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Tityos

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Tityos (Greek: Τιτυός) was a giant from Greek mythology.

History

Tityos was the son of Elara; his father was Zeus. Zeus hid Elara from his wife, Hera, by placing her deep beneath the earth. This was where she gave birth to Tityos, who is also sometimes said to be the son of Gaia, the earth goddess, for this reason. Tityos was a phallic being who grew so vast that he split his mother's womb and had to be carried to term by Gaia herself. Tityos attempted to rape Leto at the behest of Hera and was slain by Apollo and Artemis. As punishment, he was stretched out in Tartarus and tortured by two vultures who fed on his liver. This punishment is extremely similar to that of the Titan Prometheus.

Jane Ellen Harrison noted that, "To the orthodox worshipper of the Olympians he was the vilest of criminals; as such Homer knew him":

I saw Tityus too,
son of the mighty Goddess Earth—sprawling there
on the ground, spread over nine acres—two vultures
hunched on either side of him, digging into his liver,
beaking deep in the blood-sac, and he with his frantic hands
could never beat them off, for he had once dragged off
the famous consort of Zeus in all her glory,
Leto, threading her way toward Pytho's ridge
over the lovely dancing-rings of Panopeus".[1]

In the early first century, when the geographer Strabo visited Panopeus (ix.3.423), he was reminded by the local people that it was the abode of Tityos and recalled the fact that the Phaeacians had carried Rhadamanthys in their boats to visit Tityos, according to Homer.[2] There on Euboea at the time of Strabo they were still showing a "cave called Elarion from Elara who was mother to Tityos, and a hero-shrine of Tityos, and some kind of honours are mentioned which are paid him."[3] It is clear that the local hero-cult had been superseded by the cult of the Olympian gods, an Olympian father provided, and the hero demonized. A comparable giant chthonic pre-Olympian of a Titan-like order is Orion.

The poet Lucretius restyles the figure of Tityos in book iv of De rerum natura, a demythologized Tityos who is not in the underworld, eternally punished, but here and now, "the prototypical anguished lover", plagued by winged creatures that are not vultures, as E.J. Kenney argues[4] but cupids. Virgil responds to Lucretius with a retrospective simile of Tityos in the Aeneid (6.595ff), which compares his torment of desire with the unrest of Dido, whose flame of love is eating her marrow.[5]

Notes

  1. Odyssey xi.570ish (Robert Fagles' translation).
  2. Odyssey vii.324.
  3. Quoted in Harrison (1903) 1922, p 336.
  4. Kenney, "Tityos and the lover", Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society (1970:44-47).
  5. Colin I. M. Hamilton, "Dido, Tityos and Prometheus", The Classical Quarterly, New Series, 43.1 (1993:249-254), p. 251f.

References

  • Harrison, Jane Ellen, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903) 1922, p. 336f.
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Ti'tyus"
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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Tityos. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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