About this Recording
NA241212 - FERRIE, E.: More Tales from the Greek Legends (Unabridged)
English 

Edward Ferrie
More Tales from the Greek Legends
Bellerophon & Pegasus • Orpheus & Eurydice and other tales from Ancient Greece

 

Many words from ancient Greece are used every day in modern English. For example, alphabet is a Greek word which we use for our letters—even though we don’t use the Greek alphabet but the Roman alphabet!

Then there is academy and athlete and amazon. Some more: aristocrat, barbarian, cathedral, cemetery, chorus, crocodile, cosmos, democracy, drama, echo, economy, genesis, history, idea, mathematics, myth, and marathon.

And scientists and explorers down the ages who had studied Greek liked to make up their own Greek names when they discovered things. So when archeological remains of massive creatures were discovered they were named by putting two Greek words together: dinosaur (which means ‘terrible lizard’); and Australia means Southern Territory.

Among ancient Greek words, though it is not so widely known, is hubris. Hubris changed its meaning as the centuries rolled by (as words do—their meaning is not fixed forever). Hubris now means a reckless pride which results inevitably in downfall. There are a number of cases of this in the stories on this recording, one of the most striking is the story of Bellerophon.

Time and time again, through the tales from Ancient Greece, the gods issue a warning. They help a hero to achieve something exceptional. He has to be courageous to start with, and be skilled with weapons or cunning or have other qualities, and this provides the basis for great heroic deeds.

But if, having killed the dragon or saved a maiden or conquered a city, the hero then starts to get above himself, woe betide! The gods don’t like that. In the case of Bellerophon, he did achieve great things, in killing the dreadful Chimera; in the case of Niobe, her boasts about her twelve beautiful children resulted in the terrible vengeance of Artemis; Orion, the mighty hunter, thought he was a match for Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, but he was bitten by one of her scorpions for his pride, and died; and Arachne, fine weaver though she was, found that hubris spelled her doom to spin to the end of time—as a spider.

The ancient Greeks—and the ancient Romans—knew that it is only too easy for a winner to be full of overblown pride. In the days of ancient Rome, when a general had won a great battle, he was allowed to have a Triumph. This was a stately procession into the city with the city-dwellers lining the streets and throwing flowers and cheering wildly. The general would ride in a gilded chariot at the head of his troops.

But it was decreed that, just in case the general became too puffed up with pride—hubris!—a slave stood beside him all the way, whispering repeatedly in his ear, ‘Remember! You are just a man, remember! You are just a man!’

One great modern Japanese judo champion had his own way of preventing hubris. ‘I always say, when I win a competition, I have won today—but if the competition were run tomorrow with exactly the same fighters, perhaps I wouldn’t win. So, I am a champion, but only for that one day.’

The gods of Ancient Greece would have approved!

Notes by Nicolas Soames

 

Glossary

Acteon: a huntsman who had a famous pack of dogs who chanced upon Artemis while she was bathing and naked. The goddess punished him for spying on her by transforming him into a stag to be ripped apart by his own pack of hounds

Aphrodite: the goddess of love and wife of Hephaistos, the blacksmith of the gods.

Apollo: the sun god, the god of music, archery and disease, the brother of Artemis.

Ares: the god of war and lover of Aphrodite.

Artemis: the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, she was dedicated to hunting and the chase. She could give men good fortune but expected their worship and adoration and could be vindictive and cruel towards any who offended her. She was a goddess to be feared and revered. Those who offended her usually paid with their lives or the lives of their loved ones. The giant hunter Orion and Acteon were just two of those who fell foul of her.

Athena: the goddess of wisdom.

Atalanta: a huntress and athlete, the fastest runner of her times. She refused to marry any man who could not beat her in a foot race. Many died in the attempt until she finally succumbed to Menanion, who slowed her down by dropping golden apples to distract her, enabling him to win the race. She was the first to shoot an arrow into the great Calydonian boar, allowing Melager to kill it.

Bellerophon: great Corinthian hero who fought and slew the terrible Chimera.He was assisted by the goddess Athena who helped him to bridle the winged horse Pegasus.

The Chimera: a terrifying beast with three different heads, a lion, a goat and a snake.

Demeter: the goddess of the earth, the harvest and the hearth and the mother of Persephone.

Echo: a wood nymph cursed by Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of the gods for deceiving her. She had loved talking a lot so her curse was to be able only to repeat the last words anyone said to her. She fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful young man called Narcissus who only loved himself and she faded away.

Eos: the beautiful goddess of the dawn.

Eurydice: the wife of Orpheus, the greatest of all mortal musicians.

Hades: the lord of the underworld, brother of Zeus and one of the most powerful gods, lord of the dead and of all that was in the earth. He carried off Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and married her.

Hephaestos: the blacksmith of the gods, lame and hunchbacked he was married to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Hera: the queen of the gods, long suffering wife of Zeus, who often became angry and jealous at her husband’s philandering.

Melanion: the husband of Atalanta.

Meleager: the hunter who slew the monstrous Calydonian boar sent by Artemis to ravage the kingdom when she was overlooked when the seasonal offerings to the gods were carried out.

Narcissus: A beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection.

Orion: the giant huntsman, son of Poseidon, Zeus and Hades who was destroyed by Artemis for daring to desire her.

Orpheus: the greatest mortal musician ever to live. He helped Jason win the golden fleece and when his wife Eurydice was bitten by a poisonous snake and killed he went to Hades to play his love songs to the lord of the underworld and try to get her back.

Pegasus: the winged horse used by Bellerophon to kill the monstrous Chimera.

Persephone: the daughter of Demeter, carried off by Hades whom she eventually fell in love with and married.

Sirius: the faithful hound of Orion the huntsman.

Thanatos: the god of death.

Zeus: the king of the gods, the thunderer, the husband of Hera, the queen of the gods.

 

The music on this recording is taken from the NAXOS and MARCO POLO catalogues

TANEYEV Symphony No 4
8.223196

Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra / Stephen Gunzenhauser

CIURLIONIS The Sea
8.223323

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra / Juozas Domarkas

RUBINSTEIN Symphony No 5
8.223320

George Enescu State Philharmonic Orchestra / Horia Andreescu

CIURLIONIS Prelude for String Orchestra
8.223323

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra / Juozas Domarkas

RUBINSTEIN Symphony No 4
8.555979

Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Kosice) / Robert Stankovsky

GLUCK Orpheée et Euridice Overture
8.660185–86

Opera Lafayette Orchestra / Ryan Brown

CIURLIONIS In the Forest
8.223323

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra / Juozas Domarkas

GLINKA Nocturne for Harp
8.555791

Elizabeth Hainen

RUBINSTEIN Symphony No 2
8.555392

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Bratislava / Stephen Gunzenhauser

LIADOV Baba Yaga
8.220348

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra / Stephen Gunzenhauser


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