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!
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.