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University of Toronto Scarborough
Classical Studies
Vichi Ciocani

Chapter 9: Myths of the Female Deities Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena Female Olympians seem more to be aspects of a single religious concern with the fecund forces in life, both natural and human Demeter is the force that makes grain sprout from the seed Hestia is the life of the house where fire burns and sustenance is prepared Aphrodite is the horrific power of sexual attraction Artemis is the wealth of the wild where game abounds Athena has no clear relationship with fertility but her province is skill in female crafts especially weaving o Demeter: Mistress of Wheat Oversaw the fruitfulness of agriculture Her religion is strong at the town of Eleusis near Athens and in Sicily Closely linked to her daughter Persephone o Hestia: The Hearth Eldest child of Cronus and Rhea The Roman Vesta and the most colorless of the Olympians The fireplace in every house Also protecturess of the city, the enlarged family According to many accounts Dionysus took her place among the twelve Olympians o Aphrodite, Goddess of Sexual Love Identified with the Roman Venus Child Eros or sexual desire, the Roman Cupid Not Greek in origin nor is her name Scholars believe the name is a distortion from the Eastern goddess of fertility known as Inanna, Ishtar or Astarte Evidently came to Greece through Cyprus Worshiped as a polished conical stone Also important on the island of Cythera Temple prostitution Sappho who lived on the island of Lesbos - Hymn to Aphrodite o Hermaphroditus and Priapus Aphrodite had an affair with Hermes by whom she gave birth to Hermaphroditus Salmacis Another child of Aphrodite whose father was reputedly Dionysus or Hermes was Priapus His name is not Greek and he does not appear until the late Hellenistic times o Pygmalion: All important stories about Aphrodite are set outside of Greece, reflecting her Eastern origins Ovids story of Pygmalion, King of Cyprus The statue come to life was named Galatea other of the Paphos whom Aphrodites scared city is named Paphos in turn gave birth to Cinyras whose wife boasted that their daughter Myrrha was more beautiful than Aphrodite Forced to sleep with her father Her father tried to kill her and she was changed into the myrrh tree by the Gods He killed himself 9 months later Adonis came from the tree splitting in two o Aphrodite and Anchises Found the in Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite She fell in love with a mortal, Anchises who was a prince related to the Trojan royal house The hymn compares Aphrodite with the great goddesses Athena, Artemis and Hestia who all remained virgin Other sources tell hoe Anchises revealed who the mother of his child was and Zeus struck him in the thigh with a thunderbolt Aeneas, son of Anchises and Aphrodite is one of the few Trojan heroes to survive, founded the race of the Romans o Artemis, Mistress of Animals The name Artemis is no Greek Homer calls her Potnia Theron meaning mistress of animals Depicted as a woman sometimes winged between two wild animals Associated with the Phrygian Cybele, depicted with lions Mother-goddess, making fecund the whole of nature Her temple is one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World Preeminent virgin-goddess Deadly huntress Homeric Hymn to Artemis At home a lover of music, abroad a hunter of humans When a woman died without cause she was struck by the arrows of Artemis Niobe, wife of Amphion boasted of her superiority of Leto because she had more children, Apollo and Artemis took revenge - Homer, Iliad o Orion and Aceteon Most myths of Artemis are associated with hunting One of the best known is the story of the Giant Orion, a song of Poseidon Orion wanted the daughter of Oenopion and unable to get her,, he raped her Oenopion put out his eyes as punishment, but he carried a boy on his shoulders east and when he looked at the blazing sun he was cured He began an affair with Eos, the dawn-goddess Artemis placed his head on a scorpion which poisoned and killed him The scorpion became the constellation Scorpio, Orion became the constellation that still bears his name forever sleeing Scorpio The Theban Actaeon also fell victim to the wrath of Artemis for sexual transgression; wanted to marry his aunt Semele whoe was the mother of Dionysus However while hunting on Mount Cithareon near Thebes he accidentally came on Artemis/Diana bathing naked in a spring; Ovid tells the story The myth may reflect the primitive human sacrifice, the gift of a man to the goddess to ensure success in the hunt o Athena: Mistress of the City Romans called Minerva Seems to take her name from the city of Athens than the other way around In origin she was not Greek Athenians built the all marble Parthenon, house of the virgin He emblem in the owl and the domestic olive tree Her common epithet is glaukopis which means either owl-eyed or gray-eyed In classical times she was protecturess of all cities and of the crafts and arts that city life makes possible Always depicted as wearing body armour and a helmet, often carrying a spear, usually holding a shield As a breastplate she wears the aegis given to her by Zeus In the Iliad she encouraged the Greeks to glorious deeds o Arachne Athena takes an interest in individual women when their interests as women are at stake Ovid makes famous the story of Arachne, a young woman of Lydia who boasted her skill in weaving was equal to Athena/Minervas The story reflects Athenas sponsorship of excellence in the female craft of weaving Arachne became a spider Chapter 10: Myths of Fertility - Demeter and Related Myths Female Gaea, mother earth came after sexless Chaos and from Gaea sprang the world Not the only origin of the world the Greeks traced back to female source Greek myth never acknowledged a single great goddess but divided the female functions among a group of goddesses The Greek figure whose myths are most closely related to mother-goddesses found in other parts of the Mediterranean world is Demeter; goddess of the grain and the rich harvest Myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone told in one of the oldest Homeric Hymns o Demeter and Persephone The name Persephon
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