesitate to raise
the child, whatever sex it is. I am
your patron goddess. When you call, I help.
You’ll not lament that you revere a thankless
divinity.” She gave her this command,
then left the room. In joy, the Cretan woman
rose from her bed and, as a suppliant,
raised pure hands to the stars, praying the dream
would come to pass.