Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Iliad Summary

The story of the Iliad

The Iliad (Ancient Greek Ἰλιάς, Ilias) is, together with the Odyssey, one of two ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer, a supposedly blind Ionian poet. The epics are considered by most modern scholars to be the oldest literature in the Greek language (though some believe that the works of the poet Hesiod were composed earlier, a belief that was also held by some classical Greeks). For most of the twentieth century, the Iliad and the Odyssey were dated to the 8th century BC. Some still argue for an early dating, notably Barry B. Powell, who has proposed a link between the writing of the Iliad and the invention of the Greek alphabet. Many others (including Martin West and Richard Seaford) now prefer a date in the 7th or even the 6th century BC.

The poem concerns events during the tenth and final year in the siege of the city of Ilion, or Troy, by the Greeks (See Trojan War). The word "Iliad" means "pertaining to Ilion" (in Latin, Ilium), the city proper, as opposed to Troy (in Greek, Τροία, Troía; in Latin, Troia), the state centered around Ilium, over which Priam reigned. The names "Ilium" and "Troy" are often used interchangeably.
The Iliad begins with these lines:

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκεν,
Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles the son of Peleus,
the destructive rage that sent countless pains on the Achaeans...

The first word of the Iliad is μῆνιν (mēnin), "rage" or "wrath". This word announces the major theme of the Iliad: the wrath of Achilles. When Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek forces at Troy, dishonors Achilles by taking Briseis, a slave woman given to him as a prize of war, Achilles becomes enraged, and withdraws from the fighting. Without Achilles' prowess in battle, the Greeks are nearly defeated by the Trojans. Achilles re-enters the fighting when his dearest friend Patroclus is killed by the Trojan prince Hector. Achilles slaughters many Trojans, and kills Hector. In his rage he then refuses to return Hector's body and instead defiles it. Priam, the father of Hector, ransoms his son's body, and the Iliad ends with the funeral of Hector.

Of the many themes in the Iliad, perhaps the most important is the idea of moral choice. Achilles believes he has two options: he can either live a long, unremarkable life at home or else he can die young and gloriously as a mercenary warrior. Military adventuring (that is, pillage and plunder) was a way of life in pre-Homeric times, and the many ruins of thick-walled cities and fortresses in the region give silent testimony to the fear that must have characterized life in the ancient world.
For some men, military adventuring is a more attractive choice than staying home on the farm. Death in battle leads to honor and glory—timae and kleos—which were important values of the day — more important than even right and wrong. One of the remarkable things about the Iliad is the way that Achilles, especially in Book 9, both embraces concepts of honor and glory and also rejects them. It should be noted that, despite the fact that he is the antagonist in the story, Hector probably best displays the qualities of an ancient Mediterranean hero.

Many Greek myths exist in multiple versions, so Homer had some freedom to choose among them to suit his story. See Greek mythology for more detail.

[edit] Background to the Iliad: the Trojan War

The action of the Iliad covers only a few weeks of the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. Neither the background and early years of the war (Paris' abduction of Helen from King Menelaus), nor its end (the death of Achilles and the fall of Troy), are directly narrated in the Iliad. Many of these events were narrated in other epic poems collectively known as the Epic Cycle or Cyclic epics; these poems only survive in fragments. See Trojan War for a summary of the events of the war.

The story of the Iliad

As the poem begins, Apollo has sent a plague against the Greeks, who have captured Chryseis, the daughter of Apollo's priest Chryses, and given her as a prize to Agamemnon. Agamemnon is compelled to restore Chryseis to her father to stop the plague. In her place, Agamemnon takes Briseis, whom the Achaeans had given to Achilles as a spoil of war. Achilles, the greatest warrior of the age, follows the advice of his goddess mother, Thetis, and withdraws from battle in revenge so that the allied Achaean (Greek) armies nearly lose the war.
In counterpoint to Achilles' pride and arrogance stands the Trojan prince Hector, son of King Priam, a husband and father who fights to defend his city and his family. The death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector brings Achilles back to the war for revenge, and he slays Hector. Later Hector's father, King Priam, comes to Achilles alone (but aided by Hermes) to ransom his son's body back, and Achilles is moved to pity; the funeral of Hector ends the poem.

Book summaries
• Book 1: Nine years into the war, Agamemnon seizes Briseis, the captive slave girl of Achilles, since he has had to give away his own; Achilles withdraws from the fighting in anger; in Olympus, the gods argue about the outcome of the war
• Book 2: Agamemnon pretends to order the Greeks home to test their resolve; Odysseus encourages the Greeks to keep fighting; Catalogue of Ships, Catalogue of Trojans and Allies
• Book 3: Paris challenges Menelaus to single combat; Paris is rescued from death by Aphrodite
• Book 4: The truce is broken and battle begins
• Book 5: Diomedes has an aristeia (a period of supremacy in battle) and wounds Aphrodite and Ares
• Book 6: Glaucus and Diomedes greet each other during a truce; Hector returns to Troy and speaks to his wife Andromache
• Book 7: Hector battles Ajax
• Book 8: The gods withdraw from the battle
• Book 9: Agamemnon retreats; his overtures to Achilles are spurned
• Book 10: Diomedes and Odysseus go on a spying mission
• Book 11: Paris wounds Diomedes; Achilles sends Patroclus on a mission
• Book 12: The Greeks retreat to their camp and are besieged by the Trojans
• Book 13: Poseidon encourages the Greeks
• Book 14: Hera helps Poseidon assist the Greeks; Deception of Zeus
• Book 15: Zeus stops Poseidon from interfering
• Book 16: Patroclus borrows Achilles' armour, enters battle, kills Sarpedon and then is killed by Hector
• Book 17: The armies fight over the body and armour of Patroclus
• Book 18: Achilles learns of the death of Patroclus and receives a new suit of armour. The Shield of Achilles is described at length
• Book 19: Achilles is reconciled with Agamemnon and enters battle
• Book 20: The gods join the battle; Achilles tries to kill Aeneas
• Book 21: Achilles does battle with the river Scamander and encounters Hector in front of the Trojan gates
• Book 22: Achilles kills Hector and drags his body back to the Greek camp
• Book 23: Funeral games for Patroclus
• Book 24: Priam, the King of the Trojans, secretly enters the Greek camp. He begs Achilles for Hector's body. Achilles grants him it, and it is taken away and burned on a pyre

Plot Summary

Homer's Iliad begins nine years after the Greek armies first arrived at Troy. A plague has overcome the Greek armies because Agamemnon has refused to return the daughter of a Priest of Apollo. Achilles, the epic's central character, exposes this fact and confronts the king. Agamemnon agrees to release this girl, if, and only if, Achilles gives him his 'war-prize', Briseis in return. Achilles finds this to be tremendously unjust and withdraws from battle taking with him all of his soldiers. He asks the gods to grant him revenge and make the Greeks require his assistance in order to win Achilles remains withdrawn for the greater portion of the epic.
Agamemnon is encouraged to attack by a dream and after some trouble with his troops, rallies them. The Trojan side rallies also. The two armies move towards each other but are stopped by a challenge from Hector: Paris and Menelaus are to fight one on one to decide the war. Paris flees the battle with the help of a divinity and Menelaus rages on with his brother demanding the release of Helen and her treasure.
Zeus, the king of the gods, calls an assembly of the gods and orders them to stop helping the battle because he has decided how it is going to turn out. Meanwhile the battle continues near Troy. The Greek Diomedes makes a heroic stand and kills many Trojans. The Trojan Aeneas fights Diomedes and is wounded but eventually rescued by his mother, Aphrodite. Ares reenters the battle on the Trojan side. With Ares at his side, Hector goes on a rampage. Ares is wounded by Diomedes as Hera and Athena enter to help the Greeks.

Telamonian Ajax joins Diomedes and the Greeks begin to repulse the Trojans. Hector returns to Troy to pray for Diomedes to be taken from battle. He chastises Paris for cowardice, speaks to Helen and spends some time with his wife Andromache. Paris and Hector return to war. The Trojans rally again and then Hector challenges a Greek captain to a duel. Ajax fights him but the duel is ended by nightfall and a truce. Both sides debate the follow day of the war expressing the need for a truce to care for their dead. The Trojans propose a settlement. The Greeks reject this, but agree to a truce day for burials.

Zeus again threatens the assembled gods and for a while they heed him. The battle begins and the Trojans, with the blessing of Zeus, push the Greeks back to their earthen walls. Zeus gives an omen to the Greeks and they rally. The Trojans rally again and continue to push onward. Night comes and the Trojan army camps outside the city. The Greeks send an embassy to Achilles requesting his return to battle in exchange for treasure and an unharmed Briseis. Achilles refuses. The Greeks go to sleep but the captains stay awake and Odysseus and Diomedes raid the Trojan camps. They kill the Trojan Dolon and steals horses from the Thracian camp.
The battle begins the next day with a Greek rally led by Agamemnon. Zeus instructs Hector not to fight until Agamemnon is wounded. With this omen fulfilled, Hector rallies the Trojans and pushes towards the ships. Odysseus and Diomedes are also wounded. Achilles watches the battle and sends Patroclus to see who has been wounded. The Trojans continue attacking and with extraordinary feats of strength and bravery by Hector and Sarpedon, they storm the Greek camp. The fighting remains fierce near the Greek ships. With Zeus turned away from the battle, Poseidon inspires Ajax and Idomeneus to fight more fiercely. Hector is driven back and wounded.
Nestor, wounded, goes back to the battle with other Greek captains in order to rally the troops. Hera plots to seduce Poseidon and put Zeus to sleep. With the king of the Gods sleeping, Poseidon enters the battle on the Greek side and the Trojans are routed.

Zeus wakes and reinvigorates the Trojan line. Apollo helps Hector back into battle and the Trojans again push to the Greek Ships. Ajax defends these valiantly and Nestor continues to spur on the Troops. Hector calls for torches to burn the boats as Patroclus observes the panic in his compatriots.
Patroclus returns to Achilles and requests to enter the battle. Achilles lets him go leading the myrmidons. Ajax and Hector continue to fight each other near the ships when the myrmidons enter battle led by Patroclus, easily mistaken for Achilles in the hero's armor. Patroclus kills the Trojan son of Zeus, Sarpedon and the battle centers around his body. Zeus has Apollo rescue the corpse of his son. The battle is pushed back to the walls of Troy Paris attempts to storm the walls of the city, ignoring the advice of Achilles. Patroclus is killed by a combination of the Trojan Euphorbus, Apollo and Hector.

With the death of Patroclus, the Trojans regain some ground as the two sides struggle for the body. Hector follows Achilles' chariot, desiring his horses. Hector is wounded and must retreat. The Greeks save the body of Patroclus. A runner brings the news of Patroclus' death to Achilles and the hero mourns requesting revenge from his mother. Thetis goes to Hephaestus and gets a new set of armor for her son which she bestows on him even though she finds him lying on the ground weeping.
Achilles goes to battle and Zeus releases the gods to fight as they desire. Aeneas stands up to Achilles but is wounded, saved again by a god. Achilles and Hector clash with their troops following and Achilles rampage continues.

Achilles splits the Trojan line and murders many in the near-by river Xanthus. The river god gets angry with him and Achilles eventually attacks the god himself. The god retaliates and chases Achilles only to be stopped by Hephaestus who repulses him at Hera's bidding. Achilles presses to the very walls of Troy. Hector exits to meet his adversary but then flees him, running around the city three times. Athena tricks him into facing Achilles who kills him after a short struggle. The Greeks dishonor Hector's body and Achilles drags him back to their camp behind his chariot.
The Greeks have a feast and build a pyre for Patroclus. They burn and then bury his body. After this, Achilles hosts a set of funeral games for his fallen friend. At night Zeus has Thetis tell her son that Hector ought to be ransomed and Iris tell Priam to ransom his son. With divine help, Priam comes to Achilles' camp and ransoms the body of his son. The two share a meal together and go to sleep. Priam leaves at the goading of Hermes before day break and the epic ends with the funeral of Hector.

Major characters

The Iliad contains a sometimes confusingly great number of characters. The latter half of the second book (often called the Catalogue of Ships) is devoted entirely to listing the various commanders. Many of the battle scenes in the Iliad feature bit characters who are quickly slain. See Trojan War for a detailed list of participating armies and warriors.
• The Achaeans (Αχαιοί) - the word "Hellenes", which would today be translated as "Greeks", is not used by Homer
o Achilles (Αχιλλεύς) the leader of the Myrmidons (Μυρμιδόνες) and the principal Greek champion whose anger is one of the main elements of the story
o Agamemnon, (Αγαμέμνων), King of Mycenae, supreme commander of the Achaean armies whose actions provoke the feud with Achilles; brother of King Menelaus
o Calchas, (Κάλχας) a powerful Greek prophet and omen reader, who guided the Greeks through the war with his predictions.
o Menelaus, Helen's husband and younger brother of Agamemnon, King of Ancient Sparta
o Nestor, (Νέστωρ), Menelaus, (Μενέλαος), Diomedes, (Διομήδης), Idomeneus, (Ιδομενεύς), and Telamonian Ajax, (Αίας ο Τελαμώνιος), kings of the principal city-states of Greece who are leaders of their own armies, under the overall command of Agamemnon
o Odysseus,(Οδυσσεύς) another warrior-king, famed for his cunning, who is the main character of another (roughly equally ancient) epic, the Odyssey
o Patroclus, (Πάτροκλος), beloved companion to Achilles
• The Trojans and their allies
o Aeneas, (Αινείας) cousin of Hector, and his principal lieutenant
o Hector, (Έκτωρ) firstborn son of King Priam, leader of the Trojan and allied armies and heir apparent to the throne of Troy
o Glaucus and Sarpedon, leaders of the Lycian forces allied to the Trojan cause
o Paris, (Πάρις) Trojan prince and Hector's brother, also called Alexander; his abduction of Helen is the casus belli. He was supposed to be killed as a baby because his sister Cassandra saw the destruction of Troy because of him. Raised by a shepherd.
o Priam, (Πρίαμος) king of the Trojans, too old to take part in the fighting
• Female characters
o Andromache, (Ανδρομάχη) Hector's wife and mother of their infant son, Astyanax (Αστυάναξ)
o Briseis, a woman captured in the sack of Lyrnessos, a small town in the territory of Troy, and awarded to Achilles as a prize; Agamemnon takes her from Achilles in Book 1 and Achilles withdraws from battle as a result
o Hecuba, (Εκάβη) Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, mother of Hector, Cassandra, Paris etc
o Helen, (Ελένη) former Queen of Sparta and wife of Menelaus, now espoused to Paris
The Olympian deities, principally Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, Eris, Athena, Hermes and Poseidon, appear in the Iliad as advisers to and manipulators of the human characters. All except Zeus become personally involved in the fighting at one point or another (See Theomachy).
Technical features
The poem is written in dactylic hexameter. The Iliad comprises 15,693 lines of verse. Later Greeks divided it into twenty-four books, or scrolls, and this convention has lasted to the present day with little change.

The Iliad as oral tradition
The Iliad and the Odyssey were considered by Greeks of the classical age and after as the most important works in Ancient Greek literature, and were the basis of Greek pedagogy in antiquity. As the center of the rhapsode's repertoire, their recitation was a central part of Greek religious festivals. The book would be spoken or sung all night (modern readings last around 20 hours), with audiences coming and going for parts they particularly enjoyed.

Throughout much of their reception, the Iliad and Odyssey were assumed to be literary poems. However in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, scholars began to question this assumption. Milman Parry, a classical scholar, was intrigued by peculiar features of Homeric style: in particular the stock epithets and the often extensive repetition of words, phrase and even whole chunks of text. He argued that these features were artifacts of oral composition. The poet employs stock phrases because of the ease with which they could be applied to a hexameter line. Taking this theory, Parry travelled in Yugoslavia, studying the local oral poetry. In his research he observed oral poets employing stock phrases and repetition to assist with the challenge of composing a poem orally and improvisationally.

The relationship of Achilles and Patroclus

The precise nature of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus has been the subject of some dispute in both the classical period and modern times. In the Iliad, it is clear that the two heroes have a deep and extremely meaningful friendship, but the evidence of a romantic or sexual element is equivocal. Commentators from the classical period to today have tended to interpret the relationship through the lens of their own cultures. Thus, in fifth-century Athens the relationship was commonly interpreted as pederastic, since pederasty was an accepted part of Athenian society. Contemporary readers are more likely to interpret the two heroes either as non-sexual "war buddies" or as a similarly-aged homosexual couple.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321)
Type of Work:
Allegorical religious poem
Hell, Purgatory and Paradise; A.D. 1300
Principal Characters
Dante, the Pilgrim
Virgil, the Poet, and Dante's guide
Beatrice, Dante's womanly ideal and religious inspiration
Story Overview

Prologue: Dante, realizing he has strayed from the "true way,. into worldliness, tells of a vision where he travels through all the levels of Hell, up the mount of Purgatory, and finally through the realms of Paradise, where he is allowed a brief glimpse of God.

The traveler sets out on the night before Good Friday, and finds himself in the middle of a dark wood. There he encounters three beasts: a leopard (representing lust), a lion (pride) and a she-wolf (covetousness). Fortunately, his lady, Beatrice, along with the Virgin Mary herself, sends the spirit of Virgil, the classical Latin poet, to guide Dante through much of his journey. But as much as Dante admires and reveres Virgil, and though Dante considers him to have prophesied of the coming of Christ, Virgil is not a Christian. To Dante he represents human knowledge, or unholy reason, which cannot lead a person to God. This infidel may not pass into the highest realms. Thus, Dante is finally led to Heaven by Beatrice, his own personal and unattainable incarnation of the Virgin, who represents divine knowledge, or faith.

Pilgrimage: Terrified, lost "midway in life's journey" in the worldly darkness of error, Dante met Virgil, who offered himself as a guide. Together they passed through the gates of Hell inscribed with the terrifying words: "Abandon every hope, Ye that Enter." Dante, however, as a living soul who had not yet tasted death, was exempt from such final despair. He found Hell to be a huge funnel-shaped pit divided into terraces each a standing-place for those individuals who were guilty of a particular sin. After passing Limbo, reserved for the unbaptized, Dante observed and conversed with hundreds of Hell's souls, many of whom, guilty of carnal sins, were being whirled about in the air or forced to lie deep in mud or snow, under the decrees of eternal damnation. Ciacco, a fellow Florentine, implored of Dante "... When thou shalt be in the sweet world, I pray thee bring me to men's memory."

In pity, Dante frequently offered to write about those he met when he returned to mortality. These gluttons, seducers, and robbers were, for the most part, either historical figures or Dante's personal acquaintances - and each one of them represented one of the apt and horrible possibilities of Hell. For example, Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun were found dwelling in Hell's seventh terrace, forced to grovel in boiling blood - a just end for those who in life loved violence.

In the very depths of Hell was Satan - with three heads, each grasping a sinner in its mouth, and with three pairs of wings that continuously beat over the waters around him, freezing them into perpetual currents of ice.

Dante and Virgil cautiously climbed down the body of Satan. About midway, they turned and scrambled out through an opening (earth's center of gravity) where all things were the opposite of Hell: The sun was shining; it was Easter morning. Now hiking on in silence, they finally arrived on the shores of the Mount of Purgatory, located exactly opposite Jerusalem on the globe.

First and lowest on the mountain was Antepurgatory, a place reserved for those spirits who were penitent in life, who had died without achieving full repentance or without receiving the last sacrament of the church. They were required to spend time there before they could begin their arduous climb up the mountain. A group of those poor souls who had passed away suddenly, unable to receive extreme unction, pled with the mortal visitor to speak with their relatives and friends, urging them to pray that their stay in Ante-purgatory might be shortened.

As the pilgrims entered Purgatory, an angel inscribed the letter "P" on Dante's forehead seven times, to represent the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust). As Dante made his way through the seven areas reserved for those who committed each of these sins, the letters were erased one by one, and the climb became less difficult.

Like Hell, Purgatory was arranged in terraces. However, the inhabitants here could, through confession, repentance, patience, and the prayers of the living, move on to higher realms after a time of proper purification. In the first terrace (pride), the occupants bowed down under huge stones which they carried on their backs, while reciting The Lord's Prayer, a fitting penance for haughty souls. Each terrace in turn was designed to purge its dead souls of one particular deadly sin.

The travelers finally moved beyond the seventh terrace. An angel directed them to pass through a huge wall of flames; on the other side they would find Beatrice. Dante did not hesitate. Emerging from the flames, he saw a mountain. At its summit, Virgil bade Dante farewell, for this was as far as Human Reason would allow a non-Christian to go.

Dante noticed a beautiful garden nearby, and began to explore it. A young woman appeared to inform him that this was the Garden of Eden - and there, across a river, awaited Beatrice. But the woman called out to Dante, demanding that, before entering the stream, he stop to acknowledge remorse for his sins and confess them. Hearing her, Dante was so overcome with remorse that he fainted and had to be carried across Lethe, the river of forgetfulness of past sins.

On the other side of the river, accompanied now at last by the beautiful Beatrice, Dante discovered that Paradise was divided into various spheres orbiting the earth. Each of the first seven (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) represented a particular virtue, and those who in life had exhibited this virtue became its inhabitants. Ascending through the spheres, Dante encountered various famous saints, martyrs, and crusaders, in addition to many of the just, the chaste and the meditative. One soul he greeted was Cacciaguida, his own great great grandfather, who had served as a crusader in the previous century. This ancestor addressed him: "O my own blood! O grace of God poured forth above measure! ... " and then went on to reminisce on the earlier glory and splendor of Florence, and to lament its present fallen state.

Dante next followed Beatrice past the Fixed Stars, where many of the Apostles dwelt. These men, in turn, questioned the poet, examining his opinions. Dante offered complicated treatises on the duality of Christ (that he is both human and divine) and earthly versus godly love, and explained then modern scientific theories to account, among other things, for moonspots.

At last Dante was conducted to the ninth heaven (outerspace), where he received grace, and was permitted to gaze upon divinity and hear the angels' chorus. Beatrice then departed the reverent admirer, who witnessed the entrance of the triumphal Christ, followed by Mary.

Then, in union with the divine, Dante was left alone to behold the glory of God on his throne. "O how scant is speech and how feeble to my conception," he gasped in a final, striking, poetic description of breathless awe.

"The Divine Comedy" is an epic poem brimming with information and eloquent literary devices. (The word "comedy" is used here in its classical sense - to denote a story which begins in suspense and ends well.) The lengthy work combines Dante's vast knowledge of classical Latin writers (Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Seneca ... ) and Greek philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) with his readings from the religious and theological classics of Catholicism (Augustine, Thomas Acquinas ... ).

Some awareness of medieval symbolism and imagery can greatly enrich the modern reader's understanding and enjoyment of Dante's personal, visionary odyssey through the realms of the dead. For example, the significance of certain numbers figures importantly in both the structure of the work and the geography of tile netherworld. Tile number three symbolizes the trinity; the "perfect" number, ten, was obtained by multiplying three times three, and adding one (which represented the unity of God). Furthermore, Dante's work is divided into three canticles (the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise) and each canticle is then divided into thirty-three cantos. These, added to the book's general introductory canto, make for a grand total of one hundred, or, the square of ten. The poem's rhyme scheme, which Dante invented, is known as "terza rima" (third rhyme), where rhymed lines are grouped in interlocking sets of three (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.)

In addition to this obsession with numbers, the reader should also fathom the notion of ancient courtly love. Most poetry of Dante's age was written in praise of a woman whom the poet had chosen as an ideal, but with whom he was not intimate nor even necessarily personally acquainted; a pure love, an unattainable inspiration. Dante had met Beatrice Portinari at least twice, but had no intention of developing a relationship with her. She was married, as was he. "If it pleases God," Dante had written in the third person, "he will write of Beatrice, that which has never yet been said of mortal woman." This, in fact, Dante does in The Divine Comedy, placing his lady in the highest realms of Paradise.

Almost as much as he loved Beatrice, Dante loved Italy; and one of his greatest beliefs was the equal importance of the Church and the State. He became disgusted with the corruption of the Church by politics during his lifetime. In fact, it was while he was in political exile from Florence that he wrote this masterpiece, its complete title being "The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Florentine by Citizenship, Not by Morals."

Dante also believed in matching writing style with the material being treated. Thus, in Hell, the language is faced with common, sometimes revolting phrasing. Then, in Paradise the speech turns much more ethereal and lofty. (Curiously, Hell was and remains - the most popular of the three books.)

By using common expressions and the language of his native Tuscan dialect rather than the traditional Church Latin, Dante created a revolutionary work. His comedy, rich as it was in multilayered medieval allegory, set fire to the then radically modern idea that literature - works meant primarily to be read rather than retold or enacted could be made both accessible and popular. So highly regarded was this comedy that it earned the eventual title of "Divine."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Stowe

Character List

Uncle Tom: An old slave and the protagonist of the novel, Tom's two most prevalent qualities are his inherent goodness and piety. He is a passive Christ-figure who consistently forgives the wrongs committed against him and turns to God in times of crisis. From learing to read the Bible and write letters to his kin, Tom is consistently trying to improve himself despite the limits placed upon him by slavery. Tom also serves as a Christian leader for the other slaves in the novel.

Arthur Shelby: Tom's master in Kentucky. Shelby is characterized as a "kind" slaveowner; he is the stereotypical Southern gentleman. When Shelby experiences a financial crisis because of gambling debts, he sells Tom and the little boy Harry to save his plantation.

Emily Shelby: Mr. Shelby's wife is a deeply devote woman who strives to be a kind and moral influence upon her slaves. She is appalled when her husband negotiates to sell his slaves with a slave trader, and realizes that slavery is wrong and very unchristian.

George Shelby: The master and mistress' son. At the beginning of the novel he is thriteen years old and teaches Tom to read. He vows to find Tom when he is sold. This he does, but not until many years later when Tom is near death. Inspired by his beloved Tom, young Shelby frees the slaves on his deceased father's plantation.

Mr. Haley: the coarse slave trader who buys Tom and Harry from Mr. Shelby. Ironically, he considers himself a humane man although he is pursues Eliza and her son with dogs across the frozen Ohio River.

Eliza: Mrs. Shelby's personal maid, the wife of George and the mother of little Harry. Eliza is a beautiful quadroon, meaning she is three-quarters white, and has a very spiritual and docile nature. She risks everything however, when she discovers that her son has been sold. She runs north and crosses the dangerous Ohio River. Once she reaches Ohio, she is helped by kindly Quakers and eventually reunited with her husband.

George Harris: Eliza's husband who lives on a neighboring plantation. Desperate for his freedom, George escapes disguised as a Spaniard and finds his family in Ohio. He then takes them to Canada, and eventually to France and Liberia.

Harry: George and Eliza's five-year-old son. He is both beautiful and talented, as he sings and dances for the master's pleasure. When he is sold to Mr. Haley, his mother escapes with him to the North.

Aunt Chloe: Uncle Tom's wife is a renowned cook. This plump and cheery woman takes initiative when her husband is sold, and sells her pastries to raise money to buy him back.

Tom Loker and Marks: the slave hunters Mr. Haley hires to track down Eliza.

Sam and Andy: Slaves on the Shelby plantation who are ordered to help Haley look for Eliza. Because of their elaborate schemes to stall the slave trader, Eliza has time to escape.

Augustine St. Clare: Tom's master in New Orleans. He is is a very rich, romantic man who becomes very fond of Tom when he saves his daughter from drowning. St. Clare is an unstable man looking for faith, and Tom tries to aid him. He promises Tom his freedom, but unfortunately is killed in a bar before he can sign the papers.

Marie St. Clare: Augustine's wife, who was once a popular Southern belle. Now, she is a hypochondiac who cares about no one but herself. She disapproves of her husband and daughter's close relations with the slaves and sells Tom and eleven others when her husband dies.

Eva St. Clare: The five-year old "Little Eva" is characterized as a beautiful, angelic child. She and Tom become best friends, and they are bonded by the common love they have for those around them. Eva dies young, and upon her death she both asks the slaves to be good Christians, and has her father promise that he will free them.

Miss Ophelia: St. Clare's northern cousin who comes to help him run the plantation affairs. St. Clare buys Ophelia a slave so she can have a "missionary project" of her own. At first Ophelia dislikes Topsy, but her feelings of racial superiority are eventually broken by the friendship she forms with the needy little girl.

Topsy: the slave girl whom St. Clare bought for Miss Ophelia to reform. Mistreated all her life, Topsy acts like the jovial, mischievious sprite she is and does not care what white people or slaves think of her. Topsy finally learns about love from Little Eva and moves to the North with Miss Ophelia at the end of the novel.

Simon Legree: Tom's evil and tyrranical final master. Legree is a Yankee who has moved to the South to make his money in the plantation business. An alcoholic, he brutalizes his slaves and forces them to live in sqaulid conditions. Because he does not have the respect of other slave-owners, Legree wants his slaves to grovel before him. The fact that Tom finds comfort in the Lord and will patiently bear any load is discomforting to Legree, who begins to hate him viciously.

Cassy: Legree's mistress and Eliza's mother. She is the only person on the plantation who can stand up to Legree, and she tries to protect Tom from his wrath. Cassy escapes the plantation by her shrewd wits, and later is reunited with her daughter.

Sambo and Quimbo: Legree's oversears, who have been trained to brutalize their fellow slaves. When they beat Tom and he forgives them, they are converted to Christianity.

Short Summary

Uncle Tom's Cabin, described by Stowe herself as a "series of sketches" depicting the human cruelty of slavery, opens with a description of Arthur Shelby's Kentucky plantation during the antebellum period. Although Shelby is not characterized as a cruel master, he has nevertheless incurred serious debts- prompting him sell some slaves to avoid financial ruin. Mr. Haley, the slave trader, purchases Uncle Tom, Shelby's loyal servant since childhood, and five-year-old Harry, a beautiful and talented child who sings, dances and mimes. Shelby regrets taking the child away from his mother, Eliza, as much as he regrets betraying Uncle Tom's faithfulness. Eliza overhears Mrs. Shelby, a very religious woman, protesting her husband's decision, and decides to flee the plantation with her son. George, her husband from a neighboring plantation, has already left for Canada via the "underground railroad," a secret network of people who usher runaway slaves to freedom in the North. Eliza plans to do the same, and tries to convince Uncle Tom to save himself and come with her. Uncle Tom, however, must remain loyal to his master, despite his betrayal and the risk of death at the cruel hands of a new master, and does not accompany Eliza on her journey to the Ohio River.

Haley searches for Eliza in vain, for she is spurred on by fear of losing her child and reaches the river quickly. Amazingly, Eliza crosses the river by jumping from one ice flow to the next. Upon reaching the shore in Ohio, Mr. Symmes, a man who has observed her brave feat, listens to her story. Fortunately, Symmes hates slave traders and thus takes Eliza and Harry to the house of Senator Bird, where they receive food and lodging. Ironically, Bird has just voted for a bill prohibiting aid to fugitive slaves, but the Senator is very moved by Eliza's story. He thus changes his convictions and takes the runaways to a Quaker settlement, where they stay with the Halliday family. Coincidentally, Eliza's husband George has sought refuge in this very community, and the young family is reunited. The Quakers help the family board a ship for Canada before Haley's hired slave hunters, Loker and Marks, can capture them.

After the hunt for Eliza and Harry fails, Haley returns to Shelby's to collect the other half of his purchase, Uncle Tom. The slaves at the plantation are very mournful, but Tom remains placid and tries to read his Bible for comfort. On the steamboat to New Orleans, where Tom is to be sold, Tom befriends an angelic little girl, "Little Eva" St. Clare. Uncle Tom saves the five-year-old beauty from drowning, and she convinces her father to buy Tom for her own family. Tom finds life on the St. Clare plantation agreeable, for although he is head coachman he spends most of his time with Little Eva. The love and goodness of which she constantly speaks influences those around her, convincing people of their inner value and that of the people around them. Eva even manages to convince the impish slave girl Topsy that she deserves to be loved, and touches the heart of her stern aunt, Miss Ophelia, who has traveled from Vermont to manage the plantation because Mrs. St. Clare is a hypochondriac.

Tom's contentment does not last, however, because Eva soon falls ill. Dying, she asks that all the slaves surround her bedside, where she gives each of them a golden lock of hair and tells them they must Christian so that they can see each other in heaven. Eva implores Mr. St. Clare to free Tom after her death. Mr. St. Clare is so distraught by her death, however, that he never legally frees Tom before he himself is killed trying to mediate a barroom scuffle. Mrs. St. Clare sells the slaves to settle her husband's debts, and the deplorable Simon Legree purchases Tom. Legree is a drunkard who beats his slaves brutally. Only one of his slaves, Cassy, defies her master by threatening to do voodoo on him. Cassy tries to help Uncle Tom, but he is a pacifist and will not resist the terrible beatings Legree inflicts upon him.

Mr. Shelby, in the meantime, has been tracking Tom down, and arrives at the Legree plantation one day. By this time, however, Tom is very near death. Once Tom is dead and buried, Shelby takes a steamboat to Kentucky, where he meets Cassy and another slave from Legree's, Emmeline, who are fleeing the plantation. The three then meet Emily de Thoux, who is George Harris's sister, and discover that Cassy is the mother of Eliza. Once in Kentucky, Shelby frees his slaves. Cassy, Emmeline, and Emily travel to Canada where they are reunited with Eliza and George. The Harris family and Cassy eventually travel to Liberia to found a freedom colony for ex-slaves. The novel ends with a chapter summarizing the lesson learned from these "sketches" of experiences with slavery: that slavery is indeed a very cruel and evil institution that should be abolished.

Biography of Harriet Stowe (1811-1896)

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was the seventh of Lyman and Roxana Foote Beecher's nine children, born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Harriet's mother died when she was five years old, and Lyman, a minister, remarried the following year, in 1817. At the age of twelve, Harriet began to attend the Hartford Female Seminary, an academy founded and run by her older sister Catherine. In 1832, the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when Lyman became president of the Lane Theological Seminary.

In 1834, at the age of 23, Harriet's first story was published in Western Monthly Magazine. In 1836 she married academic Calvin Stowe. Harriet was destined to live a life of prolific childbearing, as well as writing. Their twin daughters, Eliza and Harriet, were born the same year. A son, Henry, was born in 1838, and Frederick followed in 1840. In 1843, Harriet published The Mayflower, which was a collection of stories about the descendants of the Puritans. Her daughter, Georgiana, was also born this year.

In 1846, Harriet was diagnosed with exhaustion from pregnancy and childbearing. She spent fifteen months at a water cure in Vermont to recover her physical and mental strength. Her son Samuel was born in 1848, but died the following year in a cholera epidemic. In 1850, the Stowe family moved to Brunswick, Maine, when Calvin became a member of the Bowdoin College faculty. Their son Charles was also born that year.

1850 was also an important year for Stowe because the Fugitive Slave Law, requiring Northerners and Southerners alike to turn in runaway slaves, was passes. This law was a major catalyst in Stowe's antislavery writing. In 1851 Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as a serial in an antislavery paper, The National Era. Due to its popularity, it was published the next year as a two-volume book. In 1853, A Key to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published to corroborate the novel's facts. Harriet took a triumphant tour of Europe as a now famous anti-slavery author. Although she was a prolific author, none of her successive works could match the popularity or importance of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which became a powerful tool of the abolition movement.

In 1856 Stowe published her second anti-slavery novel, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, and again traveled to Europe to promote the book. In 1859 Stowe took her third successful European tour, and published a novel, The Minister's Wooing. In 1862, The Pearl of Orr's Island was published and the following year the Stowe family moved to Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1869, the novel Oldtown Folks was published. Harriet also published a book with her sister Catherine, The American Woman's Home, the same year. In 1872, Oldtown Fireside Stories was published, followed by her last novel in 1878, Poganuc People. In 1886, Calvin Stowe died. Harriet outlived her husband by ten years, dying in 1896 at her home in Hartford at the age of eighty-five.

Song of Roland

The Song of Roland


For seven years, Charlemagne has made war in Spain against the Saracens. He has conquered the entire country, except for the stronghold of Saragossa, which is held by the pagan King Marsile. Seeing that defeat is inevitable, King Marsile, in repose in his garden, calls an assembly of 20,000 men to ask their advice. Only the lord Blancandrin speaks up, and he offers a plan of treachery. Marsile should sue for peace, offering to be Charlemagne's tribute-giving vassal and to be baptized as a Christian in Charlemagne's capital, Aix. To guarantee good behavior, they will offer their own sons as hostages. Charlemagne will leave Spain, to await Marsile in Aix. But neither the promised treasure nor Marsile will arrive. Although the French king will then kill the hostages, the military threat will be over. The Saracens unanimously approve of this plan, and Marsile sends "ten of his most treacherous men" (l. 69) to act as emissaries.
Charles, having just conquered the city of Cordoba, is resting in a garden, surrounded by some of his vassals. Marsile's emissaries, led by Blancandrin, approach bearing olive branches and a gift of ten white mules. Blancandrin gives Charles Marsile's offer. Charles considers carefully: although he does not exactly trust Marsile, he has been in Spain for seven years and is an old man. He calls his vassals to discuss the proposal. Roland, one of Charlemagne's twelve peers and the most beloved of Charlemagne's vassals, urges the king to refuse the offer. Marsile has proved treacherous in the past; he sued for peace on a previous occasion, but when Charlemagne sent two trusted emissaries Marsile had them beheaded.
Ganelon, Roland's stepfather, speaks next. He brutally criticizes Roland's advice, characterizing it as foolhardy and uncaring about the Christians who will die if the war continues. A wise duke named Naimes speaks next, in more measured tones: since Marsile is in effect already defeated, and is now begging for mercy, it would be sinful to proceed. Charles asks whom they shall send as the emissary. Duke Naimes immediately volunteers, but Charlemagne cannot spare him. He needs the trusted councilor by his side. Roland volunteers, but his friend Oliver, another one of the twelve peers, voices disapproval, because Roland is far too hotheaded for the job. Oliver volunteers. Charlemagne again vetoes these proposals, saying he cannot spare any of the twelve peers. The warrior-archbishop Turpin volunteers next, and is likewise shot down.
Roland nominates Ganelon, who is furious, and believes that Roland wants him to do. He threatens Roland, but Roland coldly dismisses the threat and says that he only sought a wise emissary. He offers to go in Ganelon's place, which makes Ganelon angrier. Ganelon accepts the task, certain that he will die. He tells Charlemagne that he hates Roland, and he also hates Oliver and the rest of the twelve peers because they love Roland. Charlemagne rebukes him, insists on him going, and invests authority in him by giving him his staff and his glove. But Ganelon drops the glove, which the rest of the Franks take as an evil premonition.
Blessed by Charlemagne, Ganelon departs with staff and letter in tow. During the journey, he talks to Blancandrin, and the two villains plot Roland's death. Ganelon and Blancandrin go before Marsile, who is seated outdoors and surrounded by opulence. The meeting gets off to a rocky start, as Ganelon tells Marsile that if he does not comply with Charles demands, he will be captured and executed. Marsile is furious, and moves to strike Ganelon, but he is restrained. Ganelon holds his ground, impressing the Saracens.
Marsile reads Charlemagne's letter aloud. Charlemagne bids him to remember Basan and Basile, the executed Frankish emissaries, and says that if he wishes to redeem his life, he should send his uncle the caliph. Marsile's son demands the right to kill Ganelon for his insolence; Ganelon brandishes his sword, ready to fight. But Marsile goes into private council in his garden, where Blancandrin tells him that Ganelon is willing to help them. They summon Ganelon into the garden, and begin to plot Roland's death.

Marsile apologizes for his earlier anger and promises great wealth to Ganelon. Marsile asks Ganelon three times if the two-hundred-year-old Charles will ever tire of war; Ganelon replies that Charles will continue to wage war as long as Roland is alive. Ganelon suggests an ambush: as Charles pulls out of Spain, going through the pass of Cize, he will live a rearguard of twenty-thousand men, led by Roland and Oliver. Marsile should attack the rearguard with a force of a hundred thousand pagans.
Ganelon returns to Charles, bearing gifts from Marsile. The traitor claims that the Marsile's uncle the caliph, along with four hundred thousand Moslems, died in a God-sent sea storm. The Franks celebrate, suspecting nothing.
As the Franks are withdrawing, heading toward the pass of Cize, Charles has strange dreams. He dreams that at the pass of Cize Ganelon seized and broke the king's ash lash. He also dreams that he is at Aix. A boar bites his right arm, and a leopard come from the direction of the Ardennes and attacks him; then, a hunting dog appears and fights the other two animals.
The next day, when Charles asks who should head the rearguard, Ganelon nominates Roland. Roland excepts, although his comment indicate that he is angry at his uncle. He willingly take the king's lance, making a show of not dropping it, as Ganelon dropped the king's glove. He refuses the king's offers of retaining a large force. Oliver will join Roland, as will the archbishop. Other volunteers to stay include the rest of the twelve peers: Anseis, Berenger, Engeler, Gerin, Gerer, Gerard of Roussillon, Oliver, Oton, Samson, Yvon, and Yvoire.
Gautier patrols the heights. Charles treks back toward France, and when at last the men see their native land, they weep. Charles is anxious about his dreams; he fears that they portend treachery and Roland's death.
Marsile assembles his men. Marsile's nephew wants to strike at Roland first. He asks Marsile to select twelve barons to lead the Moslem force. The barons are described in some detail; Falsaron, Corsalis, Malprimis, the emir of Balaguer, an alcamor from Moriane, Rugis, Escremiz, Estorgans, Estramariz, Margariz, and Chernubles.
The Christians hear the Moslem force approaching, and Roland welcomes the chance for battle. He has absolute confidence that they will win: "The pagans are wrong and the Christians are right" (l. 1015). On the hill, Oliver sees the Moslem army and reports that their force is vast. He asks Roland to blow his oliphant horn to summon Charlemagne's forces, but Roland refuses. Oliver pleads for Roland to blow the horn, but Roland will do no such thing. They will fight this battle alone.

Roland, ready for battle, encourages his men to fight bravely. He readies his sword, Durendal. Archbishop Turin tells the men to ask forgiveness for their sins, for which he will absolve them, and promises that all who die will be rewarded with martyrdom and a place in heaven. Roland reminds them of the spoils they will win. Oliver, protesting one last time, tells the men to fight bravely. The two armies clash.
Marsile's nephew, Aelroth, insults the Franks, and an angry Roland immediately dispatches him for it. Falsaron, Marsile's brother, is killed by Oliver. Archbishop Turin kills King Corsablix. Gerin dispatches Malprimis of Brigal. Gerer kills the emir. Duke Samson defeats the almacor. Anseis kills Turgis of Turteluse. Engeler kills Escremiz. Oton slays Estorgans. Berenger strikes down Estramariz. Ten of the twelve Saracen peers are dead: only Chernubles and Count Margariz remain.
Margariz makes for Oliver. He smashes through Oliver's shield, penetrates his armor, and destroys his lance. Only God's intervention protects Oliver from being seriously wounded. Meanwhile, Roland is fighting so fiercely that he wears his own lance to splinters. He fights with his sword, Durendal, and kills Chernubles. The twelve peers fight bravely. Oliver, too, wears his lance down to a stub, and then at Roland's suggestion unsheathes his sword, Halteclere.
The battle goes on, with the Franks slaughtering the pagans even though the Christian force is vastly outnumbered. But the Franks, too, suffer heavy casualties: "How many lives of fine young Franks are lost!" (l. 1401). Midbattle, the poet breaks to remind us that all of this carnage was caused by Ganelon's treachery, but assures us that Ganelon will get his in the end: "In the trial at Aix he was condemned to hang / And thirty of his relatives with him" (ll. 1409-10). In France, as the battle in Spain continues, storms and earthquakes ravage the land. The disasters are signs of God's sadness for Roland.
An even larger pagan force, led by Marsile, appears on the horizon. The battle now begins to turn against the Christians. The archbishop is the first to dive into battle against the new force, and he kills the mighty pagan Abisme. The courage of the Franks begins to falter, and Turpin tries to encourage them. He tells them that death is certain for all of the Christians on the field, but paradise awaits them. They must fight bravely.
The pagan Climborin kills Engeler, one of the twelve peers. Oliver avenges him. The pagan Valdebrun kills Samson, another one of the twelve peers. Roland avenges him. Malquiant, an African, slays Anseis. Anseis is avenged by Archbishop Turpin. A mighty pagan named Grandonie kills a number of Franks, including three of the twelve peers: Gerin, Gerer, and Berenger. The Franks are falling fast. Roland charges after Grandonie and defeats him. He and Oliver work themselves into such a great frenzy that the Moslem forces begin to retreat. With the Archbishop, Roland and Oliver head up a strong offensive: "Those whom they kill cannot easily be counted. / It is written in the charters and records, / That, as the annals state, there were four thousand" (ll. 1683-5). But the Franks suffer heavy losses, until only a handful are left, and Roland tells Oliver that he wants to blow the oliphant to call for Charlemagne's help. Oliver condemns the action as coming too late to do any good. The two friends argue, but the Archbishop begs them to set aside their anger. Although blowing the horn will not save the rearguard, the Archbishop says, at least Charlemagne will hear the horn and come to avenge their deaths. The Franks can also come back and bury their dead.
Roland blows the horn. The effort is so intense his temples burst: three times, Charlemagne hears the horn. Each time, Ganelon denies that the sound indicates a battle. Finally, Duke Naimes says that Roland, to continue blowing so long, would need to be in great danger. Duke Naimes also says that Ganelon's advice reveals that he has betrayed Roland. Charlemagne and the Franks prepare for battle. Charlemagne has Ganelon chained and put in the custody of the cooks. The main Frankish force sets off, but they are too late.

Roland mourns the deaths of his men, and spurs himself on to kill as many Moslems as he can. Marsile fights fiercely as well, killing several of the twelve peers. Roland's fierce response terrifies the pagans, and a hundred thousand of them, including Marsile, flee. But his uncle Marganice remains, along with his fearsome entourage of troops from Africa. His assembly of warriors includes the contingent from "accursed" Ethiopia, where the men are black and have "large noses and broad ears" (l. 1918). The sight of them unsettles even Roland, who feels certain that the Franks will die. The Ethiopians alone number fifty thousand, and the Franks have only sixty men left.
Marganice battles Oliver, and manages to mortally wound him, but the dying Oliver strikes Marganice a lethal blow. He calls for Roland's help. Oliver fights on, asking Roland to come and fight by his side one last time. On seeing Oliver wounded, Roland faints, but he is so securely strapped to his horse that he cannot fall off. Oliver's sight is so blurred that he cannot recognize Roland, and strikes him a might blow; luckily, Roland is not hurt. When he hears Roland's voice, he apologizes to him. Roland forgives him, and they bow to each other. Oliver dies, and Roland bellows and wails in grief. He faints again.
Now all the Franks are dead, save three: Roland, Gautier, and the Archbishop. The three make a last stand. Gautier is killed by the first volley of lances and spears; the Archbishop fights on bravely, despite being horribly wounded. Roland and the Archbishop fight on. Roland's temples are burst from his last attempt to blow the oliphant, but he blows the horn again, feebly. Far away, Charles hears it, and orders his men to blow their horns in reply. The sound frightens the pagans, who know now that Charlemagne is coming. The pagans let loose a volley of missile weapons, killing Roland's horse right from under him. They flee, and Roland has no way to pursue. He tries to make the Archbishop comfortable, and then goes to search for the bodies of their dear friends. He brings the bodies of the twelve peers back to the Archbishop, who absolves them. Roland weeps and swoons again. The Archbishop goes to get water for him from a stream. On the way there, he collapses, confesses his sins, and dies. Roland wakes and mourns for him.
Roland climbs a hill, faces Spain, grasps his sword and his oliphant, and collapses. A pagan who was playing dead attacks him, but Roland comes to and kills him. Roland begins to strike mighty blows against a stone nearby, recounting the many victories he won for Charles. He hopes to break the sword because he fears it will fall into pagan hands; the sword is full of holy relics. He wears down the stone, but the sword does not break. Roland senses death is near. He confesses his sins. He holds his right glove up to God, and Angels come down to him from heaven. He lays down beneath the pine tree, turns to face Spain, and reflects on his life and struggles. He dies. A cherubin angel, along with Saints Michael and Gabriel, come down to bring his soul to heaven.

Charlemagne and his army arrive to find the fields of the dead at Rencesvals. There is great mourning for the dead, and Charles decides to pursue the enemy. He leaves a contingent of men in charge of guarding the bodies, and then sets off in hot pursuit of the pagans. He prays to God for aid, and God performs a great miracle: he stops the sun's movement, prolonging daylight so that the French can catch up to the Saracens. They catch the Saracens in the Val Tenebro, and the slaughter begins. Many of the pagans drown in the River Ebro as they try to escape. The Christians enjoy great wealth. The Franks make camp in the Val Tenebro, exhausted. Charles remains in full armor. The poet takes a moment to describe Charlemagne's sword, Jouise: embedded in its pommel a piece of the lance that pierced Christ.
Charlemagne has strange dreams that night, sent by Angels. He sees a great battle between his army and an array of terrifying beasts; the dream does not make clear who will win. In his second dream, he sees a chained bear. Thirty bears descend from the hills, and ask to have the bear back again. From Charlemagne's palace a hunting dog comes, attacking the largest of the bears. Again, Charlemagne cannot see who wins.

Marsile returns to Saragossa, badly wounded. He has lost his right hand. The Moslems weep because of their losses; the desecrate the statues of Apollo, Tervagant, and Muhammad. They are sure they will lose the war.
But years ago, Marsile wrote to the emir of Babylon, Baligant, begging for aid. Now Baligant has finally arrived, with a vast pagan host. The force lands, and then Baligant sends his knights Clarifan and Clarien to tell Marsile that the emir will make war against Charlemagne. Bramimonde, Marsile's wife, receives them coldly. When they great her in the name of their gods, she says that their gods have abandoned them. When the messengers say the emir will hunt Charles down, she informs them that Charles is no more than seven leagues away, and that he fears no one. Because Marsile is wounded, Baligant comes to meet him. Marsile surrenders all his lands to him.
Meanwhile, the Franks are tending to their dead. Charles seeks out the body of Roland, remembering that Roland once promised that if killed on foreign soil, he would advance beyond all the men and die facing the enemy. Charlemagne finds Roland, and mourns bitterly for his nephew. He fears he will not be able to carry on without the help of his best knight. Wise Duke Naimes is by the king's side, offering comfort and advice. The bodies are buried. But Roland, the Archbishop, and Oliver receive special treatment. Their sacred hearts are removed and wrapped in silk, and the bodies are prepared specially, wrapped in silk, and put in carts so that they can be brought home.

The pagans arrive. Charlemagne puts trust in his vassals, delegating responsibility and asking Rabel and Guineman to take on the responsibilities of Roland and Oliver. Following is a lengthy description of the troops assembled on both sides: on the Frankish side, valiant knights from all over Christendom are ready to fight. Charlemagne prays to God for victory. On the pagan side, heathen knights from all kinds of exotic and strange lands prepare for battle. Malprimis, son of Baligant, requests the honor of first strike, and Baligant grants it. Malprimis will bring Torleu, King of Persia, and Dapamort, King of Lycia, to head up the front line. There is more organization of divisions, and then the battle begins.
Rabel kills Torleu. Dapamort is slain by Guineman. Malprimis makes his way toward Charles, and both Charles and Baligant call out encouraging words to their troops. Duke Naimes kills Malprimis. Canabeus, brother of the emir, wounds Naimes horribly; only divine intervention saves Naimes's life. Charles is horrified to see his good friend so hurt, and kills Canabeus. The emir himself slaughters Guineman.
The battle escalates. Gemalfin, a trusted counselor of the emir, informs him that his brother Canabeus and son Malprimis are dead. Baligant grieves. He asks his trusted friend Jangleu if they will win the day, and Jangleu tells Baligant that their gods will not help them: Charles and his Franks will kill them all. Baligant's resolve is unshaken: "Come what may, he does not wish to hide" (l. 3522). He blows his bugle, rallying his troops, and they mount a brutal assault against the Franks. Count Ogier scolds Charlemagne, reminding him that they must avenge these deaths. They fight boldly, and Count Ogier strikes down Amborre, bringing the dragon pennon to the ground. On seeing Muhammad's standard fall, Baligant "begins to realize / That he is wrong and Charlemagne right" (ll. 3553-4).
The battle continues on through the day, and evening falls. As Charles calls out "Monjoie," the Frankish battle cry, and Baligant calls out "Precieuse," the pagan battle cry, the two kings recognize each other's strong voices. They clash, shattering each other's shields and knocking each other off of their horses. They get up and fight with their swords. Each offers the other a chance to be his vassal in exchange for peace, but both offers are refused. Baligant delivers Charlemagne a powerful blow, exposing the Frankish king's skull, but the angel Gabriel speaks words of encouragement in the king's ear. Charlemagne smashes Baligant's skull. The pagans retreat and the Franks give chase, slaughtering almost all of them.
The chase goes all the way back to Saragossa. Marsile and Bramimonde are horrified by the sight; Marsile dies of grief, and the devils carry his soul to hell. The Franks take Saragossa. Bramimonde surrenders the keys to the towers. The Christians smash the holy relics of the Jews and the Moslems, and Charlemagne proclaims that those who do not convert to Christianity will be put to death. Bramimonde is the exception. She will be taken to France as captive, so that she can become a Christian by her own decision.

Charlemagne leaves a garrison and returns to his capitol, Aix, passing through many French cities along the way. He deposits the oliphant at a sacred site, and leaves the bodies of Roland, Oliver, and the Archbishop at the church of St. Romain. He arrives in Aix and summons his judges: the trial of Ganelon will begin soon. But first, Charlemagne must give Aude, Roland's wife, the news of his death. She dies of grief on the spot.
Ganelon, brutalized by the servants, faces the charge of treason. He argues that though he arranged for Roland's death, it was in reaction to Roland's nomination of him as envoy, which Ganelon thinks was an attempt to kill him. Though he betrayed Roland, he did not betray the king. Thirty of Ganelon's kinsmen speak for him. Among them is Pinabel, a mighty knight and gifted speaker. Pinabel is so persuasive that the judges, who are collected from all over Charlemagne's realm, are inclined to seek peace and let Ganelon go free. Charlemagne is grieved by their choice. Only Thierry, brother of Lord Geoffrey, is willing to fight for the case that Ganelon is guilty of treason.
Thierry argues to Charlemagne that "whatever Roland may have done to Ganelon, / The act of serving you should have protected him. / Ganelon is a traitor in that he betrayed him" (ll. 3827-9). Thierry is willing to fight against any who say otherwise, and Pinabel accepts the challenge. Pinabel is by far the stronger and larger man.
The men make confessions at church and return to fight. The combat is fierce. The audience is moved to weeping with worry and sorrow for the men: they quickly dehorse each other and destroy each other's shields, leaving the combat to the sword. Pinabel offers to be Thierry's vassal if they cease the combat, and let Ganelon live. Thierry refuses, and offers to reconcile Pinabel to the king, if Pinabel will stop fighting and let Ganelon die. Pinabel refuses, saying he will stand by his kinsman. They continue fighting, and, as Pinabel is stronger, he wounds Thierry badly. But Thierry is protected from death by God, and he rallies to deliver the killing blow. The Franks proclaim that God has worked a miracle. They decide to have Ganelon's thirty kinsmen executed along with him. Ganelon's kinsmen are all hanged, and he himself is drawn and quartered (each limb is tied to a horse; the horses run in opposing directions, ripping the victim apart).
Charlemagne announces that Bramimonde, having heard the gospels and the articles of Christian faith, wishes to be baptized. She is christened Juliana. That night, Gabriel appears to Charlemagne in a dream, telling him that he must aid King Vivien of Imphe, a Christian monarch besieged by pagans. His reaction is weary and sorrowful: "ŒGod,' said the king, Œhow wearisome my life is!' / He weeps and tugs at his white beard" (ll. 4000-1). Thus the poem ends.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Greek Gods and Goddesses

The Twelve Olympian Gods (THE OLYMPIANS. These twelve immortals dwelt in a magnificent palace on the heights of Mount Olympus, from which they took their name).

The Twelve Olympians, in Greek mythology, were the principal gods of the Greek pantheon, residing atop Mount Olympus. There were, at various times, fourteen different gods recognized as Olympians, though never more than twelve at one time. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis are always considered Olympians. Hestia, Demeter, Dionysus, and Hades are the variable gods among the Twelve. Hestia gave up her position as an Olympian to Dionysus in order to live among mankind (eventually she was assigned the role of tending the fire on Mount Olympus). Persephone spent six months of the year in the underworld (causing winter), and was allowed to return to Mount Olympus for the other six months in order to be with her mother, Demeter. And, although Hades was always one of the principal Greek gods, his home in the underworld of the dead made his connection to the Olympians more tenuous. The Olympians gained their supremacy in the world of gods after Zeus led his siblings to victory in war with the Titans; Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, and Hades were siblings; all other Olympians (with the exception of foam-born Aphrodite) are usually considered the children of Zeus by various mothers, except for Athena, who in some versions of the myth was born of Zeus alone. Additionally, some versions of the myth state that Hephaestus was born of Hera alone as Hera's revenge for Zeus' solo birth of Athena.

ZEUS (zoose or zyoose; Roman name Jupiter) was the supreme god of the Olympians. He was the father of the heroes Perseus and Heracles, the latter of whom once wrestled him to a draw.

Zeus was the youngest son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. When he was born, his father Cronus intended to swallow him as he had all of Zeus's siblings: Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter and Hera. But Rhea hid the newborn in a cave on Mount Dicte in Crete. (To this day, the guides at the "cave of Zeus" use their flashlights to cast shadow puppets in the cave, creating images of baby Zeus from the myth.)

When he had grown up, Zeus caused Cronus to vomit up his sisters and brothers, and these gods joined him in fighting to wrest control of the universe from the Titans and Cronus, their king. Having vanquished his father and the other Titans, Zeus imprisoned most of them in the underworld of Tartarus.

Then he and his brothers Poseidon and Hades divided up creation. Poseidon received the sea as his domain, Hades got the Underworld and Zeus took the sky. Zeus also was accorded supreme authority on earth and on Mount Olympus.

HERA (HEE-ruh; Roman name Juno) was the goddess of marriage. Hera was the wife of Zeus and Queen of the Olympians.

Hera hated the great hero Heracles since he was the son of her husband Zeus and a mortal woman. When he was still an infant, she sent snakes to attack him in his crib. Later she stirred up the Amazons against him when he was on one of his quests.

On the other hand, Hera aided the hero Jason, who would never have retrieved the Golden Fleece without her sponsorship.

In Greek mythology, Hera was the reigning female goddess of Olympus because she was Zeus's wife. But her worship is actually far older than that of her husband. It goes back to a time when the creative force we call "God" was conceived of as a woman. The Goddess took many forms, among them that of a bird.

Hera was worshipped throughout Greece, and the oldest and most important temples were consecrated to her. Her subjugation to Zeus and depiction as a jealous shrew are mythological reflections of one of the most profound changes ever in human spirituality.

Tens of thousands of years ago, as the evidence of cave art and artifacts makes clear, humanity was focused on the female body, either pregnant or fit to bear children. Childbirth was the closest humans came to the great power that caused the earth to bring forth new life in the spring. To the extent that these distant ancestors of ours were evolved enough to think of worshipping this power, we may safely conclude that they thought of it as female.

Thousands of years later (and some five to nine thousand years before our own time), the European descendants of these people lived in large villages, with specialized crafts and religious institutions. It is clear from the artifacts they left behind that they worshipped a power (or a group of powers) that came in many forms--a bird, a snake, perhaps the earth itself. And this great power was female. For the human female has the ability to procreate--to bring forth new life.

It is said that it was only when humanity discovered man's role in procreation that male gods began to be worshipped. There is no reason to doubt, though, that male gods were worshipped before the mystery of birth was fully known. In all probability the greatest powers were thought of as female but there were male deities as well. And it is clear that even after procreation was properly understood, the more peaceful Europeans--perhaps down to the "Minoans" of Crete--continued to worship the Great Mother.

And there were many peaceful Europeans. Many of the largest villages of that distant era were unfortified. The culture known as "Old European" did not fear aggression from its neighbors. But then things changed and a great period of violence began. Invaders swept into Europe from the vast central plains of Asia. They brought the Indo-European language family that today includes French, Italian, Spanish and English. They also brought a sky god, the supreme male deity that in Greek mythology became known as Zeus.

Little is known of these early Indo-Europeans, but the peaceful settlements of Old Europe were no match for them. In some places their new culture became supreme, in others there was merger. Hardier mountain folk resisted, though many were displaced from their strongholds, moved on and displaced others in a domino effect. The Dorian invasion of Mycenaean Greece can be seen as a result of this chain reaction.

The old order seems to have held out longest on Crete where, protected by the Aegean Sea from invasion by land, the high Minoan civilization survived until almost three thousand years ago. Abruptly, then, from the perspective of human existence, the gender of the greatest power changed from female to male. And many of the stories that form the basis of Greek mythology were first told in their present form not long after the shift.

Zeus's many adulterous affairs may derive from ceremonies in which the new sky god "married" various local embodiments of the Great Goddess. That there was some insecurity on the part of the supplanter god and his worshippers is seen in the mythological birth of Athena from Zeus's head--as if to say that the sky god could do anything any Great Goddess could do.

This Goddess continued to be worshipped in some form down into historical times. Her worship is sometimes dismissed as a "fertility cult", largely because religious practices degenerated under new influences. But we may look for traces in the myths of the old order, in which Athena, whose name is pre-Greek, was the Goddess herself.

Under the influence of the Indo-Europeans, this bird goddess became the chief deity of war. Her earlier guise may be glimpsed in Athena's symbol, the owl, which derives from the preceding thousands of years of sacred bird imagery.

APHRODITE (a-fro-DYE-tee; Roman name Venus) was the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. She was also a protectress of sailors.

The poet Hesiod said that Aphrodite was born from sea-foam. Homer, on the other hand, said that she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

When the Trojan prince Paris was asked to judge which of three Olympian goddesses was the most beautiful, he chose Aphrodite over Hera and Athena. The latter two had hoped to bribe him with power and victory in battle, but Aphrodite offered the love of the most beautiful woman in the world.

This was Helen of Sparta, who became infamous as Helen of Troy when Paris subsequently eloped with her. In the ensuing Trojan War, Hera and Athena were implacable enemies of Troy while Aphrodite was loyal to Paris and the Trojans.


In his epic of the Trojan War, Homer tells how Aphrodite intervened in battle to save her son Aeneas, a Trojan ally. The Greek hero Diomedes, who had been on the verge of killing Aeneas, attacked the goddess herself, wounding her on the wrist with his spear and causing the ichor to flow. (Ichor is what immortals have in the place of blood.)

Aphrodite promptly dropped Aeneas, who was rescued by Apollo, another Olympian sponsor of the Trojans. In pain she sought out her brother Ares, the god of war who stood nearby admiring the carnage, and borrowed his chariot so that she might fly up to Olympus. There she goes crying to her mother Dione, who soothes her and cures her wound. Her father Zeus tells her to leave war to the likes of Ares and Athena, while devoting herself to the business of marriage.

Elsewhere in Homer's Iliad , Aphrodite saves Paris when he is about to be killed in single combat by Menelaus. The goddess wraps him in a mist and spirits him away, setting him down in his own bedroom in Troy. She then appears to Helen in the guise of an elderly handmaiden and tells her that Paris is waiting for her.

Helen recognizes the goddess in disguise and asks if she is being led once more to ruin. For Aphrodite had bewitched her into leaving her husband Menelaus to run off with Paris. She dares to suggest that Aphrodite go to Paris herself.

Suddenly furious, the goddess warns Helen not to go too far, lest she be abandoned to the hatred of Greeks and Trojans alike. "I'll hate you," says the mercurial goddess, "as much as I love you now."

Even though Zeus's queen Hera and Aphrodite are on different sides in the Trojan War, the goddess of love loans Hera her magical girdle in order to distract Zeus from the fray. This garment has the property of causing men (and gods) to fall hopelessly in love with whoever is wearing it.

Homer calls Aphrodite "the Cyprian", and many of her attributes may have come from Asia via Cyprus (and Cythera) in Mycenaean times. These almost certainly mixed with a preexisting Hellenic or Aegean goddess. The ancient Greeks themselves felt that Aphrodite was both Greek and foreign.


Aphrodite involved herself on other occasions in the affairs of mortal heroes. When Jason asked permission of the king of Colchis to remove the Golden Fleece from the grove in which it hung, the king was clearly unwilling. So the goddess Hera, who sponsored Jason's quest, asked her fellow-Olympian Aphrodite to intervene. The love goddess made the king's daughter Medea fall in love with Jason, and Medea proved instrumental in Jason's success.


Another time, Zeus punished Aphrodite for beguiling her fellow gods into inappropriate romances. He caused her to become infatuated with the mortal Anchises. That's how she came to be the mother of Aeneas. She protected this hero during the Trojan War and its aftermath, when Aeneas quested to Italy and became the mythological founder of a line of Roman emperors.

A minor Italic goddess named Venus became identified with Aphrodite, and that's how she got her Roman name. It is as Venus that she appears in the Aeneiad , the poet Virgil's epic of the founding of Rome.

And on still another occasion,


The love goddess was married to the homely craftsman-god Hephaestus. She was unfaithful to him with Ares, and Homer relates in the Odyssey how Hephaestus had his revenge.


Elsewhere in classical art she has no distinctive attributes other than her beauty. Flowers and vegetation motifs suggest her connection to fertility.

Aphrodite was associated with the dove. Another of her sacred birds was the goose, on which she is seen to ride in a vase painting from antiquity.

Hesiod's reference to Aphrodite's having been born from the sea inspired the Renaissance artist Botticelli's famous painting of the goddess on a giant scallop shell. Equally if not better known is the Venus de Milo, a statue which lost its arms in ancient times.


The ancient travel writer Pausanias describes a number of statues of Aphrodite dressed for battle, many of them in Sparta. Given the manner in which the militaristic Spartans raised their girls, it is not surprising that they conceived of a female goddess in military attire. She also would have donned armaments to defend cities, such as Corinth, who adopted her as their patroness. This is not to say that she was a war goddess, although some have seen her as such and find significance in her pairing with the war god Ares in mythology and worship.

The two most recent editions of "The Oxford Classical Dictionary" are at variance over this aspect of the goddess. The 1970 edition sees her as a goddess of war and traces this to her Oriental roots. It is true that she has resemblances to Astarte, who is a goddess of war as well as fertility.

The 1996 edition of "The Oxford Classical Dictionary", on the other hand, offers several counterarguments. It sees her being paired with Ares, for instance, not because they are similarly warlike but precisely because love and war are opposites.

In any case, Aphrodite's primary function was to preside over reproduction, since this was essential for the survival of the community.

APOLLO (uh-POL-oh; Roman name Apollo) was the god of prophesy, music and healing.

Like most of his fellow Olympians, Apollo did not hesitate to intervene in human affairs. It was he who brought about the demise of the mighty Achilles. Of all the heroes besieging the city of Troy in the Trojan War, Achilles was the best fighter by far. He had easily defeated the Trojan captain Hector in single combat. But Apollo helped Hector's brother Paris slay Achilles with an arrow.

When someone died suddenly, he was said to have been struck down by one of Apollo's arrows. Homer's epic of the Trojan War begins with the god causing a plague by raining arrows down upon the Greek camp.

As god of music, Apollo is often depicted playing the lyre. He did not invent this instrument, however, but was given it by Hermes in compensation for cattle theft. Some say that Apollo did invent the lute, although he was best known for his skill on the lyre.

He won several musical contests by playing this instrument. In one case he bested Pan, who competed on his own invention, the shepherd's pipe. On this occasion, King Midas had the bad sense to say that he preferred Pan's music, which caused Apollo to turn his ears into those of an ass.

ATHENA (a-THEE-nuh; Roman name Minerva) was the goddess of crafts and the domestic arts and also those of war. She was the patron goddess of Athens. Her symbol was the owl. She was originally the Great Goddess in the form of a bird. By the late Classic, she had come to be regarded as a goddess of wisdom

Zeus was once married to Metis, a daughter of Ocean who was renowned for her wisdom. When Metis became pregnant, Zeus was warned by Earth that a son born to Metis would overthrow him, just as he had usurped his own father's throne.

So Zeus swallowed Metis. In time he was overcome with a splitting headache and summoned help from the craftsman god Hephaestus (or, some say, the Titan Prometheus). Hephaestus cleaved Zeus's forehead with an ax, and Athena sprang forth fully armed.

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The poet Hesiod tells the story to account for Zeus's great wisdom, since he can be said to have literally incorporated Metis. One can also read into the myth wishful thinking on the part of the mythmakers who replaced the worship of the Great Goddess, mother of all growing things, for that of the male sky-god Zeus. Zeus gave birth to Athena himself, as if to say, Who needs a woman in order to bring forth new life?

Athena aided the heroes Perseus, Jason, Cadmus, Odysseus and Heracles in their quests.

Both Athena and Poseidon wanted to be patron deity of Athens. To prove her worthiness for the honor, Athena caused an olive tree to spring up on the citadel of Athens, the Acropolis. Poseidon sought to outdo her by striking the ground with his trident and causing a spring of water to gush forth. But as he was god of the sea, the water was salty. Athena's gift to the Athenians was considered to be more useful, so she became the city's patron deity.

Athena sponsored Perseus in his quest to slay Medusa because she wanted the Gorgon's head to decorate her shield.

HERMES (HUR-meez; Roman name Mercury) was the messenger of the gods and guide of dead souls to the Underworld. A prankster and inventive genius from birth, Hermes aided the heroes Odysseus and Perseus in their quests.

Hermes was the son Zeus and a mountain nymph. As a newborn he was remarkably precocious. On his very first day of life, he found the empty shell of a tortoise and perceived its utility as a sounding chamber. Stringing sinews across it, he created the first lyre.

Hermes was known for his helpfulness to mankind, both in his capacity as immortal herald and on his own initiative. When Perseus set out to face the Gorgon Medusa, Hermes aided him in the quest. According to one version of the myth, he loaned the hero his own magic sandals, which conferred upon the wearer the ability to fly.

Some say that Hermes loaned Perseus a helmet of invisibility as well. Also known as the helmet of darkness, this was the same headgear that Hermes himself had worn when he vanquished the giant Hippolytus. This was on the occasion when the gargantuan sons of Earth rose up in revolt against the gods of Olympus.

Hermes' symbol of office as divine messenger was his staff, or caduceus. This was originally a willow wand with entwined ribbons, traditional badge of the herald. But the ribbons were eventually depicted as snakes. To support this mythologically, a story evolved that Hermes used the caduceus to separate two fighting snakes which forthwith twined themselves together in peace.

It was Hermes' job to convey dead souls to the Underworld. And as patron of travelers, he was often shown in a wide-brimmed sun hat of straw. Hermes was known to the Romans as Mercury. His most famous depiction, a statue by Bellini, shows him alight on one foot, wings at his heels, the snaky caduceus in hand and, on his head, a rather stylized combination helmet-of-darkness and sun hat.

DEMETER (dee-MEE-tur; Roman name Ceres) was the goddess of agriculture. Demeter as the sister of Zeus and the mother of Persephone.

Persephone was gathering flowers in a meadow one day when a huge crack opened up in the earth and Hades, King of the Dead, emerged from the Underworld. He seized Persephone and carried her off in his chariot, back down to his his realm below, where she became his queen. Demeter was heartbroken. She wandered the length and breadth of the earth in search of her daughter, during which time the crops withered and it became perpetual winter.

At length Hades was persuaded to surrender Persephone for one half of every year, the spring and summer seasons when flowers bloom and the earth bears fruit once more. The half year that Persephone spends in the Underworld as Hades' queen coincides with the barren season.

When depicted in art, Demeter is often shown carrying a sheaf of grain.

HEPHAESTUS (he-FEE-stus or he-FESS-tus; Roman name Vulcan) was the lame god of fire and crafts or the two together, hence of blacksmiths. Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera or, in some accounts, of Hera alone. He limped because he was born lame, which caused his mother to throw him off Mount Olympus. Or in other accounts he interceded in a fight between Zeus and Hera, and Zeus took him by the foot and threw him from Olympus to the earth far below.

Hephaestus accomplished numerous prodigies of craftsmanship, such as the marvelous palaces that he built for the gods atop Mount Olympus, or the armor that he made for Achilles during the siege of Troy (the description of which occupies a great many lines of Homer's epic of the Trojan War).

Hephaestus also created the first woman, Pandora, at the command of Zeus, in retaliation for the various tricks by which the Titan Prometheus had benefited mortal men at the expense of the gods. Pandora was given to the Titan's brother, Epimetheus, as his wife. For her dowry she brought a jar filled with evils from which she removed the lid, thereby afflicting men for the first time with hard work and sickness. Only hope remained inside the jar.

ARES (AIR-eez; Roman name Mars) was the god of war, or more precisely of warlike frenzy. Though an immortal deity, he was bested by Heracles in battle and was almost killed when stuffed into a jar by two giants. When another hero wounded him during the Trojan War, he received scant sympathy from his father Zeus.

In appearance, Ares was handsome and cruel. He is often depicted carrying a bloodstained spear. His throne on Mount Olympus was said to be covered in human skin.

The Roman god Mars, with whom Ares was identified, was the father of Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome. Thus he was more important to the Romans than his Greek counterpart. He was also more dignified.

ARTEMIS (AR-ti-mis; Roman name Diana) was the virgin goddess of the hunt. She helped women in childbirth but also brought sudden death with her arrows.

Artemis and her brother Apollo were the children of Zeus and Leto. In some versions of their myth, Artemis was born first and helped her mother to deliver Apollo.

Niobe, queen of Thebes, once boasted that she was better than Leto because she had many children while the goddess had but two. Artemis and Apollo avenged this insult to their mother by killing all or most of Niobe's children with their arrows. The weeping Niobe was transformed into stone, in which form she continued to weep.

When Apollo noticed that Artemis was spending a great deal of time hunting with the giant Orion, he decided to put an end to the relationship. He challenged Artemis to prove her skill at archery by shooting at an object floating far out at sea. Her shot was perfect. The target turned out to be the head of Orion.

Artemis is generally depicted as a young woman clad in buckskins, carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows. She is often accompanied by wild creatures such as a stag or she-bear.

DIONYSUS (dye-oh-NYE-sus; Roman name Bacchus) was the god of wine. Dionysus was the son of Zeus and the mortal heroine Semele.

Dionysus rescued Ariadne after she had been abandoned by Theseus. Dionysus also saved his mother from the Underworld, after Zeus showed her his true nature as storm god and consumed her in lightning.

It was Dionysus who granted Midas the power to turn whatever he touched into gold, then was kind enough to take the power back when it proved inconvenient.

POSEIDON (puh-SYE-dun or poh-SYE-dun; Roman name Neptune) was the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. Although he was officially one of the supreme gods of Mount Olympus, he spent most of his time in his watery domain.

Poseidon was brother to Zeus and Hades. These three gods divided up creation. Zeus was ruler of the sky, Hades had dominion of the Underworld and Poseidon was given all water, both fresh and salt.

Although there were various rivers personified as gods, these would have been technically under Poseidon's sway. Similarly, Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea, wasn't really considered on a par with Poseidon, who was known to drive his chariot through the waves in unquestioned dominance. Poseidon had married Nereus's daughter, the sea-nymph Amphitrite.

In dividing heaven, the watery realm and the subterranean land of the dead, the Olympians agreed that the earth itself would be ruled jointly, with Zeus as king. This led to a number of territorial disputes among the gods. Poseidon vied with Athena to be patron deity of Athens. The god demonstrated his power and benevolence by striking the Acropolis with his three-pronged spear, which caused a spring of salt water to emerge.

Athena, however, planted an olive tree, which was seen as a more useful favor. Her paramount importance to the Athenians is seen in her magnificent temple, the Parthenon, which still crowns the Acropolis. The people of Athens were careful, all the same, to honor Poseidon as well (as soon as his anger calmed down and he withdrew the flood of seawater with which he ravaged the land after his loss in the contest with Athena).

Poseidon was father of the hero Theseus, although the mortal Aegeus also claimed this distinction. Theseus was happy to have two fathers, enjoying the lineage of each when it suited him. Thus he became king of Athens by virtue of being Aegeus's son, but availed himself of Poseidon's parentage in facing a challenge handed him by King Minos of Crete. This monarch threw his signet ring into the depths of the sea and dared Theseus to retrieve it. The hero dove beneath the waves and not only found the ring but was given a crown by Poseidon's wife, Amphitrite.

Poseidon was not so well-disposed toward another famous hero. Because Odysseus blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus, who was Poseidon's son, the god not only delayed the hero's homeward return from the Trojan War but caused him to face enormous perils. At one point he whipped up the sea with his trident and caused a storm so severe that Odysseus was shipwrecked.

Poseidon similarly cursed the wife of King Minos. Minos had proved his divine right to rule Crete by calling on Poseidon to send a bull from the sea, which the king promised to sacrifice. Poseidon sent the bull, but Minos liked it too much to sacrifice it. So Poseidon asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to make Minos's queen, Pasiphae, fall in love with the bull. The result was the monstrous Minotaur, half-man, half-bull.

As god of horses, Poseidon often adopted the shape of a steed. It is not certain that he was in this form when he wooed Medusa. But when Perseus later killed the Gorgon, the winged horse Pegasus sprang from her severed neck.

Poseidon sometimes granted the shape-shifting power to others. And he ceded to the request of the maiden Caenis that she be transformed into the invulnerable, male warrior Caeneus.

There were many OTHER GODS besides the Olympians. A number of them were said to live atop Mount Olympus with the supreme twelve.

For instance, Heracles was made into a god when he died, and he was given the goddess Hebe as his wife. They lived together in a palace on Olympus. Only the Olympians themselves, however, met in supreme council, seated together in Zeus's royal hall on twelve ornate thrones.

For that matter, the composition of the Olympians changed over time. Originally Hestia, goddess of the hearth, was one of the twelve, but she grew tired of the godly bickering and gladly gave her place to the god of wine, Dionysus.

On the other hand, Hades, god of the dead and brother of Zeus and Poseidon, isn't included in our assembly because he dwelt in the Underworld and not on Olympus. His Roman name was Pluto.


Pan was a god of shepherds and flocks. Pan was the son of Hermes and a nymph. He was born with the legs and horns of a goat, which caused his own mother to spurn him.

Nor was the adult god more popular with the nymphs. Echo ran away from him and lost her voice as a consequence, being condemned only to repeat the words of others. Another fleeing nymph was transformed into a reed, which inspired Pan to invent the shepherd's pipe of bound reeds of varying lengths.

Pan was considered to be the cause of the sudden fear that sometimes comes for no reason, especially in lonely places. That's why it's called "panic".

Twelve Titan Gods and Goddesses:

The 12 Titans gods, also known as the elder gods, who ruled the Earth before the Olympians overthrew them. The ruler of the Titans was Cronus who was dethroned by his son Zeus. Most of the Titans fought with Cronus against Zeus and were punished by being banished to Tartarus.


In Greek mythology, Coeus (also Koios) was the Titan of intelligence. Titans are the giant sons and daughters of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth). With his sister Phoebe, Titan of Brilliance and the Moon, Coeus fathered Leto and Asteria. Leto copulated with Zeus (the son of fellow Titans Cronus and Rhea) and bore Artemis and Apollo.As with the other Titans, Coeus was overthrown by Zeus and other Olympians.


In Greek mythology, Crius (Kreios, the "Ram") was one of the Titans in the list given in Hesiod's Theogony, a son of Uranus and Gaia. The least individualized among them, he was overthrown in the Titanomachy. M.L. West has suggested how Hesiod filled out the complement of Titans from the core group, adding three figures from the archaic tradition of Delphi, Koios, Phoibe, whose name Apollo assumed with the oracle, and Themis. Among possible further interpolations among the Titans was Kreios, whose interest for Hesiod was as the father of Perses and grandfather of Hekate, for whom Hesiod is an "enthusiastic evangelist".

Consorting with Eurybia, daughter of Earth Gaia and Sea Pontus, he fathered Astraios and Pallas as well as Perses. The joining of Astraios with Eos, the Dawn, brought forth Eosphoros, the other Stars and the Winds.

Joined to fill out lists of Titans to form a total that made a match with the Twelve Olympians, Crius/Kreios was inexorably involved in the eleven-year-long war between the Olympian gods and Titans, the Titanomachy, however without any specific part to play. When the war was lost, Crius/Kreios was banished along with the others to the lower basement of Hades called Tartarus. From his chthonic position in the Underworld, no classical association with Aries, the "Ram" of the zodiac, is ordinarily made.

Cronus "horned"), also spelled Cronos or Kronos, is often confused with Chronos/Khronos.

In Greek mythology, Cronus was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans. His mother was Gaia, and his father was Uranus, whom Cronus envied.

Uranus hid the youngest children of Gaia, the one-hundred armed giants (Hecatonchires) and the one-eyed giants, the Cyclopes, in Tartarus so that they would not see the light, rejoicing in this evil doing. This caused pain to Gaia, so she created a great sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to ask them to obey her. Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and set him in ambush. Cronus ambushed his father and castrated him, casting the severed member into the sea. From that which spilled from Uranus and fell upon the Earth came forth the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae. From that which was cast into the sea came forth Aphrodite. For this, Uranus called his sons Titans, meaning "strainers," for they strained and did presumptuously a fearful deed, for which vengeance would come afterwards.

Cronus was identified in antiquity with the God Saturn of Roman mythology. The period of his rule was said to be a golden age on Earth, honored by the Saturnalia feast. Beginning on December 17 of each year, during the festival known as the Saturnalia, the Golden Age was restored for seven days. All business stopped and executions and military operations were postponed. It was a period of goodwill, devoted to banquets and the exchange of visits and gifts. A special feature of the festival was the freedom given to slaves, who during this time had first place at the family table and were served by their masters.

In an alternate version, a more benevolent Cronus overthrew the wicked serpentine Titan, Ophion. In doing so he released the world from bondage and for a time ruled it justly.

After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes, and the Cyclopes and set the monster Campe to guard them. He and Rhea took the throne as King and Queen of the gods. This time was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did right, so there was no need.

Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son as he had overthrown his own father. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Uranus and Earth to devise a plan to save him, so that Cronus would get his retribution for his acts against Uranus and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes (also known as the Omphalos Stone) which he promptly swallowed.

Then she hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete.

Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge the other children in reverse order of swallowing: first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, then the rest. In some versions, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the babies, or Zeus cut Cronus' stomach open. Then Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires, and the Cyclopes, who gave him thunder and the thunderbolt and lightning, which had previously been hidden by Gaia. In a war called the Titanomachy, Zeus and his brothers and sisters with the Gigantes, Hecatonchires, and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans. Cronus and the Titans were confined in Tartarus, a dank misty gloomy place at the deepest point in the Earth. Ironically, Zeus also imprisoned the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes there as well.

Cronus was worshipped as a corn god, from his association with the Golden Age. He was a god of the harvest, grain, nature, and agriculture. He was usually depicted with a sickle, which he used to harvest crops as well as castrate his father. In Athens, on the twelfth day of every month (Hekatombaion), a festival called Kronia was held in honor of Cronus and to celebrate the harvest.


Hyperion was the Titan god of light, the father of the three shining gods of heaven - Eos the Light of Dawn and Day, Helios the Sun, and Selene the Moon.

In the Homer's Iliad and Odyssey the sun god is called Helios Hyperion, 'Sun High-one'. But in the Odyssey, Hesiod's Theogony and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter the sun is once in each work called Hyperonides 'Son of Hyperion' and Hesiod certainly imagines Hyperion as a separate being in other places.

Hyperion is often considered the 'God of Observation' and is the brother of Theia the 'Goddess of Sight.'

In later Greek literature Hyperion is always distinguished from Helios as a Titan, the son of Gaia 'Goddess Earth' and Uranus 'God Sky', and the father of Helios 'God Sun', Selene 'Goddess Moon' and Eos 'Goddess Dawn' by his sister Theia 'Goddess Sight'.

Hyperion plays virtually no role in Greek cult and little role in mythology, save in lists of the twelve Titans. Later Greeks intellectualized their myths.


In Greek mythology Iapetus, or Iapetos, was a Titan, the son of Uranus and Gaia, and father (by an Oceanid named Clymene or Asia) of Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Menoetius and through Prometheus and Epimetheus and Atlas an ancestor of the human race. Iapetus is the one Titan mentioned by Homer in the Iliad (8.478­81) as being in Tartarus with Cronus.

Iapetus' wife is normally a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys named Clymene or Asia.

But in Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound, Prometheus is son of the goddess Themis with no father named (but still with at least Atlas as a brother).

Since mostly the Titans indulge in marriage of brother and sister, it might be that Aeschylus is using an old tradition in which Themis is Iapetus' wife but that the Hesiodic tradition preferred that Themis and Mnemosyne be consorts of Zeus alone. But it would be been quite within Achaean practice for Zeus to have taken the wives of the Titans as his mistresses after throwing down their husbands.

Iapetus is sometimes equated by Creationists with Japheth, the son of Noah, based on the similarity of their names, though scholars of Indo-European linguistics dispute such an equation vehemently.


Mnemosyne (sometimes confused with Mneme or compared with Memoria) was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. This titaness was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus and the mother of the Muses by Zeus. In Hesiod's Theogony, kings and poets receive their powers of authoritative speech from their possession of Mnemosyne and their special relationship with the Muses.

Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together for nine consecutive nights and thereby created the nine muses. Mnemosyne was also the name for a river in Hades, counterpart to the river Lethe, according to a series of 4th century BC Greek funerary inscriptions in dactylic hexameter. Dead souls drank from Lethe so they would not remember their past lives when reincarnated. Initiates were encouraged to drink from the river Mnemosyne when they died, instead of Lethe. These inscriptions may have been connected with a private mystery religion, or with Orphic poetry (see Zuntz, 1971).


Oceanus or Okeanos refers to the ocean, which the Greeks and Romans regarded as a river circling the world. Strictly speaking, it was the ocean-stream at the Equator in which floated the habitable hemisphere (oikoumene. In Greek mythology this world-ocean was personified as a Titan, a son of Uranus and Gaia. In ancient Greek beliefs this Titan is often depicted as having the upper body of a muscular man with a long beard and horns, and the lower torso of a serpent.

Oceanus' consort is his sister Tethys, and from their union came the ocean nymphs, also known as the three-thousand Oceanids, and all the rivers of the world.

Some scholars believe he originally represented all bodies of salt water, including the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the two largest bodies known to the ancient Greeks. However, as geography became more accurate, Oceanus came to represent the stranger, more unknown waters of the Atlantic Ocean (also called the Ocean Sea), while Poseidon ruled over the Mediterranean.

In most variations of the war between the Titans and the Olympians ("Titanomachy"), Oceanus, along with Prometheus, and Themis, did not take the side of his fellow Titans against the Olympians, but instead withdrew from the conflict. In most variations of this myth, Oceanus also refused to side with Cronus in the latter's revolt against their father, Uranus.


Phoebe, in her name simply the feminine counterpart of Phoebus, was one of the original Titans, one set of sons and daughters of Uranus and Gaia in Greek mythology. She was traditionally associated with the moon (see Selene), as in Michael Drayton's Endimion and Ph¦be, (1595), the first extended treatment of the Endymion myth in English. Her consort was her brother Coeus, with whom she had three children, Leto, Asteria and Hekate.

Through Leto she was the grandmother of Apollo and Artemis. The names Phoebe and Phoebus came to be applied as a synonym for Artemis and an epithet of Apollo. According to a speech that Aeschylus, in Eumenides, puts in the mouth of the Delphic priestess herself, she received control of the Oracle at Delphi from Themis: "Phoebe in this succession seems to be his private invention," D.S. Robertson noted, reasoning that in the three great allotments of oracular powers at Delphi, corresponding to the three generations of the gods, "Ouranos, as was fitting, gave the oracle to his wife Gaia and Kronos appropriately allotted it to his sister Themis." In Zeus' turn to make the gift, however, Aeschylus could not report that the oracle was given directly to Apollo, who had not yet been born, Robertson notes, and thus Phoebe was interposed. These supposed male delegations of the powers at Delphi are not borne out by the usual reconstruction of the sacred site's pre-Olympian history.



Rhea (or Ria meaning "she who flows") was the Titaness daughter of Uranus and of Gaia. She was sister to Cronus and mother to Demeter, Hades, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. She was strongly associated with Cybele. In Roman mythology, she was Magna Mater deorum Idaea and identified with Ops.In art, Rhea was usually depicted on a chariot drawn by two lions, not always distinguishable from Cybele.

Her husband, Cronus, castrated their father, Uranus. After this, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes and the Cyclopes and set the monster Campe to guard them. He and Rhea took the throne as King and Queen of the gods. This time was called the Golden Age as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did right and as such, there was no need.

Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son as he had overthrown his own father. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Uranus and Earth to devise a plan to save him, so that Cronus would get his retribution for his acts against Uranus and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes which he promptly swallowed.

Then she hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete. According to varying versions of the story:

1. He was then raised by Gaia.

2. He was suckled by a goat named Amalthea, while a company of Kouretes, soldiers, or smaller gods danced, shouted and clapped their hands to make noise so that Cronus would not hear the baby's cry.

3. He was raised by a nymph named Adamanthea. Since Cronus ruled over the earth, the heavens and the sea, she hid him by dangling him on a rope from a tree so he was suspended between earth, sea and sky and thus, invisible to his father.

In Greek mythology, Zeus forced the Titan Cronus to disgorge the other children in reverse order of swallowing: first the stone, which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, then the rest. In some versions, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the babies, or Zeus cut Cronus' stomach open. Then Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes, who gave him thunder and the thunderbolt and lightning, which had previously been hidden by Gaia. Together, Zeus and his brothers and sisters with the Gigantes, Hecatonchires and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans.

In Homer, Rhea is the mother of the gods, though not a universal mother like Cybele, the Phrygian Great Mother, with whom she was later identified. The original seat of her worship was in Crete. There, according to legend, she saved the new-born Zeus, her sixth child, from being devoured by Kronos, by substituting a stone for the infant god and entrusting him to the care of her attendants the Curetes.

These attendants afterwards became the bodyguard of Zeus and the priests of Rhea, and performed ceremonies in her honour. In historic times, the resemblances between Rhea and the Asiatic Great Mother, Phrygian Cybele, were so noticeable that the Greeks accounted for them by regarding the latter as only their own Rhea, who had deserted her original home in Crete and fled to the mountain wilds of Asia Minor to escape the persecution of Kronos (Strabo. 469, 12). The reverse view was also held (Virgil, Aeneid iii), and it is probably true that cultural contacts with the mainland brought to Crete the worship of the Asiatic Great Mother, who became the Cretan Rhea.

In Greek mythology, Rhea's symbol is the moon. However, in Roman mythology, her symbol is known as the lunar (which would seem to mean "Moon"). She has another symbol, the swan, because it is a gentle animal. Also, her other symbol is two lions, supposedly the ones that pull her chariot.


In Greek mythology, Tethys was a Titaness and sea goddess who was both sister and wife of Oceanus. She was mother of the chief rivers of the universe, such as the Nile, the Alpheus, the Maeander, and about three thousand daughters called the Oceanids.

Tethys, along with her husband Oceanus, ruled the seas before Poseidon; Roman mosaic from Daphne (near Antioch) made in the 4th century A.D.Tethys, a Titan sea-goddess who ruled the seas with her husband Oceanus; Roman mosaic from Antioch (House of Calendar) made between the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.During the war against the Titans, Tethys raised Rhea as her god-child.Tethys is sometimes confused with Thetis, the wife of Peleus and mother of Achilles.

Hera was not pleased with the placement of Callisto and Arcas in the sky, as the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, so she asked her nurse, Tethys, to help. Tethys, a marine goddess, cursed the constellations to forever circle the sky and never drop below the horizon, hence explaining why they are circumpolar.


In Greek mythology, Theia (also written Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa ("wide-shining"), was a Titan. With her brother and husband Hyperion, she was the mother of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon) and Eos (the Dawn). According to the Homeric Hymn to Helios, Eryphaesa is listed as their mother. The name Theia alone, means simply "goddess," Theia Euryphaessa with overtones of brightness.

She seems here a goddess of glittering in particular and of glory in general, but Pindar's allusion to her as "Theia of many names" is telling, since it suggests assimilation not only to similar mother-of-the-sun goddess like Phoebe and Leto, but perhaps also to more universalizing mother-figures like Rhea and Cybele.

Theia's mythological role as the mother of the Moon goddess Selene is referenced in the application of the name to a hypothetical planet which, according to one theory, collided with the Earth, resulting in the Moon's creation.

Theia in Modern Paganism

Modern interpretations of Theia by many Neopagans, particularly sects in the United States, include the interpretation that she is the all seeing sister of Hyperion. Theia is sometimes seen as a kind and beautiful goddess, but her blessings are sometimes to be feared.

Worship of Theia may include prostration, and the burning of oils and incense, particularly at dawn or dusk. Worship of Theia is not as common as worship of many other Hellenistic gods. Some sects believe that Theia can grant the ability to see ghosts and spirits, as well as other forms of clairvoyance. Because of this many sects that worship Theia also encourage experimentation with the paranormal.


In Greek mythology, Hesiod mentions Themis among the six sons and six daughters - of whom Cronos was one - of Gaia and Ouranos, that is, of Earth with Sky. Among these Titans of primordial myth, few were venerated at specific sanctuaries in classical times, and Themis was so ancient that the followers of Zeus claimed that it was with him she produced the Three Fates themselves (Hesiod, Theogony, 904).

A fragment of Pindar, however, tells that the Moerae were already present at the nuptials of Zeus and Themis, that in fact the Moerae rose with Themis from the springs of Okeanos the encircling World-Ocean and accompanied her up the bright sun-path to meet Zeus at Olympus. With Zeus she more certainly bore the Horae, those embodiments of the right moment - the rightness of Order unfolding in Time - and Astraea. Themis was there at Delos to witness the birth of Apollo.

Themis (meaning "law of nature" rather than "human ordinance"), she "of good counsel," was the embodiment of divine order, law and custom. When Themis is disregarded, Nemesis brings just and wrathful retribution. Themis is not wrathful: she, "of the lovely cheeks" was the first to offer Hera a cup when she returned to Olympus distraught over threats from Zeus (Iliad xv.88). Themis presided over the proper relation between man and woman, the basis of the rightly ordered family, and the family the pillar of the deme, and judges were often referred to as "themistopoloi" (the servants of Themis). Such was the basis for order upon Olympus too. Hera addressed her as "Lady Themis."

The name of Themis might be substituted for Adrasteia in the birth of Zeus on Crete. She built the Oracle at Delphi and was herself oracular. Themis was one of the gods behind the Oracle at Delphi, which she received from Gaia and gave to Phoebe.

Themis in Neopaganism

Many modern Neopagans, particularly Hellenistic Neopagans, believe that Themis is the goddess of virtue and justice. In many modern sects Themis is thought to take part in deciding the afterlife of one's mortal spirit. She carries a set of scales which weigh a persons virtuous deeds against a persons ill deeds. Themis is also thought to give the final input before the fate of a mortal is decided by Hades (The Judge).

Themis is often considered compassionate and virtuous towards mortals, and concerned with mortal wellbeing as well as mortal plights. Worship of Themis is not uncommon among many pagan sects in the United States, according to some pagan websites Themis may have as many worshippers that Artemis or Hera (two of the most popular pagan gods). Worshippers of Themis often attempt to lead virtuous and charitable lives.

Worship of Themis may take the form of chants, prayer, the burning of oils and incense, and the burning of food or spilling of drinks as offerings. Acts of Charity are also considered to be an active form of worship. Some sects that include worship of Themis encourage tithing, and many encourage proselytizing to non-believers. Proselytizing is typically rare among sects that do not include the worship of Themis. Followers of Themis often discourage hedonism, persecution, grudges, malice, spite, mockery, and revenge. Themis is thought to grant boons of good health, euphoria, virility, and charisma to her followers. Some pagan websites suggest that Themis is most commonly worshipped by males.



Asteria was the daughter of the Titan gods Coeus and Phoebe and sister of Leto. Asteria flung herself into the ocean in the form of a quail in order to escape the advances of Zeus. She became the island of the same name. By Zeus she became the mother of Heracles (not to be confused with the Greek demi-god) who was worshipped at Tyre. By Perses she had a daughter Hecate. Later, the island Asteria was identified with Delos, which was the only piece of earth to give refuge to the fugitive Leto when, pregnant with Zeus's children, she was pursued by vengeful Hera.


In Greek mythology, Astraeus is an astrological deity. His original Greek name, Astraios, translates to "Starry". In Hesiod's Theogony and in the Bibliotheca, Astraeus is a second-generation Titan, descended from Crius and Eurybia. However, Hyginus wrote that he was descended directly from Tartarus and Gaia, and referred to him as one of the Gigantes.

The wife of Astraeus is Eos, the goddess of the dawn, and their sons include the four Anemoi ("Winds"), Boreas, Notus, Eurus, and Zephyrus, and the five Astra Planeta ("Wandering Stars", i.e. planets), Phainon (Saturn), Phaethon (Jupiter), Pyroeis (Mars), Eosphoros/Hesperos (Venus), and Stilbon (Mercury). A few sources mention one daughter, Astraea, but most writers considered Astraea the child of Zeus and Themis.

He is sometimes associated with Aeolus, the Keeper of the Winds.



Atlas was the son of Iapetus and the nymph Clymene, and brother of Prometheus. He was the father of the Hesperides, Maera, the Hyades, Calypso and the Pleiades. Atlas led the Titans in a war against the gods of Mount Olympus. When the Titans were defeated, Zeus punished him with the burden of carrying the heavens upon his shoulders. Atlas was turned to stone by Perseus using Medusa's head in the place where the Atlas mountains now stand, after he threatened Perseus when wanting to speak to his father Zeus about the punishment that had fallen upon him. He is also known as one of the founding kings of Atlantis.

Atlas was tricked by the hero Heracles, one of whose Twelve Labors involved the retrieval of some of the golden apples of the Hesperides; Heracles offered to hold the heavens for a little while in exchange for the apples, and Atlas agreed. Upon his return with the apples, however, Atlas refused to take the heavens back from Heracles. Heracles then tricked the giant again by agreeing to take his place if he would only take the sky again for a few minutes so Heracles could rearrange his cloak as padding on his shoulders. When Atlas took the heavens upon his shoulders again, Heracles left

The etymology of the name Atlas is uncertain and still debated: some derive it from the Proto-Indo-European root 'tel', 'to uphold, support'; others suggest that it is a pre-Indo-European name. Since the Atlas mountains fall in the region inhabited by Berbers, it could be that the latin name as we know it is taken from Berber.

In fact, the sun is often called the 'eye of the sky'.

And since it sets to the west, the Atlantic ocean can be called "the place of concealement of the sun" or Antal n Tit. Greeks could have borrowed this name for the ocean and called it Atlantic, and later used its root ATL to form the name Atlas."Atlas" is also the presently used name of many objects and places (see Atlas (disambiguation)).

Since the middle of the sixteenth century, he is often shown in cartographic atlases. However it was not he but rather the mythical King Atlas that was depicted by Mercator in the first book to bear the name "atlas" and who gave his name to that type of book.

Atlas continues to be a commonly used icon in western culture (and advertising), as a symbol of strength or stoic endurance such as the superhero, Captain Marvel who was granted the stamina of Atlas as part of his powers. In such contemporary depictions, he is often shown kneeling over on one knee while supporting an enormous round globe on his back and shoulders. (The depiction of Atlas holding a large round disk on his back is more accurate, however, since the Greeks believed that the world was flat.)

The image of Atlas bearing a great burden was used by the author Ayn Rand in her novel Atlas Shrugged, which serves as an important metaphor throughout the novel. A character in the novel says that Atlas is "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders", although Atlas actually held the heavens and not the Earth.



In Greek mythology, Clymene or Klymene ("famous might") is the name of at least six possibly distinct females.

* An Oceanid also called Asia, the wife of Iapetus. Mother of Atlas, Epimetheus, Prometheus, and Menoetius.
* An Oceanid, mother of Phaethon by Helios, sometimes as a full wife and mother also of the Heliades (essentially equated with Rhode) and sometimes as wife of Merops with whom Helios secretly lay.
* Mother of Deucalion by Prometheus. Possibly one of the above two (parent-child couplings occasionally occur among the earliest deities in Greek myth).
* Wife of Merops and Queen of Ethiopia, mother of Pandareus, possibly the same as the previous.

* Mother of Atalanta and wife of Schoeneus or Iasus

* Grandaughter of Minos and mother of Palamedes by Nauplius.

* By Ares, mother of Diomedes



Dione in Greek mythology is a vague goddess presence who has her most concrete form in Book V of Homer's Iliad as the mother of Aphrodite: Aphrodite journeys to Dione's side after she has been wounded in battle while protecting her favorite son Aeneas.

In this episode, Dione seems to be the equivalent of Rhea the Earth Mother, whom Homer also placed in Olympus. Dione's Indo-European name is really less a name than simply a title: the "Goddess", etymologically a female form of Zeus. Roman "Diana" has a similar etymology but is not otherwise connected with Dione.

After the Iliad, Aphrodite herself was sometimes referred to as "Dionaea" and even "Dione", just "the goddess" (Peck 1898). At the very ancient oracle of Zeus at Dodona, Dione rather than Hera, was the goddess resorted to in the company of Zeus, as many surviving votive inscriptions show.

Although Dione is not a Titan in Hesiod, but appears instead in his Theogony among the long list of Oceanids, Apollodorus includes her among the Titans (1.1.3 and 1.3.1).

A later mythographer, Hyginus, (Fabulae 82, 83) says that Dione is a daughter of Atlas and the mother, by Tantalus, of Pelops, Niobe and Broteas.



In Greek mythology, Epimetheus was the son of Iapetus and brother of Prometheus and Atlas; "Epimetheus" is Greek for "hindsight."

He was responsible for giving a positive trait to every animal, but when it was time to give man a positive trait, there was nothing left. His brother Prometheus then stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man. As punishment, Zeus created Pandora for Epimetheus, knowing that he would fall in love with her despite the warnings of his more intelligent brother, who told him never to accept a gift from the Olympian gods ("Prometheus" means "foresight").

Epimetheus and Pandora were married. Pandora had been given a box by Hermes and was instructed never to open it. However, Hermes also gave her curiosity, and she opened it anyway releasing all the misfortunes of mankind. She shut it in time to keep one thing in the box: hope. Thus mankind always has hope in times of evil.

The daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora was Pyrrha, who married Deucalion and was one of the two who survived the deluge.



Hyperion is the Titan of light, an early sun god. He is the son of Gaea and Uranus. He married his sister Theia the Goddess of Sight. Their children are Helius (the sun), Selene (the moon), and Eos (the dawn). In the Homer's Iliad and Odyssey the sun god is called Helios Hyperion, 'Sun High-one'. But in the Odyssey, Hesiod's Theogony and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter the sun is once in each work called Hyperonides 'son of Hyperion' and Hesiod certainly imagines Hyperion as a separate being in other places.

In later Greek literature Hyperion is always distinguished from Helios as a Titan, the son of Gaia 'Goddess Earth' and Uranus 'God Sky', and the father of Helios 'God Sun', Selene 'Goddess Moon' and Eos 'Goddess Dawn' by his sister Theia 'Goddess Sight'.



In Greek mythology, Leto is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe: Kos claimed her birthplace. In the Olympian scheme of things, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides. Leto is scarcely to be conceived apart from being pregnant and finding a suitable place to be delivered of Apollo, the second of her twins. This is her one active mythic role: once Apollo and Artemis are grown, Leto withdraws, to remain a dim and benevolent matronly figure upon Olympus, her part already played.

In Roman mythology her equivalent, as mother of Apollo and Diana, is Latona.

In Crete, at the city of Dreros, Spyridon Marinatos uncovered an eighth-century post-Minoan hearth house temple in which there were found three unique figures of Apollo, Artemis and Leto made of brass sheeting hammered over a shaped core. Walter Burkert notes (in Greek Religion) that in Phaistos she appears in connection with an initiation cult. Leto was the principal goddess of Anatolian Lycia. Her sanctuary, the Letoon near Xanthos, united the Lycian confederacy of city-states. The people of Cos also claimed Leto as their own.

A measure of what a primal goddess Leto was can be recognized in her father and mother. Her Titan father is called "Coeus," and his name links him to the sphere of heaven from pole to pole. Leto's mother "Phoebe" is precisely the "pure" and "purifying" epithet of the full moon.

Origin and Meaning of Name

Several explanations have been put forward to explain the origin of the goddess and the meaning of her name. Some have seen her as an importation of the ancient Middle Eastern deity Al Latu, Latu meaning Goddess in classical Arabic (Allatu is the feminine form of Allah).

It has also been proposed that the name "Leto" originates from the verb "lanthanein" (to be concealed or oblivious) that also gives "lethe" (oblivion) and "Lotus" (the fruit that brings oblivion to those who eat it). It would thus mean "the hidden one".

Others say it comes from the same origin as "Leda", meaning "woman/wife" in ancient Lydian.

Birth of Artemis and Apollo

When Hera, the most conservative of goddesses - for she had the most to lose in changes to the order of nature ‹ discovered that Leto was pregnant and that Zeus was the father, she realized that the offspring would cement the new order. She was powerless to stop the flow of events, but she banned Leto from giving birth on "terra firma", the mainland, any island at sea, or any place under the sun.

Some mythographers hinted that Leto came down from the land of the Hyperboreans in the guise of a she-wolf, or that she sought out the "wolf-country" of Lycia for her denning. Most accounts agree that she found the barren floating island of Delos, which was neither mainland nor a real island, and gave birth there, promising the island wealth from the worshippers who would flock to the obscure birthplace of the splendid god who was to come. The island was surrounded by swans. As a gesture of gratitude, Delos was secured with four pillars and later became sacred to Apollo.

It is remarkable that Leto brought forth Artemis, the elder twin, without struggle or pain - as if she were merely revealing another manifestation of herself. Leto labored for nine nights and nine days for Apollo, according to the Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo, in the presence of all the first among the deathless goddesses as witnesses: Dione, Rhea, Ichnaea, Themis and the "loud-moaning" sea-goddess Amphitrite. Only Hera kept apart, perhaps to kidnap Eileithyia or Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to prevent Leto from going into labor. Instead Artemis, having been born first, assisted with the birth of Apollo. Another version states that Artemis was born one day before Apollo, on the island of Ortygia, and that she helped Leto cross the sea to Delos the next day to give birth to Apollo.

Leto was threatened and assailed in her wanderings by chthonic monsters of the ancient earth and old ways, and these became the enemies of Apollo and Artemis. One was the Titan Tityos, a phallic being who grew so vast that he split his mother's womb and had to be carried to term by Gaia herself. He attempted to waylay Leto near Delphi, but was laid low by the arrows of Apollo - or possibly Artemis, as another myth-teller recalled.

Another ancient earth creature that had to be overcome was the dragon Pytho, or Python, which lived in a cleft of the mother-rock beneath Delphi and beside the Castalian Spring. Apollo slew it but had to do penance and be cleansed afterwards, since Python was a child of Gaia. Sometimes the slaying was said to be because Python had attempted to rape Leto while pregnant with Apollo and Artemis, but one way or another, it was necessary that the ancient Delphic Oracle pass to the protection of the new god.

A Queen of Thebes and wife of Amphion, Niobe boasted of her superiority to Leto because she had fourteen children (Niobids), seven male and seven female, while Leto had only two. For her hubris, Apollo killed her sons as they practiced athletics, with the last begging for his life, and Artemis her daughters. Apollo and Artemis used poisoned arrows to kill them, though according to some versions a number of the Niobids were spared (Chloris, usually). Amphion, at the sight of his dead sons, either killed himself or was killed by Zeus after swearing revenge. A devastated Niobe fled to Mount Sipylus in Asia Minor and either turned to stone as she wept or killed herself. Her tears formed the river Achelous. Zeus had turned all the people of Thebes to stone so no one buried the Niobids until the ninth day after their death, when the gods themselves entombed them.

Leto was intensely worshipped in Lycia, Asia Minor. In Delos and Athens she was worshipped primarily as an adjunct to her children. Herodotus reported hearsay of a temple to her in Egypt attached to a floating island called "Khemmis" in Buto, which also included a temple to Apollo. There, Leto was wosrhipped in the form of Wadjet, the cobra-headed goddess of lower Egypt. However, Herodotus didn't believe in the existence of either temple.

Witnesses at the Birth of Apollo

According to the Homeric hymn, the goddesses who assembled to be witnesses at the birth of Apollo were responding to a public occasion in the rites of a dynasty, where the authenticity of the child must be established beyond doubt from the first moment. The dynastic rite of the witnessed birth must have been familiar to the hymn's 8th-century hearers. The dynasty that is so concerned to be authenticated in this myth is the new dynasty of Zeus and the Olympian Pantheon, and the goddesses at Delos who bear witness to the rightness of the birth are the great goddesses of the old order. Demeter is not present; her mother Rhea attends. Aphrodite, a generation older than Zeus, is not present either. The goddess Dione (in her name simply the "Goddess") is sometimes taken by later mythographers as a mere feminine form of Zeus (see entry Dodona): if this were so, she would not have assembled here.

Leto of the Golden Spindle

Pindar calls the goddess Leto Chryselakatos (Sixth Nemean Ode, 36), an epithet that was attached to her daughter Artemis as early as Homer. "The conception of a goddess enthroned like a queen and equipped with a spindle seems to have originated in Asiatic worship of the Great Mother", O. Brendel notes, but a lucky survival of an inscribed inventory of her temple on Delos, where she was the central figures of the Delian trinity, records her cult image as sitting on a wooden throne, clothed in a linen chiton and a linen himation.

The Lycian Peasants

According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, when Leto was wandering the earth after giving birth to Apollo and Artemis, she attempted to drink water from a pond in Lycia. The peasants there refused to allow her to do so by stirring the mud at the bottom of the pond. Leto turned them into frogs for their inhospitality, forever doomed to swim in the murky waters of ponds and rivers. This scene is represented in the central fountain, the Bassin de Latone, in the garden terrace of Versailles.


In Greek mythology, Metis was of the Titan generation and, like several primordial figures, an Oceanid, in the sense that Metis was born of Oceanus and Tethys, of an earlier age than Zeus and his siblings. Metis was the first great spouse of Zeus, indeed his equal (Hesiod, Theogony 896) and the mother of Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. By the era of Greek philosophy Metis had become the goddess of wisdom and deep thought, but her name originally connoted "magical cunning" and was as easily equated with the trickster powers of Prometheus as with the "royal metis" of Zeus. The Stoic commentators allegorized Metis as the embodiment of "wisdom" or "wise counsel", in which form she was inherited by the Renaissance.

Metis was both a threat to Zeus and an indispensable aid. In order to forestall these dire consequences, Zeus tricked her into turning herself into a fly and promptly swallowed her. He was too late: Metis had already conceived a child. In time she began making a helmet and robe for her fetal daughter. The hammering as she made the helmet caused Zeus great pain and Prometheus, Hephaestus, Hermes, or Palaemon (depending on the sources examined) either cleaved Zeus's head with an axe, or hit it with a hammer at the river Triton, giving rise to Athena's epithet Tritogeneia. Athena leaped from Zeus's head, fully grown, armed, and armored, and Zeus was none the worse for the experience. The similarities between Zeus swallowing Metis and Cronus swallowing his children have been noted by several scholars.

The second consort taken by Zeus, according to the Theogony was Themis, "right order". Hesiod's account is followed by Acusilaus and the Orphic tradition, which enthroned Metis side by side with Eros as primal cosmogenic forces. Plato makes poros, or "creative ingenuity", the child of Metis.


In Greek mythology, Prometheus is the Titan chiefly honored for stealing fire from Zeus in the stalk of a fennel plant and giving it to mortals for their use. For that, Zeus ordered him to be chained on top of the Caucasus. Every day an eagle would come and eat his liver, but since Prometheus was immortal, his liver always grew back, so he was left to bear the pain every day. He is depicted as an intelligent and cunning figure who had sympathy for humanity. To this day, the term Promethean refers to events or people of great creativity, intellect, and boldness.

As a god of fire, burning, and craft, Prometheus had a small shrine in the Keramikon, or potter's quarter, of Athens, not far from Plato's Academy.

The Myth

Prometheus was a son of Iapetus by Clymene (one of the Oceanids). He was a brother of Atlas, Menoetius, and Epimetheus. He surpassed all in cunning and deceit. He held no awe for the gods, and he ridiculed Zeus and Zeus's lack of insight and fought alongside of the gods against the Titans.

Prometheus was the creator of man. When he and Epimetheus (hindsight) set out to make creatures to populate the earth under the orders of Zeus, Epimetheus went with quantity and made many creatures, endowing them with many gifts that were alloted to the brother for that purpose (fur, claws, wings, and fins were some of these gifts). While his brother was making creatures, Prometheus was carefully crafting a creature after the shape of the gods. It was a human.

However, Prometheus took so long in crafting his masterpiece that when he was finished, Epimetheus had already used up all the gifts from Zeus. Prometheus was sorry for his creations, and watched as they shivered in the cold winter nights.

He decided to steal fire from the gods after Zeus disagreed with his idea of helping the humans. He climbed Olympus and stole fire from the chariot of Helios (or, in later mythology, Apollo). He carried the fire back in the stalk of a fennel plant, which burns slowly and so was appropriate for this task. Thus mankind was warm.

To appease Zeus, Prometheus told the humans to burn offerings to the gods. He killed a great bull for this purpose. When the gods smelled the offerings, Prometheus decided to play a trick on the gods. The meat he hid beneath a layer of bone and sinew, whilst the bones he disguised with delicious-looking fat. He then offered Zeus his choice of "meat" for the gods to eat. Zeus picked the plate of bones, and Prometheus took the plate of meat for himself and the mortals.

To punish Prometheus for this hubris (and all of mankind in the process), Zeus took fire away from the earth.

Vulcan Chaining Prometheus

To get revenge on Prometheus for his continued offenses, Zeus had Hephaestus (Vulcan) make a woman made of clay named Pandora. Zeus brought her to life and sent her to Prometheus, along with a jar with all the valuable presents she had received from the gods in it. Prometheus was suspicious and would have nothing to do with Pandora, claiming that she was foolish (lacking foresight), and she was sent on to Epimetheus, who married her.

Zeus was further enraged by Prometheus's escape and had Prometheus carried to Mount Caucasus, where an eagle by the name of Ethon (offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna) would eat out his liver; it would grow back each day and the eagle would eat it again.

This punishment was to last 30,000 years. About 30 years into the punishment, Heracles, passing by on his way to find the apples of the Hesperides as part of the Twelve Labors, freed Prometheus, in a bargain he had agreed with Zeus in exchange for Chiron's immortality, by shooting the eagle with an arrow.

Zeus did not mind this time that Prometheus had again evaded his punishment, as the act brought more glory to Heracles, who was Zeus's son. Prometheus was invited to return to Olympus, though he still had to carry with him the rock that he was chained to.

As the introducer of fire and inventor of sacrifice he is seen as the patron of human civilization. Uncertain sources claim he was worshipped in ancient Rome.

He was the father of Deucalion with Celaeno. Epimetheus, the husband of Pandora, was his brother.

The Immortals