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Atë

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Atë or Aite; (Greek: ἄτη) a Greek word for "ruin, folly, delusion", is the action performed by the hero, usually because of his or her hubris that leads to his or her death or downfall. There is also a goddess by that name (Atë) in Greek mythology, a personification of the same.

In Homer's Iliad (Book 19) she is called eldest daughter of Zeus with no mother mentioned. On Hera's instigation she used her influence over Zeus so that he swore an oath that on that day a mortal descended from him would be born who would be a great ruler. Hera immediately arranged to delay the birth of Heracles and to bring forth Eurystheus prematurely. In anger Zeus threw Atë down to earth forever, forbidding that she ever return to heaven or to Mount Olympus. Atë then wandered about, treading on the heads of men rather than on the earth, wreaking havoc on mortals. The Romans had a similar goddess named Serum.

The Litae ("Prayers") follow after her but Atë is fast and far outruns them.

Apollodorus (3.143) claims that when thrown down by Zeus, Atë landed on a peak in Phrygia called by her name. There Ilus later, following a cow, founded the city of Ilion, that is Troy. This flourish is chronologically at odds with Homer's dating of Atë's fall.

In Hesiod's Theogony (l. 230) the mother of Atë is Eris ("Strife"), with no father mentioned.

In Nonnus' Dionysiaca (11.113), at Hera's instigation Atë persuades the boy Ampelus whom Dionysus passionately loves to impress Dionysus by riding on a bull from which Ampelus subsequently falls and breaks his neck.

In the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare introduces the goddess Atë as an invocation of vengeance and menace. Mark Anthony, lamenting Caesar's murder, envisions:

"And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Atë' by his side come hot from Hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war, ..."

Shakespeare also mentions her in the play Much Ado about Nothing, when Benedick says, referring to Beatrice,

"Come, talk not of her. You shall find her the,
infernal Atë in good apparel....

In her book The March of Folly, Barbara Tuchman notes that the earth has been called The Meadow of Atë.[1]

Notes

  1. Tuchman, B., The March of Folly, p. 47, Alfred A. Knopf, 1984

References

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Atë. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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