Wednesday, September 9, 2015

TFBT: You Are What you Eat

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 Hebronby 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
[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.
[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 GravesThe 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)


  1. It is not only deceased heroes who eat bread. We the living also eat bread. Hence, we of the Iron Age are also heroes. The gods tried their best to exterminate the more distinguished demigods, but by this time, human-divine interbreeding was so advanced that it was impossible to purge the divine genes from the human population.

    Talking of fateful food and Jesus, what do you think of the peace of bread with sauce that Jesus gives to Judas, after which "the Satan goes into Judas"? Would Judas betray Jesus without this bread? Jesus also tells Judas to hurry up with whatever he is planning. It seems that Jesus has some deadline and, to meet it, has to prompt Judas to do his part without delay.

  2. Maya,

    Thank you for the paragraph about our divine genes.

    "There are two urns that stand on the door-sill of Zeus. They are unlike for the gifts they bestow: an urn of evils, an urn of blessings" Iliad 24. 527

    I have a hard time convincing people that we are of the iron age and are a little of that above and this below.

    As to Jesus' foreknowledge... Have you seen "Jesus Christ Superstar"? The play really humanizes my Lord. You see that frustration of knowing what is about to happen and wishing it would happen and be over with. As to the deadline; I've learned in my life that foreknowledge is not causation.


  3. "I have a hard time convincing people that we are of the iron age and are a little of that above and this below."

    Do your opponents overestimate or underestimate the human nature and condition?

  4. "Jesus Christ Superstar" is indeed a masterpiece and I enjoyed it much. It shows Jesus in flesh and blood, a real Son of Man. However, I don't find it helpful in understanding Judas, or the relationship between him and Jesus. Judas in the play is very different from the one in the Gospels, and I find him definitely too modern for 1st century Palestine.

    Foreknowledge may become causation (self-fulfilling prophecies). Therefore, we are advised to foster high expectations of our children (poor expectations lead to poor results) and never to call them things like "lazy", because they may take the epithet as a role and become what they are called. (Unfortunately, it does not work the other way round. Calling a child hard-working or intelligent will not make him such.)
    There are many prophecies in the New Testament. I'd wish someone to collect them in a tidy catalog with notes where they are from (if they are really based on older extant sources). At least one seemed to be intended a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take the ancestry of Joseph, proving that he is a descendant of David. There was allegedly a prophecy that the Messiah will come from the house of David. However, keeping in mind that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, it made more sense to give the ancestry of Mary. Why Joseph? My guess: because other people considered Jesus to be son of Joseph. However, if this was the idea, it did not work. If we exclude the Adorations, Jesus was considered commoner and son of commoner throughout his earthly life. People were seeing what was in front of their eyes - Joseph the carpenter, rather than some alleged multiple-generations descendant of David.
    Now, let's think of Judas. I do not (yet) understand why Jesus had to die exactly as he did, but the Gospels clearly imply that he had to. So a traitor was as instrumental to his mission as Helen was to the conspiracy of Zeus and Themis. Unlike Helen, Judas is not specifically created to do his part. He may be selected - it is hard for me to believe that Jesus did not select his Apostles. Then, Jesus started to prepare and condition Judas for his part. Of all apostles, it was Judas who was appointed to keep the money. This is the equivalent of appointing a suspected drug addict as pharmacy clerk. Putting him in a situation where he can succumb to his vice is both a test and an encouragement of his vice. And then, Jesus told Judas to betray him. In some versions, Judas then repents and kills himself. This proves that he is better than most murderers. Had he any chance to resist temptation and the bad side of his character? Even if there was, Jesus blew it up, because the successful completion of his mission required betrayal by Judas.

  5. Maya,
    You wrote;"There are many prophecies in the New Testament. I'd wish someone to collect them in a tidy catalog with notes where they are from". My Bible footnotes and references reference each fulfiled prophecy. NI think the Lord litertarily went out of his way sometimes to fulfill Old Testament prophecies.

    Jesus had to die as our sacrifice for sin. That is an old Middle East concept. What is new in the Chridtian religion, is that His sacrifice is once and for all. No more burning thigh bones on ash covered Altars. Our sin are forgiven,

    Judas betrayed Jesus, but the Lord would die sooner or later, Judas didnt have to be the one. At Troy heroes and gdemigods were going to die by the thosans whether Avhilles fought or not. J&A had a choice. So do we.


  6. What is NI? I am very ignorant in Bible studies. Because most "experts" on these matters I've seen are motivated not to do research, be it even amateur research, but to make or keep people Christian, I stay away from them.

    "Jesus had to die as our sacrifice for sin. That is an old Middle East concept."
    Have you any source of this concept outside Christianity? I thought it specifically Christian. I tried to find out what Jews think of the human condition, but all I found out was that they have no concept of original sin. I still don't know how they view the Fall story, which is, to my opinion, very interesting and problematic. As my 5th grader put it, "Why didn't God want us to know?"

    "The Lord would die sooner or later, Judas didn't have to be the one."
    If I get the idea of His mission, somebody had to be. What would happen if nobody had taken acton against Jesus? He could sacrifice Himself by open suicide, like Lucian's Peregrine, but I don't think this could accomplish His mission.
    Unlike Helen, who is marked by her ancestry, Judas' ancestry and early life seems insignificant. The only siginificant fact is that he was put in charge of the money and abused this responsibility; and he betrayed Jesus for money. Was he selected, or it was thought that anyone in this position would be corrupted within weeks? Maybe the Gospel concept is that humans are unable to resist temptation.

  7. Maya M,
    "NI" is a tpyo for "I". Sorry.

    If you are interested in Biblical research every church has a weekly Bible Study or two.

    I meant that sacrifice for sin is a middle eastern concept. It took a little more that tossing a nother steak on the grill for the ancient Greeks.

    Sacrifical gods are common in the era; Osiris & Zagreus/Dionysus, for example.

    What is your religious background?

    The question of free will is hot and heavy again in the latest version of HeroesX. Achilles choice was insignificate to the goal of the gods which was reducing over population. Judas arranged for Jesus arrest. It could have happen at any time. Judas was not vital for the destiny of the Lord.


  8. I am not sure whether Osiris and Zagreus have any core similarity to Jesus. The former may be regarded as sacrificial gods because they were killed, but they didn't want to die, they were "ordinary" murder victims. And they definitely didn't sacrifice themselves for the human race.
    In one of the last parts of the Old Tastement, some Jewish prophet was lying for days to atone for the sins of his people - this is the only example of "sacrifice" to atone for other people's unspecified sins that I remember. Unfortunately, I've forgotten the details and even the prophet's name.

    It is indeed noteworthy that so much emphasis is put on Judas' betrayal, which is just telling where and who Jesus is... provided that He was not hiding at all and could be arrested at any time. Moreover, He apparently intended to bring to new and new levels His confrontation with earthly authorities until practically forcing them to arrest and execute Him, like Antigone.
    I guess, by putting emphasis on Judas the Gospel authors wanted to stress either that betrayal was added to Christ's "Passions", or that humans - or Jews at least - are miserable creatures. Maybe there are other explanations; but what is sure is that Judas' betrayal is significant, and its awkward place in the line of events just underscores its significance in some non-literal plane of interpretation.

  9. My ancestors were Orthodox Christians. I remember my father instructing me as we went to visit his mother on Easter: "Tell Grandma "Happy Easter", because she is a Christian." He was not, however. He believed in childhood, but he lost his faith later. My mother has never been a believer.
    When I was young, my country was an officially atheistic Communist dictatorship. This made me fairly ignorant in Bible matters but at the same time more tolerant to Christianity than I would have been if it had been pushed down my throat.
    To fill the holes in my culture, I've read parts of the Bible - the Genesis, the Book of Job and the New Testament. I intend to read all of it some day, but in the meantime, my main source is Leo Taxil's Amusing Bible.
    I have a theory for the Book of Job - that it has been sneaked into the Scripture by some militant atheist.

  10. Maya m,
    We can judge events by what they say or what they do? Osiris died and via the Egyptian Book of the Dead he lead us to our Salvation. Zagreus died and via the Orphic mysteries lead us to our salvation. Jesus certainly expressed doubts. Odin hung himself, to find the skill set to save everyone.

    Hera betrayed Zagreus, Loki Odin, prometheus - Zeus, Judas - Jesus. Set - Osiris. I hadnt thought about the betrayer role before.

  11. I remember now that Yama also died to show humans the path to a nice Underworld ("the path of Yama"). Unfortunately, the details are not reported.
    I don't think, however, that humans are considered inherently sinful in any of these myths. It seems to me that the concept of the universal sin of the human race, which requires a sacrifice, must be unique to Christianity (and maybe to some Jewish belief systems immediately predating it).

    I don't think that Prometheus' betrayal of Zeus is relevant. It does no harm to Zeus, and Zeus never undergoes any sacrifice. To me, Zeus & sacrifice seem as incompatible as elephant & ballet.
    However, Prometheus' myth also includes a relevant betrayal, at least in some versions. From
    "It is said that Prometheus stole fire, and the story goes that Zeus was angered and bestowed upon those who laid information of the theft a drug to ward off old age. So they took it, as I am informed, and placed it upon an ass. The ass proceeded with the load on its back; and it was summer time, and the ass came thirsting to a spring in its need for a drink. Now the snake which was guarding the spring tried to prevent it and force it back, and the ass in torment gave it as the price of the loving-cup the drug it happened to be carrying. And so there was an exchange of gifts: the ass got his drink and the snake sloughed his old age, receiving in addition, so the story goes, the ass's thirst. What then? Did I invent the legend? I will deny it, for before me it is celebrated by Sophokles, the tragic poet [C5th B.C.], and Dinolokhos [C5th B.C.], the rival of Epikharmos, and Ibykos of Rhegion, and the comic poets Aristias and Apollophanes."
    The betrayer, like Judas, gains nothing from his act.

  12. Maya,

    Okay, the Greeks dont believe in original sin, but still on their own, most humans ain't good enough to get into some Paradise. So you attend the Mysteries, attain unwilting glory, buddy up to Athena fir a cup of nectar, be the most beautiful in hopes of getting snatched up by Eos, Aphrodite or one of the Cronides.


  13. I thought more about it. My conclusion: to clear God(s) of any wrongdoing for the troublesome human condition, preachers and writers cite some reasons to explain/justify why God(s) have inflicted evil on humans. So far so good. We see this both in ancient Greece and in Judaism/Christianity, but for some reason not quite clear to me, monotheists stress on this much harder than polytheists, and Christians much harder than Jews.

    Actually, while Jews seem to have no consensus idea of afterlife, Christians are concentrated on it, and extrapolate the hardships of this world (which apparently made theodicy necessary in the first place) to the netherworld, on a magnified scale; and it is for this netherworld that Jesus promises salvation, if I get things right.

    To me, theodicy can only make things worse. Hesiod's Zeus is much less attractive than the Iliad's Zeus, and if there is one God who doomed humans because of their independent mind and will, I do not see how His later decision to torture His son could prove His goodwill. Actually, when Jesus talks about His Father, the message sounds very much like a warning - to me, at least.

  14. Thinking of it, I find it remarkable that gods' gifts to humans in this world are almost unconditional. Well, Demeter gave us agriculture and we must place the first fruits on her altar, but this seems a small price to pay. Everybody knows that success in agriculture, olive cultivation and metalworking depends more on the person's skills and hard work than on his worship of Demeter, Athena and Hephaistos, respectively; and of course, everyone can eat meat and use fire without giving a damn about Prometheus.

    We see the opposite situation with the gift of a good afterlife. First, we are told that the uninitiated will have a very hard eternity after death. Then, we are given a recipe for entry into the respective Paradise, based largely on worship. Persephone never gave or wanted to give humans anything, but we are required to worship her heavily, or else.

    "...On their own, most humans ain't good enough to get into some Paradise."
    It seems to me that you caught the essence in this sentence: all "mysteries" are about dividing mankind into those who will get into Paradise and those who will go to Hell. I'd even bring the thought further: nobody, no matter how good, can enter Paradise on his own. Actually, part of the satisfaction after being initiated into the Mysteries is that we expect to have a more pleasant eternity than those who are better than us by any meaningful criterion. As Diogenes said, a thief initiated in Eleusis will be treated better than a great but non-initiated benefactor.

  15. Maya M,

    I like your Diogenes quote. I am a teaching assistant for the fourth version of HeroesX and I see the new students strugle so much with th concept that the gods had a totally different moral and ethical system than us. They can not accept that pwople that lived three thousand years ago thought differently than us. You wrote, ": all "mysteries" are about dividing mankind..." I think that divide is between those who accept the divine as they are and those who dont. Those who rely upon the gods and those who dont. Those who accept the two different moral codes and those who cant. Hubris the greatest of the sins, he who says, "I dontt need Athena to help with the vase, he who tries to blame or shame the gods is going to pay the price.

    Kind of rambling Sorry


  16. "Divide is between those who accept the divine as they are and those who don't. Those who rely upon the gods and those who dont. Those who accept the two different moral codes and those who can't. Hubris the greatest of the sins... he who tries to blame or shame the gods is going to pay the price. Kind of rambling."

    Not rambling at all - on the contrary, you hit the nail on the head again. God/s want/s our unconditional submission. There are, however, two problems. First, an intellectual/practical one: we have no reliable way to know exactly what God/s want/s. Remember how badly Agamemnon was misled. Second, the ethical question: what if the putative will of God(s) is not only different but directly opposing our human moral code? Should we follow the divine will, losing our humanity, or should we risk and indulge in some hubris?

    We see this dichotomy in the Bacchae. The Chorus is formed of true believers who are so devoted to Dionysus that, as one commenter said, they are no longer recognizably human. On the other side are the tragic heroes. I like the last words of Agave. She blames Dionysus and refuses to worship him. Of course, she has little to lose - everything one may fear has already happened to her. Maybe if she had other children, she would bow.

  17. Maya,

    If Orestes didnt break human law and kill his mother, we'd have no jury system.


  18. I have the feeling, however, that the court already existed (maybe established to try Ares for murder) and Athena just stormed it to bully the jury and distort its decision.

    Athena: "It is my duty to put the final vote upon this issue and I give it to Orestes because I was not born of any woman and, except marriages, I respect, with all my heart, by my father’s side and so I will not support a woman who has killed her husband, the guardian of the house. Moreover, since there are equal votes on both sides, Orestes wins. All those judges who had taken part, bring out your votes... This man is innocent of shedding blood. The votes are equal in number."
    That is, the majority of human jurors thought Orestes was guilty :-).

  19. In a book I am reading now ("Abay", by Mukhtar Awezov), an old Kazakh, heading to Mecca, bids farewell to his relations:
    "Goodbye, family! If I am fated to test food in my homeland again, let our reunion be blessed and joyous!"
    I found interesting the connection to food.

  20. I did a piece on, you are what you eat right? Food in my home land is mortal food and leads to death. Food offered at the tables of the gods and communion at the Christian altar offer immortal food and life ever lasting. Is there a food associated with Mecca?

  21. From the BBC site: "...A sacrifice called a Qurbani should be made in which a lamb or sheep is slaughtered and the meat distributed among the poor. After this, men's heads are shaved and women cut a lock of their hair."