Essays discussion

The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations
This topic is about The Gods of Ancient Greece
3 views
Mythology > Highlights from <<The gods of ancient Greece: identities and transformations>>

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
As Aphrodite puts it in the prologue to Euripides’ Hippolytos (7–8), each god wants a piece of the pie in the form of cultic honours (timē is the key word here), but even as they vie for recognition they do not infringe upon another god’s territory and do not step on each other’s toes. By contrast, the Hesiodic succession myth does not fit such a pattern of mutual tolerance and reconciliation of competing interests. In the generational struggle for succession between father and son, divine competition turns ugly and violent when Kronos castrates Ouranos with a sickle and swallows his own children to stay in power, only to be dethroned ultimately by Zeus, who then rules supreme as ‘the most powerful of the gods’ (θεῶν κϱάτιστος, as Pindar calls him).73 The Hesiodic account of Zeus’ rise to supremacy is a story of a power struggle between gods on a grand scale. Its emphasis on the violent transfer of divine power is exceptional in Greek myth, and as we have known for some time, the succession myth had in fact been imported from the Near East.


These texts constitute a formidable record of divine activity that shows us, in the words of Robert Parker, ‘gods at work’.75 Given the absolute qualities that the Greeks ascribed to their gods, it is almost paradoxical that so many of these gods had to work so hard to sustain their divine status


...the gods qua individuals with their distinct ‘honours (τιμαί), skills (τέχναι) and visible forms (εἴδεα)’, to quote again from Herodotus.79 If it is true that Greek polytheism constitutes a system of connections, correlations and oppositions among a plurality of gods, and if it is also true that the system as a whole derives its meaning from the interaction of all its parts, it follows that those generic properties of the gods cannot be ignored without peril. Yet key concepts of a generic approach to the Greek gods, including their immortality, anthropomorphism and power, receive scant attention in standard books on Greek religion


Power is unquestionably a fundamental denominator of divinity, but power alone does not make a god, even though certain types of political power tended to go hand in hand with divine aspirations and with formal deification.82 But rulers who were deified in their lifetime would eventually die, at which point their hopes of immortality faded, whereas humans deified after death became quasigods despite their mortality. True immortality is the ultimate mark of genuine divinity, which is inborn rather than acquired. An immortality that is acquired secondhand never comes without a glitch. As Sappho reminds us in the new Cologne papyrus, Eos secured immortality for her mortal lover Tithonos, but she failed to ask for eternal youth: ‘Yet in time grey age o’ertook him, husband of immortal wife’ (ἀθανάταν ἄκοιτιν).83 The case of Tithonos exemplifies that there is no substitute for true immortality, which is everlasting and ageless, qualities beyond human reach: ‘Not to grow old, being human, is impossible’ (ἀγήϱαον ἄνθϱωπον ἔοντ’ οὐ δύνατον γένεσθαι).84 Sappho concludes that she too cannot escape the ravages of her advancing years. It is to be hoped that future students of the Greek gods do not replicate the missed opportunities of their predecessors, ancient as well as modern, and f ind a way to escape the burden of the past.



message 2: by Lia (new) - added it

Lia | 522 comments Mod
In the story of the foundation of Sicilian Leontinoi by men from Megara and from Chalkis, the Megarians take advantage of the Chalkidians when they are performing a ritual for the twelve gods in the agora, and exterminate them.


Is this a type-story? Athena usurping Poseidon while he’s away; Paris eloping with Helen while Menelaus is away; Ares and Aphrodites; Agamemnon; Odysseys. They all seem like variations on the same theme.

Also, the story of Troy ended up mostly known for the Wooden Horse, and Neoptoleme ended up with Odysseus as his mentor, and grew into someone more like wily Odysseus than Achilles. I feel like Odysseus is kind of usurping Achilles’ “place” in the world while he’s... visiting (?) Hades. (I guess he lives there now.)


back to top