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Chapter 16-18

CLAA06 Ch. 16-18 Notes (Theseus, Oedipus, Myths of Athens, Thebes & Crete)

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Classical Studies
Alexandra Pohlod

CLAA06 Ancient Greece/Rome Post-Midterm Textbook Notes (1) Ch. 16 Theseus and the Myths of Athens Theseus-king ofAthens famous for various exploits, will be explained later Cercops, Erichthonius, and the Daughters of Cecrops Cercops-mortal half man & half snake, born from the earth/soil; he’s legendary ancestor of the Greeks/first king ofAthens ->in a golden age, he introduced arts of civilization & monogamous marriage to his ppl -> taught how to worship Zeus, abandoning human sacrifice, to build cities & how to bury dead properly (during his reign was when Poseidon &Athena contended for recognition as patron of Athens); the fact thatAthena was chosen demonstrates that the olive tree (land) was more important toAthenians than gift of the sea ->in his honor, theAcropolis of Athens was named Cecropia Erichthonius-Athenian mythical king who succeeded Cercops; recall that he was born when Hephaestus was pursuingAthena & he ejaculated on her leg-> in disgust, she wiped off the semen with a piece of wool (throwing it onto the ground)->then sprang Erichthonius ->since Gaia didn’t like this, she didn’t want the child soAthena took care of him ->she brought Erichthonius within a closed basket intoAcropolis sanctuary & gave the basket to daughters of Cecrops (Aglaurus (shining), Herse (dew) & Pandrosus (all-dew)) & insisted them not to open the basket ->while Pandrosus obeyed,Aglaurus & Herse let curiosity get the better of them & they saw a serpent (possibly entwined with a child’s body), driving them insane ->the sisters leaped fromAcropolis to their deaths &Athena took back her child to raise him herself; thus withAthena’s protection, Erichthonius became king of Athens ->in honour of his mother, he set up a wooden image of her on theAcropolis (where Pandrosus & Aglaurus also had shrines) Observations: The Festival of the Dew Carriers -story of Cercops’daughters reflect annual ritual (end of year) onAcropolis called the Arrhephoria ->Arrhephoroi-two young girls, lived year-long on special house onAcropolis, weaving robe offered annually to statue ofAthena, when festival came, Athena’s priestess sent them at night into a grove ofAphrodite (located on northern edge of Acropolis) ->the women took baskets on their heads & descended down a secret stairway in the rock, leaving them at the bottom->then they climbed back with a covered basket containing something mysterious; this myth is built on motif of maiden’s sacrifice, entrance into the grove represents parthenos’loss of sexual innocence, which parallels with Hades carrying Persephone into the underworld to make her his bride ->asAglaurus & Herse die, ritual means girls die symbolically (ending their life as a virgin) ->the serpent that drove the sisters insane can rep. the phallus (again disrupting sexual innocence); parthenos must undergo in order to become a woman ->loss of virginity & death of daughters brings promise of new life, the daughters’names relate to shining dew that appears on the ground in morning after dark (moisture from dark nourishes the day) Procris and Cephalus -in Ovid’s version, all 3 of Cercops’daughters survive viewing of Erichthonius, years after, Hermes (Mercury) notices Herse in a procession ->trying to search for her on theAcropolis, Aglaurus offers to lead him to Herse’s bed in exchange for gold, Hermes agrees ->Athena, angry thatAglaurus looked inside the basket, became ferociously jealous of her; in spite of the bribe, Hermes turnedAglaurus into stone & impregnated Herse ->Herse gave birth to Cephalus, who married Procris-the daughter of King Erechtheus ->before the marriage, Eos, the goddess of dawn, lusted for Cephalus; she carried him away to Syria where they bore a son named Phaethon (although he’s a child of the sun in another story) ->Cephalus became suspicious of Procris b/c of his good fortune from the marriage so to test her love, Cephalus disguised herself & tempted her wife with all sorts of rewards to sleep with him ->Procris gave into the gift of a golden crown, in rage, Cephalus revealed himself & Procris, shamed & frightened, fled to the court of Minos in Crete ->Procris attracted King Minos; she cured him of a curse by his wife Pasiphae (his semen was turned into spiders & scorpions that ate his mistresses’genitalia) ->in return, Minos gave her magical hound named Laelaps that always caught what it chased & a magical spear that never missed its mark (both were gifts byArtemis) ->fearing Pasiphae’s anger, Procris soon regretted her behavior & fled back toAthens with gifts, disguised as a boy, as she joined a hunting expedition of her husband, Cephalus wanted Procris’ gifts but she didn’t to give it for anything else, only for his love ->at first Cephalus resisted but then he gave in & the couple became reunited ->Artemis, however, was not pleased b/c her gifts were going from one hand to the other so she filled Procris' head with jealous thoughts against Eos ->when Cephalus was leaving for a hunting trip early in the morning, Procris suspected that he was going to visit Eos so she followed him secretly (this part of the myth was recounted in Metamorphoses & the Ara amatoria (Art of Love)) ->but while in the forest, Procris made a noise & Cephalus, assuming it to be a wild animal, shot it with his magical dart, wounding his own wife ->Procris, after explaining her mistake, died in his husband’s arms, Cephalus was then exiled b/c of his actions ->Cephalus went to Thebes, where at the time, he was persecuted by a wild fox fated never to be caught, to forestall worse disaster, the Thebans sacrificed the son of a prominent citizen monthly ->Amphitryon (mortal father of Heracles), under obligation of King Creon of Thebes at the time, offered Cephalus an island (to be named after him called Cephellenia) in exchange for the hound ->the hound that always caught would chase the fox that can never be caught, Zeus, annoyed by this contradiction, turned them both into stone Procne and Tereus -when Erichthonius died, is son Pandion became king, Pandion had 2 daughters: Procne & Philomela (sisters to Erechtheus) ->Pandion summoned Tereus (king of Thrace & a son ofAres) to fight when war broke out b/t Athens & Thebes (Athens eventually wins the war) ->in gratitude for his help, Pandion offered Tereus, Procne, as his wife ->Tereus & Procne bore a son named Itys ->Tereus lusted for Philomela so he raped her & then cut her tongue out so that she can’t tell anyone of his crime; however, Philomela wove a tapestry which revealed everything to Procne ->as an act of revenge, Procne & her sister kill Itys with a sword & cooked him so that Tereus ate his own son for a dinner banquet; when Tereus discovered this, he pursued both women (trying to kill them) but before the chase could end, all 3 were turned into birds by the Olympian gods: Tereus into a hoopoe (bird with feathery crown), Procne into a swallow & Philomela into a nightingale (the nightingale is often called a "Philomel" in poetry) ->it’s unclear though, which sister became which bird, Philomela may have become the songless swallow b/c she had no tongue & Procne the nightingale Observations: Ovid’s Literary Myth -in the Metamorphoses, Ovid constructs melodramatic situations & images, story of Procne & Philomena proves one shouldn’t give in to irrational desire ->conflicts of Procris & Cephalus plus Procne & Philomela are within family, Procris & Cephalus is a story of loving too much until suspicion destroys them, Procne & Philomela show profane acts but punishments are equally as brutal The Begetting of Theseus -when Pandion died, Erechtheus became king; he had several children which included Procris, a 2 nd Cercops & Orithyia, whom Boreas, the winged north-wind, loved & carried off ->Orithyia + Boreas gave birth to Zetes & Calais (winged warriors discussed in legend of Jason & the Golden Fleece) nd nd ->when Erechtheus died, the 2 Cercops became king & then when he died, his son, the 2 Pandion, inherited his throne ->the 2 Pandion was driven out ofAthens where he became the king of Megara; he married Creusa (daughter of Corinthian king Creon) ->Pandion + Creon bore 4 sons: Niscus, Lycus, Pallas & Aegeus nd ->when 2 Pandion died, his sons regained control of Athens; Aegeus though he had the most power but it was threatened b/c he was sterile (he couldn’t impregnate any woman), Pallas despised his brother Aegeus (Pallas had 50 sons) ->to solve this, Aegeus consulted Delphic Oracle, Pythia replied with the following: “Do not loosen the bulging mouth of wineskin until you have reached the height ofAthens." ->confused,Aegeus went back toAthens, he rested a night at the town of Troezen (located in the northeastern tip of the Peloponnesus) ->Pittheus, king of Troezen was famous for his wisdom soAegeus asked him what he thought of the strange prophecy; Pittheus understood it (he was to have a child with next woman he had intercourse with) ->Pittheus causedAegeus to become drunk & then introduced him to his daughter, Aethra (after having intercourse, he realized she was Pittheus' daughter & understood what had happened) ->Aethra, instructed by a dream, then travelled to a nearby island to offer sacrifice; Poseidon sprang out of the sea & possessed her; this is how Theseus became conceived (immortal Poseidon & mortalAegeus) ->Aegeus toldAethra that he would leave a sword & a pair of sandals under a great rock in Troezen; if she bore a son (which she did), he (Theseus) was to collect these when he was strong & old enough & travel toAthens, he asked her to tell her son to travel in secret, asAegeus feared that Pallas’50 sons were plotting against him The Labours of Theseus -when Theseus grew up,Aethra did whatAegeus told her; using his strength, he lifted the rock, acquired the sword & sandals & set off for Athens via land (despiteAethra & Pittheus’warnings not to & travel via sea b/c there were many infamous bandits on his route) ->imitating the 12 labours, Theseus performed 6 famous deeds on strength on his route toAthens: 1. North of Epidaurus, he killed Periphetes (clubber), a son of Hephaestus who liked to bash passerby’s; Theseus took the club, killed Periphetes with it & claimed it as his own 2.At the Isthmus of Corinth, he killed Sinis (giant & son of Poseidon “pine bender”) who forced travelers to help him bend a pine tree to the ground; he then unexpectedly let go, catapulting victim through the air (or he would tie victim to 2 bent trees, cut ropes to rip victim apart), Theseus did this to Sinis 3. North of Isthmus, at a place called Crommyon, he killed an enormous pig (Crommyonian sow, which was bred by an old woman named Phaea) 4. Near Megara, he killed Sciron (a rascal who made travellers bend over to wash his feet, then kicked them down a steep slope to the rocks below, where victim is devoured by giant turtle); Theseus tricked Sciron into washing his feet, then kicked him down the slope 5. On the way to Eleusis, he crushed to death Cercyon, a powerful wrestler 6. Finally, Theseus killed Procrustes (stretcher), a legendary robber of ancient Attica, he lived in Eleusis & captured passing travelers to fit them in one of his two beds (he had one long & one short bed; victims who were small he placed on the long bed & stretched their limbs until they would fit while those who were tall, he placed on the small bed, essentially both killed the victims)->to end this, Theseus forced Procrustes into one of his own beds Arrival atAthens -entering as a conqueror intoAthens,Aegeus didn’t recognize him; he had fallen under influence of sorcerer Medea, who curedAegeus’infertility by magic/drugs ->recognizing Theseus & fearing him as a rival to the child she was carrying (Medus), she persuadedAegeus to kill his son by having him attempt to capture the savage Marathonian Bull ->Theseus succeeds & sacrifices it toApollo, as a 2 attempt, Medea tellsAegeus to give his son poisoned wine, as he is about to do so, Aegeus recognizes Theseus' sword & knocks the goblet from his lips at the last second; in disgrace, Medea fled toAsia, where she gave birth to Medus ->when Pallas’50 sons learned that Theseus was going to inherit his father’s throne, they laid an ambush to kill Theseus, but Theseus killed them all (his famous adventure with Cretan Minotaur in next chapter) ->folktale motifs: wicked step-mother, impossible tasks, tokens Theseus and Antiope -upon Theseus’return, he became king of Athens, he promised to his father that if he killed the Minotaur, he would change the sail on his ship from black to white but if he died, Theseus’companions would leave the black sail up so his father could know the truth before ship docked ->however, Theseus got too excited & forgot to change the sail so whenAegeus saw the black sail, he threw himself in despair into the sea to his death (hence became known as the Aegean Sea) ->as king, Theseus broughtAttica citizens into single federal system (syonecism), instituted Panathenaic festival (symbol ofAttic unity), founded popular assembly (where ppl debated/voted on state decisions) ->Theseus wanted adventure so he sailed to land ofAmazons to abduct queenAntiope (Hippolyta); her kidnapping led to the Amazonomachy (battle withAmazons) ->eventuallyAthenians defeatAmazons (the Amazons were all-female warriors who were portrayed as barbaric/savage) Observations: TheAmazons -the Amazons defied their destinies as women (extreme feminists), they hated men & would only tolerate them as slaves, in myth they’re perversion to all that’s correct & a threat to family (basis of civilization) ->Theseus’victory over theAmazons symbolizes Athens’moral & political superiority over anyone who imposed its imperial democracy Theseus and Hippolytus -Hippolytus was the son of Theseus + Hippolyta (rmb Theseus abducted her), when Hippolyta died, Theseus decided to marry Phaedra (daughter of king Minos of Crete & sister of Ariadne) ->Hippolytus had meanwhile grown into young, strong & handsome man & Phaedra fell in love with him->Hippolytus rejected Phaedra's advances, which hurt her deeply, to extent that she wrote a letter to Theseus telling him that Hippolytus had seduced her & then hanged herself ->Theseus took revenge by using a curse which was one of 3 he had been given by Poseidon; while Hippolytus was out driving his chariot, a huge bull sent by Poseidon frightened the horses, dragging Hippolytus to his death, but Artemis later told Theseus the tragic truth (he killed his own son even though he was loyal) ->Hippolytus’avoidance of sexual desire (like theAmazons) is what leads him to his death- >Euripides explains that to live without sex is a destructive illusion Observations: The Folktale of Potiphar’s Life -in Homer’s Iliad: story of Corinthian hero, named Bellerophon, son of King Glaucus ->when he turned 16, Bellerophon set out for adventure, along the way he met Proteus, though they became friends, Proteus was jealous of Bellerophon & sought to cause his death ->Proteus was the son-in-law of Iobates, King of Lycia->Proteus gave Bellerophon a sealed message to carry to Iobates, upon his arrival in Lycia, Bellerophon found out about the Chimera, (recall monster with head of a lion tail of a dragon) who swept down upon & carried off women, children & livestock (bones of his many victims lay strewn along the mountainside); Lycia’s population lived in constant fear ->When Iobates read the letter Bellerophon had delivered, he found that Proteus requested Bellerophon be put to death (though he wanted to please his son-in-law, he knew that an outright execution would risk war against the Corinthians) so he sent Bellerophon to slay the Chimera to make sure that he would never return alive ->Bellerophon, excited, was eager to defeat the Chimera, he set out on his quest & sought the advice of Polyidus (wisest man in Lycia), impressed by the youth's courage, Polyidus told Bellerophon of legendary Pegasus; he advised him to spend a night inAthena's temple & offer her many gifts->in return,Athena may help him obtain the flying horse ->B. took his advice &Athena appeared to him that night in a dream; she gave him a golden bridle & instructions as to where to find the well from which the Pegasus drank->in the morning, Bellerophon awoke to find golden bridle beside ->B. journeyed into the forest, locating the well of whichAthena had spoken, he hid in the bushes by the well & when Pegasus finally arrived, Bellerophon waited till it kneeled over to drink & then jump upon it (from his hiding place), slipping bridle onto its head->Pegasus flew into the air, desperately trying to shake Bellerophon off, but Bellerophon was up to the challenge, skilled in the handling of fierce horses->Pegasus then understood he had a new master ->B. then set out to the ledge where the Chimera dwelt (armed with a long spear, he charged the Chimera), Chimera exhaled a puff of its horrible fire & Pegasus darted backward to evade the burning breath; but before the Chimera could breathe again, Pegasus renewed its advance & B. drove the spear through Chimera's heart ->upon return, carrying Chimera’s head, the ppl of Lycia admired his bravery & Pegasus, as reward, King Iobates gave his willing daughter to B. as a bride ->when Iobates died, B. took his place but B. wanted more adventures, one day he decided to ride up to Mount Olympus to visit the gods ->Zeus, displeased with B's arrogant attempt to scale Mount Olympus' heights, sent a gadfly to punish him for daring to ascend to the home of gods, the fly stung Pegasus, & startling the horse that he suddenly reared; B was hurled off of his back & plummeted to his death ->alternate ending: Athena spared him by causing him to land on soft ground but for the rest of his life, Bellerophon traveled lonely and crippled, in search of Pegasus, but never returned The Exploits of Theseus and Pirithous Pirithous-son of Ixion who befriended Theseus, he was related to the Centaurs, who were descended from Ixion (recall * Ixion + cloud that looked like Hera = race of Centaurs->half men/half horse) ->Theseus had one of the most famous male friendships in classical mythology, Pirithous was a Lapith prince (Thessalian tribe) when Theseus was king ofAthens, before they met, Pirithous had heard about Theseus' reputation for strength & bravery, he wanted proof of this reputation, so he drove Theseus' cattle from the plains of Marathon (as Pirithous expected, Theseus set out in armed pursuit) ->Pirithous, also armed, turned to meet his pursuer but as the men confronted each other, both were so impressed other's beauty & daringness that they didn’t fight, they became friends ->the pair helped hunt the Calydonian boar, and they also took part in the battle between the Lapiths & the Centaurs->Centauromachy, which symbolized struggle b/t civilization & barbarism ->on another occasion, after their wives died, Theseus & Pirithous promised that they would help each other wed daughters of Zeus; Theseus desired Helen of Sparta (she was 12 at the time, but Theseus and Pirithous carried her off to wait for the time when she would be old enough to marry) ->after they had succeeded in abducting Helen, Pirithous announced that he had chosen to wed Persephone (having left Helen withAethra, they travelled to the underworld), Hades’hospitality led the 2 friends to sit down but as soon as they were seated, serpents coiled around them & binded them quickly ->when Heracles visited underworld to fetch Cerberus, he saw Pirithous &Theseus and took pity on them->with a great pull he freed Theseus, but the earth shook when he tried to free Pirithous (Theseus returned toAthens to discover that Dioscuri (sons of Zeus) had taken Helen &Aethra
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