Greek Drama Ep.6: The Concepts of Hybris, Nemesis, and Catharsis

Hybris, nemesis, and catharsis are three important aspects of every ancient Greek tragedy. Hybris and nemesis were mentioned way before the birth of Greek theatre; we know the terms from ancient Greek mythology. And catharsis is a concept that was introduced in drama. But what is the meaning of these three theatrical terms?

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Hybris and Ancient Greek Drama | Pride and Injustice

The English word “hybris” derives from the Greek «ὕβρις». In modern Greek, the term is used in a way that can be translated as “insult” or “curse word”. But in ancient Greek, the term refers to an insult which was targeted towards gods and goddesses, rather than other humans. But how could a mortal offend a god or a goddess?

The easiest way an ancient Greek could manage to commit hybris, was by being excessively proud and overconfident. This is why the English word “hybris” is often translated as “excess pride”. Odysseus, for example, committed hybris when he started mocking Cyclops Polyphemous, after managing to blind him. Blinding him was an act of self-defense – it was the only way he could escape the island. But repeatedly making fun of him was unnecessary. Odysseus insulted Poseidon in this way, and the god of the sea punished him for his arrogance.

In ancient Greek theatre, the concept of hybris still revolved around excess pride and overconfidence but it also included other negative traits and actions. The gods and goddesses in ancient drama were presented as more sensitive and caring than in ancient Greek mythology. They also cared for the injustices towards humans.

For example, the tragedies of Oedipus and Antigone root back to an hybris that was committed by a human towards another human. Oedipus’ father had attacked a young boy, which enraged the gods. The entire family got stuck into a series of tragedies. In Antigone, the ruler Creon enrages the gods for being both arrogant and being cruel towards Antigone and her deceased brother, Polynices. Therefore, “hybris”, in the context of drama, can also be translated as “injustice”, “outrage”, or “immoral act”.

The necessity of hybris in ancient tragedy is therefore obvious. Tragic events would not be possible without an act of hybris. Hybris – either in the form of arrogance and pride or in the form of injustice- is the usual cause of every single tragedy. And from the stories that ancient tragedians narrated on stage, we can assume that pride and injustice are often connected – with acts of injustice being the result of excess pride. In other words, an arrogant and proud person is more likely to be unjust and, as a result, insult the gods and goddesses.

 

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Nemesis and Ancient Greek Drama | Divine Punishment

Nemesis is the result of hybris. It derives from the Greek word «νέμεσις» that can be translated as “delivering justice”. That meant bringing good fortune to the virtuous and bad fortune to immoral people. Similar to the concept of karma. But, because the term “nemesis” was used predominantly in tragedies, the negative aspect persisted. “Nemesis” today is translated as “punishment” or “bad karma”.

It is important to note that the concept of nemesis has been personified. Goddess Nemesis, also called Rhamnousia, has been mentioned in many ancient texts, including Hesiod’s “Theogony”. She is the goddess who punishes the ones who commit hubris.

Just like hybris, nemesis is an important part of every ancient Greek tragedy. Without it, the tragic characters will never face their problems or deal with their inner demons. Nemesis – divine punishment- leads us to the final and most important concept of ancient Greek drama: catharsis.

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Catharsis and Ancient Greek Drama | Emotional Cleansing

Hybris and nemesis were two concepts that were present in ancient Greek myths. A hero or heroine would be blinded by his or her pride and they would be punished for it with a long period of bad luck. But ancient Greek theatre was born at a time when ancient Athenians were rethinking their old values and tried to construct a more sensitive and humanitarian society. Ancient Greek drama does not stop at nemesis. Punishment for the shake of punishment is too cruel. Instead, punishment should be a learning lesson for the person who receives it and anyone who witnesses it.

Catharsis is tragedy’s ultimate goal. The term derives from the Greek «κάθαρσις», which means “cleanse”. But it is mostly known for its metaphorical meaning – the “spiritual or emotional cleanse” that can be achieved through art. Catharsis is the reason why rich Athenians paid for the tickets of the financially struggling citizens. Every Athenian had to participate to “cleanse” their soul and be better citizens.

The term is attributed to Aristotle who used the metaphor of soul cleansing in his work “Poetics”. In tragedy, catharsis is experienced by both the play’s characters and the audience. The tragic characters who commit hybris and then receive nemesis, “cleanse” their mind and heart from all the negative emotions that led them to make unjust decisions or actions.

In Antigone, the tyrannical ruler of Thebes, Creon, sees the body of his diseased son and immediately regrets all his past decisions. The audience leaves knowing that, from now on, he will be an empathetic and caring leader. Having experienced tragedy, he will be able to get in other people’s shoes.

At the same time, the members of the audience of a tragic play can leave the theatre feeling “lighter”. They experienced intense negative emotions while watching the tragic characters’ misfortunes but, in the end, something positive comes out of it. Theatre acts as a form of psychotherapy. The viewers can resurface their suppressed emotions – jealousy, fear, regret, anger- and let them go. They exit the theatre with their emotions purified. And that is what catharsis is.

Greek Drama Ep.5: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most well-known ancient Greek theatrical plays. It belongs to a collection of tragedies – the Theban plays – since it takes place in the Greek city of Thebes. It was written by the great tragedian Sophocles and was presented at the theatrical competition of Dionysia in 441 BC. It is based on the myth of Oedipus but Sophocles manages to make the story even more tragic. It focuses on the subject of written vs. unwritten rules and absolute power.

Greek Drama Ep.4: Helen by Euripides

In 412 BC, the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides presented a trilogy of plays at the annual theatrical competition of Dionysia in Athens. One of those plays was Helen – inspired by the legend of Helen of Troy.

Greek Drama Ep.5: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most well-known ancient Greek theatrical plays. It belongs to a collection of tragedies – the Theban plays – since it takes place in the Greek city of Thebes. It was written by the great tragedian Sophocles and was presented at the theatrical competition of Dionysia in 441 BC. It is based on the myth of Oedipus but Sophocles manages to make the story even more tragic. It focuses on the subject of written vs. unwritten rules and absolute power.

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Main Characters in Antigone

The main characters of Antigone by Sophocles are Antigone (daughter of Oedipus), Ismene (Antigone’s sister), Creon (Antigone’s uncle), Haemon (Antigone’s fiancée), Eurydice (Creon’s wife), Tiresias (the prophet), and the Chorus that consists of a group of elderly men.

Antigone: Summary of the Plot

The play begins with the sisters Antigone and Ismene meeting outside of the palace of Thebes. The two young women are the daughters of the mythical king of Thebes Oedipus and his mother, Iocaste. But what do we know about this family from ancient Greek mythology?

Antigone’s Background

Oedipus and Iocaste married each other without knowing that they are mother and son. This unorthodox marriage was their punishment from the gods for the serious hybris the father of the family had committed. Laius, father of Oedipus and first husband of Iocaste, had abused a young boy, which enraged the gods and goddesses. Since then, countless misfortunes and tragedies hit the family.

The royal family of Thebes could be compared to the cursed families we often talk about today, such as the Kennedys. Some of these misfortunes resulted by their own despicable actions. For example, Oedipus was once so enraged by his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, that he cursed them. He said that they would kill each other one day – which came true after Oedipus’ self-exile.

Eteocles and Polynices fought over the throne of Thebes, after their father left the city-state in a state of shock. He had just learned that he is related to his wife. Polynices then decided to also leave Thebes and go to the city of Argos. There, he married the princess of Argos and ordered the local army to attack his hometown. He wanted to punish his brother and take over the city. Both Eteocles and Polynices died during the battle.

The throne was then overtaken by their uncle, Creon. Creon immediately turned into a tyrant. He wanted to make clear that he wouldn’t allow anyone to overthrow him or question his power. He honored Eteocles for trying to protect Thebes and shamed Polynices publicly for turning against his hometown. He refused to offer a burial ceremony for him and left his body laying on the battleground. Citizens of Thebes were not allowed to touch it. And this is the exact timeline of Antigone’s storyline.

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Main Storyline: Antigone

Antigone and Ismene were the sisters of Polynices and Eteocles. Antigone, the eldest and most rebellious sister, tries to conspire against Creon and bury Polynices. Burying the dead following the rites of the time was an unwritten rule that, according to Antigone, was more important than the rule Creon came up with. Ismene is skeptical. She does want to honor her brother, but she doesn’t want to defy the state either.

“I will not urge thee,-no nor, if thou yet shouldst have the mind, wouldst thou be welcome as a worker with me. Nay, be what thou wilt; but I will bury him: well for me to die in doing that. I shall rest, a loved one with him whom I have loved, sinless in my crime; for I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living: in that world I shall abide forever. But if thou wilt, be guilty of dishonoring laws which the gods have stablished in honor.”, Antigone says.

The two women leave the stage and the Chorus, consisting of elder men, starts narrating the events before the death of Polynices and Eteocles. How Polynices left Thebes and managed to influence the ruler of Argos to attack his hometown.

Then, Creon enters the scene and converses with the Chorus. Is he in the wrong? The elders of Thebes reassure him that he has the power to make decisions for the living and the dead of Thebes. But everything changes when a guard who was supposed to monitor the battleground, enters the scene to announce that the body has been buried.

“Well, this is it.-The corpse-some one hath just given it burial, and gone away,-after sprinkling thirsty dust on the flesh, with such other rites as piety enjoins.”, the guard says.

Creon leaves the stage frantically and the Chorus starts highlighting the importance of laws and state power.

Antigone’s Punishment

Creon comes back on stage, along with Antigone. The young woman confesses to the crime, saying that the law of god was more important to her than the law of the state ruler.

“Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows when they were first put forth.”, she says.

Creon orders the arrest of Antigone and Ismene. He speculates that the younger sister knew about her sister’s actions but did nothing to alert him nor the guards. Then, another character enters the scene. A young man named Haemon. He is the son of Creon and fiancée of Antigone. He tries to persuade his father to spare the two women, but a fight ensued. Haemon leaves and the Chorus starts talking about the power of love and compares Antigone to Niobe, whose children were killed and were not given a proper burial after an act of hybris.

Creon then decides to free Ismene and punish Antigone by burying her into a cave. The young woman is led into her eternal prison, while mourning her youth and the wedding she was planning all this time.

“Tomb, bridal-chamber, eternal prison in the caverned rock, whither go to find mine own, those many who have perished, and whom Persephone hath received among the dead! Last of all shall I pass thither, and far most miserably of all, before the term of my life is spent. (…)”

Creon’s Punishment

Once Antigone is led and abandoned into the cave, a prophet named Teiresias enters the scene. He warns Creon of the hybris he is about to commit: leaving the dead unburied and burying the living. Not only that, but everyone in Greece will despise the ruler of Thebes. The Chorus asks Creon to listen to prophet Teiresias but he leaves angrily.

What follows is the discovery of Antigone’s body in the cave. She ended her own life. Haemon, just like Romeo, then stabbed himself, ending his own life. Once Creon’s wife and Haemon’s mother hears the news, she proceeds to do the same. The play ends with Creon holding the body of his son, acknowledging his mistakes.

“Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise.”, the leader of the Chorus concludes.

Antigone in a Nutshell:

  • “Antigone” is a tragedy that was first presented by Sophocles in 441 BC.
  • The play is set in Thebes, Greece.
  • Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, is the main heroine.
  • She defies the written laws of the state and follows the unwritten laws of the gods.
  • Creon, her uncle and ruler of Thebes, commits hybris by punishing Antigone – he ends up being punished by fate.
  • “Catharsis” is achieved when Creon sees the consequences of his actions and acknowledges his mistakes.

Main Theme in Antigone: Written vs Unwritten Rules

Just like in most ancient Greek tragedies, the main theme of Antigone is hybris – the consequences of pride, arrogance, and overconfidence. Creon, the ruler of Thebes, treated the death of Polynices with a lack of compassion. He needed to reestablish order after the battle with Argos, but he got blinded by the absolute power. Yes, Polynices betrayed his city-state, but Creon decided to continue his punishment, after his death. He came up with an inflexible and strict rule and then punished Antigone for disobeying him. He didn’t listen to anyone who tried to warn him – not even prophet Teiresias.

Another theme in Antigone that differentiates it from other plays, is about status quo, moral/ divine law versus human law. Antigone is an archetypical rebel: a young, fearless female against a powerful older male. Antigone chose the unwritten rules over the rules of the state. She even ends up sacrificing her own life for her beliefs.

Were her actions worth it? Could there be another solution to this problem, such as debating with Creon? Did Creon turn into a tyrant before or after the rebellious act? How is a tyrant born? And what if everyone started disobeying the law to follow their moral standards? These are the questions that viewers are called to answer after watching the play. Feel free to share your opinions in the comment section.  

Greek Drama Ep.4: Helen by Euripides

A beautiful woman accused of causing chaos and bringing all evils to this world. She could be Eve or Pandora. But, this time, she is Helen. The one accused of causing the Trojan War. The one who left her husband’s side and traveled to Troy with another man, Paris.

Greek mythology and the Homeric hymns that kept them alive focused on brave heroes who fought battles and explored the world. Greek tragedy, on the other hand, placed the misunderstood characters under the spotlight. In the IIiad and the Odyssey, we hear what men had to say about Helen. In the play Helen by Euripides, we listen to her side of the story.

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Euripides’ Helen (Theatrical Play)

In 412 BC, the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides presented a trilogy of plays at the annual theatrical competition of Dionysia in Athens. One of those plays was Helen – inspired by the legend of Helen of Troy.

Helen’s Myth | Helen of Troy

According to the myth, Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leda and wife of king Menelaus of Sparta. One night, Helen reportedly escaped Sparta with her Trojan lover, Paris. The latter was a young prince who was promised by goddess Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world. And, despite popular belief, it is not clear whether Helen chose to leave with Paris.

Ancient Greek sources are contradictory regarding Helen’s stance on this matter. Herodotus and most sources mention she was abducted by Paris. The poet Sappho, however, argues that Helen left Sparta willingly. “Full easy it is to make this understood of one and all: for she that far surpassed all mortals in beauty, Helen her most noble husband. Deserted, and went sailing to Troy, with never a thought for her daughter and dear parents.”, she writes.

Looking closely at the storyline, we can easily notice how irrelevant Helen’s stance appeared to be. Nobody really cared whether Helen was abducted or decided to escape from Sparta because she was unhappy. She was portrayed as the destructive woman – source of all evils- for whom several ships sailed towards Troy. And many young men fought and lost their lives. She, a “wicked woman”, was blamed for starting a vicious war.

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Euripides’ Take on Helen’s Myth

The unconventional ancient Greek tragedian Euripides wanted to defend Helen. Inspired by Herodotus’ claim that the Spartan queen was taken to Egypt by god Hermes, he told her version of the story.

In Euripides’ version of the story, Paris did not travel to Troy with Helen herself, but with an “eidolon” – a lifeless copy of her. Goddess Hera, protector of marriage, wanted to stop Paris from doing so. The Trojan prince had offered the apple of discord to another goddess and she aimed at punishing him. She ordered the messenger god Hermes to guide Helen out of her palace and transport her to Egypt, where she took refuge at the palace of Proteas.

The play starts with Helen standing next to Proteas’ grave, explaining her story. She is hopeless. She was taken away from home against her will. She had no way of returning home and she knew her name was tainted anyways. Not only that, but she felt uneasy in Egypt after her protector’s death. King Proteas’ son, Theoklymenos, put a lot of pressure on her. He wanted to marry her.

Helen then comes across a familiar face. Teucros, the best Greek archer who participated at the Trojan war, had visited the palace of Proteas to ask for a prophecy. Proteas’ daughter, Theonoe, was a well-known fortune teller at that time. Helen is desperate to know where her husband is and if he is searching for her. Teucros, however, informs her that Menelaos is probably dead. She also becomes aware of how hated she is by both Greeks and Trojans. Helen then starts mourning on stage, along with a group of Spartan women. She has lost all hope.

But what Helen, the tragic character of play, does not know, is that Menelaos is alive and hiding on the riverside of the Nile. He was washed ashore when his ship sunk. Him, the counterfeit Helen, and his men, were all hiding in a cave.

Menelaos then decides to seek for help at the palace of Proteas, where he comes across an old maid. The woman explains that Greeks are not welcome here. Theoklymenos, the son of Proteas, will execute any Greek who steps foot at his house, to keep Helen by his side. Menelaos is buffled. Who is this Helen she is talking about?

Menelaos and Helen finally meet and after a long dialogue – during which they are both skeptical about each other – they reunite. “I was tricked by the gods into taking to my arms a misty phantom-form, to my sorrow.”, he says. With one of the characters replying: “How so? Was it then for this we vainly toiled?”.

With Theonoe’s help, they manage to escape by boat and return to Sparta. Theoklymenos becomes enraged and almost kills his sister. But Theonoe is saved last minute with the help of the gods and goddesses.

Helen, a Play with Anti-War Sentiment

On a surface level, the tragedy focuses on the importance of virtue and oaths, especially between husband and wife. But Helen is more than a play about loyalty. The play is about the nonsense of war. What was the purpose of the Trojan war? Just a lifeless shadow. Euripides had just witnessed the defeat of Athens in the Sicilian Expedition. This war had caused great panic to Athenians and people started questioning the necessity of war.

Moreover, the play brings forward the voices of women who have been shamed and blamed from society without much proof. Both the feminist and anti-war sentiment of the play were inspired by the teachings of the sophists. The latter were Greek lecturers who questioned the values and ethics of their time. Some of them argued that women should be equal to men, that war only brings destruction, gods and goddesses do not exist, and that humanity should focus on science.

Euripides’ plays were controversial, since they questioned the morals of his time. He is known as the misunderstood tragedian and it took years to get recognized for his contribution to theatre. Helen has inspired many contemporary artists, including the Greek poet Yorgos Seferis.

Greek Drama Ep.6: The Concepts of Hybris, Nemesis, and Catharsis

Hybris, nemesis, and catharsis are three important aspects of every ancient Greek tragedy. Hybris and nemesis were mentioned way before the birth of Greek theatre; we know the terms from ancient Greek mythology. And catharsis is a concept that was introduced in drama. But what is the meaning of these three theatrical terms?

Diogenes the Cynic: Understanding the Roots of Cynicism | #Philosophy

Today, cynicism is synonymous to pessimism, lack of enthusiasm, skepticism, and selfishness. But Cynicism -literally translating to “living like a dog” (from the Greek «κύων»= dog)- is also a school of thought. An ancient Greek school of though to be precise. And the ideas of these philosophers have few in common to our current perception of cynicism.

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What is the Philosophy of Cynicism About?

Cynicism is a philosophical movement that appeared in Greece around the 5th Century BC. It was founded by Antisthenes, one of Socrates’ pupils, in Cynosarges – a temple of Heracles and public gymnasium on the outskirts of Athens.

Cynics wanted to live in virtue. They rejected superficial values, such as wealth, power, and fame. They wanted a simple life in accordance to nature. Although this school of thought declined on the 3rd Century BC, Cynicism reappeared in the Roman Empire in the 1st Century.

This time, Cynics would follow an ascetic life. They would often beg on the streets, dismissing all their possessions, and preach in public spaces. It comes as no surprise that their teachings inspired many early Christians.

Today, Cynicism is often perceived as a personality trait, rather than a philosophical movement. If you call someone “cynical”, you don’t necessarily mean that this person disregards power and material possessions, but rather the opposite. A cynical person today is someone who is skeptical towards the morals of his or her time. Someone who sees people as motivated mostly by money and success, rather than morality.  

Who was Diogenes the Cynic? | Facts about Diogenes

Although Antisthenes was the founder of Cynicism, it was Diogenes of Sinope who is the archetypal Cynic. You might have seen him depicted sleeping in a barrel, surrounded by dogs. Indeed, Diogenes often slept in a pithos – an ancient Greek clay barrel – because he was against owing a house and wanted to live as “naturally” as possible.

The beggar philosopher of Athens grew up in Sinope, near the Black Sea. His father was a banker who minted coins for a living but, as it usually happens, he became the opposite of his father figure: someone who rejects coins. For reasons that are not clear, he was exiled from the city of Sinope and lost everything he owned. This event changed him. In order to cope with the loss of his citizenship and fortune, Diogenes chose to underestimate their importance. There must be something else, more important than money and security, right?

In a search of virtue, Diogenes ended up in Athens, the philosophical capital of the world. But the cosmopolitan Greek city did not meet his expectations. Athens attracted many philosophers and great thinkers, but the majority of people there seemed to be fixated upon money, beauty, clothes, and fame.

Diogenes then started romanticizing a mythical hero – Heracles. He wanted to be virtuous, rather than successful. He rejected the traditional lifestyle of his time and did not want to live in a fixed address. He owned nothing. The philosopher displayed poor manners in public and showed no respect to people. He challenged anything people loved or cared for. All the traditional values of his time. It is even rumored that he mocked Alexander the Great some years before his death. People started comparing him to an uncultured dog.

If taking breakfast is nothing out of place, then it is nothing out of place in the marketplace. But taking breakfast is nothing out of place, therefore it is nothing out of place to take breakfast in the marketplace.”, he said when asked about eating his breakfast in the marketplace of Athens.

The philosopher did not mind being compared to dogs. He found dogs to be virtuous. Dogs are true to their nature and unhypocritical, while humans possess the exact opposite traits. Dogs live in the present, they don’t care where they sleep, and they eat anything. At the same, their instincts help them understand who is a true friend and who is an enemy.

The Cynic finally ended up being captured by pirates and sold as a slave to a Corinthian man named Xeniades. The latter was very impressed by Diogenes. He had a very intriguing personality and, instead of using him in the fields or to do chores, he asked him to tutor his children. Diogenes lived the rest of his life in Corinth, where he was cherished by the people in his household and his local community.

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Other Cynical Philosophers

  • Antisthenes
  • Crates of Thebes
  • Onesicritus
  • Monimus
  • Bion
  • Teles
  • Menippus

Daedalus and Icarus | #GreekMyths

One of the most well-known ancient Greek myths is the one of Daedalus and Icarus. You might remember these two as the architects who designed the labyrinth, the huge maze that was the home of the Minotaur in Crete. We talked about the birth and destruction of the legendary beast in another Greek mythology video. Today, we will be following the tragic story of a talented father and son duo: Daedalus and Icarus.

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Who Were Daedalus and Icarus?

Daedalus was a legendary ancient Greek hero who possessed many talents. He was an inventor, an architect, and craftsman. Rumor had it that he had god Hephaestus’ blood running through his veins, giving him the ability to create innovative constructions. There is no proof that there was a real craftsman bearing the same name in ancient Greece. Therefore, Daedalus is considered a mythical figure.

The talented man was an Athenian of aristocratic background. His name derives from the Greek verb “δαιδάλω” meaning “to work cunningly”. He was reportedly the creator of a wooden cow for queen Pasiphae of Crete. The latter was attracted to bulls after meeting god Poseidon in this form and used the wooden cow to… attract bulls. Daedalus’ less weird and most admired creation, however, was the Cretan labyrinth of the Minotaur. A huge maze with countless traps and dead ends.

Icarus, on the other hand, was the son of Daedalus. His mother was a slave. The young man possessed many of his father’s talents and followed him around his trips. Father and son once travelled to the island of Crete, where they were hired by king Minos to construct the labyrinth, the wooden cow, and many other items.

Creators and Prisoners of the Minoan Labyrinth

King Minos was very impressed by the works of Daedalus and Icarus. But everything changed when an Athenian prince, who we have seen in a previous video, visited Crete. Prince Theseus wanted to end a barbaric tradition that wanted young Athenian men and women to be sent to the labyrinth of King Minos as a sacrifice to the beast that resided there: the Minotaur.

Daedalus and Icarus were from Athens and rooted for Theseus. One night, Minos’ daughter, princess Ariadne visited the two men and asked for their advice. She was in love with Theseus and wanted to protect him. Was there a way to find his way through the labyrinth and destroy the beast? Daedalus then recommended that she utilized her yarn. Theseus would attach it at the entrance of the labyrinth and use it to explore the maze safely.

Daedalus recommendations were indeed very useful. Once Theseus destroyed the Minotaur and escaped, King Minos ordered the prosecution of the two craftsmen. Father and son were thrown into the maze with no tools or weapons to use. But cunning Daedalus was able to come up with a new plan, after watching the birds flying above their heads.

According to the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, Daedalus utilized the only two things he could find in the maze: feathers from the birds flying above him and wax from the numerous candles that would light up their way. After days of collecting feathers and hard work, Daedalus was able to create two sets of wings by gluing the feathers together with the wax.

He then instructed his son how to wear the wings on his hands and what movements to make in order to fly. He also warned him of how dangerous it would be to fly too high. The sunlight could melt the wax and the feathers would be scattered around.

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Escaping Crete | Icaria and the Icarian Sea

The two men were successful. They were able to fly high over the maze they had built and look over Crete. Daedalus instructed Icarus to hurry up; they needed to reach Sicily now that their wings were intact. They couldn’t reach Athens, because Daedalus was unwanted there after committing a crime.

But Icarus was completely blown away – literally and metaphorically. He was ecstatic seeing the whole world from above and continued flying higher and higher. But the sunlight was also getting stronger and stronger. Icarus wanted to be at the top of the world. But his wings started losing all their feathers as the wax started melting away. The young man fell from the sky and his short life ended in an area that we now call Icarian Sea, where the island of Icaria is found.

Daedalus was shocked at the sight but managed to travel to Sicily safely. His life, however, ended there, since he was murdered by the daughters of a local king. It is worth mentioning that, before the Bibliotheca, there were many other variations of the myth which are less popular nowadays. Some of them, for example, want Daedalus and Icarus to successfully escape Crete on a boat.

What Does Icarus’ Myth Represent?

Icarus’ myth and specifically the ending is a story of hybris. The latter is extreme or foolish pride and dangerous overconfidence. Ancient Greeks believed that there was nothing that Olympian gods disliked the most than arrogance.

Icarus was a young person who was able to escape a dead-end situation with his and his father’s cunningness. However, instead of being thankful for making it alive, he wanted to show-off. He flew aimlessly in the sky and even tried to reach the sun. He paid for this with his life. This is not the first time we encounter this. We have seen stories of hybris in the past, especially in the Odyssey, but also in the story of Atlantis.  

Stay connected:

Theseus and the Minotaur | #GreekMyths

One of the most fascinating ancient Greek myths is the one of Theseus. The young Athenian hero is a legendary figure, although many scholars believe that he might had been a real king during the Late Bronze Age. But let’s see his story from the beginning.

The Legend and Allegory of Atlantis | Plato’s Atlantis

The lost city of Atlantis is a legend that survives for thousands of years. According to the myth, it was a utopian civilization with a great naval power. Founded by semi-gods, Atlantis was one of the most affluent and successful city-states in the Mediterranean region. But its people soon started getting greedy and believing they are the greatest in the world. Until the great city sank and disappeared from the face of the Earth.

Is this story real? What is the connection to Plato, the philosopher? And if it is not real, could it be based on a true story? Today, we are resurfacing the story of Atlantis.  

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Plato’s Allegory of Atlantis

The story of Atlantis is a made-up story, and the creator is no other than the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. The philosopher was using allegories to make his points clear. In a previous video, we discussed Plato’s allegory of the “Cave” and its symbolisms. But what is the allegory of the lost city of Atlantis about?

In the Socratic dialogues “Timaeus” and “Critias”, both written in 360 BC, Plato describes the conversations between his teacher, Socrates, with other thinkers of his time. These include the Pythagorean philosopher Timaeus of Locri and the Athenian politician and author Critias. Although Plato is not involved in the conversation, the main ideas and allegories are attributed to him.

Plato used the city of Atlantis as an example of what “hybris” can do to humanity. How an affluent state can sabotage itself. Hybris is any wrongful action against the divine order, usually stemming from over-confidence. Odysseus, for example, committed Hybris when he attacked a Cyclops for self-defense reasons but, instead of stopping there, he started teasing and mocking him. You can compare it with the concept of bad karma.

Atlantis, according to the philosopher, was a Mediterranean civilization, close to modern-day Gibraltar, that existed thousands of years before Plato’s birth and the beginning of the Classical Era. It was a land surrounded by sea and, from the description, we understand that it was a giant island. It was ruled by kings and it had well-organized military and naval forces. The city had an excellent irrigation system, and its land was fertile. Its god-protector was Poseidon, the god of the sea, and bulls were their sacred animals.

But the rulers of Atlantis were not satisfied with how successful the city was and wanted to dominate the world. Its army started occupying nearby lands and steal their resources. They would enslave people and force them to work for their own benefit. But one small city-state, Athens, wanted to stop the imperialistic plans of Atlantis. The Athenians managed to defeat the Atlantian army and even liberate some of the nearby occupied lands.

What followed was a period of decline for the city of Atlantis. Not only that, but a natural catastrophe gave Atlantis the final blow. Hit by earthquakes and floods, the legendary city sank and disappeared from the face of the Earth. Its rulers and citizens had committed hybris. Blinded by success, they became greedy and wanted more, even if others had to suffer.

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Could It Be Real?

Scholars agree that the story of Atlantis is fictional. Plato is widely known for his imagination and his ability to craft stories to make his points clear. There is no proof that this civilization existed but there are several theories: that Atlantis was located in Santorini, in Spain, even in the Bermuda Triangle. These theories are considered pseudoscientific, rather than scientific.

But could Plato have been inspired by real events and then came up with this fictional city? This is possible. Plato could have been inspired by the destruction of the Minoan civilization (3000 BC – 1100 BC), the first advanced civilization in Europe. The civilization bears a lot of similarities with Atlantis: both located in the Mediterranean, both were islands, both were dedicated to god Poseidon, and both considered bulls as sacred animals.

Just like Atlantis, the Minoans suffered from a series of natural disasters, mostly earthquakes, until the great catastrophe known as the Minoan eruption. A catastrophic volcanic eruption that submerged part of the island of Santorini and caused enormous tsunamis that destroyed the ports of the Minoans in Crete. Not only that, but the ashes that covered the nearby lands, made the soil infertile, causing famine. Archaeologists speculate that this catastrophe caused the decline of this great civilization.

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Five Facts About Plato | #Philosophy

You may already know that Plato (428/427 BCE – 348-347 BCE) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. You may also be familiar with him thanks to the Italian Renaissance fresco in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican called “The School of Athens”. Here are five facts about Plato that you may or may not know. Stay till the end and comment down below whether you knew some of the facts already.

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Facts about the Athenian philosopher Plato:

  1. Plato was the student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle
  2. Plato is one of the most influential authors to have ever existed
  3. Plato was an aristocrat in body and mind
  4. Plato was the founder of “the Academy”, the first higher learning institution in the West

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Plato was the student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle

The Athenian philosopher was closely connected to two other highly influential ancient Greek philosophers. Plato was a student of the Athenian philosopher Socrates, whom we know mostly through Plato’s writings. Plato later taught many influential philosophers and leaders, including Aristotle, who is credited with the earliest study of logic.

Plato is one of the most influential authors to have ever existed

Although his teacher, Socrates, did not leave any written heritage, Plato dedicated his life to writing. The philosopher did not view writing merely as a tool to organize and record his ideas, but also as a creative process that he really enjoyed. You might have heard of Plato’s dialogues; a collection of written conversations between different philosophers on various topics, including ethics, politics, physics, and metaphysics. Perhaps, the most well-known dialogue of Plato is “The Republic”, which we will cover in detail in a future video.

The philosopher is also the creator of some highly-influential allegories, such as the “Cave” (which we will also discuss in another video), and his writing style is often described as “poetic”. At the same time, Plato often expressed his disapproval of poets and poetry, because “it is based on falsehood”. Based on this idea, poetry is an “illusion” that drives us away from the “truth”.

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Plato was an aristocrat in body and mind

Plato was born into an aristocratic Athenian family. His father was Ariston, a descendant of king Codrus of Athens, and his mother was Perictione, who descended from an oligarchic family. The philosopher considered Aristocracy the best form of governance. Aristocracy places the power of a city-state in the hands of a few. The main difference from monarchy is that, in monarchy, the rulers inherit their power, whereas, in aristocracy, the rulers are selected based on their skills. The aristocrats are «άριστοι» (aristoi – meaning excellent).  Plato suggested that the ideal ruler is the philosopher, the lover of wisdom, and he even stated that philosophers, who usually despise power, should be forced to rule a city.

Plato was the founder of “the Academy”, the first higher learning institution in the West

The Platonic Academy was founded in 387 BC in Athens. Plato’s Academy was the first school of higher education in the West and it attracted countless great thinkers, such as Aristotle, Heraclides, and Eudoxus. Students would be taught mathematics, dialectics, natural science, among other sciences. You can visit the archaeological site of the Academy of Plato the next time you visit Athens.

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Plato was the first most influential dreamer and idealist

Although Plato despised illusions, he is generally perceived as the “dreamer” among the ancient Greek philosophers, especially when compared to the more rational Aristotle. That is because classical idealism is closely associated with Plato, although the philosopher cannot be considered an idealist in the modern sense. In philosophy, idealism is focusing on the perception of reality from a metaphysical point of view. Plato is often considered as the “earliest representative of metaphysical objective idealism”.

Did you know any of these facts about Plato? Leave a comment down below. If you enjoy watching videos from Helinika, don’t forget to subscribe and follow the platform on other social media!

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Five Facts About Socrates | #Philosophy

socrates

You may know Socrates as the Classical Greek philosopher behind the quote “I know that I know nothing”, who also laid the fundamentals of western philosophy. Here are five facts about the classical Greek philosopher that you may or may not know.

Facts About Socrates:

  1. Socrates Was The Object of Satire
  2. Socrates Didn’t Write His Ideas and Methods
  3. Socrates Criticized Democracy
  4. We All Use Socrates’ Methods
  5. Socrates Was Sentenced to Death at the Age of 71

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aphrodity

7 Facts about Aphrodite (Venus) | #GreekMyths

Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of beauty, love, and procreation. You may know her with her Roman name, Venus. The Greek goddess played an important role in countless mythological stories, including the Iliad. Here are some facts about Aphrodite (Venus) that few people know.

The Greek Secret to Happiness | Unravelling the Greek Way of Thinking

Greece and specifically the Greek countryside and the Greek islands, are often portrayed as the lost paradise; the eternal vacation destination where time moves slowly and everyone lives a happy, long life. Is this based on a stereotypical portrayal of smiling Greeks breaking plates and dancing syrtaki on a postcard? Or are there more things to consider when talking about happiness?

The Odyssey Part 5 (Final) | Books 17 – 24 | #GreekMyths

Last time we followed Odysseus back to his kingdom, Ithaca. There he met with his son Telemachus and his loyal friend Eumaeus. Today we will cover books 17 to 24 of the Odyssey, finishing this series.  

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“The Odyssey” Books 17 – 20: The Suitors Meet Beggar-Odysseus

Telemachus visits the palace of Ithaca and meets his mother. She embraces him and asks whether he was able to collect any news regarding his father. The young prince follows the plan and does not reveal that his father has reached the island. Instead, he says that he is captured in Calypso’s island and that they should make a sacrifice to appease the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. That is when Theoclymenus enters the scene. He is a prophet from Argos who was wanted for committing murder. The fugitive had sought refuge in Telemachus’ boat and ended up in Ithaca. He revealed that he had seen Odysseus on the island, but Penelope did not believe him.

It was almost nighttime when the suitors visited the palace to dine and drink wine. They used to eat and drink at the palace every night, along with Penelope’s maids. The queen of Ithaca was feeling helpless and unable to bring order to the kingdom of Ithaca. The island was ruled by complete chaos.

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What the suitors did not know was that Odysseus, dressed up as a beggar, was walking towards his kingdom, along with his loyal friend, Eumaeus. A man named Melanthios sees the men and taunts Odysseus for his appearance. And what follows is one of the most iconic parts of Homer’s Odyssey: Odysseus’ dog, Argos, was spotted laying nearby. Argos was only a puppy when the king of Ithaca travelled to Troy. But the dog, which was very old and neglected at that time, was able to recognize his master immediately and started wagging its tail. Argos was unable to run to Odysseus and due to his excitement and old age, died at the scene. The friendship between a dog and a man was considered sacred since ancient times.

Odysseus finally enters the palace and, pretending he is a beggar, starts asking for money from the thousands of suitors. Some of them throw bread at him. The king then starts narrating a story; how he also used to be rich. Antinous, one of the suitors, hits him on the shoulder and Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, asks the gods to punish him. He doesn’t attack yet; his journey has taught him a lot and he has paid for his hybris.

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Meanwhile, another beggar appears on the scene and asks Odysseus to fight – he didn’t want another beggar taking away some of his potential earnings. The beggar gets intimidated by Odysseus’ strong physique and the suitors offer some meat to the winner. The suitors have one more drink for the night and leave.

The king and prince of Ithaca then start hiding their weapons in the palace; they will use them tomorrow to scare away and kill the suitors. Once they are done, Odysseus visits Penelope in her chamber. The faithful queen of Ithaca does not recognize her husband. She sees a beggar who was mistreated by her maids and the angry suitors and feels bad for him. She asks him to narrate his story, but the man explains his past is too painful to be brought up. Penelope, feeling very familiar towards this stranger, starts discussing her own problems. How powerless she feels and how she might have to end up marrying one the suitors, although she detests them.

Odysseus then starts narrating a story to Penelope. That he is originally from Crete and that he once hosted Odysseus during his homecoming trip. He manages to describe him accurately; he was the same person after all. The queen cries and promises to host the man in her palace. The man promises that Odysseus is alive and on his way back, but Penelope cannot believe this scenario. So many years have passed by.

Following the rules of philoxenia, Penelope instructs Eyrykleia, her most loyal maid, to clean the host’s feet. The maid recognizes Odysseus from a hunting wound on his thigh and Odysseus warns her to not reveal his identity. Penelope then asks for Odysseus advice. She dreamt of an eagle that preys on geese in her kingdom; the eagle talks to her and says he is Odysseus and the geese are no other than the suitors. Odysseus says he believes that the dream will come true but Penelope is skeptical. She also reveals that she plans to choose her new husband tomorrow. She will marry whoever is able to shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads with Odysseus bow. Her real, disguised husband reminds her that Odysseus will come back and Penelope runs towards her chamber in tears.

Odysseus spends the night trying to convince himself to not attack the suitors while they sleep. Goddess Athena visits him and reassures him he will be able to fight against the suitors on his own. She promised to protect him with her divine powers. Meanwhile, Penelope prays to goddess Artemis to end her life.

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“The Odyssey” Books 21 – 24: The End

The next morning, Penelope gathers the suitors in the main hall and announces them that she will marry one of them. She explains that the new king of Ithaca will be the man who will be able to shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads with Odysseus’ bow.

The suitors fail one by one and then beggar Odysseus asks to give it a try. The suitors laugh but Penelope allows him to use the bow, promising that she will give him food and clothes if he succeeds. Telemachus, knowing what is about to follow, leads his mother inside the house, while Eumaeus makes sure that the doors are locked. Odysseus shoots the arrow, which manages to go through all twelve axe heads. At the same time, a lightning strikes, a sign that Zeus is with Odysseus’ side again.

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Once Odysseus shows his skills, he throws an arrow at Antinous, the vilest of the suitors. The rest of the men try to find their weapons but Odysseus and Telemachus had made sure to hid them carefully. With Athena’s help, Odysseus defeats the suitors one by one, and makes sure that the maids that were disloyal to him get punished as well.

Eyrykleia, the old maid, informs Penelope about Odysseus’ return and the death of the suitors. Penelope cannot believe this scenario; she thinks that the gods punished the suitors for their hybris and that Odysseus is dead. But then Odysseus enters her room and reveals his true identity. Penelope is hesitant to believe him; but Odysseus talks about their bed, which he had carved himself from an olive tree that has its roots in the foundation of the house. This bed cannot be moved, just like the couple’s faith and loyalty to each other. This secret that only he and she knew was enough to make Penelope believe that her husband was alive and standing in front of her. She hugs him and apologizes to him for her skepticism.

There are now two things left to do, a sacrifice to god Poseidon and a visit to the vineyards of Laertes, Odysseus’ old father.  Odysseus meets his father, they embrace, and makes sure that Poseidon will favor him again by visiting the mainland holding the Winnowing Oar and making a sacrifice when he meets the first person who is unaware of the sea and seamen. As for the suitors, they end up in Hades, and their loss divides the people of Ithaca. With Athena’s intervention, peace is declared, and the Ithacans follow Odysseus, their true king; the one who is favored by the gods.

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