Monday, January 07, 2008

the lame god passes the cup among the gods

A conflict has been brewing among the gods of Olympus, especially between Hera, Queen of Heaven, and Zeus, her husband. Her son, the lame god Hephaestus, calms her down and passes sweet wine or nectar among the gods so that "all feasted equally". Finally the King retires to sleep by the side of his Queen.

Hephaestus spoke, then stood up, passed a double goblet
across to his dear mother, saying:
"Stay calm, mother, even though you are upset.
If not, then, as beloved as you are,
I may see you beaten up before my eyes, 
with me incapable of helping out,
though the sight would make me most unhappy.
It's hard to take a stand opposing Zeus.
Once, when I was eager to assist you,
Zeus seized me by the feet and threw me out,
down from heaven's heights.  The entire day
I fell and then, right at sunset, dropped
on Lemnos, almost dead.  After that fall,
men of Sintes helped me to recover."

As he spoke, the white-armed goddess Hera smiled.
She reached for her son's goblet. He poured the drink,
going from right to left, for all the other gods,
drawing off sweet nectar from the mixing bowl. 
Then their laughter broke out irrepressibly,
as the sacred gods saw Hephaestus bustling around,
concerned about the feast. All that day they dined,
until sunset. No one's heart went unsatisfied.
All feasted equally.  They heard exquisite music,
from Apollo's lyre and the Muses' beautiful song
and counter-song. When the sun's bright light had set,
the gods all went to their own homes.  Hephaestus,
the famous lame god, with his resourceful skill,
had made each god a place to live.  Olympian Zeus, 
god of lightning, went home to his own bed,
where he usually reclined whenever sweet sleep
came over him.  He went inside and lay down there,
with Hera of the golden throne stretched out beside him.  

from Homer: Iliad, final verses of Book I
trans Ian Johnston


Hephaestus riding a donkey
Athenian red-figure skyphos or drinking cup,
5th century BC @

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