I know I’m not done with Arthur, but I need a break from him. One of the reasons why I have always shied away from him for M³ is simply the massive scale of his mythology. Multivolume books have been written about this stuff. That and most of it is thoroughly depressing. So we’ll try something more fun for a bit.
Let us turn our attention to the myths of Perseus! Like all great Greek heroes, Perseus has a birth story where Zeus—
We interrupt this M³ for an urgent warning.
This part of the story will make reference to something that has become a sexual act. Is this what the Greeks actually meant? No. Absolutely not. The words used in the Greek are not even close, and the term used today only recently entered our lexicon. The modern term is descriptive based on observation and imagery, and is not actually derived from this myth. It’s just an unfortunate coincidence. We now resume our myth.
So King Acrisius had a daughter, Danae, and he did something stupid. He went to the oracle at Delphi. This is always, always a mistake. Nothing good comes from seeing the oracle. Acrisius wanted a male heir; he was told that he would never have one, but his daughter would, and that this son would kill Acrisius. Yeah, the oracle sucks. Not wrong, but sucks.
Acrisius, in order to prevent the prophecy, locked Danae in a dungeon (some versions tower). No doors, no windows, but apparently she could get air and have food delivered. Acrisius set it up to be a very posh hotel room with room service. She just could never leave. So Zeus, who apparently has nothing better to do, sees her and wants her. But because she’s so far underground, he has to be clever. He transforms himself into a golden rain. The rain works its way down the roof, into her underground resort, and into her womb. This is, without a doubt, one of the most convoluted birth stories for a Greek hero.
This makes us ask, why? Why does Zeus go through so much trouble? With Hercules, which takes place much later, we saw him impersonate someone else. Nearly all of the heroic birth stories involve some kind of convoluted mess with Zeus. Can’t Zeus just walk into a bar and find someone who is willing to have sex with a god? One explanation is that it makes the story memorable.
Another is that Zeus really can’t. Another hallmark of Greek heroes is that their birth is by people of importance. Nearly all of the mothers of heroes are queens or princesses. Their birth status indicates that they are better people than the commoners. While heroes are to be admired by the common people, the Ancient Greeks have that mindset of fate in place. People are born to their stations in life, they do not rise to them. And, given the proclivities of the gods, husbands and fathers always have to face the possibility that one of the gods will come for a booty call.