Friday, December 2, 2016

TFBT: The Fathers of the Achaeans

We often contrast Odysseus and Achilles, I got to thinking that maybe a similar contrast existed between their fathers.

 Using the short biographies at I started making a list. I ended up finding more similarities than I expected. Both were alive during and after the Trojan wars, had their kingdom overrun, saved by their grandsons, maybe married a pregnant bride, fathered a son and a daughter, hunted the Calydonian Boar, sailed aboard the Argo and were made young again by some goddess at the end of their lives.

These surprising similarities got me thinking about the rest of the characters in the Iliad. Menelaus and Agamemnon’s father was not alive, nor Diomedes’. Nestor and Priam’s fathers were not alive. I haven’t started looking, but I am pretty sure Neleus, Atreus and the fathers of the Epigoni were too busy battling one another to sail on the Argo. I wonder, if with a broad-brush, the events (Theban Wars, Boar Hunt, Argo) of the father’s lives affect the son’s. 

The lists of The Crew of the Argo (Wikipedia), the Epigoni (Wikipedia), the Seven Against Thebes (Wikipedia), the List of the Calydonian Hunters (Wikipeida) and list of the Leaders of the Achaeans (Maicar) is a lot of data to sort through.  But here goes.   Rather than trying to set up a massive database and then trying to sort the data, I picked individual hypotheses to test.  

Hypothetis One;  If your father died at the first Theban War;  you had an extraordinary chance of surviving the Second Theban War, surviving the bulk of the Trojan War and being part of the ambush in the Trojan Horse.  Research; Six out of Seven Against Thebes died, but only one out of their seven sons (the Epigoni) died in the Second Theban War.   Of the six remaining Epigoni, the Bibliotheca list four them in the Trojan Horse; Diomedes, Euryalus, Sthenelus and Thersander

Hypothetis Two; If you were an Achaean hero at Troy your father (grandfather or you) fought the Calydonian Boar and/or boarded the Argo.  Research   Wrong!  Only half the Achaean leaders had fathers fighting the boar or boarding the Argo, including Agamemnon, Menelaus and Diomedes.   

          Hypothetis Three; Why aren’t their father’s listed among the boar hunters?  Why did they miss the boat?  It is a geographic or racial thing?  

                     Hypothetis Four; Apparently Menelaus and Diomedes' fathers were busy with cannibalistic dinners rather than boating or boar hunting.  The other thing that M & D have in common is they were both beloved of the gods.  Menelaus was promised the Isle of the Blest by Proteus and Athena gave Diomedes the cup of immortality intended for his father.  I dont know yet if the link between your father's involvement in canniballism and your blessedness applies to the heroes in item three. (I doubt it).   But elsewhere we fan note the Tantalus served up human flesh and his son Pelops was loved by the gods.  (Well loved by Poseidon at least!). If we believe the stag Odysseus killed and ate on Circe''s island was a transforned man it follows that she sould make Odysseus'  son Telemachus immortal.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

TFBT: Review of Thucydides

At the Kosmos Society 1 the Attica Greek study-group is translating excerpts of Xenophon’s 
Anabasis .2  The book is about the campaign of Cyrus the Younger, to wrestle the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II.  Meanwhile the Book Club this month is Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War. Both books cover the same historical period and often the same characters.  Thucydides loses by this comparison.

Thucydides briefly describe the fifty years between the end of the Persian Wars and Peloponnesian War. As I am reading his rapid description of who attacked whom when, I thought, “Are these people crazy?” But then I recalled Nestor’s speechs about the war at Pylos and with the Amazons. Thucydides people sound like and behave like Thucydides. Of course Nestor is a better story teller.

The whole war started with a civil strife in the community of Potidaea.  It was sort of the Archduke Ferdinand of the Peloponnesian War. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy with the Athenians and Potidaea.  Worried that the Potidaeans might revolt, the Athenians demanded they tear down their walls, so the Potidaeans had to revolt and ask Sparta for help.

The Spartans visit Delphi and ask about attacking Athens. The god says yes, and that he will be with them. Pericles gives an incredibly vain and arrogant eulogy.  Apparently he did know about hubris or knew about the opening of the Iliad and anger   Apollo. The Spartans enter Attica and Apollo’s bow starts shooting shafts of plague into the city.  Within the year of Pericles famous speech he, all his family and a large portion of the Athenians were dead by Apollo's shafts. 


  • “Spartan feeling was at that time very friendly towards Athens on account of the patriotism which she had displayed in the struggle with the Mede.”  What's Patriotism mean here?
  • General Pausanias, Sparta Governor of Byzantium and brutal liberator of the Ionians was charged with many things.  “The charge of Medism formed one of the principal, and to all appearance one of the best founded articles against him."  So what does Medism mean?

Interesting tid-bits:

  • So, according to Xenophon, 80 years after the fall of Troy the Dorians and Heraclides became masters of Peloponnesia
  • There were no navies of any account in Hellas until the expedition of Xerxes
  • Sparta had the same government for 400 years
  • The statue of Athena in the Parthenon contained forty talents of pure gold in her jewelry and it was all removable.”

Our Book Club is studying the first two books of Thucydides history.  I won’t be reading any further.


  1.  Formerly Hour 25, but still an online community for classical studies
  2. From  John William White's  First Greek Book) 


Friday, November 18, 2016

TFBT: The Gods of Manhattan

My wife took me to Le Relais de Venise, a French, all-you-can-eat steakhouse to celebrate my birthday a week early.  As we walked around New York City I realized the old gods still abound.  Here is who I saw;


Pallas Athena reigning over the Great Dionysia where all the famous Ancient Greek tragedies were performed. More specifically in this case the Radio City Music Hall and its Christmas Spectacular.  Here is the line to get in to see the Rockettes perform. 


Hermes, god of commerce presiding over the Grand Central Terminal.  And some of the commerce within that my wife was particularly interested in.



The Nymph Daphne was honored at this Greek restaurant. Greek food is very similar to the Lebanese food I grew up on.  I had stuffed grape leaves and my loved the baklava.  The tavern claims on its website;Apollo's first love was the nymph Dafni.  As he pursued her, she called upon the gods to help her escape him and was immediately transformed into a laurel tree.  Still in love with her, Apollo vowed to always wear a crown of laurel.  As the originator of the Pythian Games, and as the god of poetry, he swore to crown all victors, heroes and poets with wreaths woven of laurel leaves.”  I saw the crowns of laurel on the wall!

Athena Parthenos recently took command of the lobby at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is a life-size (if you are a god) Roman copy of the lost statue at the Parthenon.  Knowing you will find a surprise in hand if you check out the rear of Farnese Hercules, I checked out Athena from behind and spotted her hair braided back in to a pony-tail.  A detail too high up to notice when I visited the Parthenon in Nashville.


Prometheus Bound a little differently at Rockefeller Center than tradition says; no eagle, no mountain, no exposed entrails.  Ends up the friend of the human race and giver of fire was just being protected during the decorating of the Christmas tree.  


 Meanwhile his brother Atlas stands nearby upholding the cosmos while gazing upon the house of another god; that is St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


 Nike, goddess of Victory is honored in the southeast corner of Central Park, where our carriage ride ended. Of course maybe she was there to honor General W.T. Sherman.


         And yes, it was a spectacular and divine way to celebrate by b-day! 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TFBT: The Daemons Lykos and Chimaireus

Do you know about Lykos and Chimaireus, the sons of Prometheus?  Neither did I and I have a reputation  for an “encyclopaedic knowledge” of Greek Mythology.  (My friends say the nicest things to me!)  Apparently, Cassandra, otherwise known a Princess Alexandra of Troy knew about them.  She rants about them in the book named for her.   (Lykophr. 132, with scholia and Tzetzes)   

They were the sons of Prometheus and his niece Celaeno, daughter of Atlas.    This is a rarely known fact to those of us in the habit of just using Hesiod’s Theogony as a genealogical resource.  However, marrying his niece, (a common practice in Greek myths) relieves us of the problem of Hesiod’s "Clymene".  The poet marries off this Oceanid first to Iapetus, Prometheus’ father, then to Prometheus (Yuck!) and finally to the Titan of the Sun, Helios.     

Regardless of their titanic ancestry, it appears that Lykos and Chimaireus, were mortal.  Menelaus was sent to Troy to propitiate the brothers and enquired after their tombs.  A plague raged in Sparta and with the usual ambiguity the Oracle at Delphi sent Helen’s husband to the Troas to perform rituals in the honor of the sons of Prometheus.   

Of course this state-visit is what prompts the Trojans to visit Sparta, and consequently Helen’s abduction and the first great war in the western world and then the reduction of the weight of the tribes of men upon the shaggy earth.   

Nothing more is known about Lykos and Chimaireus.   

Of course Robert Graves “Paris and Helen; q” told this story better than I in  The Greek Myths  and Samson Eitrem has some interesting asides and speculation in

“Lykos and Chimaireus.” The Classical Review, vol. 34, no. 5/6, 1920, pp. 87–89.

Monday, October 31, 2016

TFBT: Racism Among the Gods


Generally, the Titanomachy is looked upon as an intra-family struggle; the Olympians versus their second-generation Titan-cousins for control of the universe after the removal of Cronus from the scene.  I would like to suggest, that the war between the forces of the Iapetides and the forces of Cronides was racially-based. The premise for this paper is;  

“Among the Olympians there is a deep-set racial prejudice against the Pontides and by affiliation other water-gods.”

There is a precedent for such racial prejudice.  Jenny Strauss Clay observed “Gaia, whose lineage remains completely separate from that of Chaos – intercourse between these two fundamentally opposite cosmic entities seems impossible”.  The Fates decreed that some specific members of these clans could not meet. (Please see TFBT: The Divine Aversion to Death and Nyctophobia

The Titanomachy

In the beginning Earth, Gaia, produced the primordial god of the sea, Pontus.  Their children were the ancient sea gods of the Aegean and Mediterranean, among them Nereus and the great sea-monsters that frolicked there.  These are the Pontides.  Next, she produced Uranus, the starry sky.  Their children would include Cronus, future king of the gods and Oceanus, the personification of the great fresh-water river that encircled the world.  These are the Titans.  The Titans in turn were parents of the second-generation Titans including those latter called Olympians.    

Let’s leave out the gruesome details and just say there was trouble between King Cronus and his children the Olympians.  (According to Graves) when Cronus’ time had passed a family of second generation of Titans took over the leadership in their battle against the Olympians.  These were the four sons of Iapetus; the Iapetides.  These “mixed-blood” Titans took over the leadership of their cause; these were the sons of a water nymph rather than Titanesses. 

Gaia and Uranus were the proud parents of 12 Titans; six sons and six daughters.  Generally, Titan married Titaness with two exceptions;

·      Crius wed a daughter of Pontus, were born sons of mixed-blood great Astraios, and Pallas, husband of Styx, and the son-less Perses.  Several goatish giants named Pallas are slain by Zeus’ daughter Athena. None of the three sons of Crius are heard of after the Titanomachy and Eos (wife of Astraios) is husbandless.

·      Iapetos son of Uranus took to wife Klymene, daughter of Okeanos, And she bare him, Atlas, Menoitios, Prometheus, and Epimetheus.  All the Iapetides (sons of Iapetus) married Oceanides like their father did.  

These then are the major opponents to the Olympians in the power struggle called the Titanomachy, the sons of water nymphs 

Oceanus was one of the original Titans.  He is the Great River that encircles the world and defines the boundary of the universe.  . Oceanus is not of this world in many ways, which might explain his neutrality in the war that followed. None of his sons; the Rivers; second-generation Titans themselves participated in the war either.  All the Titanesses and Olympian goddesses took shelter on his banks during the ten year conflagration.   Nereus and the other sons of Pontus took no part in the war. The sole exception to the Pontides neutrality was the daughters of Thaumas: Iris and Arce.   


Hesiod says at Theogony [881] that it was after the Titanomachy that the blessed gods “pressed far-seeing Olympian Zeus to reign and to rule over them…So he divided their dignities amongst them.”   The gods of the sea, great Thaumas and proud Phorcus, and their brother truthful Nereus seemed to retain their honors, but it is noteworthy that the Olympian Poseidon became “ruler of the deep, briny-swirling seas”.  Presumably all the victorious gods and their allies came to Mecone as they do to other divine gatherings; “There was no river that came not, save only Oceanus, nor any nymph, of all that haunt the fair copses, the springs that feed the rivers, and the grassy meadows. (Iliad 20.5)     

The Rivers

Oceanus’ Titan-brothers fade from view or end up in Tartarus.  He seems to remain a major deity. But he and his sons seem to be second class citizens as witnessed by;  

"Not powerful [river-god] Achelous matches his strength against Zeus, not the enormous strength of Oceanus with his deep-running waters, Okeanos, from whom all rivers are and the entire sea and all springs and all deep wells have their waters of him, yet even Okeanos is afraid of the lightning of great Zeus and the dangerous thunderbolt when it breaks from the sky crashing."  Homer, Iliad 21. 194 

Witness too the harsh treatment of Xanthus in the Iliad, “Asopus, heavy-kneed, for he was marred by a thunderbolt."[i] Ares threat against Peneus, Poseidon’s drying up of the Peloponnesian rivers, Apollos’……. 

In an odd way the Olympians treatment of the River Styx indicates an adversarial position between the two entities.  The goddess Styx is one of the Olympians first allies in the Titanomachy.   

"Nike, Kratos, Zelos, and Bia were born to Pallas and Styx. Zeus instituted and oath to be sworn by the waters of Styx that flowed from a rock in Haides' realm, an honor granted in return for the help she and her children gave him against the Titanes."  Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9  

Being the oath keeper of the Olympians seems like a great honor, but you generally appoint a neutral third party to such roles.  Someone in this case who was not part of the Olympian circle.  Additional, her children all remain sterile and infertile.  There are no recorded grandchildren for the goddess Styx, widow of Pallas.  


According to Hesiod, to Nereus and his wife were born in the barren sea fifty daughters greatly beautiful even among goddesses including “Ploto and Eukrante and Amphitrite and Sao, Eudora and Thetis…” (Theogony 240)  Thetis’ father Nereus was the proverbial “Old Man of the Sea” and son of Pontus the primordial sea.  In contrast most of the divine monsters in Greek Mythology are descended from Pontus.  In the same source Clay states the Pontides; “can be considered anti-gods.”    

Clay suggest that through “intermarriage, the Pontides are rapidly integrated into the Ouranid clan.”   The rapid part of intermarriage would consist of Poseidon taking Nereid mates to add legitimacy to his lordship over the sea.  In fact for all the talk of the Poseidon and Zeus competing for Thetis’s hand, none of the other deathless gods who lived upon Olympus chose a lover or a bride from this bevy of prophetic beauties.  In fact Thetis was married off to a second-rate mortal hero who lost a wrestling match to a girl.  Helios and Selene refused to attend, possibly as the most “skyish” of the Ouranides they most represent this racial bias against the children of Pontus.   

Water Gods on Mt Olympus 

Athena’s re-birth from Zeus head disguises the fact that she is the daughter of the water nymph Metis.  Athena put great effort in distancing herself from her watery ancestry going so far as to say she was totally for the father (Eumenides).    

 Hera was the foster daughter of Tethys (Iliad 14) and in turn she fostered Thetis (Iliad 24.59.  Hera was by adoption a water goddess. He calls Oceanus and Tethys      Hence her alliance with the vast non-symmetric sons and daughters of the Pontides. As a matter of face refers to Pontus’ nine-headed great-grandchild; “the evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess, white-armed Hera nourished.” 

Thus were they gathered within the house of Zeus; nor did the Shaker of Earth fail to heed the call of the goddess, but came forth from the sea to join their company; and he sate him in the midst” (Iliad 20.12) It seems odd to mention Poseidon’s arrival and not Hades who would have come further, unless there was a possibility of Poseidon, a sea-god, not coming.  There seems to be a really dislike for Poseidon, King of the Sea as witness how commonly he was rejected as a city patron; Athens as judged by the populace, the Argos as judged by the local rivers, Corinth to Helios as judged by Briareus and Trozezen as judged by Zeus.  (The Fates gave him the island of Cos.)  

 "Achilles addresses his mother Thetis ‘You only among the immortals beat aside a shameful destruction from Cronus' son Zeus the dark-misted that time when all the other Olympians sought to bind him, Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athene.”  Homer, Iliad 1. 393 ff 

Interesting that the rebelling Olympians are a water-god and two Oceanides


There was racism on Mt. Olympus.  It is clear from the battle lines in the Titanomachy, the lack of new honors presented to the water-gods at Mecone and Oceanus refusal to attend, the subsequent abuse of the river gods and maintenance of distance between the Olympians and the river-goddess Styx, the abhorrence of intermarriage with the Pontides and the racially drawn battle lines in the revolt on Mt. Olympus at the beginning of the Iliad.  Apparently racism has been around for a long time and sadly you know what they say, “As above, so below.” 


Maya,  Brought up the notion that the sea gods are “colored”  So I did a little research on; sea-blue Doris[i] , sea-green Galatea,[ii] Proteus’ sea-blue beard,&the sea-blue the Naiad Cyrene, [iii]Proteus, of sea-green hue,[iv] the sea-blue throng of Nereides[v], and ye too, Nereides, sea-blue horde of ocean,[vi]  Glaucus…bronze-green beard and sea-blue arms,[vii]  Zeus’ sea-blue brother Poseidon,[viii]  the wave-blue water-nymph Liriope, [ix] Father Ismenos with a dark-blue beard, [x] Arethusa her green tresses drying[xi]  and the sky-blue Tiber[xii]    All the sources for the “colored” water gods are Roman, not Greek.

To Bed a Sea Monster

“Who would go to bed with a sea monster if he could help it?” Menelaus asks rhetorically at  Od 4:443.  Of course the immediate answer was; he did,  laying down with Proteus.  If in fact the Cronides have an abhorrence to sleeping with “sea monsters” that is Pontides, Oceanides and other water gods, it might explain “Maya’s Law”.  
"And Prometheus had a son Deucalion. He reigning in the regions about Phthia, married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora . . . Deukalion had children by Pyrrha, first (a son) Hellen...Hellen had (sons) Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus by a nymph Orseis. Those who were called Greeks he named Hellenes after himself, and divided the country among his sons” Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 7. 2 – 3 

Maya’s Law simple put states, “Zeus doesn’t like real women!”  By real women, Maya meant Greek women, descendants of Hellen.  These women being descended from a water nymph, it only make sense that Zeus would not mate with them.  Further analysis discovered that “Maya’s Law” more spefically meant that the Olympian male had a marked preference for Ionian and Barabarian women. Probably ones whose pure blood line were untainted by the ichor of Pontides, Oceanides or Posideon. 

[i] Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 742
[ii] ." Statius, Silvae 2. 2. 14  "
[iii] Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff   
[iv] Virgil, Georgics 4. 387 ff    
[v] Seneca, Phaedra 335 ff :
[vi] Statius, Silvae 3. 2. 1 ff :
[vii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 949  
[viii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 275 & 332  
[ix] Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 342 ff
[x] Statius, Thebaid 9. 404  
[xii] “ Aeneid 8

[i] Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 75 ff (trans. Mair)