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flora fauna rapistThe goddess [Flora] replied to my questions, as she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: ‘I was Chloris, whom am now called Flora. Latin speech corrupted a Greek letter of my name. I was Chloris, Nympha of the happy fields [Elysion], the homes of the blessed (you hear) in earlier times. To describe my beauty would mar my modesty: it found my mother a son-in law god. It was spring, I wandered; Zephyrus (the West Wind) saw me, I left. He pursues, I run: he was the stronger; and Boreas gave his brother full rights of rape by robbing Erechtheus’ house of its prize [Oreithyia]. But he makes good the rape by naming me his bride, and I have no complaints about my marriage.
‘I enjoy perpetual spring: the year always shines, trees are leafing, the soild always fodders. I have a fruitful garden in my dowered fields, fanned by breezes, fed by limpid fountains. My husband filled it with well-bred flowers, saying: “Have jurisdiction of the flower, goddess.” I often wanted to number the colours displayed, but could not: their abundance defied measure.
‘As soon as the dewy frost is cast from the leaves and sunbeams warm the dappled blossom, the Horae (Seasons) assemble, hitch up their coloured dresses and collect these gifts of mine in light tubs. Suddenly the Charites (Graces) burst in, and weave chaplets and crowns to entwine the hair of gods. I first scattered new seed across countless nations; earth was formerly a single colour. I first made a flower from Therapnean blood [Hyakinthos the hyacinth], and its petal still inscribes the lament. You, too, narcissus, have a name in tended gardens, unhappy in your undivided self. Why mention Crocus, Attis or Cinyras’ son, from whose wounds I made a tribute soar?’”

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THE HARPYIAI (or Harpies) were the spirits of sudden, sharp gusts of wind. They were known as the hounds of Zeus and were despatched by the god to snatch away (harpazô) people and things from the earth. Sudden, mysterious dissappearances were often attributed to the Harpyiai.

The Harpies were once sent by Zeus to plague King Phineus of Thrake as punishment for revealing the secrets of the gods. Whenever a plate of food was set before him, the Harpies would swoop down and snatch it away, befouling any scraps left behind. When the Argonauts came to visit, the winged Boreades gave chase, and pursued the Harpies to the Strophades Islands, where the goddess Iris commanded them to turn back and leave the storm-spirits unharmed.

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BIRTH

Hephaistos splits open the skull of Zeus with a mallet, releasing the goddess Athene from his head. The king of the gods is shown seated on a swan-backed chair, holding a lightning bolt in his hand. A miniature Athene springs from his head, already equipped with a shield. Hephaistos waves one hand, in imitation of an Eileithyia (birth goddess) bringing forth a child. In the other hand he holds a two-headed mallet or axe.

“Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis (Wise Counsel) his wife first, and she was wisest among gods and mortal men. But when she was about to bring forth the goddess bright-eyed Athene, Zeus craftily deceived her with cunning words and put her in his own belly, as Gaia (Earth) and starry Ouranos (Heaven) advised. For they advised him so, to the end that no other should hold royal sway over the eternal gods in place of Zeus; for very wise children were destined to be born of her, first the maiden bright-eyed Tritogeneia, equal to her father in strength and in wise understanding; but afterwards she was to bear a son of overbearing spirit, king of gods and men. But Zeus put her into his own belly first, that the goddess might devise for him both good and evil.”

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