Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sneaky gods and Cretans

How shall we sing of him – as lord of Dicte1 or of Lycaeum?2 
My soul is all in doubt, since debated is his birth. 
O Zeus, some say that thou wert born on the hills of Ida3
others, O Zeus, say in Arcadia; did these or those, O Father lie? 
“Cretans are ever liars.”4 
Yea, a tomb,5 O Lord, for thee the Cretans builded; 
but thou didst not die, for thou art for ever. 
Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus

Rembrandt: Zeus & Europa (detail)

The Cretan world of Book 8 originated in the "rape" of Europa, depicted at the end of Book 2 (and by Arachne in Book 6.103). It was, as Ovid tells it, more of a beguilement, a ruse of the king of the gods, capturing the maiden's interest, and seducing her to play with the gentle-seeming beast. 

Rhea gives "Zeus" to Cronos
Zeus absconded with the girl to the sacred isle of his cradle, where another ruse, long before, had protected Baby Zeus from the devouring determination of his father, Cronos.

From its beginning, Crete is associated with lies, artful dodges, and false appearances (the stone Rhea presents to Cronos). It also has topographical features associated with Zeus, including a plain where the baby's navel fell off, according to a hymn by Callimachus. 

The Cretans, also called Curetes, danced and beat their armor so that Cronos wouldn't hear his latest child cry, the poet adds. But as he says in the verses above, little is certain about what Cretans say.

It's suggestive is that a generation of gods avoided annihilation by virtue of ambiguity and deception.

Here's a brief outline of Book 8, with links to the individual tales on Theoi.com:

1. Minos & Scylla
2. Daedalus & Icarus
3. Calydonian Boar Hunt
4. Althaea & Meleager
5. Perimela & Achelous
6. Baucis & Philemon
7. Erysichthon & Mestra

No comments:

Post a Comment