The Daughters of Zeus and Eurynome
Since their name means Grace these three beautiful daughters of Zeus and Eurynome are often called the Graces. Their names are Aglaia [Splendor], Euphrosyne [Festivity], and Thaleia [Rejoicing].
Zeus is a son of the Titans Kronos and Rheia ... he is considered to be the father of gods and men because his authority is inviolate on earth as well as on Mount Olympos. Eurynome is an Okeanid, i.e. she is one of the three thousand daughters of Okeanos [Ocean] and Tethys. She became the consort of Zeus ... their three daughters are the fair-cheeked Graces.
The First Woman
Zeus wanted to punish the men of the earth, so he instructed the Immortals to create a woman ... her name would be Pandora, meaning All-Endowed. Zeus intended to give the deceptive gift to his cousin, Epimetheus.
The artificer of the Immortals, Hephaistos, molded Pandora's body from earth into the likeness of a modest young girl ... Athene taught Pandora the skills of weaving and gave her dexterity ... Aphrodite put a mist upon her head to engender longing and desire ... Hermes gave her treachery and shamelessness ... the Graces and Peitho [Persuasion] gave her necklaces of gold ... the Seasons put a halo of flowers on Pandora's head.
Epimetheus had been warned not to accept gifts from Zeus but when he saw Pandora he could not resist her charms. When he accepted Pandora he unleashed countless evils on the world. The only positive influence Pandora brought to the world of men was Hope. Although women were designed as a curse to men, the only thing worse than marriage is for a man to live and die alone.
The Quest for the Golden Fleece
The Graces made several robes for Aphrodite, goddess of Love, but they are not described in detail ... however, there was another robe made by the Graces that became an integral part of the Quest for the Golden Fleece ... it was a crimson robe made by the Graces for the god of Wine, Dionysos.
The Golden Fleece was from a flying ram that had flown from Greece to Kolchis on the eastern edge of the Black Sea. A young hero named Jason assembled the finest and bravest men in Greece to help him retrieve the Fleece so that he could claim the kingship of Iolkos ... his companions were called Argonauts ... named after their ship, the Argo.
When Jason and the Argonauts began their long voyage to Kolchis, they stopped on the island of Lemnos where the husbandless women of the island gladly welcomed them. The women of Lemnos had not become widows in the traditional way ... they had murdered the men of the island for their adulterous behavior ... now they were desperate for male companions ... the Argonauts arrived just in time to fulfill that role.
Jason became the lover of Queen Hypsipyle. As he was leaving, Hypsipyle presented Jason with the crimson robe that had been passed down from Dionysos to her father King Thoas. When Thoas fled the island in the midst of the man-killing frenzy, he gave the robe to his daughter Hypsipyle, who in turn gave it to Jason as a token of her affection.
The robe is mentioned three times in the Argonautika. When Queen Hypsipyle gave the robe to Jason, it was described as beautiful to look upon, with a texture that was irresistible to the touch. Hypsipyle told Jason that the Graces made the robe for Dionysos while he was on the island of Dia with Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete. The robe emitted a fragrance that was reminiscent of the wine and ambrosia that Dionysos and Ariadne shared when he wore the robe.
The second time the robe was mentioned was when Jason wore the sacred garment as he was performing a ritual for the Roaring Goddess Hekate. The ceremony was solemn in order to display the greatest respect for the goddess so that she would protect Jason in his upcoming trials. King Aietes of Kolchis told Jason that he could have the Golden Fleece if he could prove his manhood by fighting a series of supernatural beasts. The only way to accomplish the seemingly impossible trials was to have the protection of Hekate ... wearing the sacred robe was necessary during the evocation ceremony to win the favor of the goddess.
The third instance where the robe was mentioned in the Argonautika was a circumstance that was much less noble than conjuring a goddess. After surviving the trials of manhood Aietes demanded, the king would not surrender the Golden Fleece ... with the assistance of the king's daughter, Princess Medeia, Jason stole the Fleece and fled Kolchis. The king sent his son Apsyrtos to bring Medeia and the Fleece back to Kolchis. When Apsyrtos had Jason and Medeia cornered, the fugitives asked for a truce and a meeting to discuss their surrender. Jason and Princess Medeia used the robe as a lure and a token of their good faith ... Apsyrtos accepted their offer and was cruelly murdered for his bad judgment. After that incident, the crimson robe made by the Graces disappeared from the historical record.
Companions of Aphrodite
As goddesses, the Graces have dominions of their own but we often encounter them in their relationship with the goddess of Love, Aphrodite. On one embarrassing occasion, Aphrodite was wearing a robe woven by the Graces when she was caught being unfaithful to her husband Hephaistos. Aphrodite had been enjoying an intimate relationship with Ares, god of War, for quite some time before Hephaistos found out. When Helios [Sun], who sees all, pointed out the infidelity to Hephaistos, he constructed a clever trap around his bed. The unsuspecting lovers were ensnared before they knew what was happening.
Hephaistos summoned the Immortals from Mount Olympos to witness the spectacle. After he was satisfied that he would be paid reparations and that his wife had been properly humiliated, Hephaistos let Aphrodite go to Kypros so that she could be attended by the Graces. After bathing her, the Graces anointed Aphrodite with ambrosial oil and dressed her in delightful clothing so that she might resume her loving duties.
In another instance, Aphrodite was wearing a robe the Graces made for her when she was attacked on the battlefield during the Trojan War. Aphrodite and the other Immortals were in the habit of invisibly entering into the fighting at Troy to protect their semi-divine sons, or in some cases, just to contribute to the carnage. Aphrodite fought for the Trojans but the Grim Goddess Athene fought for the Achaeans ... the two goddess were not "enemies" but they were fierce rivals. Athene gave an Achaean commander named Diomedes the ability to see the Immortals on the battlefield ... she told him to avoid all the gods and goddesses except Aphrodite ... if he saw her, he was to stab her.
Aphrodite was busy protecting her son Aineias when Diomedes saw her ... his spear point pierced the divine robe and slashed Aphrodite's palm. It's odd that the only Immortal to lose blood [ichor] in the Trojan War was the goddess of Love.
Homer, the author of the Iliad, used the beauty of the Graces ironically to depict the horror of war when he described a dead Trojan soldier's skillfully braided hair as being lovely as the hair of the Graces before it was splattered with blood and mingled with the dirt.
We have a curious incident in the Iliad where the goddess Hera offers to let Hypnos [Sleep] marry Pasithea, "one of the younger Graces," if he will cast a spell of slumber on Zeus so that Poseidon, lord of the sea, can attack the Trojans. Pasithea is otherwise not mentioned as one of the Graces ... in fact, Theogony states clearly that Eurynome and Zeus had three fair-cheeked daughters ... Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thaleia ... Aglaia being the youngest of the three.
Also in Theogony, we learn that Hephaistos married Aglaia ... it's not clear whether this marriage was before or after his marriage to Aphrodite ... regardless, it's quite obvious that Hephaistos had impeccable taste in goddesses.
Graces are often confused with the Roman goddesses, the Gratiae.
The Graces in the Iliad
[from five different translations]
- Iliad - book 5, line 338 - ... following her [Aphrodite] through the thick crowd, he [Diomedes] caught her, lunging in his charge far forward the son of high-hearted Tydeus made a thrust against the soft hand with the bronze spear, and the spear tore the skin driven clean on through the immortal robe that the very Graces had woven for her carefully ...
- Iliad - book 14, line 268 - Hera bargaining with Sleep to cast slumber on Zeus: 'Come now, do it, and I will give you one of the younger Graces for you to marry, and she shall be called your lady; Pasithea, since all your days you have loved her forever.'
- Iliad - book 14, line 275 - Sleep to Hera: 'Swear that you will give me one of the younger Graces, Pasithea, the one whom all my days I have longed for.'
- Iliad - book 17, line 51 - He [Euphorbos] fell, thunderously, and his armour clattered upon him, and his hair, as lovely as the Graces, was spattered with blood, those braided locks caught waspwise in gold and silver.
Loeb Classical Library
- Iliad - book 5, line 338 - ... he [Diomedes] pursued her [Aphrodite] through the great throng, then the son of great-hearted Tydeus thrust with his sharp spear and leapt at her, and cut the surface of her delicate hand, and immediately through the ambrosial raiment, which the Graces themselves had toiled over making for her ...
- Iliad - book 14, line 267 - Hera bargaining with Sleep to cast slumber on Zeus: "But come, I will give you one of the youthful Graces to wed and to be called our wife, Pasithea, for whom you have been longing all your days."
- Iliad - book 14, line 275 - Sleep to Hera: "Come now, swear to me ... that you will give me one of the youthful Graces, Pasithea, for whom I have been longing all my days."
- Iliad - book 17, line 51 - And he [Euphorbus] fell with a thud, and over him his armor clanged. In blood was his hair drenched that was like the hair of the Graces, and his tresses that were braided with gold and silver.
- Iliad - book 5, line 379 - But once he [Diomedes] caught her [Aphrodite], stalking her through the onslaught, gallant Tydeus' offspring rushed at her, lunging out, thrusting his sharp spear at her soft, limp wrist and the brazen point went slashing through her flesh, tearing straight through the fresh immortal robes the Graces themselves had made for her with their labor.
- Iliad - book 14, line 323 - Hera bargaining with Sleep to cast slumber on Zeus: "Come now, I will give you one of the younger Graces—Wed her at once and she'll be your wife."
- Iliad - book 14, line 331 - Sleep to Hera: "Swear you will give me one of the younger Graces, Pasithea, she's the one—all my days I've tossed and turned for her!"
- Iliad - book 17, line 57 - He [Euphorbus] fell with a crash, armor ringing against his ribs, his locks like the Graces' locks splashed with blood, still braided tight with gold and silver clips, pinched in like a wasp's waist.
- Iliad - book 5, line 390 - When in range he [Diomêdês] leaped high after her [Aphrodítê] and with his point wounded her trailing hand: the brazen lancehead slashed her heavenly robe, worked by the Graces, and cut the tinder skin upon her palm ...
- Iliad - book 14, line 305 - Hêra bargaining with Sleep to cast slumber on Zeus: "Come. I should add, my gift to you will be one of the younger Graces for a mistress, ever to be called yours."
- Iliad - book 14, line 311 - Sleep to Hêra: "... attest that I shall marry one of the younger Graces, Pásithea, the one I have desired all my living days."
- Iliad - book 17, line 55 - He [Euphórbos] thudded down, his gear clanged on his body, and blood bathed his long hair, fair as the Graces', braided, pinched by twists of silver and gold.
- Iliad - book 5, line 338 - Now, when he [Diomēdēs] overtook her [Aphrodītē] in his chase through the crowded ranks, he sprang at her, did high-spirited Tydeus's son, and lunged, and sliced into the flesh of her hand with his keen-edged bronze—that delicate hand! The spear drove straight into her flesh—clean through the fragrant robe toiled on by the Graces themselves ...
- Iliad - book 14, line 267 - Hērē to Sleep: "Look, I'll make you a present of one of the younger Graces to take in wedlock, and to be known as your wife—Pasithëē, whom you've yearned for your whole life."
- Iliad - book 14, line 275 - Sleep to Hērē: "Come, then, swear to me by Styx's sacrosanct waters ... that you will make me a present of one of the younger Graces, Pasithëē, whom I've longed for my whole life."
- Iliad - book 17, line 51 - He [Euphorbos] fell with a thud, and his armor rattled upon him. Blood soaked his hair that was such as the Graces have—those locks wasp-waisted with spirals of gold and silver.
The Graces in the Odyssey
[from four different translations]
- Odyssey - book 6, line 18 - ... and beside her [Nausikaa] two handmaidens with beauty given from the Graces slept ...
- Odyssey - book 8, line 364 - ... Aphrodite lover of laughter, went back to Paphos on Cyprus, where lies her sacred precinct and her smoky altar, and there the Graces bathed her and anointed her with ambrosial oil ...
- Odyssey - book 18, line 194 - First, for her [Penelope's] beauty's sake, she [Athene] freshened all her fine features with ambrosia, such as fair-garlanded Kythereia [Aphrodite] uses for salve, whenever she joins in the lovely dance of the Graces.
Loeb Classical Library
- Odyssey - book 6, line 18 - ... by her [Nausicaa] slept two handmaids, gifted with beauty by the Graces ...
- Odyssey - book 8, line 364 - ... the laughter loving Aphrodite, went to Cyprus, to Paphos, where she has a precinct and fragrant altar. There the Graces bathed her and anointed her with immortal oil ...
- Odyssey - book 18, line 194 - With beauty she [Athene] first cleansed her [Penelope's] lovely face, with beauty ambrosial, such as that with which Cytheraea [Aphrodite], of the fair crown anoints herself when she goes into the lovely dance of the Graces ...
- Odyssey - book 6, line 21 - Two handmaids fair as the Graces slept beside her [Nausicaa] ...
- Odyssey - book 8, line 407 - ... Love [Aphrodite] with her telltale laughter sped to Paphos, Cyprus Isle, where her grove and scented altar stand. There the Graces bathed and anointed her with oil ...
- Odyssey - book 18, line 221 - She [Athena] cleansed her [Penelope's] cheeks, her brow and fine eyes with ambrosia smooth as the oils the goddess Love [Aphrodite] applies, donning her crown of flowers whenever she joins the Graces' captivating dances.
- Odyssey - book 6, line 23 - One either side, as Graces might have slept, her [Nausikaa's] maids were sleeping.
- Odyssey - book 8, line 389 - ... Aphrodítê, laughter's darling, fled to Kypros Isle and Paphos, to her meadow and altar dim with incense. There the Graces bathed and anointed her with golden oil ...
- Odyssey - book 18, line 245 - With ambrosia she [Athena] bathed her [Penélopê's] cheeks and throat and smoothed her brow—ambrosia, used by the flower-crowned Kythereia [Aphrodítê] when she would join the rose-lipped Graces dancing.
Other Text References
- line 64 - There are their [the Muses'] bright dancing-places and beautiful homes, and beside them the Graces and Himerus [Desire] live in delight.
- line 908 - And Eurynome, the daughter of Okeanos [Ocean], beautiful in form, bare him [Zeus] three fair-cheeked Charites [Graces], Aglaia, and Euphrosyne, and lovely Thaleia, from whose eyes as they glanced flowed love that unnerves the limbs: and beautiful is their glance beneath their brows.
- line 946 - And Hephaistos, the famous Lame One, made Aglaia, youngest of the Graces, his buxom wife.
- fragment 2 - But Zeus made them [the sisters of Hyas] into the stars that are called Hyades. Hesiod in his Book about Stars tells us their names as follows: "Nymphs like the Graces, Phaesyle and Koronis and rich-crowned Kleeia and lovely Phaeo and long-robed Eudora, whom the tribes of men upon the earth call Hyades."
- fragment 6 - The author of the Kypria, whether Hegesias or Stasinus, mentions flowers used for garlands. The poet, whoever he was, writes as follows in his first book:
- [lines 1-7] "She clothed herself with garments that the Graces and Hours had made for her and dyed in flowers of spring—such flowers as the Seasons wear—in crocus and hyacinth and flourishing violet and the rose's lovely bloom, so sweet and delicious, and heavenly buds, the flowers of the narcissus and lily. In such perfumed garments is Aphrodite clothed at all seasons.
- [lines 8-12] Then laughter-loving Aphrodite and her handmaidens wove sweet-smelling crowns of flowers of the earth and put them upon their heads—the bright-coiffed goddesses, the Nymphs and Graces, and golden Aphrodite too, while they sang sweetly on the mount of many-fountained Ida."
The Argonautika by Apollonius Rhodius
- book 4, line 425 - So they two Jason and Medeia agreed and prepared a great web of guile for Apsyrtos, and provided many gifts such as are due to guests, and among them gave a sacred robe of Hypsipyle, of crimson hue. The Graces with their own hands had wrought it for Dionysos in sea-girt Dia, and he gave it to his son Thoas thereafter, and Thoas left it to Hypsipyle, and she gave that fair-wrought guest-gift with many another marvel to Aeson's son [Jason] to wear. Never could you satisfy your sweet desire by touching it or gazing on it. And from it a divine fragrance breathed from the time when the king of Nysa himself [Dionysos] lay to rest thereon, flushed with wine and nectar as he clasped the beauteous breast of the maiden-daughter of Minos [Ariadne], whom once Theseus forsook in the island of Dia, when she had followed him from Knossos.
The Graces dance at the Acropolis of Athens.
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