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Lecture

Classical Mythology 2.6.docx

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Department
Classics
Course
CLA204H5
Professor
Lisa Trentin
Semester
Fall

Description
From Hero to Zero, Zero to Hero Legends: The Stuff of Heroes - Protagonists of legends are human characters. Chiefly heroes; tell stories of the human past that reflect the heroism of humanity - Definition of hero: o Noble o Well-born o Male o Live (later all dead and worshipped like gods) Hero-Myth - One of the hero’s parents may be divine - The hero’s birth is miraculous or unusual - The hero has great strength and is a menace to his compatriots as well as others - The hero’s truest companion is another male friends - The hero falls under the enemy’s power and is compelled to perform impossible labours - The hero breaks a taboo and a terrible price is demanded - The hero resists the temptations of a woman - The hero is responsible for the death of a companion - Quest – help from gods – return home – rewarded - At death, the hero becomes a god Perseus - King of Tiryns – early Bronze Age site of Mycenaeans in the Argive plain of Greece - Son of Zeus and Danae (daughter of king of Argos) - King of Argos, Acrisius goes to the oracle of Delphi - Oracle tells Acrisius that his grandson would kill him - Acrisius imprisoned Danae so she wouldn’t get pregnant - Neither the less, Zeus came to her as a shower of gold and impregnated her (Perseus) - Acrisius puts Danae and Perseus into a box and sets them out to see - They were saved by a fisherman Dictys from Seriphos - The brother of Dictys (Polydectes) wants Danae to marry him but Perseus said no - Polydectest then marries someone else, and makes everyone give a horse as a wedding gift - Perseus could not give him a horse, but says that he would get him anything else - Polydectest asks Perseus to give him Medusa’s head Perseus and Medusa - Gorgons have bronze hands, snakes for hair, golden wings, enormous tusks, wide staring eyes that turn you to stone - Perseus helped by Athena, Graeae, nymphs, and Hermes - The nymphs gave him a cap of Hades, winged sandals and special leather pouch (kibisis) - Hermes gives Perseus a steel sword, and polished boots - Perseus uses the steel sword to cut Medusa’s head and stores it into the kibisis - He then turns invisible with Hades’ helmet and flies away with the winged sandals - Once Medusa was decapitated, Pegasus came out of her neck - Once he returns home, no one believes him that he killed Medusa, so he turns them into stone - The head was given to Athena and is seen on her breastplates or shield Medusa’s Head - Medusa perhaps not an original part of the Perseus story - Homer says that the Gorgon was on the shield of Agamemnon (King of Mycenae) - Gorgons are also on the walls of Hades’ palace - It could have a psychological meaning; Freud says that Medusa’s head is the female pudenda - A reflection of the social conditions under which a young boy was raised - The death of Medusa symbolic of the boy’s release from his mother Perseus and Andromeda - Later addition to the myth (Ovid), Perseus falls in love with Andromeda (daughter of king of Cepheus) - Andromeda, about to be sacrificed to the sea monster Ceto, her mother Cassiopea boasts that her daughter is more beautiful than the sea nymphs - Perseus kills the monster and is given Andromeda and the kingdom for having freed her - Phineus (all ready betrothed to Andromeda) is killed by the head of Medusa Heracles - The greatest of Greek heroes (parallels to Gilgamesh) - He wasn’t always “good” - ill-tempered, brutish, buffoon-like, gluttonous - But still admired and venerated for his “heroism” o Dangerous task
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