Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TFBT: Ten Things you did not know from Greek Mythology

1. Helen of Troy had two brothers that were demi-gods and heroes. Maybe you heard of them. The Dioscuri? Castor and Polydeuces? Castor and Pollux? How about the zodiac sign; the Gemini Twins? They went to their reward well before the action in The Iliad, hence their obscurity. The Spartans worshipped all three of the siblings along with their spouses as gods.

2. Achilles should have ruled the universe. We know Achilles from The Iliad along with his tendon, which was struck by Paris’ poison arrow. He was a heartthrob during the medieval ages and Brad Pitt played him in the movie “Troy”. Both Zeus and his brother Poseidon wooed Achilles mother Thetis. Thetis was a Nereid with great influence upon Olympus. (Thetis was Hera’s foster daughter and helped Zeus once during a revolt.) Thetis had her pick of any of the mightiest gods in Greek mythology as husband. Then either Themis or Prometheus let slip that her child would be greater than his father. Which suggested to the Olympians that the Thetis' divine child would overthrow the government of the world and assume Zeus’ throne. Consequently, they forced Thetis to marry a mortal. Rather than the crown that was his birthright, Achilles received unending glory. That is why we are still talking about him three thousand years later.

3. Ares, Hephaestus and Hades were the only strictly heterosexual gods on Olympus. The goddesses Athena, Artemis and Hestia always remained virgins. Which might explain the behavior of the other Olympian males!

4. The Sun once landed on Earth. Helios is probably most famous for rashly allowing his mortal son Phaethon to drive the solar chariot. The boy lost control. The horses ran towards earth, scorching the land and setting the forests ablaze. Zeus threw a lightning bolt at the boy. The steeds of the solar chariot, like good post horses everywhere, found their own way home. However, there was a time when Helios landed his chariot on the earth. It was during the Gigantomachy when all the gods and goddess of Olympus battled the earth-born giants. Hephaestus the smithy-god was taking on three giants at once and not doing well.
“Helios who had taken him up (Hephaestus) in his chariot when he sank exhausted on the battlefield of Phlegra.” – Apollo Rhodius, Argonautica 3.211Read more about the two of them in my essay; “Friendship Among the Gods”
5. Hera was foster mother to most the monsters in Greek mythology; the brood of Echidna. She pretty much created Typhon, Echidna’s husband. Typhon was unbelievably huge and monstrous. (He actually defeated Zeus in some accounts while all the other gods were hiding in Egypt.) She wet-nursed both the multi-headed Hydra and the Lion of Nemea. In addition, she sent the Sphinx to devour the youth of Thebes. An odd little aside here. When she wet-nursed these little beasties, she used her left breast, the one that had been poisoned by one of Heracles’ arrows. Heracles poisoned his arrow tips by dipping them in the blood of the Hydra. Hey, wait a minute….

6. Homer thought the world is round. According to him;
“the Aithiopes, who are divided in two, the most remote of men: Some, where Helios sets, others where he rises“ - Odyssey I 23-24So, Aithiopes lies in the far west and in the far east, which would make it the same country if the world is round. Right? See the full argument at Homer Says the World is Round.

7. Cadmus the founder of Thebes was a god. Well maybe not a god, but you tell me how to describe him. He helped defeat the monster Typhon. He married the Olympian goddess Harmonia; the illicit daughter of Ares and Aphrodite. His daughters included the goddesses Thyone and sailor-saving Leucothea. Another daughter married the god Aristaeus. His grandsons included the sea god Palaemon and the Olympian Dionysius.

8. The Greek gods had a real aversion to death, old age and all those other unpleasant demons that leaped from Pandora’s box. Artemis coldly abandons her favorite Hippolytus at the moment of his death, by saying “Farewell: it is not lawful for me to look upon the dead or to defile my sight with the last breath of the dying. And I see that you are already near that misfortune.” Demeter can command Limos the demon of hunger, but loathes standing near. And Aphrodite refers to the demon Geras as ruthless old-age even dreaded by the gods.

9. The Greek gods did not weep; certainly not for the death of a mortal. Once again Artemis speaking to the dying Hippolytus; “Aye, and would weep for thee, if gods could weep.” (Euripides, Hippolytus). Statius in The Thebiad says of one of the gods, “He spoke and almost his inviolable face was stained with tears.”
10. 1. The beds of the gods are always fruitful. As Deborah Lyons points out in Gender and Immortality, “Zeus' list of conquests reveals … (that)…Inevitably, each one of these encounters results in a child.” Imagine that rate of reproduction! No wonder river gods swim the Grecian creeks, satyrs haunt the wilderness,dryads run through the forests, naiads populate the springs and rivers, limnades the lily pad gilded pools, oreads the mountains, napaea the valleys and alseids the fair groves.

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