Hey its me again. Want to pick your brains, now that I have gotten my fangirling a bit in control. It was interesting reading your take on Ovid. How do you see the Orphic theogony? He wrote a lot about Persephone and Demeter, but made Zeus the father of Zagreus/Dionysus (and others). I personally like to think its Zeus Cthonius=Hades, and that that detail was lost in translation at some point. Also,its too creepy for me to imagine a father-daughter pair. I'm very curious what you think about it.
I agree. Outside of the Protogenoi, and that lineage is debatable, there aren’t any other parent-child pairings in Greek myth that aren’t founded on the tragedy and downfall of mortal kings. While brother-sister pairings are common, parent-child pairings for all other mythological characters are taboo. There exists no other in mythology.
Here is what the translation of Melinoe’s hymn from the Orphic tradition says, as translated by Apostolos Athanassakis:
“I call upon Melinoe, saffron cloaked nymph of the earth, whom revered Persephone bore by the mouth of the Kokytos river upon the sacred bed of Kronian Zeus. In the guise of Plouton Zeus tricked Persephone and through wily plots bedded her.”
So the text says plainly, in the Orphic tradition, that Melinoe is Zeus’ child.
Remember that all of these myths are a result of something called syncretism. The Greek pantheon didn’t come about over night fully formed. There were many gods and goddesses that were similar to others and these were combined to make singular gods. For instance, nearly all the chief sky gods of the Greek city states become Zeus before the rise of the polis.
If we think about it this way, and remember that Zeus, Zeus Pater (Jupiter) and Deus all mean the same thing, then it can be inferred that Zeus is a title, much like Caesar or king. Most of Zeus’ epithets are related to the city in which he was worshiped. In the passage above, Kronian means ‘son of Kronos’, which was a title also widely applied to Hades.
The passage above quite possibly came about like this:
In several places like Locri, Eleusis, Corinth and Ephyra, Plouton (Hades) and Persephone were the chief deities, the ones responsible for the fertility of the earth, for the cycle of life and death. As a Father-Mother god pairing much like Zeus and Hera, they had children to rule over other aspects of their dominion.
But during the rise of the polis and the writing down of oral myth, Zeus became the chief dominant god in a fractious region united by a single pantheon ruled over by a single sky god. Chief deities of the sea became Poseidon in much the same way, and Hades was relegated from rulership over the earth with his wife to rulership over only the dead. To make the pantheon make sense and include all gods, there couldn’t be two chief deities of the living world. Those writing down the myths also surmised that Hades, as the ruler of the dead, was infertile and could not have produced children like Melinoe and Zagreus.
Hades, in his aspect of Zeus Katachthonios, the king beneath the earth, lost his role as father to his children because of syncretism.
Zagreus and especially Melinoe remained, and their paternity was quickly attributed to the most common source of paternity in Greek myth: Zeus Olympios.
But I personally think that it is possible to read between the lines in the Orphic hymns. For example, in Zagreus’ conception, the father appears as a snake, a creature who is deeply chthonic in its mythic origins. In this way, I think that the father is written into this myth in code, not outright, as Hades. A few lines are added to reference back to Zeus, but the deeper symbolism points to Hades.
In the conception of Melinoe above, Persephone bears her by the shores of the Cocytus, but strangely at the same time in the bed of Zeus Kronion, which here translates to the king son of Kronos, which could also be Hades. The line describing how Zeus took Hades’ form to conceive Melinoe on Persephone is about as clear an indication as we can have that the original source of the myth was ret-conned to have Zeus be the father.
Melinoe was important enough to enough people as the daughter of Hades and Persephone that the myth had to be written this way in order to say to the people that “we know you worshipped her this way, as the daughter of Hades and Persephone, but here is what actually happened. This is what everyone should believe now, but if you want to keep believing that Hades was her father, here is how you can go right on ahead and do that”.
If it is not meant to be interpreted this way, then why bother going to all the trouble of saying that Zeus had to take Hades’ form to conceive the child? Wouldn’t Melinoe’s birth have been just as equally valid if Zeus had simply done what he did with almost every other one of his bedmates and ravished Persephone unwillingly?
The answer is clearly no, and the fact that the text exists to so elaborately explain Melinoe’s conception is the signifier that her original myth was different.
So to conclude, I do agree with you. The text says otherwise, but if you read into it contextually, then the true meaning becomes clear: the “forms” that Zeus takes in myth are too chthonic in origin or are simply Hades himself. Because of this, the language could be interpreted as code for the original father of Melinoe and Zagreus, which would be Zeus Katachthonios. Hades. Plouton.