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The Daughters of Zeus and Eurynome

Since their name means Grace these three beautiful daughters of Zeus and Eurynome are often called the Graces. Their names are Aglaia [Splendor], Euphrosyne [Festivity], and Thaleia [Rejoicing].

Zeus is a son of the Titans Kronos and Rheia ... he is considered to be the father of gods and men because his authority is inviolate on earth as well as on Mount Olympos. Eurynome is an Okeanid, i.e. she is one of the three thousand daughters of Okeanos [Ocean] and Tethys. She became the consort of Zeus ... their three daughters are the fair-cheeked Graces.

The First Woman

Zeus wanted to punish the men of the earth, so he instructed the Immortals to create a woman ... her name would be Pandora, meaning All-Endowed. Zeus intended to give the deceptive gift to his cousin, Epimetheus.

The artificer of the Immortals, Hephaistos, molded Pandora's body from earth into the likeness of a modest young girl ... Athene taught Pandora the skills of weaving and gave her dexterity ... Aphrodite put a mist upon her head to engender longing and desire ... Hermes gave her treachery and shamelessness ... the Graces and Peitho [Persuasion] gave her necklaces of gold ... the Seasons put a halo of flowers on Pandora's head.

Epimetheus had been warned not to accept gifts from Zeus but when he saw Pandora he could not resist her charms. When he accepted Pandora he unleashed countless evils on the world. The only positive influence Pandora brought to the world of men was Hope. Although women were designed as a curse to men, the only thing worse than marriage is for a man to live and die alone.

The Quest for the Golden Fleece

The Graces made several robes for Aphrodite, goddess of Love, but they are not described in detail ... however, there was another robe made by the Graces that became an integral part of the Quest for the Golden Fleece ... it was a crimson robe made by the Graces for the god of Wine, Dionysos.

The Golden Fleece was from a flying ram that had flown from Greece to Kolchis on the eastern edge of the Black Sea. A young hero named Jason assembled the finest and bravest men in Greece to help him retrieve the Fleece so that he could claim the kingship of Iolkos ... his companions were called Argonauts ... named after their ship, the Argo.

When Jason and the Argonauts began their long voyage to Kolchis, they stopped on the island of Lemnos where the husbandless women of the island gladly welcomed them. The women of Lemnos had not become widows in the traditional way ... they had murdered the men of the island for their adulterous behavior ... now they were desperate for male companions ... the Argonauts arrived just in time to fulfill that role.

Jason became the lover of Queen Hypsipyle. As he was leaving, Hypsipyle presented Jason with the crimson robe that had been passed down from Dionysos to her father King Thoas. When Thoas fled the island in the midst of the man-killing frenzy, he gave the robe to his daughter Hypsipyle, who in turn gave it to Jason as a token of her affection.

The robe is mentioned three times in the Argonautika. When Queen Hypsipyle gave the robe to Jason, it was described as beautiful to look upon, with a texture that was irresistible to the touch. Hypsipyle told Jason that the Graces made the robe for Dionysos while he was on the island of Dia with Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete. The robe emitted a fragrance that was reminiscent of the wine and ambrosia that Dionysos and Ariadne shared when he wore the robe.

The second time the robe was mentioned was when Jason wore the sacred garment as he was performing a ritual for the Roaring Goddess Hekate. The ceremony was solemn in order to display the greatest respect for the goddess so that she would protect Jason in his upcoming trials. King Aietes of Kolchis told Jason that he could have the Golden Fleece if he could prove his manhood by fighting a series of supernatural beasts. The only way to accomplish the seemingly impossible trials was to have the protection of Hekate ... wearing the sacred robe was necessary during the evocation ceremony to win the favor of the goddess.

The third instance where the robe was mentioned in the Argonautika was a circumstance that was much less noble than conjuring a goddess. After surviving the trials of manhood Aietes demanded, the king would not surrender the Golden Fleece ... with the assistance of the king's daughter, Princess Medeia, Jason stole the Fleece and fled Kolchis. The king sent his son Apsyrtos to bring Medeia and the Fleece back to Kolchis. When Apsyrtos had Jason and Medeia cornered, the fugitives asked for a truce and a meeting to discuss their surrender. Jason and Princess Medeia used the robe as a lure and a token of their good faith ... Apsyrtos accepted their offer and was cruelly murdered for his bad judgment. After that incident, the crimson robe made by the Graces disappeared from the historical record.

Companions of Aphrodite

As goddesses, the Graces have dominions of their own but we often encounter them in their relationship with the goddess of Love, Aphrodite. On one embarrassing occasion, Aphrodite was wearing a robe woven by the Graces when she was caught being unfaithful to her husband Hephaistos. Aphrodite had been enjoying an intimate relationship with Ares, god of War, for quite some time before Hephaistos found out. When Helios [Sun], who sees all, pointed out the infidelity to Hephaistos, he constructed a clever trap around his bed. The unsuspecting lovers were ensnared before they knew what was happening.

Hephaistos summoned the Immortals from Mount Olympos to witness the spectacle. After he was satisfied that he would be paid reparations and that his wife had been properly humiliated, Hephaistos let Aphrodite go to Kypros so that she could be attended by the Graces. After bathing her, the Graces anointed Aphrodite with ambrosial oil and dressed her in delightful clothing so that she might resume her loving duties.

In another instance, Aphrodite was wearing a robe the Graces made for her when she was attacked on the battlefield during the Trojan War. Aphrodite and the other Immortals were in the habit of invisibly entering into the fighting at Troy to protect their semi-divine sons, or in some cases, just to contribute to the carnage. Aphrodite fought for the Trojans but the Grim Goddess Athene fought for the Achaeans ... the two goddess were not "enemies" but they were fierce rivals. Athene gave an Achaean commander named Diomedes the ability to see the Immortals on the battlefield ... she told him to avoid all the gods and goddesses except Aphrodite ... if he saw her, he was to stab her.

Aphrodite was busy protecting her son Aineias when Diomedes saw her ... his spear point pierced the divine robe and slashed Aphrodite's palm. It's odd that the only Immortal to lose blood [ichor] in the Trojan War was the goddess of Love.

Homer, the author of the Iliad, used the beauty of the Graces ironically to depict the horror of war when he described a dead Trojan soldier's skillfully braided hair as being lovely as the hair of the Graces before it was splattered with blood and mingled with the dirt.

Pasithea

We have a curious incident in the Iliad where the goddess Hera offers to let Hypnos [Sleep] marry Pasithea, "one of the younger Graces," if he will cast a spell of slumber on Zeus so that Poseidon, lord of the sea, can attack the Trojans. Pasithea is otherwise not mentioned as one of the Graces ... in fact, Theogony states clearly that Eurynome and Zeus had three fair-cheeked daughters ... Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thaleia ... Aglaia being the youngest of the three.

Also in Theogony, we learn that Hephaistos married Aglaia ... it's not clear whether this marriage was before or after his marriage to Aphrodite ... regardless, it's quite obvious that Hephaistos had impeccable taste in goddesses.

Graces are often confused with the Roman goddesses, the Gratiae.

The Graces in the Iliad

[from five different translations]

Richmond Lattimore

Loeb Classical Library

Robert Fagles

Robert Fitzgerald

Peter Green

The Graces

The Graces in the Odyssey

[from four different translations]

Richmond Lattimore

Loeb Classical Library

Robert Fagles

Robert Fitzgerald

The Graces

Other Text References

Theogony

Astronomy

Kypria

The Argonautika by Apollonius Rhodius

The Graces

The Graces dance at the Acropolis of Athens.

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