Role of Aphrodite in Hippolytus and Aeschylus' Prometeus Bond

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By examining Euripides’ Hippolytus and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, the reader is able to take a journey back to ancient Greece where the power of the Gods reigns supreme. Every action and reaction by both mortals and lesser Gods alike are heavily influenced by the wishes and commands of those in charge. Hippolytus’ Aphrodite and Prometheus Bound’s Zeus are both portrayed to demonstrate this power of the Gods over lesser beings.

Under further analysis correlations in both stories begin to emerge, firstly, Aphrodite and Zeus portray that the warnings and wishes of the Gods are so powerful, that failing to heed them will result in the lesser beings causing their own downfall. Additionally, both Aphrodite and Zeus demonstrate what atrocities will befall lesser beings for disrespecting them. Finally, Aphrodite and Zeus demonstrate that the Gods are so omnipotent, not even other Gods can interfere with their wishes. From both stories one lesson quickly becomes ostensible, disrespecting the Gods is the quickest way to ensure an existence filled with dread, misery, and hardship.

In both Euripides’ Hippolytus and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, the main characters received warnings in regards to their failure to comply with the Gods’ wishes. In both cases, the lesser beings caused their own downfall by failing to heed these warnings. Hippolytus of Euripides’ novel Hippolytus was repeatedly told he needed to worship all Gods equally. He failed to hark these warnings and subsequently caused his own downfall.

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Hippolytus’ refusal to worship Aphrodite was in stark contrast to the wishes and demands of the Gods, which is that they are all worshipped equally. Refusal to uphold these wishes were accompanied by consequences that were widely known to all mortals. Hippolytus’ noncompliance in the matter for a prolonged period of time establishes that mortals disrespecting a God’s wishes is a mortal choosing their own downfall. An eerily similar event occurs in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound when Prometheus makes the choice to save mortals against Zeus’ wishes. "Against these plans none stood save I, I dared. I rescued men from shattering destruction that would have carried them to Hades’ house." (Aeschylus, 236-239).

By defying Zeus, the King of Gods, and his wishes as well as ignoring the warnings of consequences to come, Prometheus further establishes the power of Gods over lesser beings. Since retribution for such actions was clear to all lesser Gods, the punishment Prometheus faced at the hands of Zeus proves that lesser individuals failing to respect the wishes and warnings of the Gods are securing their own downfall. While many blame undesirable events occurring in their lives on the will of the Gods, both Hippolytus and Prometheus demonstrate how it is actually the weaker being’s actions which conflict with the wishes of the Gods that cause such undesirable events.

Even today, one individual disrespecting another without proper justification is looked down upon and is often accompanied with swift consequences. It is easily understandable how Hippolytus and Prometheus disrespecting Aphrodite and Zeus respectively led to disastrous consequences for the two lesser beings. Due to Hippolytus’ refusal to worship Aphrodite, and thus disrespecting her, he was punished with a tarnished reputation, banishment handed down from his father, and ultimately death. "I shall punish Hippolytus this day…He does not know that the doors of death are open for him, that he is looking on his last sun." (Euripedes, 22, 56-57). The penance Hippolytus was forced to serve is a clear example of the superiority Gods have over lesser beings. Hippolytus disrespecting Aphrodite for a prolonged period of time he was rejecting her authority and power.

Aphrodite was swift to act in order to not only put Hippolytus in his place, but send a message to other lesser beings that dare disrespect her. On a similar note, Prometheus’ punishment of being chained atop a mountain for all Gods to see as penance for violating Zeus’ orders also demonstrate how disrespecting more powerful beings leads to heinous retribution. "I am tortured on this rock, a bitterness to suffer, and a pan to pitiful eyes…a spectacle bringing dishonour to the name of Zeus." (Aeschylus, 238-244). Prometheus saving mortals by giving them powers which were previously exclusive to the Gods was explicitly against Zeus’ orders. Such defiance from a lesser God is a clear demonstration of disrespect towards the King of Gods and is seen by Zeus as undermining his rule. By promptly dispensing a punishment for the offender, Zeus is sending a message to not only Prometheus, but all lesser Gods and mortals, that there is no tolerance for disrespect. Both Aphrodite of Euripides’ Hippolytus and Zeus of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound encountered lesser individuals that disrespected them in some form. As retribution and to assert dominance, they readily dispersed punishment towards the offending individuals.

Finally, after Hippolytus and Prometheus succumb to the consequences for their own actions, it becomes evident that the wishes of the Gods are so powerful that not even other Gods can interfere. Once Hippolytus is near the brink of death, Artemis comes to his side and weeps for the loss of her greatest mortal ally for she is powerless to stop what is about to happen. "This is the settled custom of the gods: no one may fly in the face of another’s wish: we remain aloof and neutral." (Euripedes, 1328-1330). In this passage, Artemis clearly admits she is powerless to go against Aphrodite’s will. This demonstrates how powerful the wishes of the Gods are and how much emphasis is placed on respect. In a similar situation, it is made evident that all the Gods, aside from Zeus, weep for the position that Prometheus finds himself in. "He would be iron-minded and made of stone, indeed, Prometheus, who did not sympathize with your sufferings." (Aeschylus, 245-246). This passage implies that everyone sympathizes with Prometheus’ suffering because doing anything else would be iron-minded. Logically, one would think that every other God would surely have enough power as a collective force to dethrone Zeus and free Prometheus. Their collective refusal to free Prometheus establishes that no matter how one God may feel about another God’s wishes, those wishes are so powerful that no one may stand in that God’s path in executing their wish.

Through the examination of three unique incidences in Euripides’ Hippolytus and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound involving the Gods Aphrodite and Zeus respectively, it becomes evident there is a clear difference in power between these Gods and lesser individuals. Both Aphrodite and Zeus were quick to assert their power over Hippolytus and Prometheus when their power was either minimized, ignored, or disrespected. Through the actions of other Gods in each situation it also become unmistakably clear that Gods are so powerful in their own right, that even other Gods are powerless to go against their wishes. The journey readers take back to ancient Greece sends a very clear and concise message. The power of the Gods is transcendental, disrespect them and it may be the last thing you ever do.

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