Classical Mythology, Day 3

Today’s class returns to a close reading of the particular story Hesiod’s Theogony presents about the succession from one generation of gods to another. While the ‘outer frame’ of the Theogony is teleologically minded and looks forward to a world in which Zeus reigns supreme, the ‘metaphysical’  foundations of this world in which everything is related by genealogy and the narrative structure of generational replacement presents an obstacle to a realm that is constant and without end. Hesiod’s narrative provides significant variations from one generation to the next that help in part to explain Zeus’ lasting preeminence.

But the Theogony also features Zeus facing conflict and managing it through violence and consensus-building. Central concerns for the Theogony then include how Zeus is different biologically and ethically from earlier generations/ This narrative is especially well-suited for a structural interpretation. The story, of course, is not wholly positive: part of the story of the Theogony is distinguishing ‘male’ from ‘female’ power and then appropriating the later into a patriarchy.

Ancient Authors Discussed

HomerArchaic Period

Hesiod, Archaic Period

Ovid, Roman Imperial Period

Hyginus, Roman Imperial Period


Links to Blogposts

The Birth of Athena and Consumption of Metis

Hekate and Dog Sacrifices

A Nice Story about Zeus and Hera


Some Suggested Course Texts

Hesiod’s Theogony

Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Homer’s Iliad, book 4

Homer’s Iliad, book 15


Other Articles for Additional Reading

Claude Levi-Strauss. “The Structural Study of Myth.” Journal of American Folklore 68: 428-444. (here for a .pdf)

Pierre-Yves Jacopin, “On the Syntactic Structure of Myth, or the Yukuna Invention of Speech.” Cultural Anthropology 3, no. 2 (1988): 131–159.

Catherine Keller, “Of Swallowed, Walled, and Wordless Women.” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 65: 328-339.

Yurie Hong. “Playing Zeus: Reproductive Technology and Lessons from Hesiod.”  Eidolon.

Strife and early Epic Poetry

Leonard Muellner,The Anger of Achilles: Menis in Greek Epic

Homer: A Beginner’s Guide

Birth of Athena. 570-560 BCE, Louvre Museum

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