Valentine’s Day PSA: Zeus Can Change His Shape; The Rest of Us Pay (For Sex)


Earlier today I posted some epigrams on Danae. I left this one out because it has Leda and swans in it too!

Bassos, Greek Anthology 5.125

“I will never rain down in gold. Someone else might
Become a bull or a sweet-voiced swan by the shore.
Let Zeus keep these games for himself. I will not fly,
But I will give these two obols to Korinna, my girl.”

Οὐ μέλλω ῥεύσειν χρυσός ποτε• βοῦς δὲ γένοιτο
ἄλλος χὠ μελίθρους κύκνος ἐπῃόνιος.
Ζηνὶ φυλασσέσθω τάδε παίγνια• τῇ δὲ Κορίννῃ
τοὺς ὀβολοὺς δώσω τοὺς δύο κοὐ πέτομαι.

Reinterpreting Zeus’ Golden Rain: The Greek Anthology on Persuading Women

This is a real vase, held in the Louvre.

The Fifth Book of the Greek Anthology is a collection of erotic epigrams. Many of them use myth in amusing ways, for instance, the poem where the speaker claims to be Telephus and asks his addressee to be his Achilles. There are a series of poems that reflect on the practice of giving women gold using the story of Danae. These are a little funny, but if you observe some of the motifs in advertising around Valentine’s Day, they get a little less amusing….

Paulus Silentiarius, Greek Anthology, 5.219

“Golden Zeus cut through the seal of untouched maidenhood
after he entered Danae’s chamber of beaten bronze.
I think that what the story means is this: Gold, the all-conquerer,
Overcomes walls and chains.
Gold reproaches all reins and every lock,
Gold bends all blinking women its way.
It turned around Danae’s mind too: No lover needs
To beg the Paphian’s favor if he has money.”

Χρύσεος ἀψαύστοιο διέτμαγεν ἅμμα κορείας
Ζεὺς διαδὺς Δανάας χαλκελάτους θαλάμους.
φαμὶ λέγειν τὸν μῦθον ἐγὼ τάδε• „Χάλκεα νικᾷ
τείχεα καὶ δεσμοὺς χρυσὸς ὁ πανδαμάτωρ.”
χρυσὸς ὅλους ῥυτῆρας, ὅλας κληῖδας ἐλέγχει,
χρυσὸς ἐπιγνάμπτει τὰς σοβαροβλεφάρους•
καὶ Δανάας ἐλύγωσεν ὅδε φρένα. μή τις ἐραστὰς
λισσέσθω Παφίαν, ἀργύριον παρέχων.

Parmenion, Greek Anthology 5.33
“You poured onto Danae as gold, Olympian, so that the girl
Might be persuaded by a gift, and not tremble before Kronos’ son.”

᾿Ες Δανάην ἔρρευσας, ᾿Ολύμπιε, χρυσός, ἵν’ ἡ παῖς
ὡς δώρῳ πεισθῇ, μὴ τρέσῃ ὡς Κρονίδην.

“Zeus got Danae for gold, and I’ll get you for some too:
I cannot give more than Zeus did!”

῾Ο Ζεὺς τὴν Δανάην χρυσοῦ, κἀγὼ δὲ σὲ χρυσοῦ•
πλείονα γὰρ δοῦναι τοῦ Διὸς οὐ δύναμαι.

Antipater of Thessalonica, 5.30

“Once there was a golden race, a bronze age, and a silver one too.
But today, Cytherea takes every form.
She honors the golden man, has loved the bronze one
And never turns her face from silver men.
The Paphian stretches out like Nestor—and I don’t think that Zeus
Rained on Danae in gold: he came carrying a hundred gold coins!”

Χρύσεος ἦν γενεὴ καὶ χάλκεος ἀργυρέη τε
πρόσθεν• παντοίη δ’ ἡ Κυθέρεια τὰ νῦν•
καὶ χρυσοῦν τίει καὶ χάλκεον ἄνδρ’ ἐφίλησεν
καὶ τοὺς ἀργυρέους οὔ ποτ’ ἀποστρέφεται.
Νέστωρ ἡ Παφίη. δοκέω δ’, ὅτι καὶ Δανάῃ Ζεὺς
οὐ χρυσός, χρυσοῦς δ’ ἦλθε φέρων ἑκατόν.


Danae 2
Yes. Another one.
The Greek vases make Gustav Klimt’s painting look tame.

Politics, Ancient and Modern: Men See Wealth as an Indicator of Wisdom (Euripides, fr. 327)

Thus fragment from Euripides’ lost Danae speaks to some of the less pleasant truths about modern politics (and attests to some rather ancient continuities).

“Truly, men love to take the words
Of wealthy men as wisdom, and yet when
Some poor man from a lesser house speaks well
They laugh. But I have often noticed
That poor men are wiser than the rich
And that those who make small offerings to the gods
Are more pious than those who slaughter bulls.”

φιλοῦσι γάρ τοι τῶν μὲν ὀλβίων βροτοὶ
σοφοὺς τίθεσθαι τοὺς λόγους, ὅταν δέ τις
λειτῶν ἀπ’ οἴκων εὖ λέγῃ πένης ἀνήρ,
γελᾶν· ἐγὼ δὲ πολλάκις σοφωτέρους
πένητας ἄνδρας εἰσορῶ τῶν πλουσίων
καὶ <τοὺς> θεοῖσι μικρὰ θύοντας τέλη
τῶν βουθυτούντων ὄντας εὐσεβεστέρους.

Golden Rain or Incest? Early Fragments on Perseus

Perseus, Andromeda, and a Sea Monster
Perseus, Andromeda, and a Sea Monster

Hesiod, Fr. 129.8-18

“And she bore both Proitos and king Akrisios
And the father of gods and men established them in different places
Akrisos ruled in well-built Argos…
[three broken lines describing the marriage of Akrisios to Eurydike, daughter of Lakedaimon]
She gave birth to fine-ankled Danae in her home
Who in turn was the mother of Perseus, the mighty master of fear.
Proitos lived in the well-built city of Tiryns
and married the daughter of the great-hearted son of Arkas
the fine-haired Stheneboia…”
Continue reading “Golden Rain or Incest? Early Fragments on Perseus”

Fragmentary Friday: Euripides Confuses (Himself?) On Women

Euripides is sometimes held up to be among Athens’ greatest misogynists. Close readings of his full plays can contradict this (sometimes). A handful of fragments can confound

Euripides, fr. 320 (Danae)

“There is neither fortress nor fortune
Nor anything else as hard to guard as a woman.”

οὐκ ἔστιν οὔτε τεῖχος οὔτε χρήματα
οὔτ’ ἄλλο δυσφύλακτον οὐδὲν ὡς γυνή.

Euripides, fr. 276 (Auge)

“We are women: in some things, we hesitate.
But in others, no one can surpass our courage.”

γυναῖκές ἐσμεν• τὰ μὲν ὄκνῳ νικώμεθα,
τὰ δ’ οὐκ ἂν ἡμῶν θράσος ὑπερβάλοιτό τις.

Euripides, fr. 358 (Erechtheus)

“Children have nothing sweeter than their mother.
Love your mother children, there is no kind of love anywhere
Sweeter than this one to love.”

οὐκ ἔστι μητρὸς οὐδὲν ἥδιον τέκνοις•
ἐρᾶτε μητρός, παῖδες, ὡς οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔρως
τοιοῦτος ἄλλος ὅστις ἡδίων ἐρᾶν.

Euripides, fr. 137 (Andromeda)

“Best of all riches is to find a noble spouse.”

τῶν γὰρ πλούτων ὅδ’ ἄριστος
γενναῖον λέχος εὑρεῖν.

Perhaps this is at the root of the problem:

Euripides, fr. 26 (Aeolus)

“Aphrodite has many shades:
She can please or aggrieve men completely.”

τῇ δ’ ᾿Αφροδίτῃ πόλλ’ ἔνεστι ποικίλα•
τέρπει τε γὰρ μάλιστα καὶ λυπεῖ βροτούς.


(And, yes, these are just some fragments from his lost plays A-E!)