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Useful weblinks: The Time of Greed, Part 2 - Deucalion


  • Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes appear in this tale. Find biographies for each on this site.
  • Since Poseidon was the god of the sea, he used a conch as a trumpet (large spiral shells of molluscs found in tropical seas). The Triton Fountain in Rome shows Poseidon blowing his conch.
  • When Zeus makes the decision to flood the world rather than burn it, he does so because he is worried that fire might drift up to heaven (heat rises) and burn the home of the gods too! This is not an unfounded fear, since there was apparently an ancient prophecy that Heaven would get burnt at some point – and indeed it does, later, when Phaethon gets his hands on Helios’ chariot!

Deucalion and Pyrrha

  • Their story.
  • Most depictions of the couple are of them throwing stones behind themselves and creating man. In this painting by Giovanni Maria Bottalla, the humans arising behind them are fully grown whereas in this picture they are babies. This engraving shows both babies and adults forming from the stones. The tale doesn’t make it clear what age the new women and men were. Ask students how old they think the new humans would have been and why.

The world flooded

  • Perhaps what Deucalion and Pyrrha saw was something like this artist’s impression of Atlantis or the rediscovered ‘Lion city’ in China.
  • But since they were above the water, their view was probably more similar to this. Until, that is, they saw the peaks (of Mount Parnassus) jutting out of the water.
  • Here is a line from Ovid’s description of the flood in the Metamorphoses:

…silvasque tenant delphines et altis
…And dolphins were in the trees!

  • Ovid clearly draws here upon an earlier passage written by Horace in his Ars Poetica (29-30):

qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam, | delphinium silvis adpingit, fluctibus aprum.

‘But the man who wants to distort something unnaturally paints a dolphin among the trees, a boar in the waves.’

Children of stones

  • There are a couple of stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses that seem to link back to this creation myth. For instance:

Lichas [Met. 9.211-25] metamorphoses into a rock when Hercules throws him out to sea in anger.
Aglauros [Met. 2.819-32] is petrified and turns back to stone, from whence humans were originally created according to this myth.

  • Compare this story to the one about Prometheus making us out of clay and blood!
  • Christianity suggests that we are made from dust and ashes, as in the funeral prayer ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’, which is based on several biblical passages.
  • Evolutionary science offers yet another answer – that we evolved from other animals, who were created by certain chemical balances after The Big Bang.