I reblogged an article on Nemesis, the goddess of rebalancing, last week, but I’m still really intrigued by this goddess, so fearsome and yet widely worshipped. The Greeks built temples to honour her, and the Romans took her cult to the ends of the Roman Empire, from Dacia to Scotland.
Nemesis is a Greek goddess of revenge and retribution. In particular, she is invoked against those whose hubris and arrogance got the better of them, and serves as a force of divine reckoning. Originally, she was a deity who simply doled out what people had coming to them, whether good or bad.
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The oracle at Dodona was the oldest in Greece, with only Delphi rivaling it in prestige. There was a main temple, probably dedicated to Zeus and Dione, with several smaller temples around the site. (At least one, near the theatre, had dedications to Aphrodite, Dione’s daughter by Zeus, according to local myth.)
Dione, whose name means Divine or Goddess, is mainly known as Aphrodite’s mother, but she had her own cult, centred around the oracle at Dodona. She was probably a Mycenean goddess, but her origin is somewhat mysterious.
Athena is famous for many things, but her birth, springing fully formed from her father’s head, is a well-known part of her myth, depicted on blackfigure vases from early Greece and mentioned by Homer and Hesiod. Her mother, Metis, is less well-known, although it was she who actually gave birth to Athena, inside Zeus’ belly.
Hera’s titles included Pais (Girl), Nympheuomenê (Betrothed), Teleia (Adult Woman), and Khêra (Widow), all relating to stages in a woman’s life. One of them, Teleia, could take on several meanings, as you’ll see in the section on the Daidala festival of Platania.
It’s very hard for us now to reconcile the widespread worship of Hera in ancient Greece with her character as it comes down to us; she seems like the archetypal shrew. If you look her up, the entries focus on her persecution of Hercules and the women Zeus seduced or raped. These stories are well-known, so I want to focus on Hera’s actual cult in this post.
The nymphs, spirits of woods and wild places, are among the minor figures of Greek myth. They lived in caves or trees, where wild bees and honey were also to be found, so it’s no surprise that a lot of bee lore relates to them.
Human rulers die, and the next generation takes over. Sometimes the older generation gets “helped” off the throne, either by assassination or war. So it’s not surprising that mythology has many versions of this succession story, which rarely involve peaceful inheritance.