Saturday, March 3, 2012

PBP: Eos and Aphrodite

by Stanislaw Wyspianski
I mentioned in a recent post that Aphrodite's origins cannot merely be traced back to the golden Goddesses of Love, always associated with the stellar Venus, of the Fertile Crescent. She is also a manifestation of the Water-Bird Goddesses of early Europe, a Minoan-Mycenaean Goddess, and she is a hypostasis of the Proto-Indo-European dawn Goddess.

I know! Awesome, huh?

Eos ( Ἠώς, or Ἕως) is a Titan Goddess of the Dawn -- her name meaning "dawn" in Greek. The equivalent figure in Vedic myth is Usas, of whom I wrote last week. Deborah Dickman Boedekker, in Aphrodite's Entry in Greek Epic, points out that Usas is called the "daughter of the sky" (sky = dyeus, which is strikingly similar to Zeus, the Olympian sky God and Aphrodite's father). Aphrodite is given the epithet Ourania (Heveanly), which she shares with other sky-related Goddesses, but only she is called both this AND  the "daughter of God" (Dios Thugater). Boedekker points out that in the Vedic myths, it is only Usas (Dawn) who is called  "Daughter of God," but that Eos is never referred to in this manner.

Within Greek mythology, some of the characteristic of the Dawn Goddess within Indo-European tradition have been given to Aphrodite. (They *also* apply to Eos, of course. The argument here isn't that Eos is not worthily a Dawn Goddess, simply that Aphrodite is also a functional hypostasis of this same mythos.)

In particular, Boedekker points out that the Dawn Goddess often "figures in an episode that involves the snatching away, hiding, and preserving of another character" (39). There are three distinct instances in the Iliad where Aphrodite participates in just such an episode.

The first of these occurs when there is to be a decisive battle between Paris and Menelaus. Paris is defeated, and Menelaus begins to drag him away by his helmet strap, but Aphrodite snatches him away.  The second episode happens during a battle between her son Aeneas and Diomedes in which she covers her son with her shining peplos (a robes) and her "bright arms" to hide him. The third occurs when Achilles tries to mutilate Hektor's corpse. Aphrodite keeps the dogs away and anoints the body with oil to preserve it. Boedekker points out that in the scenes with both Hektor and Aeneas, Aphrodite needs Apollo's help -- the Dawn Goddess and the Sun God working in unison (42).

In his book, The Meaning of Aphrodite, Paul Friedrich also spends some time discussing Aphrodite's nature as a Dawn Goddess. In it, he uses three sets of triads to illustrate Aphrodite's membership within this group. 
Attic Vase: Eos pursues Tithonius

Dawn Goddess -- Mortal Husband/Lover -- Heroic Son

Eos                 --      Tithonius                 --     Memnon
Aphrodite       --       Ankhises                --     Aeneas
Thetis             --       Peleus                     --    Akhilles


Obviously, her connection to the dawn is only one small part of understanding Aphrodite's nature, meaning, and message. I completely agree with Friedrich when he writes that Zeus and Athena's mockery of Aphrodite in the Iliad (5, 297-448) is "... documentation that Aphrodite is the most potent goddess. The author of the hymns asserts that she is the most potent and that that is why Zeus wants to humiliate her" (62).

1 comment:

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