THE MYTH MAN'S
MYTH OF THE MONTH
KING OF THE OLYMPIANS
(Roman name: Jupiter, Jove)
by Nick Pontikis
(with apologies to grandpa Hesiod and uncle Homer)
Yes, part two. The dude's huge!
At least a two-part harmony, more if the Muse co-operates...
(PS: If you haven't read Part I yet, do so first,
or much of Part II will be Greek to you!)
HONK IF YOU'VE SLEPT WITH ZEUS!
My godfather Zeus was a pervert. There, I've said it, and may he strike me dead with a thunderbolt if I'm lying! But there's no avoiding the fact that, when he was young, the king of the Olympians "...lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts," to put it mildly.
Why don't you send the little ones to bed, pour yourself a cup of Nectar, and snuggle up for a bit, while I tell you about the amorous fables and foibles of Zeus, the king of the Casanovas...I'll try to keep it clean, but I'm not promising anything.
After overthrowing papa Cronus, kicking some Giant and Titan butt, and splitting the spoils three ways with his siblings Hades and Poseidon (see Part I), Zeus set himself up as the unchallenged Numero Uno. But too much power corrupts, and there was nobody to restrain young Zeus. He embarked on a journey of seduction and frenzy that thundered around the Universe...
Only Zeus, the father of heaven, could yield the thunderbolt, and it was the threat of this awesome weapon that kept his quarrelsome and rebellious family of Mount Olympus under control. When his mother Rhea, foreseeing what trouble his lust would cause, forbade him to marry, Zeus threatened to violate her. At once she turned into a menacing serpent. Undaunted, Zeus became a male serpent, twined around his mom in a tight knot, and made good his threat.
Bummer. Hate when that happens...
Thus began his long series of adventures in love. With Themis he fathered the Seasons and the Three Fates; sired the Charites (Graces) with Eurynome; and he had the Muses with Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, with whom he lay for nine nights (she never forgot that!) Even Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, was his child by the nymph Styx...or was she his daughter with Demeter? He wasn't sure, it was so hard to keep track.
"Honk If You've Slept With Zeus!" indeed...
Deciding to keep things in the family, Zeus first sought to seduce his twin sister Hera. Not being incestuously inclined, Hera rebuffed her brother's advances, and his courting fell on deaf ears. So guess what my godfather did: Playing the pathos card to the max, he transformed himself into a sad-looking and bedraggled cuckoo, shivering from the cold rain. Hera took pity on the poor bird and tenderly warmed him in her bosom.
Bingo! That's when Zeus resumed his true shape and ravished her, so that she was shamed into marrying him. He's been driving her cuckoo ever since...
Their wedding day was the biggest bash ever and Hera's gifts included a tree with golden apples from Mother Earth (Gaea), the same one later guarded by the Hesperides in Hera's orchard on Mount Atlas. They spent their wedding night on the island of Samos, and it lasted three hundred years. Afterwards, Hera bathed in the spring of Canathus, near Argos, and thus renewed her virginity. Knowing how much Zeusy liked virgins, she returned each year to re-purify herself. Aphrodite enjoyed the idea so much that she annually renewed her own virginity at Paphos.
(Someone should have opened a resort, and called it the "You Lose It, We Find It Vestal Spa.")
With Hera, Zeus fathered Ares, Hephaestus and Hebe, although there are other versions of their births, particularly Hephaestus, who was a parthenogenous child. (That's just a fancy way of saying he had a virginal birth.) Uncle Hephaestus didn't believe it when Hera broke the news of his birth to him, he thought she just didn't like the sickly child, so he crafted and imprisoned her in a funky mechanical chair with arms that folded and held the sitter, thus forcing her to swear by the river Styx that she did not lie. You should have heard her swear!
Hera and my godfather bickered constantly. Incensed by his infidelities, she often humiliated him by her scheming ways. Though he would confide his secrets to her, and sometimes accept her advice, he never fully trusted Hera, and she knew that if offended beyond a certain point he would flog or even hurl a thunderbolt at her.
So she resorted to ruthless intrigue and sometimes even borrowed my cousin Aphro's golden girdle, to excite his passion and thus weaken his will. But that didn't stop Zeus from shamelessly tramping around every chance he got...
A PASSION FOR MORTALS
No less than four great Olympian deities were born to him of mortal women. First came Hermes, who was to assist Zeus on countless escapades. The lucky mom was Maia, daughter of Atlas, who bore him in a cave in Arcadia.
Even though the mother of Zeus's son Dionysus was said to be either Demeter or Io, some said it was Dione. Or Persephone, whom Zeus ravished in the form of a serpent, or even Lethe. Poor Dionysus (we called him Danny) wasn't sure to whom he should send a mother's day card each year, so to be safe, he sent one to all of them!
Including Zeus! Yes, the widely accepted version of Danny's birth was that Zeus, disguised as a mortal, had a secret love affair with Semele ('moon'), daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes. Jealous Hera disguised herself as an old neighbor and advised Semele, then already six months pregnant, to make her mysterious lover a request: that he should reveal himself in his true nature and form, proving he was no monster.
When Zeus refused her plea, she cut him off. Then, in anger, he appeared in all his glory, flashing thunder and lightning, and instantly she was burned to a crisp. Luckily, Hermes saved Dionysus, her six-month-old son, by sewing him up inside the thigh of Zeus, like a fine wine to mature there for three more months. In due time he was born, and Hermes helped deliver him. Thus Danny is called 'twice-born', or 'the child of the double door'.
I'm here to tell you that it really upset my godfather when Dionysus called him 'mom.' Danny even got drunk one night and had 'MOM' tattooed on his arm, underneath a picture of Zeus...
Crete to Athens, to the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf, to Athos in Thrace, to Mount Pelion in Thessaly, to the Aegean island of Samos off the western coast of Asia Minor, to the island of Peparethus north of Euboea, to Mount Ida, to the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor, to the island of Imbros in northern Aegean Sea, to Lemnos, to the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea opposite the coast of Asia Minor, to the island of Chios off the coast of Ionia in Asia Minor, to Mount Mimas opposite Chios, to the rock Corycius on the coast of Asia Minor in Cilicia, to Clarus near Ephesus, to the promontory Mycale in Ionia on the mainland opposite Samos, to Miletus in Caria, to Cos off the southwestern coast of Asia Minor, to Cnidos, Naxos, Paros and many other lands.
A six-month Greek Island voyage on the Olympic Cruise Lines? No. These are some of the places Leto visited while trying to find a spot to deliver her twins Artemis and Apollo. Now that's hard labor! Listen to this story:
Leto was the daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Not being content with simply seducing her, kinky Zeus transformed himself and her into quails when they coupled. He never explained that one to me, probably too embarrassed to talk about it. Hey, don't we all have some youthful episodes we'd just as soon forget?
Hera was not amused at Zeus's bird-brained tactic. In a foul mood, she sent the serpent Python to pursue Leto all over the world, and decreed that she should not be delivered of her twins in any place where the sun shone.
(Actually, she said to Leto to stick her and Zeus's twins "In a place where the sun don't shine," but Leto misunderstood...)
So Zeus let the North Wind (Boreas) carry her away and the wind bore her to Poseidon, who protected her without violating Hera's decree, by taking her to the island of Ortygia which he covered with waves. That is why Python could not find her, and when this dragon had returned to Mount Parnassus, Poseidon brought the island to the surface of the sea.
It is said that several goddesses were present when Leto was about to give birth, among them Rhea, Themis and Amphitrite, Poseidon's wife. But after nine days of travail the goddess of childbirth Ilithyia had not yet arrived, for she was kept in heaven by the envy of Hera. But the goddesses who kept Leto company bribed the heavenly messenger Iris with a necklace strung with golden threads, and she brought Ilithyia to Delos.
On her arrival Leto cast her arms around a palm tree (though some say she was clinging to an olive tree - hey, palm tree, olive tree, Christmas tree, after nine days of labor all trees look alike!) and, kneeling on the meadow, gave birth, first to Artemis and then, with the help of Artemis' midwifery, to Apollo. And so after her travail she bathed in the river Cenchrius.
The immortal Pindar described what happened when Leto was about to give birth thus:
"When Leto in the frenzied pangs of childbirth set foot upon Delos, then did four pillars, resting on adamant, rise perpendicular from the roots of the earth, and on their capitals sustain the rock. And there she gave birth to, and beheld, her blessed offspring."
Her troubles did not stop after giving birth, for it is said that Leto, having arrived with her newborns to a certain place in Lycia in Asia Minor where there was a lake, was forbidden by the inhospitable locals to quench her thirst. No matter how much she begged the chumps to let her drink, they would still forbid her to touch the water, and as Leto insisted the Lycian peasants threatened her and soiled the pool with their feet and hands, stirring up the mud from the bottom.
"Don't spit in the soup, we've all got to eat," is advice the Lycians never learned. Seeing them so tight-fisted and mean, and at the same time so in love with the pool, Leto turned them into frogs so that they could live in its depth, forever enjoying the water and the mud.
Among the first things the twin gods Apollo and Artemis did as soon as they were born was to punish all the men of that time who, when Leto was pregnant and in the course of her wanderings, refused to receive her when she came to their land.
Paybacks are a bitch!
Only four days after his birth Apollo went to Mount Parnassus and killed the dragon Python, thus avenging his mother, though others say the dragon was at Delphi keeping the oracles of Themis. Four days old? Those ancient Greeks sure developed fast!
Leto was once attacked by the giant Tityus, son of Gaea (Mother Earth), or son of Zeus & Elare. I suspect that Hera sent him against Leto and he attempted to rape the goddess. But the twins Artemis and Apollo killed him, or perhaps the thunderbolt of Zeus, and he is still being punished in the Underworld for having tried to violate Leto.
There, a couple of vultures, or as some say a serpent, eat his liver, which grows with the moon, for ever. Ever-thoughtful Prometheus once sent Titius a "Been there - Done that, got the scars to prove it!" postcard.
Leto was also insulted by Queen Niobe, wife of King Amphion, who boasted that she was more blessed with children than Leto and besides that, they were more beautiful. Bad, bad move.
You see, Niobe got so full of herself, and with the prosperity of the kingdom, that she began to wonder how people could be so stupid to worship the power and wealth of the gods, which is of an invisible kind, instead of being devoted to the tangible things they had in front of their eyes. She thought it convenient to introduce reforms in the religious rites and ordinances, so that their subjects could attain a more down to earth form of understanding.
In other words, why worship mere Leto, when you can worship glorious Niobe, fools!
Coming to the temple of Leto, she addressed the worshippers:
"What madness this, to prefer gods whom you have only heard of to those whom you have seen?"
And after displaying her own family tree she explained to the people that in her palace there were great stores of wealth, that her own beauty was worthy of a goddess, and that whatever story had been told about Leto, it could not be compared with the splendor of her own biography. For, among other things, while she Niobe had many children, Leto had but two, and somewhat suspect too, because Artemis was girt in a man's attire and Apollo wore long hair and used a woman's robe.
She didn't come right out and say it, but the insinuation was there that she considered Artemis a lesbian and Apollo gay.
Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Niobe, history's first recorded homophobe.
And to remind the people that her words were backed by power, Niobe ordered the worshippers to take off the laurel wreaths from their hair and leave the temple. So those who prayed, fearing religious intolerance, left the temple without a word, but as it often happens, with unchanged mind.
Apollo and Artemis swiftly made it their mission to avenge their insulted mother.
"Let's go show the good lady the type of mayhem a couple of queers can perpetrate, sis!" said Apollo.
And coming down from heaven they shot their arrows from afar against the children of Niobe, who one after the other fell dead.
During nine days the Niobids lay in pools of blood, for there was no one to bury them because Zeus had turned the people into stone. So it was only in the tenth day that the gods buried them themselves and then Niobe, who was exhausted because of her grief, started eating again.
However some have said that not all of them perished, the Niobids Amyclas and Chloris having been spared by the gods because of their prayers to Leto. Chloris, who never lost the paleness that the fright caused her, became Queen of Pylos in Messenia after having married Neleus, and their son Nestor was granted by Apollo an unusual long life because the god wished to give back the years he had taken from these young men and women.
And that was the end of the house of Amphion, who killed himself because of grief at the death of his children, and as some add, he is also being punished in Hades for having mocked Leto and her children. Also Zethus, Amphion's twin brother died, as they say, of a broken heart.
The Niobids were buried at Thebes but Niobe left the city after the death of her children and went to her father's place at Sipylus, near Smyrna in Asia Minor, and there she was transformed by Apollo into a stone from which tears flow night and day. Those who have been at this place in Mount Sipylus had said that the rock lacks any resemblance to a woman when the observer is close to it, but that going further away one can see the form of a woman in tears, with her head bowed down.
During the Trojan War Leto and her children sided with the Trojans, and she, together with her daughter healed the wounded Aeneas in a sanctuary, while Apollo fashioned a wraith in his likeness to delude the warriors in the battlefield.
Next in line was a beauty called Io. She was the daughter of the river god Inachus, the first King of Argos, and a priestess in one of her father's temples to Hera.
Now, there was fair Io, minding her own virginity, when my lustful godfather spotted her. Rumor had it that Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, cast a spell on Zeus and made him fall hopelessly in love with Io, but hers was such a pure beauty that magic wasn't really necessary. Pain-in-the-neck Hera turned Inyx into a wryneck as punishment. (A wryneck is a gray-brown woodpecker with an annoying habit of stretching and twisting its neck.)
The Oracles (remember those spaced-out shysters from Part I?) made it clear to daddy Inachus that Zeus would wreak havoc on his kingdom if his daughter Io wasn't immediately expelled, so that my godfather could have his way with her. What's a concerned father to do? Without even bothering to get a second opinion, Inachus kicked Io out! What a jerk! I suppose the river god didn't want to go against the flow...
|Quick to seize the vulnerable moment,
Zeus wrapped the earth in a black cloud so dark and thick
that night seemed to envelop the day. Thus he hoped to
hide himself and Io, using the cloud cover to ravish the
Duh. Man, was my godfather dense when the testosterone ruled! Aunt Hera, being alerted by the sudden mid-day darkness that hubby was up to no good, knew perfectly well the score. She paged him all over Olympus, and when he didn't return her calls, swiftly she glided down to earth to have a peek, ordering the black cloud begone!
Zeus' sixth sense warned him of impending doom, so hurriedly he transformed Io into a beautiful white heifer, much to Io's dismay.
|"I know I got to lose a couple
of pounds," Io thought to herself, "but
this is udderly ridiculous! I feel like such a cow!"
When Hera inquired as to the nature of the beast, Zeus swore to her that he was simply passing by and the darn cow just appeared out of the ground!
"Imagine my surprise, dear!"
Yeah, sure Zeus. Needless to say, aunt Hera wasn't fooled. In her sweetest voice, she expressed admiration for the beauty of the animal, and asked Zeusy if she could please, pretty please, have her. Hard to get fresh milk up at Olympus, don't you know, ever since Dionysus moved in.
What's my godfather to do? If he told his wife that he had other plans for the cow, surely that would arouse her suspicion. Still, Zeus felt badly for Io. Besides, he wasn't finished with her yet - Cowtus interuptus, natch!
As the saying goes, to err is human - to moo is bovine. Better sense won out, and he reluctantly let Hera have her, whereupon my triumphant aunt, gloating at the timeliness of her appearance, and at her slick move, led Io away.
Still not trusting Zeus, Hera assigned her watchman Argus to keep an eye on Io. Seeing as Argus had one hundred eyes, the arrangement was most suitable for my aunt. He could sleep with some eyes and keep on guard with the rest.
"Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea," she told the hundred-eyed Argus.
(Argus was kind of proud of his freaky looks, but man did he get ripped off whenever he ordered a pair of prescription eye-glasses! He was only doing the rent-a-cop gig for Hera because she promised to pay his optical bills...)
Zeus was helpless. He watched Io's misery, transformed into a beast and driven from her home, with that monster Argus always ogling her. What a creep! Can't a heifer get some privacy already?! What kind of perverse Orwellian nightmare is this?, she wondered.
Still, the cowed Zeus dared not come to her aid; his fear of Hera's wrath inhibited his actions.
Finally Zeus sent for Hermes, the clever messenger god, and told him that he was putting a contract out on the head of Argus, and would dear, faithful Hermes please perform the hit.
"Major IOU, Hermy! Just don't let Hera hear of it!"
Since Hera had hidden Io so well, Zeus changed himself into a woodpecker, of all things, and showed Hermes the way.
Eager to oblige the Big Guy, the cantankerous Hermes disguised himself as a peasant. Closely following 'woody', he located Io, then appeared on earth, playing very sweetly upon a pipe of reeds borrowed from his buddy Pan (the original, not Peter).
Mannerless oaf that he was, Argus nevertheless was moved by the music and, once he realized there was no cover charge, he beseeched Hermes to come nearer and sit by him on the rocks, playing right into Hermes' ploy.
Lots of free cheese in a rat trap.
By Jove, we have a problem! For hours the skilled Hermes played, trying to tire Argus, and then he droned on and on, talking as drowsily and monotonously as he could, to no avail. Some of Argus' hundred eyes would go to sleep, but some were always awake. Bummer.
In a sudden flash of bovine inspiration, Hermes began playing a medley of Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. Within moments, Argus had fallen asleep, whereupon Hermes proceeded to execute the hit. He swiftly crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io.
(Cocktail party trivia: In tribute, Hera took the hundred eyes of Argus and set them in the tail of the peacock, her favorite bird. Is that cool or what?)
So poor Io was free, right? Afraid not. Hera at once sent a gadfly to plague her, which stung her to madness. She proceeded to meander all over the earth, looking for a store that sold RAID, vainly trying to lose the pest. When Io ran into the bound Prometheus on her many journeys to escape from the gadfly, she told him:
He drives me all along the long
To comfort her, Prometheus told Io that in the distant future she would reach the Nile, where Zeus would by his divine touch restore her human form. She would bear him a son named Epaphus, and live forever after happy and honored. And
Know this, that from your race
He was referring of course to Heracles (Hercules), the greatest of heroes, to whom Pro would owe his freedom. More on my nephew Herc later.
Her son by Zeus, Epaphus, became in time king of Egypt and founded the city of Memphis, and it is said that from him sprang the Libyans and the Ethiopians. But Hera wasn't done tormenting Io just yet. She sent the Curetes, part of her posse, to kidnap Epaphus, which they did. My godfather Zeus got so angry at this that he struck the Curetes dead with his thunderbolts.
So once again off went Io, this time hoofing it in search of her son. Eventually she found Epaphus and returned to Egypt with him. There she built a statue and temple to Demeter, introducing the goddess whom the Egyptians called Isis.
(If you were privy to some late-night debates down at Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant, you'd learn that Zeus turned Io into a goddess to make up for the grief he'd caused her, and it was actually her whom the Egyptians worshipped as Isis. The Persians on the other hand claim that Io was one of the women kidnapped by Phoenician merchants and brought to Egypt to be sold. Supposedly this was the first link of a long chain of kidnappings of women - Europa, Medea, and Helen being the most notable.)
Io is one of the Three Main Ancestors, and her children were the founders of important cities like Mycenae, Thebes and Argos. Her offspring dominated also Crete, Laconia and perhaps Arcadia. The Heraclides were descendants of Io. So were, among others, Cadmus, Perseus and my nephew Heracles.
Io also made a geographic impact, as many of the places she visited while trying to shoo the gadfly were named after her, including Ionia (the western coast of Asia Minor) and the Bosphorus (Ford of the Cow).
As Isis, she married the great Egyptian god Osiris, and together they lived in peace ever after. Don't you just love happy endings?
Sometimes Hera was pre-occupied, and Zeus was free to do as he pleased. One morning, as he idly surveyed the earth, my godfather saw a young maiden named Europa, daughter of the King of Sidon. The young beauty was troubled: Just before dawn, she had the strangest dream, that two continents, each in the shape of a woman, had tried to possess her.
One of the continents was Asia, but Europa couldn't determine who the other one was.
Unable to get back to sleep, Europa roused her companions, noble girls her own age, and told them that they were going to pick some flowers in the blooming meadows by the sea. Often they went there, to dance and bathe their fair bodies and gather flowers.
They filled their baskets with sweet-smelling narcissus and hyacinths and violets and yellow crocus, and most radiant of all, the crimson splendor of the wild rose. The girls delighted in gathering the flowers, wandering hither and fro over the meadow. Zeus in heaven watched with lust the young maidens, each one more fair than the other, yet none as radiant as Europa.
Well. Who should chance by but my second cousin Aphrodite, goddess of love, in the escort of her mischievous son Eros (Cupid). One well-aimed arrow from Cupid, and Zeus was instantly in love with Europa. He just had to have her!
Even though wife Hera was away, my godfather had learned to be cautious, so he transformed himself into a bull. But not just any bull, but one beautiful beyond all bulls that ever were, pure white, with a silver circle on his brow and horns like the crescent of the moon.
Struck by his beauty, and finding him gentle as a lamb, Europa mastered her fear and began to play with him. She put flowers in his mouth and hung garlands in his horns. It was a scene right out of Woodstock...
I'll let the Alexandrian poet Moschus tell the story:
He seemed so gentle as well as so lovely that the girls were not frightened at his coming, but gathered around to caress him and to breathe the heavenly fragrance that came from him, sweeter even than that of the flowering meadow. It was Europa he drew toward, and as she gently touched him, he lowed so musically, no flute could give forth a more melodious sound.
Then he lay down before her feet and seemed to show her his broad back, and she cried to the others to come with her and mount him.
surely he will bear us on his back,
Famous last words, or what? 'Good true man' indeed! 'Trust me dear, I'll respect you in the morning.' Ha!
Smiling, she climbed upon his shoulders and let him amble down with her to the edge of the sea. But when he reached the water, before the others could join them, the bull at full speed rushed into the wide water.
As he went the waves grew smoother before him and a whole procession rose up from the deep and accompanied them - Strange sea gods, Nereids riding upon dolphins, Tritons blowing their horns, and all kinds of similar creatures. Even the god of the sea, Zeus' brother Poseidon, showed up to see if there was any action for him.
Europa, scared silly equally by the wondrous sea creatures she saw and the moving waters all around, clung to the bull and shouted to her friends for help.
However, once she realized that her companions were useless, she turned her attention to the abductor. This can't be an ordinary bull, thought Europa, but most certainly a god. Having descended from Io, and knowing that woman's peripatetic torment, she spoke pleadingly to my godfather, begging him to pity her and not leave her in some strange place all alone.
Zeus then revealed his identity and assured her that she had no cause for fear. Out of love for her he said, he was taking her to his place of birth, Crete, and there she would bear him
sons whose scepters shall hold sway
Sure enough, Crete came into view. They landed, and the Seasons, the gatekeepers of Olympus, took Europa and prepped her for Zeus. (Nice perfume, girls, but must you marinate her in it?)
Their passionate union produced many famous sons, including the fabled Minos and Rhadamanthys, who were rewarded for their justice on earth by being appointed judges in the Underworld, as well as Sarpedon, who was killed in the Trojan War. (Wonder if his bros. got to try his case. Fix!)
Zeus loved his Europa, but his 'incontinence' when it came to Hera eventually moved him to return to Olympus. But not before bestowing a number of fine gifts upon his lover, including a dog, Laelaps, which could outrun any animal; a javelin which never missed its mark; and the bronze man, Talos, to act as her guardian.
(Talos was a man of bronze, made by Hephaestus, whom Zeus gave to Europa after he kidnapped her and took her to Crete. Crete was a gated community it seems: Talos became its guardian, circling the island three times each day and throwing huge stones at any ship which approached its shores. He had a devestating fastball, clocked at over one-hundred miles per hour, and his curveball was a real killer.
He had a single vein, which ran from his neck to his ankle and was closed by a single bronze nail. When the Argo approached Crete on the way back from stealing the Golden Fleece, Medea cast a spell on Talos and then removed the bronze nail; all of Talos' blood ran out and he died, thus enabling the ship to land. Just thought you'd like to know.)
Europa afterwards married Asterius, the king of Crete, and lived happily ever after. How many joyful endings can we take?
(Grandpa Hesiod had a great time pulling uncle Homer's leg over the identity of the bull that kidnapped Europa:
"Yes, Homey, the bull who carried Europa to Crete was the same Cretan bull that Heracles faced in one of his labors, which in turn is the same bull that was sent by Poseidon to King Minos of Crete, and that later, consorting with the king's wife Pasiphae, became the progenitor of the Minotaur. No bull! I've seen the mug shots, and all the bulls have that identical silver spot on their foreheads."
"Hesiod, I swear you only open your mouth to change feet! Are you nuts, man? Have you a death wish? The bull was Zeus, and that's that! Keep talking trash and you'll wind up with a thunderbolt upside the head!"
Callisto was a nymph (or, according to some sources, the daughter of Lycaon) who was in the service of the goddess of the hunt, Artemis. Young women who were devoted to the goddess hunted with her regularly, and remained virgins, like Artemis herself. Callisto had upheld these maidenly ideals faithfully, and she quickly became Artemis favorite.
While Callisto spent her days and nights with Artemis other followers, she caught the eye of Zeus. Knowing that the maiden had taken a vow of chastity, my godfather once again resorted to deception to get at Callisto. He came to her disguised as Artemis, and the young huntress let down her guard. Seizing the opportunity Zeus raped her.
Callisto became pregnant, and tried desperately to conceal her condition from the goddess. After all, she had, in a way, broken her vow to the goddess and she feared her anger. She succeeded for a while, but then a day came when all of the young women who followed Artemis disrobed to bathe together in a spring. By now Callisto was beginning to show, and once she was naked her secret was revealed. Artemis was furious and she banished the young woman from her fold. Callisto wandered off to have her child alone.
Hera decided that this was the time to exact her revenge. She gripped Callistos hair and threw her to the ground where the new mother was transformed into a bear. The hunter became the hunted. The child that Callisto had by Zeus was spirited away by Hermes to be raised by his mother, Maia. He was named Arcas, meaning bear, and he grew up to be a fine hunter himself. Some sources have the bear captured and taken to Callistos own father, Lycaon.
According to others Artemis herself killed the bear that was once Callisto, but it is usually accepted that when Arcas was out hunting as a young man he encountered the bear. Callisto recognized the handsome youth as the son she could not raise herself. Forgetting her present form, she tried to come near him, but her loving mothers arms were now strong, furry paws, and her once soothing voice was now a rumbling growl.
The bear scared Arcas, and he took aim at her with his spear. Zeus took pity on his former victim and intervened. He placed Callisto in the sky as the constellation Ursa Major, or great bear, and then took Arcas and placed him in the sky near his mother as Ursa Minor, the little bear.
Hera was not pleased with this arrangement, especially since Callisto was another of her husbands infidelities. She went to her nurse, Tethys, the wife of Oceanus, and beseeched her to punish Callisto and Arcas. Tethys decided to deprive the pair of water, and so the great bear and the little bear are cursed to circle in the skies, never to dip below the horizon for a refreshing bath or a cool drink.
In time, my godfather's pride, petulance and voracious sexual appetite became so intolerable that Hera, Poseidon, Apollo, and all the other Olympians, with the exception of Hestia, decided to depose the Big Guy.
They surrounded him suddenly as he lay asleep on his couch and tied him up with rawhide thongs, knotted into a hundred knots, so that he was immobile. The enraged Zeus threatened them with death most vile, but they had stashed his thunderbolts out of reach, and they laughingly mocked and insulted his impotence. Man, was my godfather angry! Sparks were shooting from his eyes!
But while the Olympians were celebrating their victory over a barrel of nectar, and jealously arguing who was to be his successor, the Nereid Thetis, anticipating a civil war on Olympus, hurried in search of the hundred-handed E-Cat, Briareus. (Remember the E-Cats, the cool dudes with the darn unpronounceable name - Hecatoncheires - from Part One, and how they, along with the Cies (Cyclopes) helped Zeus sink the Titans?)
Faithful Briareus raced to Olympus and swiftly untied the thongs, using every hand at once. Before the other gods and goddesses could react, his master was free and once again re-united with his beloved thunderbolts!
Oh my. Can you imagine the soiled godly undergarments in the room? The Olympians scattered like mad, but to no avail. Zeus easily corralled them and then lay down his law.
Because it was Hera who had led the conspiracy against him, my godfather, the Marquis de Zeus, hung her from the sky. A golden bracelet was tied to each of her wrists, and a heavy anvil fastened to either ankle. Can you say 'pain'? Does 'discomfort' ring any bells?
Fondly I recall the animated arguments, late, late at night down at Thanasi's Olympus Greek Restaurant, between my grandpa Hesiod, my uncle Homer and the rest of the ancient literary gang:
"Hesiod, your 'suspended from the sky' premise is about as credible as your Atlas holding up the earth! Exactly where is the golden bracelet attached on the sky, man? From the clouds? Aren't you stretching it a bit, pardon the pun? Vicki, please call a chariot for Hesiod, no way he's driving himself home!"
"Homer, Homer, calm down before you go blind. I'll confide in you, but please keep it to yourself. Remember when I got royally screwed during my divorce, and lost the works, including the goats? Ever since, it's been my fantasy to tie up and hang my wife so that she's helpless, and then torment and harass her until she comes to her senses and returns the goats."
"Hmmm...I see you point, Hes. Sorry. Still, you're not going to win the Feminists' sympathy vote. I suggest you give it a happy ending. Would you like me to re-write it for you?"
The other deities were extremely vexed at the mistreatment of Hera, but valuing their own skin, and definitely not wanting to switch places with her, they dared not make an attempt at rescue. For days she hung like smoked meat, and her pitiful moans and cries filled the heavens. At last my godfather, unable to sleep due to the horrible sounds, undertook to cut her down.
But first he made the Olympians swear never again to rebel against him, which they grudgingly did. He punished Poseidon and Apollo by exiling them from Olympus for one year, and placing them as servants to King Laomedon, for whom they built the city of Troy. Being a softie deep down, he pardoned the other Olympians, claiming that they had acted under Hera's duress.
Needless to say, the near-coup only intensified his sexual ardor. Once again my horny godfather set off in search of fresh blood...and boy did he find it!
to be continued...
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