Garner's Greek Mythology

EP 43: Violence — Human and Divine

June 15, 2022 Patrick Garner Season 3 Episode 43
Garner's Greek Mythology
EP 43: Violence — Human and Divine
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 43 we analyze the impact of violence on the ancient Greeks. It was everywhere — the product of men constantly warring with each other and the result of gods randomly exerting their power.

Far too often the gods precipitated war solely for their own enjoyment … Men waged war to replenish slaves. The Olympic gods fought with each other. Mortals who thought too highly of themselves were punished.

Narrated by mythologist and best-selling author, Patrick Garner, Garner's Greek Mythology is unlike any other Greek history series.  Here these divine beings are viewed as if they were anything but mythical...

If you love this podcast, you'll also enjoy Garner's audible novel about the gods, Homo Divinitas, now available on Amazon.com and Audible.com. And find us on YouTube as well!

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EPISODE 43: VIOLENCE HUMAN & DIVINE

THERE'S A CONSTANT, DARK HEARTBEAT THAT RUNS THROUGH ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE. 

WHAT AM I REFERRING TO? VIOLENCE

VIOLENCE WAS A WAY OF LIFE. IT WAS SO COMMON THAT IT WAS NEVER QUESTIONED. BUT IN THIS EPISODE WE SLOWLY, CAREFULLY …

VIEW THE FEROCITY, THE FURY & THE SAVAGE CRUELTY THAT THE OLYMPIC GODS WROUGHT ON MEN — & THAT MEN BROUGHT UPON EACH OTHER. 

VIOLENCE WAS EVERYWHERE. WAR, AS WE'VE SEEN IN SO MANY EPISODES, WENT ON ALMOST WITHOUT INTERRUPTION. 

WHY? ON THE MOST MUNDANE LEVEL IT SERVED THE GREEKS’ ECONOMY — THEY USED SLAVE LABOR & REPLENISHED THEIR SUPPLY OF SLAVES BY WAGING WAR 

BEYOND THAT, WAR PROVIDED THE GODS IMMENSE ENTERTAINMENT. THE GODS TOOK SIDES, LIKE PEOPLE TODAY DO WITH SPORTING EVENTS.

THE INTERACTION BETWEEN GODS & MORTALS ALMOST ALWAYS ENDED BADLY FOR THE MORTAL.

TRY TO THINK OF AN EXCEPTION. ONLY ONE JUMPS OUT. IN A RECENT EPISODE I SPOKE OF THE CYPRIAN SCULPTOR, PYGMALION. 

HE PRAYED TO APHRODITE TO BRING HIS STATUE OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMEN TO LIFE. THE GODDESS DID SO, PYGMALION MARRIED HER & THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

BUT THAT GIFT WAS A RARITY. WHAT USUALLY HAPPENED WAS THAT ANYONE UNFORTUNATE ENOUGH TO ENCOUNTER A GOD WAS SOON LOST TO SOME VIOLENT EVENT.

THINK OF SEMELE WHO BECAME THE MOTHER OF DIONYSUS. THE INNOCENT GIRL WAS SEDUCED BY ZEUS. 

WHEN SHE WAS TRICKED BY ZEUS' WIFE HERA INTO VIEWING THE REAL ZEUS — THE ZEUS OF THUNDERBOLTS — SHE WAS PROMPTLY INCINERATED.

THEN THERE WAS ARACHNE, THE YOUNG WOMAN FROM LYDIA WHO DARED TO CLAIM HER WEAVING WAS BETTER THAN ATHENE'S. 

ATHENE STAGED A CONTEST BETWEEN THE TWO WHICH ARACHNE EASILY WON. RATHER THAN CONGRATULATE HER, THE GODDESS TURNED HER INTO A SPIDER …

THIS IS EPISODE 43 OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY. WE HAVE LISTENERS FROM 162 COUNTRIES ... SO WELCOME TO EVERYONE, WHEREVER YOU ARE.

I'M YOUR HOST, MYTHOLOGIST PATRICK GARNER. 

SOME OF THESE STORIES ABOUT THE GODS HAVE BEEN TOLD FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. BUT NOW THERE ARE NEW STORIES THAT ARE AS COMPELLING.

CHECK OUT MY BOOKS ON AMAZON ABOUT THE GODS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD. YOU CAN ALSO READ ABOUT THEM & THIS PODCAST AT PATRICKGARNERBOOKS.COM.

AND AS ALWAYS, THIS PODCAST FOCUSES ON ONE THING ... GREEK GODS, OF COURSE. THEY, LIKE YOU, ARE HERE, NOW ..

INDEED, Violence WAs EVERYWHERE in ancient GreeCE. 

IT WAS THE DOMINATING THEME OF GREEK THEATRE. TRAGEDIES REVELED IN the DIRE interaction of gods & humans. 

the gods, as defenders of divine pRerogatives, FREQUENTLY intervenED in human affairs. 

AND WHEN THEY DID SO, THEY BROUGHT A CASCADE OF violence UPON THOSE WHO IRRITATED THEM. 

CONSEQUENTLY, tragIC THEATER focuseD on EARLY Greek stories of CANNIBALISM, INCEST, FRATRICIDE, PARRICIDE & MATRICIDE. 

Violence lurkED behind most plots. AND WHY NOT? The unpredictability of THE gods in granting or withholding favors …

PERFECTLY reflectED THE Greek BELIEF THAT THEY, AS MORTALS, WERE AT THE WHIM OF DIVINE ABUSE.

BELIEVING THEY HAD NO CHOICE THE GREEKS tacitly accepted the violence AROUND THEM.

AND TOO, THE ANCIENT GREEKS WORRIED CONSTANTLY ABOUT THEIR FATE & ABOUT WHAT THE NEXT DAY MIGHT BRING.

INDEED, ALTHOUGH HUMANS DARED NOT SAY SO, THE GODS REINFORCED HUMAN ANXIETY AS THE GODS REGULARLY INDULGED IN RANDOM VIOLENCE. 

MEN TRIED TO LIVE BY LAWS; THE GODS DID AS THEY WISHED. ZEUS, HADES, POSEIDON, ARES — ALL WERE, AT HEART, UNSCRUPULOUS.

PART OF THAT DIVINE IMMORALITY WAS TO BLAME HUMANS FOR their own SUFFERING. THEREFORE, divine violence WAs always the result of human PRIDE. 

THE SELF-CONFIDENT, THE CONCEITED, THE ARROGANT AMONG MEN & WOMEN — ALL WERE AT RISK OF SOME FORM OF VIOLENT PUNISHMENT.

Human excess WAS BELIEVED to justify divine excess. WE SAW THIS IN THE EPISODE ON THE BACCHAE, THE WILD WOMEN WHO FOLLOWED THE GOD DIONYSUS.

WHEN THE YOUNG KING OF THEBES DARED TO MOCK DIONYSUS, THE GOD CAME TO THEBES TO TAKE REVENGE. HE DID SO BY GIVING THE KING EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED… 

WHICH WAS TO SPY ON THE DRUNKEN BACCHAE WHILE THEY DANCED ALL NIGHT IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. 

THE KING GOT MORE THAN HE BARGAINED FOR, BECAUSE THEY MISTOOK HIM FOR A WILD ANIMAL, & TORE HIM APART WITH THEIR BARE HANDS. 

IN ANOTHER TALE, WHEN ARTEMIS IS SEEN BY A HUNTER WHILE SHE IS BATHING IN HER SACRED WOODS, SHE REACTS IN FURY.

THE HUNTER IS TURNED INTO A STAG, & TRIES TO FLEE. ARTEMIS & HER NYMPHS KILL THE STAG WITH their ARROWS.

HER BROTHER APOLLO WAS ANOTHER GOD OF EXTREMITIES. FOR INSTANCE, HE GAVE HEALING GIFTS TO MANKIND. 

YET, HE SHOT ARROWS DIPPED IN PLAGUE AT VILLAGES THAT FAILED TO SHOW HIM DUE RESPECT.

BUT AS I NOTED, VIOLENCE WASN'T HEAPED UPON MEN ALONE. THE GODS WERE QUICK TO CLASH WITH EACH OTHER AS WELL.

AN EXAMPLE? ZEUS BECAME HEAD OF THE OLYMPIC GODS BY KILLING HIS FATHER KRONOS. THEN IN A MIGHTY BATTLE, THE OLYMPIC GODS KILLED OFF THE TITANS.

ZEUS' WIFE HERA PUNISHED THE DIVINE HEPHAISTOS FOR AN IMAGINED SLIGHT BY THROWING HIM OFF MT. OLYMPUS, CAUSING HIM TO LIMP FOREVER AFTER.

POSEIDON & ATHENE WERE INFAMOUSLY JEALOUS OF EACH OTHER, & CONSTANTLY COMPETED ANGRILY FOR CONTROL OF LAND & SEAS.

THE HIGHLY FEARED HADES, LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD, OFTEN TOOK WHAT HE WANTED EVEN FROM THE OTHER GODS.

THE MOST FAMOUS EXAMPLE OF THIS WAS WHEN HE KIDNAPPED PERSEPHONE & CARRIED HER DOWN TO HIS DARK REALM TO BECOME HIS WIFE.

PERSEPHONE WAS DEMETER'S DAUGHTER. DEMETER WAS ZEUS' SISTER. BUT HADES RESPECTED NONE OF THEM. HE SIMPLY TOOK WHAT HE WISHED.

WHEN DEMETER FOUND OUT WHAT HE’D DONE, SHE THREATENED TO DESTROY ALL CROPS WORLDWIDE, WHICH WOULD HAVE WIPED OUT MANKIND. 

ZEUS HAD TO INTERVENE TO STOP THE MASS STARVATION ... IN THE END HADES HALF RELENTED, BUT PERSEPHONE — VIOLENTLY TAKEN FROM HER MOTHER — REMAINED HIS WIFE.

WE SEE SIMILAR EXAMPLES OVER & OVER, WITH GODS INSULTING EACH OTHER & MEN WAGING CONSTANT WAR.

WAR? IT WAS PARTICULARLY VIOLENT. IT WAS ESSENTIALLY HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT. ROWS & ROWS OF MEN FACED EACH OTHER USING SWORDS & SPEARS.

CALVARY SWEPT IN FROM THE SIDES, SWINGING AXES. MEN WERE LIGHTLY ARMORED & WEAPONS EASILY PIECED THE BRONZE COVERING THEY WORE.

SPEARS SLID IN-BETWEEN THE CRACKS OF CHEST ARMOR. HELMETS WERE TOO THIN TO RESIST DIRECT BLOWS.

AND OF COURSE THERE WERE NO MEDICAL DOCTORS. ANY SOLDIER WHO WAS SEVERELY WOUNDED WAS AS GOOD AS DEAD.

BATTLES ENDED AT DUSK WITH BOTH SIDES DRAGGING THEIR SLAIN COMRADES OFF THE FIELD. THE GRASSES WERE STAINED & WEAPONS WERE LEFT BEHIND.

YET NONE OF THIS SEEMED HORRIFYING TO THE GREEKS. THE GREATEST HONOR FOR A WARRIOR WAS TO DIE ON THE BATTLEFIELD WHILE wielding HIS WEAPON. 

IT WAS THERE & ONLY THERE THAT HEROES WERE CREATED. soldiers WERE HONORED FOR THEIR BRAVERY, & BRAVERY CAME FROM USING BRUTE FORCE.

AS SPARTAN MOTHERS told THEIR SONS AS THEY LEFT FOR WAR, "come back with your shield, or COME BACK on it.” 

ATHENIAN BOYS TRAINED FOR COMBAT FROM AN EARLY AGE. PROWESS IN MARTIAL ARTS WAS PRIZED BY ALL GREEKS.

VIOLENCE WAS CHEERED; COWARDLINESS WAS DESPICABLE … VIOLENCE WAS AS COMMON AS BREATHING.

as i said, THE TERRIBLE STORIES WERE GLORIFIED IN ancient THEATERS ACROSS GREECE.

THE TROJAN WAR BECAME THE SHINING EXAMPLE, THE EXEMPLAR, OF HOW GREEK MEN WERE TO BEHAVE & AS AN EXAMPLE OF the gods’ machinations.

NOT ONLY WERE GREECE'S FINEST WARRIORS LOST ON TROY’S 10-year BATTLEFIELD …

BUT THE GODS THEMSELVES WERE HUMILIATED BY ZEUS. HE TRICKED HIS BROTHERS & SISTERS INTO TAKING SIDES. 

ARES — THE GOD OF WAR — WAS HIMSELF WOUNDED WHILE FIGHTING.

FOR A DECADE THOUSANDS OF MEN ON BOTH SIDES WERE KILLED. WHEN TROY FINALLY LOST, THE CITY WAS SACKED.

THE TROJAN WARRIORS WHO SURVIVED WERE KILLED. THE TROJAN WOMEN & CHILDREN WERE SOLD INTO SLAVERY.

HOMER'S ILIAD LIONIZED THESE EVENTS TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT CONDUCTING WAR IN ANY OTHER WAY BECAME UNIMAGINABLE.

AND THE VIOLENCE OF THE TROJAN WAR HARDLY ENDED WHEN THE CITY WAS BURNT TO THE GROUND.

AGAMEMNON, THE GREEK GENERAL WHO LED THE WAR, RETURNED TO HIS HOME ONLY TO BE MURDERED WITHIN HOURS BY HIS WIFE, CLYTEMNESTRA.

SHE IN TURN WAS MURDERED BY ORESTES, HER SON. THEN HIS SISTER COMMITTED SUICIDE, AS DID HER FIANCE UPON FINDING HER DEAD.

THE FEARSOME FURIES, THE DIVINE BEINGS WHO PUNISHED HUMANS WHO HAD COMMITTED A MURDER, PURSUED ORESTES UNTIL ATHENE FINALLY INTERVENED.

violence WAs alWAYS at the fore. AND THE GODS THEMSELVES WERE HARDLY SPARED. REMEMBER THE TALE OF PROMETHEUS.

HE WAS THE TITAN WHO DEFIED ZEUS & GAVE HUMANS FIRE. AS PUNISHMENT, ZEUS HAD HIM CHAINED TO A MOUNTAINSIDE.

THERE AN EAGLE APPEARED EACH MORNING & TORE OUT HIS LIVER. IT GREW BACK NIGHTLY, ONLY TO BE TORN OUT THE NEXT MORNING WHEN THE EAGLE REAPPEARED.

DID ZEUS RELENT AFTER WEEKS OR MONTHS? NO, PROMETHEUS WAS LEFT CHAINED TO THE MOUNTAIN & WAS TORTURED FOR CENTURIES.

HERACLES, ZEUS' most famous SON & THE MIGHTIEST GREEK WARRIOR — you remember the 12 labors of Heracles — DIED VIOLENTLY FROM A POISON ARROW.

HIS PAIN WAS SO EXTREME THAT HE PERSUADED HIS SON TO THROW HIM ALIVE ONTO A GIANT funeral PYRE SO THAT HE MIGHT ESCAPE THE PAIN. 

HIS LIFE & HIS DEATH WERE ONE OF VIOLENCE ...

ASKLEPIOS, THE SON OF APOLLO, WAS THE GREAT HEALER WHO TAUGHT MEDICINE TO MANKIND. HE PRECEDED HIPPOCRATES, & FOUNDED HEALING TEMPLES ACROSS GREECE.

YET HE WAS INCINERATED BY ZEUS with A THUNDERBOLT. WHY? FOR DARING TO RESURRECT A MAN FROM THE DEAD. 

ZEUS' VIOLENCE LED TO FURTHER VIOLENCE. APOLLO TOOK REVENGE FOR HIS SON'S death  BY KILLING THE CENTAUR WHO CRAFTED ZEUS' THUNDERBOLTS.

THERE'S MORE. REMEMBER THE SPHINX WHO GUARDED THE ENTRY IN THEBES. SHE POSED RIDDLES TO ANYONE WHO TRIED TO ENTER THE CITY.

WHEN TRAVELERS INVARIABLY ANSWERED INCORRECTLY, SHE PROMPTLY KILLED & ATE THEM. ONLY WHEN OEDIPUS ARRIVED & ANSWERED CORRECTLY WAS SHE DEFEATED.

IN HER DEFEAT SHE THREW HERSELF OFF A CLIFF. DID THAT END THE SAVAGERY? 

HARDLY. TO GET TO THEBES OEDIPUS HAD ALREADY KILLED HIS FATHER. HE THEN MARRIED HIS MOTHER WITHOUT KNOWING WHO SHE WAS.

WHEN THE TERRIBLE TRUTH WAS REVEALED, HIS MOTHER COMMITTED SUICIDE. HE IN TURN PUT OUT HIS OWN EYES & RENOUNCED BEING KING. 

THE OEDIPUS TALE IS ONE OF PARRICIDE — THAT IS, KILLING ONE'S FATHER — INCEST & SUICIDE. THAT ALL OF THIS WOULD HAPPEN WAS PREDICTED BY THE ORACLE OF DELPHI.

APOLLO KNEW WHAT WOULD BEFALL OEDIPUS. HIS ORACLE WARNED THE YOUNG MAN. BUT OEDIPUS STILL WALKED INTO WHAT WAS, IN EFFECT, A DIVINE TRAP. 

the god could have changed the FATE oedipus faced. YET HE DIDN’T ...

PSYCHOLOGICAL & PHYSICAL violence WAs alWAYS present IN THESE STRANGELY HEARTLESS TALES..

ANOTHER EXAMPLE? AJAX, ONE OF THE GREATEST OF THE GREEK WARRIORS WHO FOUGHT IN THE TROJAN WAR, WAS DRIVEN TO HIS DEATH BY THE GODDESS ATHENE.

IN THE NINTH YEAR OF THE WAR SHE made A FOOL OF AJAX BY CAUSING HIM TO FANTASIZE THAT HE WAS KILLING SOLDIERS.

BUT IN HIS DELUSION HE INSTEAD KILLED NOTHING MORE A HERD OF CATTLE. THEN HE WOKE, BECOMING AWARE OF HIS MISTAKE.

IN THE AFTERMATH, THE GODDESS HEAPED SCORN ON HIM & BELITTLED HIS HEROISM. HE WAS NOT ONLY EMBARRASSED, BUT FELT DEEPLY DISHONORED. 

AFTER NO MORE THAN MOMENTS OF self-reflection, AJAX CONCLUDED THAT, IF HE COULD NOT BE SEEN BY HIS COMPATRIOTS AS A MIGHTY WARRIOR, LIFE HELD NO ATTRACTION.

IN DESPAIR, HE KILLED HIMSELF BY FALLING ON HIS SWORD. 

ONE OF GREECE'S GREATEST WARRIORS COMMITTED SUICIDE SOLELY BECAUSE HE was in the cross-hairs of AN OLYMPIC GODDESS.

A FINAL EXAMPLE IS THAT OF AGAMEMNON'S young DAUGHTER, IPHIGENIA. WE'VE DISCUSSED HER IN OTHER EPISODES.

YOU'LL REMEMBER THAT WHEN THE THOUSAND-SHIP GREEK ARMY SET SAIL FOR TROY, THEY TOOK A BREAK AT A PLACE CALLED AULIS.

THERE, AGAMEMNON STUPIDLY SHOT ONE OF ARTEMIS' SACRED DEER. OUTRAGED, THE GODDESS BECALMED THE THOUSAND SHIPS, STRANDING THE ARMY HUNDREDS OF MILES FROM TROY.

AFTER WEEKS OF WAITING — & FACING AN INCREASINGLY RESTLESS ARMY — AGAMEMNON WAS TOLD BY AN ORACLE THAT THERE WAS ONE SOLUTION.

AGAMEMNON SAID TO THE ORACLE, "TELL ME. I'LL DO ANYTHING TO SATISFY THE GODDESS." 

THE ORACLE REPLIED, "YOUR DAUGHTER, IPHIGENIA. MUST BE SACRIFICED."

IN THE ILIAD HOMER THEN DESCRIBES HOW KING AGAMEMNON AGREED, LURED HIS DAUGHTER FROM THEIR HOME TO AULIS, THEN PROCEEDED TO SACRIFICE HER AS THE GODDESS DEMANDS.

ONCE AGAIN, violence is omnipresent. IN FACT, IPHIGENIA AGREED TO BE SACRIFICED SO THAT THE ARMY COULD CONTINUE ON THEIR BLOODY TASK.

SHE AT FIRST TRIED TO PERSUADE HER FATHER TO RECONSIDER. SHE PLED THAT SHE WAS A VIRGIN & THAT IF SHE DIED, HE WOULD HAVE NO GRANDCHILDREN.

BUT THE WILY ODYSSEUS PERSUADED HER THAT SHE’D BE MAKING A GRAND SACRIFICE FOR ALL OF GREECE, THAT THERE COULD BE NO MORE NOBLE AN ACTION.

SHE LOWERED HER HEAD, CONSENTING TO HER DEATH. THE ORACLE THEN DEMANDED THAT THE KING HIMSELF MUST WIELD THE KNIFE. HIS DAUGHTER WAS BOUND UP LIKE A LAMB.

ON AN ALTAR BEFORE THE ENTIRE ARMY, AGAMEMNON RAISED THE SACRIFICIAL BLADE. ONE MORE TIME, VIOLENCE, VERSUS SOME WISE & HUMANE SOLUTION, WAS EMPLOYED.

THE GODDESS ARTEMIS NEVER RELENTED. THE ARMY RAISED A LOUD, JOYOUS CRY AS THE SACRIFICE TOOK PLACE.

YET, AS IF JUSTIFYING IT ALL, THE WINDS RETURNED & THE THOUSAND SHIPS SAILED AWAY. 

FOR MILLENNIUM GODS CLASHED WITH GODS, GODS BROUGHT MISERY UPON MORTALS — & ECHOING THE DIVINE VIOLENCE — MORTALS WROUGHT WAR UPON EACH OTHER.

HEROES WERE ALMOST ALWAYS BROUGHT DOWN. HUBRIS WAS SWIFTLY PUNISHED. THINGS ALMOST ALWAYS ENDED BADLY FOR ANY MAN OR WOMAN WHO ENCOUNTERED A GOD.

WISDOM RARELY PREVAILED. INSTEAD, MEN WERE FORCED TO MANEUVER THROUGH IMPOSSIBLE & USUALLY INESCAPABLE MAZES DESIGNED BY THE GODS.

IF THEY BRIEFLY SUCCEEDED, THESE HEROES WERE INVARIABLY CRUSHED FOR DARING TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES OR FOR CONFRONTING A DIVINITY.

THE GREEKS NEVER QUESTIONED THE LOGIC OR PREMISE OF ALL OF THIS …VIOLENCE FELT INEVITABLE & REASONABLE. 

FATE ORDAINED THAT MAN LIVED AT THE WHIM OF THE GODS, & THAT THE GODS ANSWERED TO NO ONE. 

AS A CONSEQUENCE, VIOLENCE RIPPLED THROUGHOUT THE LANDS OF MEN & THROUGH THE ENCLAVES OF THE DIVINE. 

JOIN ME ... FOR THE NEXT EPISODE OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY. 

AND VISIT Patrick-Garner-Books-dot-com. IT'S ALL ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE GREEK GODS ... THIS PODCAST ... & ABOUT MY THREE NOVELS.

THE NOVELS ARE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON. THEIR UNDERLYING THEME IS THAT THE GREEK GODS NEVER LEFT. AS I SAY IN EVERY EPISODE, THEY'RE HERE, NOW.

IF YOU'D PREFER TO LISTEN — AFTER ALL, YOU ARE LISTENING TO A PODCAST— ONE OF THE THREE, HOMO DIVINITAS, IS AVAILABLE AS AN AUDIBLE BOOK.

THANKS FOR LISTENING ... THIS IS YOUR HOST, PATRICK GARNER.