Wednesday, December 3, 2014

TFBT: Random Notes on Hesiod’s Cosmos

Recently I was on the road for six weeks.  I took this as a great opportunity to re-read Strauss-Clay’s great book.  She provides a close reading of each of Hesiod’s works individually and then compares and contrasts them as we see Hesiod’s concept of the cosmological process unfold.    

The Two Perspectives.   

What I didn’t remember from my last reading was Clay’s proposal that “Works and Days” is written from a mortal perspective while, “The Theogony” is for a divine audience.   (  Maya M.  suggests that " So Hesiod here has completely dissociated himself from the human viewpoint and taken the viewpoint of his divine characters. And not even of Zeus, but of his opponents. Phorkys is called "brave", like the Titans during the Titanomachy.") Clay describes the apobatic moment of the Muses departure from their bath places on Permessu or Hippocrene or Olme or dancing ground of Helicon and their arrival where Hesiod tends his sheep as “the moment of transition from the eternal time of the gods to the temporality of mankind…the Muses have arrived at the limit of the world of men…the high pastures where notoriously gods and human beings may encounter each other…In the meantime, the change in the Muses’ name and address – from Heliconian to Olympian –underlines the movement from a localize epichoric, perspective to a PanHellenic one.  Clay juxtaposes “divine and human temporalities as past and present, eternal and ephemeral”  I would add, that even the gods are immortal, the temporality is “once and forever” whereas generations of men die and are reborn eternally.   

In Works & Days “he revises the earlier teaching of the Muses by telling us that on earth, it turns out there are two Irides – not one, as claimed in the Theogony.  What his means is that from the point of view of the gods, there is only one Eris” This might be more understandable if we recall from Hippolytus that Artemis declared the gods are not allowed to interfere with one another    Hesiodically, Eris and Hubris precede the birth of Dike.  Dike enters the world of men only much later with the fourth race, the age of heroes.” 

The Alternative Theogonies

Clay states that “Homer and Hesiod allude to alternative theogonic traditions”, and “a developed genre of theogonic poetry”.  She lists the Homeric Hymn to Hermes in her footnotes “where Hermes enchants Apollo with his singing of a theogony which likewise recounts the birth of the gods in order and their acquisition of their allotted shares.  She adds that “Homer seems to know of a cosmogonic model in which Oceanus and Tethys were the primordial parents.”   I would point out that the Orphic Hymn to Nyx suggests that;

 Nyx, parent goddess, source of sweet repose, from whom at first both Gods and men arose”;

and Zeus’ awe of the goddess seems to support that thrice-prayed for, best beloved, most fair Night is a goddess of matriarchal importance.    I’ve argued elsewhere that Homer’s treatment of Thetis and Eurynome is a subtle acknowledgement to theogonies that make each of the water goddesses, creatrix in their own rights.  (See 


The Genealogy of the Gods 

If you don’t know Hesiod’s basic premise, it is that once upon a time, there was nothing but the unfathomable abyss of Chaos.  From it arose primordial Earth (Gaea). Clay observes that Mountains, Nymphs and the barren salt Sea (Pontus) were all born of the Earth without intercourse.   With the latter she became mother of all the primordial sea gods and sea monsters, with the possible exception of Nereus who Pontus bore asexually.   Also, to Earth was born the starry Heaven Uranus. ”Uranus, the Heavens to cover or enclose her (Gaia) in all direction as if she somehow required such delimitation.”  In this position there was little opportunity for grow in the world, until Cronus emasculated his father and for the first time Hyperion (the sun) arose splitting the earth and sky.  Also spilling from the mother’s womb were 17 other primordial deities.  The drops of divine ichor that fell to Earth would engender the ash-maidens; Erinyes and giants.  His genitals tossed into the sea would generate the mighty Aphrodite.1   

Cronus becomes King of the Gods until overthrown by his son Zeus. 

Zeus distributes the honors and privileges of the gods among his kin and allies at Mecone.  “Zeus secures the instrument of organized violence which are characteristic of political power; an armament industry (the Cyclopes) and a mercenary army (the Hundred-Arms).”  Clay adds to this the children of the Styx.  “Zeus promised honor (time) while she in return gave Zeus the gift of her children, Violence, Power, Zeal and Victory.”    As I write this it occurs to me that Styx had no grandchildren, the first generation of Cyclops were slain without heirs and two out of the three “Hundred-arms” served as jailers in Tartarus a realm notorious for its lack of fertility.  (Note Queen Persephone’s infertility.)  Elsewhere I’ve noted the choice of virginity which is unique goddesses in Zeus’s extended family and that goddesses in the only other titan family allied to the Olympians, the Hyperionides were cursed with an obsession with mortal men.   Zeus seemed to have made a real effort to thwart the birth of an adversary.  Finally he sires a few abstractions to decorate the place.   

Meanwhile, from Chaos arose Nyx (Night) and Darkness (Erebus) who had a brood of generally unpleasant deities and daemon, the least likeable being born from Nyx’s attempt at asexual reproduction.   Maya M refers to these daemons as the “bio-weapons in Pandora’s jar”.    Clay notes Gaia’s “line remains completely separate from that of Chaos – intercourse between these two fundamentally opposed cosmic entities seems impossible.” 2     

 Prometheus the King

 So if you don’t know the story of Zeus and Prometheus; here it is.  They were cousins.  When Zeus and his sibling overthrew the Titan King and made a grab for power, Prometheus and his three brothers, the sons of Iapetus led the resistance against them.   Hesiod…makes the Iapetids appear to be the younger sons of the family of Cronus.  .. this genealogical sleight-of-hand (has to do with) the succession myth, where it is always the younger son who disposes his father.  And significantly Prometheus is the only figure who share the epithet ankulometis “of crooked – devising” with his uncle Cronus.  Prometheus either through the gift of foresight or on the advice of Themis, switches sides, bring his dullard brother Epimetheus with him.    At Mecone (see above) Prometheus arranged for the Bronze Men to get the better part of the community meal.  In revenge Zeus withholds the fire that would have cooked the meal, Prometheus steals it from the gods, the gods withdraw the easy living that required no farming and burden men with Pandora, the first woman who brings all the illness of the world as a dowry to her husband Epimetheus. 

Clays asks “Why did he take up the cause of mankind?”  Clay suggests that the crafty Titan took up the mortal cause in order to court them as allies in his own bid for power.  He ends up leaving “mankind permanently unable to escape its human condition, a condition founded on the institutions of sacrifice, agriculture and marriage and predicated on Hope.”   


1  Clay’s foot note to the castration of Uranus and the release of his children from Gaia’s womb “Hesiod seems to be punning on locos, “ambush” and the root loc-, relating to child-birth”    A similar pun is reported on the soldiers issuing from the belly of the Trojan Horse   

2   Well, at least until  Iliad 14. 231 when Hera weds Nyx’s son Hypnos to one of the Graces.


  1. I wonder, why did Goethe's Mephistopheles refer to Night as "mother"? Did the poet know of some Night-centered cosmogony or he invented one himself?

  2. I'd wish very much to know what Zeus is alluding to when he tells Prometheus, "So, sir, you have not yet forgotten your cunning arts!”
    Was there a similar episode before with the Silver Age humans?

    It seems that in the Theogony, the name/epithet "Forethought" (Prometheus) has the same meaning as in the expression "crime with forethought".
    Later, Aeschylus took it in the other meaning (foresight) and developed the idea behind it by giving his character prophetic ability which drives the plot (like Johnie from Stephen King's Dead Zone, which has an almost identical plot).

  3. Maya M. Some theogonies make Nyx the mother of Gaea, so both could claim the title of Mother of Gods and Men. As to Prometheus cunning arts, this could be a reference to A lost epic, Titanomachia. Prometheus swapped sides, so who know what kind of double dealing happen then. Where did you find a reference suggesting "pro-metheus" was akin to "pre-meditated"?

  4. Once I found Theodore Ziolkowski's Sin of Knowledge in Google Books. It compares Adam, Prometheus and Faust. I made breef screenshots of parts of 3 pages. When I returned for more, the book had disappeared. My only explanation is that, when a publisher runs out of copies and doesn't intend to print more any time soon, he takes the book down from Google Books. So you cannot independently verify the quote below and have to believe me :-).

    "In eighth-century Boeotia, at least, and in his first literary metamorphosis beyond a local fire-demon, Prometheus is anything but a savior-figure. His crime and punishment suggest the wish-dream of Hesiod for the scheming brother who was cheating him out of his fair portion. His name suggests crimes of premeditation more than prudent forethought." (There is a reference here, No. 11, but I haven't traced it in time.)

    1. Maya M.

      Eternally tortured by a liver-eating eagle, sounds like a nice " wish-dream of Hesiod for the scheming brother" Hmm two things. If the whining about his brother is just wish-dreaming that "Perses" is a good name for destroying their inheritance. And if Prometheus and Perses are comparable; is Perses every referred to as having "crooked metis" like Prometheus and Cronus?

    2. Some suspect that "brother Perses" was 100% invented, just a literary device. To me, however, the Works and Days sounds too authentic. So I think that Hesiod indeed had a brother who took more of their father's estate than Hesiod was inclined to give him.
      In the W & D, Hesiod calls Perses "foolish" (286, approx. 395 and approx. 630). But let's look upon the name about which I (like you) think that it is not the real name of Hesiod's brother. In myth, Perses "the destroyer" is a 2nd generation Titan who never destroys anything. Hesiod describes him in the Theogony as "eminent among all men in wisdom", crooked or otherwise. If the translation is accurate, why is a god compared to mortal men unless Hesiod has another person in mind? Perses leads Asteria "to his great house to be called his dear wife". Maybe Hesiod's brother could also build a "great" house with the snatched portion of his father's estate. Then, Perses was presumably imprisoned in Tartarus for the rest of time, and we know from other sources that Zeus tried to rape Asteria and she died as a result. (Well, she was transformed or transformed herself into an island but I don't think she could remain alive in the process so I consider her, for all intents and purposes, dead.) Maybe Hesiod named his brother Perses not only because of him being "destroyer" of the estate but to have the unfortunate Titan Perses as his mythological double, besides Prometheus.

    3. Maya M,

      Sometimes I am so slow. Hesiod didn't name his fictional brother Perses after the defeated Titan. He named the fictional titan after his brother. For many of the Titans there is no proof of their existence until the Theogony. duh!

    4. I think your idea is brilliant!
      More things I have mentioned:
      - Titan Perses, as well as the punishment of Prometheus, are included only in the Theogony. The W & D keeps silence about Titan Perses and does not detail the fate of Prometheus, except that the theft of fire would be "a great plague" to him. Absent signifier?
      - Another double of brother Perses: Epimetheus in W & D. There, Hesiod warns his foolish brother and so does Prometheus. The warning puts both foolish brothers in the realm of tisis. Epimetheus repents after the fact, though we don't see the reason - why should Epimetheus care whether humans have infections or not? He presumably has immunity. So maybe Hesiod thinks/hopes that his brother will neglect his wise warning and regret when too late.

    5. Maya M,

      We are getting somewhere here with our re-interpretation of The Theogony. Good stuff on Perses' double. I liked your comment that the book was written for a divine audience, but not necessarily for Zeus. Clearly it contains the Hymn to Hecate. I was trying to figure out which of the gods it is and isn't written for based on how flattering Hesiod was to them. I just ran across a paper I will look at today, discussing Hesiod unflattering epithets for Atlas, Mino and Aeetes; trips I would not draw to. Later.

    6. "For many of the Titans there is no proof of their existence until the Theogony."
      Just think about it, "pious" Hesiod inventing gods!
      I browsed to check the Titans for authenticity. Criteria: if the Titan is mentioned by Homer or has a cult, he is likely to be authentic.
      The following Titans made it:
      1st generation: Cronus, Oceanus, Hyperion (barely), Iapetos (barely), Rhea, Themis, Tethys, Mnemosyne (barely).
      2nd generation: Helios, Atlas, Prometheus, Leto, Selene, Eos. I didn't count here the elder Oceanids.
      Hecate stands out as a single "3rd generation Titaness" who is undoubtedly authentic, though none of her parents seems to be. Her mother Asteria may be grew out of a compilation of Astarte, the Greek word for "star" and the peculiar shape of the island of Delos.

    7. Wow! "To the victor goes the spoils!" With the exception of Atlas, all the "authentic" 2nd and 3rd titans were allies of Zeus in the Titanomachy. I always wonder why the Titan Pallas wasn't smart enough to join his wife and kids when the allied themselves with Zeus.


    8. I am not sure, however. It is a pity that we have lost the Titanomachy. A fragment attributed to it says that Prometheus has been herald of the Titans.
      We have no data of the Hyperionides. My guess is that they have not taken part in the war, but even if they have fought at the "wrong" side, Zeus has decided to keep them as irreplaceable experts. The same may have been true for Prometheus, if he was needed for the creation of humans. Alternatively, he may have been an ally and may have been assigned to human affairs at the 1st Mecone Conference, but we have no source for this. All we know is that he appears at the 2nd Mecone Conference out of nowhere and Zeus for unknown reasons gives into his hands both the bread and the knife (this is our idiom meaning "full control over the situation"; in this case, "both the ox and the knife" is more precise).
      If Atlas had taken the side of Zeus, I guess he would have been honored with the job to support the sky. And it would be logical; as one modern Hellenist said, supporting the world seems too important job to be entrusted to someone pissed off for losing a war against you.

      We have no data about Leto and Hecate in the Titanomachy; is there any evidence they were even been born at that time? If Leto has been an ally of Zeus, then he has betrayed her gravely. He has not made her goddess of anything (all the time she has is secured by her children) and, if we take the story of her flight as usually told, he has left her and their child(ren) at the mercy of Hera after impregnating her.

      The honors given by Zeus to Hecate are often understood to imply that she has been an ally of Zeus. However, this is not explicitly written, and there are other explanations. Maybe her honors were for the same reasons as those of Nyx and her brood. (Incidentally, Zeus never rapes Hecate, i.e. maybe she actually belonged to the progeny of Chaos.) In the Homeric hymn to Demeter, Hecate opposes Zeus (and btw so does Helios).

    9. Maya M,

      It is funny that Styx and Hecate are referred to as allies, nice the goddesses and titanesses all stayed with Oceanus and Tethys during the Titanomachy. They didn't take up arms until the Gigantomachy


    10. You are quite right that the Titanomachy was a male affair (except that Iris and her sister Arce, according to her sources, served as messengers). So Leto and Hecate had no business there anyway.
      Styx is a peculiar case. Hesiod explicitly writes that she was Zeus' ally, and the fact that she was a river goddess shows that she may be a "honorary male". I said once that her portrayal in the Hymn to Demeter as picking flowers makes me laugh.

      In my story, Styx joins Zeus following her father's advice. Many years later, Oceanus explains this affair to Prometheus:

      Oceanus: "If Zeus does not bully you, how will people know that he is the ruler? Though I admit that he is somewhat too harsh to you, keeping in mind that it was exactly you who gave the power to him and all his young gods."
      Prometheus (with utmost surprise and disbelief): Me?!
      Oceanus: Who else? By this time, your prophetic gift was already widely known. Everybody said that Iapetos' lad may be as crazy as it goes but when he says that something will happen, it does happen. So, seeing you as Zeus' supporter, what could they think? That you are siding with Zeus because he will win. I was not so sure. I thought you knew that Cronus had trouble in store for you and so you might have joined Zeus just to not give up without a fight. However, listening to other people's talk, I realized that they would follow you and Zeus' power would increase... So I advised my children, if someone wants to go to war, to side with Zeus. My dear daughter Styx was the first. She took her children... and went to him. Many others followed. So Zeus gathered enough force to storm the gates of Tartarus. The rest is history."

    11. As for Helios, let's remember the Odyssey. When Odysseus' men eat Helios' cattle, how does Helios turn to Zeus? Does he use the "If I ever have..." expression, as Thetis does and as we expect from an ally? No, he says, “Father Zeus and you other gods, immortally blessed, take vengeance on the followers of Odysseus.. They have killed my cattle... If they do not atone for their killing, I will go down to Hades and shine for the dead instead.” This is not a formulaic request, actually not a request at all. This is an ultimatum by someone who has formidable power in his domain and cares little about Zeus.

    12. Maya M.

      Definitely doesn't sound like a proper personal conversation! I wondered what Demeter said. According to the HH to Demeter, she didn't say much, even though all the gods at various times came and beg her to relent. Finally Zeus sends Hermes to Hades to discuss Persephone, "But she was afar off, brooding on her fell design because of the deeds of the blessed gods." Which means that Hades and Hermes "went apart" " And the strong Slayer of Argus drew near and said:
      [347] "Dark-haired Hades, ruler over the departed, father Zeus bids me bring noble Persephone forth from Erebus unto the gods, that her mother may see her with her eyes and cease from her dread anger with the immortals; for now she plans an awful deed, to destroy the weakly tribes of earthborn men" That "bids" sounds a lot like "begs". I'll look at the Greek. Anyway, Demeter like Helios got her way without saying pretty please.

  5. BTW, the only word in my language etymologically related to "forethought" (predumisal, from missal - thought) means "premeditation".

    Aeschylus (or whoever wrote the Prometheus plays) knew his business. His work is so powerful that makes it difficult for the reader to detach himself from it and to seek the earlier, more authentic myth.

    I find no reason to think that in the pre-Aeschylean versions, Prometheus ever was or pretended to be at the side of Zeus (though I also took this variant, it is too popular to replace it, and it reminds to me of my grandfather's life:
    I thought before Prometheus swapping sides was a good explanation why he was free at Mecone. But was he really free? Hesiod says that he cut the ox "on his own free will", which may suggest that he hadn't that many occasions to exercise free will. Hesiod doesn't say a word about what Prometheus did in the Titanomachy. His silence on the subject, given the importance of Prometheus in his poems, is so conspicuous that Muellner, on that same p. 87, writes that the Titanomachy was after Mecone - a suggestion which seems absurd to me.

    My best guess is that the swapping of sides was an invention of Aeschylus, to make Zeus even more nasty (ungrateful and cruel to a former key ally) and at the same time to give a hamartia to Prometheus. If I have understood the principle of Greek tragedy correctly, its hero cannot be blameless - he must have a hamartia. And what else could be Prometheus' hamartia? (Unless we subscribe to the theories of scholars of pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany, to whom helping lower races and resisting authority were top 2 mortal sins.)

    1. Maya M.

      I like your theory that Aeschylus invented portions of the Prometheus legend, that whole knowing Thetis destiny thing, certainly muddied the waters. I wonder what the other two plays in the cycle had to say about all this.

      And great story about your grandfather.


    2. Glad you liked the post!

      Most scholars today (e.g. Sommerstein, Lloyd-Jones) seem to think that there was only a "dilogy" about Prometheus - the "Bound" + the "Unbound". There is hardly stuff for a third play either before the "Bound" or after the "Unbound", so the third play presented together with them must have been about something else, and the only other play about Prometheus was Aescylus' earlier satyr-play.
      I am sorry about the loss of the "Unbound". I guess some folks deciding what to keep in the library, like Shelley, didn't like the ending and wished Zeus to fall from power :-). I wonder, why indeed doesn't Prometheus want Zeus to fall from power? Because he clearly doesn't want it and even at the height of his anger actually warns Zeus to stop making unprotected sex left and right.

      Playwrights definitely invented much "myth". They had to devise playable plots and, besides, the audience wanted to see something new, not just the old tales chewed over and over again. See Euripides' Heracles - the timeline of the Labors and the murder of children inverted and the whole Lycus episode occupying the first half of the play invented, not to mention the introduction of Theseus for the sake of Athens' glory. Aeschylus' revision of the authorship of the Thetis prophecy was apparently liked, because we see it uniformly in later sources. An exception is Apollonius of Rhodius, with his pessimism. In his Argonautica, he reverts to Themis being the author of the prophecy. So Prometheus has nothing to offer in exchange for his freedom and remains bound and tortured forever.

      There must be much more invention in the Prometheus Bound. You once mentioned the strange appearance of Oceanus. And what about Zeus being subordinate to the Fates? There may be a mythological basis for this (Odin is in the same position). However, Kitto points out that this is a dramatic device, not true theology. Dramatism requires the protagonist and the antagonist to have roughly equal power, so Aeschylus had to subtract power from the ruler of the Cosmos and to add power to the bound prisoner. (Milton couldn't do this with God and Adam, therefore the Paradise Lost is undramatic.)
      The same with the ending. Hurling Prometheus to Tartarus is just a decent way to end the first play in a curtain-less theater. You couldn't keep the actor bound on the scene for 2 continuous plays; this would bring too much realism to the part. Some clueless Roman author, apparently having read Aeschylus but not understood him, portrayed Prometheus among the sufferers in Hades.

    3. Actually, thinking more of it, I have a guess why Aeschylus' Prometheus warns Zeus about the perils of sexual reproduction (apart from the fact that without this, the play's plot of course would not be working).
      I am now reading a dissertation by A.C. Loney about retribution (tisis) in the Odyssey. According to him, the tisis mechanism absolutely requires the person receiving the retribution to have been warned about it beforehand. The warning is typically by a prophecy, though not always. E.g. when Odysseus' companions warn him that a disaster may happen if they do not leave the Cyclops' cave before the host returns, they use their common sense only.
      I had already included a warning to the Cyclopes to stop producing thunderbolts for Zeus, or they would face the revenge of some victim someday. Now, I'll make my Prometheus send a warning message to Zeus to leave Asclepius alone.

  6. At any rate, I think we can bet that the prophetic gift of Prometheus was invented by Aeschylus. It is vital for the plot, and there is no trace of it in Hesiod. Moreover, while Hesiod clearly writes that the mother of Prometheus is Oceanid Clymene, Aeschylus replaces her with prophetic goddess Themis who in other versions of the myth (Pindar, Apollonius Rhodius) is the author of the succession prophecy about Thetis. Moreover, Aeschylus' Prometheus says for many of his prophecies that he had heard them from his mother. These extensive precautions, I think, can be explained only if we presume that (1) it is no small thing to give a prophetic gift to a god who hasn't it in mainstream mythology and (2) Prometheus hasn't such a gift in mainstream mythology, this gift is the playwright's brand new invention.

    However, making Themis the mother of Prometheus brings a teensy, weensy problem. In myth, Themis has no consort other than Zeus, and no parthenogenetic ability. To solve the problem, Aeschylus scandalously equates Themis with Gaea, a goddess having numerous partners and able to produce children by herself. Prometheus' father is never made known in the play.

  7. I used to think that Hesiod blended two originally distinct personalities, the sacrifice-deceiver and the fire-thief. It seems, however, that they were one person from the beginning, and he was of Indo-European origin.
    Small wonder that we scratch our heads what was Prometheus doing during the Titanomachy: it is not Indo-European, while he is, and he just does not fit in.
    I speculated before that the Mecone scene reminds the PIE scene of "the twin brothers Manu (Man) and Yemo (Twin) + the great cow + the sacrifice", and that Menoetius was a later addition. Maybe Epimetheus also was a later addition, and originally the brothers were Prometheus and Atlas (not necessarily by these names). After the deceptive sacrifice, gods in Heaven withdrew from humanity on Earth and Atlas was forced to perpetuate this situation by keeping the sky lifted. In fact, if the sky was so low to require lifting... how could the Titanomachy unfold at all, with nobody yet doing the job of sky supporter combatants forced to crawl in a narrow space?

    This is my speculation, and here are the mytho-facts:
    Vedic sacrifice requires fire:
    In Vedic mythology, the fire-god Agni is largely identified with the fire itself. He is also often identified with Yama ("Yemo"?), the first person who died and then became ruler of the underworld. A hero-like figure called Matarisvan "brought from afar the hidden Agni, produced by friction, from the gods... Agni was produced with friction and was set up in human abodes... Him, the god, Matarisvan has brought from afat for man..." The cow connection is also here: "Indra produced cows... and delivered the cowstalls to... Matarisvan." And last: "One being the wise call variously: they speak of Agni, Yama, Matarisvan." (Quotes from Vedic translations cited in A.A. Macdonell's "Vedic Mythology".)

    Important difference: Matarisvan did not rebel and was glorified, not punished. Possibly an early difference between Western and Eastern thought?

  8. And here is a quote from another text, Before Noah: Possible Relics of the Flood-Myth in Proto-Indo-Iranian and Earlier, by N. Oettinger:

    "In the Rigveda, the oldest Indian corpus of texts, Yama is, like the Greek Minos, the king of the Netherworld. He is also called the first mortal. In the Younger Avesta the etymologically identical figure, Yima, was the king of mankind in the Golden Age at the beginning of the world. According to the Old Avestan poet and priest Zarathushtra the hero Yima committed a crime. In the translation of Humbalt et al. (1991: 133) it reads:

    "Even Yima, the son of Vivahvan, became notorious for (one instance of) such crimes,
    the ox, who tried to satisfy the mortals, our (people), in swearing by God..."

    According to Jean Kellens (199-2000), the essence of Yima's crime was that he wanted both to introduce progeny for mankind on one hand and keep its immortality on the other."

    Just think, this author mentions Minos (IMHO inaccurately) yet does not mention Prometheus or Hesiod, and ignores that an ox was implicated in Yima's crime!

  9. More about Yima from G. Dumezil, The Destiny of a King:

    "Power... was lost by Yima-Jamsid through a sin which, according to the whole of the Muslim tradition, was pride... But... in the only text conserved from the postgathic Avesta that speaks of it, the sin was defined differently, although none too precisely: one day, the text says, "he lied, and began to think the lying thought contrary to truth"... As to the Gathas, Yima is mentioned there only once, allusively. He is spoken of as a sinner, a criminal (Yasna32,8)... Here is the translation by Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin:

    Among these sinners, we know, is Yima, son of Vivanhat,
    Who to please our people made them eat the flesh of the ox
    In thy decision, O Wise One, I shall be apart from these.

    This description of Yima's fault belongs to a tradition in which eating meat is not always considered a fault at all... Commentaries on Yasna... teach that Naoma - the god Naoma... was immortal because of his own religious activity and not in the manner of those "who have eaten meat which has been given to them by Yima"... [Christensen] concludes that in certain Zoroastrian circles it was still admitted that under this king the privilege of not dying, which men enjoyed, resulted from animal food."

  10. After reading all these non-Greek sources, here is my theory:

    At some time, the original PIE myth of the twin brother sacrifice was modified to the effect that the victim was the cow, not the brother, and fire, attributed specially for this purpose, was used for the sacrifice. This is the Vedic variation, except that the sacriticial object was further replaced.
    The other (reconstructed) variant may have been so: We have a primordial human population of simpletons living "happily and blissfully" without meat, fire and other necessities. Their leader *Yama takes fire from the gods under the condition to use it for sacrifice and gives it to the humans. Alternatively, he may steal it and, when the gods discover this, because it is impossible to un-steal the fire, a compensation agreement is reached that humans are to sacrifice to the gods using this fire. Anyway, next we see *Yama with both the ox and the knife in his hands, and he does the demo-sacrifice in a way to ensure that humans get (most of) the meat. The gods retaliate both against the humans and against him, killing him on the spot, likely by a thunderbolt. Menoetius' fate was originally the fate of Prometheus.
    Later, this myth was mixed with another one, of another group of people, in which fire is acquired by outright theft and the thief is punished by having his liver perpetually eaten by an eagle. The ox sacrifice is missing - cattle is bred by plain dwellers, while eagles are familiar to mountain dwellers; if the Greeks had birds of prey in the early version, they are more likely to have been vultures, as with Tityos.
    Aeschylus adopts the eagle version. Hesiod combines the two. It requires inverting the sequence of fire-theft and sacrifice and brings out of context Zeus' remark "So you have not given up your tricks?" (In the original, these words refer to the theft of fire.)
    A variation with theft of fire first, sacrifice second is preserved by Francis Bacon.

    1. Just found an interesting article claiming that the Caucasus is regarded as a generic place to bind deities having made the mistake to challenge a stronger deity, the plot underlying the punishment often forgotten:

  11. I have seen all sorts of hypothetical derivations of the name of Prometheus, but never from "sacrifice". The Sanskrit word for sacrifice, particularly animal sacrifice, is "medha". There is a word "prasvamedha" for "preliminary horse sacrifice", whatever this means. It seems to me that, if we remove the "horse", we can reconstruct "pra-medha" for "prototype sacrifice".
    The sanskrit word for "intelligence", incl. personified intelligence, is almost identical and with Latin letters is written also as "medha".

    There is a double in Greek myth, Hermes. His name is Linear B is written "Emaa" (Yemo?). His Homeric Hymn contains most of the key elements of the Mecone event: theft, deception, first fire, first sacrifice (of cattle), divine anger. However, the removal of humanity and the introduction of a happy ending makes the story unrecognizable and comic.

    1. I checked whether it is "legal" for a word to have -dh- in Sanskrit and -th- in Greek. There are examples of other such words:

      About Atlas - while he is depicted together with Prometheus on pottery and mentioned in Aeschylus' play, after reading more, I tend to agree with those who assign to Atlas a cosmogonic role initially different from that of the Titans, and awkwardly tied to the latter by Hesiod.
      Here is a quote by W. F. Hansen, "Classical Mythology":

      "(According to Hesiod) Atlas is one of four brothers who experience the hostility of Zeus, and his task of holding up the sky is a punishment, not an honor... The sky is a solid object that, like the roof of a house, needs support, and Atlas by the virtue of his name [Atlas = Bearer] seems destined to do so. Hesiod envisions him as a powerful being who stands at the western edge of the world where, like a living column, he holds up the roof of the world. (It is unclear why, as the sole support of the sky, Atlas stands at the edge of the world, resulting in a cantilevered roof, rather than at its center.) Since the poet does not explain why the sky did not fall before it was supported, he does not acknowledge the interval of time between the castration of Ouranus (Sky), when the sky presumably assumed its current position, and its present support by Atlas. The Succession Myth and the myth of the sons of Iapetos are somewhat independent stories that are not fully integrated with each other."

      Why is holding the sky described by Hesiod as punishment? I guess, because only in this way can be stressed that Zeus is mightier than Atlas, and we know the wish of Hesiod to glorify Zeus, regardless of the mytho-facts.

      So maybe Epimetheus is Prometheus' authentic twin brother after all, despite scarcity of evidence. Some sources state that he was married to the Oceanid Ephyra. Hesiod doesn't even list her among the Oceanids (nor does he list the Oceanid wife of Prometheus named by others Hesione or Pronoia; it seems that in Hesiod's cosmos, Prometheus leaves no issue).
      I tend to think that Hesiod has invented Pandora. She is not attested before him, and I don't know of her counterpart in any other mythology (with the possible exception of Eve - but I try to stay away from the Genesis, it is definitely beyond my abilities).
      So I guess that, in the pre-Hesiodic variant of the myth, Epimetheus had a naturally born wife (Ephyra?) and Zeus gave her the jar. At least, this fits well in the framework of Greek mythology, which has at least 3 other wives naively accepting ill-intentioned gifts: Harmonia, Deianeira and Eriphyle.

    2. Maya,

      Returning to the argument that Atlas wasn't being punished, let be present the following

      "Atlas, who looks after the bottom of the ocean, and carries the great columns that keep the sky and earth asunder. " Odyssey V

      The phraseloy made think of Briareaus and his brothers

      Hes. Theog. 815, s allies of loud-crashing Zeus have their dwelling upon Ocean's foundations, even Cottus and Gyes; but Briareos, being goodly, the deep-roaring Earth-Shaker made his son-in-law, giving him Cymopolea his daughter to wed.

      Else where we hear that Briareaus were sent to guard the Titans. Briareaus was clearly aside on do the under water
      Portals to watch. Was Atlas given the same job; guard the western portal and a parallel underwater western portal?


    3. I think it's quite possible.
      Atlas' daughter promises Odysseus immortality. It is no small thing to make someone immortal. Eos herself had to beg Zeus, and we know how things ended.
      Nonnus moves Atlas one generation up, calling him son of Gaea. There is an image of Atlas on a throne next to Gaea while meeting Heracles:

    4. Let's remember also the stories in which Atlas tries to give his job to Heracles. If supporting the sky was a punishment by Zeus, then Atlas would know that he could not get rid of it without Zeus' permission. So we could assume that it was just a task to be done.

      This reminds me how we first started teaching in English. The task was given to me and another colleague. It was definitely not a punishment, and some tried to present it as honor ("Because we all know that your English is best!"), but the truth was that it was much extra work for almost no extra pay. When the next academic year came, we two stressed that someone else should take the English-speaking students. Our superior said, "But I am not sure that any of the other colleagues will consent." We had to remind her that with us, nobody had ever asked about consent.

      There is an article by V.J. Matthews (1978) about why Atlas, Aietes and Minos are called baneful (oloofron) in the Odyssey. You can try to access it via JSTOR.

    5. Maya,

      I didn't find Matthews too convincing or enlightening. His Minos argument is based on his daughter Adriane rather than his wife Phaedra, who corresponds to Calypso and Circe better.

      Admittedly the whole point is based On Homers passing comment.


    6. Indeed, Atlas is mentioned in the Odyssey only as Calypso's father. At the same time, no other child of Atlas is mentioned, automatically raising the importance of Calypso, like Hesiod's Hecate; maybe Hesiod, by placing this goddess in the crowd of Oceanids, tried, conversely, to diminish her importance.
      Bruce Lincoln think that the original Indo-European death deity was a goddess called Kolyo, "the hidden one" or maybe "the coverer", and she is preserved in Norse Hel and in... yes, our beautiful Calypso.

      B. Louden in "Homer's Odyssey and the Near East" compares Gilgamesh's rejection of Ishtar and Odysseus' rejection of Calypso: Odysseus is diplomatic, like himself, while Gilgamesh is more like Achilles and his blunt words trigger the goddess' wrath. He writes further:

      "Gilgamesh and Odysseus are correct in declining the goddesses' offers to become their consorts since, were they to accept, their subsequent position would be as some kind of functionary in the underworld... Like Calypso, Circe and Ereshkigal, Ishtar is a death goddess. To marry such a goddess means that the hero becomes a masculine version of Persephone, and like her, marries "Death"... In Book 5, as Hermes makes for Ogygia, he takes his magic staff... because (it) marks him here, as it does in Odyssey 24, as the psychopomp, the mediator between this world and the next. This is one of many connections Kalypso's island had with the underworld. In Hesiod the adjective "Ogygian" is used as an epithet of the river Styx..."

      In its Western edge, the world makes connections to other, scary worlds, and Atlas and his daughter know the depths and preside over the gates. We remain with the impression that, while Calypso obeys Hermes' command, Hermes and even Zeus are just pompous upstarts here; Atlas and Calypso have the important jobs, have had it before Zeus has won his mandate on Olympus, and presumably will still have it if someone topples Zeus. The same situation as I presume with Helios.

  12. More thoughts on Atlas:
    The apple-trees of the Hesperides are often given in plural in texts. In vase paintings, we see a single tree, maybe for technical reasons. If we suppose the tree is indeed just one, we may speculate further.
    Gaea gave the golden apples, i.e. sprung the tree producing them, as a wedding present to Hera. However, the tree is curiously distant from Hera. She can hang on the wall in her Olympian palace a document that she owns the tree, but (as far as we know) she has never even seen it. Nor have we heard of her ever using a fruit from it; if she wants a golden apple, she must first send an expedition to the end of the world.
    The tree is in the garden of Atlas, a Titan of giant size, cousin and unfriend of Zeus. Zeus has ordered him to support the sky on his shoulders. We don't know when and on what occasion the order was issued. For that matter, we don't know when Hera and Zeus married, either. Atlas can pick apples from the tree without suffering any harm.
    Maybe the apple tree was initially a World Tree supporting the sky.

  13. Maya,

    If the Apple Tree in referenced in the plural, might be because are three Hesperides. I'd appreciate reference because. Grove of Apple tree moves us into a whole other tradition. Makes can never pick them. They have to be given by the locale goddess.

    Seems like we just talked about this. Wasn't the garden of the Hesperides where Zeus and Hera spent their honeymoon?


  14. Did Zeus and Hera have a wedding and a honeymoon?
    I read about the apple trees in the Theoi page of the Hesperides:

    Search for "trees" within the page.
    To me, it is natural for a golden-apple tree to have 3 guardians. One of our best known folk tales is about three brothers and a golden-apple tree in their garden visited by a female dragon:

    Our mythology has not been preserved. To be precise, Bulgarian nation originated by melting together 3 elements (Thracians, Turcik Bulgars and - as majority - Slavs), and none of them had writing, so their lore was lost. Writing was introduced immediately after Christianization, but we had no Snorri Sturluson. Only some folk tales and songs offer tantalizing glimpses on what may have been myths.

  15. In other mythologies, the analogs of Prometheus occupy intermediate position between gods and humans. Prometheus, however, is a full-right god. I think Hesiod has made him such, to give Zeus kleos for defeating him. Smashing a hubristic mortal would of course be a classic situation for a god, but hardly bringing him any glory.

    For the same reason, Hesiod must have introduced Metis. She is very, very intelligent, but Zeus outwits her, subtext: so he is even more intelligent. Indeed, some people would beg to disagree; human experience shows that, unless elaborate institutions are created to ensure success of intelligence, alpha positions are most often occupied not by intelligent unscrupulous individuals, as expected and as Hesiod claims, but by plain thugs.

    I wondered why the snake was given such important role in the Genesis. As if it's not enough that humans in their primordial state are so helpless that cannot manage even a Fall without a helper, and whom do we see as a helper? - A mere snake. Now, I think I grasp the logic, thanks to Hesiod. Unlike Zeus, who is the supreme god of a pantheon and must prove himself by defeating equals, the God of Genesis is truly monotheistic and does not need to prove Himself.

  16. I tried to find more about the Vedic Yama. I restricted the study to the Rig-Veda, considered the oldest of the Vedic texts. I used to think the Theogony was too long and too unreadable, before trying this. Thank God for the "Find" command.
    Scholars argue whether in this early Veda, Yama is already considered a god. I think those who think so are right. However, he is called "king", which oddly resembles the ironic address of Zeus to Prometheus.
    Most associations between Yama and Agni (fire) could be well explained by the custom of cremation burial. However, there are two lines that may indicate something more:

    Book 10, Hymn 51:
    "3 In many places, Agni Jātavedas, we sought thee hidden in the plants and waters.
    Then Yama marked thee, God of wondrous splendour! effulgent from thy tenfold secret dwelling..."
    The hymn is to Agni and other gods and mentions sacrifice.

    You will read everywhere that before becoming Lord of the dead, Yama was a man, the first man who died and traced the path for others. However, you are unlikely to find how and of what he died. The only clue seems to be this:

    Book 10, Hymn 13:
    "4 He, for God's sake, chose death to be his portion. He chose not, for men's good, a life eternal
    They sacrificed Bṛhaspati the Ṛṣi. Yama delivered up his own dear body."

    From this text, I am not sure even whether Yama sacrifices himself, or someone else (or, as guide and ruler of the dead, deals with someone sacrificed by a 3rd party). However, even if we presume that Yama died as a result of self-sacrifice, this still tell us next to nothing about his death. If we knew about the death of Jesus only that it was a self-sacrifice for the sake of humanity, we would have known too little, particularly with regard to those who directly caused His death.

  17. There is more information about the death of Yima, the Iranian counterpart of Yama (main reference: Yasna 32:8). And it is not pretty.
    The description below is re-told from G. Schmidt, Principles of Integral Science of Religion. Initially, Yima is a Golden Age king, "protector and patron of man and animal". He did many sacrifices - "100 horses, 1000 cattle and 10,000 sheep". So the "once-and-always" element of Prometheus' sacrifice seems to be missing.
    The problem comes when the sacrificial ox, or a share of it, is consumed by humans. Schmidt gives the following translation of the problematic line 8:

    "Because of such a wicked deed even Yima, the son of Vivahnt, was interrogated. This one wanted to make content the men and those belonging to us (the animals). (Yet) the beast was, as sacrificial shares, devoured. In your judgement of such a wicked deed, o Mazda, I am thereby."

    Although the narrator is quick to distance himself from Yima's transgression, it put an end to the Golden Age of immortality and plenty for all humanity. As for Yima, he was sawed in two by someone called Spityura. The original text says nothing more of him, but modern commentators, beginning with Darmesteter in the 19th century, for some reason, consider Spityura to be Yima's brother.
    There seems to be no (surviving) association of Yima with fire.

    1. I was wrong about the last. Yima (a.k.a. Jam) was keeper and establisher of sacred fire:

      "10. And Jam [used] to do all his works, during his reign, very well with the help of all those three fires. He had established the fire Farnbag in its proper place on the Khvarehmand mountain in Khvairizem. When they slew Jam, the fire Farnbag saved the glory of Jam from the hands of Dahak."

      Quote from Greater Bundahishn 18.10:
      "Dahak" are evil demons (apparently reclassified gods) that instigated and helped Spityura to kill Yima.

  18. Under the influence of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, I briefly thought that the object of Prometheus' theft may have been cattle, not fire. However, now I think this is unlikely. Cattle is easy to take back; and, besides, both Yama and Prometheus are said to have given humans horses, but I don't know of evidence of either giving cattle.
    Reading the Theogony, we wonder: Did humans have fire before Prometheus' theft after all? The "cumulative" logic says that they hadn't, and were not meant to have. However, if they hadn't it, how were they expected to make the sacrifice? And, more importantly, even if they had fire before, how were they expected to sacrifice after Zeus took it away from them? It is nowhere said that, by taking fire away, Zeus released humans from the obligation to sacrifice. Bones or no bones, they were obliged to give the Olympians their share. They could of course bury it, but as far as I know, this was not done even for the chthonic gods (exception: the piglets for Demeter at the Thesmophoria). As for leaving it in the open air for beasts and birds of prey to take, gods clearly don't like it.
    I think such troublesome places in Hesiod appear where he awkwardly tries to reconcile different myths.

  19. So, my reconstruction so far:

    The Greek proto-Prometheus initially was a tribal culture hero, special but fully mortal. He found hidden fire and gave it to his people (evidence from Yama).
    Negotiations followed and he received the task to do the prototype sacrifice. However, he managed to give the better portion to humans by deceiving the gods. He knew (again, analogy with Yama) that this would not end well for him.
    Then, gods made his brother kill him by cutting him into two.
    What happened then? What is sure is that gods prepared a jar full of evils, to be delivered to humanity via the hero's brother. Maybe they gave the jar directly to the brother. This would be in full accord with the custom of the gods (e.g. Dionysus in the Bacchae) first to make a human do an atrocity and then to punish him for it.
    Alternatively, they could give him a wife supplied with the jar. She could be specially created, as Hesiod reports, or (this seems more likely to me) naturally born, like Pandora. I thought that they may have given the jar to a pre-existing wife, but it is unlikely that the "reward" of the husband would be given to the wife.
    As the myth developed further, I think the first change was the introduction of a thunderbolt as weapon of killing. "Prometheus" was still mortal, but Greeks decided to give him the more glorious death of Zeus' thunderbolt, rather than at the hands of a stupid brother.

    1. Maybe the shaft inserted into the chest of Prometheus (and, as far as I know, absent in Caucasian myths) is a relic of the initial way of killing.
      Hesiod describes it ambiguously and you will find different interpretations in different translation. Aeschylus, however, is quite clear.

  20. By the naturally born wife given and bringing a disastrous gift, I meant of course Harmonia, not Pandora. Actually, is Harmonia's necklace meant to bring misfortunes to her or to Cadmus and Thebes? Maybe here, as with Helen and Troy, we have two levels - a superficial one, based on personal feelings of love, jealousy and retribution, and an underlying plan of Zeus to attack a city or an entire civilization.

  21. Next, Hesiod takes the myth. He decides to use it to describe the "Fall" of humans and the role of the baneful female tribe in it. He needs to elevate Zeus' challenger in status. So Prometheus, while still a leader of humans, becomes a full-right god. Hesiod could make him son of the Sun-god, like Yama and Yima, but he prefers to make him son of Zeus' prominent adversary mentioned by Homer. It is of course damning for Zeus to be deceived by his first cousin, but it would be much worse if he, as in the original variant, had been duped by a mortal hero :-).
    Hesiod could still let Prometheus be thunderbolted and sent to Tartarus. However, he redirects him to another fate, inserting an obscure Menoetius to take the thunderbolt.
    Logic says that, if Prometheus is immortal, so must be Epimetheus. However, there's no place for him in myth after he fulfills his role to transmit the evils to humanity. For all intents and purposes, he remains mortal.

  22. As for Prometheus, he was bound and had his liver repeatedly eaten by an eagle, until Heracles freed him from this affliction (Theogony about 520 ff.). However, he remained in bonds (615).
    Much ink has been spent on these texts. Generally, scholars think that either the Heracles episode is a later interpolation, or Heracles freed Prometheus only from the eagle but not from the bonds. The language about the "affliction" has ingenious ambiguity in all good translations and, apparently, in the original. This is the same situation as with whether fire was taken from or not given to humans - Hesiod is trying to stitch together conflicting myths.

    It is generally thought that the initial version was of eternal punishment, and was later ameliorated in some regions of Greece. I, while skeptical about exaggerating the role of women, guessed that mothers could have been the first to introduce the change: "Well... after a long time, Heracles came, shot the eagle and released him, and everything ended well. So stop crying and go to sleep."
    However, in the myth of theft of fire, binding and eagle, the hero is usually rescued. This was the dominant version in Caucasus and east to Hindu Kush. Moreover, the story gave more glory to the rescuer than to the rescued, as you have seen in the saga of Nasren and Pataraz. (Hence the bit of Zeus giving his son glory.)
    A major exclusion is the story of Pkharmat, who remains bound and tortured forever. I read it in a blog apparently by a Caucasian, most likely Chechen:

    The author is quite right to point to the similarities of the names "Pkharmat" and "Prometheus" - if we remove the typical Greek ending, we have 4 consonants identically ordered. However, I find it more likely Pkharmat to have been forged from Prometheus than vice versa. "Prometheus" fits the story, while "Pkharmat" ("blacksmith") doesn't - if you surrender almost immediately after stealing fire, you hardly have time to learn metal-working. So I guess that in the particular case of Pkharmat, there was a cultural current from Greece back to the Caucasus, and the Chechens for cultural reasons preferred to remove the happy ending.
    The hero of Caucasus and Hindu Kush tribes after being released resumed his (mortal?) life. Greeks, however, had the same problem with released Prometheus as with Epimetheus - didn't know what to do with him. We never hear where he dwells after his release.

    1. Maya M,

      You already have a law on Scholia as Saviors, are you adding mothers now?

      As to Prometheus, there are a lot of versions of that tale, even among the Naga, there are conflicting versions. I think the only one we haven't discussed is Loki, who also escaped eventually.


    2. No, I am not adding the mothers - I rejected this "theory" quite early.
      I've thought of Loki, that his case shows why it was better for Zeus to reconcile with the Titans and release them. You cannot be safe with strong enemies bound here and there. One day, some of them may break free and that will be the end of the world as we know it:

      There is a mess with fire deities in Indo-European pantheons. There seems to have been none initially, and then everybody added them on the way. At the Western and Eastern end, we have Loki and Agni, who are very different. The Scythians allegedly had a goddess. The Greeks had Hephaestus and Hestia, so one would think that supplying humans with fire would be no problem, yet this task fell to Prometheus (or Phoroneus, if you listen to the Argives). Hestia is not even mentioned by Homer. If subjected to my authenticity test, she would barely pass. And the Hymn to Hermes portrays him, one of the youngest gods, obtaining fire by friction, with a hint that this is the first fire ever lighted.

    3. Maya, graves makes Hestia more of a ash goddess than fire goddess, but your Hermes comment explains the frequent pairing of the two in Olympian processions. Aren't there was two fire goddes? What about the sun gods as fire gods.


    4. Yima/Yama is son of the sun god. In Greece, however, the sun god Helios is "othered". He is ancestor of some humans, but they are Barbarians and generally not nice, take just the best known of them, Medea. I don't know of any association of Helios with fire, except in the versions where Prometheus stole the fire from the chariot of Helios. This is a late variant different from those of Hesiod and Aeschylus. In Aeschylus, fire belongs to Hephaestus, and Hesiod does not mention who originally owned the fire, raising the suspicion that it was public domain.

      Why would anybody need an ash goddess?
      It makes sense to have two fire gods, one (preferably female) for domestic fire and another one (male) for "industrial" fire. These are Hestia and Hephaestus of course. I've read somewhere that, because wives maintained their husbands' hearths, only virgins could be trusted to maintain public fires and therefore Hestia/Vesta and her priestesses were virgins. Hephaestus sounds to me like a derivative of Hestia (Heph-EST-us), but nobody else thinks so. The problem with Hestia is her historical youth, contrasted with her venerable mythological age. In artistic depictions of "the 12 Olympians", oldest sets include the mythologically much younger Dionysus instead of her.

      I don't know what to think of Hermes. He just doesn't fit in the picture. One would expect his hymn to describe the slaying of Argus, and instead, we find his childhood adventures, described as approaching the human condition and then pulling away from it. He kindles a fire because he wants to do animal sacrifice, and it cannot be done without fire. BTW, his case is the only description of fire-lighting I've found in an ancient text describing such ancient events. Otherwise, fire exists in some eternal form and the characters just carry it around, like Homo erectus did.

    5. I've just seen a comment at Hour25 referring to that oft-repeated story how Hestia was allegedly moved from Olympus to be replaced by Dionysus. I think it's high time for people seriously interested in mythology to stop reading Graves!

    6. Maya M.

      Thanks for opening my eyes. How did I fall for another Graves fable? And how did you know that? Like you I could find no ancient source for this story.

    7. I also knew it first from Elani's blog, and then I find a confirmation in C.R. Long's "The Twelve Gods of Greece and Rome", p. 140:

      "Weinreich held that the Twelve Gods were the Twelve Olympians, among whom individual members might be dropped to admit other gods. Thus he regarded Dionysos on the Parthenon freeze to be a substitution for Hestia... However, Dionysos is included on Athens 1 and 2, both dated to the sixth century B.C. The earliest set with Hestia is Pherai 1, dated to the late fourth-early third century B.C."

    8. In my country, the mainstream book to learn Greek myths from is a translation of a synopsis by Russian professor Nikolay Kun. In the English-speaking world, to begin with, apparently no one classical scholar took this task upon himself. So Graves filled the vacuum and gave freedom to his imagination. Even after that, no one expert wrote a book to rival Graves'; they just grumbled to each other that Graves' interpretations were unfounded. Now, when Graves' urban myths are reprinted in secondary books and are all over the Internet, again, classicists take no counter-measures. You see, we had to learn the truth from some blogger who still worships Zeus. Graves' fable about Hestia stepping down for Dionysus was in Wikipedia, until I edited it. Where are the classicists? I think that they neglect their duty to the public.

    9. Maya,

      You wrote, "Graves' fable about Hestia stepping down for Dionysus was in Wikipedia, until I edited it. Where are the classicists? I think that they neglect their duty to the public." Wow! I can't answer on behalf of academia because I am not of that world and apparently there are a lot of paradigms that I can't even envision. (Even though when I request people try to explain it to me.) As to where the classicists are? We are here! You, me and our readers. And you performed our duty for us. Thank you, Professor Maya!


  23. In R. D. Woodard's "Myth, ritual, and the warrior in Roman and Indo-European antiquity" I found interesting details of Pataraz/Bataraz/Batraz, the rescuer of Caucasian "Prometheus". I thought that the behavior of mad Heracles killing his kin is very atypical (enough to require divine intervention for explanation), but Woodard puts him within of an archetype of "dysfunctional warrior" in Indo-European myths. There fits also Batraz, who cuts off his kin's heads when hasn't anything better to do.
    Howe Batraz came to this world: "In Ossetic tradition, Batraz was born from the body of his father, Xaemyts. The Nart hero Xaemyts had met his wife as he hunted in a far away remote locale; she dwelt beneath the sea, a descendant of the sea deity Donbettyr, or otherwise a sea genie - a very small frog-like creature whom Xaemyts would carry in his pocket during the day, but who would become a beautiful woman by night. By the scheming of the evil Nart Syrdon, Xaemyts' wife is offended - and it had been fated that such an event would cause her to leave her husband and be reunited with her own marine family. Before she disappears she reveals to Xaemyts that she is pregnant, and she implants the embryo that she is carrying into her husband's body..."
    Does this remind you of someone in Greek myth (or of more than one person)?

    1. Xaemyt's fairy wife sounds a lot like Thetis But, the only god birthing children is Zeus with Athena and Dionysus. Obscurely, you could count Pontos birthing Nereus and Aphrodite, but no one talks about that much.


    2. Exactly. Of the two analogies, I am more interested in the one with Thetis. Apparently, the tendency of interesting individuals to have water deities as mothers is not restricted to Greek myth.

    3. Now there is a thought. Hmm. Did I point out the Olympians avoid bedding Nereids? Poseidon being the exception for political reasons.


    4. Yes, this was an excellent post. Maybe the turbulent, uncontrollable sea was considered perilous even for the gods. And you are right that Poseidon was obliged to marry a Nereid. He coped with this, because he is the bravest Olympian in bed. Besides the Nereid Amphitrite, he made sex with Thoosa and Medusa, daughters of Phorkys. Or maybe this was also part of his job description?

      I've just found a minor Indian goddess who is not related to water but otherwise has some resemblance to Thetis. She is called Diti and has the habit of producing mighty sons. Indra kills her first set of children because he fears them. She decides to prolong her next pregnancy by magic so that to have a son mightier than Indra. The latter, however, as soon as he sees her pregnant again, thunderbolts her. The fetus is torn to pieces that regenerate into minor storm gods.

    5. Maybe, before Cronus and Rhea were introduced to complicate the picture, there was a goddess of creation, who was split into two: Tethys, the mother or ancestress of current gods (as Hera refers to her in the Iliad) and her granddaughter Thetis, the potential ancestress of a future world.

    6. Maya M,

      Interesting, that you suggest a multi form for Tethys, Alcman sings a theogony with three goddess and Thetis is one of them..


  24. I wrote a post based on this discussion: