• Devin O'Donnell

Hesiod, the genesis of the gods continued, and the birth of Venus (Week 2)

Today we are continuing right along with our reading and study of Hesiod's Theogeny. The distinctions between his account of creation and the Biblical one are striking and obvious. But they are not simply just a silly and rather embarrassing way of understanding the beginning of all things. Hesiod is a poet, and mythology sees the world (and in this case it origins) not as a scientist or a geologist, but as one for whom the logic of a poet imagination governs his vision.

Consider the birth of Aphrodite (Venus, pictured in the form of Simonetta Vespucci). C. S. Lewis warns us of the "Infernal Venus":

You will find, if you look carefully into any human’s heart, that he is haunted by at least two imaginary women—a terrestrial and an infernal Venus, and that his desire differs qualitatively according to its object. There is one type for which his desire is such as to be naturally amenable to the Enemy—readily mixed with charity, readily obedient to marriage, coloured all through with that golden light of reverence and naturalness which we detest; there is another type which he desires brutally, and desires to desire brutally, a type best used to draw him away from marriage altogether but which, even within marriage, he would tend to treat as a slave, an idol, or an accomplice. The real use of the infernal Venus [to the devils] is, no doubt, as prostitute or mistress. But if your man is a Christian, and if he has been well trained in nonsense about irresistible and all-excusing “Love”, he can often be induced to marry her.

In other words, there is a desire for Beauty that leads to life (terrestrial / celestial) and a desire for beauty that leads to death (Infernal Venus as in Prov. 7). Perhaps Hesiod's ambiguity in the account of Aphrodite's birth contains these two possibilities, an Infernal Venus and a Terrestrial / Heavenly Venus.

Looking ahead, we will be focusing on more differences between the Bible's cosmology and Hesiod's throughout the week.

Week 2 in Traditio, and today is Wednesday. The following outlines our plan for the rest of the week:

  1. Prayer and catechism

  2. Mapping Hesiod

  3. Work on Family Tree together

  4. Story Structures that outline the main point of Theogeny.

  5. Reading together – finish Hesiod's Theogeny

  6. Note how Zeus stands at the center of story, as hero-god and "counselor" and "king" of gods and men

  7. Looking ahead, we will be focusing on more differences between the Bible's cosmology and Hesiod's throughout the week. Consider a few:

  8. The gods are derived and contingent (not the "I am that I am" of Exodus)

  9. Violence is inherently part of the creation of the world


  1. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

  2. Pray, that you may not stumble.

  3. Continue working on the Family Tree of the gods assignment

  4. Finish reading Hesiod's Theogeny

  5. Dig Deep Readings (ongoing)


On the calendar today, it is officially "Michaelmas," the Feast Day of St. Michael and All Angels. But I've already referred to the importance of this day here, and so we look to what we are reading today. Below is a detail of Boticelli's "Birth of Venus," the account of which we read about in Hesiod. It's best, however, that we focus in on the rather disturbing details of this scene, but simply accept the fact the goddess of love holds the power of a celestial beauty, one which the artist, in spite of his transcendent skill, can still only approximate.

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