Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Zeus and Hera in Ancient Paradise


John R. Salverda Writes:
"If Adam and Eve, in the Greek religious system, have become Zeus and Hera, there should be literary evidence for their presence in this garden, and there is. Apollodorus wrote that the apples of the Hesperides “were presented by Gaia [Earth] to Zeus after his marriage with Hera.” This matches the Genesis account: Eve became Adam’s wife right after she was taken out of Adam (Genesis 2:21–25), and the next recorded event is the taking of the fruit by the first couple. Connecting Zeus and Hera with the Hesperides connects them with the serpent and the fruit tree with which the Hesperides are always represented." (From Chapter 9: "The Forbidden Theory of Ancient Greek Art")
The record of Greek mythology presents several "messianic" heroes in the same light. The marriage of Zeus and Hera is not the only one that features the symbols of the Hesperides, for example after Cadmus destroyed the serpent of Ares he had a very high profile wedding feast, at which; "the gods shared their marriage feasts" (Pindar, Pythian Ode 3. 86 ff.); "There, as they say, by the Tritonian Lake, Kadmos the wanderer lay with rosycheek Harmonia, and the Nymphai Hesperides made a song for them, and Kypris (Aphrodite) together with the Erotes (cherubs) decked out a fine bed for the wedding, hanging in the bridal chamber golden fruit from the Nymphai’s garden, a worthy lovegift for the bride; rich clusters of their leaves Harmonia and Kadmos twined through their hair, amid the abundance of their bridechamber, in place of the wedding-roses. Still more dainty the bride appeared wearing these golden gifts, the boon of golden Aphrodite. Her mother’s father the stooping Libyan Atlas awoke a tune of the heavenly harp to join the revels, and with tripping foot he twirled the heavens round like a ball, while he sang a stave of harmony himself not far away." (Nonnus, "Dionysiaca" 13. 333 ff.). Take note that, according to Nonnus, the wedding of Cadmus not only featured the golden fruit, but it also took place in the vicinity of Mount Atlas.
Then there was the wedding of Peleus and Thetis; "Singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight, which all the blest Immortals brought to pass by Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast when the swift Horai brought in immortal hands meats not of earth, and heaped in golden maunds; sang how the silver tables were set forth in haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang how breathed Hephaistos purest flame of fire; sang how the Nymphai (the Hesperides) in golden chalices mingled ambrosia." (Quintus Smyrnaeus, "Fall of Troy" 4. 128 ff.). Not only did the Hesperides appear, but so did one of their golden apples as Eris, angered at not getting an invite, used the fruit to cause the Trojan War as an act of revenge; "And now she bethought her of the golden apples of the Hesperides. Thence Eris took the fruit that should be the harbinger of war, even the apple, and devised the scheme of signal woes. Whirling her arm she hurled into the banquet the primal seed of turmoil and disturbed the choir of goddesses." (Colluthus, "Rape of Helen" 58 ff.). Take note that the fruit, that was elsewhere touted as the fruit of the quest for immortality (ie. from the tree of life), is depicted here as "the primal seed of turmoil."
Nonnus, in his "Dionysiaca," says of the participation of the Hesperides at the marriage of Helios and Clymene; "The light that shone on that bridal bed come from the starry train; and the star of Cypris (Aphrodite), Eosphoros (the Morning Star), herald of the union wove a bridal song ... The Hesperides raised the joy-cry." (Nonnus, "Dionysiaca" 38. 135 ff.).
Although I can find only one account that links the apples of the Hesperides, with the golden apples in the myth of Atalanta (the usual story is that they were supplied by Aphrodite, the mother of the cherub Eros, with no word as to where she got them), Virgil (c. 30 BC.) clearly makes this association as his Orpheus croons about Atalanta; "he sings of the maid who marveled at the apples of the Hesperides." (Virgil, "Georgics" 6. 61 ff.). Thus Virgil credits the apples of the Hesperides with facilitating the marriage of Atalanta to Hippomenes.
It is apparent that the symbols of the Hesperides were not exclusive to the marriage of Zeus and Hera, but rather that the Hesperides and their symbolisms were traditionally applied often to the wedding feasts of many other gods and heroes. There is no doubt that all of these traditions can be traced back to the origin of all marriage in the Garden of Eden, but this is not really evidence that any or all of these couples, and their respective weddings, are depictions of the story of Adam and Eve. It could be that, among the Greeks, the symbols of the original wedding, became those of all weddings. Furthermore, the ancient mythological record is not unanimous as to the location of the wedding of Zeus and Hera; "several places in Greece claimed the honour of having been the scene of the marriage, such as Euboea (Steph. Byz. s. v. Karustos), Samos (Lactant. de Fals. Relig. i. 17), Cnossus in Crete (Diod. v. 72), and Mount Thornax, in the south of Argolis. (Schol. ad Theocrit. xv. 64; Paus. ii. 17. § 4, 36. § 2.)" (from William Smith's "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology").
"The chorus in Euripides’ play Hippolytus speaks of “the apple-bearing shore of the Hesperides” where immortal fountains flow “by the place where Zeus lay, and holy Earth with her gifts of blessedness makes the gods’ prosperity wax great.” Thus Euripides put Zeus in the garden, and his language affirms that this is where Zeus came from." (From Chapter 9: "The Forbidden Theory of Ancient Greek Art")
I shall here present the same quote, without the ellipses, as translated by the English classical scholar, Philip Humphrey Vellacott (The parenthetical remark is from the notation that is included at the "Perseus Project."); "The apple-bearing Hesperian coast, of which the minstrels sing. Where the Lord of Okeanos denies the voyager further sailing and fixes the solemn limit of Ouranos which Giant Atlas upholds. There the streams flow with ambrosia by Zeus's bed of love (The reference is to the marriage of Zeus and Hera, which the scholiast implies was consummated here.) and holy Gaia, the giver of life, yield to the gods rich blessedness." (Euripides, "Hippolytus" 742 ff.).
The Tree and the Fruit
There were two famous trees in the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of eternal life; "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" (Genesis 3:22 KJV). But which tree is being referred to in the Greek myth? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was introduced in the Scriptural narrative before the creation of Eve; It was not given (by God,) to Adam, in fact God forbade him from it (although He did not set a guard on it as he did later with the tree of life).
"You have probably heard one time or another about Eve eating the apple. The Hebrew word for fruit in Chapter 3 of Genesis is a general term. The idea that Adam and Eve took a bite of an apple comes to us as part of the Greek tradition." (From Chapter 9: "The Forbidden Theory of Ancient Greek Art")
Not only does it appear that Greek mythology has imposed itself upon Judeo-Christian theology, with the Greek "apple" becoming the "fruit" of the Original Sin, it also seems like the influence also flows in the other direction as well. For the golden apples of the Hesperides are, now-a-days thought to impart immortality upon one who eats of it, however I can't find one ancient Greek source that says so (and even though these apples are acquired by some, nobody ever seems to take a bite of one). This idea is apparently taken from the Edenic "tree of eternal life" (not the one picked and eaten by Adam and Eve, but a different tree altogether) and is then back-applied by we moderns upon the Greek myth without any real justification (Herakles was said to have achieved immortality by completing his 12 labors, of which obtaining the golden apples was but one. It is nowhere stated that he ate from the apples.) It should here be noted that the Greek myth hopelessly conflates the two trees, the tree producing the forbidden fruit of Original Sin, with the tree producing the fruit of eternal life. The serpent who entices people to pick from the tree of knowledge in the Hebrew story, becomes, in the Greek myth, the Scriptural Cherubim who guards the way to prevent people picking from the tree of life. Perhaps it was Gaea, the serpent woman (Gaea is the archetypal mother of all the mythic serpents and monsters, she is the mother of Typhon, Echidna, Python, the dragon who guarded the golden fleece, as well as the grandmother of Ladon, the never sleeping, serpent guard, of the apples of Hesperides.) who played the role of a Greek, female, personification, of the serpent; and, of course, it was the serpent who gave the apples to Eve, sometime after her separate creation. There is no story or depiction, picture or sculpture, connecting Zeus and Hera with the serpent at the time that they received the fruits. Placing the serpent as a guard at the tree was supposed to have been a later development. The unauthorized pilfering of the tree, the resultant expulsion, and the guardian serpent are associated more with Atlas, his wife Hesperos, and her daughters, than with Zeus and Hera.

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