By Wm. Blake Tyrrell, Frieda S. Brown
This publication analyzes the relationships among Athenian myths and the associations that trained them. particularly, it examines how myths encode options on ritual, the code of the warrior, marriage, and politics. Combining conventional ancient and literary feedback with the techniques of anthropologists, feminist critics, and cultural historians, the authors examine particular examples of the epic and tragedy, in addition to funeral orations and the Parthenon marbles, to light up the methods mythic media exploited the ideals, strategies, and practices of fifth-century Athens, concurrently exemplifying and shaping that tradition.
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Additional info for Athenian Myths and Institutions: Words in Action
Zeus responds to the carving trick and theft of fire by creating Woman. Hesiod calls Woman a kalon kakon, a "beautiful ugly thing" or "a good bad thing" (585). She is a retaliation in kind for the useless bones in appetizing fat. Outside, she is a tender maiden, a wonder to behold in beautiful clothes and jewelry of gold. Inside, she is Gaia, here envisioned as worthless dirt. She resembles fire, for both need fuel to survive. The food gained by Prometheus' trick is consumed by Zeus's. Hesiod's Woman is fit to live only with Plenty, not with destructive Poverty (592-93), and the meat obtained by Prometheus' trick goes, in effect, into Woman's stomach.
After the gift of fire, men no longer depend upon chance for the cooking fire; now, they control fire. But theirs is very different from the fire of Zeus. His springs by his own will from the thunderbolt, while men's fire demands fuel acquired by work, for without fuel, it quickly dies. Prometheus' cunning is a shiftiness that appeared to the Greeks as motion, so he is tied down. Zeus, angered by Prometheus' trickery, binds him in chains and drives a pillar through them, rooting him fast. Zeus is also angered because, with the control of fire, men move closer to the gods, as it were, up to them: "It stung high-thundering Zeus anew and angered him in his heart when he saw the far-seen beam of fire among men" (567-69).
With their aid, Zeus acquires the force he needs to subdue the Titans. These sons of the past overwhelm the Titans by hurling three hundred rocks at a time. Zeus then shuts Kronos and the Titans away in the dark, dank mist of Tartarus, where the Hundred-Handers will serve as their guards. In this way, Zeus rids the world of the monstrous Hundred-Handers while he rewards them for their services, proving himself a civilizing and just god. Hesiod's Myth of the Birth of the Cosmos 35 Zeus's battle for kingship neither takes place within the family nor is directed against the female and her procreativity.