Ares

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Movie Reaction: Wonder Woman

Published June 6, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Yes, “reaction,” not “review.”  I wouldn’t know how to give the movie a proper review.  However, I will admit that — despite an opening that disgusted me (which will be the focus of this post) — I was really digging it until a scene that had me muttering under my breath “No, no, no, no, no!” and “Don’t do it!  Don’t you dare do it!”  (At which point my brother leaned over and told me he agreed with me 100%.)  Unfortunately, they didn’t listen to me about that scene, and it pretty much wrecked the entire movie for me.  Aside from that, it’s the first movie in this new wave of connected DC movies that is actually, you know, a well made, competent movie with a script that actually plays like a single, proper draft, and features a cast of characters you can actually like, as opposed to a few likable characters surrounded by a sea of “meh.”  And it strikes me as hilariously ironic that they shifted the time period from WWII to WWI in order to avoid comparisons to Captain America, and yet they still had a Captain named Steve (played by a guy named Chris) who gathered together a small crew of interesting and multi-cultural buddies to help him fight the Germans, and I don’t want to go into spoilers, but there was an aspect of the climax that was rolling out the red carpet for the comparisons they wanted so much to avoid.

But none of that is what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is the astonishingly awful mutilation of Greek mythology.  (So, yes, feel free to dismiss this post as the whining of a mythology geek.  I really don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.)

Now, it’s not that I went in expecting the mythology to be handled with anything resembling accuracy.  I’ve seen a lot of episodes of the animated Justice League show that was on Cartoon Network…uh…whenever that was (I’m thinking early 2000s?), and my brother and father are both hugely into comic books, so I’ve heard a lot on the subject from them.  So I knew already that Ares was Wonder Woman’s biggest foe (and always had been), and that the reboot changed her very cool origin of a statue brought to life to the hyper-boring origin of being a daughter of Zeus.  So I knew what I was going to see was not going to be anything even remotely accurate to the myths or the personalities of the gods described therein.  But I wasn’t expecting anything this mutilated.

Very early in the picture (definitely in the first ten minutes), the child Diana is told a bedtime story about the gods and the duty of the Amazons by her mother, Hippolyte.  Given that it was so early in the picture, I feel like I can discuss it at great length without it being considered a spoiler, but just in case anyone feels differently, I’ll put it on the other side of the “Read More” tag.

Read the rest of this entry →

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MLM No “H” Repost – “Adulterous Zeus”

Published January 16, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

“Adulterous Zeus”

“My wife doesn’t appreciate me,”
Zeus complained.
“You poor baby!”
Maia replied, smirking.

“My wife is terribly cruel to me,”
Zeus claimed.
“Awful, most awful!”
Danae exclaimed,
And sneezed.
(A gold allergy.  Surprising, no?)

“My wife doesn’t love me,”
Zeus insisted.
“A fool of a wife indeed not to love you!”
Semele answered.

“My wife will never be good to me,”
Zeus wept on Leda’s lap.
“But I’m good to you,”
Laconian lady Leda cooed back.

“Mom wants a divorce,”
Ares informed Zeus,
Once modern day dawned.

Zeus didn’t see it coming.

Everyone else did.


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Yup.  Still my favorite Missing Letter Monday post.  (Probably always will be.)

Originally posted 7/20/2015.

MLM No “U” – O is for Oro

Published April 18, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

O

Oro was the traditional god of war in Tahiti.  One of his epithets was “the manslayer,” and he was described as taking delight in blood, violence and in receiving the sacrifice of the lives of men.

He had 4 children, and the three girls were as terrifying as he himself was.  One of them bore a name that translates to “axe with eyes.”  (The other names don’t really seem as scary, especially “frog of many owners.”  What does that even mean?)  His son’s name translates to “sworn friend,” which doesn’t seem the least bit frightening, or even warlike.

Needless to say, I’m going to be comparing him to Ares, the Greek god of war.  “Manslaying,” “slayer of men,” and other similar epithets are common for Ares in epic poetry, as is his penchant for delighting in combat and bloodshed.  (This type of epithet is probably standard among all gods of war, however.)

Like almost all the other male gods (Hades being the sole exception), Ares had a lot of children.  At least with mortals, anyway.  He’s especially known for his female children:  many an Amazon was said to have him for a father (Penthesileia, for example), and even those who were entirely of mortal parentage typically received the title as an honorific.  In fact, even real women who the Greeks perceived as being Amazons were often said to be the offspring of Ares.

His followers — Eris, Deimos and Phobos — were sometimes said to be his children; this more-or-less corresponds, I think, to the three frightening girls fathered by Oro.

Now, Ares did have more than one son.  (In fact, two of them were fighting at Troy…at least ’til Deiphobos killed one of them.  (Which might have been a great moment for him if he’d been aiming at the fellow.  He had, in fact, been aiming at the King of Crete.)  Another of Ares’ sons was killed by Heracles for having raised man-eating mares.)  However, he only had one really noteworthy son:  the entirely not-warlike Eros.  (That being said, there are other versions of Eros’ birth that do not make him the son of Ares and Aphrodite.)

Weak comparison?  Yep.

Lazy post?  Probably.

However, I really, really didn’t want to write two posts today.  And so this post has become inexpressibly awkward, thanks to my Monday series “Missing Letter Mondays.”


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Cadmos

Published October 1, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

The creative titling continues, eh?  (Also, lateness.)  Anyway, this picks up from, well, about half-way through last week’s, actually.


 

After his sister Europa was carried off by the strange bull that had risen from the sea, Cadmos swore that he would find her, promising his father that he would not return to Phoenicia without his sister.  His father didn’t like the idea of losing his eldest — and finest — son, but he liked the idea of allowing his daughter to be carried off without retribution even less, so he allowed it without complaint.

So Cadmos sailed away from his native land of Tyre with only a single ship, seeking for his sister.

Based on what Europa’s friends had told him, Cadmos suspected that the bull with his sister on its back must have fetched up on the large island of Crete, halfway across the sea.  He had never heard of there being any bulls on that island — in fact, he could recall one ship returning to Tyre after having put into port at Cnossos and complaining that there hadn’t been a single cow on the whole island — but surely that would make it more likely that the natives would be able to tell him what had happened to his sister, if something as unusual as a bull had come ashore with her.

When they arrived at the easternmost port on the island, Cadmos did his best to ask around, but the Cretans were being even less helpful than usual; in fact, they all said that they were on holiday, because the king was getting married, and so they didn’t have to deal with foreigners right now!  It took him nearly a full day to find anyone who was willing to talk to him.

The garrulous chap was standing in the temple to one of the local gods — Cadmos wasn’t sure which one, since he had rarely paid much heed to foreign gods — and seemed surprisingly eager to talk.  “You look wealthy,” the man said as soon as Cadmos approached him.  “You one of those eastern princes I’ve heard so much about?”

“I suppose you could say that,” Cadmos answered uneasily.  His father was a king, so he was a prince, and Phoenicia was certainly to the east of Crete, but something about the characterization made him uncomfortable.  Just what had this man heard about princes from the east?  “I’m looking for my sister, Europa.”

“Oh?  That’s an unusual name for a Phoenician girl, isn’t it?” the other man chuckled.

“Is it?”  Cadmos had never spent much time contemplating women’s names.  Women, yes, but not their names.  “Wait, what does that matter?!  Look, just tell me if you’ve seen her!  She–”

“Can’t say I’ve ever met any Phoenician princesses,” the man replied, shaking his head.

“But have you heard any rumors?  She was carried off on the back of a bull that rose out of the sea!  Surely people must talk if a thing like that comes walking up onto the shore!” Cadmos exclaimed, nearly shouting.

“A bull?  Ain’t none of those around here!” the man assured him.  “Try going further east,” he added.  “In Hellas, there’s a shrine to Apollo in a place called Delphi.  The prophetess there, the Pythia, she never speaks falsely.  If you ask her, you’ll have the words of Apollo himself to tell you what to do about your sister.”

Cadmos frowned.  He didn’t like the idea of asking a foreign god for help, but if she hadn’t fetched up on Crete, then he didn’t know quite where else to look.  Maybe the foreign god was his only option?  “Tell me where to find this Delphi,” he said, with a resigned sigh.

The man gave him detailed instructions as to how to get to Delphi, and Cadmos left Crete, setting sail for Hellas.  Because Delphi was inland, Cadmos left most of his men on the ship, and continued his travels on foot, taking only a handful of guards with him.  He didn’t want anyone to think he was invading, after all.

Once he had finally arrived at Delphi, Cadmos went through the necessary procedures to ask the Pythia for advice, a process that took longer than he was expecting.  It frustrated him greatly that he was having to wait so long.  At this rate, his sister could be suffering any number of terrible indignities at the hands of her abductors!

When he was finally ushered into the presence of the Pythia, Cadmos finally explained his situation to her.  The woman nodded, and inhaled some of the vapors passing up through a crack in the floor before speaking to him.  “You must abandon your quest, Cadmos of Phoenicia,” the woman told him, in a surprisingly deep voice:  though it was mellifluous, it could easily have passed for a man’s voice.  “It was by the will of Zeus that Europa was taken from her father’s lands, and she will not return there.”

“Zeus?” Cadmos repeated.  “That’s one of your gods, isn’t it?”

“Zeus is the king of the gods of Olympos,” the Pythia told him sharply, “and you will come to worship him in time.”

“Wait, what?”

“You must follow the cow,” the Pythia told him.

“Cow?” Cadmos didn’t like just repeating what was being said to him, but how else was he supposed to react?!

“You will find a cow with a white moon upon both her flanks,” the Pythia informed him, her voice just as masculine as ever.  “The cow will lead you to the land where you must build your city.”

“Why am I going to build a city?” Cadmos asked, aghast.  Why would he go to all that trouble when he already had a city at home, waiting for him to come home and be king?  Oh, but no, he couldn’t go home:  he had sworn not to return without Europa…

“Where the cow sinks to the ground, there you must build your walls,” the Pythia continued, ignoring his question.  “You will be a king among the Hellenes, despite your foreign birth.  It is a great honor.”

“I suppose it is, but I’m still not clear why I can’t be reunited with my sister.”

“I told you, it is the will of Zeus!” the Pythia snapped at him.  She really did sound like a man, Cadmos couldn’t help thinking.  “Are all Phoenicians so stupid, or is it just you?”

“I am not stupid,” Cadmos assured her, wondering if it was permissible to hit her for being so rude.

“Then stop acting like you are,” she laughed.  “You came to seek my advice, and yet you refuse to take it.”

“That isn’t exactly…” Cadmos started, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to finish; it felt dishonest.

“Find the cow with the moons, and follow her until she collapses.  There build your city, and rule over it for as long as your strength holds out.  That is the will of Zeus,” the Pythia told him, her every word sharp and pointed, as if each word was an arrow being fired at him.

Cadmos sighed deeply.  “All right, I understand,” he said, “but can you at least explain why Zeus doesn’t wish me even to see my sister again?”

For some reason, the Pythia only laughed at him, and then sunk to her knees.  After a moment, she rose again, and smiled at him weakly.  “The god has departed,” she told him, in an entirely different — and far more feminine — voice.  “That is the extent of your answer.”

Uncertain, and decidedly dismayed, Cadmos left Delphi, unsure what to do.  Was he really to live out the rest of his life in exile, just because some priestess claimed that her gods wished his sister to remain forever hidden from her own flesh and blood?  It hardly seemed right!  And yet to deny the will of the gods — even someone else’s gods — didn’t seem right, either.

Cadmos discussed the problem with his men, and  after much consideration — and some argument — they all came to the agreement that they should spend a week hunting for the cow with the white moons on her flanks, and if they didn’t find such a cow, then they would consider that a sign from the gods that this Pythia had really been speaking nonsense, and they would continue on their search for Europa.

The week was nearly up when they found a lone cow standing in a field.  She had a white circle on either flank, and looked at them passively as they approached, then suddenly turned and began to walk away.

Little knowing what else to do, Cadmos and his men followed the cow.

And followed her.

And followed her.

She wandered across all of Boeotia, with the Phoenicians wearily trailing along behind her, before she finally sank to the ground in exhaustion.

The place where she collapsed was wide and flat, yet with several possible defensive features nearby.  It did seem like an ideal place to build a city, Cadmos had to admit.  He could even hear water from a spring nearby.

“I suppose there’s nothing for it,” Cadmos sighed.  “We’ll build a city, as the oracle told us to.  We should sacrifice this cow to the local gods, asking their permission to build here.  Go and fetch water from the spring,” he added, turning to his men.

The men nodded, and headed off to the spring.

They were not out of sight long before Cadmos heard them scream in terror and anguish.  Running to see what had happened, Cadmos found them broken and bleeding all around the spring, an enormous serpent reared up above their mangled bodies.

Too frightened and shocked to think to draw his sword, Cadmos grabbed an enormous stone that lay near his feet, and as the serpent began to strike towards him, Cadmos threw the stone at it with all his might.  It struck the serpent in the head, and the monstrous beast fell to the earth, quite as dead as its victims.

For a moment, all was still, except the water in the spring.

Then an enormous man clad in shining armor appeared before Cadmos, his face contorted with rage.  “How dare you kill my serpent?!” the man demanded.  “Don’t you know a sacred guardian when you see one!?”

Cadmos took a step backwards, alarmed and more than a little confused.  But before he could think of anything to say, another being in shining armor appeared before him, just as large as the other, but this one was a beautiful woman, and her face was as placid as it was lovely.  “Calm yourself, Ares,” the woman said.  “You know this was Father’s will.”

“There’s no reason to let this barbarian get away with desecrating my spring!” the man, Ares, retorted furiously.

“If he hadn’t defended himself, he would be dead, and Father has plans for his family,” the woman replied, her voice hardening a little.  “Let it go.”

“Would you be so calm if he’d slain your guardian, Athene?!” Ares demanded.

I do not entrust my sacred places to brute beasts that attack all they see,” Athene laughed.  “Blame yourself for your own mistakes, and accept that this is what Father wishes.”

“No!  I’ll see him punished!”

The woman grimaced, then glanced at the corpse of the serpent, and turned an almost vicious smile at Ares.  “Shall we let him determine his own fate?” she suggested.  “The test of the Spartoi, perhaps?”

Ares laughed cruelly.  “Fine, I can watch him torn to pieces, and get a good laugh out of it.  Go on, then.”

Athene turned to look at Cadmos, who had for some time been wondering if he could escape while these two strange beings bickered.  “Pluck the teeth from the dragon’s upper jaw,” she told him, gesturing towards the dead serpent, “then sow them in the fertile ground above.”

“Wh-what happens then?” Cadmos asked, wondering what a ‘Spartoi’ was, and how they planned on testing him…and just how being torn to pieces fit into the picture.

“That will depend on your actions,” Athene replied, with a mysterious smile.  “I know you can survive it,” she added, her smile becoming more warm.  “Father would not have chosen you for this honor if you weren’t able to measure up.”

“If I can ask one more question?” Cadmos asked, after a moment’s hesitation.

“You may ask,” Athene replied, “though we may not answer it.”

Cadmos tried not to frown at an answer like that.  “Why only the upper jaw?  Why not both?”

“You wouldn’t want to sow that many teeth,” Athene chuckled.  “And we do have plans for the other half of the teeth.  Father promised them to Helios, in repayment of some old debt.”

Cadmos wasn’t sure who Helios was — or who Athene’s father was, though he suspected her father was probably the same Zeus who had been behind Europa’s disappearance — but he decided it was probably best not to ask.  Instead, he did as he had been told, and prized the teeth out of the serpent’s upper jaw.  It was a rather smelly task, and he cut his fingers on the teeth more than once, but eventually he had gotten them all out.  The thing had a surprisingly large number of teeth — in Phoenicia, serpents only had two fangs, so he hadn’t been expecting more than twenty teeth just on one jaw! — so he had to walk back up to the area near where the cow was still resting to have room enough to sow them in the ground.

He didn’t have a plow handy — who travels with a plow, after all? — so Cadmos had to use a stick to make the necessary number of holes.  Hardly proper sowing, but he was a merchant prince and a warrior, not a farmer, so he wouldn’t have known how to do it right even if he’d had the proper equipment.  He dropped a single tooth into each hole, and then turned to survey his work.

To his surprise, he could see that the first hole was puckering and swelling, and soon he could see a man — fully clad in heavy bronze armor! — climbing out of the hole.

Backing away, Cadmos watched in disbelief as each hole disgorged a fully armed warrior.  Fully armed and from the sound of them very angry.  If those men saw him, they would surely set upon him and kill him; they didn’t seem to like having been born in little holes in the ground.  (And, in truth, Cadmos had to admit that he wouldn’t have liked that, either.)

Not knowing quite what to do to protect himself, Cadmos picked up a stone from the ground, and threw it at one of the sown men whose back was towards him.

The man who had been struck by the rock whirled around and immediately accused the man standing behind him of having hit him.  The other sown man denied it — of course he did! — but the injured party refused to believe his innocence, and punched him in the face.  The second man, naturally, punched back.

Soon all of the sown men were involved in the brawl, and it turned bloody as one after another drew his sword and began to hack the others to pieces.

By the time the fight was over, only five remained.

One of them noticed Cadmos, and all five of them approached him.  “Are you the king?” one of them asked.

Uneasily, Cadmos shook his head.  “I’m an exiled Phoenician prince,” he told them, “obeying an oracle’s command to build a city here.”

“Then you’re the king,” another sown man concluded, nodding.  “I suppose we must obey you, then.”

To Cadmos’ surprise, the sown men were soon all vowing loyalty to him, and almost before he knew it, the six of them were planning and building the new city of Thebes.

That should have been an end to it, but the city had hardly been finished before it was struck by a plague.  Sending to Delphi for advice, Cadmos received the message that Ares was still angry at him for having slain the sacred serpent.  If he was to put an end to the plague, he would have to placate the god of war, and he could do that only by serving him for a year.

Hardly what Cadmos would have wanted — he had never much cared for war and fighting — but he couldn’t afford to have a god angry at him!  (Especially since Thebes had gained a considerable population of locals, and so Cadmos had been forced to enter into the worship of the local gods.)

So Cadmos entered into the service of Ares for a year, and was forced to perform many menial and degrading tasks at the whim of the god of war.  But when the year was up, just as he was looking forward to returning to Thebes and relaxing, he was surprised to find that Athene had come to speak to her brother Ares.

“Now that he’s done his penance, Father wants you to make peace with him,” Athene informed Ares.

“I don’t want to,” the other god grumbled.

“Regardless, you have to make peace with him, or Father will be cross, and you don’t want that, do you?” Athene asked, her voice light and cheery, and yet she had a threatening look in her eyes.

Ares blanched, and looked away.  “No,” he muttered.

“Good.  Then you’ll bind him to you in blood,” Athene informed him, then turned to look at a confused and more than slightly alarmed Cadmos.  “You’ll marry Ares’ daughter Harmonia,” she told him.

This was definitely the best news Cadmos had had in…in his entire life, actually.  In the course of his service to Ares, he had occasionally caught sight of Ares’ daughter Harmonia.  She was the most beautiful creature that Cadmos had ever seen, and he doubted that even her mother, Aphrodite herself, could match up to Harmonia.

Naturally, Cadmos had never been allowed to speak to Harmonia, but he was sure he’d seen her looking at him on more than one occasion.  At least, he certainly liked to think so…

Though Ares tried to object to his daughter marrying a mortal, Athene would allow no arguments to dissuade her, and soon Cadmos was sent back to Thebes to prepare for his wedding.

When the day of the wedding arrived, the bride was brought to Thebes by her parents, and all the other gods also came to celebrate the wedding, in the company of the Muses and the Graces.  It was the most splendid wedding that the world had ever seen, and the prophetic Apollo commented that though there would someday be another wedding of a mortal man to an immortal maid which would surpass this one, until that day, Cadmos’ wedding would remain the finest any mortal man would ever have.

But the best part of the wedding, to Cadmos — apart from the joy to come on the wedding night — was the arrival of a herald from Crete.

“King Asterion and Queen Europa send you this gift,” the herald told him, handing Cadmos a necklace more beautiful than any mortal man had ever made.

“Europa?” Cadmos repeated.  “My sister?!”

“Yes, the queen called you her brother,” the herald confirmed.  “She asked me to convey the message to you that she is very happy where she is, and that she’s glad to hear you’ve found happiness as well.”

Overjoyed by the news that his sister was all right — though annoyed that the man in Crete had lied to him — Cadmos gave the herald a long message to relay to Europa, and then gladly presented the beautiful necklace to his new wife.


 

Yup.  It’s official:  I suck at finding a place to end things.

Anyway, where do I start with the apologies/explanations on this one?

First off, I’ve never heard of a Greek myth that acknowledges that other cultures had other gods — certainly the Greek historians didn’t acknowledge that, not as such; they tended to assign Greek names to the foreign gods (like Herodotos saying that the Egyptians worshiped Dionysos and Demeter as their primary gods) — but I wasn’t about to make Phoenicians worship the Greek gods.  That would just be weird.  (Though I’m not sure what gods it would be appropriate to say they did worship, considering the Phoenicians as we think of them wouldn’t have existed in the early Late Bronze Age, and I’m not sure who the proto-Phoenicians were or who they worshiped.)

Second, let’s see, what was second?  Oh, yeah, the stuff about cows/bulls and Crete.  As you’re probably aware, the “Minoan” culture on the real Crete had a bull cult, and many of the Greek myths involving Crete involve a bull in some manner.  So why did I make the strange “no cows on Crete” bit in the story?  Well, I thought I’d use this myth to explain why bulls were so important in Crete.  Like before Europa arrived, no bulls, but afterwards, bulls are a focus of the local religious life.  I’m not sure I can phrase it properly.  (Especially not this late at night.)  I think that’s why there are so many bull-related myths for Crete, though:  the myths were, essentially, trying to explain the Cretan bull cult of the Late Bronze Age.  Only by the time of the versions of the myths we know, the Late Bronze Age is barely more than a faded memory, so they don’t really get that that’s the reason there are so many bull-related myths about Crete.

Third, about the serpent/dragon’s teeth.  Remember in Jason and the Argonauts, when Aeetes sows the dragon’s teeth to make the skeletons pop up out of the earth to go attack Jason and his friends?  (And the movie then unceremoniously kills one of the Dioscuri without any fanfare or explanation of how he could die so early and in the wrong place and in the wrong way?)  Well, they’re not supposed to be skeletons, but sown men really are part of the myth of the voyage of the Argo, only in the original myth, they’re the other half of the teeth from the same dragon/serpent that Cadmos slew.  With no explanation — that I’m aware of (which isn’t saying much) — of how Aeetes got those particular teeth.  So I made up the bit about giving them to Helios, who then presumably handed them over to his son, Aeetes.  (Yup, Medea’s daddy is the son of the sun.  That, of course, is why Medea is immortal:  both of her parents are immortal.)

EDIT — After going to bed, I remembered what the other things I wanted to point out were, and thankfully I still remember them now, in the morning:

Fourth, the whole Pythia sequence is broken.  That’s not how consulting Delphi worked; priests spoke to the Pythia and interpreted what she said into hexameters, and told those to the visitors, who likely never even got to lay eyes on the Pythia themselves.  But she did — we think — inhale vapors coming up from a crack in the floor.  They may have had a hallucinogenic effect…or they may not.  There’s more I don’t know about Delphi than there is that I do.  A whole book was published just on Delphi not too long ago (a year or two, max) but I haven’t had time to read it yet.  (It is definitely on my list of things I want to read when I get the time, though!  I also have a different, older book on Delphi waiting for me to read it…)

Fifth, the arrival at Thebes bit would be better if I had any idea what the terrain around Thebes looks like.  Or rather what it might have looked like prior to the construction of the city.  I just made something up that felt plausible, because I didn’t feel like I had time to look anything up, no matter how briefly.  (It was, by that point, at least a quarter to 11 at night.)  Okay, end of EDIT zone.

Anyway, the base myth here has surprisingly few surviving variations, but the exact reasoning behind the sowing of the dragon’s teeth has more variations, and they’re contradictory, so I tried to make a sensible version while accepting as many details as I could.  Though I totally made up the “he’s seen Harmonia already and quite fancies her” bit.  Because it feels a little less creepy this way, especially since it also allowed me to imply that she’s interested, too.  (Given that she will eventually be turned into a serpent because of her husband, it seemed important that she should actually like him!)

Next week — and for the rest of October — I’m going to see if I can find something that feels suitably Halloween-related.  So that presumably means something monster-related, as I’m pretty sure I won’t find any tales of the undead in ancient Greek myths.  (Though there are some undead in Mesopotamian myths, so maybe if I look hard enough I can…?)

Prometheus Ticks off Zeus, Part 5

Published August 27, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Due to having somehow forgotten my password and not wanting to screen-type on my iPad (I gotta re-charge that keyboard!) I’m having to type this in on a school word processor between my classes. Life is weird.

(My own danged fault for having nearly 4 hours of down time between classes on Thursdays, I know. But…what was I gonna do about it? I can’t change when they decided to schedule the classes!)

Anyway! The keyboard on this computer hates me, and the screen is too high. Plus I don’t have my wrist braces. This will not end well. (Um. That wasn’t where that “Anyway!” was supposed to be going…)

This time, there’s a pretty significant time lapse between part 4 and part 5. Not sure how long, though. Actually, it might not be that significant. It’s indeterminate, let’s say.


After humans had finally spread themselves across the land, and the gods were relegated—mostly—to hidden actions, Prometheus felt more comfortable living as he pleased upon the land, taking up residence in this or that isolated place. But he was always dismayed when he heard the cries of lesser divinities: divine maidens robbed of their maidenhead, fathers robbed of daughters, brothers robbed of sisters…and always due to the lust of the gods. (As much as Prometheus would have liked to blame his personal foe Zeus for it all, he was a fair Titan, and had to admit that Poseidon was nearly as desirous as his brother, and Zeus’ sons Apollo and Hermes had pursued more than their fair share of unwilling maidens, particularly Apollo, who seemed to have a sweet spot for the few maids who were unwon by his pretty face.)

For the most part, Prometheus tried to turn a blind eye to this suffering. After all, he knew it would lead to the downfall of the Olympian reign of Zeus. Zeus’ desire was his weakness, the chink in his armor that would destroy him.

But then there came a time when Prometheus could not stand by and do nothing. He was sitting upon the slope of a mountainside when a nymph, the daughter of the local river god, came running up to him, weeping. “Please, rescue me!” she begged. “I swore to remain chaste, in service to the virgin huntress!”

Prometheus did not have much more sympathy for Zeus’ female offspring than he did for the male offspring—why would he?—but he certainly felt sorry for the nymph. “Who’s after you?” he asked, hoping against hope that it would be someone pliable and easily sent away.

The nymph only bit her lip and wouldn’t answer, weeping in fear. That did not instill Prometheus with confidence. He sighed sadly, and sent her to hide in his home, nearby. Soon enough, her pursuer came up the mountainside seeking her, and his face twisted in anger on seeing Prometheus.

“Where is she?” Zeus demanded. “What have you done with my pretty little nymph?”

“She says she’s determined to remain chaste,” Prometheus informed the angry god, “and as she’s quite upset, I’m inclined to aid her in that endeavor.”

“Do you dare to go against me yet again!?”

“Aren’t there enough willing females on this world to submit to your lusts already? Why must you force yourself on ones who don’t wish to become your mistresses?” Prometheus countered. “Have you already forgotten my warning?”

“What warning? You mean that lie you concocted so you could steal my sister’s fire from the hearth and burn Demeter’s forests?”

Prometheus sighed sadly. “I had no idea the mortals would lose control of the fire that way; it happened years later. And it was no lie. You will meet your doom at the hands of your own son, as you doomed your own father. That son will be fathered on a goddess who does not wish to go to your bed. When I came to Mt. Olympos before, you had not yet met her, but now…now you’ve already made unwelcome overtures towards her. So far, she’s managed to rebuff you, but once you manage to succeed…she is destined to bear a son greater than his father. And that is the destined end of your reign. It’s not long now. You may as well face up to it, and prepare your children for their inevitable imprisonment in Tartaros along with you.”

Zeus stared at Prometheus in silence for some long time, his brow furrowed in anger. “Who is this goddess?” he asked, his voice slowly rumbling.

“No,” Prometheus laughed. “I don’t have any reason to tell you that. I’m looking forward to watching your tyranny crumble.”

“You will tell me!” Zeus bellowed.

“I will not, and nothing you do can make me,” Prometheus countered. “I am as immortal as you are, so there’s little point in threatening to kill me. And if you threw me into Tartaros, you’d be re-uniting me with my father and brother, and all their kin, and I doubt you want to see them given access to me,” he pointed out, with a sardonic grin.

“I can think of worse punishments than Tartaros for one such as you,” Zeus assured him, glaring furiously. Then he summoned Iris, and sent her to fetch Ares, and the vicious Kratos and Bia, as well as his chariot, carrying the crippled Hephaistos. Once they had arrived, Zeus gave them a callous smile, and gestured at Prometheus. “Take him to the mountains at the ends of the earth, and chain him up. Make the chains so thick that twenty of him could never break them.”

Hephaistos looked at Prometheus sadly, then nodded glumly. “A-all right…” he conceded, “if I have to…”

“Don’t let him say a word, or he’ll try to trick you,” Zeus added. “He’s got a clever tongue, and the lot of you don’t have a brain between you.”

“What way is that to speak to your own son!?” Ares objected.

“In your case, it’s quite accurate,” Prometheus chuckled, “but quite a cruel misjudgment of poor Hephaistos. Ugliness and inability to stand up for oneself is not the same as lack of intellect.”

Prometheus’ only reward for defending Hephaistos was to be clubbed in the face with the butt of Ares’ spear. But Ares was never one to care to hear his brothers praised, after all. He only liked to hear himself praised.

By the time Prometheus recovered from the blow to his face, he had already been transported almost all the way to the barren mountains where he would be confined. His grim-faced captors seemed to be taking great glee in tormenting him, and the three of them were making wagers about what Zeus had in store for the rebellious Titan. Hephaistos seemed distressed by his own role, but he went about it with a workman’s proper diligence, which even Prometheus had to admire, despite himself. And he had to admit that those chains were certainly more than he would ever be able to break himself.

And to make matters worse, Ares insisted on fastening the chains not only around Prometheus, but right through his arms and legs, to ensure that he had no chance of escaping, or even persuading anyone to free him. He was truly trapped. But he could not know what further torments Zeus might have in store for him.

Not until the torments arrived at dawn’s first light the next day.

He eyes had barely grown accustomed to the light when Prometheus saw the shape approaching him. It was a bird, massive beyond any he had ever seen. An eagle, but of such prodigious size!

The bird landed astride Prometheus, one massive clawed foot to either side of his waist, then lowered its beak to his torso, ripped it open, and began to eat out his liver. The Titan could only scream in agony as the bird fed on his living flesh. Once it had done, it flew away again, and he was left lying there, baking in the hard sunlight, slowly bleeding out a puddle of raw ichor onto the rocks below.

His wound had almost closed up by the time Hermes came sauntering up, in the late afternoon.

“Looks painful,” he commented, looking at the hole. “New liver’s about half grown in. Should be fully restored by the time it comes back tomorrow morning.”

“It’s coming back tomorrow morning,” Prometheus groaned. He wasn’t surprised, but he was a touch disappointed. This was the sort of torment suffered by those in Tartaros. The only difference was that here he had the touch of the sunlight on his face, here he would have the cool breezes of the night, the sight of the moon and the stars, and if he was lucky he might even have some refreshing rain once in a while. This had to be better than to suffer the same thing underground.

“Of course it is,” Hermes laughed. “Wouldn’t be much incentive to make you talk if it only came once, would it?”

“No, it would not,” Prometheus agreed. “Nor is it now,” he added. “I have no desire to save your wicked father from his own lechery. Let him rot.”

“If he goes down, who’ll save you?” Hermes countered.

“Do you honestly believe he’ll let me go if I tell you what he wants to know?” Prometheus laughed. “I’m not so naïve as you are, boy.”

“Well, I can tell you that you sure won’t be going free any other way.”

“Not while Zeus reigns, no,” Prometheus agreed. “But after he falls? His successor might release the other Titans, and they might free me. Even if they don’t, at least I would have seen his fall, and that would be worth the torture.”

For some time, Hermes stood there silently. “I guess you’re just not ready to talk yet,” he sighed. “I’m sure you’ll see reason after you’ve lost a few more livers. Just…look, no one wants to be doing this, okay? Even Father doesn’t want to be doing this to you. But you’ve really scared him with this talk of some new god rising up and destroying us. Just tell us what we need to know, and everyone will be glad to let you go.”

“You know, I almost believe you mean that,” Prometheus chuckled, “but if you do, you’re a fool. Your father hates me. He’s glad of the excuse to torture me. And no, he will not let me go, even if I do tell him what he wants to know. In fact, I’m afraid to tell him now. I’m afraid of what he’ll do to her. She’s innocent, has no idea that her son will destroy Zeus. But if he finds out? What if he throws her in Tartaros to rob himself of the temptation of having his way with her? That would be a cruel recompense for all her kindnesses to the Olympian gods, but I wouldn’t put it past that paranoiac tyrant.”

Hermes laughed. “Father would never do that to a pretty goddess! I can promise you that!” He paused, rubbing his chin. “So, she’s been kind to us, huh?”

“I’m not saying another word,” Prometheus exclaimed, setting his jaw firmly shut.

Hermes tried many more times to make Prometheus talk, but the Titan kept to his word, and remained as silent as the stones around him, and Hermes eventually returned to Mt. Olympos in defeat.

The next morning, the eagle returned, and once again ate out Prometheus’ liver, sending screams of agony ringing through the desolate mountains.

High atop Mt. Olympos, Zeus heard the cries and secretly exulted in them.

Yet he also wished more desperately than ever that he knew the secret Prometheus was hiding. He was terrified to make new conquests of immortal maids now, and yet there were so many that he wanted so desperately…

For the moment, he decided to try and pacify his desires with mortal women, but he didn’t like that he was having to let Prometheus’ stubbornness dictate his behavior. He didn’t like that one bit.


BWAHAHAHAHAHAH! OMG, as I was writing this, I couldn’t help thinking “Zeus’ lust is his Achilles’ heel!” which is hilarious, considering the goddess in question here! Man, I should not find this so funny. Maybe I’m not getting enough sleep…

Oh, but I had to make up the bit about why Prometheus gave Zeus the direct warning again, with the nymph seeking his aid. Sorry. I don’t like having to do that, but…y’know…ugh. There may actually have been something, but I’m writing this at school, and my books are at home, so I couldn’t consult them! (Okay, actually, I could trek back over to the library and look at the library’s copy of Gantz, or I could check my copy before I post this, lol, but…uh, yeah….anyway….)

Kratos and Bia haven’t shown up since the Titanomachy, but they seemed logical, right? One—or was it both of them?—were in Aischylos’ Prometheus Bound, which fills about this portion of the story, but very differently. (And although I read it pretty recently, I read it for very different reasons, ‘cause I thought maybe the Anguished One in Devil Survivor 2 was about to turn out to be Prometheus instead of the usual fella—and then they surprised me by making him someone original—so I wasn’t paying attention to the usual stuff.) My Hephaistos is pretty different from Aischylos’ as well, in part because of his treatment earlier, and in general because my entire treatment of the myth is totally different. Mine is, after all, for light, entertaining purposes, and whatever Aischylos’ purposes were, they were anything but light. (I’m sure entire books have been written trying to figure out exactly what his purposes were, but I haven’t read them, so I don’t know what they say.)

Now the question is, do I call this the “final part” of the “Prometheus Ticks off Zeus” saga or what? ‘Cause obviously the ending is when Heracles slays the eagle (or sometimes it’s a vulture?) and lets Prometheus go. Usually, this is because Prometheus has just told him—or Hermes?—the identity of the goddess, at long last. But to tell that story as part of the “Prometheus Ticks off Zeus” saga seems a little off. That’s more appropriately part of the life of Heracles. Which is, of course, long and complicated, and still hampered by the whole “wait, is he actually Theban or not?” problem that I’ve talked about before. In any case, I’m not about to start on Heracles for next week—way too much to have to deal with there in terms of preparation—so who knows what the myth will be next week. Or if the myth will be next week.


Amusing aside:  even though I couldn’t log in ’cause of the forgotten password, I was still looking at what I’d written before when I was writing this.  Consequently, I was able to identify my own activities on the “Most Active (the past day)” feed on the Dashboard.  That’s actually kind of pathetic.  (Okay, no the pathetic part is that my own activity was the entirety of said activity.)

 

Missing Letter Mondays – No “H”

Published July 20, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

“Adulterous Zeus”

“My wife doesn’t appreciate me,”
Zeus complained.
“You poor baby!”
Maia replied, smirking.

“My wife is terribly cruel to me,”
Zeus claimed.
“Awful, most awful!”
Danae exclaimed,
And sneezed.
(A gold allergy.  Surprising, no?)

“My wife doesn’t love me,”
Zeus insisted.
“A fool of a wife indeed not to love you!”
Semele answered.

“My wife will never be good to me,”
Zeus wept on Leda’s lap.
“But I’m good to you,”
Laconian lady Leda cooed back.

“Mom wants a divorce,”
Ares informed Zeus,
Once modern day dawned.

Zeus didn’t see it coming.

Everyone else did.


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The Death of Sisyphus

Published January 26, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

The second of my retellings of myths involving Hades.


Sisyphus was the son of Aeolus, one of the sons of Hellen.  When he was young, he set out to forge a new home for himself, and founded the city he called Ephyra, though later generations would come to call it Corinth.  He married the beautiful Merope, one of the Pleiades, the immortal daughters of Atlas.

One day, Sisyphus witnessed something incredible:  Zeus, the king of the gods, was carrying off Aegina, the daughter of the river god Asopus.  Some time later, Asopus came to Ephyra, seeking his daughter.  Sisyphus saw an opportunity to help himself out, so he told the river god that he knew where his daughter was, and that he would pass along the information in exchange for a fresh water spring in his beautiful city.  Asopus obliged, so Sisyphus shared the information that Zeus had taken Aegina to a nearby island for some romantic isolation.

The enraged river god went to retrieve his daughter, angering Zeus greatly by his presumption.  But Zeus had already fathered Aiakos on Aegina, so he turned aside from the river god’s interference, and instead focused his fury against Sisyphus for daring to tattle on the greatest of the gods.

Zeus contemplated hurling a thunderbolt at Sisyphus to put an end to him, but decided that was too fine a death for such a double-dealing wretch.  Instead, he sent Thanatos to kill Sisyphus and drag his shade down to the house of Hades.  When Thanatos arrived in Ephyra and entered the palace of Sisyphus, he did not find the king in his throne room, but found only a mournful-looking Merope sitting on the throne.

“Where is your husband, daughter of Atlas?” Thanatos asked her.  “I have business with him.”

Merope sighed sadly.  “I know; he’s been expecting you.  He’s hiding in our bedroom,” she said, then rose to lead Thanatos to the royal bedroom.  The bedroom was up on the second floor, and Merope stopped just outside the door.  “It’s through here,” she told him, gesturing towards the door.  “Sisyphus is hiding behind the bed.”

Thanatos opened the door, and stepped through it into the darkened room beyond.  “Surrender yourself to me, as all mortals must, son of Aeolus.  For I am death, and I have come for you.”

There was no reply but a quiet whimper from the far corner of the room.  Thanatos followed the sound through the darkness until he found himself suddenly tripping over something hard.  He tumbled head over heels, landing face down in something narrow, metal and constrictive.  There was a clanging of metal against metal and Thanatos found himself trapped.

Having closed the lid of the bronze pot, Sisyphus quickly began to bind it shut with many heavy ropes.  “I’ve done it!” he called out to his wife.

She opened the door, letting a bit of light into the dark room.  “Sisyphus…are you serious?” Merope asked, staring at him in disbelief.

“Of course I am!” he laughed.  “I’ve caught Thanatos, death himself!”

“The gods aren’t going to let you get away with that for long,” she told him.  “You must know that.”

“Of course I do,” he agreed.  “But don’t worry, my dear.  I already have a plan.”

Sisyphus quickly explained his plans to his uncertain wife.

In the mean time, all over the world, mortals stopped dying.  Murderers found their victims getting back up and trying to take vengeance for themselves, and sailors could not drown, no matter how long they spent floundering beneath the waves.

The first god to notice was Ares.  He was in Thrace, fighting alongside the Amazons against their enemies, trying to impress their beautiful queen.  But no matter how many times he pierced a mortal’s chest with his spear, the mortal would get back to his feet and flee, in agony but very much alive.  The more his victims got up and escaped, the more the Amazons laughed at Ares, infuriating and humiliating him.  Eventually, he turned on them in his anger, but was no more able to kill the Amazon warriors than he had been able to kill the Thracians.

Furious, Ares stormed down into the underworld to confront his uncle, Hades.  “What’s wrong with you?!” Ares demanded.  “Why aren’t you doing your job?!”

“What do you think gives you the right to storm into my throne room and berate me like this?” Hades asked coldly, getting to his feet.  “Have more respect for an elder god!”

From her own throne, Persephone laughed quietly.  “You know my brother is just impetuous,” she told her husband.  “It’s his way to yell all the time.”

Grimacing, Hades sat down on his throne again.  “Very well,” he sighed.  “I assume your complaint has to do with the way my kingdom has ceased to grow.”

“Of course it does!  What kind of war can I conduct, if the mortals I kill don’t stay dead?!”

Hades grimaced.  “If you weren’t so eager to practice your ways, maybe I would have more time to spend with my bride,” he grumbled.

Persephone set her hand on his, and squeezed it gently.  “And yet you were worried that the lands above might become overcrowded if the mortals couldn’t die,” she reminded him.

“So is it your doing or not?” Ares asked, a little unsettled by the affectionate display.  He didn’t know how to handle those, except when he was part of them.

“Of course not,” Hades replied, shaking his head.  “Thanatos never returned from Ephyra.  Something must have happened to him there.  If his failure to do his duty is so angering you, why don’t you go after him?”

Ares nodded, and returned to the surface, determined to find Thanatos and give him a piece of his mind for being so negligent of his duties.  When he arrived there, he heard the news being sung gladly from every corner of Hellas:  “King Sisyphus has captured Thanatos, and now we’ll all live forever!”  Ares struck down a few of the mortals who were so excited about their new immortality, but of course it didn’t do any good, and the mortals simply scattered in terror.

Making his way to Ephyra, Ares stormed into the palace of Sisyphus, and demanded that the king explain what had happened to Thanatos.  Sisyphus gladly showed him the bronze pot that sat beside his throne, bound tightly shut.  “I’ve trapped Thanatos in this pot,” he told him proudly.

“Oh, is that so?  No wonder you’re so famous for your wit,” Ares responded, laughing as if he was on Sisyphus’ side.  Certain that he had outwitted the cunning trickster, Ares leapt at the pot, sliced apart the ropes with his sword, knocked off the lid, and then used his sword to slay Sisyphus.

Thanatos dutifully led the soul of Sisyphus down to the house of Hades.  The god was initially inclined to be lenient, since he had enjoyed his brief vacation, but when he checked, he found that the king’s widow had not yet buried her husband’s corpse.  Merope had simply left the body where it had fallen, and was going about her daily activities, seemingly uncaring that her mortal husband had died.

Hades frowned.  “Just what kind of woman ignores her husband’s death?” he asked.

“Maybe she doesn’t know he’s dead yet?” Persephone suggested.  “If she hasn’t been around mortals very long, perhaps she doesn’t know how it works?  Or she might not realize that Thanatos has been freed.”

“She was in the throne room when Ares freed me,” Thanatos told her.  “The daughter of Atlas saw her husband being killed.”

“Inexcusable!” Hades bellowed, then turned to look at Sisyphus.  “Go back up to the surface, and tell your wife to give you a proper burial!  I won’t have any soul in my realm who hasn’t received the proper memorial rites.”

Sisyphus bowed to the god.  “As you wish,” he answered.  The soul returned to the surface, and once more inhabited its body.  Then he left the throne room, walked up to Merope, and gave her a passionate kiss.  “It worked beautifully, my dear,” he told her.  “I’m back.”

Merope sighed.  “But for how long?” she asked.

“I’m sure Thanatos will be too busy cleaning up the mess from his brief time off to bother coming after me any time soon,” he chuckled.

Sisyphus resumed his old life, and continued to reign over Ephyra for many years.  But eventually Thanatos returned for him, and this time Merope performed the proper burial rites for her husband.

But this time, Hades was not so forgiving when Sisyphus was brought before him.  “You thought you could deceive the gods and escape death.  Can you make any excuses for your behavior?”

“Every mortal wants to escape death,” Sisyphus answered.  “I’m just the only one who thought of a way to do so.”

“Arrogance.  To be mortal is to die,” Hades answered, shaking his head.  “Your transgressions can never be forgiven.  Briareos!”  The hundred-handed giant entered the throne room, and laid seven or eight of his hands on the shade of Sisyphus.  “Take him to Tartaros.”

The giant nodded, and dragged the shade into the pit of Tartaros, where he set it to eternal punishment.  Sisyphus was forced to roll a massive boulder up a tall hill, but as soon as he got it to the top, it would roll down the other side, and Sisyphus had to chase it and then attempt to roll it back up again, over and over again, for all time.


Yeah, that one didn’t work too well.  I guess there’s a reason this story isn’t normally told with any fullness.  There’s no official tradition regarding just how Sisyphus managed to trap Thanatos, so I just tried to make something up.  The bronze pot detail was meant to be humorously ironic, because Ares at one point hid in (and was then trapped in) a bronze pot to get away from some giants.

I avoided any mention of Hermes here, because I’m not totally clear on when this story takes place in relation to the birth of such a young god as Hermes.  Especially since his mother, Maia, is a sister of Merope, so even if he’s been born by this point, he might not have taken on his duties as psycopompos yet.  In fact, it would make sense that this incident with Thanatos would be the reason he was given the task of guiding souls down into the underworld upon their deaths.

BTW, Aiakos, son of Zeus and Aegina, is the father of Peleus, the father of Achilles.  (Also, in some versions, the father of Telamon, father of Aias.)  That just goes to prove the chronological improbability of the Athenian stage tradition that had Sisyphus being the father of Odysseus, rather than Laertes being his father.  Also, one of Sisyphus’ sons was Glaucos, father of Bellerophon, who was the grandfather of the Glaucos who traded armor with Diomedes, and then later was killed by Telamonian Aias during the battle over the corpse of Achilles.  Presumably, that means that the earlier Glaucos was already a young man by the time his father witnessed the abduction of Aegina.  Or something.  Also, Peleus was fairly old when he fathered Achilles (he already had a married daughter, whose son accompanied Achilles to Troy as one of the commanders of the Myrmidons).

Also, this didn’t really involve Hades as much as I originally meant it to.

…sigh…

 

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