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)