Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Ἡσιόδου Θεογονία 924-933

αὐτὸς [Ζεὺς] δ᾽ ἐκ κεφαλῆς γλαυκώπιδα Τριτογένειαν
δεινὴν ἐγρεκύδοιμον ἀγέστρατον ἀτρυτώνην
πότνιαν, ᾗ κέλαδοί τε ἅδον πόλεμοί τε μάχαι τε,
Ἥρη δ᾽ Ἥφαιστον κλυτὸν οὐ φιλότητι μιγεῖσα
γείνατο, καὶ ζαμένησε καὶ ἤρισε ᾧ παρακοίτῃ,
ἐκ πάντων τέχνῃσι κεκασμένον Οὐρανιώνων.
Ἥρη δὲ ζαμένησε καὶ ἤρισε ᾧ παρακοίτῃ.
ἐκ ταύτης δ᾽ ἔριδος ἣ μὲν τέκε φαίδιμον υἱὸν
Ἥφαιστον, φιλότητος ἄτερ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο,
ἐκ πάντων παλάμῃσι κεκασμένον Οὐρανιώνων.

Hephæstus is one of my favourite figures in Greek mythology, not only for his qualities, which any programmer or maker of things is bound to feel an affinity with, but also for the fascinating character dynamics surrounding his forced marriage to Aphrodite.

Until I read this passage, though, I hadn't really paid any attention to the manner of his birth, which in Hesiod's version presents quite a few interesting character dynamics itself. Of course the tension between the philandering Zeus and Hera, goddess of marriage, is well-known, but in the context of the theogony, where the Olympians are just taking their places on the scene, Hera is wife number seven, and her rôle as the defender of matrimony had not yet taken root. It doesn't take long for the quarreling to start, though: Zeus, having swallowed the pregnant titan Metis to avoid the prophesy by which any son she fathered would have a weapon stronger than the thunderbolt (and thereby overthrow Zeus), gives birth to Athena out of his own head. Having children without recourse to his wife makes the latter furious—that's her job!—and so to get even, she fathers Hephæstus without recourse to him. (Note that this differs from Homer's version of events.)

I suppose that Zeus still comes out ahead in this little battle of asexual reproduction, both because Hephæstus came out deformed, and because Athena was viewed as a far more important deity in the Greek pantheon. But it's an interesting link between the two, all the more so since they have such similar rôles, in terms of teaching men how to do things (in the form of wisdom and strategy with Athena, and technology and implementation, for Hephæstus). By all accounts, Athena and Hephæstus got on reasonably well, so even though with their birth stories one might have imagined they would become rivals, it seems instead to have created a sort of bond between them, even though technically they are not even half-brother and sister.

Posted by jon at 7:10 PM in Languages 
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