Wednesday, 30 September 2015


“Science and technology revolutionise our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” - Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr

Greek mythology is the body of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. It was a part of the religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to and study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece and its civilisation, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Greek mythology is known explicitly from a large collection of narratives, and implicitly in Greek representational arts, such as vase-paintings and votive gifts. Greek myth attempts to explain the origins of the world, and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines and mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, Homer’s epic poems “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, focus on the Trojan War and its aftermath. Two poems by Homer’s near contemporary Hesiod, the “Theogony” and the “Works and Days”, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are also preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age, and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.

Today, a myth about the Greek goddess Eos, whom the Romans later called Aurora. Eos, the goddess of Dawn, was the sister of Helios, the sun god, whose advent she always announced. Like Helios, she too had her own chariot, which she drove across the vast horizon both morning and night, before and after the sun-god. Hence she is not merely the personification of the rosy morning, but also of the evening twilight, for which reason her palace is placed in the west, on the island of Ææa.

The palace of Eos was said to be a magnificent structure, surrounded by flowery fields and velvety lawns, where nymphs and other immortal beings, danced, whilst the music of a sweetly-tuned melody accompanied their graceful movements. Eos is described by the poets as a beautiful maiden with rosy arms and fingers, and large wings, whose plumage is of an ever-changing hue; she bears a star on her forehead, and a torch in her hand. Wrapping round her the rich folds of her violet-tinged mantle, she leaves her bed before the break of day, and herself yokes her two horses, Lampetus and Phaethon, to her glorious chariot. She then hastens with active cheerfulness to open the gates of heaven, in order to herald the approach of her brother, Helios, the god of day, whilst the tender plants and flowers, revived by the morning dew, lift their heads to welcome her as she passes.

Eos first married the Titan Astræus, and their children were Heosphorus (Hesperus), the morning (evening) star, and the Anemoi (winds). There was Boreas, the North wind; Zephyros, the West wind; Notos, the South wind; Euros, the East wind; Kaikias, the Northeast wind; Apeliotes the Southeast wind; Skiron, the Northwest wind; and Lips, the Southwest wind.

She afterwards became united to Tithonus, son of Laomedon, king of Troy, who had won her affection by his unrivalled beauty; and Eos, unhappy at the thought of their being ever separated by death, obtained for him from Zeus the gift of immortality, forgetting, however, to add to it that of eternal youth. The consequence was that when, in the course of time, Tithonus grew old and decrepit, and lost all the beauty which had won her admiration, Eos became disgusted with his infirmities, and at last shut him up in a chamber, where soon little else was left of him but his voice, which had now sunk into a weak, feeble quaver.

According to some of the later poets, he became so weary of his cheerless and miserable existence, that he entreated here to be allowed to die. This was, however, impossible; but Eos, pitying his unhappy condition, exerted her divine power, and changed him into a grasshopper, which is, as it were, all voice, and whose monotonous, ceaseless chirpings may not inaptly be compared to the meaningless babble of extreme old age.

The painting above is by Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée (1724-1805) “Aurora’s Take Off”. Eos is ready to mount her chariot and scatter pink roses on the horizon. The elderly Tithonus looks longingly at her, while on the left Nyx (night) takes her leave as day breaks.

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