The Glory of Hera

The Glory of Hera: Greek Mythology and the Greek Family

Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 544
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    The Glory of Hera
    Book Description:

    The ancient Athenians were "quarrelsome as friends, treacherous as neighbors, brutal as masters, faithless as servants, shallow as lovers--all of which was in part redeemed by their intelligence and creativity." Thus writes Philip Slater in this classic work on narcissism and family relationships in fifth-century Athenian society. Exploring a rich corpus of Greek mythology and drama, he argues that the personalities and social behavior of the gods were neurotic, and that their neurotic conditions must have mirrored the family life of the people who perpetuated their myths. The author traces the issue of narcissism to mother-son relationships, focusing primarily on the literary representation of Hera and the male gods and showing how it related to devalued women raising boys in an ambitious society dominated by men. "The role of homosexuality in society, fatherless families, working mothers, women's status, and violence, male pride, and male bonding--all these find their place in Slater's analysis, so honestly and carefully addressed that we see our own societal dilemmas reflected in archaic mythic narratives all the more clearly."--Richard P. Martin, Princeton University

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6281-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
    • CHAPTER I The Greek Mother-Son Relationship: Origins and Consequences
      (pp. 3-74)

      We have few objective portraits of the Athenian character, so thorough was their monopoly of the literature which has come down to us. Even the descriptions put into the mouths of aliens and enemies by Thucydides and the dramatists quiver with self-satisfaction and pleased wonderment. The literature they have left us, however, is far too rich for this lack to be very acutely felt. We have too much rather than too little data about this curious society and its inhabitants—enough to characterize them in virtually any way one wishes. At this distance most people find the Athenians (and indeed...

    • CHAPTER II Symbols, the Serpent, and the Oral-Narcissistic Dilemma
      (pp. 75-122)

      While Freud long ago suggested that sexual organs were often represented in dreams through isomorphs [1900, pp. 350–66], in mythology the converse is true; for there are few objects in the physical environment which are not assigned explicit sexual meaning. Thus the Greeks, like many other peoples,¹ attached a feminine or maternal significance to earth and a masculine or paternal one to sky, sun, and rain. Such a view is facilitated by the analogue of generation: the earth, “fertilized” by sun and rain, conceives and bears fruit. Frazer discusses at length the homeopathic measures, such as having intercourse in...

    • CHAPTER III Sexual Dominance: Zeus
      (pp. 125-136)

      Jane Harrison complains of the Olympian gods that they were so detached from their roots in the rich soil of popular religion and everyday magic that they became remote, two-dimensional, trivial, and cerebral [1962, 445–79]. Nevertheless they survived, and unless one is prepared to underwrite a theory of automatic lag (i.e., that any cultural item will persistXnumber of years even after it has ceased to be functional in any way), one must account for this persistence. It is at this point, I think, that social-psychological explanations are most helpful—one might argue that only some set of...

    • CHAPTER IV Masculine Antisepsis: Apollo
      (pp. 137-160)

      The myths surrounding Apollo attempt simply to divest him of all suggestion of maternal enthrallment. He is the personification of anti-matriarchy, the epitome of the sky-god, a crusader against Earth deities. He is all sunlight, Olympian, manifest, rational. He opposes all that is mysterious, hidden, dark, and irrational. Or so, at least, the poets would have us believe. “Orthodoxy demanded that about Apollo there should be nothing ‘earthy’ and no deed or dream of darkness” [Harrison, 1962, p. 389].

      Apollo’s dematrification begins, naturally enough, with the details of his birth. “He it was who escaped most completely from his earthly...

    • CHAPTER V Matricide: Orestes
      (pp. 161-192)

      Apollo’s characteristics display themselves most vividly in his support of his matricidal protégés, Orestes and Alcmaeon. It is Apollo who suggests the deed in both cases, and it is he who encourages and supports them in carrying it out, and defends them against the avenging Erinyes when it is done.

      Orestes’ matricide is the most fully elaborated. It has often been pointed out [cf., e.g., Bunker, 1944, p. 198; Friedman and Gassel, 1951, p. 424] that while Oedipus is the concern of only three surviving Greek tragedies, Orestes is in seven, and is treated by all three of the great...

    • CHAPTER VI Self-Emasculation: Hephaestus
      (pp. 193-209)

      When I talk of Hephaestus’ response as self-emasculation I mean it neither in the sense of actual castration (as in the case of Attis), nor in the sense of symbolic castration (as in Orestes’ case). While a psychoanalyst might interpret Hephaestus’ lameness as symbolic castration, it would seem of less significance than what might be called his “interpersonal” self-castration. By this I mean his withdrawal from the lists of sexual and marital rivalry, his role of clown—in a sense, his resignation from manhood. Hephaestus conveys the interpersonal message: “You have nothing to fear from me, nor is there anything...

    • CHAPTER VII Identification with the Aggressor: Dionysus I. THE RITUAL
      (pp. 210-229)

      In her discussion of Greek mystery cults Gertrude Levy remarks that “in the ritual of Dionysus the Son eclipsed the Mother” [Levy, p. 292]. I may perhaps be forgiven if I attach to this statement a significance somewhat alien to the context in which it was uttered, for it was not only in the realm of ritual that this eclipse took place. What is unique about the Dionysian solution is that the maternal threat is welcomed, and boundary-loss actively pursued. Instead of seeking distance from or mastery over the mother, the Dionysian position incorporates her.

      One can scarcely pick up...

    • CHAPTER VIII Identification with the Aggressor: Dionysus II. THE ATTACK IN THE WOMB
      (pp. 230-263)

      The use of surrogate figures (stepmothers, mothers-in-law, witches, and monsters) to symbolize negative qualities of the real mother is a familiar phenomenon in the analysis of fantasy. It might be fruitful, therefore, to approach this incident with the assumption that Hera represents a negative aspect of Semele, and that the dialogue between them is essentially an internal one.² On this basis I would conclude that the Semele incident describes how certain of the Greek mother’s needs bring disaster upon her, and produce a negative orientation to her child.

      These needs, as one might expect, are narcissistic. Sexuality is subordinated to...

    • CHAPTER IX Identification with the Aggressor: Dionysus III. THE ATTACK ON THE NEONATE
      (pp. 264-284)

      As Rank [1952] first pointed out so dramatically, attempts to destroy infant gods and heroes are not uncommon in the mythologies of Europe and the Mediterranean civilizations, nor indeed, of the entire world. It is more rare, however, for the agent of destruction to be a woman, and even more unusual for the destruction to be successful, as it is in the Orphic story of the birth and death of Zagreus (one of the many primitive gods absorbed by Dionysus). In this myth, Zeus copulated with Persephone in serpent-form, as he had earlier done with his mother Rhea, and as...

    • CHAPTER X Identification with the Aggressor: Dionysus IV. THE ATTACK ON THE MATURE GOD
      (pp. 285-307)

      There is a substantial tradition regarding Dionysus, to the effect that “when he grew to manhood Hera recognized him as Zeus’s son, despite the effeminacy to which his education had reduced him, and drove him mad …” [Graves, 1955, I, p. 104; see Apollodorus: iii. 5. 1; Euripides:The Cyclops3]. To this madness are generally attributed his wanderings, in latter-day attempts to synthesize the many and disparate aspects of the god. Greeks of the classical period, having inherited this “crazed god,” associated for centuries with orgiastic rituals originating in long-forgotten conditions, sought to rationalize what seemed to them his...

    • CHAPTER XI Maternal De-Sexualization: Perseus
      (pp. 308-336)

      When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and whose boughs are so closely interwoven that the sky cannot be seen, the stately shadows of the wood, the privacy of the place, and the awful gloom cannot but strike you, as with the presence of a deity, or when we see some cave at the foot of a mountain penetrating the rocks, not made by human hands, but hollowed out to great depths by nature; it fills the mind with a religious fear; we venerate the fountain-heads of great rivers; the sudden eruption of a...

    • CHAPTER XII The Multiple Defenses of Heracles
      (pp. 337-396)

      The Glory of Hera” was chosen as the title of this book because it translates the name “Heracles,” and hence captures the bitter irony of the Greek mother-son relationship, inasmuch as Hera was also the hero’s chief persecutor. Nilsson, while accepting the derivation as incontrovertible, argues that the name is of no importance and antedates the myth itself:

      Because Hera plays such a prominent part in his myth, Heracles has often been thought to be a descriptive name; but if we consider the matter closely, it will be found to be a forced and improbable explanation that Heracles should have...

    • CHAPTER XIII Familial Emphases in Greek Myth: A Statistical Analysis
      (pp. 399-409)

      In the preceding chapters I have conducted my investigation with a fine humanistic freedom—dwelling upon those examples which illustrate the argument most convincingly, and making generous use of symbolic substitutions. But such a procedure can be misleading, just as long descriptions of gales and hurricanes can distort an estimate of annual rainfall.

      In this chapter I shall attempt to test one of the central generalizations I have made about the Greek family system: that its principal strains were in the cross-sex parent-child dyads, as both cause and consequence of the sex antagonism prevailing in the culture as a whole....

    • CHAPTER XIV A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Maternal Ambivalence and Narcissism
      (pp. 410-439)

      We have repeatedly observed that the phenomena under consideration here are by no means limited to the culture of classical Greece. One may now ask, how general are they? More precisely, do these processes that I have claimed to be dynamically related in Greek culture appear similarly linked in other societies? Do sex antagonism, maternal ambivalence, gynephobia, and masculine narcissism generally occur together?

      Even a casual perusal of the sociological and anthropological literature suggests that some of the relationships for which I have argued have wide applicability. Komarovsky, for example, shows that in the American working class sex segregation is...

    • CHAPTER XV Cultural Pathology and Cultural Development
      (pp. 440-466)

      I have tried in the preceding chapters to sketch a circular family pattern common to many societies—one which was in part present in Homeric times but seemed to intensify during the Athenian civilization, and was reflected in Greek mythology and elaborated by Greek tragedians. In the last chapter some effort was made to test the generality of these observations, and to take cognizance of the fact that the various components of the pattern are not tied to one another with bonds of homogeneous inevitability. In this final chapter I would like briefly to consider some of the implications of...

    • Appendix I Aggression in Parent-Child Dyads in Apollodorus
      (pp. 468-469)
    • Appendix II Greek Madness
      (pp. 470-470)
    • Appendix III Family Dyads in Greek Drama
      (pp. 471-473)
    • Appendix IV Narcissism Codes
      (pp. 474-480)
    (pp. 481-502)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 503-513)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 514-514)