Posts Tagged by Zeus
|July 27, 2018||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy, H24H||
2018.07.27 | By Gregory Nagy
A sampling of comments on the Iliad and Odyssey includes an attempt of mine to analyze a scene in Iliad 14 where Hērā has a sexual encounter with Zeus on the heights of Mount Ida. In my comments on the wording of the goddess at the moment when she initiates her encounter with the god, at verses 200–210, I argue that this wording “derives from genuine theogonic traditions centering on the idea of sacred intercourse as an act of cosmogonic creation.” But I am forced to admit: “From the dramatic standpoint of the immediate narrative context, Hērā is making up what she is saying.” And the goddess is making things up because her ultimate intent here is to deceive the god. How, then, does the intent to deceive square with the cosmic prestige of Zeus and Hērā as the divine married couple who rule the universe of the ancient Greeks? Is their marriage dysfunctional? The question is sharpened when we view a close-up of the painting by James Barry, 1790, “Jupiter and Juno on Mount Ida.” From the looks of it, this couple is surely dysfunctional! But my answer, as I will argue in what follows, is in fact two-sided: yes, the marriage of Zeus and Hērā is surely dysfunctional in the “past” world of myth, but it becomes functional in the “present” world of ritual as a re-enactment of myth. To make this argument, I will focus on another scene in the Iliad where we see Hērā in the act of deceiving Zeus.
|May 26, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy||
For almost fifty years now, I have been consistently translating the Homeric expression Dios boulē, which we find at the beginning of the Iliad (1.5), as ‘the Will of Zeus’, not as ‘the Plan of Zeus’. To put it in terms of what I have published, I have been consistent in using the expression ‘the Will of Zeus’ instead of ‘the Plan of Zeus’ in four books of mine that deal primarily with Homeric poetry. On the other hand, I switched to translating Dios boulē consistently as ‘the Plan of Zeus’ in two other books of mine. I see no contradiction here, since I have always understood the Will of Zeus to be the functional equivalent of the plot that gives shape to any given epic, and that is how the Will of Zeus can be understood to be the same thing as the Plan of Zeus. But there was still a specific reason for my switching my translation in the two books I just mentioned, and that was because I needed to concentrate on the differences in plot that we see at work in two different epics, that is, in the Homeric Iliad and in the Cypria of the epic Cycle. In terms of equating the plot of an epic with the Plan of Zeus, we see here two different plots corresponding to two different Plans of Zeus. But is the difference here mutually contradictory? We may be tempted to answer “yes,” guessing that any mutual contradictions in constructing the plots of different epics may be not all that much of a problem for different poets, but I will argue that such a guess underestimates the theological importance of the Will of Zeus as an idea that fueled the very essence of epic in Homeric poetry and beyond. It is one thing to think that there can exist, say, two mutually contradictory Plans of Zeus, but it is quite another thing to imagine that Zeus could contradict himself in expressing his Will. The Will or Plan of Zeus, I argue, needs to be read as a theological idea. It is not only a poetic idea. And if the Will or Plan of Zeus is a theological as well as a poetic idea, I further argue, the initial impression of mutual contradiction between the plots of the Iliad and the Cypria may be dispelled. Zeus may have different Plans at different times, but his Will may still be seen as constant, fully consistent with the cosmos over which he presides.
|May 19, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy|
The question is: what happens when humanity itself is threatened with either flooding or conflagration on a cosmic scale? To express such cosmic afflictions in Greek terms, I have in mind here situations where all of humanity is being threatened with either cataclysm or ecpyrosis. So, to rephrase the question: what happens when Zeus or the gods in general choose to afflict humans with the alternatives of cataclysm or ecpyrosis? In what follows, I offer a brief sketch of these two symmetrical disasters.
|May 12, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy||
The theological view of Zeus as simply the god of the bright sky, which is when the weather is ‘good’, gets more complicated when the weather turns ‘bad’, that is, when this god gathers clouds to make rain either with or without thunder and lightning. At such moments, Zeus is the nephelēgereta or ‘cloud-gatherer’ (Iliad 1.511, etc.). When the weather turns ‘bad’, is it necessarily ‘bad’ for humans? In the theology of Greek mythmaking, as I will argue by way of markedness theory, the ‘badness’ of Zeus is bad only for those humans who are unrighteous and are therefore struck down by the personalized god of the rainstorm; for the righteous, on the other hand, such personalized divine action is good, since the god is striking down hostile forces who are supposedly the unrighteous. And this divine action is good also in a less personalized way, since the rain that Zeus makes will sustain the livelihood of mortals by giving them water, as we will see when we consider a localized myth about Zeus as worshipped in the Greek island-state of Aegina.
|May 5, 2016||By Gregory Nagy listed under By Gregory Nagy||
A theological view of Zeus as god of the sky is evident from the Indo-European etymology of his divine name. The Greek form Zeús is derived from an Indo-European noun that linguists reconstruct as *dyeu-, which meant ‘sky’ in general and ‘bright sky’ in particular. As I will argue in this essay, such a theological view of Zeus is recognized and understood by Longinus in his essay On the Sublime.