Odysseus and Ulysses, by Patrick Whitehorn

As I approach to Greek mythology, I tend to think that gods are not only anthropomorphical -that is, with human physical appeareance and behaviour- but also childish. It is because of their whims that human beings suffer, and we can prove that by exploring the Homeric texts. Let’s have a look at Ulysses. Poor Ulysses, he has been wandering about ten years after the Trojan War. That is because Poseidon, god of the seas, has got really angry at him because he left one of his sons blind . Therefore, Poseidon’s only aim is to make the hero suffer: Ulysses has to undergo lots of different adventures: he is forced to stay seven years in Calypso’s island -another example of childish divine behaviour-.

But let’s go back a couple of years ago. Remember the Judgment of Paris? Two goddesses got really mad at the Troy’s prince Paris because they were not elected as the most beautiful goddesses on earth. To recall the facts, it was Aphrodite that took this honour, but it was not at all thanks to her beauty -which of course she has, – but because of the bribery she offered to Paris: there she is, Helen, the most beautiful and miserable woman in the world. Athena and Hera got really angry and jealous at Aphrodite’s success and decided to act against the city of Troy and any of its inhabitants. So, because of the vanity of these three goddesses, the Trojan War was held during ten long years.


Judgment Of Paris by Simonet

Another myth that strikes a chord on me, in terms of god’s childish behaviour, is the one that is performed by Athena and Arachne. Remember Arachne was a young girl from Lydia that could weave almost as good as any goddess from Mount Olympus would. People told her Athena might have tought her skill. The nymphs also told her constalnty she was so talented. Although this was meant to be a compliment, Arachne became angry because she thought she was even a better weaver than the goddess. Therefore, one day, Athena visited her disguised as an old woman and told her not to boast about her skill that much because some gods could get annoyed. Then she laughed and said that even if Athena challenged her, she would win her easily. After hearing this words full of hybris (that is, pride that is absolutely banned by the gods), Athena appeared in her original appearance and challenged Arachne to a competition. The loser would promise never to weave again.

Athena wove a tapestry about the foundation of her city and the people of Greece, with Poseidon and Athena deciding which name should be given to the city of Athens. At the top of them all she weaved the Victory as a premonitory symbol of her own victory on the current contest. Arachne wove a tapestry about Zeus and his seduction of Europa. Athena then saw that, although Arachne had insulted the gods, her work was comparable to hers. As Ovid tells us, the goddess went into anger and started so harshly beating the mortal’s forehead, that she could not stand it and hung herself. Then Athena pitying her, prevented her from dying by converting her into a spider while pronouncing these words:

“Doom’d in suspence for ever to be ty’d;
That all your race, to utmost date of time,
May feel the vengeance, and detest the crime.”

(Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al)


“Arachne is converted into a spider by Athena”

So, what do you think? Do you still believe gods are perfect creatures?

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