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A Moment’s OrnamentThe Poetics of Nympholepsy in Ancient Greece$
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Corinne Ondine Pache

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195339369

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195339369.001.0001

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Nympholeptic Goddesses at the End of the Theogony

Nympholeptic Goddesses at the End of the Theogony

(p.13) 1 Nympholeptic Goddesses at the End of the Theogony
A Moment’s Ornament

Corinne Ondine Pache

Oxford University Press

Chapter 1 takes as its starting point the end of the Theogony, a conclusion that has been troubling to both ancient and modern scholars. At line 963, the poet invokes the Muses and sings about one subset of divinities, the goddesses who lie with and have children by mortal men. While many contend that the Theogony proper ends at some point before the catalogue of goddesses, I argue that the end as we have it is genuinely Hesiodic and look at how this interpretation affects the meaning of the Theogony. The conclusion of the Theogony encapsulates an essential truth about the poem and about ancient Greek culture: men acquire names and histories when they become objects of desire for goddesses, and ritual becomes established when Aphrodite chooses Phaethon as her temple keeper. The narrative of the Theogony is thus framed by two different versions of nympholepsy, which in turn recapitulate both the poetic and the cultic manifestations of the phenomenon. From an ancient Greek’s perspective, the catalogue of goddesses—and, more specifically, the goddesses’ interest in mortal men—represents the beginnings of human history.

Keywords:   Hesiod, Theogony, Goddesses, Children, Aphrodite, Phaethon, Ritual

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