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Shakers & Makers

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Hmm - an odd title but I'm going to give it a go, if you'll indulge me in some reflections about those bad boys and girls of Greek divinity, shakers and makers if ever there were any, bossing it over bewildered mankind from up there on Olympus.
Offhand I can no longer remember precisely the chronology of pantheisms. The Egyptian and Sumerian divinities certainly pre-dated the Greek; and the various Indian, Judaic, Norse and South American deities came later. But it was the Greek civilization (Mycenean, Aegean) that gave us the most complex and comprehensive panoply of gods and godesses, an extended dynasty of shakers and makers whose divine purpose and right was to order (and frequently disorder) the mortal world at their feet. 
Zeus overthrew his dad Cronos to become top god, he took Hera as wifey goddess and the pair of them got on like a mountain on fire. All of the immortals squabbled among themselves as siblings do; their divine offspring followed suit. They also mingled with mortals to make a breed of demi-gods and then championed their favourites against each other's chosen ones.
Eris was a top trouble-maker. She was goddess of strife and in revenge for not being invited to a wedding party she decided to sow discord and shake things up by promising the golden apple to the most beautiful goddess. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were in the running, but how to decide the outcome and still maintain unity in the ranks? Zeus side-stepped the responsibility by giving the job to Paris, mortal son of Priam of Troy. (Google the Judgement of Paris if you want more background.) Hera, Athena and Aphrodite all tried to bribe Paris to choose them and Aphrodite, goddess of love, was successful in winning the beauty contest. Her promise to Paris was to reward him with the most beautiful woman on Earth.
This was Helen of Sparta, daughter of King Tyndareus and his wife Leda. If you don't know the story of Leda and the Swan, the legend was that Zeus disguised himself as a swan to woo Leda, the inference being that Helen, the most beautiful woman on Earth, was technically his daughter and a demi-god.
There was just one problem. Helen was happily married to Menelaus and they had a child. But Aphrodite made it and shook it so that Helen fell under Paris's spell and absconded with him back to Troy. 
Cue mayhem. For Menelaus had agreed a pact with the other suitors for Helen's hand back in the day, whereby if anyone came to steal her away from the one who became her husband, all the suitors would band together and set off to steal her back for him. That's how stuff was done in the ancient times, before lawyers, marriage guidance councillors and due process.
The act of reposession took ten years, cost thousands of lives and ended in the complete destruction by fire of a beseiged city via the cunning trick of a wooden horse. It's one of the most famous tales ever told and is the subject of my latest poem.
Shakers & Makers
That's right, this week I offer you a poetic take on the story of the Trojan War. The ancient Greeks accepted the events detailed in the Iliad as true, but as the centuries rolled on it came to be thought by classical scholars that the depictions were largely mythical and Troy itself was a fiction. Everything changed in the mid 19th century when archaeologists identified the ruins of Hisarlik in what is now western Turkey as the indisputable site of ancient Troy. 
So why Troy Story VII? you might reasonably ask, focusing on the number rather than the pun and the clever graphic. That's because the site of Hisarlik/Troy, when excavated, was found to have many layers in its long and eventful past, as the city was flattened, rebuilt, extended, rased, rebuilt, deserted, re-founded and so on through distant historical times - and the layer (or version) of Troy that corresponded most closely to that described in Homer's epic, including its being burned to the ground, was Troy VII, dating from approximately 1200 BC - the Trojan War itself having raged, it is thought, from 1194 to 1184 BC.
When I said the story of the Trojan War, my poem is more of an epilogue, actually. The war itself was epic and its decade of events would require more time for the telling than I have here - so search out the Iliad if you're so inclined, a wonderful creation and a brilliant read. 
There are many different theories as to what happened to Menelaus and Helen after the sacking of Troy. My personal favorite is that they were reunited in Egypt after the cataclysm and that's where I've headed with today's offering from the imaginarium. 
By the way, I've made a bit of a compact with myself that this will be the last 'narrative' poem I write for a while - I'm going to try a different tack through the autumn. Here we go then...
Troy Story VII - The EpilogueOminous, that swept heap of dead fliesin a dusty Cairo courtyard corner;Menelaus squatted in shadebeneath painfully fiery hibiscusstubs a meditative cheroot, fingershis nicotine-tinted whiskers,a brooding presence playing for time.He knows she lies in wait withinas pre-arranged, room shuttered dark.
Ten years though. Ten years sincethat cheating piece of Divine tailsailed out on Sparta, husband, child,at the bidding of the directing Gods.Her bad luck to be cast as the faithlessfemme fatale. He knows that. Just ashe had no choice but to give chase,couldn't  let it go, a pact of honor.Outcome for the extras - utterly stark.
He lights another smoke, reflecting on good friends and comrades lost,all that blood shed by his two hands,the heavy price they've had to payand he feels suddenly old, as day cools,hibiscus flowers close and shadows fold across the yard. He squats immobile,uncertain, stiff of limb and sore of heartuntil he marks the dogs of evening bark.
And Helen wonders for how long this cloistered, fretful wait might go on, until he comes to claim her once againas pre-arranged, as twenty years before. She was a beauty then, dutiful in loveuntil she let herself be led astray. Andwhat a heavy price they've had to pay. Will he understand? Find her lovely still?Fear fills her breast. Those his footsteps, hark!
There you have it, lead-in to a difficult reunion. Yours to imagine what might transpire. It could go a number of ways. And before anyone takes me to task for dropping smoking materials into pre-history, it was a deliberate act of time-slipping. I'll leave you with this rather impressive marble depiction of the principle shakers and makers. 
Shakers & MakersGoodnight Vienna - statue of Zeus and Hera in the Austrian capital. 
Thanks for reading, have an epic week y'all. S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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