Saturday, December 18, 2010

THE TITANS OF THRACE & ZAGREUS (THE ORPHIC MYTH)

In the story of the Thraco-Orphic godling Zagreus (a divinity combining aspects of Zeus and Dionysos) the Titanes were a tribe of giants who dwelt on the white-chalk (titanos) peaks of Mount Titanos or Titarios in northern Thessaly. They were closely identified with the Gigantes of Pallene who made war on the gods.
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 75. 4 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"This god [Dionysos-Zagreus] was born in Krete, men say, of Zeus and Persephone, and Orpheus has handed down the tradition in the initiatory rites that he was torn in pieces by the Titanes."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 19. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The stories told of Dionysos by the people of Patrai [in Akhaia], that he was reared in Mesatis [in Akhaia] and incurred there all sorts of perils through the plots of the Titanes."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 37. 1 :
"The first to introduce Titanes into poetry was Homer, representing them as gods down in what is called Tartaros; the lines are in the passage about Hera’s oath. From Homer the name of the Titanes was taken by [the Orphic poet] Onomakritos, who in the orgies he composed for Dionysos made the Titanes the authors of the god’s sufferings."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 155 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Sons of Jove [Zeus]. Liber [Dionysos] by Proserpina [Persephone], whom the Titanes dismembered."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 167 :
"Liber [Dionysos], son of Jove [Zeus] and Proserpina [Persephone], was dismembered by the Titanes, and Jove gave his heart, torn to bits, to Semele in a drink. When she was made pregnant by this, Juno [Hera], changing herself to look like Semele’s nurse, Beroe, said to her : `Daughter, ask Jove to come to you as he comes to Juno, so you may know what pleasure it is to sleep with a god.’ At her suggestion Semele made this request of Jove, and was smitten by a thunderbolt."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 6. 155 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Zagreus the horned baby [son of Persephone & Zeus], who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried thunderbolts in his tender fingers [for Zeus meant him to be king of the universe]. But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titanes cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk (titanos), and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife. There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms : now young like crafty Kronides [Zeus] shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Kronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain. Sometimes he was a curiously formed baby, sometimes like a mad youth with the flower of the first down marking his rounded chin with black. Again, a mimic lion he uttered a horrible roar in furious rage from a wild snarling throat, as he lifted a neck shadowed by a thick mane, marking his body on both sides with the self-striking whip of a tail which flickered about over his hairy back. Next, he left the shape of a lion’s looks and let out a ringing neigh, now like an unbroken horse that lifts his neck on high to shake out the imperious tooth of the bit, and rubbing, whitened his cheek with hoary foam. Sometimes he poured out a whistling hiss from his mouth, a curling horned serpent covered with scales, darting out his tongue from his gaping throat, and leaping upon the grim head of some Titan encircled his neck in snaky spiral coils. Then he left the shape of the restless crawler and became a tiger with gay stripes on his body; or again like a bull emitting a counterfeit roar from his mouth he butted the Titanes with sharp horn. So he fought for his life, until Hera with jealous throat bellowed harshly through the air--that heavy-resentful step-mother! And the gates of Olympos rattled in echo to her jealous throat from high heaven. Then the bold bull collapsed: the murderers each eager for his turn with the knife chopt piecemeal the bull-shaped Dionysos [Zagreus].
After the first Dionysos had been slaughtered, Father Zeus learnt the trick of the mirror with its reflected image. He attacked the mother of the Titanes [Gaia the Earth] with avenging brand, and shut up the murderers of horned Dionysos within the gate of Tartaros [after a long war]: the trees blazed, the hair of suffering Gaia (Earth) was scorched with heat . . . Now Okeanos poured rivers of tears from his watery eyes, a libation of suppliant prayer. Then Zeus clamed his wrath at the sight of the scorched earth; he pitied her, and wished to wash with water the ashes of ruin and the fiery wounds of the land. Then Rainy Zeus covered the whole sky with clouds and flooded all the earth [in the flood of Deukalion]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 41 ff :
"[Gaia addresses the Gigantes, inciting them to make war on the gods :] 1 Wound him [Dionysos] with cutting steel and kill him for me like Zagreus, that one may say, god or mortal, that Gaia in her anger has twice armed her slayers against the breed of Kronides [Zeus]--the older Titanes against the former Dionysos [Zagreus], the younger Gigantes against Dionysos later born.'"

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