CLAB06H3 Lecture Notes - Deianira, Euripides, Iolcos
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October 25 th
Definiton of Hero:
From the Greek " ρως" (heros), "hero”, “warrior”, also “protector”.ἥ
–A name given to men of superhuman strength, courage, or ability, favoured by the gods
–At a later time regarded as intermediate between gods and men, or demigods.
–A man distinguished by extraordinary valour and martial achievements; one who does brave things.
Arete ( ρετή)ἀ
–The ancient Greek concept of hero emphasizes individuality, individual prowess and achievement
–Arete is the most characteristic ideal of the hero. It can be translated as “virtue”, “excellence”, even
–Heroes are “aristoi” (“aristocrats”) who perform deeds called “aristeia”, or outstanding exploits.
–Competition versus cooperation. Balance between existence and annihilation was precarious in Greek
society. So competitive spirit encouraged.
When does the Age of Heroes Happen?
Gold Age (Cronus rules)
Silver Age (Zeus rules and destroys)
Bronze Age (Zeus rules destroys)
Age of Heroes (includes events of Iliad and Odyssey)
Iron Age (Current ‘Historical’ Time. This is when Homer writes his epics)
Chronology of Heroic Legends
The legends of Heracles, Perseus, Theseus and the Argonauts take place before the events recounted in Homer’s
Iliad and Odyssey (Trojan war and Odysseus’ return to Ithaca).
Perseus was Heracle’s great grandfather.
________ and _______ were also members of Jason’s Argonauts.
These heroes were all ‘dead’ by the time the events in the Iliad begin.
The Hero Quest
•Hero quests are challenges that span into the supernatural world and therefore invite symbolic
•The hero demonstrates his extraordinary courage through prodigious feats against man-eating
monsters, wily magicians, evil sorceresses and magical objects.
•The reward can be a hand in marriage, a returned kingdom, immortality, or lasting recognition
in verse and myth.
PERSEUS HERCULES JASON THESEUS
Parentage Zeus + Danae Zeus + Alcmena Aeson +Alcimede Poseidon+Aethra
Conception Zeus showers
golden rain onto
---------- Aethra wades into the sea on
wedding night and is impregnated
Eurystheus Pelias Minos
Kills Medusa Twelve Labours Golden Fleece Kills Minotaur
Athena + Hermes Hera Poseidon
--------------- Hera Zeus Aphrodite
-------------- Dons shirt with
Prow of Argo
collapses onto him.
Pushed or falls off cliff.
Hero Legends … The Formula
One of the hero’s parents may be divine.
The hero’s birth is miraculous or unusual, and little is known of his childhood.
The hero has great strength.
The hero’s truest companion is another male.
The hero falls under an 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 an enticing but dangerous woman.
Hero Legends … The Formula
The hero is responsible for the death of a companion.
The hero goes on a quest, even to the underworld.
He may have the help from gods, spirits, or magical objects.
The hero returns home, atones for his crimes and accepts his limitations.
The hero is rewarded with something of great value.
At his death, the hero receives a magnificent funeral and may become a god.
Perseus: Story Outline
Perseus’ father, Acrisius of Argos, imprisons his daughter Danae to prevent her from having children.
Zeus impregnates Danae through a shower of gold. Acrisius discovers the child and has Danae and Perseus cast
into the sea where they are found by Dictys who saves them. Dictys’ evil brother, Polydectes, covets Danae and
attempts to rid himself of Perseus by challenging him to find a rare gift. Perseus promises that he will return with
the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Perseus finds the Gorgon’s rock cut off the Medusa’s head. He places it in a
pouch to use against adversaries later on. Perseus encounters the beautiful Andromeda, chained to a rock on a
shoreline. He uses the Medusa head to kill the sea monster and free her. They marry. Perseus returns to the court
of Polydectes and turns its members to stone. He leaves with his wife and mother Danae and returns to Argos.
At an athletic competition in Argos, Perseus throws a disc and accidentally kills his grandfather, fulfilling the
oracle that originally prompted Acrisius to imprison his daughter.
Heracles: Story Outline
Zeus appears to Heracle’s mother, Alcmena, in the form of her husband Amphytrion and conceives Heracles.
Amphytrion also conceives a child with Alcmena around the same time. Heracles and Iphicles (twins) are born.
Hera is an ongoing antagonist to Heracles during his life. She prevents him from becoming king of Argos and
also causes him to go mad. (But notice the origin of Heracles’ name.) In his fit of madness, Heracles murders his
wife, Megara, and three children. Heracles embarks on the 12 labours in order to purify himself from the crime.
The oracle at Delphi tells him he will be rewarded with immortality when done.
The Twelve Labours
Kill the Nemean lion and bring back its skin
Destroy the Lernean hydra
Capture alive the Erymanthian boar
Capture alive the Ceryneian stag
Kill the Stymphalian birds
Clean the Augean stables
Bring the Cretan bull alive into Peloponnesus
Obtain the horses of Diomedes
Steal the girdle of Hippolyta
Herd the cattle of Geryon
Obtain the apples of Hesperides.
After Megara’s death Heracles married Deinara (“man killer”). The Centaur Nessus offered to ferry Deinara
across the river Evenus but assaulted her. Heracles saw what was happening and shot the Centaur with a
poisoned arrow. The poison contained the bile from the dead Hydra. Nessus told Deinara that she could use his
blood as a love potion as he died. Deinara placed the potion on a shirt later to control Hercules’ infidelities
without realising its power to kill. Hercules dies and becomes an immortal.
Jason and the Golden Fleece
Pelias deposes Aeson, king of Iolcos, who sends his son Jason for protection to the wise Centaur, Cheiron.
Jason matures and encounters an old woman who he helps cross the river Anauros. She reveals herself as Hera
and becomes his protectress. Jason confronts his uncle Pelias and takes up the challenge of the Golden Fleece.
The Golden fleece is a legacy of Phrixus who left it in a sacred grove, guarded by a dragon, after making a
sacrifice to Zeus. Jason summons other heroes to join the expedition, including Heracles, Theseus, Peleus (father
of Achilles), Mopsus, Orpheus and Zetes and Calais. Argo departs without Heracles from Cius.
Jason encounters Harpies and Symplegades. Jason arrives in Colchis and Aeetes challenges him to conquer the
fire breathing bulls of Hephaestus and the armed men sowed from dragon’s teeth. With Medea’s (and
Hecate’s)help, Jason vanquishes the bronze bulls and armed men. Jason leaves with Medea and encounters Circe
and then Scylla and Charybdis. Jason and Medea vanquish Talos. Jason betrays Medea.
Medea flees from Jason (after killing his new love) and she ends up in athens and she ends up marrying King
Aegus. His son Theseus reveals himself to him (from his relationship with princess Aethrea from before). Aegus
tells Theseus of his brother and sons plans to overthrow him. Theseus leads the battle against those trying to
overthrow his father. Mino's daughter falls in love with Theseus and offers to help him kill her brother the
Minotaur by giving him a ball of twine to bring with him into the Labryinth so he deosn't ge tlost. In return he
must marry her. He agrees and kills the Minotaur. They leave to Athens together, and while sleeping on Naxos,
Theseus leaves Ariadne sleeping on the island. Upon leaving Aegus gave his son a black flag and a white flag to
indicate if he was successful or not. Arriving home Theseus forgets to put up the white flag indicating he won,
and his father Aegus commits suicide and jumps into the sea. Theseus later defeats Amazons and marries the
queen Hippolyta, who gives birth to Hippolytus. After she dies he marries Phaedra (another daughter of Minos).