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Lecture 18

Good morning and welcome to LLT121 Classical Mythology. In the next two or three class periods, we will be considering the goddess Artemis and her twin brother Apollo, two deities who, to a greater or lesser, extent represent this idea that the ancient Greeks must bow down before the divine. If you will recall from our last few class meetings, we talked about Dionysus, the god who was the externalization of partying, wine, and ecstatic possession, feel the power, feel the god inside you, feel the burn, and tear a few live animals apart. We also discussed the goddess Aphrodite, that wild and crazy goddess who is the externalization of the power of love, the power that, if you are lucky, at some point or another in your life, turns your mind to Jell-o and turns you into a love automaton. I wish you all such good luck. This is one half of the Greek psyche and this is one half of everybody’s psyche. The other half is represented by Artemis and Apollo, a goddess and a god who stand for getting a grip. Artemis is a virgin. She guards her virginity jealously. We’re going to go over a few stories this morning talking about what a bad career move it is to try to put the moves on the goddess Artemis. The god Apollo is not exactly chased. He is a bundle of contradictions, which represents, in and of himself, the full range of contradictions located, again, in the human psyche. When I believe it was Nietzsche who wanted to formulate his idea of the cosmic, he didn’t take out, oh, say, Artemis and Aphrodite. They’re girls. But don’t worry. Aphrodite and Artemis are going to have their own play called the Hippolytus, which we will be taking up shortly. Nietzsche picked on Apollo and Dionysus. Dionysus, the god of revelry, the god that said, “Hey, wow, the god’s inside of me. I am really something.” Versus Apollo, the god who says, among other things, “Hate hubris. Keep woman under rule. Bow down before the divine. Do not glory in strength.” In other words, “Me god, you humans. Me great, you nothing,” and so on.

Let’s start out, though, at the birth of Artemis and Apollo. As you might expect from Greek mythology, the birth of this wonderful god and goddess is your typical National Enquirer material. Artemis and Apollo are the twin children of Zeus and the promising goddess Leto. Their birth, as you might expect, was hindered by the ever-jealous Hera. Artemis was said to have been born on the island of Ortega, which I don’t care about. What I do find interesting is she is said to have assisted at the birth of her twin brother. Now, this is National Enquirer material, if you ask me. Supposedly, Artemis was born, and then, while Leto was trying to give birth to Apollo, Hera had fixed it so that no land would consent to have Apollo be born there. Finally, they talked this little piddly island called Delos that’s under water half the time, this island agreed to let Apollo be born there provided that they put a big temple on there for him. Therefore, all the goddesses gather around and stand there and applaud while Apollo is born with the help of his sister, Artemis. I pause for a question up to that point. Girl Helps Deliver Twin Brother.

Yes. Well, Crystal, you bring up a very excellent question. Answer number one is for no apparent reason other than, obviously, a local tradition says that Apollo was born on Delos. Are you with me so far? Then it remains to come up with an aetiology, a story explaining why it was that the twin sister was born there and the twin brother was born here. Let’s make up a really stupid aetiology of how poor Leto wanders about, looking for a place to give birth, because Hera is jealous. Okay, Hera is jealous. That’s pretty common and believable. It’s not really a very satisfying story, but they’re doing their best. Good question, mediocrely answered. Other questions? Phil? Okay, I thought that was pretty good, too.

Artemis seems to have two sides to her personality and function as a goddess. First, like Aphrodite she possess a number of qualities of the indigenous Greek earth mother goddess. You’ll recall that goddess with the ample proportions and the flowing hair and all of that. The giver of all good things etc. Although she’s a virgin, Artemis is the goddess of childbirth. Hum. Okay. She’s a protectress of babies and of small animals. Sometimes she is connected with witchcraft. At the same time she is the completely virginal protectress of chaste young women and she is an insatiable huntress. Okay, so she’s a protectress of baby animals, and when they grow up she kills them. Yeah! You see if I say it in the right way people will go, “Ha, that is really strange.” But it’s really not. When you think about it, the nurturing of baby animals is important because that’s how we get big animals. It is also the case that sometimes more animals grow to maturity than the land and the immediate surroundings can support. Then some of them have to die. Sometimes the flock does, herd has to be thinned out. Today that’s called wildlife management. But Artemis is just a strange character. Like her brother, Apollo, she is a cold divinity, capable of reeking large destruction.

Story number one is Niobe and the Niobids. Niobe is the queen of Thebes. Thebes is the city right next door to Athens. Because the greater part of Greek literature or surviving Greek literature was written either at Athens, or by people who were visiting Athens, or by people who were originally from Athens, it goes without saying that Athens is going to look pretty good in most of these myths. Just so, it goes to say that the city-state next door, Thebes, is going to look pretty bad. Try to consider a history of the state of Missouri written by a team of people from Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. It probably would not be too favorable. Then, if we get to write the history of Kansas, well, no, I can’t tell that one on camera. Supposedly, Leto gives birth to Artemis and Apollo. Niobe, who is a mother of 14—seven boys and seven girls—says, “I am the greater mother. I am a more womanly woman because I have seven times as many kids as you.” What is the technical term for behavior such as this? Raise your hand if you know. Elisabeth? Hubris. And let’s see who else raised their hand. Mark, what’s the punishment for hubris? Death or something that makes you wish you were dead. In this case it’s number two, something that makes Niobe wish she were dead. Apollo and Artemis take turns shooting, with bow and arrow, her 14 kids. You’re a ghoul. Apollo shoots seven boys; Artemis shoots six girls. Just as Artemis is lining up to shoot daughter number seven, the little baby, Niobe gets a clue. “I’m sorry. Forgive me, oh great goddess Artemis. I’m really sorry.” To which Artemis replies, thwack. She puts five right in the tin ring and that’s the end of kid number 14. A fate worse than death for a parent is to have your kids killed right in front of you. Niobe is spared. See? She didn’t get killed. She got something worse than death. She becomes a weeping rock. Obviously, there must have been a cliff somewhere. Supposedly, this is what happened. It looked like a face and water ran down from it. Somebody said, “Oh, yeah, that’s Niobe. She’s crying because her 14 kids got killed right before her very eyes.” You do not mess with Artemis.

But Actaeon did anyway. Actaeon is the son of a Theban princess. Okay? He’s off hunting in the mountains. He gets lost. He stumbles into a grove where Artemis and her promising young huntresses are taking a bath. By some bad fortune, he sees the goddess Artemis completely in the buff. Whoa! Not a good career move. Artemis sees him seeing her in the buff. Her first reaction is, “Oh, a man.” Her second reaction is, “Oh, a man seeing me buck-naked, me, the goddess Artemis.” She flings water at him. You can figure who tells us this story—Ovid again. Ovid says she flung water at him and turned him into a deer. What did I say he was going, Scot? He was hunting. He had a pack of 52 dogs following him around. As soon as he turns into a deer, guess what? The dogs attack him. He tried to tell them, “Guys it’s me, Actaeon.” How does it come out? Like a deer, you mean? He makes a deer noise. I don’t know what noise a deer makes. Okay, that’s the noise. Okay, “Uhn.” That’s how it comes out. But, Ovid, being Ovid, says, “Yes, and I would tell you the name of all 52 dogs at this point that he tried to call on, but it would take forever.” Then, being Ovid, he rattles off the names of the 52 dogs like Bowser and Snoopy, and Spike, you know, and Biffy, and Muffy, so on and so forth. I can’t help but laugh. According to Ovid opinions vary about the deed. Some say that the goddess had been crueler than she had been just. Whereas others said, “Oh, no, no, no. She was right to do this.” Let me read from the lecture notes, here, because I think I say it very well in my lecture notes. If Artemis feels threatened by the mere act of being seen nude by a man, it hints that there is at least a little sexual tension on her part. After all, if she had no conception, whatsoever, of herself as a sexual being it is very unlikely that she would feel one way or the other about being seen naked by the member of the opposite sex. Could it be, I ask you, that Artemis’s insistence upon total purity reflects fear and/or loathing of men? Yeah, you go. I think so. I also think, too, you can feel free to argue with me about it. I’d like it if you did. That the goddess Artemis certainly does now and probably did then serve as a goddess, especially beloved of women, who were sick and tired of the rules of a patriarchal society. We have not discussed the goddess Athena yet, but we will see that the goddess Athena excelled in a patriarchal society, was valued in a patriarchal society, because she could play the boys’ game as well as the boys. She dressed up in armor. She was the goddess of thought. She was the goddess of war. She hung around with male heroes, whereas Artemis hangs around with her priestesses. The only two male figures Artemis has any use for are her brother Apollo and her father Jupiter.

Which leads us into our next story, the story of Jupiter I guess we’re being Roman today, Calisto, and Arcas. Yes? Well, no that’s his daughter. Well, whom am I trying to fool? He’s not above that. But the answer is no, because maybe he’s too smart. Well you tell me after this story, Mark. Jupiter has a passion for a promising young nymph named Calisto, who is a devotee of the goddess Diana. Diana, of course, is the Roman’s name for the goddess Artemis. The poor nymph literally wants no part of Jupiter. He proves literally irresistible. Here’s what he does. He disguises himself as Diana, which is the Roman name for the goddess Artemis. While Calisto is babbling about, “Oh, we had a great hunt today. Oh, we killed so many animals, and this really weird looking deer,” you know how that goes, Jupiter—disguised as Diana—lays a great big kiss on her. She responds back. Before you start to say, “You have a very seedy mind,” remember that I’m quoting Ovid to you. Yes, I do have a seedy mind, but it is nowhere near Ovid’s. I think that Ovid is just behaving the way that men do when they cannot understand the female mind. I offer you just one example. Men—manly men—go to the bathroom individually. Women go to the bathroom in twos and threes and fours and stuff like that. Why is that? I want you women in the classroom to know that while you’re doing that, we men are just sitting there making all sorts of suppositions about why you do that, because basically we don’t understand. I think Ovid’s hinting at a lesbian dimension doesn’t mean that it’s a bunch of women going out and doing wild things. He’s just suggesting it. He’s just suggesting that the worship of Artemis might have attracted women who preferred other women sexually. That’s about all it’s worth because he lays into his usual theme of what a jerk Zeus is. Jupiter loves her and leaves her. Being Jupiter, of course, Calisto is pregnant. Calisto can’t exactly run up and tell Diana that she is about to give birth to a child. She remembers what happened to that funny looking deer.

As long as Calisto is not showing, as long as she does not appear to be pregnant, she’s okay. But, in her eighth month or there about, Diana gets a look at her. You know, well I have no problems simulating a pregnant woman, obviously, but I’m losing weight. She says, “Get out of here. You’re defiling my personal space.” For no fault of her own, Calisto is driven out of the priestesses of Artemis because she has had the touch of a man. It doesn’t matter that the man was a god and the god was Jupiter. Get out! So poor Calisto wanders around in the woods. After Calisto gives birth to a baby boy—the baby boy is named Arcas—Hera turns her into a bear. Now, I know what you’re thinking, Scot. You’re thinking, why didn’t Hera turn her into a bear first, right? Well, wouldn’t you do that? Or what was your question? Oh. I knew some wiseacre was going to ask me why she didn’t turn Calisto into a bear first and I was going to offer the following helpful explanation; Because the story wouldn’t work any other way. Calisto is condemned to pad about the woods as a bear. While Arcas is raised by shepherds or goats or something like that. One day when he’s 15 Arcas goes out into the woods with his trusty bow and arrow. He’s going to kill him a bear. Sure enough he sees this enormous she bear looking at him but it doesn’t look like it’s going to attack him. He’s thinking, “Whoa this is cool” and he draws back the bow. Guess who the bear is? Nobody in this room wants to guess who the bear is? It’s his mom, Calisto. Okay? His mom Calisto was trying to say things like, “Honey, don’t shoot me or I’m going to lay the mother of all guilt trips on you. Please. It’s me your mom.” How does it come out? Grrr. Bears say, “Grrr.” Finally, Zeus shows pity on them, changes Calisto into a big bear, changes Arcas into a little bitty bear, and they become the constellations, the Big Bear and the Little Bear. Here’s kind of a nifty aetiology. Hera, just jealous as all get out, says, “Oh great. These people disrespect me and they get changed into stars and stuff like that. I am so angry.” She goes to her brother Poseidon, god of the sea, and says, “Poseidon look my stupid husband made these two mortal jerks into constellations. I’m very offended. Please promise me they will never get to rest in your soothing waters ever.” That is why that the Big Bear and the Little Bear revolve around Polaris, the pole star, all year round. They never dip below the horizon. That’s a pretty nice aetiology, even if it doesn’t make complete sense.

Another character who gets a hankering to perform the love deed with Artemis is this guy named Orion. Orion has the distinction with being the one constellation I can pick out of the sky with any regularity. How many of you are pretty much the same way? You’re taking your sweetie out to look at the stars and you go, “Look! Orion.” I like that. Here I’ll draw Orion up on the blackboard. For those of you who have not learned this trick next time you’re out with your main squeeze, looking at the stars, you can point up to this thing that looks like a shot glass on top of an upside down shot glass, and go, “Look! Orion.” You can tell them the following story. Actually we don’t have any good versions of this story. It’s very brief. Orion wants to do it with Artemis. Artemis doesn’t want to do it with Orion. So she changes him into a constellation. His dog, Sirius, becomes the dog star. You know I try to draw these hunting dogs and they invariably wind up looking like Snoopy. Yes, he is. In version number two, he gets stung by a scorpion. Besides, Farrah Lynn, who’s to know whether he’s chasing the scorpion or the scorpion is chasing him. Okay, very quickly, we will summarize Artemis. She’s a might goddess. She probably did start her career as one of a series of earth-type goddesses who were already worshiped and venerated in ancient Greece by the indigenous Greeks, before the Achaeans ever came in there. She is also, in addition to being associated with childbirth and young animals, she is also connected with the moon. Therefore, she is connected with the goddess Selene, the influential moon goddess. She is also connected with the influential underworld goddess, Hecate, last seen telling Demeter just where it was Persephone had been carried off. Wait a minute. How can Artemis be Selene and Hecate at the same time? I cannot be Farrah Lynn and Greer at the same time that I’m being me. This does not compute. The ancient Greeks rationalize this through the dreaded process of synchrotism that says that okay when she’s being the moon goddess she’s Selene. When she’s being the underworld goddess, she is being Hecate. When she walks around on the earth hunting she is Artemis. To me she represents that side of the feminine psyche that refuses to try to play by men’s rules. She is a huntress who prefers the company of other women. I don’t think sexually myself, but you can all have your own opinions. She stands out among the Greek pantheon, among the other goddesses for being a goddess who does it her way.

I pause for a question up to this point. Crystal. Synchrotism is that process by which we have Keri, goddess of thunder and also Mona, goddess of thunder. They can’t both be the goddess of thunder. So I start saying, “Well, maybe the goddess Keri is basically the same as the goddess Mona,” if you see what I’m getting at. The god Jupiter is the same as the god Zeus. They are not different gods. They are basically two versions of the same god. Was that a good answer? Ask me another question if it is not. Okay thank you. A good question answered finely. Other questions? Phil. She’s an underworld witch goddess. You know, the goddess of what women talk about when men aren’t around that scares us to death. Okay? I would think so. Boy, that’s brilliant, Mark. One more crack like that and I am going to make you teach this class. Mark suggested, and quite rightly ,even today not to get off on a tangent or anything like that, but society to this day tends to quote/unquote demonize women who are strong and independent and so on. Of course, Rosie does a good job of demonizing her own bad self. But one only need consider the career of—hate to date this, but—Mrs. Clinton who is a lawyer and doesn’t care what people think about her unduly etc. I have no doubt that in real life she’s a real jerk. I don’t want to meet her. But I sure do respect her for being able to stand up for what she believes in and being willing to take the flack for it. And so on and so forth. It is an unfortunate tendency of western society and most societies, too, if she is powerful and doesn’t care what men think, to the underworld with her.

Okay, next Apollo. Apollo according to me is perhaps the most anthropomorphic of the Olympians. This, supposedly, is a god who’s got it all. He’s got the looks. He’s got the brains. He’s got musical talent. His dad is Zeus. He is associated with the sun. As such, he’s the god of wisdom, prophesy, law and order, justice, culture, and public affairs. As such he is perhaps the most civilized and refined of the gods. To a certain extent, Apollo is like the ideal of the Greek person and especially the Greek male person. In his myths you would think that a guy like this would have his pick of willing goddesses and females. It does not work out that way. He never gets the girl. He never gets the boy. Yes, he likes boys sometimes, too. Even when he does, he doesn’t get to keep them for very long. Apollo is, at the same time, the most tragic of deities in that, theoretically, he can always get what he wants, but most of the time, he finds he can’t even get what he needs. Apollo is, supposedly, a god of wisdom and prophecy. He was born at Delos, but he’s perhaps most famous for his worship complex on Mount Delphi, which is a mountain in ancient Greece.

Supposedly, when Apollo was a boy, he had a dream that he was supposed to establish a center of worship on Mount Delphi. So he goes to Mount Delphi, right? He finds a big dragon known as Pytho. We do get our term, python, from that, although Pytho means rotter, she who is rotten. It’s a female snake. So he kills it. He incurs miasma. Did I tell you miasma is? Miasma is bloodguilt. It literally means, in ancient Greek, pollution, defilement, and a stain. As such it can be applied to, if you have really bad breath, it could be miasma breath. Try calling somebody that someday. But as a technical term in Greek mythology it is a term for the bloodguilt you incur when you kill somebody. Let’s say that Mike is sick and tired of being called Snakehead. So he kills me. We don’t have the legal system.. It hasn’t been invented yet, so what it means is some member of my family—let’s say my niece, Grace, who is like six weeks old now—is compelled to kill you. Okay? Since there is no such thing as a murder trial, it means some member of Mike’s family has to kill my niece, probably his dog, Sparky. Okay, this means that my cousin, Elvis, kills Mike’s dog Sparky, which means your sister’s best friend’s cat has to kill, etc., etc. It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys, an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Stop the insanity, but how? Well, Apollo incurs miasma for killing the python out on Mount Delphi. Eventually he will atone for it. The word Delphi in ancient Greek means dolphin. The real etymology is lost in the depths of time. The only thing I can guess is that to somebody with a vivid imagination—and probably a pretty good snoot full—the mountain reminded him or her of a dolphin. Remember that the Rorschach test had not yet been invented. At any rate, this thing is named Mount Dolphin or Mount Delphi in ancient Greek. We’re going to need, Crystal, another stupid aetiology of why the center of Apollo’s worship is on a mountain named after a dolphin. Here it goes. For my money, one of the stupidest aetiologies in all of classical Greek and Roman mythology. Apollo changed himself into a dolphin and recruited the priests. So, next time you see a talking dolphin come up to you... No, I was going to suggest you check yourself into the Marion Center or something like that. Supposedly, Delphi is the omphalous or belly button of the world because it is the holy place of the god Apollo. Indeed Delphi became very quickly the spiritual center of the ancient Greek world. By the way, the belly button of the world is located in very many different places. Most of the students I talk to seem to think that the absolute center of the world is located in Springfield, Missouri. I think it is. I think it’s hovering right up above my head. Okay? Don’t say a word.

Here’s how the Delphic Oracle works. By the way, the Delphic Oracle is 100 percent correct. Write this down. It is 100 percent correct. It is right all the time. Here’s how it goes. People come from all around the Greek world to consult the Delphic Oracle. They have to come to the oracle and they have to bring presents for the god Apollo. The nicer the present, the more Apollo likes you. They also have to spend time in the city which surrounds the oracle at Delphi. It’s kind of like an ancient Greek version of Branson, because you have the tourists coming around from everywhere. Hey they’re here. They need to eat and sleep. Let’s help these people out. Quite the little cottage industry. Then, next, when the oracle is open and available, people must buy a sacrificial cake, which is kind of like your year-round pass to Silver Dollar City, I guess. You come into the area of the prophets and this is what you see. You see a woman wearing a long dress sitting on a tripod chair under which is burning a pot with a special herb in it. Or, in some accounts—nobody’s ever been there and given us a description—a fissure or crack in the ground from which arises this mysterious vapor. When you ask your question to the priestess who is known as the Pythia or the Pythoness, she listens to it and she responds by going pure gibberish. She babbles. Pardon? Yeah, it’s a good job if you can get it. I’ve been at it for I don’t know how many years now. There is a man standing next to her with a little scroll and a clipboard and stuff like that who translates the female’s ravings into sense, sensible things that somebody can understand. I say this sidling back toward the door, but this fits in very well, of course, with the behavior of a patriarchal society. The woman is inspired. The woman, you know, brings to us the words of the god. It’s just that it needs a man to explain it. Do you ever hear that, where woman starts explaining something to you and the guy says, “What she means to say…” Then the woman reaches across and smacks him one right across the face and says, “I’ll tell you what I mean to say.” Do you ever watch this cartoon show called the Go-Go Gophers? It is where one of the characters that speaks gibberish and then there’s somebody else that is the chief who speaks gibberish. This is the neat thing about the Delphic Oracle; it’s always right.



Let me tell you a story. I’ll tell you several stories. The best one is which this king of Lydia by the name of Croesus. Lydia is here in modern day Asia Minor. It’s either down around here or somewhere else. He was going to go to war with Persia. Before he went to war with Persia, being a smart, Greek-speaking, king sort of guy that he was, he sent off the Delphic Oracle. He sent this big, nice, beautiful present to Apollo and the guy he sent with it he gave instructions to say, “Ask him what’s going to happen if I invade Persia. Apollo’s response is delivered by that silly, crazy woman sitting on her tripod and turned into sense by the manly man standing next to her was, “If Croesus invades the Persians, a great empire will be destroyed.” That’s really going out on a limb, isn’t it? Croesus, of course, being a human, being a tragic character, interpreted it to mean exactly what he wanted it to mean; that he was going to kick Persian butt. You know what happened. Almost before he can think about it he finds himself on top of a huge funeral pyre—only he’s not dead yet—about to be lit by agents of the Persian king. Does anybody want to know what he says up on top? Can anybody tell me, in ancient Greek, what he says up on top of that funeral pyre that hasn’t been lit yet? He says, “Arti manthano, now I get it. I destroyed my kingdom.” Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the pyre, King Xeroxes is going, “What’s he yelling about? Don’t set him on fire yet. Let’s go see what he’s yelling about.” Croesus is untied. He comes down and says, “Look I screwed up big time. I misinterpreted the Delphic Oracle. It told me I was going to destroy a great kingdom. I guess I did, ha ha.” King Xeroxes says, “Yeah, life’s a bitch. Don’t burn him.” So this arti manthano story has a happy ending.

Let me give you another story. Once upon a time there was this kid. His name was Eddie. Eddie had parents that were pretty old and stuff like that. They really loved him and told him he was a prince. He was going to get everything that was theirs. One day Eddie was drinking with some of his teenage buddies. Somebody said, “Eddie you’re a bastard.” He said, “Ha, you’re a bleep.” “No, Eddie, I’m telling you you’re a bastard. The people you think are your mom and dad are not.” Since they did not have any form of courthouses or birth identification or anything like that—medical records—Eddie was forced to go to the Delphic Oracle. So Eddie goes to the Delphic Oracle and says, “Are X and Y my mom and dad?” It’s a simple question, right? Are Polybus and Merope my mom and dad? To which the Delphic Oracle helpfully responds, “You will kill your dad and you will marry your mom.” I mean you sit there and chuckle at it but how about if an infallible oracle told you that you were going to marry your opposite sex parent and kill your same sex parent? And you know it’s right. That’s what the Delphic Oracle is all about. You ask it a question and it answers something completely different. You can’t grab the Pythoness by the collar and say, “That’s not what I ask you, you idiot!” because she’s a representative of the god Apollo. It doesn’t work that way. That story has an unhappy ending although it ends with the words arti manthano, too, just like all the good tragedies do. Socrates. Did I tell you about Socrates and how he was the wisest man in all ancient Greece? The Delphic Oracle even said he was the wisest man in all of Greece because he alone knew that he knew nothing. Let me send you packing with two or three infallible predictions for the next 12 months. Let’s see how I do. You can come back here in a year and tell me whether or not I’m right. A famous actor or actress will be discovered to have a drug problem. A plane full of people will crash somewhere. A professional sports team expected to finish dead last will surprise everybody by being better than everybody thought. A singer that nobody ever heard of will become very famous, sell oodles of compact disc and then never be heard from again. It’s not that hard is it? I’ll see you in the next exciting episode of Classical Mythology. You’ve been a good class. Have a nice day.


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