Tag Archive | mythology

The creation of women as Zeus’ revenge: an excerpt from Hesiod’s “Theogony.”

As research continues on “Hypatia of Alexandria” I have located “Theogony” by the 8th century BCE poet Hesiod, one of just a handful of Greek poets who recorded the Greek holy stories or scriptures.

prometheus1-3804

Prometheus bound.

Significant to my research is the portion of the Theogony telling how women were created by Zeus.  Here is Hesiod’s chapter telling the story:

The birth of Pandora

The birth of Pandora

“Prometheus: Pandora and the Lineage of Women

570 Forthwith then he fashioned evil for men in requital for the fire bestowed. For from the earth the famous Hephaistos, halting in both feet, fashioned the image of a modest maiden, through the counsels of the son of Kronos. And the goddess glancing-eyed Athena girded and arrayed her in silver-white raiment; 575 and from her head she held with her hands a curiously embroidered veil, a marvel to look upon: and Pallas Athena placed around her about her head lovely garlands fresh-budding with meadow-flowers, and around her head she set a golden coronet, which renowned Hephaistos lame with both feet had made himself, 580 having wrought it carefully by hand, out of compliment to Zeus his father. On it had been wrought many curious monsters, a marvel to view, as many as in great abundance the continent and the sea maintain. Many of these he introduced, and much elegance beamed from it, of wondrous beauty, like to living animals gifted with sounds. 585 But when he had wrought a beauteous evil instead of good, he led her forth even where were the rest of gods and men, exulting as she was in the adornment of the gleaming-eyed daughter-of-a-strong-father: and wonder seized immortal gods as well as mortal men, when they beheld a deep snare, against which man’s craftiness is in vain.

590 From her is the race of tender women. For from her is a pernicious race. Tribes of women, a great source of hurt, dwell with mortal men, helpmates not in consuming poverty, but in surfeit. And as when in close-roofed hives bees 595 feed drones, sharers in bad works, the former through the whole day till sunset are busy day by day, and make white combs, while the latter, remaining within in the close-roofed hives, reap the labors of others for their own stomachs. 600 Just as to mortal men high-thundering Zeus gave women as an evil, accomplices of painful toils: another evil too did he provide instead of good; to wit whosoever shunning marriage and the ills that women work, declines to marry, and has come to old age pernicious, 605 through want of one to tend his final days; he lives not, it is true, in lack of subsistence, but, when he is dead, distant kindred divide his possessions; while to whomsoever, on the other hand, the lot of marriage shall have fallen, and he has had a good wife congenial to his heart, to him then forever ill contends with good to be with him: 610 but whoso finds a baneful breed, lives with an incessant care to spirit and heart within his breast, and it is an irremediable woe. Thus it is not possible to deceive or overreach the mind of Zeus, for neither did Prometheus, helpful son of Iapetos, 615 escape from beneath his severe wrath; but a great chain, by necessity, constrains him, very knowing though he is.”

Mythologizing America, Patriotism, and History

In honor of the American Independence Day holiday later this week, here’s a look at the American patriotic myth.

Taken July 3rd, 2008 in the heart of Old Boston

Taken July 3rd, 2008 in the heart of Old Boston

Mythologizing America, Patriotism, and History

Historical Facts Take a Back Seat to Popular Myths About Unity and Freedom

Originally posted July 9th, 2012

It’s July. This week we celebrated the 236nd anniversary of the signing of the “Declaration of Independence” with the usual fireworks, parades, concerts, and street fairs.

Throughout the day on various programs, I heard sweeping patriotic declarations about the nature of the American War for Independence and its impacts. These grand patriotic statements sound so wonderful during July 4th festivities. They are not, for the most part, remotely historically true.

One major myth I heard across numerous programs was the myth that Americans of the 18thcentury came out of the “Revolution” as one, unified, cohesive group under a strong federal government system.

This is grossly inaccurate. In Article two of the “Articles of Confederation,” we read,

“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled. “

Across the “Articles of Confederation” the term “United States” is almost always written “united States.” This signals the dominate 18th century belief that each state – from Georgia to New Hampshire – was a country unto its own and that most persons considered themselves New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, South Carolinians, and so forth, NOT Americans.

Or put another way, the American War for Independence created 13 countries, not one, who agreed to work together when it suited them. It took a second civil war (the American War for Independence was primarily a civil war) from 1861-5 to actually create the United States of America from “These United States.”

Other serious myths I keep hearing in patriotic declarations was that the Founders believed in equality and freedom for all. They didn’t. Washington and Jefferson were both notorious slave owners. Washington believed so much in slavery that he refused to end the war (the Battle of Yorktown was October 19th, 1781) until November 25th, 1783. The reason? He demanded all American “property” to be returned to their “rightful” owners.

As explained by Barnett Schleter in in November 25, 2010 lecture held at Fraunces Tavern (one of the best known surviving 18th century establishments in New York City), the American property Washington demanded returned were slaves emancipated by the Crown.

The Crown refused, forcing free blacks, along with those Americans who remained loyal to the Crown, to pursue new lives in Canada, Europe, and across the British Empire.

None of this is conveyed in most non-university history books. Instead, we are told the ideals, not the historical realities.

But why? History is supposed to be taught in an objective fashion. Why then are we teaching mythology when it would be easier and much more ethical to teach what really happened – all sides of the stories? Brevity is an excuse I’ve heard, but a poor one. A person can learn 18th century attitudes towards slavery, racial and gender equality, and liberty in the same amount of space as they can be taught the mythological omni-benevolence of the Founding Fathers. It takes no more time to explain that Americans did not win the American War for Independence; we simply made it too expensive for the Crown to keep pursuing. Parliament, not King George III, decided it was costing too much money and lives to keep fighting.

In teaching myth, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from history. This makes us easier to control by politicians -does anyone actually want that? Do we absolutely trust our politicians or would we prefer to make better decisions in choosing leaders?

Education is the key to becoming strong consumers of information, to supporting only policies and leaders that truly make common sense and serve the interests of all the people – not just their friends.

Education is worthless if all we do is teach the politically convenient version of things. Education needs to be free and independent of politics. American history education has lost its independence.

It would seem the only way to find out objectively what happened in any area of history is to become a history hobbyist, watching countless documentaries on PBS, National Geographic, the History Channel (which has certain biases I don’t approve of), and other sources for educational programming.

We can do better.