The story of Pygmalion and Galatea begins with Pygmalion himself, a sculptor from the island of Cyprus. After seeing the Propoetides being punished by Venus and turned into prostitutes, Pygmalion “sine coniuge caelebs vivebat thalamique diu consorte carebat.”
As such, Pygmalion devoted his time to his work, and began a new project, in which he was sculpting a woman, whom he named Galatea, out of ivory. As he progressed, and his chisel strokes became softer and more precise, he realized that Galatea was perfect, and that he was falling in love with it. When he had finished, Pygmalion began to bring the statue gifts which he thought women would like: glass beads, fine cloth, seashells, and pretty flowers.
One day, at a festival for Venus, the most celebrated day in Cyprus, Pygmalion prayed at the altar for the gods to give him a wife like his ivory statue, and “ut ipsa suis aderat Venus aurea festis, vota quid illa velint et, amici numinis omen, flamma ter accensa est apicemque per aera duxit.”
When he returned home, Pygmalion kissed the statue, and it turned into a woman with the exact same likeness. Finally, when Pygmalion married Galatea, Venus presided over the rituals, ensuring a long and happy marriage for the two of them.
O Pygmalion, you who lived a celibate life
Until you fell in love with your masterpiece
Carved out of ivory, she was perfect,
So sweet and delicate, and you,
Who had to be so rough to break her from her prison,