Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TFBT: Ben's Curriculum, Part III

4. Apples So I think we all know about the poisonous apple that the witch-queen gave Snow White and the fatal effects of the apple that Eve gave Adam.  Notice a certain about of danger here?  Got be careful of divine gifts.  (Did you know that the Norse gods, the Aesir, remained immortal and forever young by eating the golden apples provided by the nymph Induna?)

In Greek myth the first apple tree appeared as a spontaneous gift from the earth-goddess Gaia at the nuptials of Zeus and Hera.  Its fruit are golden. It stands in the Garden of Hera, at the foot of the Mt. Atlas.  An immortal serpent named Ladon guards it and a threesome of goddesses called the Hesperides tend the garden. (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 113)

Seeing a trend here; goddess sitting under a tree passing out apples?  It is a common and dangerous motif. 
One of these golden apples of the Hesperides was tossed into the reception hall during the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.  Upon it was engraved “For the Fairest.”   Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each vied for the apple and the title.   Zeus ordered Hermes to escort the threesome to the shepherd Paris on Mt. Ida, to be judged by him.
Get the picture here; three goddess and a man under a tree and a golden apple.  Hera promised to make him king of all men; Athena promised him victory in war; and Aphrodite got naked promised him the most beautiful woman who ever lived as his wife. Naturally, he chose Aphrodite. The destruction of his nation and death of most everyone he knew followed.  (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 2)

Golden apples appear in the myth of Atlanta too;

(Atlanta) “made it the condition that every suitor who wanted to win her, should first of all contend with her in the foot-race. If he conquered her, he was to be rewarded with her hand, if not, he was to be put to death by her. This she did because she was the most swift-footed among all mortals, and because the Delphic oracle had cautioned her against marriage. Meilanion, one of her suitors, conquered her in this manner. Aphrodite had given him three golden apples, and during the race he dropped them one after the other. Their beauty charmed Atlanta so much, that she could not abstain from gathering them. Thus she was conquered, and became the wife of Meilanion.”  (Apollodorus   Bibliotheca 3.9.2) 

Shortly after Meilanion took the apples from Aphrodite he and his wife got turned into lions!

The "beauteous fruit of gold  from the clear-voiced Hesperides…" was one of the bribes the Titans offered the godling Zagreus for his thunderbolt, just before they ripped him apart and ate him.   (Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks 2. 15) 
Heracles had a little better luck when he fetched the golden apples of the Hesperides as one of his famous labors.  .  He asked the Titan Atlas to pick the apples for him in exchange for holding up the sky
for a while.  “Atlas picked three apples from the garden of the Hesperides.”  Next thing you know, Heracles returns home with the apples and gives them to King Eurystheus.  “But Athena retrieved them from him and took them back, for it was not permitted by diving law to locate them anywhere else." (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 119 – 120) 

You know a pomegranate looks a lot like an apple and there is that whole thing about Persephone getting stuck in Hades for eating a pomegranate (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 29)  But to quote Pausanias “About the pomegranate I must say nothing, for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery”  (2.17.4)

In short if a goddess offers you a golden apple, run!   By the way, did you know the Venus de Milo held an apple in one hand?  The other was holding up what remained of her dress.

5. At one time everyone in the World was Greek.  Okay maybe that is an over statement or not.  Here is how it works.  It is hard to believe, but there weren’t myriad people in the world once upon a time.  So the hardy peninsula of Greece could sent out colonists to the shores of the Black Sea and all of the Mediterranean Sea without angering the new neighbors too much.  Along comes Persia, attacking the Greeks and losing, attacking the Greeks and losing and then wiped out by Alexander the Great.  Freed of oppression the Greek culture blossomed across the known world from the seeded colonies.  So if you see those Greek neighbors doing well and your rulers are Greek, “What the hey! Yeah were Greek.”  Not that I can find example now, but there are plenty of vases and sculpture with engraving and inscriptions on them that look like Ancient Greek lettering, but aren’t.  If you didn’t have enough Greek to spell “Achilles” on the monument, you faked it.  Alexander passed away but his generals and garrisons did not.  The ruling class and business classes spoke Greek from the Indus River to the Straits of Heracles (Gibraltar).   Cleopatra is not an Egyptian name, it is Greek.  The Ptolemy family, descendants of one of Alexander’s generals, ruled the Nile.  The phenomena is called Pan-Hellenism.  Everyone in the known world wanted to be Greek.  If you wanted into the Olympics you had to speak Greek.  It was the Hellenistic Age.  Eventually the Romans conquered the known world.  Great engineers, lousy poets and artists.  They adopted Greek culture in whole.  It was a sad Roman of whom it was said, “He has no Greek.”  Do you realize the New Testament was written in Greek?  At the time of Caesar August, yeah, everyone spoke Greek.


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