Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Nemesis, Erinyes, and Styx

NEMESIS, is most commonly described as a daughter of Night, though some call her a daughter of Erebus (Hygin. Fab. Praef.) or of Oceanus (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 88; Paus. i. 33. § 3, vii. 5. § 1). Nemesis is a personification of the moral reverence for law, of the natural fear of committing a culpable action, and hence of conscience, and for this reason she is mentioned along with Aidôs, i. e. Shame (Hes. Theog. 223, Op. et D. 183).

Hesiod, Theogony 211 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And Nyx (Night) bare hateful Moros (Doom) and black Ker (Violent Death) and Thanatos (Death), and she bare Hypnos (Sleep) and the tribe of Oneiroi (Dreams). And again the goddess murky Nyx, though she lay with none, bare Momos ( and painful Oizys (Misery), and the Hesperides . . . Also she bare the Moirai (Fates) and the ruthless avenging Keres (Death-Fates) . . . Also deadly Nyx bare Nemesis (Envy) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Apate (Deceit) and Philotes (Friendship) and hateful Geras (Old Age) and hard-hearted Eris (Strife)."

Evelyn De Morgan,  Sleep and Death, the Children of the Night

In later writers, as Herodotus and Pindar, Nemesis is a kind of fatal divinity, for she directs human affairs in such a manner as to restore the right proportions or equilibrium wherever it has been disturbed; she measures out happiness and unhappiness, and he who is blessed with too many or too frequent gifts of fortune, is visited by her with losses and sufferings, in order that he may become humble, and feel that there are bounds beyond which human happiness cannot proceed with safety. This notion arose from a belief that the gods were envious of excessive human happiness (Herod. i. 34, iii. 40; Pind. Ol. viii. in fin., Pyth. x. 67).

Paulo Veronese, Nemesis

Nemesis was thus a check upon extravagant favours conferred upon man by Tyche or Fortune, and from this idea lastly arose that of her being an avenging and punishing power of fate, who, like Dike and the Erinyes, sooner or later overtakes the reckless sinner (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1043; Sophocl. Philoct. 518; Eurip. Orest. 1362; Catull. 50, in fin.; Orph. Hymn. 60).

Pierre Paul Prud’hon, Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime (detail Nemesis) 

She was usually represented in works of art as a virgin divinity, and in the more ancient works she seems to have resembled Aphrodite, whereas in the later ones she was more grave and serious, and had numerous attributes.

Detail of Nemesis, the mother of Helene, and Eutykhia (Good Fortune) from a scene of the judgement of Paris. They sit and stand above the figure of Aphrodite (head shown) and her son Eros. ca 440 BC

Gheorghe Tattarescu - Nemesis

There is an allegorical tradition that Zeus begot by Nemesis at Rhamnus an egg, which Leda found, and from which Helena and the Dioscuri sprang, whence Helena herself is called Rhamnusis (Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 232; Paus. i. 33. § 7). On the pedestal of the Rhamnusian Nemesis, Leda was represented leading Helena to Nemesis (Paus. l. c.) Respecting the resemblance between her statue and that of Aphrodite, see Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 4; comp. Paus. i. 33. § 2; Strab. pp. 396, 399.) The Rhamnusian statue bore in its left hand a branch of an apple tree, in its right hand a patera, and on its head a crown, adorned with stags and an image of victory. Sometimes she appears in a pensive standing attitude, holding in her left hand a bridle or a branch of an ash tree, and in her right a wheel, with a sword or a scourge.

Alfred Rethel, Nemesis


Bacchylides, Fragment 52 (from Tzetzes on Theogony) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The four famous Telkhines (Telchines), Aktaios, Megalesios, Ormenos and Lykos, whom Bakkhylides calls the children of Nemesis and Tartarus."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 127 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Nemesis, as she fled from Zeus' embrace, took the form of a goose; whereupon Zeus as a swan had intercourse with her. From this union she laid an egg, which some herdsman found among the trees and handed over to Leda. She kept it in a box, and when Helene was hatched after the proper length of time, she reared her as her own."

Hesiod, Works and Days 175 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Would that I were not among the men of the fifth age, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor (kamatos) and sorrow (oizys) by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth. The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonor their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another city. There will be no favour (kharis) for the man who keeps his oath or for the just (dikaios) or for the good (agathos); but rather men will praise the evil-doer (kakos) and his violent dealing (hybris). Strength will be right (dike) and reverence (aidos) will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy (zelos), foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all.
And then Aidos (Shame) and Nemesis (Indignation), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows (lugra algea) will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil."

Albrecht Dürer, Nemesis

Statius, Silvae 5. 1. 13 ff :
"What god joined Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] and Invidia [Nemesis, Envy] in truceless kinship? Who bade the cruel goddesses engage in unending war? Will the one set her mark upon no house, but the other must straightway fix it with her grim glance, and with savage hand make havoc of its gladness? Happy and prosperous was this abode, no shock assailed it, no thought of sorrow; what cause was there to have fear of Fortuna, treacherous and fickle though she be, while Caesar was favorable? Yet the jealous Fata [Moira, Fate] found a way, and barbarous violence entered that blameless home."

THE ERINYES were three netherworld goddesses who avenged crimes against the natural order. They were particularly concerned with homicide, unfilial conduct, crimes against the gods, and perjury. A victim seeking justice could call down the curse of the Erinyes upon the criminal. The most powerful of these was the curse of the parent upon the child--for the Erinyes were born of just such a crime, being sprung from the blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Cronus.
The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harboring such a criminal, could suffer dearth, and with it hunger and disease. The wrath of the Erinyes could only be placated with the rite ritual purification and the completion of some task assigned for atonement.
The goddesses were also servants of  Hades and Persephone in the underworld where they oversaw the torture of criminals consigned to the Dungeons of the Damned.


Aeschylus, Eumenides 321 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Mother who bore me [the Erinys], O dear Mother Nyx (Night), to avenge the blinded dead and those who deal by day, now hear me!"


Orphic Hymn 70 to the Eumenides (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Illustrious Eumenides [Erinyes] . . . from Zeus Khthonios [Haides] born, and Phersephone."
The Erinyes were depicted as fearsome goddesses clothed in black with serpent-entwined hair and arms. Latin writers provide the most colourful descriptions of these goddesses.

Aeschylus, Libation Beaers 1048 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Orestes cries in terror at the sight of the Erinyes :] `Ah, ah! You handmaidens, look at them there: like Gorgons, wrapped in sable garments, entwined with swarming snakes!.'"

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 848 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Two demon fiends there are, called by the name of Furiae [Erinyes], whom darkest Nox (Night) brought forth at one and the same birth with hellish Megaera, breeding all three alike with the twining coils of serpents and giving them wings like the wind."

Detail of two Erinyes from a painting of the gods of the underworld. The pair are dressed as huntresses, with knee-length skirts and hunting boots, one is winged, and the hair and arms of both are entwined with poisonous serpents. ca 340 BC

Detail from a painting depicting Dionysus and the impious king Lykourgos. Lykourgos, armed with a sword, has slain Dionysus' companion Ambrosia. The god in anger summons an Erinys to drive him to madness. The Erinys is depicted as a winged huntress, whose arms and hair are draped with poisonous serpents. Dionysus in elaborate dress, holds a tree branch in his hand. Behind him stands a Mainas Nymph with thyrsos (pine-cone-tipped staff) and opposite behind the Erinys, the god Hermes is seated. ca 330 BC

When the dead first arrive in Hades they appear before the three Judges, and then handed over to the Erinyes, who purified the good of their sins and let them pass, but dragged those adudged to be wicked off to the Tartarean dungeon of the damned. The Erinyes were also the jailors of this prison house, who oversaw the tortures inflicted upon the criminals.

Plato, Phaedo 107d ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"When it arrives at the place where the other souls are, the soul which is impure and has done wrong, by committing wicked murders or other deeds akin to those and the works of kindred souls, is avoided and shunned by all, and no one is willing to be its companion or its guide, but it wanders about alone in utter bewilderment, during certain fixed times, after which it is carried by necessity to its fitting habitation [i.e. by the Erinyes to Tartarus]. But the soul that has passed through life in purity and righteousness, finds gods for companions and guides, and goes to dwell in its proper dwelling [i.e. Elysion]."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 520 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"The nightmare-fiend of Mania (Madness) havoc-breathing passed swiftly to the rock-walled river Styx where dwell the winged Erinnyes, they which still visit with torments overweening men [the inmates of the infernal Dungeons]."

The ghostly, blue faces of two Kakodaimones (Evil Spirits) or Erinyes (Fury Demons) gaze with staring eyes and gaping mouths.Imperial Roman

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 451 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Sorores Genitae Nocte (Night-Born Sisters) [Erinyes], divinities implacable, doom-laden. There they sat, guarding the dungeon’s adamantine doors, and combed the black snakes hanging in their hair. And when they recognised her through the gloom the Sisters rose. `The Dungeon of the Damned’ that place is called. There giant Tityos lies stretched across nine acres and provides his vitals for the vultures; Tantalus can never catch the water, never grasp the overhanging branches; Sisyphus chases and heaves the boulder doomed to roll for ever back; Ixion’s wheel revolves, always behind himself, always ahead. The Belides [Danaides] who dared to do to death their cousin-husbands carry endlessly the water that their sieves can never hold."

Two Furies, from a 19th century book reproducing an image from an ancient vase.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 569 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Orpheus had power to bend the ruthless lords of the shades [Haides and Persephone] by song and suppliant prayer, when he sought back his Eurydice . . . soothes the underworld with unaccustomed strains, and rings out clearer in those unhearing realms. Eurydice the Thracian brides bewail; even the gods, whom no tears can move, bewail her; and they [the Erinyes] who with awful brows investigate men’s crimes and sift out ancient wrongs, as they sit in judgment bewail Eurydice."

Statius, Thebaid 1. 46 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Gods [Hades, Persephone and the Erinyes] who hold sway over guilty souls and over Tartarus crowded with the damned, and thou O Styx, whom I behold, ghastly in thy shadowy depths, and thou Tisiphone . . . The cruel goddess [Tisiphone] . . . sat beside dismal Cocytus, and had loosed the snakes from her head and suffered them to lap the sulphurous waters . . . the crowd of phantoms gives way before her, fearing to meet their queen."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 10. 1 (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The serpentine image of the goddess of Tartaros [an Erinys]."

John Singer Sargent - Orestes Pursued by the Furies

William Bouguereau, Orestes Pursued by the Furies

STYX was the goddess of the underworld  River Styx, one of the Titan generation of  Oceanides (Daughters of Oceanus). Styx was also the personified Daimon (Spirit) of hatred (stygos). She was a firm ally of Zeus in the Titan Wars, who brought her children Nike (Victory), Zelos (Rivalry), Bia (Force) and Kratos (Strength) to stand alongside the god. Zeus rewarded her by making her streams the agent of the binding oath of the gods.

The River Styx was also a corrosive Arkadian stream, which allegedly flowed forth from the underworld.

Styx was sometimes identified with several other chthonian goddesses, including Demeter, Erinys the wrathful earth, the oath-protecting  Eumenides, and Nyx the darkness of night.
STYX (Stux), connected with the verb stugeô, to hate or abhor, is the name of the principal river in the nether world, around which it flows seven times. (Hom. Il. ii. 755, viii. 369. xiv. 271; Virg. Georg. iv. 480, Aen. vi. 439.) Styx is described as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys (Hes. Theog. 361 ; Apollod. i. 2. § 2; Callim. Hymn. in Jov. 36), and as a nymph she dwelt at the entrance of Hades, in a lofty grotto which was supported by silver columns. (Hes. Theog. 778.)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Nike, Kratos, Zelos, and Bia were born to Pallas and Styx. Zeus instituted and oath to be sworn by the waters of Styx that flowed from a rock in Hades' realm, an honor granted in return for the help she and her children gave him against the Titans."


Ovid, Fasti 3. 793 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Saturn [Cronus] was thrust from his realm by Jove [Zeus]. In anger he stirs the mighty Titans to arms and seeks the assistance owed by fate. There was a shocking monster born of Mother Terra (Earth) [Gaia], a bull, whose back half was a serpent. Roaring Styx [as an ally of Zeus] imprisoned it, warned by the three Parcae [Moirai the Fates], in a black grove with a triple wall. Whoever fed the bull’s guts to consuming flames was destined to defeat the eternal gods. Briareus [or Aigaion, an ally of Cronus] slays it with an adamantine axe and prepares to feed the flames its innards. Jupiter [Zeus] commands the birds to grab them; the kite brought them to him."

 Ivan Akimov, Saturn



Styx was one of the Oceanides who were playing with Persephone in a flowery meadow when Hades seized and carried her to the Underworld.

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 415 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"[Persephone tells the story of her abduction :] All we were playing in a lovely meadow, Leukippe and Phaino and Electra and Ianthe, Melita also and Iakhe with Rhodea and Kallirhoe and Melobosis and Tyche and Okyrhoe, fair as a flower, Khryseis, Ianeira, Akaste and Admete and Rhodope and Pluto and charming Calypso; Styx too was there and Ourania and lovely Galaxaura with Pallas [Athena] who rouses battles and Artemis delighting in arrows: we were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands, soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths, and rose-blooms and lilies, marvelous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow yellow as a crocus."

Albrecht DurerAbduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn

Persephone and Hades. ca. 440-430


Hesiod, Theogony 775 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And there [in Hades] is housed a goddess loathed even by the immortals: dreaded Styx, eldest daughter of Oceanus, who flows back on himself, and apart from the gods she lives in her famous palace which is overroofed with towering rocks, and the whole circuit is undergirded with silver columns, and pushes heaven; and seldom does . . . Iris (the Rainbow), come her way with a message across the sea's wide ridges, those times when dispute and quarreling start among the immortals, and some one of those who have their homes on Olympus is lying, and Zeus sends Iris to carry the many-storied water that the gods swear their great oath on . . . Such an oath did the gods make of the imperishable, primevil water of Styx; and it jets down through jagged country."

Angelo Bronzino, Allegory of Happiness (goddess Iris)

Plato, Phaedo 112e ff (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[The] streams are many and great and of all sorts, but among the many are four streams, the greatest and outermost of which is that called Oceanus, which flows round in a circle, and opposite this, flowing in the opposite direction, is Akheron, which flows through various desert places and, passing under the earth, comes to the Akherousian lake . . . The third river [the fiery Pyriphlegethon] flows out between these two . . . Opposite this the fourth river issues, it is said, first into a wild and awful place, which is all of a dark blue color, like lapis lazuli. This is called the Stygios (Stygian river), and the lake which it forms by flowing in is the Styx. And when the river has flowed in here and has received fearful powers into its waters, it passes under the earth and, circling round in the direction opposed to that of Pyriphlegethon, it meets it coming from the other way in the Akherousian lake. And the water of this river also mingles with no other water, but this also passes round in a circle and falls into Tartarus opposite Pyriphlegethon. And the name of this river, as the Poets say, is Kokytos."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 504 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Then still, received into the realms Inferna (Underwolrd), he [Narcissus who wasted away having fallen in love with his own reflection] gazed upon himself in Stygia’s pool."

Caravagio, Narcissus

Plato, Republic 387c (trans. Shorey) :
"If they [the youth] are to be brave, must we not extend our prescription to include also the sayings that will make them least likely to fear death? Or do you suppose that anyone could ever become brave who had that dread in his heart? . . . Then we must further taboo in these matters the entire vocabulary of terror and fear [associated with the afterlife], Kokytos named of lamentation loud, abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate, the people of the infernal pit and of the charnel-house, and all other terms of this type, whose very names send a shudder through all the hearers every year."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 72 :
"He [the bard Orpheus] longed, he begged, in vain to be allowed to cross the stream of Styx a second time [to bring back his beloved Eurydice]. The ferryman [Charon] repulsed him. Even so for seven days he sat upon the bank, unkempt and fasting, anguish, grief and tears his nourishment, and cursed Erebus’ cruelty."

Alexander Dimitirevich Litovchenko ( 1835 - 1890) "Charon carries souls across the river Styx

Michelangelo,  the  boatman Charon Sistine Chapel, Vatican

Gustave Dore, in the Divine Comedy,  Charon forces reluctant sinners onto his boat by beating them with his oar.

Luca Giordano Charon and river Styx

Pierre Subleyras, Charon

Gerard or Gérard de Lairesse, The Descent to the Underworld of Orpheus

Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 500 :
"Waves black as Stygia's."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 593 :
"Once is enough to have beheld the unlovely realm of Hell, once to have gone across the stream of Styx."

Seneca, Medea 804 ff :
"To thee [Hecate] is brandished the gloomy branch [the yew] from the Stygian stream."

Hecate, William Blake

Seneca, Oedipus 160 :
"[Drought and pestilence ravage the city of Thebes :] They have burst the bars of abysmal Erebus, the throng of sisters with Tartarean torch [the Erinyes], and Phlegethon, changing his own course, has mingled Styx with our Sidonian streams [i.e. to cause deadly fevers]. Dark Mors [Thanatos, death], death opens wide his greedy, gaping jaws."

Statius, Thebaid 2. 1 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"On this side Styx encircling its nine regions, on that a barrier of fiery torrents [Pyriphlegethon] encloses his [Hermes descending into the underworld] path."

Hans Thoma, Mercury

Statius, Thebaid 4. 520 ff :
"The Elysian void is flung open, the spacious shadows of the hidden region are rent, the groves and black rivers lie clear to view, and Acheron belches forth noisome mud. Smoky Phlegethon rolls down his streams of murky flame, and Styx interfluent sets a barrier to the sundered ghosts."

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl, The Souls of Archeron


The Latin poets, especially use the term Stygia (of the Styx) as a synonym for Hades. See also some of the other quotes on this page.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 89 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Hera threatens Herakles :] `Dost think that now thou hast escaped the Styx [i.e. the realm of Hades] and the cruel ghosts?'"

Seneca, Hercules Furens 452 ff :
"Oh, that thou [Herakles in his journey to the underworld] mayest o’ercome the laws of cruel Styx [i.e. inevitable death, Styx here is Hades], and the relentless distaffs of the Parcae [Moirai, fates]."

Seneca, Hercules Furens 1131 :
"Go to the haven of the Stygia [i.e. the land of the dead], go, harmless shades."

Seneca, Medea 632 :
"He came to the familiar Styx and Tartarus [i.e. the land of Hades], never to return."
Aelian, On Animals 10. 40 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"In Scythia there are Asses with horns, and these horns hold water from the river of Arkadia known as the Styx; all other vessels the water cuts through, even though they be made of iron. Now one of these horns, they say, was brought by Sopatros to Alexandros of Makedon, and I learn that he in his admiration set up the horn as a votive offering to the Pythian god at Delphoi, with this inscription beneath it : `In thine honour, Paian (God of Healing), Alexandros of Makedon set up this horn from a Skythian ass, a marvellous piece, which was not subdued by the untainted stream of the Lousean Styx but withstood the strength of its water.’
It was Demeter who caused this water to well up in the neighbourhood of Pheneus."

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 3 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Hyllos son of Herakles; he had a little horn on the right side of his face and Epopeus of Sikyon seized it after having killed Hyllos in single combat; he filled it with water of the Styx and became king of the country."

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk3 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"Concerning the water of the Styx in Arkadia he [Hephaestion] recounts the following : while Demeter was mourning for her daughter, Poseidon intruded on her sorrow and she in anger metamorphosed into a mare; she arrived at a fountain in this form and detesting it she made the water black."

 Frederic Leighton, Return of Persephone

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 13 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"Venus [Aphrodite] frowned heavily, smiled harshly, and said [to Psyche] : `I know quite well that this too is the work of that adulterer. But no I shall try you out in earnest, to see if you are indeed endowed with brave spirit and unique circumspection. Do you see that lofty mountain-peak, perched above a dizzily high cliff, from where the livid waters of a dark spring come tumbling down, and when enclosed in the basin of he neighbouring valley, water the marshes of the Styx and feed the hoarse streams of the Cocytus? I want you to hurry and bring me back in this small jug some icy water drawn from the stream’s highest point, where it gushes out from within.’

John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope, Charon and Psyche

Raphael, Venus and Psyche


Homer, Iliad 2. 751 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The water of Styx, the fearful oath-river."

Homer, Iliad 14. 271 :
"[Hypnos, the god of sleep, insists Hera seal her pledge to him by an oath on the Styx :] `Come then! Swear it to me on Styx' ineluctable water. With one hand take hold of the prospering earth, with the other take hold of the shining salt sea, so that all the undergods who gather about Cronus may be witnesses to us.'"

Homer, Iliad 15. 35 :
"[Hera addresses Zeus :] `Now let Gaia (Earth) be my witness in this, and wide Uranus (Heaven) above us, and the dripping water of the Styx, which oath is the biggest and most formidable oath among the blessed immortals.'"

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 260 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"[The goddess Demeter swears :] `Be witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx.'"

Rubens, The Statue of Ceres (Demeter)

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 517 ff :
"[Apollo addresses the young god Hermes :] `Now if you would only swear me the great oath of the gods, either by nodding your head, or by the potent water of Styx.'"

Lycophron, Alexandra 697 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The waters of Kokytos wild and dark, stream of black Styx, where Termeius [Zeus] made the seat of the oath-swearing for the immortals, drawing the water in golden basins for libations, when he was about to go against the Gigantes and Titans--he [Odysseus] shall offer up a gift to Daeira and her consort [i.e. Persephone and Hades], fastening his helmet to the head of a pillar."

Agostino Carracci, Hades 

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 816 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"This I [Jove, Zeus] swear by the source of the inexorable river, Styx--the one dreadful and binding oath for us heaven-dwellers."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 188 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Zeus addresses the Council of the Gods :] `The mortal race must be destroyed. By that dark stream [the Styx] I swear, that glides below the world through glades of Stygia (Hell), all has been tried and, when no cure avails, rightly the knife is used lest he disease spread and infection draw what still is sound

Jupiter, Mercury and the Virtue, Dosso Dossi

Seneca, Troades 390 ff :
"Nevermore does he [the dead] exist at all who has reached the pool [Styx] whereby the high gods swear."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 13 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"These Stygian waters are an object of fear to the gods and to Jupiter [Zeus] himself, that just as you mortals swear by the gods’ divine power, so those gods frequently swear by the majesty of the Styx."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 135 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Then she [Hera] swore by the infernal water of afteravenging Styx, that she would drown the house of Ino in a flood of innumerable woes."

Annibale Carracci Jupiter and Juno ( Zeus and Hera)

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 526 ff :
"Both [the gods] took a binding oath, by Kronides [Zeus] and Gaia (Earth), by Aither (Sky) and the floods of Styx; and the Moirai (Fates) formally witnessed the bargain."

Francisco de Goya, The Fates

Friday, 2 November 2012

Attis, Jason and Argonauts

Let's look at  Attis and J. Frazer's interpretation.

Sir James George Frazer(1 January 1854 – 7 May 1941), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. He is often considered one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology.

In addition to his theorizing about the magical origins of modern religious ritual, Frazer asserted that myths were intended to explain otherwise incomprehensible rituals.  Thus, for example, Frazer argued that the myths of the “dying gods” Adonis, Attis, and Osiris served to explain why the priests of Attis’ cult castrated themselves.  This view of myth inspired a group of scholars known as the Cambridge Ritualists, who claimed that myths rationalized otherwise irrational ritual practices and/or that they functioned as scripts from which such practices were performed.

 Let's look at myths.

ATYS, ATTYS, ATTES, ATTIS, or ATTIN. A son of Nana, and a beautiful shepherd of the Phrygian town, Celaenae. (Theocr. xx. 40; Philostr. Epist. 39; Tertul. de Nat. 1.) His story is related in different ways. According to Ovid (Fast. iv. 221), Cybele loved the beautiful shepherd, and made him her own priest on condition that he should preserve his chastity inviolate. Atys broke the covenant with a nymph, the daughter of the river-god Sangarius, and was thrown by the goddess into a state of madness, in which he unmanned himself. When in consequence he wanted to put an end to his life, Cybele changed him into a firtree, which henceforth became sacred to her, and she commanded that, in future, her priests should be eunuchs.

Ovid, Fasti 4. 222 ff (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"‘What causes the impulse [of the devotees of Cybele, Cybele] to self-castrate?’ I was silent. The Pierid [Mousa, Muse] began: ‘A woodland Phrygian boy, the gorgeous Attis, conquered the towered goddess with pure love. She wanted to keep him as her shrine's guardian, and said, "Desire to be a boy always." He promised what was asked and declared, "If I lie, let the Venus [Aphrodite] I cheat with be my last." He cheats, and in the Nymph Sagaritis stops being what he was: the goddess' wrath punished him. She slashes the tree and cuts the Naiad down. The Naiad dies: her fate was the tree's. He goes mad, and imagines that the bedroom roof is falling and bolts to Dindymus' heights. He cries, "Away torches!", "Away whips!", and often swears the Palestine goddesses have him. He even hacked his body with a jagged stone, and dragged his long hair in squalid dirt, shouting, "I deserved it; my blood is the penalty. Ah, death to the parts which have ruined me!" "Ah, death to them!" he said, and cropped his groin's weight. Suddenly no signs of manhood remained. His madness became a model: soft-skinned acolytes toss their hair and cut their worthless organs.’"

Statue of a reclining Attis. The Shrine of Attis is situated to the east of the Campus of the Magna Mater in Ostia.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 103 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Pines, high-girdled, in a leafy crest, the favorite of the Gods' Great Mother (Grata Deum Matri), since in this tree Attis Cybeleius doffed his human shape and stiffened in its trunk."

Archigallus making a sacrifice to  Attis,  Ostia Antica, Museo Ostiense.

 Another story relates, that Atys, the priest of Cybele, fled into a forest to escape the voluptuous embraces of a Phrygian king, but that he was overtaken, and in the ensuing struggle unmanned his pursuer. The dying king avenged himself by inflicting the same calamity upon Atys. Atys was found by the priests of Cybele under a fir-tree, at the moment he was expiring. They carried him into the temple of the goddess, and endeavored to restore him to life, but in vain. Cybele ordained that the death of Atys should be bewailed every year in solemn lamentations, and that henceforth her priests should be eunuchs. (Galloi, Galli, Serv. ad Aen. ix. 116; comp. Lobeck, ad Phrynich. p. 273)

Bust of Attis

Attis performing a dance of the Cybele cult. Marble, Roman Imperial Era., Vatican Museum

 Donatello, Attis

A third account says, that Cybele, when exposed by her father, the Phrygian king Maeon, was fed by panthers and brought up by shepherdesses, and that she afterwards secretly married Atys, who was subsequently called Papas. At this moment, Cybele was recognized and kindly received by her parents; but when her connection with Atys became known to them, Maeon ordered Attis, and the shepherdesses among whom she had lived, to be put to death. Cybele, maddened with grief at this act of her father, traversed the country amid loud lamentations and the sound of cymbals. Phrygia was now visited by an epidemic and scarcity. The oracle commanded that Attis should be buried, and divine honors paid to Cybele; but as the body of the youth was already in a state of decomposition, the funeral honors were paid to an image of him, which was made as a substitute. (Diod. iii. 58, &c.)

Pergamon Museum - Collection of Classical Antiquities. Pergamon: Terracotta figurine from Myrina showing Attis ( 1st century BC )

According to a fourth story related by Pausanias (vii. 17. § 5), Atys was a son of the Phrygian king Calaus, and by nature incapable of propagating his race. When he had grown up, he went to Lydia, where he introduced the worship of Cybele. The grateful goddess conceived such an attachment for him, that Zeus in his anger at it, sent a wild boar into Lydia, which killed many of the inhabitants, and among them Atys also. Atys was believed to be buried in Pessinus under mount Agdistis. (Paus. i. 4. § 5.) He was worshiped in the temples of Cybele in common with this goddess. (vii. 20. § 2; Agdistis; Hesych. s. v. Attês.) In works of art he is represented as a shepherd with flute and staff.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 19. 9-12 (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The people of Dyme [in Akhaia] . . . have as well a sanctuary built for the Dindymenian mother [Kybele, Cybele] and Attis. As to Attis, I could learn no secret about him, but Hermesianax, the elegiac poet, says in a poem that he was the son of Galaos the Phrygian, and that he was a eunuch from birth. The account of Hermesianax goes on to say that, on growing up, Attis migrated to Lydia and celebrated for the Lydians the orgies of the Mother; that he rose to such honor with her that Zeus, being wroth at it, sent a boar to destroy the tillage of the Lydians. Then certain Lydians, with Attis himself, were killed by the boar, and it is consistent with this that the Gauls who inhabit Pessinos abstain from pork.
But the current view about Attis is different, the local legend about him being this. Zeus, it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a demon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the daimon Agdistis [Cybele]. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Saggarios (Sangarius), they say, took of the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy was born, and exposed, but was tended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis [Cybele] fell in love with him. When he had grown up, Attis was sent by his relatives to Pessinos, that he might wed the king's daughter. The marriage-song was being sung, when Agdistis appeared, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals, as also did he who was giving him his daughter in marriage. But Agdistis repented of what he had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant that the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay. These are the most popular forms of the legend of Attis."

 Jason and Argonauts

The year 2011 marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Robert Temple’s The Sirius Mystery (1976; revised 1998), one of the most important works in the ancient astronaut genre. It has been fairly well-established that Temple’s thesis about extraterrestrial visitation has little basis in fact. Temple had claimed that an African tribe called the Dogon had sophisticated knowledge of the invisible companion to the star Sirius, known to modern astronomers as Sirius B, and that this knowledge derived from amphibious aliens that descended to earth in ancient Sumeria thousands of years ago and were worshipped as gods. Their possession of esoteric knowledge of deep space unknown in the West until the nineteenth century is taken as proof of extraterrestrial contact.

Though anthropologists failed to find a genuine Sirius B tradition among the Dogon outside what they had gleaned from recent contact with Europeans (Van Beek 139-167), and skeptics refuted Temple’s extraterrestrial conclusions, The Sirius Mystery continues to serve as a standard reference work in the New Age and alternative archaeology movements. In the past few years alone, works such as Christopher Penczak’s Ascension Magick (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007), R. M. Decker’s 35 Minutes to Mars (Galde Press, 2004), and Stephen S. Mehler’s The Land of Osiris (Adventures Unlimited, 2002) utilize Temple’s book to a greater or lesser extent to support their alternative and New Age claims. The internet, too, is a hotbed of Temple-derived Sirius theories. And, of course, Temple continues to publish books of alternative archaeology, including most recently The Sphinx Mystery(with Olivia Temple, Inner Traditions, 2009). Therefore, renewed study of The Sirius Mystery is no moot point but an inquiry into an active and important touchstone for the alternative movement.

For him, the Jason story is the one Greek myth most closely related to an esoteric tradition of alien-derived knowledge of the true nature of the binary Sirius star system—and he even views the Argonauts as the biological ancestors of the Dogon.

The myth of the Argonauts is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, and was developed in the fourth Pythian Ode of Pindar(462 BCE( But the main source of information about this legend is Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica (c. 245 BCE),

Only one ocean ship,
most famous of them all, has made it through,
the Argo, sailing on her way from Aeetes,                               
and waves would soon have smashed that vessel, too,
against the massive rocks, had not Hera
sent her through.  For Jason was her friend.
Homer, Odyssey 12.69-72 Translation by Ian Johnston

 Jason is mentioned several times in the Iliad (vii. 467, &c., xxi. 40, xxiii. 743, &c.), but not as the leader of the Argonauts. Hesiod (Theog. 992, &c.) relates the story of Jason saying that he fetched Medea at the command of his uncle Pelias, and that she bore him a son, Medus, who was educated by Chiron. The first trace of the common tradition that Jason was sent to fetch the golden fleece from Aea, the city of Aeetes, in the eastern boundaries of the earth, occurs in Mimnermus (ap. Strab. i. p. 46, &c.), a contemporary of Solon; but the most ancient detailed account of the expedition of the Argonauts which is extant, is that of Pindar (ca. 522–443 BC).

Medea, by Frederick Sandys

Pallas and the Centaur, by Sandro Botticelli

Pelias, who had usurped the throne of Iolcus, and expelled Aeson , the father of Jason, had received an oracle that he was to be on his guard against the man who should come to him with only one sandal. When Jason had grown up, he came to Iolcus to demand the succession to the throne of his father. On his way thither, he had lost one of his sandals in crossing the river Anaurus. Pelias recognised the man indicated by the oracle, but concealed his fear, hoping to destroy him in some way; and when Jason claimed the throne of his ancestors, Pelias declared himself ready to yield; but as Jason was blooming in youthful vigor, Pelias entreated him to propitiate the manes of Phrixus by going to Colchis and fetching the golden fleece.
Jason accepted the proposal, and heralds were sent to all parts of Greece to invite the heroes to join him in the expedition. When all were assembled at Iolcus, they set out on their voyage, and a south wind carried them to the mouth of the Axeinus Pontus (subsequently Euxinus Pontus), where they built a temple to  Posejdon, and implored his protection against the danger of the whirling rocks. The ship then sailed to the eastern coast of the Euxine and ran up the river Phasis, in the country of Aeetes, and the Argonauts had to fight against the dark-eyed Colchians. Aphrodite inspired Medea, the daughter of Aeetes, with love for Jason, and made her forget the esteem and affection she owed to her parent. She was in possession of magic powers, and taught Jason how to avert the dangers which her father might prepare for him, and gave him remedies with which he was to heal his wounds. Aeetes promised to give up the fleece to Jason on condition of his ploughing a piece of land with his adamantine plough drawn by firebreathing exen. Jason undertook the task, and, following the advice of Medea, he remained unhurt by the fire of the oxen, and accomplished what had been demanded of him. The golden fleece, which Jason himself had to fetch, was hung up in a thicket, and guarded by a fearful dragon, thicker and longer than the ship of the Argonauts. Jason succeeded by a stratagem in slaying the dragon, and on his return he secretly carried away Medea with him. They sailed home by the Erythraean sea, and arrived in Lemnos. In this account of Pindar, all the Argonauts are thrown into the background, and Jason alone appears as the acting hero.

The brief description of their return through the Erythraean sea is difficult to understand. Pindar, as the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (iv. 259) remarks, like some other poets, makes the Argonauts return through the eastern current of Oceanus. While thus Pindar makes them return through the eastern ocean, others, such as Apollonius Rhodius and Apollodorus, make them sail from the Euxine into the rivers Ister and Eridanus into the western ocean, or the Adriatic; and others, again, such as the Pseudo-Orpheus, Timaeus, and Scymnus of Chios, represent them as sailing through the river Tanais into the northern ocean, and round the northern countries of Europe. A fourth set of traditions, which was adopted by Herodotus, Callimachus, and Diodorus Siculus, made them return by the same way as they had sailed to Colchis.
All traditions, however, agree in stating, that the object of the Argonauts was to fetch the golden fleece which was kept in the country of Aeetes. This fleece was regarded as golden as early as the time of Hesiod and Pherecydes (Eratosth. Catast. 19), but in the extant works of Hesiod there is no trace of this tradition, and Mimnermus only calls it "a large fleece in the town of Aeetes, where the rays of Helios rest in a golden chamber.

Simonides and Acusilaus described it as of purple color. (Schol. ad Eurip. Med. 5, ad Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1147.) If, therefore, the tradition in this form had any historical foundation at all, it would seem to suggest, that a trade in furs with the countries north and east of the Euxine was carried on by the Minyans in and about Iolcus at a very early time, and that some bold mercantile enterprise to those countries gave rise to the story about the Argonauts.
The ship Argo is described as a pentecontoros, that is, a ship with fifty oars, and is said to have conveyed the same number of heroes. The Scholiast on Lycophron  is the only writer who states the number of the heroes to have been one hundred. But the names of the fifty heroes are not the same in all the lists of the Argonauts, and it is a useless task to attempt to reconcile them. (Apollod. i. 9. § 16; Hygin. Fab. 14, with the commentators; compare the catalogue of the Argonauts in Burmann's edition of Val. Flaccus.)

An account of the writers who had made the expedition of the Argonauts the subject of poems or critical investigations, and whose works were used by Apollonius Rhodius, is given by the Scholiast on this poet. Besides the Argonautics of the Pseudo-Orpheus, we now possess only those of Apollonius Rhodius, and his Roman imitator, Valerius Flaccus. The account which is preserved in Apollodorus' Bibliotheca (i. 9. §§ 16-27) is derived from the best sources that were extant in his time, and chiefly from Pherecydes. We shall give his account here, partly because it is the plainest, and partly because it may fill up those parts which Pindar in his description has touched upon but slightly.

 Jason bringing Pelias the Golden Fleece, ca 240 - 330 BC

When Jason was commissioned by his uncle Pelias of Iolcus to fetch the golden fleece, which was suspended on an oak-tree in the grove of  Ares in Colchis, and was guarded day and night by a dragon, he commanded Argus,  the son of Phrixus,  to build a ship with fifty oars, in the prow of which  Athena inserted a piece of wood from the speaking oaks in the grove at Dodona, and he invited all the heroes of his time to take part in the expedition. Their first landing-place after leaving Iolcus was the island of Lemnos, where all the women had just before murdered their fathers and husbands, in consequence of the anger of  Aphrodite. Thoas alone had been saved by his daughters and his wife Hypsipyle. The Argonauts united themselves with the women of Lemnos, and Hypsipyle bore to Jason two sons, Euneus and Nebrophonus.  From Lemnos the Argonauts sailed to the country of the Doliones, where king Cizycus received them hospitably. They left the country during the night, and being thrown back on the coast by a contrary wind, they were taken for Pelasgians, the enemies of the Doliones, and a struggle ensued, in which Cizycus was slain; but being recognized by the Argonauts, they buried him and mourned over his fate. They next landed in Mysia, where they left behind Heracles and Polyphemus,  who had gone into the country in search of Hylas,  whom a  nymph had carried off while he was fetching water for his companions. In the country of the Bebryces, king Amycus challenged the Argonauts to fight with him; and when Polydeuces was killed by him, the Argonauts in revenge slew many of the Bebryces, and sailed to Salmydessus in Thrace, where the seer  Phineus was tormented by the Harpies. When the Argonauts consulted him about their voyage, he promised his advice on condition of their delivering him from the Harpyes. This was done by Zetes and Calais,  two sons of Boreas; and Phineus now advised them, before sailing through the Symplegades, to mark the flight of a dove, and to judge from its fate of what they themselves would have to do. When they approached the Symplegades, they sent out a dove, which in its rapid flight between the rocks lost only the end of its tail. The Argonauts now, with the assistance of hera, followed the example of the dove, sailed quickly between the rocks, and succeeded in passing through without injuring their ship, with the exception of some ornaments at the stern. exceforth the Symplegades stood immoveable in the sea. On their arrival in the country of the Mariandyni, the Argonauts were kindly received by their king,Lycus. The seer Idmon and the helmsman  Tiphys died here, and the place of the latter was supplied by  Ancaeus.  They now sailed along the Thermodon and the Caucasus, until they arrived at the mouth of the river Phasis. The Colchian king Aeetes promised to give up the golden fleece, if Jason alone would yoke to a plough two firebreathing oxen with brazen feet, and sow the teeth of the dragon which had not been used by Cadmus at Thebes, and which he had received from Athena. The love of  Medea furnished Jason with means to resist fire and steel, on condition of his taking her as his wife; and she taught him how he was to create feuds among and kill the warriors that were to spring up from the teeth of the dragon. While Jason was engaged upon his task, Aeetes formed plans for burning the ship Argo and for killing all the Greek heroes. But Medea's magic powers sent to sleep the dragon who guarded the golden fleece; and after Jason had taken possession of the treasure, he and his Argonauts, together with Medeia and her young brother Absyrtus, embarked by night and sailed away. Aeetes pursued them, but before he overtook them, Medea murdered her brother, cut him into pieces, and threw his limbs overboard, that her father might be detained in his pursuit by collecting the limbs of his child. Aeetes at last returned home, but sent out a great number of Colchians, threatening them with the punishment intended for Medea, if they returned without her. While the Colchians were dispersed in all directions, the Argonauts had already reached the mouth of the river Eridanus. But Zeus, in his anger at the murder of Absyrtus, raised a storm which cast the ship from its road. When driven on the Absyrtian islands, the ship began to speak, and declared that the anger of Zeus would not cease, unless they sailed towards Ausonia, and got purified by Circe. They now sailed along the coasts of the Ligyans and Celts, and through the sea of Sardinia, and continuing their course along the coast of Tyrrhenia, they arrived in the island of Aeaea, where Circe purified them. When they were passing by the Sirens, Orpheus sang to prevent the Argonauts being allured by them. Butes, however, swam to them, but  Aphrodite carried him to Lilybaeum.  Thetis and the Nereids  conducted them through Scylla and  Charybdis and between the whirling rocks (petrai planktai); and sailing by the Trinacian island with its oxen of Helios, they came to the Phaeacian island of Corcyra, where they were received by Alcinous. In the meantime, some of the Colchians, not being able to discover the Argonauts, had settled at the foot of the Ceraunian mountains; others occupied the Absyrtian islands near the coast of Illyricum ; and a third band overtook the Argonauts in the island of the Phaeacians. But as their hopes of recovering Medeia were deceived by Arete,  the queen of Alcinous, they settled in the island, and the Argonauts continued their voyage.  During the night, they were overtaken by a storm ; but  Apollo sent brilliant flashes of lightning which enabled them to discover a neighbouring island, which they called Anaphe. Here they erected an altar to Apollo, and solemn rites were instituted, which continued to be observed down to very late times. Their attempt to land in Crete was prevented by talus, who guarded the island, but was killed by the artifices of Medeia. From Crete they sailed to Aegina, and front thence between Euboea and Locris to Iolcus. Respecting the events subsequent to their arrival in Iolcus,  The story of the Argonauts probably arose out of accounts of commercial enterprises which the wealthy Minyans made to the coasts of the Euxine.

Jason and Medea, Versailles, Venus Salon.

Gustave Moreau, Jason and Medea

Salvator Rosa - Jason Charming the Dragon

Herbert James Draper, The Golden Fleece

Jason with the Golden Fleece

Let's go back to Robert Temple’s The Sirius Mystery.

Jason also appears in some early Greek and Etruscan art, but, intriguingly, some of these images show a different version of the legend, unrecorded in the surviving poems, in which Jason apparently descends into the dragon’s stomach and reemerges, aided by the goddess Athena rather than Medea.

 Jason being regurgitated by the snake who keeps the Golden Fleece (center, hanging on the tree);  Athena stands to the right. Red-figured cup by  Douris,  c. 480-470 BC. From Cerveteri (Etruria)

Informed scholarly conjecture is that the primal Jason legend dates to Mycenaean times (c. 1500 BCE) and originally featured a voyage to the end of the world (rather than specifically Colchis) to retrieve the fleece via a descent into the guardian dragon’s stomach and a triumph over death. It is possible Jason was dismembered and resurrected through Athena’s ministrations or his own supernatural healing powers (Sacks et al. 125; Mackie 1-17). Medea may be a later addition to the original quest tale, though she must have appeared before 700 BCE, as she is in Hesiod. 

Such history is not considered in Sirius, despite at least two centuries of scholarly discussion about it.

According to temple, Jason and the fifty Argonauts represent Sirius A (the main star we see in the sky) and the fifty-year period it takes Sirius B (the hidden companion star) to travel around Sirius A. The Argo, their boat, is the system taken as a whole with its fifty oars representing each year of Sirius B’s orbit (Temple 95-96). In this, the Argonauts are therefore the equivalent of the Annunaki, the fifty anonymous gods of Sumer (remember the Argonauts were originally unnamed), who therefore are also symbols for Sirius B’s fifty-year orbit (Temple 120). Jason, whose name Temple believes means “appeaser,” is a feckless wimp (154) who usurped his position in a myth-cycle that originally centered on the epic voyage of Herakles (Hercules) (156), who in turn is a later remolding of a still-earlier mythological figure, Briareus, one of the hundred-handed, fifty-headed monsters who assaulted Olympus and were mprisoned in Tartarus. Therefore, Temple concludes, Briareus was the original captain of the Argo (220). Confusingly, and perhaps in partial contradiction, Jason is also identified as a version of the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh, primarily on the basis of both having fifty companions and many adventures (Temple 118-119).

Let us begin by asking on what grounds Temple identifies Jason as Herakles and Herakles as Briareus and/or Gilgamesh. Here, fortunately, Temple has made our job easy. In all these cases, the source of his identifications (and, indeed, it appears the entirety of his knowledge of Greek myth) is Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (1955), which he explicitly cites. Graves identifies Jason and Herakles thus: “Jason and Herakles are, in fact, the same character so far as the marriage-task myth is concerned … Jason was, of course, a title of Herakles” (602). Here Graves argues that both stories reflect tasks associated with sacred kingship, and that Herakles at one point bore the title of a Jason (i.e., “healer,” a meaning Temple previously rejected). This is not exactly the same as saying that Herakles captained
the Argo, and Temple appears to go farther than Graves on this point.

So, we have Robert Graves again as in my previous blog.

Similarly thin is the ground uniting Herakles and Briareus. Graves holds that the Pillars of Herakles were once associated with Briareus and later assigned to Herakles after the Briareus myth “faded from memory,” though he does say (without evidence or explanation) that the earliest Herakles was named Briareus (497).

Briareus, also called Aegaeon,  in Greek mythology, one of three 100-armed, 50-headed Hecatoncheires (from the Greek words for “hundred” and “hands”), the sons of the deities Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth). Homer (Iliad, Book I, line 396) says the gods called him Briareus; mortals called him Aegaeon (lines 403–404). In Homer and Hesiod, Briareus and his brothers successfully aided Zeus, the king of the gods, against the attack by the Titans. The Hellenistic poet Callimachus (Hymn to Delos) made Briareus an opponent of Zeus and one of the assailants of Olympus, who, after his defeat, was buried under Mount Etna. Still another tradition made him a giant of the sea, an enemy of Poseidon (the god of the sea), and the inventor of warships. The Hecatoncheires may have represented the gigantic forces of nature manifested in earthquakes and other convulsions or the motion of the sea waves.

According to Hesiod (Theog. 154, &c. 617, &c.), Aegaeon and his brothers were hated by Uranus from the time of their birth, in consequence of which they were concealed in the depth of the earth, where they remained until the Titans began their war against Zeus. On the advice of Gaea Zeus delivered the Uranids from their prison, that they might assist him. The hundred-armed giants conquered the Titans by hurling at them three hundred rocks at once, and secured the victory to Zeus, who thrust the Titans into Tartarus and placed the Hecatoncheires at its gates, or, according to others, in the depth of the ocean to guard them. (Hes. Theog. 617, &c. 815, &c.) According to a legend in Pansanias (ii. 1. § 6, ii. 4. § 7), Briareus was chosen as arbitrator in the dispute between Poseidon and Helios, and adjudged the Isthmus to the former and the Acrocorinthus to the latter. The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (i. 1165) represents Aegaeon as a son of Gaea and Pontus and as living as a marine god in the Aegean sea. Ovid (Met. ii. 10) and Philostratus (Vit. Apollon. iv. 6) like-wise regard him as a marine god, while Virgil (Aen. x. 565) reckons him among the giants who stormed Olympus, and Callimachus (Hymn. in Del. 141, &c.), regarding him in the same light, places him under mount Aetna. The Scholiast on Theocritus (Idyll. i. 65) calls Briareus one of the Cyclops. The opinion which regards Aegaeon and his brothers as only personifications of the extraordinary powers of nature, such as are manifested in the violent commotions of the earth, as earth-quakes, volcanic eruptions and the like, seems to explain best the various accounts about them.

Similarly thin is the ground uniting Herakles and Briareus. Graves holds that the Pillars of Herakles were once associated with Briareus and later assigned to Herakles after the Briareus myth “faded from memory,” though he does say (without evidence or explanation) that the earliest Herakles was named Briareus (497). Temple’s troubles are compounded when we discover that Graves identifies Herakles directly with Gilgamesh (451) without the need for Briareus or reference to the Argonauts. Worse, Graves specifically identifies Achilles as another Gilgamesh “variant,” and he cites the older myth of Jason’s descent into the dragon’s stomach (one Temple ignores) as related to the Bible’s tale of Jonah and the whale, Jonah being cited as synonymous with Marduk, the Babylonian god!

As the reader may have guessed, Graves, who was a poet and novelist rather than an academic, had a particular and penchant for finding fanciful correspondences between mythological characters and for imposing his idiosyncratic views on the Greek myths. Immediately upon publication of The Greek Myths reviewers attacked Graves for his GOLDEN FLEECED ● 25“defective scholarship” (Rose 208) for which there was “no conceivable evidence” to support his “inaccuracies, evasions, improbable analogies, and amateur etymologies” (Macpherson 17). In short, his scholarship was not to be trusted, and no reputable scholar would use Graves’s theories without copious documentary support, hich is not to be found in The Sirius Mystery. However, Temple sees Graves as “invaluable” and “superb” (146).
For Robert Temple to rely on Graves’s book not just as a convenient secondary reference for Greek myths but as the foundation for his understanding of mythology and the interrelationship of myths to one another is simply unsupportable. Even when Temple began writing Sirius in 1967, Graves’s missteps were well-known; by the time of the 1998 revision of Sirius, continued reliance on these erroneous interpretations was inexcusable. 

There is a further complication here for Temple’s theory. Given the vast period of time over which the Jason myth was told and retold, from the Bronze Age to late versions written under the Roman Empire, it would stand to reason that prehistoric Sirius lore should best be preserved in the oldest versions of and allusions to the myth, those closest in time to the aliens and their teachings. But Temple does not consider this and instead takes Graves’s version as “standard” (minus the apparently interchangeable heroes). All this on top of the fact that Graves himself warns that older Argonaut stories were nothing like the story from the Hellenistic age! (581)
Temple makes no attempt to separate late interpolations from older traditions, thus presenting every scrap of legend from 1500 BCE to 250 BCE as part of one unified Sirius-Jason complex, as though the myth were unchanged in its details for a thousand years.

At this point, it should go without saying that any direct relationship between Jason’s fifty oarsmen and the “fifty” Anunnaki is entirely speculative. While the Anunnaki may occasionally be referred to as fifty in number (though Temple gives no source for this), their numbers vary in myth. The Babylonians, for example, considered them to be three hundred in number (Turner and Coulter 59). However, to give the devil his due, Gilgamesh did have fifty companions in the earliest versions of his myth (c. 2000 BCE), though these were left out of the later versions of the first and second millenniums BCE, the versions current when the Jason myth was promulgated and eventually recorded. However, as half of one hundred, fifty was an exceedingly common number in mythology, and unless we choose to read all reference to fifty as Sirius lore, there needs to be something more than linguistic convenience to justify such an interpretation of a rather standard poetic.

Robert Temple’s knowledge of Jason and the Argonauts, and the story’s history and development, seems to derive entirely from Robert Graves and his Greek Myths. Temple does not directly cite the Jason tales of Hesiod Pindar, and Apollonius, the ancient authors from whom we derive our knowledge of the myth.  Had he done so, he might just have noticed a curious passage in Apollonius, who describes Medea’s first glimpse of Jason at their clandestine meeting in Hecate’s temple: “[H]e appeared to her as she desired, like Sirius leaping high from Ocean…” (88). There you have it: Jason is Sirius! Of course, this is nothing but a bit of poetic simile, but its omission underscores just how poorly researched The Sirius Mystery really is, despite its hundreds of endnotes and reputation as the thinking person’s ancient astronaut book.

In some versions of the quest for the Golden Fleece, for instance that published by  Robert Graves in 1944, Atalanta sailed with the Argonauts as the only female among them. She jumped aboard the ship soon after the expedition set out, invoking the protection of Artemis, whose virgin priestess she was. She was following Meleager who had put away his young wife for Atalanta's sake. Atalanta returned his love but was prevented by an oracle from consummating their union, being warned that losing her virginity would prove disastrous for her. In disappointment Meleager joined the Argo, but Atalanta would not let him out of her sight. She plays a major part in various adventures of Jason's crew, suffered injury in a battle at  Colochis, and was healed by  Medea.

The Bibliotheca also says she wrestled and defeated Peleus at the funeral games for Pelias. Apollonis of Rhodes, on the other hand, claims Jason would not allow a woman on the ship because she would cause strife on the otherwise all-male expedition (Argonautica 1.769-73).
Golden Fleece in heraldy.

Lesser Coat of arms of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Charles I as King of Spain after 1520

Arms of the Aragonse Monarch, 16th-19th centuries Design, Order of Golden Fleece.

Coat of arms of Infante Alfonso of Spain,  V Duke of Galliera. (1886–1975)

Coat of arms, dukes of Burgundy

Coat of Arms of King Charles 1st, King of Spain, Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman German Empire, golden stucco, beginning of the XVIth century, Choir of the Cathedral of CORDOBA, Spain

Coat of arms of Archduke Charles of Austria as claim to the Spanish throne, variant used in the peninsular territories of the Crown of Aragon.

Coat of Arms of Luis María de Borbón y Vallabriga, 14th Count of Chinchón Grandee of Spain First Class. Cardinal, Archbishop of Toledo and Seville

Coats of arms of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor

And more Golden Fleece in heraldy.