My research in classical studies this last weekend centered on a phrase from The Iliad; “Beyond Destiny”. Ironically the phase translates as “Hyper-Moron”.
“Beyond destiny” denotes those paths Fate won’t allow us (or the Greek gods) to go down. Of course, us mortals (descended from the ancient heroes) often think about going down those paths anyway, just like the gods. Only we know we shouldn’t. We know certain things lead to disaster.
Zeus at one point ponders rescuing one of this mortal sons from a gruesome death in battle upon the plains of Troy. (Il. XVI 446) His wife Hera calmly points out that if he does, all the other gods will rescue their mortal sons; by implication unsettling the balance of the universe and not giving Death his due. In response the mightiest god among the Olympians shed tears of black blood. Zeus knew that to go down that road would be a form of madness (Ate). Hence a few scholars using a Christian paradigm define “Ate” as the goddess of temptation.
We all know those dim light paths we are tempted to go down from time to time. With age we even recognize the bright and sunny paths lined with flowers that will eventually lead us to sorry and moments of dark tears. My grandmother once said that as we get older, “We get less and less desirable and more and more particular.” She said it in a tone implying that this was an affliction of old age. As I totter into old age, I’d suggest instead that her adage is a blessing of earned wisdom.
The Iliad doesn’t actually cover the fall of Troy. That’s left to other books in the Epic Cycle. The synopses we have of the “Cypria” suggests that Zeus too learned wisdom over the years. After the death of Sarpedon, he pulled a veil between mortals and immortals. (Hesiodea, Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Classical Quarterly, vol. 9, page 75) The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite suggests he taught love goddess the foolishness of forcing gods and mortal women to mix. Her son Aeneas was the last of the demi-gods. (Cytherica: Aesthetic-Political Essays In An Aphrodisian Key, Josef Chytry, page 134) Zeus sternly closed off the path of the divine siring the eventually dying.
I pray I have such Olympian strength when I try to avoid trying temptation and following foolish paths beyond my destiny.