Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Myth and History

Myth and History

So many mythic stories are told that hint at the jealousies between Greek island nations. They traded with each other but they also fought with each other at time. The Myths tend to indicate something of the various conquests as languages and dialects, myths and religions, were merged.

Hephaestus Superseded

PAUL BAROLSKY, in his article, Homer and the Poetic Origins of Art History tells us that for Homer, Hephaestus was a symbolic representation of the duality of art, in that he made such beautiful objects but was himself ‘ugly and slow’.

‘Although he (Hephaestus) fashions works of great beauty and skill, he is at the same time deformed and ridiculous…(he is) ugly and slow. Yet if he is brutish in appearance, his bride is beautiful: in one version of his myth, he is married to Charis, meaning Grace; in another he is married to Aphrodite. Although he makes tripods that, as Homer says, roll about with ease, he limps along with difficulty because he is lame. Whereas he fabricates living maidens with the power of motion, he needs them to support himself, since he is not so stable and moves with difficulty.’

Hephaestus was skilled, and made beautiful items. And he was married to the very beautiful goddess, Aphrodite, but he was regarded by the gods of Mount Olympus as not only ugly but also uncouth. So when we look at other myths stories we find that another smith, Prometheus, superseded Hephaestus. This Athenian god was also a skilled smith but he was also known as the distributer of all the civilized arts – he even shared a temple with Athene on the Acropolis. He was more cunning that Hephaestus. Once he even came and stole the flame from the workshop of Hephaestus in Lemnos.

The Great Goddesses Give Way

It was during the Dorian Age the Great Goddesses (Aphrodite and Artemis) largely gave way to the masculine gods (Apollo and Zeus). It was when these new warrior tribes took control of the Mediterranean, in the eleventh century, BC, their father god, Zeus, and his family replaced the old mother goddess. Though there were still temples to goddesses, they were often dedicated to one of three Greek goddesses, Aphrodite the goddess of love and desire, and two of Zeus’ daughters, Athena the wise one and Artemis the strong one.

On the island of Samos, in pre-Hellenic times, the Great Goddess was called Hera. (In Lemnos the name of the Great Goddess was Lemnos.) Zeus’s marriage to Hera commemorates the conquests of Crete and Mycenae by the Hellens about 1700 BC.

A Goddess worshiped on Lemnos was Artemis; she was related to the older moon goddess. Artemis’ had a silver bow made by Hephaestus. But now Hephaestus made a bow and arrows for Apollo. The Dorians paid Apollo especial honour, as they claimed him as their ancestor. This story shows one of the ways the myths point to what has happened, that women have been deprived of nearly all of their magical powers.

We also hear stories about how the two parent gods of that day (Zeus and Hera) bickered constantly. And when those of another replace priests of one religion you can imagine that there would be strife. We can read stories that show Zeus would confide his secrets to Hera, and sometimes accede to her advice, but he never fully trusted Hera. The marital relations of Zeus and Hera reflect those of this barbarous Dorian Age, when women lost their religious power.

The Curse of Aphrodite

Crete in the ancient world was once the largest exporter of dyed woollens and they even controlled the profitable Black Sea trade. This is where Lemnos became important as one of the main suppliers of purple dye. Athens had good reason to be jealous of the workers in this trade. So we read there was rivalry between Athene and Arachne a Lydian princess, who was famed for her spinning and purple dyes for even Athene, though a great weaver, could not compete with her. Athene tore up the work of Arachne and in fear Arachne hanged herself. Athene then turned her into a spider, the insect she hated most.

In the twentieth century BC, when the Mother Goddess was still being worshipped on the island of Lemnos, among the peoples living on the island there were women who were skilled at colouring woollen cloth. They may have been using woad but more probably were using the murex seashell to make the much sort after purple dye. Urine was probably used as a setting agent. The cloth reeked, as did the women who had to stamp the cloth down in the caldron with their feet. The men of the village were so disgusted the smell they began consorting with their slaves, captured in Thrace. Angered by this rejection their wives lured them to the top of a nearby cliff, Petassos, and pushed them over the slope and down into the sea. The village they came from has since been known as Androni, death of the men.

It is said that those initiated into the mystery of the Kaveria were given a strip of purple cloth to wear about their person as protection against the perils of the sea.
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Now, it so happened that the bay near this village was the first port of call for Jason and his Argonauts. As their boat neared the shore the sailors saw people coming out of the trees to meet them. The men held back at first thinking these warriors, but then one shouted that he could only see women. So they landed, cautiously. The women greeted them and invited them to stay. The hospitality the men received was so agreeable that Jason’s men did not want to leave. Jason eventually had to remind them of their quest.

Takis and Hephaestus

In my book, It all began with a watermelon, I wrote,
‘And certainly Takis can be noisy, given to expressing his wishes forcibly, and capable of flamboyant gestures. Lisa and I had often cringed when he shouted at the noisy motorbikes or at motorists who cruised through intersections without giving a signal. However, he believed he was just doing his public duty.
He daughter Lisa said to me, ‘I’ve never seen Dad behave so Greek!’

A Letter to My Grandchildren

How are you today my dears? 

Here there has just been a big clap of thunder. I think Zeus must angry and he is throwing his lightning bolts around. Zeus is the Grandfather (Papous) of the gods and he and Hera, his wife, live up on Mount Olympus in Greece.
You know, when we came to live in this old house I found a box with lots of old photos under the stairs. These were photos of people who had once lived in this house or had come here for their holidays. There were pictures of Grandpa’s Yaya and Papous, of his Aunts and Uncles, and of all the cousins. I chose some to frame and now we have a wall of photos. This is Grandpa’s family tree. 
Do you know what a family tree is? It is a collection of all the people in your family history, fathers and mothers, and their children, going back for years. When you write down the names and the birthdays of all your relatives, and draw lines to show that this one is related to that one, it begins to look like a tree growing up, with you at the very bottom of the page.
When stories were told about the famous heroes of the past the storyteller often liked to include a bit about the heroes famous father, and if they were not sure who the father was they often just said that the hero’s father was a god. So we hear that he first king of Lemnos, Theos, was the child of the god Dionysius. That is probably not true, but maybe his father drank a lot of wine like the god Dionysius. 
Back then family trees were very important, and even the gods had family trees. Zeus was known as the great father of the gods. His children were the gods of the wind and the sea, the mountains and trees, the sun and the moon and so on. Each had a special character. The Sun god, Apollo, was young and beautiful and he was a musician. His sister was the moon goddess, Artemis. She loved hunting and she was a bit of a tomboy. Sometimes when we see a beautiful boy today we might say he is an Apollo, or we might call a girl an Artemis if she is very sporty. 

I have a secret to tell you. I have a nickname for Grandpa; it is the name of the god of this island, Hephaestus. I call him that because, like Hephaestus, Grandpa loves to work hard in his workroom. He even has a helper that is a bit like Cedelion, Hephaestus’ helper. Anestis is Grandpa’s helper. He comes everyday and the two of them make new windows and doors for our old house. Maybe I’m a bit like the goddess Demeter who was the goddess of the fields, because the garden is where I spend most of my time. 

Bye for now. Love and Best wishes to you all.

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