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The Fates vs. The Gods (The Battle of Your Life)

The Fates vs. The Gods (The Battle of Your Life)

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The Fates vs. The Gods (The Battle of Your Life)

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  1. The Fates vs. The Gods(The Battle of Your Life) • The Fates, or “Moirai” as they are known, control our lives from birth to death. • The gods are also said to have influence over our lives, punishing us for certain deeds, and honoring us for others. • But who has the ultimate control over us? The fates or the gods?

  2. So who were the Fates??? • The fates are traditionally considered to consist of three individual women. • Clotho was the “spinner.” She spun the thread of life. • Lachesis was the “allotter.” She allotted persons their fortune, good or bad, and measured the thread of their lives for how long it would be. • Atropos, whose name means “she who cannot be turned,” cut the thread of life.

  3. So what were they like??? • The poets sometimes describe them as aged and hideous women, and even as lame, to indicate the slow march of fate (Catull. 64, 306; Ov. Met. xv. 781; Tzetz. ad Lyc. 584) • In works of art they are represented as grave maidens, with different attributes, viz., Clotho with a spindle or a roll (the book of fate); Lachesis pointing with a staff to the horoscope on the globe ; and Atropos with a pair of scales, or a sun-dial, or a cutting instrument. (see

  4. Homer and the Fates… • Homer spoke of the Moira as one individual. Only once did he refer to the Moira in the plural. • According to Homer, the Fates are not in control of the gods, but on the contrary, Zeus doles out their fates to them. • Homer tells us that Zeus can intervene in a person’s fate even when they are at the end of their thread…

  5. Hesiod and the Fates… • Contrary to what Homer claims, Hesiod speaks of the Fates as three individual women. • They are the daughters of Zeus, and they were represented along with their father in temples and works of art. • They are further described as engraving on indestructible tables the decrees of their father Zeus. (Claudian, xv. 202; comp. Ov. Met. xv. 808, &c.)

  6. What various authors had to say about the Fates: • Above the head of Zeus [in his temple at Megara] are the Horai (Seasons) and Moirai (Fates), and all may see that he is the only god obeyed by Moira (Destiny)." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 1.40.4 Vs. • "Okeanides: And whose hand controls necessity (ananke)?Prometheus: The three Moirai; and the Erinyes, who forget nothing.Okeanides: Has Zeus less power than they?Prometheus: He cannot fly from Fate.Okenaides: What fate is given to Zeus, but everlasting power?Prometheus: This is a thing you may not know; so do not ask." - Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 515

  7. And… • "The gods were moved; but none can break the ancient Sisters' iron decrees." - Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.781 • And most importantly for us and our readings for this week…

  8. Lucian’s “Zeus Cross Examined”: Cyn. I want to ask you a plain question. Zeus. Such a modest petition is soon granted; ask what you will. p. 72 Cyn. Well then: you know your Homer and Hesiod, of course? Is it all true that they sing of Destiny and the Fates--that whatever they spin for a man at his birth must inevitably come about? Zeus. Unquestionably. Nothing is independent of their control. From their spindle hangs the life of all created things; whose end is predetermined even from the moment of their birth; and that law knows no change. Cyn. Then when Homer says, for instance, in another place, “Lest unto Hell thou go, outstripping Fate,” he is talking nonsense, of course? Zeus. Absolute nonsense. Such a thing is impossible: the law of the Fates, the thread of Destiny, is over all. No; so long as the poets are under the inspiration of the Muses, they speak truth: but once let those Goddesses leave them to their own devices, and they make blunders and contradict themselves. Nor can we blame them: they are but men; how should they know truth, when the divinity whose mouthpieces they were is departed from them?

  9. Cyn: I was thinking of that bit in Homer, where he makes you address the Gods in council, and threaten to suspend all the world from a golden cord. You said, you know, that you would let the cord down from Heaven, and all the Gods together, if they liked, might take hold of it and try to pull you down, and they would never do it: whereas you, if you had a mind to it, could easily pull them up, “and Earth and Sea withal.” I listened to that passage with shuddering reverence; I was much impressed with the idea of your strength. Yet now I understand that you and your cord and your threats all depend from a mere cobweb. It seems to me Clotho should be the one to boast: she has you dangling from her distaff, like a sprat at the end of a fishing-line. Zeus: I don’t know what you are driving at with these questions. Cyn: This…If this is all so, and the Fates rule everything, and nobody can ever change anything that they have once decreed, why do men sacrifice to you gods and make great offerings of cattle, praying to receive blessings from you? I really don’t see what benefit we can derive from this precaution, if it is impossible for us through our prayers either to get what is bad averted or to secure and blessings whatever by the gift of gods.

  10. So what are we to make of this? Some questions come to mind: • Why do we pray (to the gods) if they cannot change fate? • Can the Fates change fate? • Are the Fates fated to assign the fates they assign? • What kinds of power do the gods really have if they, too, are under fate’s rule? • Let’s assume the fates or the gods can and do interfere at some point in someone’s fate. Why in that case but not in others? • If they chose to interfere, is it because they admit their original plan was wrong? What other reasons could they have for changing fate?