Talos: Mythical Droid of Crete

This 5th-century BCE Greek vase depicts the death of Talos at the hands of Medea and the Argonauts. The artist is known only as the Talos Painter.

This 5th-century BCE Greek vase depicts the death of Talos at the hands of Medea and the Argonauts. The artist is known only as the Talos Painter.

Talos was a giant bronze man, the Cretan sun god and general guardian of the island. There are many conflicting stories about his genesis, purpose and death, but his role as protector of Crete is a common thread. Zeus and Hephaestus (the god of the forge) are variously named as his creator.

Talos circled the entire island 3 times each day (to account for this, some ancient depictions show him with wings) and lobbed boulders at unauthorized ships that approached the island. Any invader who reached the shore would die a hideous death in his hot-metal embrace.

Talos had one vulnerability – a plug on his ankle, which contained the molten-metal life-blood coursing through a single artery. When Jason and his Argonauts attempted to land on Crete to resupply after their Golden Fleece adventure, they were held off by a barrage of rock-missiles. Fortunately, for the Argonauts, Jason’s wife, the sorceress Medea, was also on board. She cast a spell on Talos, which caused him to remove the plug from his ankle and “bleed” to death.

Some scholars suggest the story represents the cultural, political and technological transition from the Bronze Age and the power of Minoan Crete, which collapsed around 1100 BCE, to the rise of Proto-Greek groups, which invaded Greece in waves across the millennium prior to the fall of Minoan Crete.

A Halcyon Solstice

Kingfisher, Allen W. Seaby, 1929

Kingfisher, Allen W. Seaby, 1929

Alcyone, daughter of the keeper of the Wind, was married to Ceyx, son of the morning star. They were very much in love and totally devoted to each other, yet Alcyone’s love was powerless to relieve the suffering of her husband over the loss of his brother.

Even from the depths of despair, Ceyx knew it was time to get on with his life and he thought his best hope was a consultation with the oracle of Apollo at Claros. This required a sea journey, which, being daughter of the Wind, Alcyone knew to be perilous, especially in Winter, which it was. She pleaded with her husband not to go to no avail. Continue reading

Perseus

Perseus with the head of Medusa, Benvenuto Cellini, 1554

Perseus with the head of Medusa, Benvenuto Cellini, 1554

Having just passed through the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower, I thought it appropriate to write a bit about the Greek Hero Perseus. The meteor shower is the result of debris trailing behind the Swift-Tuttle comet. Each year at this time, Earth passes through the comet’s debris field, which appears to originate in the Perseus constellation, hence the name Perseid, which means son of Perseus. Continue reading

Prometheus, Pandora & the Cost of Fire

Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind, Heinrich Friedrich Fuger, 1817

Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind, Heinrich Friedrich Fuger, 1817

Prometheus was a surviving member of the Titan generation after the cosmic war between Cronus and his Titans and their offspring the Olympian gods, led by Zeus. Prometheus sat out the conflict and escaped the fate of the Titans, who were banished to Tartarus, the deepest, most torturous pit of the underworld, after their defeat by the Olympians. Continue reading

Orpheus & Eurydice

Orpheus and the Animals, by Jan Brueghel the Elder

Orpheus was the son of one of the Muses and the king of Thrace. From a very early age, his musical talents were clear. He was singing before he could speak and dancing before he could walk. Every night he would sing himself to sleep and each morning, the singing from his crib woke the household. It was a sweet start to each day and no one complained. Continue reading

Apollo Was Here: Daphne & the Laurel Tree

Previously on Apollo Was Here, the four-day old Olympian god had just killed the serpent/dragon Python and claimed the sacred ground on Mt. Parnassus for his own sanctuary. He was very pleased with himself.

When next he saw the cherubic Eros (aka Cupid), with his mini-bow and mini-arrows, Apollo laughed in his face and taunted him, “I slayed a terrible monster with my bow. You couldn’t hurt a fly with your useless little toy!” Continue reading

Apollo Was Here: Delos & Delphi

In the throes of labor, the Titaness Leto searched desperately for a place to bear Apollo and Artemis. Zeus was the father of the twins and his (justifiably) vengeful wife Hera had vowed to curse any piece of land that allowed Leto to give birth. As an extra bit of enforcement, Hera sent the serpent/dragon Python in pursuit of Leto. (Where was Zeus during all of this? That’s what I’d like to know. Apparently he sent the North Wind to help her along, but really, that seems like a pretty feeble gesture under the circumstances.) Continue reading