LLR Books

Plotinus


Plotinus was a major Greek-speaking philosopher of the ancient world. In his philosophy, described in the Enneads, there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul.
Historians of the 19th century invented the term Neoplatonism and applied it to him and his philosophy which was influential in Late Antiquity. Neoplatonism is a term used to designate a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the third century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as it encapsulates a chain of thinkers which began with Ammonious Saccas and his student Plotinus (c. 204/5 270 AD) and which stretches to the sixth century AD. Even though Neoplatonism primarily circumscribes the thinkers who are now labeled Neoplatonists and not their ideas, there are some ideas that are common to Neoplatonic systems, for example, the monistic idea that all of reality can be derived from a single principle, "the One".

Plotinus metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Islamic, Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics.

Narcissus poeticus

Narcissus poeticus was one of the first daffodils to be cultivated and is linked to the Greek legend of Narcissus. In Greek mythology, the flower that bears his name sprang up where he died.



Hephaestus

How Did the Ugly Olympian Hephaestus Manage to Marry the Goddess of Love?
               
As one of the twelve Olympians, Hephaestus was a major deity for the ancient Greeks. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was primarily the god of fire and smiths, but he was also in charge of other crafts, including sculpting and carpentry. Hephaestus’ parents were Zeus and Hera, and he was married to the goddess Aphrodite. He appears in many myths.
Some ancient writers, such as the poet Homer, mention that Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera. Others (Hesiod, for instance), however, state that Hera conceived the god on her own. In any case, Hephaestus is said to have been born very ugly, which is an anomaly, as the other Greek deities are believed to be physically flawless. Hephaestus is commonly depicted as a bearded middle-aged man with a large physique. He is normally shown wearing a short, sleeveless tunic, as this was the clothing of choice of craftsmen. As a craftsman himself, Hephaestus is associated with such tools of the trade as hammers, anvils, and tongs. 
Hephaestus might have also been born lame, as one of his many epithets was ‘the lame one’. In some myths, Hephaestus is said to have been made lame either by Zeus or Hera. In one myth, Hephaestus is said to have intervened on behalf of his mother during a quarrel between Zeus and Hera. Enraged by his interference, Zeus cast Hephaestus out of Mount Olympus and he became lame after the fall. In other accounts, it was Hera, disgusted by her son’s deformity and ugliness, who threw Hephaestus down form the mountain.
It was during his exile that Hephaestus learned his trade. In one version of the myth, Hephaestus fell in the ocean, where he was found by Thetis and Eurynome. The pair sheltered the Olympian in a cave under the ocean for nine years, where he learned to make jewelry using pearls and corals. In another version of the tale, Hephaestus landed on the island of Lemnos, where he was tutored by Kidalionas, a blacksmith.
Eventually, Hephaestus returned to Mount Olympus, thanks to Dionysus. According to one myth, Hephaestus intended to exact revenge on Zeus and Hera for what they had done to him. The god crafted a golden throne, which he gave to his mother. Hera accepted the gift, and sat on it.
When the goddess tried to get up, however, she was unable to do so, as she was tied down by invisible cords. Hera begged her son to set her free, as did many of the other gods, to no avail. Eventually, it was Dionysus who prevailed on Hephaestus by getting him drunk, and therefore succeeding in convincing him to set Hera free.
As Hephaestus was about to set his mother free, Zeus appeared and tried to convince his son to release Hera. Realizing that his father was unaware that he was going to set Hera free, Hephaestus took advantage of the situation by making a bargain with Zeus. In exchange for Hera’s freedom, Hephaestus was to have the hand of Aphrodite in marriage. Thus, the lame and ugly Hephaestus became the husband of the goddess of love.
‘Marriage of Aphrodite and Hephaestus’ by Johann Georg Platzer. (Public Domain )
In one story, Aphrodite committed adultery with Ares, the god of war , and the pair were caught red-handed by Hephaestus with a chain-net that he made himself. Hephaestus invited the other gods to laugh at the adulterous pair, and it was Poseidon who eventually persuaded him to release them.

Hephaestus created many other magnificent objects, for himself, the gods, as well as for certain mortals. For example, his palace was made of gold, and he fashioned himself gold automata that behaved almost like humans. Moreover, several pieces of military equipment are said to have been made by Hephaestus for the heroes of Greek mythology. These include the armor of Achilles, the sword of Peleus, and the breast-plate of Diomedes.

From the Greek

Panoply: PAN-uh-plee. : A full suit of armor, ceremonial attire. Panoply comes from the Greek word panoplia, which referred to the full suit of armor worn by hoplites, heavily armed infantry soldiers of ancient Greece. Panoplia is a blend of the prefix pan-, meaning "all," and hopla, meaning "arms" or "armor."


Melancholia.  mel-un-KOH-lee-uh  A mental condition and especially a manic-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions. Greek melan  ("black, dark") and cholē ("bile"). Medical practitioners once adhered to the system of humors—bodily fluids that included black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. An imbalance of these humors was thought to lead to disorders of the mind and body. One suffering from an excess of black bile (believed to be secreted by the kidneys or spleen) could become sullen and unsociable—liable to anger, irritability, brooding, and depression.  The older term ¬melancholy, ultimately from the same Greek roots, is historically a synonym of melancholia but now more often refers to a sad or pensive mood.

Eiron. (AY-ron)  A person characterized by self-deprecation and awareness of irony.

After Eiron, a stock character in ancient Greek comedy. It’s from Greek eiron (dissembler), which also gave us the word irony. Eiron is the opposite of Alazon. He uses self-depreciation and feigned ignorance to triumph over Alazon. Earliest documented use: 1872.


Philoxenia: The Ancient Roots of Greek Hospitality


Philoxenia: The Ancient Roots of Greek Hospitality
By
 Tasos Kokkinidis

The Greek word Philoxenia, literally translated as a “friend to a stranger”, is widely perceived to be synonymous to hospitality.
For Greeks it is much deeper than that. It is an unspoken cultural law that shows generosity and courtesy to strangers.
Greeks are enormously generous when inviting others to their home, or being invited themselves. In villages, it is not uncommon for villagers to show up at the door of a resident foreigner (or even a temporary visitor renting a room) with a sack full of fresh tomatoes, or even a bottle of local olive oil.
Philoxenia today can be as simple as a smile, helping a stranded motorist, buying a meal for a homeless person, or opening your home to friends and family.

Zeus Xenios
This cultural law has its origins in Ancient Greece. The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios — as he was also a protector of travelers. He thus embodied the religious obligation to be hospitable to travelers.
The beautiful story written by the Roman poet Ovid in 8 A.D of Zeus and Hermes disguised as poor travelers, narrates the sacred relation between host and guest, embodying the ancient Greek tradition.
The two ancient Gods, the story goes, visited many villages in search of refuge for the night. A poor elderly couple — Baucis and Philemon welcomed them as guests in their home and generously served them food and wine.
After refilling her guests’ cups many times over, Baucis noticed that the wine jug was still full. Philemon then realized the visitors were actually gods and she offered to kill their only goose to feed them. Touched by this gesture, Zeus rewarded their generosity by transforming the humble cottage into a beautiful stone temple.
Zeus also granted the couple their ultimate wish: to be the guardians of the temple, die at the same time, and stay together for eternity as they were turned into trees, guarding each side of the temple’s door.

Trojan War
According to legend, even an event as momentous as the Trojan War began because of a guest’s violation of xenia. The Trojan prince Paris was a guest of King Menelaus of Sparta when he abducted Menelaus’ wife, Helen.
Both the Odyssey and the Iliad are filled with episodes in which xenia is either honored or ignored and the subsequent consequences are notable. For instance, when Odysseus sails to the island of the cyclops, the monster’s treatment of Odysseus and his sailors is a violation of the custom of xenia. The cyclops is punished for the transgression. Odysseus blinds his “host” and escapes. The cyclops episode depicts an abuse of xenia.
In another story, Odysseus’ wife Penelope is forced by custom to entertain an entire household of suitors. The guests not only make unreasonable, burdensome requests that were impolite for guests but they do so with the assumption the host himself is no longer alive. The conclusion of the poem involves Odysseus’s slaughter of the suitors. This violent ending can be seen as retribution for an egregious abuse of xenia, or conversely, a violation of its very precepts.

Reasons for philoxenia
There are many possible reasons why hospitality was more prevalent in those times.
Traveling in Homer’s time was much more extensive and lengthier than in modern times. Because of this, many more nights were spent away from home in many different locations. Also, there were not hotels or inns where travelers could pay and stay the night.
Because of this, travelers had to rely on the hospitality of others for shelter, food, and protection. There was, however, some payment for this hospitality in the form of a gift exchange.
Another possible reason for this hospitality was the fact that there were not nations that would allow travelers to enter their territory safely. Without such hospitality, strangers could be captured or even killed for entering a foreign land.
Another possible explanation for the amount of hospitality shown is that the Greeks believed the gods wanted them to show hospitality to anyone who showed up at their homes. It was also believed that turning away someone and not providing them this hospitality would result in some form of punishment from the gods.

Finally, hospitality could have been used to spread ones name and bring them a sense of fame if they provided a high standard of hospitality to strangers. It also could have been a way to show how wealthy one was.

Helen of Troy



In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy also known as Helen of Sparta, or simply Helen, was said to have been the most beautiful woman in the world, who was married to King Menelaus of Sparta, but was abducted by Prince Paris of Troy, resulting in the Trojan War when the Achaeans set out to reclaim her and bring her back to Sparta. She was believed to have been the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and was the sister of Clytemnestra, Castor and Polydeuces.

Head of a satyr


one of a class of lustful, drunken woodland gods. In Greek art they were represented as a man with a horse's ears and tail, but in Roman representations as a man with a goat's ears, tail, legs, and horns.

THE INTERESTING LOVE TALE OF ETHIOPIAN PRINCESS ANDROMEDA AND GREEK DEMI-GOD PERSEUS


BY FRANCIS AKHALBEY

If you are very familiar with Greek mythology, then you must definitely have heard of Princess Andromeda. According to legend, she was born to Aethiopian (Ethiopian) King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia.
Andromeda’s love tale with Perseus, son of the all-powerful Zeus is very intriguing. Like a knight in shining armour, he came to her rescue after her mother committed hubris (defiance of the gods) by proclaiming Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids (female spirits of sea waters).
According to legend, the Nereids who are very beautiful and sociable had a very close relationship with Poseidon, god of the sea and other waters, earthquakes and horses. As punishment for Queen Cassiopeia’s boastful proclamation, Poseidon sent Cetus, a sea monster to destroy Aethiopia as well as capture Andromeda and kill her.
Andromeda’s father King Cepheus, in a last-ditch attempt, consulted the oracle of Apollo to have mercy on his daughter but was told until his she was sacrificed, nothing could be done to atone for her mother’s hubris. Stripped naked and chained to a rock on the coast, Andromeda was left to be devoured by Cetus.
Perseus, who was returning after successfully killing and beheading Medusa chanced upon Andromeda and rescued her after killing Cetus while wearing the Hades’s helm which made him invisible. Perseus subsequently married Andromeda although she was betrothed to her uncle Phineus. On the day of their wedding, an altercation between Phineus and Perseus ensued and it ended with Phineus being turned into stone with Medusa’s head.
Perseus, alongside Andromeda, then went on an expedition to the island of Serifos where he rescued his mortal mother Danaë. They then went to Tiryns, Argos.
The couple had seven sons and two daughters. After Andromeda’s death, Athena, the goddess of war, handicraft, and practical reason placed her in the sky as a constellation.

In as much as her story is very interesting, her portrayal as a white woman in art, film as well as novels always strikes a curious chord. 

Andromeda’s parents thanking Perseus after he saved her — Painting by Pierre Mignard

Perseus saving Andromeda — Painting by Gemäldegalerie
Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini

Paintings of Andromeda Left painting by Joachim Wtewael.Right painting by Frederic Leighton

September!


An ode to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt



By Marc Folco 
   
The picture that appears on my computer screen changes frequently. When I signed on this week there was a picture of a stone structure related to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. I find it especially interesting that a female deity is more widely known for hunting than her male counterpart, Orion, the god of the hunt.

According to Greek mythology, Artemis — who was daughter of Zeus (king of the gods), and twin sister of Apollo (god of the sun, light and also archery) — hunted with Orion, son of Poseidon (god of the sea) who fell in love with the goddess. Artemis almost always is depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrow with a quiver slung over a shoulder and usually accompanied by a hunting dog or stag.

Apollo, who was jealous of Orion, tricked his twin sister into killing the male hunter by challenging her to a long shot with her bow. The distant target, mostly submerged in water while swimming away from shore, unbeknownst to Artemis, was Orion. Her aim was true. Grieving for having killed her hunting companion, Orion was placed among the stars as a constellation.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” as they say, and Artemis, who protected her virtue and had even asked her father (Zeus) for eternal virginity, also protected her reputation as a great huntress with as much fervor and intensity, according to legend. Being skilled at hunting was so exalted by the deities that men who dared to disparage Artemis’ hunting prowess or boast of being a greater hunter than she, often were met with grim and tragic consequences.

Adonis, the god of beauty and desire, bragged that he was a far superior hunter than Artemis and she sent a wild boar to kill him. For the same offense of claiming to be a better hunter, Artemis sent a lion to kill Phalaikos, king of Ambrakia.

During a hunt for the Calydonian Boar, a mythological monster, Ankaios, a prince of Arkadia, declared that Artemis couldn’t prevent him from slaying the beast. She sent the giant boar, which sported tremendous tusks, to slay him, which it did, in a merciless fashion, no doubt.

Legend also has it that she punished Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greeks in the Trojan War, after he killed a stag in her sacred grove, and asserted himself an equal hunter. In her wrath, she sent fierce winds to prevent his army of Greeks from sailing to Troy. The goddess wouldn’t relinquish the winds until Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter.
Protective of her virtuous figure, Artemis was angered by the hunter, Aktaion, when he was caught spying on her and her nymphs bathing at a spring, and thus transformed him into a stag. He was torn apart by his own hunting dogs.

Hephaestus was a metal smith and the god of fire, metalworking, forges, masonry and sculpture. Together with his workmen, the Cyclopes, who were lawless, one-eyed giants, they had crafted the bow and arrows for Artemis. Hephaestus, incidentally, was married to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Unlike Artemis, who was pure and chaste, Aphrodite was chased by many and had a weakness for pleasures of the flesh, often being unfaithful to her husband, according to legend.

A temple built in Artemis’ honor became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Hunting, while often being the center of mythological legend, also has a saintly place in theology with Saint Hubert (or Hubertus) being the patron saint of hunters. Today, especially in Europe, Saint Hubert, 656–727 AD, is still honored as the originator of ethical hunting practices.

As the story goes, Hubert’s wife died giving birth to their son and Hubert retreated to the Ardennes Forest, where he planned to hunt the rest of his days away. However, a Divine intervention occurred on the morning of a Good Friday. While the faithful were attending mass, Hubert instead was in the forest on horseback, pursuing a stag. Church? Hunting? Church? Hunting? ... Hunting! God is everywhere, so I’d say it was a no-brainer.
Upon the chase, the animal stopped and turned, according to legend, and between its antlers appeared a crucifix.

Hubert then heard a voice, which said, “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell.” Hubert dismounted, lay face down on the ground and asked, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” The answer was, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”

During this vision, the deer lectured the hunter into holding animals in high regard and having compassion for them, issuing a shot only when a quick, clean and humane kill can be delivered mercifully. He also was advised never to shoot a female with young so that they have a mother to guide them to food during the winter.

Hubert sought St. Lambert, bishop of Maastricht, who became the hunter’s spiritual director. Hubert, who was born of royalty with military background, entered the priesthood, was ordained and distributed his personal wealth to the poor. Hubert later founded, and was named first bishop, of Liege in Belgium.

The legacy of St. Hubert is still taught in German and Austrian hunter education courses and is also followed by a society of French huntsmen who hunt deer and boar on horseback and are the last direct heirs of the saint. The hunts apply a specific set of ethics, rituals, rules and tactics dating back to the early Middle-Ages.

The skillful and ethical hunter has stood the test of time, having been proven saintly through religion and also revered by the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. The senses of pride, independence and self-reliance that continue to stir deep within the souls of modern hunters can be traced to the Middle Ages and as far back as the cave man, who proudly memorialized their successful hunts through paintings on their cave walls. 



‘Hylas and the Water Nymphs’



In classical mythology, Hylas was a youth who served as Heracles' (Roman Hercules) companion and servant. His abduction by water nymphs was a theme of ancient art and has been an enduring subject for Western art in the classical tradition.
In Greek mythology, Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians. After Heracles killed Theiodamas in battle, he took on Hylas as arms bearer and taught him to be a warrior. The poet Theocritus (about 300 BC) wrote about the love between Heracles and Hylas: "We are not the first mortals to see beauty in what is beautiful. No, even Amphitryon's bronze-hearted son, who defeated the savage Nemean lion, loved a boy—charming Hylas, whose hair hung down in curls. And like a father with a dear son he taught him all the things which had made him a mighty man, and famous."

Heracles took Hylas with him on the Argo, making him one of the Argonauts. Hylas was kidnapped by nymphs of the spring of Pegae, Mysia when they fell in love with him, and he vanished without a trace. This upset Heracles greatly, so he along with Polyphemus searched for a great length of time. The ship set sail without them. According to the Latin Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus, he never found Hylas because he had fallen in love with the nymphs and remained "to share their power and their love."

The Parnassus, detail of Homer, Dante and Virgil, in the Stanze della Segnatura, Raphael


John William Waterhouse, The Siren [1900]



In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Sirens were believed to combine women and birds in various ways.
In early Greek art, Sirens were represented as birds with large women's heads, bird feathers and scaly feet. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing a variety of musical instruments, especially harps. The tenth-century Byzantine encyclopedia Suda says that from their chests up, Sirens had the form of sparrows, and below they were women or, alternatively, that they were little birds with women's faces.
 Birds were chosen because of their beautiful voices. Later Sirens were sometimes depicted as beautiful women, whose bodies, not only their voices, are seductive.
Originally, Sirens were shown to be male or female, but the male Siren disappeared from art around fifth century BC. The first-century Roman historian Pliny the Elder discounted Sirens as pure fable, "although Dinon, the father of Clearchus, a celebrated writer, asserts that they exist in India, and that they charm men by their song, and, having first lulled them to sleep, tear them to pieces."

In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci wrote of the Siren, "The siren sings so sweetly that she lulls the mariners to sleep; then she climbs upon the ships and kills the sleeping mariners."

Franz Kafka, “Poseidon”


Poseidon sat at his desk, doing figures. The administration of all the waters gave him endless work. He could have had assistants, as many as he wanted — and he did have very many — but since he took his job very seriously, he would in the end go over all the figures and calculations himself, and thus his assistants were of little help to him.

It cannot be said that he enjoyed his work; he did it only because it had been assigned to him; in fact, he had already filed many petitions for — as he put it — more cheerful work, but every time the offer of something different was made to him it would turn out that nothing suited him quite as well as his present position.

And anyhow it was quite difficult to find something different for him. After all, it was impossible to assign him to a particular sea; aside from the fact that even then the work with figures would not become less but only pettier, the great Poseidon could in any case occupy only an executive position. And when a job away from the water was offered to him he would get sick at the very prospect, his divine breathing would become troubled and his brazen chest began to tremble. Besides, his

complaints were not really taken seriously; when one of the mighty is vexatious the appearance of an effort must be made to placate him, even when the case is most hopeless. In actuality a shift of posts was unthinkable for Poseidon — he had been appointed God of the Sea in the beginning, and that he had to remain.

What irritated him most — and it was this that was chiefly responsible for his dissatisfaction with his job — was to hear of the conceptions formed about him: how he was always riding about through the tides with his trident. When all the while he sat here in the depths of the world-ocean, doing figures uninterruptedly, with now and then a trip to Jupiter as the only break in the monotony — a trip, moreover, from which he usually returned in a rage. Thus he had hardly seen the sea — had seen it but fleetingly in the course of hurried ascents to Olympus, and he had never actually traveled around it. He was in the habit of saying that what he was waiting for was the fall of the world; then, probably, a quiet moment would be granted in which, just before the end and having checked the last row of figures, he would be able to make a quick little tour.

Poseidon became bored with the sea. He let fall his trident. Silently he sat on the rocky coast and a gull, dazed by his presence, described wavering circles around his head.


Triumph of Dionysus Cameo.

 Sardonyx on carnelian plaque, from Alexandria. Ptolemaic Period, 1st century BC. State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg