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The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations
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Mythology > The gods of ancient Greece: identities and transformations (General Remarks)

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message 1: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
From the introduction:
In Homer we not only find Helios, the sun god, but also Eos, the goddess of dawn, both marginalized in the Greek pantheon, but of incontestably Indo-European origin. Sparta worshipped Helen as a goddess, and her myths strongly suggest that she goes back to the Indo-European Sun-Maiden.


I wonder if that's why she's so "untrustworthy" (xenophobia, fear of women from foreign land) -- she's an import.

Also, nice to know Sparta continues to worship her as a full pedigree goddess, even though she's only half-divine, and Menelaus/ Spartans seemed not so pleased with her after Troy.


message 2: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
As in classical times, some of these gods seem to have had an epithet, an important part of the Greek divine personality.
(pg. 5)


If Greek divine personality contains an epithet component, I wonder if mortals also become “godlike” by earning many epithets. (Apotheosis?)

Homer withheld Odysseus’ epithets until Calypso swore not to harm him, as though to say, until he made the choice to exit easeful obscurity, he was a nobody. The moment he commits to choose danger, he’s an epithet-worthy somebody.


message 3: by Ian (last edited Apr 26, 2018 09:24AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "From the introduction: In Homer we not only find Helios, the sun god, but also Eos, the goddess of dawn, both marginalized in the Greek pantheon, but of incontestably Indo-European origin. Sparta worshipped... she goes back to the Indo-European Sun-Maiden."
I wonder if that's why she's so "untrustworthy" (xenophobia, fear of women from foreign land) -- she's an import.


The Indo-European approach to Helen postulates that she was already an integral part of proto-Greek culture when the language group broke off from the rest of the language family, so there would be nothing foreign about her that Greeks would notice.

One of the myths concerning her tells of her kidnapping by Theseus, and her rescue by her brothers, the Dioskouroi, Castor and Pollux (twin "Sons of Zeus," although one of them is mortal, and properly the son of Tyndareus). This has parallels in ancient India, where the twin brothers are known as the Ashvins or the Nasatyas), and, as Donald Ward elaborately established in the late 1960s, in some rather obscure Germanic myths and (more fully humanized) legends, among other places.

Ward's "The Divine Twins: An Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition" gives a very full discussion, with (now dated) bibliography. Unfortunately, it is long out of print, and currently not even available from Amazon. (I suspect that the price, if it is ever offered again, will be outrageous....)

https://www.amazon.com/divine-twins-I...

In the ancient Indian version(s), the brothers rescue their sister, the dawn-goddess Ushas, in a similar manner. Apparently, among the Greeks, the story was transferred to a more human level, and thus separated her from Ushas's Greek counterpart, Eos.

It has also been speculated that Aphrodite too inherited some of the mythology of the ancient dawn-goddess, although her development in Greek culture seems to have adopted traits from Near Eastern deities.

It should be noted that Eos apparently had no cult in historical times, and in literature is considered to be a Titan, one of the pre-Olympian gods, along with the Sun and Moon (who also had little worship, except in Rhodes).

Although the Spartan worship of Helen (as the daughter of Zeus) could reflect the popularity of "Homer," she may not be an innovation in their intensely conservative culture, but an archaism, long since lost from Greek culture in general as the more humanized Helen of the epic tradition took hold.

They also worshipped Castor and Pollux (well, in Greek rather than Latin, Polydeukes) as her brothers, which is not quite so odd -- they were called on by mariners to save them in storms, so their status as some sort of divinities was generally acknowledged.

For Helen's relationship to the brothers, see Iliad 3.236-244. The story of her kidnapping (as a child) by Theseus, who handed her over to his own mother, Aethra (or Aithre in Lattimore) to bring up, may have been known to "Homer." In Iliad 3.144, Aethra, daughter of Pittheus, is one of Helen's slave. Pittheus was Theseus' maternal grandfather, and later tradition, at least, made Aethra his mother, carried off by Castor and Pollux when they rescued Helen.


message 4: by Lia (last edited Apr 26, 2018 09:05AM) (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Thank you Ian, this is like having a personal tutor :D

I looked up the Twins book in my library and no dice. I admit I already have a Babel Tower sized TBR list, so I'm not going to lose sleep on this. But, given what we know about Helen's terrifying twin (I fear Clytemnestra more than Hera, Zeus, Medusa, Medea ... combined!) it's terrifying to learn that Helen has got more twin sets in her family. Consider my curiosity piqued.


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