Selene

From Phantis
Revision as of 11:09, July 13, 2006 by Irlandos (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In Greek mythology, Selene (Σελήνη, "moon") was an ancient lunar deity and the daughter of the titans Hyperion and Theia. She was identified with the Roman moon goddess, Luna.

Like most moon deities, Selene plays a fairly large role in her pantheon. However, Selene was eventually largely supplanted by Artemis, and Luna by Diana. In the collection known as the Homeric hymns, there is a Hymn to Selene (xxxii), paired with the hymn to Helios. Selene is described in Apollodorus 1.2.2; Hesiod's Theogony 371; Nonnius 48.581; Pausanias 5.1.4; and Strabo 14.1.6, among others.

The etymology of Selene is uncertain, but if the word is of Greek origin, it is likely connected to the word selas, meaning "light". (Karl Kerenyi (1951). The Gods of the Greeks (pp. 19, 197). The name is the root of selenology, the study of the geology of the Moon. The chemical element selenium was also named after Selene.

Depictions

In art, Selene was depicted as a beautiful woman with a pale face, riding a silver chariot pulled by a yoke of oxen or a pair of horses. Often, she was shown riding a horse or bull, wearing robes and a half-moon on her head and carrying a torch.

Myths

Genealogy

In the traditional divine genealogy, Helios, the sun, is Selene's brother: after her brother, Helios, finishes his journey across the sky, Selene begins her own journey as night fell upon the earth. Her sister, Eos, is goddess of the dawn. Eos also carried off a human lover, Cephalus, (Burkert, Walter (1985). Greek Religion (p. 176).) which mirrors a myth of Selene and Endymion.

As a result of Selene being conflated with Diana, later writers sometimes Selene as a daughter of Zeus, like Artemis, or of Pallas the Titan. In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, with its characteristically insistent patrilineality, she is "bright Selene, daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes' son."

Lovers

Apollonius of Rhodes (4.57) tells how Selene loved a mortal, the handsome male prostitute —or, in the version Pausanias knew, a king— of Elis, or otherwise called a hunter or shepherd, named Endymion, from Asia Minor. He was so beautiful that Selene asked Zeus to grant him eternal life so he would never leave her: her asking permission of Zeus reveals itself as an Olympian transformation of an older myth: Cicero (Tusculanae Disputationes) recognized that the moon goddess had acted autonomously. Alternatively, Endymion made the decision to live forever in sleep. Every night, Selene slipped down behind Mount Latmus near Miletus. (Pausanias v.1.5). Selene had fifty daughters from Endymion, including Naxos. The sanctuary of Endymion at Heracleia on the southern slope of Latmus is a horseshoe-shaped chamber with an entrance hall and pillared forecourt.

Though the story of Endymion is the best-known one today, the Homeric hymn to Selene (xxxii) tells that Selene also bore Zeus a daughter, Pandia, the "utterly shining" full moon. According to some sources, the Nemean Lion was her offspring as well. She also had an affair with Pan, who seduced her by wrapping himself in a sheepskin ("Kerenyi" 1959) and gave her the yoke of white oxen that drew the chariot in which she is represented in sculptured reliefs, with her windblown veil above her head like the arching canopy of sky. In the Homeric hymn, her chariot is drawn by long-maned horses.


A portion of content for this article is credited to Wikipedia. Content under GNU Free Documentation License(GFDL)