Ben and I intend to discuss the illusion of “Death” in Greek Mythology next week. Ben is doing the research. My assignment requires me to “crystalize” the concept . I wasn’t having much luck there. Inspiration came from an unexpected “poet”; Alexander Dumas. I love Dumas. Of all his amazing books, his biographic, “My Adventures in the Caucasus” is my favorite. In the introduction he explains how the Caucasus mountain range got its name.
The Caucasus itself owes its name to one of the first assassinations committed by one of the most ancient gods, Saturn, vanquished by his son Jupiter in the war of the Giants was fleeing through the mountains when he found his way barred by a shepherd, Caucasus, who he slew with a sweep of his scythe. Jupiter to commemorate this murder gave the victim’s name to the whole range, of which the mountains of Armenia, Asia Minor, Persia and the Crimea are off-shoots.
As literature moved beyond Hesiod and Homer, Greek faded and was replace by Latin as the universal language. Hence all the gods' Greek names were replaced with their Latin equavalent. As the past began to fade mankind began to confound the War of the Giants with the War of the Titans, So, in writing “Saturn” Dumas meant Cronus and rather than the Gigantomanchy he meant the Titanomachy. If the mortal Caucasus barred the Titan's path through the mountain range, is this where Zeus finally avenged himself and his sibling upon their cannibal father? Is this the spot where “Saturn's tomb is pointed out in the Caucasus”? [i]
Admittedly, rumor has it that there is a tomb of Zeus on Crete but as the ancients said “All Cretans are liars”[ii] Still a tomb of Cronus? In some ways that seems possible. Human’s die, but their “yuce”, their souls survive in Hades. Likewise the giants and Typhon were “buried” under mountains[iii] and the Titans tossed into a hole in the ground (called Tartarus)[iv]. So maybe the fallen divine foes of the Olympians only survived in shadowy forms beneath the earth. So how do we address those gods who return to the world? For “Even immortal Zeus released the Titans”[v]
Okay that’s easy. To return these gods to “light and life” just feed them a little nectar and ambrosia. [vi] Hmm, just feed them a little nectar and ambrosia. Over the years Maya M and I explored the genealogies of the heroes and gods trying to determine the “gene for immortality”. For example, the descendants of Gorgophone and the descendants of Telephassa though generally mortal have tendency to turn into gods. What if the secret to being immortal and unaging is in what you eat?
If you lap black blood out of a trench[vii] or eat a pomegranate grown along the banks of the Acheron[viii] you live in Hades. If you eat meat; you are a man[ix] . If you eat bread; you are a deceased hero or demi-god living on the shores of the Great River Ocean.[x] The apples are always poisoned one way or the other.[xi] If you consume nectar and ambrosia you are a god.[xii] Hence, during the Golden Age the Titans drank & dined with men[xiii] and consequently lost the Titanomachy to the nectar-swilling Olympians. The Olympians once shared their divine food with men. Then Tantalus[xiv] and Ixion[xv] got drunk on nectar and made such a mess of things, that the gods got real picky about whom they dined with.
It’s sort of like communion on Sunday, to attain life-immortal I kneel at the railing and eat of the divine food provided by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
[i] “The Ghebers of Hebron” by Samuel Fales Dunlap 1898, pg 161; who references Daniel Abrahamic Chwolson, Ssabier und der Ssabismus v1, page 400, 1856 , see also “The Seven Beauties” by Nizami of Ganja, “In praise of King Alaud Din” circa 1200
[ii] HYMNS OF CALLIMACHUS, HYMN I. TO ZEUS
[iii] Apollodorus, The Library 1.6.2 and 1.6.3 Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921
[iv] Apollodorus, The Library 1.2.1
[v] Pindar, Nemean 10.59
[vi] Hesiod, The Theogony 617, Translated by Evelyn-White, H G. Loeb Classical Library Volume 57. London: William Heinemann, 1914.
[vii] Homer, The Odyssey, Book 11, Translated by Murray, A T. Loeb Classical Library Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1919.
[viii] Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Translated by Evelyn-White, H G. Loeb Classical Library Volume 57. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
[ix] Hesiod, The Theogony 545, The Homeric Hymn to Hermes 132-137, plus Atsma’s footnote 19
[x] Hesiod, Works and Days (trans. Evelyn-White) "Zeus the son of Kronos made yet another [race of men], the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-men who are called demi-gods…they live untouched by sorrow in the Islands of the Blessed along the shore of deep swirling Okeanos, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year”
[xi] The Fates poinsoned the monster Typhon with “that ephemeral fruit” Apollodorus, The Library 1.6.3
[xii] Homer. The Iliad 1.595, Translated by Murray, A T. Loeb Classical Library Volumes1. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1924 and Ovid. Metamorphoses 1.595 Translated by More, Brookes. Boston, Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922.
[xiii] Robert Graves – The Greek Myths pg 26, 1955, revised 1960 “Zeus grew to manhood among the shepherds of Ida, occupying another cave; then sought out Metis the Titaness, who lived beside the Ocean stream. On her advice he visited his mother Rhea, and asked to be made Cronus's cup—bearer. Rhea readily assisted him in his task of vengeance; she provided the emetic potion, which Metis had told him to mix with Cronus's honeyed drink.”
[xiv] Apollodorus. The Library. E.2.1 Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921
[xv] Pindar, Pythian Ode 2. 32 ff (trans. Conway)