Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TFBT: By the Way, She Didn’t Promise Eternal Youth

Passing Out Goblets of Nectar 

Stay here and keep this house with me, and wouldest be immortal,” Calypso to Odysseus in book 5 of his epic 
We know that eternal youth and immortality can’t be generally given without the permission and consensus of the Olympians.[i]  So it is kind of weird that Calypso thinks she can give Odysseus immortality.  I was thinking that Circe, daughter of Aeetes offered him immortality, but that was wrong.  You know who could offer someone immortality?  Medea, Circe’s niece.  There is no indication that the “dice ‘em, throw ‘em in a pot and pluck them out whole and beautiful” stunt that she[ii] and the Fates[iii] pulled off, could not be done over and over again as necessary.   

The thing that Medea, daughter of Aeetes and the goddess Calypso have in common is that Homer calls their immortal fathers Atlas and Aeetes oloofrwn. (Homer, Odyssey 1. 52 and 10.137, respectively.) No one seems to know what that word means; anything from denoting animal savagery, to “malignant” to sorcerer to crooked.  The only other time oloofrwn is used in the Odyssey referring to a being is when Homer sang of Minos, husband of the immortal witch Pasiphae. (Od. 11.322 )  Pasiphae is another daughter of  oloofrwn Aeetes.[iv] 

During recent discussions at the Kosmos Society 

https://kosmossociety.chs.harvard.edu/?p=39493). Greg Nagy observed that within certain places in a Homeric line of text that “every wizard who is described in the genitive case is always ‘baneful minded’”.  In the Greek “ὀλοόφρονος”.

William Ewart Gladstone (Studies on Homer and the HomericAge) says Homer confides the epithet to those beings that belong to the outer geography of the Odyssey.  

Okay, maybe Calypso has another thing in common with Circe they share epithet of “Aiaia: A surname of Calypso, who was believed to have inhabited a small island of the name of Aeaea” and   “Aiaia. A surname of Circe, the sister of Aeëtes.  Her son Telegonus is likewise mentioned with this surname.[v]  Presumably, Circe gets the title because she is Aeaian, her brother ruling the city of Colchis in the land of Aea at the far eastern end of the Black Sea. 

Guardians of the Galaxy
"Atlas the baleful (oloophron); he knows the depths of all the seas, and he, no other, guards the tall pillars that keep the sky and earth apart." Homer, Odyssey 1.52 (trans. Shewring)
 My friend Maya made the observation that some scholars think Atlas wasn’t condemned to hold up the heavens for all eternity, but rather assigned the honor of guarding the demarcation of the western end of the world or inherited the honor (time) from his father Iapetus.[vi]  This makes a little more sense when you compare Atlas to his brother Prometheus.  Prometheus, called The Titan, was bound to a snow topped crag in the middle of nowhere with an eagle gnawing on his liver daily.  Atlas was stationed in one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, tended by his daughters.   

Another little interesting thing; the line as translated by Shewring doesn’t say the pillars (or Atlas) held up the sky, but rather keep the earth and sky apart.  Presumably so Uranus could be up to his old tricks.    

Here’s the other thing, if we assume that Atlas was not being tormented with his job on the Western edge of the world, but assigned it by lot at Mecone,[vii]  likewise if we acknowledge the Hecatoncheires weren’t sent back by Zeus to Hades or the bottom of the Aegean as a punishment, but rather as guards.  Can’t we assume that Atlas and Aeetes were guarding the western and eastern boundaries of the world and Minos doing something similar in Hades?    

Prior to the Hecatoncheires guarding the gates of Tartarus, the jailress was named Campe. [viii]  Robert Graves say the name means “crooked”.  If Minos was one of those who took over the dragoness’ duties it is interesting that Andrew Dalby refers to “fair Ariadne, child of crooked Minos.”[ix]    


I don’t know what to think here.  “Magician” has never looked right to me when reading oloofrwn and the explanation for the other possible definitions of the word are just too complex and unconvincing to a feather-weight intellect like mine.  Here’s what I do all the daemons called oloofrwn are closely related to a powerful witches.  All three are assigned to extreme locations on the earth.  If we conclude that Atlas, Aeetes and Minos were “guards” this might lead to “crooked” being a better meaning of oloofron

[i] .Apollod. iii. 6. 8, Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 251, Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite 218     
[ii] Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 182 and  Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 294
[iii] Pindar, Olympian Ode 1. 24  
[iv] I think  Matthews make a mistake in associating Ariadne and Minos In his argurement.  ( Atlas, Aietes, and Minos ΟΛΟΟΦΡΩΝ: An Epic Epithet in the Odyssey)
V. J. Matthews
[v] Both references come from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.  
[vi] see theoi.com on the elder titans and the four corners of the world.
[vii] In Homer, Atlas merely guards the pillars…”  History of Ancient Geography by J. Oliver Thomson  According to some versions Atlas was released from his punishement by Zeus or by Heracles and was required to merely guard the two tall pillarsEnclyopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology by Luke and Monica Roman page 93
[viii] Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 6
[ix] Bacchus: A Biography  By Andrew Dalby

Thursday, December 18, 2014

TFBT: Centaurs

This is a continuation of the series of papers generated by the continuing conversations of WilliamMoulton2 and Maya M.  This paper discusses the apotheosis of Heracles. 

After Heracles was poisoned with a vest dipped in hydra venom, what saved him from the fate of Chiron?  

 Let’s start with your theory about a plot against the centaurs. You know if you consider the centaurs just another tribe among the many early tribal people (Graves said a mountain tribe) they suffered a surprising number of death via Heracles arrows. Another big slayer of our four-footed cousins was Theseus the wanna-be and famous imitator of Heracles.   [i]You know H&T were monster slayers. Their job was to slay monsters, tame the wilderness, chase away chaos and creepy things in the woods in order that you and I might create the “polis” . Maybe the centaurs are monsters.   

As to why Heracles didn’t suffer the same fate as Chiron when the Hydra’s venom poisoned his flesh… well this is tacky, but Chiron was a wimp! Admittedly both ditched their mortal bodies in favor of a more “heavenly” one. Heracles didn’t have much choice since he’d ripped off large portions of his skin in attempting to remove the vest. Chiron on the other hand got shot, but come on so did Hades and Hera.[ii] Hera whined about it when playing the pity card (unsuccessfully) and stoic Hades never would have mentioned it.[iii]    Those sources that mention Chiron's death attribute it to a poisoned Heracles' arrow which either directly killed him or made him suffer so much that he chose death himself. (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca) Maybe we were too harsh on poor Chiron.   

Apparently, centaurs, all centaurs, were considered monsters in Greek mythology, and monsters were scheduled to be exterminated by heroes. The two Centaurs for which it was impossible to invent any credible justification to be killed - Pholus and Chiron, were finished off by Heracles, a hero known for "accidentally" causing someone's death about once per month. Poor luck? [iv]Aeschylus seems to share the opinion that Chiron's death is a result of Olympian plan, and adds an additional layer of scheming. At the end of the Prometheus Bound, angry Zeus pledges that he will release Prometheus "only when another immortal offers himself to die". Some scholars see here a metaphor for "never", similar to our expressions "when pattens produce blossoms", "in the cuckoo's summer" (i.e. when the cuckoo sings at summertime) and "at willow's Friday" (i.e. when Palm Sunday happens to be on Friday). There seemed no hope of finding  an ancient source supporting the  hypothesis that the "accidental" killing of Pholus and wounding of Chiron was a result of divine plot, but here it is, in Diodorus Siculus: "Pholus the Centaur, from whom the neighboring mountain came to be called Pholoê, and receiving Heracles with the courtesies due to a guest he opened for him a jar of wine which had been buried in the earth. This jar, the writers of myths relate, had of old been left with a certain Centaur by Dionysus, who had given him orders only to open it when Heracles should come to that place. And so, four generation after that time, when Heracles was being entertained as a guest, Pholus recalled the orders of Dionysus..."  He fulfilled the orders, and the gates of Hell opened. 

 Let's see when centaurs appear in other myths:
- The wedding of Hippodamia and the battle of Lapiths with the Centaurs.  The Centaur-leader  Eurytion, in a drunken state, outrage the bride her groom Peirithos and best man Theseus respond.  Homer (Iliad 1:268) says that the Centaurs were "destroyed" in the battle. Theoi.com says that these Centaurs and the Lapiths' adversaries were different tribes, residing resp. in Peloponnese and on Mount Pelion. Chiron saves Peleus from other Centaurs preparing to kill him and gives him back his sword. Homer already states that Peirithos, the king of the Lapiths, chased his enemies away from Mount Pelion.  This, however, could be earlier than the battle of Heracles.
- Nessus carries Deianira and is killed by Heracles.
- Chiron, after bringing up many heroes and hosting Peleus' wedding, dies as a result of Heracles' poisoned arrow. However, his death comes many years after the injury (his last student Achilles is not even born by the time of the injury). The death of the only immortal Centaur makes us speculate that all his mortal fellow tribesmen may have already gone. And this is close to the "end of time" of mythology. As far as I know, no one hero returning from the Trojan War has encountered a Centaur. Not even Odysseus, who claims to have had business with all other fabulous creatures.   

It is clear from these notices that already from the early Archaic Age onwards the Centaurs were continually marginalized.  (J.N. Bremmer in Laura Feldt (Ed.), Wilderness in Mythology and Religion). "...Centaurs were no longer perceived as more or less human opponents but more and more as monsters that had to be eradicated, even the more civilized ones. The annihilation of the Centaurs shows that, in the rationalizing fifth century BC, the ideas of the Greeks about their mountains had considerably changed. They may have remained dangerous territory, but the mountains were no longer inhabited by creatures symbolizing their 'wild' nature."
There is a theory that as time progressed depictions of the Gigantomachy and Centauromachy began to represent more and more in the minds of the Greeks the war against "Barbarians". Initially those battles represent the gods and heroes respectively defeating chaos and ordering the world. Once that's done you've got to defeat those rowdy Persians.

[i] Oddly, Heracles and Theseus were a few of the heroes not raised by Chiron.
[ii] Slater (1968) 347-50
[iii] Iliad 5.392-94
[iv] (Maya M.  “You mentioned once that you don't believe Dionysus passed by Ariadne just by chance. I'd propose "Bill's Law": In myth, there is no such thing as coincidence. “  WilliamMoulton2 “Thank you, but Bill’s Law of Coincidence is Myth is nothing more than Maya’s Law of Scholium as Saviors”.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TFBT: Apotheosis of Heracles

This is a continuation of the series of papers generated by the continuing conversations of WilliamMoulton2 and Maya M.  This paper discusses the apotheosis of Heracles. 

The usual story is that the oracle told Heracles he would be immortalized after completing his famous labors. (Historian Diodorus Siculus, mid 1st century B.C. says Hercules sent Iolaus to the Delphic Oracle) [i] However, this prophesy seems to reflect just temporal relationship, not causal. Gods have no gain from most labors. (Two of Hera’s foster children were slain, a deer sacred to Artemis grabbed, the golden apples from Hera’s garden picked and Hades’ hound carried off.) And Hera is allowed to interfere with them. Still Heracles fulfills what seems to be the destiny of most ancient Greek heroes; slaying monsters in Greek mythology.  We have a precedent of Zeus' son completing a labor and then left to die (Perseus). Moreover, Heracles is not immortalized immediately after completing the Labors, and not even after the Gigantomachy. He is left to get in more and more trouble, until the low point at the funeral pyre. 

 Why is he rescued from there? Why doesn't Zeus let him burn? Once allowed to Olympus, Heracles is adopted by Hera and is given Hebe as appeasement.[ii] Which, again, makes me wonder why Zeus allowed him there in the first place? Possibly humans were becoming so great a danger that the gates needed a stronger guardian?  Ha ha!   

 At: The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology,  Martin P. Nilsson Nilsson  thinks that the wounding of Hades by Heracles mentioned in the Iliad reflects an older version of Heracles' immortality, where he was not apotheosized but immortalized himself by defeating Hades in single combat.  

As to the divinity of the Heracles, the whole issue gets confused by the seven different characters by that name and the absorption of all the he-man local heroes (and gods) into the myth of the Heracles we know.  

Let’s not let all these details confuse the single all telling fact; Heracles defeated Death to save Alcestis! ( Euripides, Alcestis )  Did you see “Bob and Ted’s Bogus Adventure”? If you defeat death you are a god!  

Let’s start at the beginning. Zeus spent three days “building” the ultimate weapon against the Giants by “prolonging the night threefold, made love to Alcmene.” [iii]  Heracles mother is the daughter of Anax, the daughter of Princess Hipponome of Thebes. Hipponome is the sister of Creon & Jocasta and wife to Heracles’ earthly paternal grandfather Alcaeus. The child was named after his grandfather Alcaeus and often called Alcides. The name change, indicates his absorption into the Olympian family.  

So he has a little Theban ichor[iv] flowing in his veins and is built of a triple dose of Zeus. I don’t know how the math works out, but that makes Heracles more than a demi-god. So whatever mortal fraction remains in the Heracles, it was made divine by the last three labors.

·      Geryon's Cattle; Geryon lived at the far end of the known world on the shores of the great river ocean where the line between this world and the next get vague. There is lots of argument that the cattle of Geryon are the same as the cattle of Hades. (Both kings had shepherds of similar names and multi-headed dogs.) This would be the event the Iliad mentions where Hades got shot with one of Heracles’ arrows. Heracles defeated Death! In Greek mythology it is a “once and for always” thing. You can’t die after that.

·      The Apples of the Hesperides; These were the apples that the Fates gate Typhon, the apples that Iduna gave the Aesir, the witch to Snow White and that Eve gave to Adam. They are extremely powerful, one way or the other. Heracles acquired them but didn’t take a bite. “There the Moirai (Fates) deceived the pursued creature, for he ate some of the ephemeral fruit on Nysa” (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 39 – 44) Aaron J. Atsma argues this is a reference to grapes, but I don’t recall elsewhere grapes being called an “ephemeral fruit”.

·      Defeating Cerberus; Heracles went to Hades and back again with a three headed monster. Most gods can’t even go to Hades and back.   

Heracles defeated Hades but never defeated Geras according to ancient literature. Geras was the daemon or personification of Old Age.  Did Hebe save him from the fate of Tithonus?  According to Shapiro there are five Athenian vase-painting between 490-450 documenting Herakles’ combat with Geras and presumed victory.[v]    Hebe didn’t have to save her hubby from Geras. Heracles was a god, by birthright (much greater than 50% divine), deed and acclaim.  


TFBT: Obscure References to Titans

This is a continuation of the series of papers generated by the continuing conversations of WilliamMoulton2 and Maya M.  This paper discusses obscure references to the nature of the Titans. 

A little background here; the elder gods in Greek mythology are called the Titans.  They were the twelve children of starry Uranus the primordial sky-god and wide-bosomed Gaea the earth; six male “Titans” and six female “Titanesses”.  The overreaching Titans were; the earth encircling river god Oceanus, Koios, Krios, Hyperion the primordial sun, Iapetus and the youngest Cronus.  Most of whom ended up in Tartarus along with their sons after Zeus took over.

According to Aaron J. Atsma  when the Titans overthrew their cruel father Uranus, “Krios, Koios, Hyperion and Iapetus were posted at the four corners of the world where they seized hold of the Sky-god and held him fast, while Cronus hidden in the center, castrated him with a sickle” provided by their mother. Hyperion was no doubt regarded as the Titan of the pillar of the east. Koios' alternate name, Polos "of the northern pol”), suggests he was the Titan of the pillar of the north[i] Oceanus whose theoretical place of existence was outside this little drama and therefore “neutral” as he and the female deities were to be until the Gigantomachy.  

That leaves Iapetus as the Titan of the West; a likely scenario since that is the post inherited by his son Atlas and because Iapetus is the titan most associated with the realm of Hades.  (Iliad 8.479)    Iapetus’ sons became leaders among the Titans “rebelling” against Zeus, specifically glorious Menoetius whom . . . “far-seeing Zeus struck him with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebus because of his mad presumption and exceeding pride." (  Hesiod, Theogony 507) .  Atsma also suggests  Menoetius was perhaps identical to Menoites the herdsman of Hades, whom Herakles wrestled with in the underworld.”

Finally , among the Titan subduers of Uranus would be Crios at the south.  Krios has three sons; Perses the father of Hecate, Astraeus husband of the Dawn, and Pallas husband of the River Styx, chiefest of them all the Oceanides.  (Odd that two of Krios’ sons are wed to Zeus’ first allies.)   According to Atsma again, Perses as the dog-star may have been imagined with canine features. His father and brothers were all associated with animals--Krios was literally; the ram, Astraeus was a horse- or ass-featured and Pallas was a goatish god.   Astraeus’ sons were the Anemoi, the horse-shaped gods of the winds. Two of them Boreas and Zephyrus, were the sires of immortal horses. Zeus, god of storms, was sometimes described as driving a chariot drawn by the four horse-shaped winds.  

Cronus too might have had a touch of horsiness, considering  he was the father of the first centaur; Chiron and of Poseidon, the god of horses and sire of many divine horses himself. 

Robert Graves refers to the elder gods as “Titans, lords of the seven-day week”[ii] without any explanation I can find;
·      “Atlas as a simple personification of Mount Atlas…as the Titan of the Second day of the Week, who separated the waters of the firmament from the ware of the earth.”
·      The Oceanide and first wife of Zeus, “immortal Metis, as Titaness of the fourth day” 
·      “Rhea, paired with Cronus as Titaness of the seventh day

The fact that Graves makes Cronus (aka Saturn in the Roman pantheon) titan of Saturday and comments that Hermes is the “god” of the fourth day, suggests that he is using the traditional Western etymology for days of the week.  That means;

·      Helios/Hyperion on the first day Sunday
·      Selene/Phoebe on the second day Monday
·      Ares on the third day Tuesday (I can’t explain the discrepancy.)
·      Hermes on the fourth day Wednesday
·      Zeus on the fifth day Thursday
·      Aphrodite on the sixth day Friday and
·      Cronus on the seventh day, Saturday[iii]

If we accept Nagy’s notion that the name of a son can reflect a main characteristic of the father; (CHS Open House discussion)  maybe we can make a few more assumptions on the ancient Titans. 
  • [Hesiod 507] “Now Iapetus took to wife the neat-ankled mad Clymene,”  Which makes this Titan; daring, (Atlas) arrogant, (Menoetius) and like the elderly Priam at Iliad 3.110 “in whatsoever an old man taketh part, he looketh both before and after,”  (Prometheus and Epimetheus).  Which suggests that Iapetus was eldest of the Titans.
  • (Hesiod 375) “And Eurybia, bright goddess, was joined in love to Crius  making Crius a starry, spear-brandishing destroyer.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

TFBT: Theban Deities vs the Olympians

  Let's talk about Hebe; the eventual wife of the Theban hero turned god – Heracles.   In Greek myth Hebe passes up cups of nectar; which insured youth and beauty  In Norse myth Iduna passed out apples with the same affect.   In Norse myth the Aesir and Vanir exchanged hostages. In some societies, such hostages are brides. Could Hebe be such a hostage? Heracles could have accomplished a lot of damage if he hadn't be treated nicely and welcomed into the family and even adopted by Hera when ascending to Olympus 

We wonder about Ares and Aphrodite's daughter Harmonia. Zeus weds Cadmus' sister Europa and produces three long-lived demi-gods. After helping Zeus slay Typhon, Cadmus weds Zeus granddaughter and they produce two divine daughters and two divine grandsons. Were these cross-marriages an attempt to keep peace between the Theban and Olympian deities?   

The Theban deities were actually offspring from the Cadmus-Harmonia marriage and possibly became the cause for divine vendetta against Cadmus and his descendants. The divine potentiality of the house of Cadmus in combination with Theban land to breed deities does not seem to be apparent until after Harmonia was given to Cadmus (and his sister Europa’s sons came of age.) There must have been much alarm on Olympus, and then peace was kept by allowing Dionysus into the Olympian family.   

Dionysus does not integrate well. We don't know any story of him having a divine friend. In Homer, he seems to be a minor deity who does not dwell on Olympus or even visit it.  However, he returned Hephaestus to Olympus, was rescue by Thetis (like Hephaestus and their mutual father) and in one relief sculpture, Themis drops off Dionysus at the Gigantomachy. You know that some source said that the first incarnation of Dionysus (Zagreus) was scheduled by Zeus to be his heir - maybe this child was "meant by destiny" to be Zeus' heir. 

Oh by the way, Dionysus rescued and wed Adriane, grand-daughter of Europa, sister of Cadmus. Their mom was Telephassa, wife of Agenor. See the Divine Descendants of Telephassa for further information  Telephassa is said to mean "far-shining". The same lady is also called Argiope, "silver-faced" or "silver-eyed". Looks like the Moon. The Greeks assigned very important descendants to minor lunar quasi-deities such as Io and Telephassa. Some sources say Telephassa was a mere mortal, or the daughter of Nile. (It seems that all mythological figures that are even remotely interesting either descend from water deities or marry them or both. You can see the family tree here listed under her brother-in-law’s name.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belus_(Egyptian)

Libya, granddaughter of Zeus and Io, has two sons, Agenor (husband of Telephassa) and Belus. Both have a dose of divine genes, both marry daughters of Nile, both live in far-away countries but their children are lured back to Greece. We all know about the royal house of Thebes and Sarpedon's death at Troy. At the same time, the fate of the sons of Aegyptus is rarely discussed. Whose plan were their deaths? Of Danaus and his daughters, or of Zeus himself? It seems that 50 male and 50 female of divine ancestry were too many, and a drastic reduction was needed.   

Even still two of the Theban gods made it into Olympus; four counting Dionysus’ mother Semele (Thyone) and wife Adriane.

This is part of a continuing series of articles passed on conversations between WilliamMoulton2 and Maya M.Delete

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TFBT: The Three Olympian Misalliances

There are, to our knowledge, only three divinities for whom a marriage feast is described in literature and on vases. All three are goddesses married to fulfill the will of Zeus. And all three are given to males of mortal origin.

 Copyright © 1997 Carlos Parada and Maicar Förlag.   
Source; . Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Göttingen, 1845
Thewedding of Cadmus and Harmonia was the first, we are told, for which the gods provided the marriage-feast.”  (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 48. 2)   Harmonia was the Olympus-born daughter of Aphrodite and Ares.  She wed the hero Cadmus who “by high design won sage Harmonia, as his wedded wife, who obeyed the voice of Zeus, and became the mother of Semele famed among men." (Pindar, Dithyrambs Heracles the Bold)   In case you don’t know, Zeus wed Cadmus’ sister Europa who bore the god several sons.  Harmonia was Zeus grand-daughter and bore to Cadmus several goddesses.   At the end of their time in Thebes their grandson, the god Dionysus promised them (Euripides, Bacchae 1346)You shall transmute your nature, and become a serpent. Your wife Harmonia, whom her father Ares gave to you, a mortal, likewise shall assume the nature of beasts, and live a snake. The oracle of Zeus foretells that you, at the head of a barbaric horde, shall with your wife drive forth pair of heifers yoked and with your countless army destroy many cities… Ares shall at last deliver both you and Harmonia, and grant you immortal life among the blessed gods.’"

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
The second divine bride is of course Thetis.  Hesiod say; “four times blessed son of Aiakos, happy Peleus! For far-seeing Olympian Zeus has given you a wife with many gifts and the blessed gods have brought your marriage fully to pass.”   (Hesiod Catalogues of Women Fragment 58)  They, of course, were the parents of Achilles, hero of the Iliad.  At the end of Peleus life after the early deaths of his sole son and sole grandson, Thetis promises to fetch him down to her father Nereus’ immortal halls.  (Euripides, Andromache 1265)