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Eurynome and Ophion


In the beginning, Eurynome, The Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but found nothing substantial for her feet to rest upon, and therefore divided the sea from the sky, dancing lonely upon its waves. She danced towards the south, and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin a work of creation. Wheeling about, she caught hold of this north wind, rubbed it between her hands, and behold! the great serpent Ophion. Eurynome danced to warm herself, wildly and more wildly, until Ophion, grown lustful, coiled about those divine limbs and was moved to couple with her. Now, the North Wind, who is also called Boreas, fertilizes; which is why mares often turn their hind-quarters to the wind and breed foals without aid of a stallion. So Eurynome was likewise got with child.
Eurynome and Ophion
Eurynome and Ophion

b. Next, she assumed the form of a dove, brooding on the waves and in due process of time laid the Universal Egg. At her bidding, Ophion coiled seven times about this egg, until it hatched and split in two. Out tumbled all things that exist, her children: sun, moon, planets, stars, the earth with its mountains and rivers, its trees, herbs, and living creatures.
c. Eurynome and Ophion made their home upon Mount Olympus, where he vexed her by claiming to be the author of the Universe. Forthwith she bruised his head with her heel, kicked out his teeth, and banished him to the dark caves below the earth.
d. Next, the goddess created the seven planetary powers, setting a Titaness and a Titan over each. Theia and Hyperion for the Sun; Phoebe and Atlas for the Moon; Dione and Crius for the planet Mars; Metis and Coeus for the planet Mercury; Themis and Eurymedon for the planet Jupiter; Tethys and Oceanus for Venus; Rhea and Cronus for the planet Saturn. But the first man was Pelasgus, ancestor of the Pelasgians; he sprang from the soil of Arcadia, followed by certain others, whom he taught to make huts and feed upon acorns, and sew pig-skin tunics such as poor folk still wear in Euboea and Phocis.
Eurynome and Ophion
Eurynome and Ophion

1. Only tantalizing fragments of this pre-Hellenic myth survive in Greek literature, the largest being Apollonius Rhodius's Agronautica and Tzetzes but it is implicit in the Orphic Mysteries, and can be restored, as above, from the Berossian Fragment and the Phoenician cosmogonies quoted by Philostratus and Damascius; from the Canaanitish elements in the Hebrew Creation story; from Hyginus (Fabula); from the Boeotian legend of the dragon's teeth; and from early ritual art. That all Pelasgians were born from Ophion is suggested by their common sacrifice, the Peloria (Athenaeus), Ophion having been a Pelor, or 'prodigious serpent'. In this archaic religious system there were, as yet, neither gods nor priests, but only a universal goddess and her priestesses, woman being the dominant sex and man her frightened victim. Fatherhood was not honoured, conception being attributed to the wind, the eating of beans, or the accidental swallowing of an insect; inheritance was matrilineal and snakes were regarded as incarnations of the dead. Eurynome ('wide wandering') was the goddess's title as the visible moon; her Sumerian name was Iahu ('exalted dove'), a title which later passed to Jehovah as the Creator. It was as a dove that Marduk symbolically sliced her in two at the Babylonian Spring Festival, when he inaugurated the new world order.
2. Ophion, or Boreas, is the serpent demiurge of Hebrew and Egyptian myth-in early Mediterranean art, the Goddess is constantly shown in his company. The earth-born Pelasgians, whose claim seems to have been that they sprang from Ophion's teeth, were originally perhaps the Neolithic 'Painted Ware' people; they reached the mainland of Greece from Palestine about 3500 BC, and the early Hellads - immigrants from Asia Minor by way of the Cyclades - found them in occupation of the Peloponnese seven hundred years later. But 'Pelasgians' became loosely applied to all pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece. Thus Euripides (quoted by Strabo) records that the Pelasgians adopted the name 'Danaids' on the coming to Argos of Danaus and his fifty daughters. Strictures on their licentious conduct (Herodotus) refer probably to the pre-Hellenic custom of erotic orgies. Strabo says in the same passage that those who lived near Athens were known as Pelargi ('storks'); perhaps this was their totem bird.
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3. The Titans ('lords') and Titanesses had their counterparts in early Babylonian and Palestinian astrology, where they were deities ruling the seven days of the sacred planetary week; and may have been introduced by the Canaanite, or Hittite, colony which settled the Isthmus of Corinth early in the second millennium BC, or even by the Early Hellads. But when the Titan cult was abolished in Greece, and the seven-day week ceased to figure in the official calendar, their number was quoted as twelve by some authors, probably to make them correspond with the signs of the Zodiac. Hesiod, Apollodorus, Stephanus of Byzantium, Pausanias, and others give inconsistent lists of their names. In Babylonian myth the planetary rulers of the week, namely Samas, Sin, Nergal, Bel, Beltis, and Ninib, were all male, except Beltis, the Love-goddess; but in the Germanic week, which the Celts had borrowed from the Eastern Mediterranean, Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday were ruled by Titanesses, as opposed to Titans. To judge from the divine status of Aeolus's paired-off daughters and sons, and the myth of Niobe, it was decided, when the system first reached pre-Hellenic Greece from Palestine, to pair a Titaness with each Titan, as a means of safeguarding the goddess's interests. But before long the fourteen were reduced to a mixed company of seven. The planetary powers were as follows: Sun for illumination; Moon for enchantment; Mars for growth; Mercury for wisdom; Jupiter for law; Venus for love; Saturn for peace. Classical Greek astrologers conformed with the Babylonians, and awarded the planets to Helius, Selene, Ares, Hermes (or Apollo), ZeusAphroditeCronus-whose Latin equivalents, given above, still name the French, Italian, and Spanish weeks.
4. In the end, mythically speaking, Zeus swallowed the Titans, including his earlier self - since the Jews of Jerusalem worshipped a transcendent God, composed of all the planetary powers of the week: a theory symbolized in the seven-branched candlestick, and  in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The seven planetary pillars set up near the Horse's Tomb at Sparta were said by Pausanias to be adorned in ancient fashion, and may have been connected with the Egyptian rites introduced by the Pelasgians. Whether the Jews borrowed the theory from the Egyptians, or contrariwise, is uncertain; but the so-called Heliopolitan Zeus, whom
A. B. Cook discusses in his Zeus, was Egyptian in character, and bore busts of the seven planetary powers as frontal ornaments on his body sheath; usually, also, busts of the remaining Olympians as rear ornaments. One bronze statuette of this god was found at Tortosa in Spain, another at Byblos in Phoenicia; and a marble stele from Marseilles displays six planetary busts and one full-length figure of Hermes - who is also given greatest prominence in the statuettes - presumably as the inventor of astronomy. At Rome, Jupiter was similarly claimed to be a transcendent god by Quintus Valetins Soranus, though the week was not observed there, as it was at Marseilles, Byblos, and (probably) Tortosa. But planetary powers were never allowed to influence the official Olympian cult, being regarded as un- Greek (Herodotus), and therefore unpatriotic: Aristophanes (Peace) makes Trygasus say that the Moon and 'that old villain the Sun' are hatching a plot to herray Greece into the hands of the Persian barbarians.
5. Pausanias's statement that Pelasgus was the first of men records the continuance of a Palaeolithic culture in Arcadia until Classical times.


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