Primary Source #1: Paternal Figure
“With the Muses, who to Zeus the father when they sing,
Give pleasure to his mighty mind, telling of things that are,
Of things in future that shall be, and things that were before.
Out of their mouths in sweet, unwearying harmony the voice
Flows, and the halls of Father Zeus the thunderer rejoice
And the subtle music of those goddesses; the sound
Causes the snowy summits of Olympos to resound
And echoes in the homes of the immortals. The divine
Singing that they send forth gives fame, first to the reverend line
Of deathless ones whom Gaia bore to Ouranos: her brood
And those that sprung from them are gods, givers of all things good.
Then secondly they sing of Zeus, father of gods and men,
The most courageous of the gods and mightiest; and then,
In turn, of human beings and giants of great might,
And to the mind of Zeus upon Olympos give delight,
The Muses of Olympos, of the aegis-bearing one.
Mnemosyne in Pieria, unto Kronion,
Bore them to be forgetfulness and rest from cares and ils;
She was the guardian goddess of the Eleutherian hills,
And Zeus the all-wise counsellor for nine nights lay with her.”
In Ancient Greek society, the patriarchal system was the common system throughout the City-States. Men were the head of the households and they made the decisions. In this passage we can see how Zeus was certainly mimicking this important part of Greek society. He is described as “the Father”, the “all wise counsellor” and “the aegis-bearing one” (aegis being a large cape or collar that signifies authority). Zeus is depicted as “the father of gods and men” which certainly displays his role as the God over all of Greek society. Zeus is meant to emulate power and authority, something that the patriarchal system showed through male hierarchy. It also, in a sense, shows how men can gain higher respect in society. Zeus is “the most courageous of the gods and mightiest”. Displaying might and courage would have certainly been ways for the Ancient Greeks to gain respect from others.
Primary Source #2: Interactions with Men
“After he had fashioned men from water and Earth, Prometheus also gave them fire, which he had hidden in a fennel stalk in secret from Zeus. But when Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaistos to nail his body to Mount Caucasos. So Prometheus was nailed to it and held fast there for a good many years; and each day, an eagle swooped down to feed on the lobes of his liver, which grew again by night. Such was the punishment suffered by Prometheus for having stolen the fire” (36)
“And called this woman the All-Gifted one, Pandora, because the divine
Olympians all gave her a gift and as a girft did give
Her as a woe to mortal men, who must earn their bread to live.
The fatherm when he had conceived this steep, resistless snare,
To Epimetheus with the gift he sent the messenger;
And Epimetheus did not consider what his brother
Prometheus had warned concerning gifts from Zeus, that rather
Than keep what the Olympians gave, send them all back again,
Lest somehow they turn out to be a woe to mortal men:
Holding the woe he had received, he knew it- only then.
For previously the tribes of men lived happily on earth,
Remote from suffering, from painful labor, and from dearth,
And all the baleful maladies that bring life to an end—
Before the woman lifted off the jar’s lid with her hand
And scattered out its contents, bringing humans grievous pain:
And only hope in its unbroken dwelling did remain
Inside the jar beneath its rim—away it never flew:
She thrust the lid back on the jar before that could ensue,
As Zeus the aegis-bearing god, gatherer of clouds, designed;
But troubles that are numberless wander among mankind.
The earth and sea are full of ills, of things to be abhorred;
Diseases come by day and night and of their own accord;
Continually they come to men in silence, bearing woe,
For Zeus the cunning took away their voices long ago;
So all attempts to flee the mind of Zeus are bound to fail.” (60)
In examining Zeus we must also take into account his mythological interactions with mankind. Zeus is depicted as the God of Justice (along with many other roles) and he certainly portrays this role ruthlessly in dealing with Prometheus, the god who gave mankind fire. So the myth goes that Zeus asked Prometheus to go to earth and divide the meat on tables into two portions, one to be sacrificed to the gods and the other to be eaten. Prometheus hid the good meat and gave Zeus bones and fat. Because of this, Zeus decided to keep fire with the gods. For if they could not have good, cooked meat as sacrifices, then why should mankind be allowed to eat it. Prometheus snuck up Mount Olympus and stole fire for mankind. As the passage depicts, Zeus punished the Titan for disobeying him. Even though mankind certainly benefited from fire, this dealing of justice showed that the paternal leader of a family cannot be disobeyed without consequences. Later, Zeus exacted punishment on mankind as well for Prometheus’ actions by sending Pandora (and her jar) to earth and giving her curiosity. Pandora could not resist, and she opened her jar unleashing all things bad into the world. But Zeus allowed mankind to keep one thing, and that was hope.
Primary Source #3: "The Iliad"
The Iliad is one of the oldest texts available to western civilization, it speaks of the years of war between Agamemnon and Achilles. It is attributed to Homer and is the prequel to The Odyssey. The quote here explains the respect that was exalted upon Poseidon. He was the god of the Ocean and was important to the sailors.
But mighty Earth shaker Poseidon was keeping watch.
High on the tallest crest of wooded Samothrace
he sat looking down upon the war going on.
From that point, Mount Ida was clearly visible,
Priam's city, too, and the Achaean ships.
He'd come up from the sea and seated himself there,
pitying Achaeans, as Trojans beat them back,
and nursing a powerful anger against Zeus.
Poseidon came down quickly from that rocky peak, 20
moving swiftly on his feet. Mountain peaks and woods
trembled under Poseidon's immortal stride.
He took three paces—with the fourth he reached his goal,
Aegae, where his famous palace had been built
of eternal gold and marble deep within the sea.
Going inside, he harnessed to his chariot
swift bronze-hooved horses with flowing golden manes.
Dressed in gold, he took his well-made golden whip,
climbed in the chariot, then set off across the waves.
From the depths, sea creatures played around him everywhere,
acknowledging their king. The joyful ocean parted.
He sped on quickly, keeping the bronze axle dry.
The prancing horses carried him to the Achaean ships. (Homer 6.295)
Homer in the Iliad recognized Poseidon as the king of the ocean and many of the creatures that terrorized people in the early Greek polis were intimidated by Poseidon. He was the brother of Zeus and ruler of the Ocean, also the god who was given sacrifices at the occurrence of every earthquake, from these earthquakes, it is evident that Poseidon’s influence did not only stretch out through the seas, but also through the land.
Primary Source #3: HADES & THE APPOINTMENT OF THE JUDGES OF THE DEAD Plato, Gorgias 523a ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th BCE)
This document was written by Plato who was a well respected and popular Greek Philosopher. It tells the story of Hades and Zeus appointing judges of the dead. The document begins by saying that the deceased would pass on into the underworld but their destination exactly would change depending on how they lived their life. If they lived a just life then they would go to the Isles of the Blest where they would be happy. But if they lead an unjust life they would be sent to dungeon of Tartaros where they would suffer. There were already judges in place since the time of Kronos but they were living beings who would judge the living on the day they died. Hades and the overseers of the Isle of the Blest went to Zeus because they found that some who were unworthy managed to gain entrance to the Isle of the Blest because of the circumstances of their trail. The people were judged when they were alive and had knowledge of their upcoming death. They were fully clothed and could appear as a good person when they were really cruel on the inside. Zeus also found this to be wrong so he decided to place some of his own sons as judges. Both the judges and the judged would be dead and naked. Zeus did this so that there would be no cases that had the judgement effected by material objects and foreknowledge.
This document shows that Hades contributed to the Greek’s ideas on philosophy and morality. If a person lived a cruel life they would be sent to Tartaros but if they lived a good life then they would spend eternity in the Isle of the Blest. This would lead philosophers to discuss what could be considered just and what would not.
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