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Lecture 17

GRST209 Lecture 17: GRST 209 - 24 Feb Wed (Lect 16 - Midterm)

Greek and Roman Studies
Course Code
GRST 209
Bryan Natali

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24 Feb Wed GRST 209
Athens & Theseus
• Pisistratus (tyrant of Athens) – ruled 561-527 BCE (propaganda)
• Theseus’ legend built up from two older myths:
Labyrinth/Minotaur (Enters the labyrinth and fights with Minatour)
Centauromachy (Battle arose from drunk horse friends of Centaur)
• Athenians credited Theseus with;
Founding their democracy
The federation of Attica
Founding Panathenaic games
Inventing coinage
Before the Battle of Marathon (Persian Wars), Theseus’ ghost was said to have
appeared to the Athenian army led by Miltiades
(cf. capture of Bull of Marathon)
• Miltiades’ son Cimon went to the island of Scyros to clear a pirate threat and
found the “tomb of Theseus” – giant skeleton, bronze spear & sword (these are
thought to be the bones/weapons of a hero) and returned bones to Athens.
• Myth were seen as propaganda: traditional legends were remade or reformed
for Athenian political purposes.
Athenians’ “origins”
• Different versions: descended from Cecrops; autochthonous “sprung from
earth”; or descended directly from Athena.
• Story of Erichthonius’ birth combines autochthony and Athena versions
• Erichthonius (his lower body was of a snake) placed in basket and given to 3
daughters of Cecrops with warning not to peek. Two couldn’t resist, went mad
and leaped from Acropolis to their deaths
(Resulted in Arrhephoria “festival of the dew carriers”)
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Procnê and Tereus
• Pandion, son of Erichthonius, had two daughters: Procnê & Philomela.
(important to remember for Midterm)
• Athens at war with Thebes. Tereus (Thracian king, son of Mars) aids Pandion
and he gives Tereus Procnê for a wife. They have a son, Itys.
• Procnê asks new husband to bring her sister Philomela to visit. Tereus rapes
Philomela on way home, cuts out her tongue, tell Procnê her sister died on
voyage and locks her away.
(Philomela weaves her tale on a tapestry (visually), and gives it to a nurse to take it back to her
sister to know that her husband lied to her.)
• Procnê sees tapestry, contemplates revenge against her husband
• Procnê kills Itys and feeds him to his father.
Gods pity them and turn they all turn into to birds:
a hoopoe (Tereus)
nightingale (Procnê)
swallow (songless, like Philomela)
Birth of Theseus
• Erechtheus (Procnê & Philomela’s brother) new king after Pandion dies.
Cecrops succeeds, his son Pandion succeeds him
• Pandion + Creusa = 4 sons (including Aegeus & Pallas)
• Aegeus needed an heir, went to Oracle at Delphi for fertility advice “do not
open the wineskin until you come to the pinnacle of the Athenians” wanders to
Troezen in confusion
• Pittheus (Troezen’s king) understands oracle and gets Aegeus drunk & sends in
his daughter Aethra. They have sex.
• Aethra instructed to go to the sea in a dream. (impregnated by Poseidon)
(Aegues -> Mortal step father, Poseidon -> Divine father)
• Sandals & sword placed under rock by Aegeus.
(Names to know for MT: Procne, Philomela, Aegues and Pittheus)
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