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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2021 - Y Is For Youth

 Today’s brief post will be about the youth of some characters in Greek mythology. We read so much about their adventures as adults, but not much about their childhood, a shame, because there are some interesting childhoods there.

Hera was the enemy of Heracles from his birth onwards, but was tricked into suckling the baby once. Heracles was such a big strong boy that he sucked rather too greedily and Hera, in pain, she pulled her breast out of his mouth. The milk splattered over the sky and became the Milky Way. That’s one of the imaginative ways that Greek myths explain the universe.

Baby Heracles strangles a snake. Public Domain

A few months later, Hera sent a couple of snakes to kill him. As they slithered into his crib, his mortal twin Iphicles screamed in terror, but when Amphitryon, the father of Iphicles, rushed in, armed with the sword he had grabbed up to defend the children, he found little Heracles,  Zeus’s boy, chuckling and waving the strangled snakes. Take that, Hera! 

Hermes has one of the more entertaining childhood stories. He is born in a cave to a nymph called Maia. She wraps him in swaddling clothes and lays him down to sleep. 

Little Hermes gets bored very quickly and grows into a little boy, so he can go out and have adventures. Outside he wanders off and steals the cattle of Apollo. Taking them away, he confuses any pursuit by wrapping their hooves in bark.

Apollo is indeed confused, but eventually tracks down the thief, who, however, is back in his swaddling clothes, looking innocent and pretending to be asleep. 

However, Apollo wakes Maia, who has been lulled to sleep by her son’s new invention, the lyre, and demands she do something about her naughty son. She can’t believe it, so Apollo takes him to Olympus and complains. 

Hermes admits the theft, but says he only slaughtered two of the cattle and sacrificed them to all the gods. He used the guts to make the lyre. He agrees to take Apollo to where the cows are hidden, inventing shepherds’ pipes on the way. Delighted with both instruments, Apollo offers to swap the cattle for the lyre and his golden staff for the pipes. That’s why you see Apollo as the god of music and Hermes as the patron of heralds. But the instruments were invented by a cheeky little boy.

Apollo and Artemis were born to the goddess Leto, on a floating island, as Hera had made it impossible for her to give birth on land or in water. As soon as she was born, Artemis was helping her mother to give birth to Apollo. The children defended their mother from the giant snake threatening her. 

As a three year old, she asked Zeus, her father, for a long list of gifts, mainly involving hunting gear and attendants to look after her hounds and goods. The attendants were to be nymphs of her own age. When he had agreed, she went away to organise it. 

Because of her help with her mother’s childbirth, she knew already that she would be the patroness of childbirth, despite the fact that she had no intention of ever having her own children.

Other gods, of course, were grown-up from the start. Athene sprang fully-armed from Zeus’s head. Like Artemis, she was a girl who knew exactly what she wanted! 

See you tomorrow, when Z is for Zeus! 


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Oh, who could ever stay mad at Hermes, that charmer?

AJ Blythe said...

I saw “The Origin of the Milky Way” by Tintoretto at the current NGA exhibition (Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London). It is an amazing painting (I spent a bit of time looking at this one), but I hadn't realised the full story behind the painting.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debra! Clearly nobody could stay mad at him! 😉

Thanks, Anita, a lovely painting indeed! I like those stars glittering in the sky, and those peacocks identifying the goddess who, of course, put the many eyes of the slain guardian of her cattle, Argus into its tail.

Jayashree (pagesfromjayashree) said...

Today I was thinking about Z and thought of Zeus and then your blog. Expected it to be the Z word and I was right.

Hera seems to be the villain in many a story ....

Jayashree (pagesfromjayashree) said...

Stuart Nager said...

This has been a trip. So much added to what I thought I knew. Thanks, Susan.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

There is also Hebe, Goddess of Youth :)
It is interesting how the Milky Way reminded so many different cultures of milk...

The Multicolored Diary

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

I didn't know that's why Artemis was the goddess of childbirth. Admittedly my children are not gods, but the idea of my daughter helping her twin brother be born is pretty darn weird!
Black and White: Y for Yuwara Ul Sahd

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Jayashree! Yes, Zeus is handy for a Z word.

Thanks, Stuart! Glad you enjoyed.

Hi Zalka! Of course, Hebe, who kept the gods young, as cupbearer before Ganymede. Kerry Greenwood’s heroine Corinna Chapman lives in a flat named for Hebe, “waitress of the gods”! And yes, interesting about the Milky Way.

Indeed, Anne. The mind boggles at the thought!