My friend Maya said something the other day that I did not exactly relate to, but could not articulate what I was thinking. She said regarding characters in Greek mythology, “I am more interested in the weak individuals who keep their minds independent and struggle to be free.” My initial thought is that I can relate, specifically thinking about Achilles and Demeter who sat quietly in their tents sulking, until they got their way. But, that's not quit right is it? Their response is meek, its affect it catastrophic; Most of the Achaeans would have died in Achilles case (Iliad 1. 386) and the tribes of men starved to death in Demeter's. (Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter) These were powerful characters. But aren't they all?
Maya's Law states that "Zeus Doesn't Like Real Women!" More accurately stated "Olympian males prefer Ionian and barbarian women." Maya's points to the fact that by the end of the Heroic Age pretty much ever mortal had a little ichor flowing through their veins. I am suggesting that at the right place and time most everyone in Greek mythology is a god-like daemon.
At Mecone, god and man alike were granted their powers, prerogatives and privileges. And no god may thwart another's rights .
- So if you are the mighty Aphrodite you don't want to show off your divine power on the field of battle ( Iliad 5.334)
- But, Ino the women-turned-goddess of drowning sailors could rescue the doomed and drowning Odysseus (Odyssey 3.337) with no apparent concern for the wrath of Poseidon. (Odyssey 1.20) as did the unnamed river god of P.... (3.450) and the P.... (8.565. ).
- The sea nymph Thetis was apparently the goddess of divine rescue (Homer, Iliad 18.369, 6.135, 1.393 ). So she could rescue Zeus from the rebel Olympians and they could not lift a hand (nor apparently their voices) to stop her.
I am thinking of Macaria,[i] Menippe & Metioche[ii] and Chthonia[iii] princesses who sacrificed their lives to forestall the doom of their people. For all the appearance of weakness and powerlessness these women have the power to be the savioress or destructrix of their worlds. If she exercises that power she probably receives heroic honors and presumably a place on the Isle of the Blest;
"There fair-haired Rhadamanthus  reigns, and men lead an easier life than any where else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain, nor hail, nor snow, but Okeanos breathes ever with a West wind that sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. " (Homer, Odyssey 4.565)
The counter argument to this is of course Antigone (see play of the same name by Sophocles). This princess of Thebes "sacrificed" herself in a failed attempt to give her brother proper funeral and save her city from the pollution that was bound to occur with all those dead bodies outside the seven gates. But Antigone was not weak and powerless. She was a very strong personality with a powerful uncle as protector. In fact she did not fail in her quest. Five minutes after her death her arguments (and an angry mob) convinced Creon to bury the dead. As Aphrodite's power lies in love not war, just as clearly Antigone's godlike daemonic powers laid in persuasion not sacrifice. If she and Haemon had waited a few more minutes this would be clearer. Or as the war-widows did in The Suppliants by Euripides, she could have gone to Athens and used her skills in persuasion to convince Aethra and Theseus to aid her.
Slaves, like Eumaeus the swineherd and Philoetius the cowherd, are considered weak and powerless (in the face of injustice,) but the Suitors might disagree with that. (Odyssey 22.200-204)
Andromache hears her husband knowingly paint a dreadful picture of the fate awaiting women taken when their city falls;
“no, the pain I have on my mind is not as great for them as it is for you when I think of a moment when some Achaean man, one of those men who wear khitons of bronze, takes hold of you as you weep and leads you away as his prize, depriving you of your days of freedom from slavery. And you would be going to Argos, where you would be weaving at the loom of some other woman and no longer at your own loom at home and you would be carrying water for her, drawing from the spring called Messēís or the one called Hypereia. Again and again you will be forced to do things against your will, and the bondage holding you down will be harsh. (Iliad 6.454-459)
And yet some of the women taken at Troy become the Queen of Sparta[iv], Queen Mother of Athens[v], Queen of Epirus and the islands of her coast[vi] and even received heroic honors at Peragamon[vii] and Leuctra in Laconia[viii]
Helpless Little Children
Maybe Heracles wasn’t so helpless when he strangled to death the serpents Hera unjustly put in his crib ( Apollodorus, THE LIBRARY 2.4.8 , trans J. G. Frazer http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus2.html) ) However the infant Opheltes was unable to fend off the serpent that killed him (Statius Thebaid 5.499, trans J. H. Mozley nor did the young sons of Medea fend off the sacrificial knife their mother used before flying away in a chariot pulled by serpents.( Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 146, trans. Aldrich) Kind of makes Archemorus, and Mermerus & Eriopis look weak and helpless, and yet all three were given heroic honors and funeral games every four years. (Apollod. iii. 6. § 4.) (Pausanias [2.3.7]
So whose else? Who among the sad and downtrodden actually ended up proving to be a god-like daemon.
[i] (Pau 1.32.6)
[ii] (Lib Met 25)
[iii] (Hyginus Fabulae 45)
[iv] (Odyssey 4)
[v] (Paus. x. 25. § 3;)
[vi] (Paus. l. c., ii. 23. § 6.)
[vii] (Paus. i. 11. § 2; comp. Dictys Cret. vi. 7, &c.; Eurip. Andromache.)
[viii] . (Paus. iii. 19. § 5, 26. § 3.)