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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2021 - L Is For Lamia, Laomedon And Laocoon

 Today’s Greek myths involve some lesser known characters. Two of them are connected with the story of Troy, the other is a nursery bogey(and more). 

Lamia. Public Domain 

Lamia was, in the beginning, a beautiful woman, a Queen of Libya. She was so beautiful, in fact, that she scored Zeus for a lover. He gave her a party trick which enabled her to pull out her eyes and pop them back in. No idea why she wanted that particular super power, but there you are. It sounds a bit like St Lucy, a virgin Christian martyr who dealt with a particularly annoying suitor by pulling out her eyes and saying, “You like my eyes? There you are, have them!”

But Lamia was anything but a virgin or a martyr. She and her godly lover had several children. Predictably this affair annoyed Hera, who killed off all her children except Scylla(you know - the girl who was turned into a monster for stealing Circe’s boyfriend?). Personally I would have thought that it would make more sense to kill off Lamia, so Zeus couldn’t sleep with her any more, but gods don’t have a lot of logic in their make-up. As her revenge, Lamia started killing and eating other people’s children, and eventually became as ugly on the outside as on the inside, something to scare kids with - “Behave or I’ll call Lamia to eat you!” She must have been able to hide that, though, because she became an incubus, hanging around with the Empusae, daughters of Hecate, who seduced and vampirised young men. The Empusae were apparently easy to get rid of, if you knew what you were dealing with; you just had to be rude to them!

Public Domain

Laomedon was a king of Troy. At one stage, he needed walls built, and what was better than having them built by gods? As it happened, two of them were available. Poseidon and Apollo were in trouble with Zeus for getting on the wrong side of a quarrel with Hera and participating in an unsuccessful rebellion against Zeus. 

The problem was, Laomedon was cheap. Like an idiot, he didn’t pay them the agreed rate for building the walls, and, this being Greece, not the Norse myths, he didn’t have Loki to fix it for him.. Yet another idiot moral trying to cheat gods! Apollo sent a plague and Poseidon a sea monster, to which he had to sacrifice his daughter, Hesione(sound familiar?). She was rescued by Heracles, who jumped into the monster’s throat and spent three days struggling with it. The price was Laomedon’s immortal white horses. 

But even with his daughter safe, he still tried to cheat Heracles by fobbing him off with ordinary horses. A bit like promising Shadowfax and handing over Bill the pony instead. There are other versions of the story, but this one is how I see Laomedon.

Anyway, Troy suffered for his behaviour, with Heracles sacking it and killing Laomedon and all his sons except for Priam, who had argued  for honesty with the mares. So Priam was put on the throne, presumably to get the city back in shape, at least till the Trojan War ended it, and Hesione was taken away to Salamis, where she became the wife of Heracles’ good pal Telamon. That’s what happens when you try to cheat gods and demigods.

Laocoon and his sons. Public Domain 

Finally, for today, we will meet Laocoon. Laocoon was a priest of Apollo, who also had to take over the priesthood of Poseidon, which had been out of action for nine years while the war was going on. But the Greeks had built the Wooden Horse in hopes of ending the war their way, and put their heroes in it. And those gods were not on the side of the Trojans. 

There was a debate going on about whether or not they should take the Horse into the city. They had “captured” a Greek spy, Sinon, who spun them a plausible yarn about why it was there. Laocoon was highly suspicious. He stuck a spear into the Horse’s side, nearly skewering a Greek hero. He said he was going away to do a sacrifice to Poseidon and hoped that they would have the sense to burn it in the meantime. 

Again - Apollo and Poseidon were not on his side. He had annoyed them both. When he waded into the water, a couple of serpents wound themselves around him - and his sons - and killed them. 

I’m sure you can figure out what happened next. His death was so obviously a Sign! A Portent! Obviously the Horse had to go into the city. 

Mind you, Helen was also suspicious and took a look around, later that evening, calling out to the men she just knew were in there, mimicking their wives’ voices. She nearly succeeded, but they managed to keep quiet.

It’s not for nothing “Trojan Horse” is still used as a computer term and for anything else that sneaks in something you really don’t want there!  

Tomorrow, we will meet Medusa.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

The first 2 myths were new to me, but I'm familiar with Laocoon's story. I saw the famous sculpture in Rome when I was there a few years ago.

AJ Blythe said...

I wonder if eyes were considered the most beautiful part of the body back in the day? Otherwise, why the fascination with eyes (because, totally gross)? I wonder why most of the gods were so nasty?

Stuart Nager said...

Thanks, Sue.
I knew OF the Lamia, but nothing about the myth behind it.

What was it with the Greeks sacrificing daughters?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I almost did Lamia today too! But I went with Lilith.

I am looking forward to going through and reading all your posts.

Tim Brannan, The Other Side: 2021: The A to Z of Monsters

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Anita! I imagine that eye pulling ability would help Lamia with scaring children. As for St Lucy, she was Christian. The saints’ lives can be weird. The nicest god would turn on you if they thought you’d forgotten them in sacrifices. The only unselfish gods I can think of were the scary Aztec ones who sacrificed themselves to get the world going, and then demanded you do the same, sacrificing humans to them. No thanks!

Hi Stu! I know, right? Thankfully, they always seem to be rescued.

Hi Tim! I’m looking forward to reading your post about Lilith. I had trouble commenting last time I visited your site, Wordpress seems to be hating me lately. I got a Wordpress account years ago, decided it wasn’t for me and now it sometimes refuses to let me comment under my name and sometimes not at all. I may turn up on your site as raventracks.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debra! Lucky you, getting to see that famous statue in person!

Debs Carey said...

Interesting detail about the Trojan Horse. The basic story was simply too unbelievable, it's been vastly improved for me by there being doubters. As to Helen's trickery... ;)

A-Zing from Fiction Can Be Fun
Normally found at Debs Despatches

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

The Laocoon statue was something we studied a lot in art class and later at the university. It is a unique piece of art. And a unique story :) I always felt sorry for him.

The Multicolored Diary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debs! Yes, there were always doubters. And I can just imagine Helen doing that. Whatever else she was, she wasn’t dumb.

Hi Zalka! Yes, I’m sorry for him too. In Richard Powell’s Whom The Gods Would Destroy, there was an interesting explanation for what happened. That’s going to be in my W post.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I knew about Lamia, but the others are new to me :-)

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Ly Ergs

Melanie Atherton Allen said...

I am super-excited to know what Empusae really are, mythologically-speaking! I encountered the term "Empusa" in Mme. Blavatsky's Theosophical Glossary, and, I think, even mentioned it in a former A to Z, but didn't know the full background. Neat!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Ronel! Glad to have introduced you to some new characters.

Hi Melanie! I first read about the Empusae in Robert Graves’ book. Interesting to know you can get rid of them by insulting them, isn’t it? I used one in a short story still looking for a home.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

It seems so unfair of Poseidon to kill Laocoon when he was trying to sacrifice to him. Really, you just couldn't win with those guys.
Black and White: O for Oz