All posts tagged Athene

The Quarrel between Athene and Poseidon

Published September 8, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

You know, Athene really seems to have trouble getting along with the other gods.  Or is that just my imagination?

The rocky hill in Attica was home to a number of people even before Kekrops arrived, but their ways were crude, and lacked the polish of civilization.

No one knew who Kekrops was, really.  They didn’t know where he had come from, or who his parents were.  Some said he had sprung whole from the ground, but that only made for more questions.

What mattered to the Attic people was that he brought them the ways to make their lives better.

He taught them to worship Zeus and the other Olympians.  And he taught them the ways of life the gods preferred.  (He taught them other things, too, that were less pleasant.  Like hating foreign ‘barbarians’ and disdaining the people from neighboring cities and enslaving those captured in war.  But no one likes to talk about that.)  By taking a wife and fathering three lovely daughters on her, he showed them how he wanted women to be treated.  The men liked that.  (The women, not so much.)

As the little village began to grow into a real city — or the tentative beginnings of one, at any rate — the people began to wonder just what they should call it.

Seeing an opportunity, Kekrops made a great offering to the gods, and told them that his city would one day be the finest city in any land, and that he would name that city in the honor of whatever god would be its protector.

Two of the gods appeared on that rocky hill, ready to take Kekrops up on his offer:  mighty Poseidon, god of the sea, and wise Athene, goddess of war.

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Published August 25, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

I don’t want to think about how long it’s been since the last time I posted a myth…

The young city had not yet decided on its name or patron god when the girl named Arachne was born.  As a child, she witnessed the struggle to select a holy protector, and the divine rivalry that ensued.

As the newly named Athens struggled its way towards being a city that might day hope to rival at least nearby Megara in size, if not more important places like Argos or Pylos (to say nothing of the mighty Mycenae, rich in gold, with which poor Athens could never hope to compete), Arachne and her age-mates grew from children to adults.  And, like all who had seen the gods with their own eyes, they grew rich in the talents of handicraft and wit.  But, like all who had witnessed such squabbles in their formative years, they grew rich also in disrespect for the gods.

The poems of the young men and women of Athens described the gods as petty and childlike.  The paintings and pottery of the young men showed them as crude and comical figures.  The domestic arts were the only ones that seemed to spare this disrespect.

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Published February 19, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Sorry this is a day late.  It’s been busy here of late.  (Having my class on Wednesday actually seems to make getting the myths ready harder instead of easier; Thursday has become reserved for trying to clean my house, doing laundry, and, naturally, for the first big push to get through my reading for the week.  Maybe I should move these to Tuesdays for the remainder of the semester…)

Anyway, this follows pretty soon after last week’s myth.  Er, it starts then, anyway.  Then it sort of skips ahead to after the birth of Apollo and Artemis…and the birth of Hermes, for that matter.

Every time Hera looked at her new step-daughter, Athene, she felt herself filling with a jealous rage.

There was a beautiful, perfect goddess, born from her husband’s head without the aid of a woman at all (or so Hera thought, as Zeus hadn’t admitted Metis’ role),  and yet look at the son Hera had borne him!  Hephaistos was a sweet child, but so ugly to look at, and deformed as well!  How could a mere male have produced a more perfect child than Hera herself?!

The more she thought about it, and the more she saw her husband preferring his daughter to their son, the more she grew to hate everything, and she began to quarrel with Zeus more and more often.

The final blow was, perhaps, when the children tried to intervene in the fight.

It wasn’t a quarrel over anything serious, not anything more serious than usual, at any rate.  By the time the other gods became aware of it, Hera and Zeus were screaming at each other with barely contained hatred, and the other gods could only gather around them in fear and uncertainty.

But Hephaistos wasn’t afraid, and he limped his way in between them, facing Zeus.  “Father, please stop this,” he said.  “Mother’s right; you — ”

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The Birth of Athene

Published February 11, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, I know that last week I said I was going to go into Asclepios’ life and death this week, but…actually, there really isn’t much to tell, and I already told what little there was at the beginning of the story of Admetos and Alcestis.  So I thought I should get to finishing up with the general theogony.  I’m not entirely pleased with either of my available choices regarding the birth of Hephaistos, but it seems that among the Archaic sources, Homer makes Zeus the father, and Hesiod makes him fatherless, and when it’s a contest between those two, I have to go with Homer, so…yeah, going with that version.  The reason I’m making his birth so closely correspond to Athene’s in time is to make Hera’s complaints/actions next week make a little more sense…if any of this can rightly be claimed to make any kind of “sense.”

And I’m gonna go ahead and put in a “read more” tag right away, ’cause this gets a little PG-13 (in concept, not in language) pretty much from the word “Go.”  (Which is odd, considering it’s building up to the birth of a virgin goddess…)

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Published October 22, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

LOL, this is the second post I’ve put up today called “Medusa“!

We’re picking up right where we left off last week.

When Perseus arrived home, he was surprised to see a stranger waiting for him.  The man wore a traveler’s cloak, and a wide-brimmed traveler’s hat.  So far as Perseus could tell, the man looked to be fairly young, but it was hard to make out any details in the shadow of that huge hat.

“Did you want something here, stranger?” Perseus asked, as he dismounted his horse.  “Our family is poor, but you’re welcome to share what little we have.”

The traveler shook his head.  “My father sent me here to help you,” he replied.

“Your father?”

“Maybe I should say our father,” the man chuckled.  “He wanted me to give you some advice.  To help with that,” he added, pointing at Perseus’ beautiful horse.

“You know where I can find a Gorgon?” Perseus asked.  “Where?”

“No, I don’t know where you can find one, but I know where you can find someone who does,” the stranger told him.  “You’ll have to ask the Graiai…though I don’t know how an ordinary mortal like you can reach them in time to save your mother from being forcibly married off.”

Perseus felt more than a little annoyed by that statement, but he bit his tongue.  If this man was telling the truth, and if Perseus’ mother was telling the truth, then this man was either a god or a demi-god, and based on his appearance, surely if he was a god, then he had to be Hermes.  But if Zeus was looking after his former lover’s safety by sending Hermes to help Perseus, then why couldn’t Zeus just interfere directly to protect Danae from Polydectes?!  However, it would be rude to ask such things of a god, so Perseus held back.  “Where are these Graiai, then?” Perseus asked.  “And just what is a Gorgon, anyway?”

“To start with the easy question, the Gorgons are three daughters of Phorcys and Ceto.  They’re monstrous females, with snakes for hair, massive fangs and lolling tongues, and wings upon their backs; any man who looks on them will die.”  The man shook his head.  “You have to be careful to find Medusa, not Stheno or Euryale, though they’re all ageless, only Medusa can be killed; any attack on Stheno or Euryale will fail, and you’ll simply die.”

“How am I supposed to cut off the head of something I can’t look at?” Perseus asked.  “Or do you mean that they’ll kill any man they see?”

The traveler chuckled.  “They will most certainly kill any man they see,” he replied, “which is why Father asked me to give you this.”  So saying, he held out a black cap of finely woven cloth.

It felt unearthly cold when Perseus accepted it, far more chill than even a gust of winter air.  “What is it?” Perseus asked.  No matter how cold, no matter how well-made, it still just looked like a simple cap, like any shepherd might wear.

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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…?)

Trying to figure out where to take the myths

Published September 6, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I’m starting to feel like I’m running out of myths to re-tell because I can’t start the major cycles–Heracles, the voyage of the Argo, the Trojan War–without deciding how to make the life of Heracles intersect with his time as an Argonaut, and without figuring how in the heck the life of Heracles works with the Theban cycle, considering he’s supposedly Theban, and yet why wouldn’t he have interfered in all that stuff?

There are also many other myths I’ve left out because I have to figure out how to handle them, not so much in chronological concerns like with the major cycles, but because the variations are so variant.  There’s the conflicting birth of Athene and birth of Hephaistos stories, for example.  Was Hephaistos the one to crack open Zeus’ skull to let Athene out, or did Hera give birth to him without the aid of Zeus because she was jealous that Zeus had give birth to Athene without the help of a woman?  For that matter, is Athene the daughter of Zeus alone, or did he swallow Metis because she was pregnant, not because he wanted her wisdom for himself?  These are all genuine variants from ancient sources, so each is just as “real” as the other.

I also still haven’t done Typhon yet, but that ties into the previous concern, because there are versions where Hera gave birth to Typhon–seemingly impregnated by Gaia!–because of the same jealousy over the birth of Athene that led to the birth of Hephaistos in the other variation I mentioned earlier.  So basically I see the following possible versions:

  1. Zeus gives birth to Athene -> Hera gives birth to Hephaistos unaided -> Typhon just happens
  2. Hephaistos is born to Zeus and Hera -> Zeus gives birth to Athene with Hephaistos’ help -> Hera gives birth to Typhon in jealousy over the birth of Athene

Hmm, I thought there were going to be more than two, but I’m not thinking of further combinations, for some reason.  (Which is annoying, because I’m pretty sure I’d thought of more of them before I started writing them down!)

The problem is that I’ve been preferring to go with lesser known variants, right?  So in both cases, we have a mix of lesser known and commonly known ones.  I guess the first one actually has two lesser known versions, and one more commonly known one, but the one where Hera gives birth to Typhon is a pretty huge variant.  On the other hand, it’s also a variant that paints poor Hera as the villainess once again, so maybe I should avoid it for that reason.

I don’t have to worry about this just yet–the minor myths of Dionysos will keep me covered for a few more weeks–but then I do need to start figuring this out.

Oh, yeah, I need to figure out how Theseus fits into the chronology of various other places and people, too.  I keep leaving him out for some reason, but knowing his chronology is important given his abduction of the underage Helen, and Medea often plays a role in his return to Athens after Crete, though I’m not sure I want to have that happen, given the way Medea’s usually depicted in that story…

So…yeah…I don’t know quite what to do.  Any thoughts?

Prometheus Ticks off Zeus, Part 2

Published August 6, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, technically, this should be called “Zeus tries to get revenge” but…I’m tweaking the story a lot to make it less misogynistic, and because I was hoping to give Prometheus more of a hand in how it turned out, so…sticking with this title.  Anyway, this picks up right from the end of part one.

“That was a pretty clever trick,” Hermes said, looking at the smoke rising from the mortal village.  “Maybe I could actually learn from this guy…”  It wasn’t often that he met someone who was almost as accomplished a thief as he was!

“Don’t pick up any more bad habits, little brother,” Apollo said, glaring at him.  “I don’t want you stealing any more of my possessions.”

“I’ll steal from someone else, then,” Hermes laughed.

“I won’t let him get away with this outrage,” Zeus growled.  “He must be punished!”

“It’s only a tiny flame,” Hestia said, stroking his arm consolingly.  “And fire always grows to make up for the loss.  The winter’s coming on, and the mortals must be cold down on the surface.  I’m sure he only wanted to protect them.”

“I had the fire taken away from them to protect Demeter’s forests from those foolish mortals!” Zeus bellowed, making Hestia back away from her brother in terror.  “I won’t allow that prattling Titan to get away with defying my will!”

“You were eager enough to listen to him when you thought he had a warning for you about how to keep your uncontrollable lust from getting us all locked up in Tartaros,” Hera snarled at him.  “How quickly you change your tune!”

“Maybe if you really want to punish him, you should give him a wife,” Apollo commented, shaking his head.  After seeing what his step-mother was like, Apollo had quickly decided that he was never going to marry.  In fact, he had decided to stop himself from ever reaching full physical maturity, so no one would ever expect him to marry.  If he always looked like a youth, then he’d never look old enough to be a husband.  Plus he’d look prettier, which was always nice.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Zeus agreed, with a cold glare at his own wife.

“I don’t think he was serious,” Athene pointed out, but her father wasn’t listening, having immediately leaped upon and embraced the idea.

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Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published July 22, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, so for this week’s Words Crush Wednesday, I’ll pick up from last week’s, because…well, my computer’s still down, and I’m writing from off-line, and I remember where I was, so I can. (Also, since I’m off-line, I can finally put in the accent marks the translator uses! Whee, fancy!) Last week, Achilles was whining at the gods for not saving him from the flooding river, if you’ll recall…

So, from Book XXI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

  As he spoke the words, Poseidon and Athena stood by his side in the shape of two men, gripping his hand and encouraging him. Poseidon said:

“Don’t shrink like that, Peleidês, don’t be afraid. Here are two gods to help you with full consent of Zeus—I and Pallas Athena. It is not your fate to be swallowed up by a river. The River will soon give over—you know it without being told. But now we will give you a piece of good advice, if you will listen. Fight away until the Trojans are shut up in their city, all that are left; but you come back to the ships as soon as you have killed Hector. We promise you victory.”

No wonder he’s got such a swelled head! Sheesh!

(Naturally, since I mentioned the accent marks, this quote actually only contained one. But this translator actually puts that same accent mark over the “e” in Achilles, so I’ve been leaving that accent mark out a lot in quoting from his translations…)


Athene, Hephaistos, and Other Early Myths

Published July 4, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So I thought I’d discuss some of the problems I’m having trying to sort out the chronology in my myth re-tellings.  (What, you thought I was going to write something about this being the 4th of July?  You don’t know me very well, do you?)

The problem is this:  in some versions, when Zeus swallows the pregnant Metis, and then has the horrible headaches as Metis (or Athene) is forging Athene’s armor within his head, it’s Hephaistos who splits his skull open to let the fully grown Athene out.  (Wow, Zeus has a big head!)  In other versions, Hera has Hephaistos without Zeus’ assistance, because she’s jealous that Zeus produced Athene without female assistance.  Because in some versions he swallowed Metis purely to gain permanent access to her clever wit, not because she was pregnant with his child.  (In fact, there’s a version where Metis was pregnant with Athene by one of the Cyclopes, and Zeus wasn’t actually her father.)

Also, I kind of got carried away at the end of the Titanomachia, and had Zeus and Hera get married right away, instead of having Zeus marry Metis first, even though that’s usually how the story is told.  Now, on the other hand, I’m totally cool with telling the lesser known versions, so I’m cool with having him swallow Metis just to absorb her intelligence–which would help to have him transform from the more teenage-like Zeus of the defeat of Kronos and the Titanomachia–and then having Hera produce Hephaistos unaided in jealousy, but…I don’t know.  Maybe I’m trying to write this too early in the morning.

There also seems to be some disagreement in the sources about Typhon, but not too much, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Let’s see, what were the other myths I was worried about?  Oh, well, there are also those that have alternate versions where there’s only one myth.  That is to say, something like the birth of Aphrodite.  Because the Hesiodic version has a myth attached, while the Homeric version does not.  Because the Homeric version–daughter of Zeus by Dione–has no story, but being attested in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, it’s either older then or equally as old as the born from seafoam version in Hesiod’s Theogony.  And, frankly, I like the Zeus + Dione = Aphrodite equation better, though perhaps that’s somewhat irrelevant.  Actually, I could perhaps tell a number of slightly salacious tales about Aphrodite–her adultery with Ares and being trapped by Hephaistos, her marriage to Anchises, et cetera–by means of a more unusual narrative structure, like a tale-telling contest among what seems to be merely a group of drunkards, at least one of whom turns out to be someone like Hermes or something.  (Let’s see, Hermes, Odysseus, uh, who else in Greek myth is famous for being a liar?)  The point being that it would be okay that some of them would contradict each other, because at least some of them would have been made up by the contestants.

I guess the main worry, chronologically speaking, was always how to work the major epic strains.  Because the narratives of Heracles and the Theban cycles just don’t cross paths, despite that Heracles is allegedly born and raised in Thebes and keeps going back there.  But if Heracles really was born in Thebes, then there’s no way he or his father, half-brother or nephew wouldn’t become involved in all the stuff with the Sphinx, Oedipus and the warring sons of Oedipus unless they were all dead before all that started, or unless all of that was over before they first arrived.  Neither of those is possible.  Therefore, Heracles cannot actually have been born in Thebes, and Gantz was right in pointing out that Heracles was not originally a Theban hero, and was at some point hijacked by the Thebans and made their own.  (Okay, I may be losing my mind.  I was sure that was in Early Greek Myth somewhere, but I just spent like twenty minutes looking for it, and couldn’t find it.)  Uh, anyway, so I’m thinking of just sort of going back to the birth of Heracles and changing the name of the town where he’s born.  (Maybe Corinth?  It also has a Creon, and not much else going on (until Medea gets there) oh, no, wait, that’s where Oedipus gets found, that’s too…ugh.  Well, I’ll think of something.)  I know that’s horrible, but…seriously!  How are we supposed to believe he and his family don’t get involved in all that mess otherwise?

I still have to figure out some relative chronologies regarding the voyage of the Argo and Heracles’ life–even the order of his Labors isn’t set in stone–but…

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