Tio/mai in Hesiod's Theogony: Zeus' Revenge on Mortals
University of New Mexico
In Hesiod's Theogony, the notion of revenge plays a central role not just at the beginning, but throughout the whole poem. The first sign of the recurring theme begins at Theogony 164, where Gaia beseeches her children to overthrow their father Cronus (pai=des e)moi kai\ patro\s a)tasqa/lou...patro/s ge kakh\n teisai/meqa lw/bhn u(mete/rou: (ed. Solmsen, Friedrich. Hesiodi Theogonia Opera et Dies Scutum. OCT, Oxford; 1990. Lines 164-166)). This idea of divine revenge, whether on divine beings, or on mortals, is carried right up through to the last few passages of the epic poem. In his paper "Genealogies of Ethical Concepts from Hesiod to Bacchylides" D. Herbert Abel states: "we can picture to ourselves a just man, a brave hero, or a coward," (TAPA 74 (1943) 92-101). This sums up the narrative purpose of Hesiod's mythological poem, why Hesiod gives human attributes to the gods, and why, specifically for the purposes of this paper, of the very human notion of revenge gets transferred onto the divine. By making this a divine attribute, revenge is no longer solely human, and the guilt that follows revenge can now be ignored by simply explaining it as the will of the gods.
This paper will trace the theme of divine revenge in the Theogony, with particular reference to the actions of Zeus. From a consideration of the initial notion of revenge in the words of Gaia (Theogony 164), this paper will explore how divine retribution is spoken about in the poem, and more specifically how it changes from generation to generation of the gods, and finally, how it change when Zeus enacts revenge upon mortals. In my examination of this trajectory of divine revenge in the poem, I hope to illuminate Hesiod's didactic purpose in composing his Theogony.
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