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Lecture 16

CLAS 203 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Greek Mythology, Actaeon, Sexual Orientation

Course Code
CLAS 203
Margaret Palczynski

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CLAS 203 – Greek Mythology
Margaret Palczynski
Lecture 16
Artemis Cont’d
Actaeon: illustrates how adamant Artemis is about her chastity and the unfortunate position of
any human that gets on the wrong side of the gods (even unwillingly)
- Renowned hunter with pack of hunting hounds; hunts in the deep woods
Artemis and her band of nymphs (shown to chastity) also hunt in those woods
Actaeon comes upon Artemis bathing in the woods.
- He is punished: changed into a deer in the midst of his hounds
His own hounds devour him
Shows her merciless nature when it comes to her chastity
Callisto and Arcas
- Callisto: beautiful nymph attendant to Artemis
Attracts Zeus; he comes disguised as Artemis and seduces her
- Becomes pregnant and tries to disguise it: all attendant nymphs are sworn to chastity
Punished: changed into a bear; gives birth to a human boy who becomes a hunter
Arcas: sees that he is followed by a bear and tries to shoot her but Zeus intervenes
Callisto is placed into the constellation, in the sky (gods cannot completely ‘undo’
what is done by another)
Hippolytus (Euripides’ Hippolytus): powerful tragedy
Hippolytus is a noble youth, son of the king of Athens (Theseus)
- Mother was an amazon woman: not heir to the throne
Phaedra (wife of Theseus) is concerned with the radical views of Hippolytus
- Greatly dislikes Aphrodite: does not want sexual relations or physical attractions
- Wants to remain chaste and dedicates himself to Artemis
Dangerous polarization: by honouring one god too much, the other will be insulted
Aphrodite punishes him: causes Phaedra to love him
- Phaedra’s nurse reveals this to Hippolytus; he is horrified but promises to not betray this
- Phaedra hangs herself: lies and accuses Hippolytus of forcing himself on her
Theseus was granted three wishes by Poseidon and uses one for Hippolytus to be
struck down
A monstrous bull emerges from the sea and he is mortally wounded
Artemis brings Theseus to him in his last moments and the truth comes out
Myths of Fertility: Demeter and Dionysus
Dionysus (Bacchus)
He is the only Olympian born of a mortal: Semele, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia
Cadmus, king of Thebes (not a Greek figure)
- Son of Agenor: king of Tyre
Dionysus has eastern ties to Thrace and Phrygia: least Greek of the gods
Believed to have a late introduction into Greece but still seen in the Linear B tablets
- Portrayed as a strange and foreign god, in oriental dress with long hair (not seen in other
Non-Greek appearance
Myths motifs: appears as a young boy in some myths
- Travels: Dionysus is present outside of Greece (all the way to India)
- Resistance: to the worship of Dionysus
Name: ‘twice born’
Hera disguised as an old woman tricks Semele into asking Zeus to show himself as a
- In his god form, he incinerates her but manages to save the fetus (first birth)
- Birth from Zeus’ thigh (second birth)
He is nursed by Ino (sister of Semele) and her husband Athamus
By taking Dionysus Ino and Athamas angers Hera
- The two are struck with madness and die
- In another variation, he is taken by Hermes to the nymphs of Nysa (mythological place)
From the nymphs, he learns the skill of making wine
Dionysus is the god of fruitfulness and growth
- Vegetation (especially vine, ivy) but not crops
- Wine (and other fluids i.e. semen, milk): life giving fluids
- Animals: especially bear, panther, lion, leopard
More exotic and wild animals
- Fertility: ‘dying god’
God that has to die in order for life to come forth and is then reborn
- Motif of death and rebirth
Cult and Worship
The characteristics of the cult of Dionysus was very different than the other gods
- From myths he is worshipped specifically by women (sphere: home)
Followed by bands of women that have been called out of their homes: disregarded
what the Greeks thought as proper and fitting
Followed him to hunt and do things that women normally did not do
Identified by the staffs they carried: thrysus
- The Thiasus composed of these women who were called Bacchae, Bacchantes, and
Maenads: ‘mania’, release of rational control
The identifying characteristics of the worship of Dionysus included
- Going out into the wilderness, performing strange rituals, hunting and catching wild
Sparagmos: ripping apart of the animal
Omophagia: devouring the flesh raw
Uncivilized behaviour
Unlike the other gods, Dionysus imposes himself upon his worshippers: enters within each of his
- Worship characteristics: ‘Eleutherios’
Ekstasis ‘standing outside of oneself’: ecstasy
Enthousiasmos ‘god within’: enthusiasm
The presence of the god would produce liberation from constraints of reason, tradition
- Irrational behaviour companied by
Furious music and dance
Intense emotion
Loss of personal identity
- He is opposed by Hera: woman’s role was to preserve stability of the family
Background to myths
- He discovers wine making in Nysa
- Hera finds and strikes him with madness and he is left to wander in delirium (to the far
east) until he is healed by the Near Eastern gods
- Egypt and Syria
- Phrygia: delirium is cured by Cybele
- Crosses Euphrates
- Goes as far as India