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One of the live oaks that bless my home

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Way We Were

We are in the western part of Turkish Anatolia, which in Greek means "East" or "Sunrise."  Suddenly, we are inside of many of the oldest human stories that are particularly dear to my heart. The ancient city of Troy is here.  Around 1300 B.C., when Troy was almost 4000 years old, the mother of all Greek wars was fought there, and immortalized by Homer five centuries later in probably the most important oral stories and later texts ever conceived by rational men: The Iliad and Odyssey.  Some of the Greek Gods were born here, many other dueled with one another for power and revenge, or gave birth to the heroes and heroines who determined fate of Troy and future of mankind.

My favorite scary goddess, Nemesis, who is reputed to have been conceived by the primordial Goddess of Night, Nyx, played a pivotal role in the fate of Troy. Her name was derived from the Greek words nemêsis and nemô, meaning "dispenser of dues."
This full size statue of beautiful Nemesis was almost stolen from Perge, Turkey. It was luckily recovered together with the statues of my other favorite gods: Apollo, Artemis, Athena, and Aphrodite. All are displayed at the Museum of Archaeology in Antalya.
Nemesis' mother and birthplace were established by the most reliable ancient sources.

Hesiod, Theogony 211 ff (trans. Evelyn-White):
"And Nyx (Night) bare hateful Moros (Doom) and black Ker (Violent Death) and Thanatos (Death), and she bare Hypnos (Sleep) and the tribe of Oneiroi (Dreams). And again the goddess murky Nyx, though she lay with none, bare Momos (Blame) and painful Oizys (Misery), and the Hesperides . . . Also she bare the Moirai (Fates) and the ruthless avenging Keres (Death-Fates) . . . Also deadly Nyx bare Nemesis (Envy) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Apate (Deceit) and Philotes (Friendship) and hateful Geras (Old Age) and hard-hearted Eris (Strife)." 
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 5. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[The people of Smyrna in Aiolia in Anatolia] believe in two Nemeses instead of one, saying their mother is Nyx."

Nemesis, old people say, was so beautiful that Zeus fell for her.  Nemesis tried to evade the amorous king of the gods by turning herself into a goose. Zeus, undeterred, became a swan and had his way with the white-feathered Nemesis.  Later, she laid a golden egg, from which two pairs of twins were born.  Here it suffices to say that one of the twin sisters was Helen, later Helen of Troy, the most beautiful mortal woman of her time.

About two decades later, Paris, the younger son of King Priam of Troy, was pressed by Zeus himself to judge which of the three goddesses, Hera, Athena, or Aphrodite was fairest. This happened at at a party to celebrate the wedding of king Peleus of Myrmidons and nymph Thetis, parents of Achilles. Achilles was an invincible Greek warrior, who would later vanquish Hector, the older brother of Paris and bravest Trojan. Brad Pitt played Achilles in the famous 2004 movie "Troy."

Eris, a sister of Nemesis and unfailing party pooper, instigated the imbroglio that engulfed Paris and the three goddesses.  To make a long story short, Paris gave Eris' golden apple to the deliciously sexy Aphrodite, who promised him the heart of Helen, then wife of Menelaus the powerful king of Mycenaean (ancient Sparta). Thus, the future fate of Troy was sealed. The two goddesses spurned by Paris never forgave him and helped Greeks whenever they could. To close this circle of fate, Paris later killed the semi-immortal Achilles by shooting him in the heel with an arrow. Achilles' death was not recorded in Homer's Iliad, but this breaking news event was covered by most other media outlets.

But where was I? That's right, I was talking about my long-lasting love of Greek gods, who guided the wise ancient Greeks in creating perhaps the most influential culture and civilization ever.  It is said that the Greek gods are dead today. They died, because people stopped believing in them. How unbearably sad...

Apollo and his twin sister Artemis were born close to here on the Greek island of Delos, next to the island of Naxos, where the sweet princess Ariadne of Crete died of sorrow after being abandoned by the ungrateful Theseus.  Immediately after delivering Zeus' twins, Leto escaped from Delos to Lycia, about 40 km from our hotel. She was wise to fear Hera's fury.
Perge in western Anatolia, Turkey.  This is just one of many streets in this beautiful city you and I could have lived in.  Then there are public baths, gymnasia, stadiums, amphitheater, and the beautiful over-sized sculptures of gods  and heroes displayed in the museum of archaeology in Antalya.

When we walked the wide, well-planned streets of Perge, and saw the ruins of a shopping center under a colonnade, the ruins of large houses and public buildings, a water supply canal and ceramic pipework, etc., it was easy to imagine that we could have lived there 2000 years ago, and fit in intellectually and emotionally.  Such is our deep connection to the luminous Greek culture and civilization, which are the foundations of the present liberal-democratic and technological civilization of Europe and North America where we belong.

Our rational civilization is now under a siege by the forces of darkness lurking in the subconscious reptilian hole in human brain.  When the primitive reptilian reflexes take over, reason is lost, and raw emotions of hate, fear, and religious mysticism dominate.  In a classical Hegelian way light begets darkness from both within and without.

Nyx's sister is Gaia, the eternal Mother Goddess, who gave birth to the Earth and the Universe, the Heavenly Gods, the Titans, and the Giants. Gaia is the mother of my beloved living, blue and green planet. Since neither Nyx nor Gaia are dead as far as I can tell, the news of demise of the gods may have been premature.

As I already wrote many times, we are trampling our living planet as never before. The global finance system that pays for the trampling of the still available pieces of pristine environment is infinite in its design. But since only hell can be infinite, the reckless financiers drip with hubris. Which brings me back to Nemesis, who rains fury and death upon men who exude hubris. Nemesis always gets even when too much injustice is done. So beware you fallible, self-absorbed mortals. In the end, your fate is in Nemesis' hands as well as in the hands of other gods whom you have offended by your actions and lack of respect for Gaia. Beware! I see you smiling with disbelief; Nemesis will make sure of that, just like she made the doomed Trojans ignore Kassandra.