Thursday, September 23, 2010

Additional Greek Mythology 21

Back in the 1980s, there was a popular movie about greed on the stock market called “Wall Street.” A sequel is being released this week called “Money Never Sleeps.” But these are puny fairy tales. There is a potential disaster out there, an iceberg big enough to sink the G7. Tomorrow I will present this neither as a narrative nor a moral story, but simply as a timeline. Then I will discuss it as it pertains to quiddity and our blog journey.

But first it helps to understand some external qualities that are involved.  Let us set aside fairy tales and use the sturdy template of Greek mythology once again. The quality of vengeance and retribution was personified by the Greeks in the deity Nemesis. The force that summoned Nemesis to work was usually arrogance, called hubris. The players in our timeline, as everyone else, sought the company of the goddess of luck and success, Tykhe, rather than Nemesis. Here are a few charming details...


Nemesis (sometimes called fate) - in classical mythology, Nemesis was the Goddess of Divine Retributive Justice or Vengeance. Written with a small letter, the term means a rival or opponent who cannot be overcome. It also means any situation or condition that one cannot change or triumph over and an agent or act of punishment.

The term is from the Greek nemesis, meaning “retribution” and nemein, meaning “to deal out” or “dispense.”

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macduff is the nemesis of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

[Nemesis:] A Greek goddess unsuccessfully pursued by Zeus. But most of her actions are simply connected with retribution, the ‘unescapable’ punishment of human presumption.


hubris [hew‐bris] or hybris, the Greek word for ‘insolence’ or ‘affront’, applied to the arrogance or pride of the protagonist in a tragedy in which he or she defies moral laws or the prohibitions of the gods. The protagonist's transgression or hamartia leads eventually to his or her downfall, which may be understood as divine retribution or nemesis. Hubris is commonly translated as ‘overweening (i.e. excessively presumptuous) pride’. In proverbial terms, hubris is thus the pride that comes before a fall.


The general connotation of the pride that goes before a fall is a later, and partially Christian reinterpretation of the classical concept. In Aristotle (Rhetoric 1378b 23-30) hubris is gratuitous insolence: the deliberate infliction of shame and dishonour on someone else, not by way of revenge, but in the mistaken belief that one thereby shows onself superior. Tragedy is not therefore the punishment of hubris, since tragedy concerns unjust suffering, whereas hubris deprives the agent of sympathy from the outset.

Tykhe (goddess of Fortune)

TYKHE was the goddess or spirit of fortune, chance, providence and fate. She was usually honoured in a more favourable light as Eutykhia, goddess of good fortune, luck, success and prosperity.
Tykhe was represented with different attributes. Holding a rudder, she was conceived as the divinity guiding and conducting the affairs of the world, and in this respect she was called one of the Moirai (Fates); with a ball she represented the varying unsteadiness of fortune--unsteady and capable of rolling in any direction; with Ploutos or the horn of Amalthea, she was the symbol of the plentiful gifts of fortune.

Nemesis (Fair Distribution)* was cautiously regarded as the downside of Tykhe, one who provided a check on extravagant favours conferred by fortune. The pair were often depicted as companions in Greek vase painting. In the vase (illustrated above) Nemesis (Indignation) with her arm around Tykhe (Fortune) points an accusing fingure at Helene, who Aphrodite has persuaded to elope with Paris.

* some stories say that the original job of Nemesis was to make sure everyone got what was fair. But everyone always wants a little more than that, so she got stuck with the job of being the goddess of retribution and vengeance! It is very telling that even after that unpleasant assignment, Nemesis remained a friend and companion of Tykhe.

Tomorrow: the timeline of the awesome financial iceberg

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