Source this myth!
September 21, 2011 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Classicists and folklore/mythology types: how can I go about finding the original source for this obscure Roman (or Greek?) myth?

I'm trying to figure out what the classical source is for a story, referenced in a more modern work, of Minerva (/Athena?) being captured by Bacchus and Ceres and forced to submit herself to the God of Love. I've tried poking around in the online versions of Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology, but am being hamstrung by the very importance of the characters involved-- it seems as though at the level of major deities, such dictionaries tend to stick to general overviews, and obviously what I need is less a formal introduction to the concept of Minerva than an exhaustive item-by-item listing of every anecdote that's been told about her ever.

Googling and keyword searches in various scholarly databases have been similarly unproductive... so where else should I be looking? Is there such a thing as a comprehensive concordance to all of Greek and Roman mythology out there? Or perhaps some classics-oriented, trivia-friendly forum where I might be able to post this? I'm pretty much stumped, so I'd be grateful for even the slightest of leads here. Thanks!
posted by Bardolph to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you getting this story from? I'm not familiar with it.
posted by empath at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2011

Are you sure you don't mean Cupid and Psyche?
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:14 PM on September 21, 2011

Yeah, where did you read this? If this were attested in any ancient sources, there would almost definitely be at least one scholarly article out there, and I'm not finding anything with my Google Scholar kung fu. This kind of sounds like a lewd 16th or 17th-century joke to me.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:17 PM on September 21, 2011

Which modern work references the story?

The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite explicitly singles out Athena as one of three goddesses over whom Aphrodite has no power; furthermore, it would be a huge deal for a Greek author of the archaic or classical period to write that Athena's virginity had been compromised (she is, after all, Athena Parthenos - the virgin; it's one of her key epithets). If the story is ancient, it's almost certainly from the very end of antiquity - 3rd or 4th century Roman. Or - on preview, what oinopaponton said - a Renaissance joke.
posted by Oxydude at 1:20 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it's roman gods, btw, the answer is almost always Ovid.
posted by empath at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2011

Also, I'm seconding what Oxydude said-- a Roman saying that Athena had ever had any sexual experience would be like a Catholic calling the Virgin Mary a whore. I doubt even Ovid would go that far, and he certainly didn't in any surviving texts, but the state of ancient sources being what they are, etc. etc.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:25 PM on September 21, 2011

I'm pretty sure Eros/Amor never had relations with anyone other than Psyche, and even the Eros-Psyche myth's first extant version is from Apuleius, who lived around 2 A.D. (several centuries after Hesiod's "Theogony" and the Orphic theogonies we know of), in his "The Golden Ass".

I can see Bacchus capturing someone, but Ceres/Demeter? The goddess of agriculture, fertility and motherhood? Helping to capture Athena? No. Just does not fit. Probably a lewd joke, yes.
posted by fraula at 1:33 PM on September 21, 2011

The joke being that wine and beer can overcome chastity?
posted by Malla at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding empath; sounds like Ovid, Ars Amatoria specifically.

Ceres as a nod to beer and ale?
posted by jamjam at 3:09 PM on September 21, 2011

Is it maybe a confusion with the myth of Erechtheus, a sort-of son of Athena when she was sort of impregnated by Hephaestus (he attempted to rape her; his semen landed on her "thigh" and she then wiped it off and threw it on the ground; Erechtheus [also Erechthonius] was then born from the Earth)? That story is in Apollodorus (and in general, Apollodorus -- particularly in Frazer's ed. -- is the place to go if you want an ancient source for a myth).
posted by lysimache at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Again, definitely not in any existing Ovid texts. They're online if you want to check yourself.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:28 PM on September 21, 2011

It is impossible to imagine Athena being less than pure.
posted by ovvl at 6:41 PM on September 21, 2011

« Older Help me hone my creepometer!   |   Help with my database design? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.