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Lecture 2

CLAS 1P97 Lecture 2: What Makes a Hero (continued) & Cretan Myths: Minos

Course Code
Anton Jansen

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Jan. 12th, 2016
Myths of the Heroic Age (Continued)
Pelops, Hippodameia and Myrtilus
-Pelops had the horses of Poseidon but he was worried and bribed Oenomaus’
charioteer Myrtilus
-If Myrtilus helps, he can sleep with Hippodameia on the first night after her marriage to
Curse of Myrtilus (Myrtilos), son of Hermes
-Pelops kills him instead of letting him have Hippodameia
-With dying breath, throws a curse on Pelops
-Pelops conquers the Peloponnesos - island of Pelops - sea of Myrtilos
*Aetiology - an explanatory myth
-Games in honour of Zeus and Hera
-First shrine to Hermes
-Pelops wants to placate the gods
Chrysippus - Pelops’ favourite son
-Pelops’ relationship with Hippodameia isn’t very good
-Has a number of sons
-He is illegitimate - Pelops had slept with a slave girl
-Chrysippus was kidnapped by Laius of Thebes (Oedipus's father) but Pelops rescued
-Poor relationships with Hippodameia and sons, leads to war with Thebes
Atreus and Thyestes
-Hippodameia arranges the death of Chrysippus by getting her sons to do it
Staff of Pelops
-Visible symbol of royal authority
-Pelops has KLEOS (fame) and is seen as a glorious, heroic monarch by outsiders
-Agamemnon - Pelops’ grandson (son of Atreus = Atreides)
-Agamemnon has to kill his own daughter to go to the Trojan war
Pelops - a cult hero
-Pelopeion - Pelops’ shrine at Olympia
-Pelops dodges the curse of Myrtilus but his descendants don’t
Hero cult
-A tomb or cenotaph of a famous person (real or fictional) can become centre of cult
activity, a Heroon
-A hero or heroine functions somewhat like a saint

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Shrine of Helen near Sparta
-Even in Homer, heroes don’t experience the same deaths as ordinary people
-eg. Elysian fields. (Odyssey, xi)
-People pray to heroes (like Helen) because they understand what it was like to be a
human - relatable
-People would pray to Helen to ask for their babies to pass the test of health
-Mothers/nursemaids would pray to Helen to help their daughters be better looking when
they grow up
Great Kings
-Pelops favoured by gods
-Minos of Crete: a son of Zeus
-How they deal with their kingdoms (Public)
-How they deal with their families (Private)

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Myths of Crete
-In Greek mythology, Crete is seen as an odd exotic place
Example of something strange that could only happen in Crete
-Princess of Tyre, daughter of Agenor
-Agenor - Egyptian by birth
-Tyre - southern Lebanon today
-Captured the eye of Zeus - likes women who are beautiful and brave
Zeus takes her to Crete
-Zeus turns into a docile bull, came out of the sea to Europa
-Her attendants fled, but Europa got on the bull
-Has some hero aspects
-Attracted to symbols of power
-Sent with brothers to find Europa
-They all fail - can’t go home because dad will punish them - start new cities
-Cadmus will find Thebes
Europa’s Family
-She has 3 sons with Zeus:
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