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Lecture 2

CLA204 LECTURE 2 Readings

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Jarrett Welsh

Myth Summary Chapter 4: Zeus Rise to Power: The Creation Of Mortals THE TITANOMACHY: ZEUS DEFEATS HIS FATHER CRONUS This epic battle was waged for ten years between Zeus and the Olympians and Cronus and the Titans. Cronus fought from Mt. Othrys; his allies were the Titans except for Themis and her son PROMETHEUS [proh-mee'the-us]. Prometheus brother ATLAS [at'las] sided with Cronus. Zeus fought from Mt. Olympus and his allies, in addition to Themis and Prometheus, were his brothers and sisters, who had been swallowed by Cronus but later regurgitated, namely: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. Also on his side were the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes. Zeus was victorious and the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus, guarded by the Hecatonchires; and Atlas was punished with the task of holding up the sky. THE GIGANTOMACHY: ZEUS DEFEATS THE GIANTS AND TYPHOEUS Giants, called GEGENEIS [jeeje-nays and gayge-nays], since they were born from the Earth, challenged Zeus and the new order of the gods. They were defeated in a fierce battle and were imprisoned under the earth. Volcanoes, when they erupt, reveal the presence of the giants below. TYPHOEUS [teye-fee'us], also called TYPHAON [teye-fay'on] or TYPHON [teye'fon] was a ferocious dragon- god, whom earth produced to do battle with Zeus, either separately, or alongside the giants in the great Gigantomachy. Zeus' triumph singles him out as an archetypal dragon-slayer. The giants, OTUS [oh'tus] or OTOS and EPHIALTES [ef-i-al'teez], in a separate attack, failed in their attempt to storm heaven by piling Olympus, Ossa, and Pelion, one upon the other. The Titanomachy and the Gigantomachy are often confused in literature and art, and details vary considerably. THE FOUR OR FIVE AGES There are several conflicting versions about the creation of mortals. According to the myth of the ages of humankind, men and women are the creation of the gods or Zeus himself. The following is a summary of Hesiods account. Ovid describes only four ages, omitting the Age of Heroes. This tale of human degeneration mingles fact and fancy in an astonishing manner, for ages of bronze and of iron is historically very real indeed. The Age of Gold. In the time when Cronus (Saturn) was king in heaven, the Olympian gods made a golden race of mortals, who lived as though in a paradise, without toil, trouble or cares. All good things were theirs in abundance, and the fertile earth brought forth fruit of its own accord. They lived in peace and harmony, never grew old, and died as though overcome by sleep. The earth covered over this race, but they still exist as holy spirits who wander over the earth. The Age of Silver. The Olympian gods made a second race of silver, far less favored than the one of gold. Their childhood lasted a hundred years and when they grew up their lives were short and distressful. For they were arrogant against one another and refused to worship the gods or offer them sacrifice. Zeus in his anger at their senselessness hid them under the earth where they still dwell. The Age of Bronze. Zeus made a third race of mortals, a terrible and mighty one of bronze. Their implements and weapons were of bronze, and they relentlessly pursued the painful and violent deeds of war. They destroyed themselves by their own hands and went down to the realm of Hades without leaving a name. The Age of Heroes. Zeus made still another race, also valiant in war but more just and more civilized. This was the race of the heroes, also called demigods, who were involved in the legendary events of Greek saga. They fought, for example, at Thebes and in the Trojan War. When they died, Zeus sent some of these heroes to inhabit the Islands of the Blessed, a paradise at the far ends of the earth, ruled over by Cronus (Saturn), who had been deposed and freed by Zeus. The Age of Iron. Zeus made still another race, that of iron, troubled by toil and misery, although good is intermingled with their evils. It is in this age that the poet Hesiod lived, and he exclaims in woe: Would that I were not a man of the fifth generation but had either died before or had been born later. He predicts further moral and physical disintegration and annihilation through war, until Zeus will finally destroy human beings when it comes to pass that they are born with gray hair on their temples. More and more will this become an age of wickedness, strife, and disrespect for the gods, until Shame itself and righteous Retribution will abandon mortals to their evil folly and doom. PROMETHEUS OUR CREATOR Dominant in the tradition about creation is the myth that Prometheus (not Zeus) was the creator of human beings from clay and Athena breathed into them the divine spirit. In the version of Hesiod, although his account is far from logical and clear, it seems that Prometheus fashioned only mankind. Womankind was created later, through the agency of Zeus, in the person of Pandora. PROMETHEUS AGAINST ZEUS Although Prometheus had fought on the side of Zeus in his war against Cronus, the two mighty gods soon came into conflict once Zeus had assumed supreme power. The Nature of Sacrifice. Their antagonism began when Prometheus dared to match wits with Zeus. There was a quarrel between mortals and the gods, apparently about how the parts of the sacrificial animals should be apportioned. Prometheus divided up a great ox and for his creatures, us mortals, he wrapped the flesh and the rich and fatty innards in the oxs paunch. For the gods, however, he deviously and artfully wrapped up the bones of the ox in its enticing, rich, white fat. He asked Zeus to take his choice between the two portions, and Zeus, fully aware of Prometheus deception, chose the bones attractively wrapped in fat. Thus it was that when the Greeks made sacrifice to the gods, they enjoyed feasting upon the best edible portions of the animals, while only the white bones that remained were burned for the gods. The Theft of Fire. Zeus was enraged at Prometheus attempt to deceive him and wreaked his vengeance upon mortals, the creatures of Prometheus. He took away from them fire, essential to their livelihood and progress. Prometheus, defiantly our champion, once again tricked Zeus (who this time was presumably at first unaware?) by stealing in a hollow fennel stalk fire from heaven and restoring it to earth. Zeus was stung to the depths of his heart by Prometheus outrage and contrived an evil thing for mortals in recompense for the fire, namely, the woman Pandora. The Punishment of Prometheus. A further defiance of Prometheus was his refusal to reveal to Zeus a crucial secret that he knew and Zeus did not. If Zeus mated with the sea-goddess Thetis, she would bear a son who would overthrow his father. Thus Zeus faced the terrible risk of losing his power as supreme god, like Cronus and Uranus before him. The outcome of Zeus anger against Prometheus for his rebellious championship of mortals and his obstinate refusal to warn Zeus about Thetis was a dire punishment. Zeus had the wily and devious Prometheus bound in inescapable bonds to a crag of the remote Caucasus Mountains in Scythia, with a shaft driven through his middle. And he sent an eagle to eat his immortal liver each day, and what the eagle ate would be restored again each night. Generations later, however, Zeus worked out a reconciliation with Prometheus and sent his son Heracles to kill the eagle with an arrow and release Prometheus. Zeus avoided mating with Thetis, who married a mortal, Peleus, and bore a son Achilles to become mightier than his father. PANDORA The woman that Zeus sent as a beautiful and treacherous evil to mortals in punishment for their possession of Prometheus stolen fire was named PANDORA [pan-dor'a] (all gifts). He had Hephaestusfashion her out of earth and water in the image of a modest maiden, beautiful as a goddess. Athena clothed her in silvery garments and her face was covered with a wondrously embroidered veil. She placed on her head lovely garlands of flowers and a golden crown, beautifully made and intricately decorated by Hephaestus; and she taught her weaving. Aphrodite bestowed upon her the grace of sexual allurement and desire and their pain. Hermes contrived in her breast wheedling words and lies and the nature of a thief and a bitch. All at the will of Zeus. Zeus sent this snare to the brother of Prometheus, named EPIMETHEUS [ep-i-mee'the-us], who received the gift even though his brother had warned him not to accept anything sent from Zeus. The name Prometheus means forethought, but Epimetheus means afterthought. Pandoras Jar. Zeus sent with Pandora a jar, urn, or box, which contained evils of all sorts, and as well hope. She herself removed the cover and released the miseries within to plague human beings, who previously had led carefree and happy lives: hard work, painful diseases, and thousands of sorrows. Through the will of Zeus, hope alone remained within the jar, because life without hope would be unbearable in the face of all the horrible woes unleashed for poor mortals. In Hesiod, Pandora is not motivated toopen the jar by a so-called feminine curiosity, whatever later versions may imply. AESCHYLUS PROMETHEUS BOUND In addition to Hesiods account, Aeschylus play Prometheus Bound is fundamental for an understanding of the archetypal Prometheus. Aeschylus powerfully establishes Prometheus as our suffering champion who has advanced human beings, through his gift of fire, from savagery to civilization. Furthermore, Prometheus gave us the hope denied to us by Zeus, which, however blind, permits us to persevere and triumph over the terrible vicissitudes of life. Prometheus is grandly portrayed as the archetypal trickster and culture-god, the originator of all inventions and progress in the arts and the sciences. At the end of the play, Prometheus is still d
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