Civilization and Society
If “The Fates” predate the Greek Gods and seemingly have control over their destinies in addition to those of humankind, then why are they not glorified figures in Greek mythology?
Greek mythology is centered upon the various Gods and their contributions to every aspect of human life. The people of Ancient Greece worshipped Zeus and his contemporaries and exalted them in several mythological works. In the eyes of the people, the Gods controlled every sector of Greek society. The Moirai, or “Fates”, however, who existed even before the Gods made their mark on the Greek world, determined the fate of humans and deities alike. This consequently raises the question of why the Fates were not portrayed as glorified figures in the stories of Greek mythology since they had even more power than the Gods themselves. A possible resolution to this question is that more often than not, the prophecy foreseen by the Fates consisted of a negative outcome for the God or human receiving it. As a result, the characters that predicted a doomed future for the Greeks and their beloved Gods were painted as ugly, haggard, witch-like figures in mythological tales.
A classic instance where the Fates exercised their power over the Greek people is in the story of Oedipus. In Oedipus the King, Sophocles recounts that Oedipus “was fated to lie with my mother… and I was doomed to be murdered of the father that begot me.”1 Although Laius, Oedipus’s father, took all measures possible to try and prevent this doomed fortune from materializing, he ultimately had no control over the word of the Fates. This poor circumstance in which Oedipus found himself reflects the reasoning for the ugly portrayal of the Fates. Since the predictions of Oedipus’s future were so unfortunate, the Greeks, in a sense, punished the Fates by drawing them as blind, wrinkly women.
The paradigmatic case of a God’s doomed destiny prophesied by the Fates is the story of...
Cited: Sophocles. Oedipus the King. 922-925
Hesiod. Theogony. 460,464.
Hesiod. Works and Days.
Versnel, H.S.. Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion: Transition and Reversal in Myth and Ritual. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993. Print.
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