ate excess


[eyt; Brit. et]
Ate, (in Greek ατή; two syllables in either language) a Greek word for "ruin, folly, delusion", is the action performed by the hero, usually because of his or her hubris that leads to his or her death or downfall. There is also a goddess by that name (Até') in Greek mythology, a personification of the same.

In Homer's Iliad (Book 19) she is called eldest daughter of Zeus with no mother mentioned. On Hera's instigation she used her influence over Zeus so that he swore an oath that on that day a mortal descended from him would be born who would be a great ruler. Hera immediately arranged to delay the birth of Heracles and to bring forth Eurystheus prematurely. In anger Zeus threw Até down to earth forever, forbidding that she ever return to heaven or to Mt. Olympus. Até then wandered about, treading on the heads of men rather than on the earth, wreaking havoc on mortals.

The Litae ("Prayers") follow after her but Até is fast and far outruns them.

Apollodorus (3.143) claims that when thrown down by Zeus, Até landed on a peak in Phrygia called by her name. There Ilus later, following a cow, founded the city of Ilion, that is Troy. This flourish is chronologically at odds with Homer's dating of Até's fall.

In Hesiod's Theogony (l. 230) the mother of Até is Eris ("Strife"), with no father mentioned.

In Nonnos' Dionysiaca (11.113), at Hera's instigation Até persuades the boy Ampelus whom Dionysus passionately loves to impress Dionysus by riding on a bull from which Ampelus subsequently falls and breaks his neck.

In the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare introduces the goddess Até as an invocation of vengeance and menace. Mark Antony, lamenting Caesar's murder, envisions

Additional reading

  • E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, University of California Press.
  • Hesiod's Theogony
  • Roberto Calasso - The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

See also

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