Monday, October 31, 2016

TFBT: Racism Among the Gods


Generally, the Titanomachy is looked upon as an intra-family struggle; the Olympians versus their second-generation Titan-cousins for control of the universe after the removal of Cronus from the scene.  I would like to suggest, that the war between the forces of the Iapetides and the forces of Cronides was racially-based. The premise for this paper is;  

“Among the Olympians there is a deep-set racial prejudice against the Pontides and by affiliation other water-gods.”

There is a precedent for such racial prejudice.  Jenny Strauss Clay observed “Gaia, whose lineage remains completely separate from that of Chaos – intercourse between these two fundamentally opposite cosmic entities seems impossible”.  The Fates decreed that some specific members of these clans could not meet. (Please see TFBT: The Divine Aversion to Death and Nyctophobia

The Titanomachy

In the beginning Earth, Gaia, produced the primordial god of the sea, Pontus.  Their children were the ancient sea gods of the Aegean and Mediterranean, among them Nereus and the great sea-monsters that frolicked there.  These are the Pontides.  Next, she produced Uranus, the starry sky.  Their children would include Cronus, future king of the gods and Oceanus, the personification of the great fresh-water river that encircled the world.  These are the Titans.  The Titans in turn were parents of the second-generation Titans including those latter called Olympians.    

Let’s leave out the gruesome details and just say there was trouble between King Cronus and his children the Olympians.  (According to Graves) when Cronus’ time had passed a family of second generation of Titans took over the leadership in their battle against the Olympians.  These were the four sons of Iapetus; the Iapetides.  These “mixed-blood” Titans took over the leadership of their cause; these were the sons of a water nymph rather than Titanesses. 

Gaia and Uranus were the proud parents of 12 Titans; six sons and six daughters.  Generally, Titan married Titaness with two exceptions;

·      Crius wed a daughter of Pontus, were born sons of mixed-blood great Astraios, and Pallas, husband of Styx, and the son-less Perses.  Several goatish giants named Pallas are slain by Zeus’ daughter Athena. None of the three sons of Crius are heard of after the Titanomachy and Eos (wife of Astraios) is husbandless.

·      Iapetos son of Uranus took to wife Klymene, daughter of Okeanos, And she bare him, Atlas, Menoitios, Prometheus, and Epimetheus.  All the Iapetides (sons of Iapetus) married Oceanides like their father did.  

These then are the major opponents to the Olympians in the power struggle called the Titanomachy, the sons of water nymphs 

Oceanus was one of the original Titans.  He is the Great River that encircles the world and defines the boundary of the universe.  . Oceanus is not of this world in many ways, which might explain his neutrality in the war that followed. None of his sons; the Rivers; second-generation Titans themselves participated in the war either.  All the Titanesses and Olympian goddesses took shelter on his banks during the ten year conflagration.   Nereus and the other sons of Pontus took no part in the war. The sole exception to the Pontides neutrality was the daughters of Thaumas: Iris and Arce.   


Hesiod says at Theogony [881] that it was after the Titanomachy that the blessed gods “pressed far-seeing Olympian Zeus to reign and to rule over them…So he divided their dignities amongst them.”   The gods of the sea, great Thaumas and proud Phorcus, and their brother truthful Nereus seemed to retain their honors, but it is noteworthy that the Olympian Poseidon became “ruler of the deep, briny-swirling seas”.  Presumably all the victorious gods and their allies came to Mecone as they do to other divine gatherings; “There was no river that came not, save only Oceanus, nor any nymph, of all that haunt the fair copses, the springs that feed the rivers, and the grassy meadows. (Iliad 20.5)     

The Rivers

Oceanus’ Titan-brothers fade from view or end up in Tartarus.  He seems to remain a major deity. But he and his sons seem to be second class citizens as witnessed by;  

"Not powerful [river-god] Achelous matches his strength against Zeus, not the enormous strength of Oceanus with his deep-running waters, Okeanos, from whom all rivers are and the entire sea and all springs and all deep wells have their waters of him, yet even Okeanos is afraid of the lightning of great Zeus and the dangerous thunderbolt when it breaks from the sky crashing."  Homer, Iliad 21. 194 

Witness too the harsh treatment of Xanthus in the Iliad, “Asopus, heavy-kneed, for he was marred by a thunderbolt."[i] Ares threat against Peneus, Poseidon’s drying up of the Peloponnesian rivers, Apollos’……. 

In an odd way the Olympians treatment of the River Styx indicates an adversarial position between the two entities.  The goddess Styx is one of the Olympians first allies in the Titanomachy.   

"Nike, Kratos, Zelos, and Bia were born to Pallas and Styx. Zeus instituted and oath to be sworn by the waters of Styx that flowed from a rock in Haides' realm, an honor granted in return for the help she and her children gave him against the Titanes."  Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9  

Being the oath keeper of the Olympians seems like a great honor, but you generally appoint a neutral third party to such roles.  Someone in this case who was not part of the Olympian circle.  Additional, her children all remain sterile and infertile.  There are no recorded grandchildren for the goddess Styx, widow of Pallas.  


According to Hesiod, to Nereus and his wife were born in the barren sea fifty daughters greatly beautiful even among goddesses including “Ploto and Eukrante and Amphitrite and Sao, Eudora and Thetis…” (Theogony 240)  Thetis’ father Nereus was the proverbial “Old Man of the Sea” and son of Pontus the primordial sea.  In contrast most of the divine monsters in Greek Mythology are descended from Pontus.  In the same source Clay states the Pontides; “can be considered anti-gods.”    

Clay suggest that through “intermarriage, the Pontides are rapidly integrated into the Ouranid clan.”   The rapid part of intermarriage would consist of Poseidon taking Nereid mates to add legitimacy to his lordship over the sea.  In fact for all the talk of the Poseidon and Zeus competing for Thetis’s hand, none of the other deathless gods who lived upon Olympus chose a lover or a bride from this bevy of prophetic beauties.  In fact Thetis was married off to a second-rate mortal hero who lost a wrestling match to a girl.  Helios and Selene refused to attend, possibly as the most “skyish” of the Ouranides they most represent this racial bias against the children of Pontus.   

Water Gods on Mt Olympus 

Athena’s re-birth from Zeus head disguises the fact that she is the daughter of the water nymph Metis.  Athena put great effort in distancing herself from her watery ancestry going so far as to say she was totally for the father (Eumenides).    

 Hera was the foster daughter of Tethys (Iliad 14) and in turn she fostered Thetis (Iliad 24.59.  Hera was by adoption a water goddess. He calls Oceanus and Tethys      Hence her alliance with the vast non-symmetric sons and daughters of the Pontides. As a matter of face refers to Pontus’ nine-headed great-grandchild; “the evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess, white-armed Hera nourished.” 

Thus were they gathered within the house of Zeus; nor did the Shaker of Earth fail to heed the call of the goddess, but came forth from the sea to join their company; and he sate him in the midst” (Iliad 20.12) It seems odd to mention Poseidon’s arrival and not Hades who would have come further, unless there was a possibility of Poseidon, a sea-god, not coming.  There seems to be a really dislike for Poseidon, King of the Sea as witness how commonly he was rejected as a city patron; Athens as judged by the populace, the Argos as judged by the local rivers, Corinth to Helios as judged by Briareus and Trozezen as judged by Zeus.  (The Fates gave him the island of Cos.)  

 "Achilles addresses his mother Thetis ‘You only among the immortals beat aside a shameful destruction from Cronus' son Zeus the dark-misted that time when all the other Olympians sought to bind him, Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athene.”  Homer, Iliad 1. 393 ff 

Interesting that the rebelling Olympians are a water-god and two Oceanides


There was racism on Mt. Olympus.  It is clear from the battle lines in the Titanomachy, the lack of new honors presented to the water-gods at Mecone and Oceanus refusal to attend, the subsequent abuse of the river gods and maintenance of distance between the Olympians and the river-goddess Styx, the abhorrence of intermarriage with the Pontides and the racially drawn battle lines in the revolt on Mt. Olympus at the beginning of the Iliad.  Apparently racism has been around for a long time and sadly you know what they say, “As above, so below.” 


Maya,  Brought up the notion that the sea gods are “colored”  So I did a little research on; sea-blue Doris[i] , sea-green Galatea,[ii] Proteus’ sea-blue beard,&the sea-blue the Naiad Cyrene, [iii]Proteus, of sea-green hue,[iv] the sea-blue throng of Nereides[v], and ye too, Nereides, sea-blue horde of ocean,[vi]  Glaucus…bronze-green beard and sea-blue arms,[vii]  Zeus’ sea-blue brother Poseidon,[viii]  the wave-blue water-nymph Liriope, [ix] Father Ismenos with a dark-blue beard, [x] Arethusa her green tresses drying[xi]  and the sky-blue Tiber[xii]    All the sources for the “colored” water gods are Roman, not Greek.

To Bed a Sea Monster

“Who would go to bed with a sea monster if he could help it?” Menelaus asks rhetorically at  Od 4:443.  Of course the immediate answer was; he did,  laying down with Proteus.  If in fact the Cronides have an abhorrence to sleeping with “sea monsters” that is Pontides, Oceanides and other water gods, it might explain “Maya’s Law”.  
"And Prometheus had a son Deucalion. He reigning in the regions about Phthia, married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora . . . Deukalion had children by Pyrrha, first (a son) Hellen...Hellen had (sons) Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus by a nymph Orseis. Those who were called Greeks he named Hellenes after himself, and divided the country among his sons” Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 7. 2 – 3 

Maya’s Law simple put states, “Zeus doesn’t like real women!”  By real women, Maya meant Greek women, descendants of Hellen.  These women being descended from a water nymph, it only make sense that Zeus would not mate with them.  Further analysis discovered that “Maya’s Law” more spefically meant that the Olympian male had a marked preference for Ionian and Barabarian women. Probably ones whose pure blood line were untainted by the ichor of Pontides, Oceanides or Posideon. 

[i] Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 742
[ii] ." Statius, Silvae 2. 2. 14  "
[iii] Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff   
[iv] Virgil, Georgics 4. 387 ff    
[v] Seneca, Phaedra 335 ff :
[vi] Statius, Silvae 3. 2. 1 ff :
[vii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 949  
[viii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 275 & 332  
[ix] Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 342 ff
[x] Statius, Thebaid 9. 404  
[xii] “ Aeneid 8

[i] Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 75 ff (trans. Mair)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

TFBT: troy by Nick McCarty

My wife was tidying up the coffee table. "Is this yours?" She asked. She was holding a coffee table book on Troy.  Apparently  I bought it at the monthly used book sale at the library.  McMarty's book is excellently well written. He combines a retelling of the Trojan Cycle (with historical sidebars) with the story of Heinrich Schliemann.  Schliemann discovered the lost city of Troy.

McMarty's description of Schliemann is repeatedly not flattering.  (Think of Homer describing Thersites.). But McMarty compares hime to Achilles in his single mindness in getting his own way.  ( I have noticed in science how often the dogged determination of one person was the key to the next great leap in our knowledge.)
My wife was tidying up the coffee table. "Is this yours?" She asked. She was holding a coffee table book on Troy.  Apparently  I bought it at the monthly used book sale at the library.  McMarty's book is excellently well written. He combines a retelling of the Trojan Cycle (with historical sidebars) with the story of Heinrich Schliemann.  Schliemann discovered the lost city of Troy.

McMarty's description of Schliemann is repeatedly not flattering.  (Think of Homer describing Thersites.). But McMarty compares hime to Achilles in his single mindness in getting his own way.  ( I have noticed in science how often the dogged determination of one person was the key to the next great leap in our knowledge.) 
"It was a momentous discovery that destroyed the prejudice of the blind academics who had mocked him....without Schliemann we would know nothing of the city that many believe is the site of the real Troy."

McCarty's book is full of ancient and modern images.  At first I noticed a few errors more typos than anything like Thebes/Thebe.  Some of dialogue is straight from the Iliad and other is pure poetic license.
"the stunted willow trees along the River Scamander bore strange fruit.  The black carrion crows perched in the trees..."

"Words fail me to celebrate our marriage At all times you were to me a loving wife, a good companion and a dependable guide in difficult situations. As well as a dear companion of the road and a mother second to none...Therefore today I Promise that I shall marry you again in a future life." Schliemann

"Helen more lovely than the Moon."

Midway through the book (the death of Patroclus) I began to. Notice the errors running amok.  McCarty didn't realize that Diomedes, son of Tydeus is the same person as Tydides (Son of Tydeus). This account of the Iliadic portion of the story of Troy was totally made up.  I gave up reading.  The last image I recall was a black and white image.  It was the musemum boombed out by the Allies where Schliemann's legay was last seen

Sunday, October 9, 2016

TFBT: More Random Notes on Euripides' Helen

As mentioned previously I am preparing for Hour 25’s Book Club | October 2016: Euripides’ Helen  to be held on Tuesday, October 25, at 11 a.m. EDT.  Here are second and final set of comments. 

First thanks to Sarah for sharing the “name, name and epithet “ formula.  I will be on the lookout for it.  I think she is right, Euripides seems to avoid mentioning Athena’s name.  (As a writer I am always conscious to not have too many characters in the plot.)  On the other name the other “virgin daughter of Zeus”; Artemis is mentioned often, so maybe Euripides had his reasons for using the epithet formula.

“O maiden Callisto, blessed once in Arcadia, who climbed into the bed of Zeus on four paws, how much happier was your lot than my mother's, you who in the form of a shaggy-limbed beast—the bearing of a lioness with your fierce eye—changed your burden of sorrow; [380] and also the one whom Artemis once drove from her chorus, as a deer with horns of gold, the Titan girl, daughter of Merops, because of her loveliness; “

Does Euripides purposely screw up his Greek Mythology?  Callisto was turned into a bear, not a lioness.   According to William Allan in “Euripides: Helen” (Cambridge University Press, 2008) the playwright made up the whole thing about a Titaness-daughter of the unknown Titan Merops.  The deer with the horns of gold apparently refers to the harts that draw Artemis’ chariot. 

Menelaus prays to his grandfather Pelops, “if only, when you were persuaded to make a banquet for the gods, you had left your life then, inside the gods, [390].”  That's ugly!

Menelaus’ description of his shipwreck at 410-25 sure reminds me of Odysseus’ travels. 

I thought Menelaus' prayer “ O torch-bearing Hekatē, send visions that are favorable! “  seemed a little out of character and out of place, until I read further and realized it foreshadowed.  Theonoe enters, attended by hand-maidens carrying torches.”

Helen. [670] Ah, my husband! The son of Zeus (Hermes), of Zeus, brought me to the Nile." That's what Aphrodite said to Anchises!

Helen. Alas for those baths and springs, where the goddesses brightened the beauty from which the judgment [krisis] came.  Maybe Helen is referring to the  spring of Canathos, close to Nauplia, where Hera renewed her virginity annually, (Pausanias, 2.38.2-3.)

Famous line, “Messenger. What are you saying? We have had ordeals [ponoi] in vain for the sake of a cloud? “

 Helen: imitate the character of a just father; for this is the fairest glory for children". Same argument Priam used on Peleus’ son. 

 Theoklymenos  [1165] Greetings, tomb [mnēma] of my father! For I buried you, Proteus, in the passageway so that I could address you; and always as I leave and enter the house, I, your son .  (The priests at Delphi  buried the murdered (sacrificed) Neoptolemus on the temple threshold, making him the guardian of the threshold


 Menelaus:  This is your duty, young woman; you must be content with the husband at your side, and let go the one that no longer exists; [1290] for this is best [arista] for you, according to what has happened. And if I come to Hellas and find safety, I will put to an end your former bad reputation, if you are such a wife as you ought to be to your husband.

Helen I will; my husband will never find fault with me; [1295] you yourself will be at hand to know it. Now go inside, unhappy man, and find the bath, and change your clothes. I will show my kindness to you without delay. For you will perform the due services with more kindly feeling for my most philos Menelaos, [1300] if you get from me what you ought to have. 

Love the irony here

1340-1370. Musical interlude about Eleusinian mysteries while the actor playing Menelaus changes costumes?  Just like a Cher concert? 

1405] May the gods give to you the things I wish and also to this stranger [xenos] here,   Funny

Menelaus' prayer to Zeus doesn't meet the standard

I don't know Pontos' gray- green daughter, spirit of calm.  Allan says she is a daughter of Nereus.  Many of the Nereids represent waves or describe the sea.  Again Euripides getting his mythology wrong.    

The Dioscuri end the play. I always hate deux de machina endings




Friday, October 7, 2016

TFBT: Random Notes from Euripides’ “Helen”

I am preparing for Hour 25’s Book Club | October 2016: Euripides’ Helen  to be held on Tuesday, October 25, at 11 a.m. EDT.  Here are my notes so far;

“[25] Hera and Kypris, and the virgin daughter of Zeus, wishing to have the judgment…”  With an Athenian audience why didn’t Euripides say, Athena?  Why be vague enough that Artemis could be the daughter in question.  

Famous quote; “Zeus added further troubles to these; for he brought a war upon the land of the Hellenes and the unhappy Phrygians, so that he might lighten mother earth of her crowded mass of mortals

“Helen: What is it, poor man—who are you, that you have turned away from me and loathe me for the misfortunes of that one?”  Really?  She asks Teucer’s name?  How rude!

Teucer:  Do you know a certain Achilles, the son of Peleus?
          Helen:  Yes, he came to woo Helen once, so I hear.  

That’s not right!  No one says this.  Achilles was too young to woo Helen at the time and too young to swear the Oath of Tyndareus.  To say this negates the Choice of Achilles, and questions one of the pivotal moments in Ancient Greek history and culture

Teucer:  “That they killed themselves because of their sister. “  What!  Again, no one says this!  Plus gods can’t kill themselves.    If Euripides is trying to raise shame in Helen, he could have done better by quoting Helen from the Iliad as she looks out over the battlefield for her brothers.
I not see, Castor, tamer of horses, and the goodly boxer, Polydeuces, even mine own brethren, whom the same mother bare. Either they followed not with the host from lovely Lacedaemon, or though they followed hither in their seafaring ships, they have now no heart to enter into the battle of warriors for fear of the words of shame and the many revilings that are mine." [3.243] So said she; but they ere now were fast holden of the life-giving earth there in Lacedaemon, in their dear native land.”  

As to the charge that Leda hung herself; again, no one said that anywhere.   Plus as the mother of three Spartan gods, mother-in-law of two goddesses and grandmother of 4 divine grandson’s there were better things in store for her than the noose.  

 reach the streams of Eurotas”  Every time I read this line, my inner ear hears the Homeric phrases “streams of Oceanus” (Iliad 19.1 and 23.205, Odyssey 24.10 and 22.197)  As in “[10] Hermes, the Helper, led them down the dank ways. Past the streams of Oceanus they went, past the rock Leucas, past the gates of the sun and the land of dreams” The quote refers to the Far West the other three to the Far East.  Interesting that both location have a Leuce/Leuca island.  The Stream of Oceanus waters the Isle of the Blest, Helen’s ultimate homeland.