Glaucus is the name of a number of characters in Greek mythology. One was the father of Bellerophon, the guy who rode Pegasus(see my earlier post). Not a nice man. He wanted his mares to be spirited enough to win races, so he didn’t let them breed and offended the goddess Aphrodite, who complained to Zeus that he fed them on human flesh. Anyway, she took them at night to drink from a well sacred to herself and fed them a herb, hippomanes, which sounds to me like something meaning “drives horses crazy”. The next time he harnessed them up, they attacked and ate him. That was the end of Glaucus, except he is supposed to have hung around as a ghost at the Isthmian Games, scaring the horses of competitors. Robert Graves thinks this might be about the sacred king being killed by women in horse masks at the end of his reign, which makes me think that real life was just as bad as what happened in the myths, only no actual gods involved. If he was indeed guilty of encouraging his horses to eat human meat, then his end was karma, though knowing Greek gods, Aphrodite was more interested in the no-sex rule than flesh eating. After all, she had to feed the horses drugs to drive them crazy, right?
Another Glaucus was a son of Minos and Pasiphae. The poor little boy was wandering around in the Labyrinth and was found drowned in a huge jar of honey, after a competition connected with an oracle said the man who did the best simile for a colour changing calf would find him. A man called Polyeidus won the prize - it was like a ripening mulberry, he said - but found the prize was having to find the child, then not being let out till he figured a way to bring him back to life. This being Greek mythology, he did, when he watched a snake bring its mate back to life with a certain herb.
Young Glaucus was then taught divination, reluctantly, by Polyeidus, who took it back when he left Crete by telling the boy to spit in his mouth. Oh, well.
|Glaucus And Scylla. Public Domain|
There was also a Glaucus who was a sea god. He didn’t start off as one, though he may have been a demi god, a son of Poseidon. In any case, he was mortal, and is said to have noticed a certain herb or grass that brought a fish back to life. He had some and jumped off the cliff into the sea, now immortal. He lived underwater off the coast of Delos, and was known both for his oracular skills - apparently he taught Apollo himself - and for his enthusiasm for sex.
He turns up in Madeleine Miller’s Circe, as a perfectly nice young fisherman, her boyfriend for whom she organises immortality. He turns out to be thoroughly obnoxious as an immortal and when he starts dating the nymph Scylla behind her back, Circe turns her into a man-eating monster.
Now for one G I’ve mentioned a number of times, Robert Graves. Graves was a poet and historical novelist, among other things. He wrote I, Claudius and Claudius the God, which were adapted for a brilliant TV series with Derek Jacobi in the lead role, and John Hurt as Caligula. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I have it on DVD, but some streaming platform must have it. It was inspired by Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars. We owe our image of the early emperors from Augustus onwards to Suetonius - and Graves.
He wrote a novel, Homer’s Daughter, which told the story of the Odyssey from the viewpoint of Princess Nausicaa, the Phaeacian girl whose family entertained Odysseus and helped him get home. Graves believed that the Odyssey was written by a woman because it has so much feminine detail. On the other hand, it also has Telemachus talking to his mother in a manner that should have earned him a spanking if he had been younger. Very patriarchal!
Graves was also a classicist and folklorist, who wrote The Greek Myths, a classic and maybe definitive collection, with lots of footnotes and commentaries, plenty of stuff about the Triple Goddess and the sacred king. It certainly got me into the myths, and I was in primary school at the time. My sister borrowed it four times from the library before I finished it. I still treasure my own copy. He also wrote The White Goddess, which was about a lot of stuff he used in The Greek Myths, but mostly Celtic rather than Greek. He was inspired by Frazer’s folklore classic The Golden Bough. (I have the Frazer in ebook).
I’ll give you a link to his Wikipedia bio, because it lists all his work, including his poetry collections.
By the way, he makes an appearance in an episode of Young Indiana Jones! It’s set during World War I when Graves was fighting in France.
Tomorrow, come back for H Is For Helen Of Troy and Heracles.
See you then!