Wednesday, July 27, 2016

TFBT: Zeus' Wives and Lovers, Part II

Recently Maya M and I were discussing the loves of Zeus.  To our surprise we cannot find papers on this topic, nor papers on his “official wives” per Hesiod.  Now it is time to discuss them.   Hesiod discusses Zeus’ queens in the Theogony 886-923

·      His first wife was the Oceanid Metis, later Zeus himself gave birth to Athena from his head.   
·      Zeus' second wife was his aunt the first-generation Titaness Themis, who bore the three Horae and the three Fates
·      Zeus then married his third wife, another Oceanid, Eurynome, who bore the three Graces.  
·      Zeus' fourth wife was his sister, Demeter, who bore Persephone
·      The fifth wife of Zeus was the first-generation Titaness Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses:   
·      His sixth wife was a second generation  Titaness Leto,   who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis
·      Zeus' seventh and final wife was his sister Hera, who the mother by Zeus of HebeAresEnyo, and Eileithyia.

First, I am not buying this “list of official wives.”  There is no evidence within the Theogony and little without[i] that there was a big wedding ceremony with ritual and cake for any of these goddesses with the possible exception of Hera.  The only place where Hesiod supports his notion of Zeus’ “wives” is (886] “Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife first,” and [921] “Lastly, he made Hera his blooming wife”.    Nowhere else in the Theogony is anyone but Hera, Zeus’ wife.  In my opinion Hesiod’s list is just a bowdlerization of Zeus’ bed-hopping trying to legitimize his Olympian children. 

Demeter along with Leto and Hera are the only of Zeus’ top   lovers who make the official wives list.  Tellingly, when Zeus talks about his lovers he makes no mention of their children.  I think that is because in fact the god was infatuated.  To quote Ronny Cammareri in the movie Moonstruck,   
“Everything seems like nothing to me now, 'cause I want you in my bed. I don't care if I burn in hell. I don't care if you burn in hell. The past and the future is a joke to me now. I see that they're nothing. I see they ain't here. The only thing that's here is you - and me.”

The list of wives seems a little bit more Machiavellian to me.  Before, I start on the analysis of the list of wives, I’d like to point out that the first 5 did not produce sons.  Whether Hesiod picked out the list or Zeus picked out his wives, the list shows some serious thought in the advantages gained in each marriage, the power to steal or co-opt, the mysteries or alternative theogonies to pull into Zeus realm of influence, the allies to make and the chance to reduce power hungry heirs and potential rivals. 

Metis seems like a really good wife to start with.  She is Wisdom itself and one of the older daughters of Oceanus.    Marrying a daughter of the Great River Ocean might be a way to make an ally of the Titan and his three thousand sons.  “ Styx, eldest daughter of Oceanus”  (Hesiod, Theogony 775) Might have been a better choice to insure there was an alliance  but there is that taboo on co-mingling with the Children of the Night and other occupants of Hades realm[ii]  so Styx and Zeus’ other early ally Hecate are not an opinion as brides .  Which brings us back to Metis.  Once again, she is Wisdom manifest.  Zeus co-opts her divine identity by swallowing her.  Good start on a power grab.

Zeus' second wife was Themis, who bore the Fatesto whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honor, Clotho, and Lachesis, and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have." (901)  Here Hesiod co-opts the power of destiny from the powers of darkness, because he’d already sang at 217 of Nyx; “Also she bare the Moirai (Morae, Fates) and the ruthless avenging Keres (Death-Fates), Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to have.”

Zeus then married his third wife, Eurynome, Apollonius Rhodius, in Argonautica 1.498 says "He [Orpheus] sang of . . . how, in the beginning, Ophion and Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus (Oceanus), governed the world from snow-clad Olympus.”   Wedding Eurynome connects Zeus with a primordial goddess and the Orphic mysteries.  

Zeus' fourth wife was his sister, Demeter, who bore Persephone. This gets Zeus involved with the Eleusian mysteries and the Orphic-Zagreus myth.

The fifth wife of Zeus is Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses:   It is these daughters of Zeus who insure his own unfailing glory along with Hesiod’s.

His sixth wife was Leto, who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis  Thereby gaining control of the Oracle at Delphi when Apollo inherited it from this maternal grandmother Phoebe. 

Zeus' seventh and final wife was his sister Hera.   Marrying his sister reduces the possibility of nephews and brothers-in-laws trying to overthrow him.  Conveniently, his sister Hestia and daughters Artemis and Athena chose virginity as a life-style.  His daughter Persephone and ally Hecate seem sterilized by their environment.  And again his first five wives produced no sons.    All a little too convenient for a king worried about a god greater than his father. You’d think he would have married Thetis and co-opted the theogony of Alcman frag. 5[iii] that makes her a primordial creatrix, but obviously he couldn’t do that for the reason above. 

In summary, I think the list of lovers on Mt Ida in the Iliad, really did reflect Zeus lust and passion; these truly were his greatest hits, he might have rearranged the sequence in the arousing retelling.   The list of wives from Hesiod, is something that Hesiod came up with Machiavellian intent, out of context with his own poem and nothing but Ancient Greek bowdlerization.

[i] The Homeric Hymn to Apollo refers to Leto as queenly, but there is no mention of her being the wife of Zeus.  Plus the poet is clearly trying to kiss up to Apollo, so saying nice things about Leto helps his cause.  I just found this; "First did the Moirai (Fates) in their golden chariot bring heavenly Themis, wise in counsel, by a gleaming pathway from the springs of Oceanus to the sacred stair of Olympus, there to be the primal bride of the Saviour Zeus." Pindar, Fragment 30.  And during the passionate tryst on Mt Ida, Zeus refers to his sister Demeter as “the fair-tressed queen” (14.326).  But there is no suggestion that she was his wife and this could just be a flourish to add to the ascending scale of social status with Hera at the top.
[iii] The Power of Thetis, Laura M. Slatkin  footnote 32

VftSW: Derby, Sue and Creon

This morning Derby my Black Labrador and I met our neighbor and friend Sue B.  Our morning walk overlaps with hers on occasion and she joins me for the discussion and company.  We have different perspectives and interests, so the conversation is wide-ranging.  We are both fond of pondering on things, so we gain much from our wandering conversations.  She asked what was new.  I mentioned the visit by my grandchildren which lead to a conversation about the importance of education and Michelle Obama’s effort there, my sister-in-law’s classroom full of students with English as a second language, Trump’s resistance to others coming here for education and what a rotten person the Russian President is.  I pointed out that some of the Russians think Vladimir Putin is a good guy.   

I illustrated how they could think this with the events of the “Antigone Project” at Hour 25.  We’d stopped and Derby was sitting on my feet, so I could tell Sue B the whole story.   

 I am a member of a Greek Mythology club sponsored by Harvard, called Hour 25.  I’d just come from an Ancient Greek language class we sponsor.  Another project was the “Antigone Project.”  Antigone is a play by Sophocles.  There were many activities and sub-projects; one was arranging for high school kids in the USA and in Greece to perform the play.  They recorded their performances and shared them with one another, met over the internet, wrote, texted, instant messaged… 

Do you know the story?  The heroine of the play is Antigone a princess of Thebes.  There was a civil war, one of her brothers raised a foreign army and tried to wrestle the throne from her other brother.  Both brothers ended up dead outside the seven gates of the city.  Their Uncle Creon took over (again) until a new king could be crowned.  In his grief and anger he forbade the burial of the rebel brother.  This is a big no, no, in the Ancient Greek religion, you gave the dead proper burial or bad things started to happen.  Antigone did the right thing.  She snuck out of the city and performed the proper ritual for her brother.   The rest of the play is about the resulting struggle between the princess and her regent/uncle.  Antigone ends up being executed for treason and her Uncle Creon realizes too late that he is being a fool.   

So, the Greek and American kids discussed the play and their performance.  Princess Antigone was their age so they could relate.  The Greek kids complained that the play should have been titled Creon instead of Antigone because Creon is the hero of the play.  You know how things are in Greece right?  The American kids saw an idealistic young heroine who did the right thing.  The Greek kids saw a mature hero who made the hard decisions in order to end a civil war. 

When I finished with my story Sue B thoughtfully said I should share it.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

TFBT: Zeus Wives and Lovers, Part 1

Recently Maya M and I were discussing the wives and loves of Zeus.  One of us suggested comparing the first list and the second.  Hesiod lists seven official wives for Zeus in the Theogony.  His list ends with Hera.  Homer has Zeus list his seven greatest passions prior to the moment on Mt. Ida with Hera (Iliad 14.312-328)  To my surprise I can find no papers on this topics. I will start my analysis with the Lovers.

Then in answer spake to her Zeus, the cloud-gatherer: "Hera, thither mayest thou go even hereafter. But for us twain, come, let us take our joy couched together in love; for never yet did desire for goddess or mortal woman so shed itself about me and overmaster the heart within my breast--nay, not when I was seized with love of;”  

  1. the wife of Ixion, who bare Peirithous, the peer of the gods in counsel” 
  2. Danaë of the fair ankles, daughter of Acmsius, who bare Perseus, pre-eminent above all warriors
  3. “(Europa) daughter of far-famed Phoenix, that bare me Minos and godlike Rhadamanthys.” 
  4. Semele bare Dionysus, the joy of mortals
  5. Alcmene in Thebes, and she brought forth Heracles, her son stout of heart,” 
  6. Demeter, the fair-tressed queen;   
  7. Glorious Leto

Universally, his recital of the names of his lovers at this moment is considered a poor way to seduce his wife.  Maybe he is trying to “seduce” himsef.   

Here is my first observation.  He lists his lovers in ascending scale of social status;

  1.  The first is an unnamed mortal woman with no family of conseuqence.  
  2. Danaë is a mortal woman and via her son Ancestress of most the royal families of Greece.
  3. Europa is a  mortal woman and descendant of the Nymph Telephassa, whose sons became daemons in the Underwold.  (More on this later but the descendants of Telephassa produced an unusually high number of gods and goddesses.  They were more than merely human.
  4. Semele was a moral woman and descendant of Telephassa and her son became an Olympian god.
  5. Alcmene a mortal woman, wed to a descendant of Telephassa and her son attained Olympus too.   
  6. Demeter, was a second-generation Titaness. 
  7. Leto was also a second generation Titaness. 

With the list actually ending with Hera a second generation Titaness and Queen of the Universe.  Apparently, Zeus while in the process of reliving his glory days wanted to prove to his wife that no one compared to here.

My second obervation is that lovers 2-5 are sort of chronological. 

  • Number two; Danae is the great-grandmother of Number 5 Alcema
  • Number three; Europa is the aunt of Number four Semele.
  • Number four: Semele is aunt to the fourth generation of the husband of number five Alceme

The bedding of Leto and Demeter (in that order I think based on Artemis witnessing of Persephone’s kidnapping the in the HH2 to Demeter.) naturally would have occurred long before Zeus mortal daillances and his passion for Dia, wife of Ixion would have occurred last on a chronological list

My third observation is about the reason why love and passion did “overmaster the heart within (his) breast”on these seven previous occasions.  Pure speculation of course. 


#1)The fact that Zeus refers to this mortal woman as Mrs Ixion, rather than Dia, daughter of Eioneus, makes me wonder if his passion is some how spurred by the fact Ixion was just as passionate for Zeus wife Hera (Pindar, Pythian Ode 2. 32)  To complicate the issue Pindar says Ixion had  murdered his own father-in-law “For this offence he could obtain purification from neither man nor any god, until Zeus, showing himself a “gracious avenger”   took compassion on his suppliant, cleansed him of bloodshed, and even raised him to Olympus”  (Aaron Atsma)  Zeus’ affection for Ixion reminds me of a similar affection and betrayal in Olympus of his son and boon-companion Tantalus. (Hyginus, Fabulae 82 ) I wonder if his affection for Ixion some how was transferred to Dia.


#2)  I can’t explain Zeus passion for Danaë daughter of Acmsius, unless it was her “fair ankles”.

#3-5)  Follow Maya’s Law that “Zeus never liked a true human woman!”  More accurately put;  Zeus has a marked preference for banging Ionians and barbarian babes.

#6)  We have no story about Zeus and Demeter mating and I have no idea why he finds his own sisters so hot.  Oh wait, maybe I just explained that. 

#7)  Leto like Dia might be another case of tranferance of affection.  We have no myth relating Zeus’ opinion of Leto’s “loveliness”, but we know what he thought about her sister Asteria.  Ovid describes the resisting “Asteria in the struggling eagle's clutch [Zeus' disguise]." (Metamorphoses 6. 108)  To escape his passion Asteria turns into a bird and eventually an island. 

In summary, when discussing the list of Zeus’ greatest hits as recited atop Mt. Ida to Hera during an intimate moment.  We can say the following.  They are listed in ascending scale of social status.  The mortal portion of the list is somewhat chronological. Some cases conform to Maya’s Law, he might have a thing for his sister, and he believes as the Rolling Stones did;  “if you can’t love the one you want, love the one you are with.”


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TFBT: Ben's Curriculum, Part III

4. Apples So I think we all know about the poisonous apple that the witch-queen gave Snow White and the fatal effects of the apple that Eve gave Adam.  Notice a certain about of danger here?  Got be careful of divine gifts.  (Did you know that the Norse gods, the Aesir, remained immortal and forever young by eating the golden apples provided by the nymph Induna?)

In Greek myth the first apple tree appeared as a spontaneous gift from the earth-goddess Gaia at the nuptials of Zeus and Hera.  Its fruit are golden. It stands in the Garden of Hera, at the foot of the Mt. Atlas.  An immortal serpent named Ladon guards it and a threesome of goddesses called the Hesperides tend the garden. (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 113)

Seeing a trend here; goddess sitting under a tree passing out apples?  It is a common and dangerous motif. 
One of these golden apples of the Hesperides was tossed into the reception hall during the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.  Upon it was engraved “For the Fairest.”   Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each vied for the apple and the title.   Zeus ordered Hermes to escort the threesome to the shepherd Paris on Mt. Ida, to be judged by him.
Get the picture here; three goddess and a man under a tree and a golden apple.  Hera promised to make him king of all men; Athena promised him victory in war; and Aphrodite got naked promised him the most beautiful woman who ever lived as his wife. Naturally, he chose Aphrodite. The destruction of his nation and death of most everyone he knew followed.  (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 2)

Golden apples appear in the myth of Atlanta too;

(Atlanta) “made it the condition that every suitor who wanted to win her, should first of all contend with her in the foot-race. If he conquered her, he was to be rewarded with her hand, if not, he was to be put to death by her. This she did because she was the most swift-footed among all mortals, and because the Delphic oracle had cautioned her against marriage. Meilanion, one of her suitors, conquered her in this manner. Aphrodite had given him three golden apples, and during the race he dropped them one after the other. Their beauty charmed Atlanta so much, that she could not abstain from gathering them. Thus she was conquered, and became the wife of Meilanion.”  (Apollodorus   Bibliotheca 3.9.2) 

Shortly after Meilanion took the apples from Aphrodite he and his wife got turned into lions!

The "beauteous fruit of gold  from the clear-voiced Hesperides…" was one of the bribes the Titans offered the godling Zagreus for his thunderbolt, just before they ripped him apart and ate him.   (Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks 2. 15) 
Heracles had a little better luck when he fetched the golden apples of the Hesperides as one of his famous labors.  .  He asked the Titan Atlas to pick the apples for him in exchange for holding up the sky
for a while.  “Atlas picked three apples from the garden of the Hesperides.”  Next thing you know, Heracles returns home with the apples and gives them to King Eurystheus.  “But Athena retrieved them from him and took them back, for it was not permitted by diving law to locate them anywhere else." (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 119 – 120) 

You know a pomegranate looks a lot like an apple and there is that whole thing about Persephone getting stuck in Hades for eating a pomegranate (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 29)  But to quote Pausanias “About the pomegranate I must say nothing, for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery”  (2.17.4)

In short if a goddess offers you a golden apple, run!   By the way, did you know the Venus de Milo held an apple in one hand?  The other was holding up what remained of her dress.

5. At one time everyone in the World was Greek.  Okay maybe that is an over statement or not.  Here is how it works.  It is hard to believe, but there weren’t myriad people in the world once upon a time.  So the hardy peninsula of Greece could sent out colonists to the shores of the Black Sea and all of the Mediterranean Sea without angering the new neighbors too much.  Along comes Persia, attacking the Greeks and losing, attacking the Greeks and losing and then wiped out by Alexander the Great.  Freed of oppression the Greek culture blossomed across the known world from the seeded colonies.  So if you see those Greek neighbors doing well and your rulers are Greek, “What the hey! Yeah were Greek.”  Not that I can find example now, but there are plenty of vases and sculpture with engraving and inscriptions on them that look like Ancient Greek lettering, but aren’t.  If you didn’t have enough Greek to spell “Achilles” on the monument, you faked it.  Alexander passed away but his generals and garrisons did not.  The ruling class and business classes spoke Greek from the Indus River to the Straits of Heracles (Gibraltar).   Cleopatra is not an Egyptian name, it is Greek.  The Ptolemy family, descendants of one of Alexander’s generals, ruled the Nile.  The phenomena is called Pan-Hellenism.  Everyone in the known world wanted to be Greek.  If you wanted into the Olympics you had to speak Greek.  It was the Hellenistic Age.  Eventually the Romans conquered the known world.  Great engineers, lousy poets and artists.  They adopted Greek culture in whole.  It was a sad Roman of whom it was said, “He has no Greek.”  Do you realize the New Testament was written in Greek?  At the time of Caesar August, yeah, everyone spoke Greek.