See, kids, this is what happens when you don’t understand your Classical allusions: you get a bizarrely inappropriate portrait of your son, executed by a confused 17th c. Russian painter.
Episode 52: In which Zeus sets up Ganymede Alerts to follow the mortal news, and Hera has thoughts on the Cave of Salome excavations.
This episode of Real Housewives of Mt. Olympus brought to you by the latest archaeological news on ArtNet.com – and by CLAS-B 311 Sex and Gender in the Ancient World.
[SETTING: Breakfast in the Palace of the Gods]
ZEUS, KING OF GODS AND PERPETUAL HORN-DOG: Hey, remember the other day when you were complaining that mortals should build hero shrines at birth sites, rather than at burials, because it’s more impressive to survive childbirth than to just eventually shuffle off the mortal coil?
HERA, GODDESS OF CHILDBIRTH AND ZEUS’ SISTER-WIFE-QUEEN (you read that right): I do remember that. (suspiciously) Why do you remember that?
ZEUS: I pay attention to everything you say! It’s not like I have Ganymede crouching under my throne taking notes so I can keep track later of your complaints and my lies. Plus, I’m empathetic about the suffering of childbirth. I gave birth twice myself, remember.
HERA: I remember that in those cases it was because you either ate or deep-fried your pregnant side-pieces. Although, forcing the man to give birth might actually have its uses (begins drafting letter to 2022 Supreme Court).
ZEUS: Anyway, I got a Ganymede Alert for some news I thought you’d appreciate. Mortals in Judea are excavating a Christian shrine to the midwife of that Jesus fellow.
HERA: Ganymede Alert?
ZEUS: I have Ganymede read the mortal news now, and then tell me if he finds a story about mosaics, or Christians, or anything else you’d find distracting. I mean, interesting. I love you.
HERA: Huh, so Christians memorialize not only the occasional birthplace, but also the women who facilitated births. Maybe I’ll put them on my do-not-smite list. If I ever start one. And I’ll add the mortals who are prioritizing the investigation of a midwife’s tomb. Childbirth hasn’t been getting the respect I deserve lately (glares at 2022 Supreme Court).
ZEUS: Well, to be precise, they’re primarily investigating the Jewish tomb complex attached to her shrine. The complex belonged to a wealthy Jewish family and is super elaborate and includes mosaics. That’s what triggered my Ganymede Alert.
HERA: Did someone under your throne just hand you a slip of papyrus that you’re now reading off of?
ZEUS: What? No! Fun fact: The mortal government is adding the shrine to this tourist attraction they’re calling the “Judean Kings Trail.” It’s super controversial because it links all these supposedly Jewish archaeological sites in areas currently occupied by Palestinians.
HERA: Ah, so the mortals are not actually excited about the midwife at all. They’re excited about using folk archaeology to establish a cultural-historical narrative in contested territory.
HERA: I will go borrow Aphrodite’s girdle right now and do that sexy thing you like, if you can explain to me what any of that means. Without Ganymede slipping you notes. Or tapping you answers in code under your throne. I can hear you, Ganymede! Everything echoes in marble halls.
ZEUS: I don’t know what you’re talking about (kicks under throne, ignores squeal of pain). About the knocking, I mean, I know about the…Wait, how do you know what any of that mortal stuff means?
HERA: Turns out I get my own Ganymede Alerts. Mine are set for whenever my idiotic, philandering husband is planning to use a bit of mortal news to butter me up before he tries to pull something over on me. Here’s a tip: when you’re looking to fill the position of Olympian cup-bearer and wingman, maybe don’t use an easily-threatened mortal. And don’t hide them under your throne.
ZEUS: But all the other hiding spots are stocked with nymphs!
HERA: (icily) Excuse me?
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To explore the uplifting subjects of terrifying mortality rates in ancient childbirth, and the need for more research on the women involved, look for CLAS-B 311 Sex and Gender in the Ancient World, still available as a late-start 1-credit “appetizer” course in Spring 2023! Or to learn how ancient women somehow managed to survive childbirth without the benefits of modern medicine, and how that still affects maternity care today, enroll in CLAS-C 210 Ancient Medicine and Modern Terminology, coming in Fall 2023. Can’t get enough of Ancient Greece and Rome? Earn a Classics Minor in just 15 credits!