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The Tangled Ways of ZeusAnd Other Studies In and Around Greek Tragedy$
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Alan H. Sommerstein

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199568314

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568314.001.0001

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Pathos and mathos before Zeus

Pathos and mathos before Zeus

Chapter:
(p.178) 11 Pathos and mathos before Zeus
Source:
The Tangled Ways of Zeus
Author(s):

Alan H. Sommerstein (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568314.003.0012

This chapter seeks to interpret the statement in Aeschylus, Agamemnon 176–8 that Zeus laid down the law pathei mathos (‘learning through suffering’), asking in particular whether we are meant to assume that learning and/or suffering existed before Zeus laid down this law, and, if we are, what the relationship was between them. It argues that the only answer consistent with Aeschylus' text, and with current popular beliefs about primeval times, is that before Zeus there was no suffering (all man's needs were produced spontaneously by the earth) and no learning (because it was unnecessary). Zeus deprived man of happiness, so that he could survive only by acquiring wisdom — which, at the end of the Oresteia, the Athenians at least have succeeded in doing.

Keywords:   wisdom, Agamemnon, Oresteia, Zeus, learning, suffering, primeval

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