Saturday, September 04, 2004

Phaethon Rises

4 Sept 04 Phaethon Rises

Since the beginning, man has always been ambitious. In the Genesis account of creation, the Bible states that God created man in his image and shortly thereafter man ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, discerning good from evil and getting chucked out of Paradise as a consequence. Such is life, we bumble along blissfully, thinking how glorious it all is until we realize the extent of our own mistakes and frailties.

A few generations later, men gathered together in the famous city of Babel to build a tower extending to the heavens. The consequence was to be struck by lightning and scattered across the earth into diverse cultures and languages.

The Second Book of the Metamorphoses, opens with the story of Phaethon, the bastard son of Clymene and Phoebus Apollo. As gods were restrained from marriage with mortals, they merely cavorted the fields begetting literature with heros. Raised by a single mother with an absent father, Phaethon is naturally curious about his origins. It's a problem that dogs society to this day as it is relatively difficult to tell a kid he came from a test-tube or implant from a cooler. Confrontation with his mother, revealed the culprit to be none other than the wayward Apollo, who chased after many other skirts as he circled the earth. And like many children, he wanted to be not only proud of his father, but match his feats, ultimately demanding to drive the sunchariot across the skies alone. The attempt resulted in disaster, as the sun swerved off its path, narrowly missing the various monsters and dangers on its course. Onlooking Apollo had little recourse but to plead for hasty intervention of Zeus to bring the chariot down by means of a lightning bolt for only fire can extinguish fire.

Whether the myth is a warning for overstepping one's abilities in the attempt to emulate one's idols or a mythological interpretation of a astronomical event, the story remains as true today as it was in Ovid's day. Often children are harassed by their peers to go beyond their limitations, to overstep the boundaries of danger in order to prove their courage. Truth or Dare is a game played to embarrass personal confidences, but when it comes to jumping off bridges or drinking another beer; then it goes beyond heroics into foolhardiness. Phaethon's intent was originally good, but when he was confronted with the realities of the dangers involved, he became foolhardy in insisting that he could manage a team of unwieldy horses and ride over a dangerous course to prove to himself he was the Sun-god's son. Simplistic it sounds, but frequently we embark on a journey or goal with good intents, but someone our senior, far more experienced, informs us of the risks and complications that lay ahead, urging us to rescind our decision. Instead, we tighten our hands on the reins, thinking that through sheer will power we can achieve the goal and survive all dangers. As a result we lose control, often destroying ourselves or the project in the attempt. We are afraid to be called cowards or lose face and so we take on more than we can control. Our identity is at state. We identify ourselves not only with the goal, but also with achieving the social and parental expectations. The world hates failures and so we think by killing ourselves for unrealistic achievements, we will achieve immortality.

Dryden, transl Metamorphoses

Book 2

University of Virginia Etext: Ovid Metamorphoses
a collection of translations, concordance and other links related to the Metamorphoses

Web Winds: Phaethon
a small collection of lnks that lead to online text

Web Winds: Phaethon translations
a compilation of translation in online text
Mandelbaum, More, Dryden et al

Ovid Metamorphoses
Golding complete text
The Fifteen Books of Ovid's Metamorphoses, 1567
The first translation into English - credited to Arthur Golding

Torrey Philemon's Metamorphoses' Links
has listing for translation downloads and online texts available

Mythography: Phaethon

The Geminids: 3200 Phaethon
Bob Dobe: Phaethon
A condensed version of this article titled, The Path of a Comet and Phaethon's Ride, was published by The World & I (ISSN 0887-9346) Vol. 10, No. 2 (Feb. 95) pp. 394-405.
an article relating myth to astronomical events-what if a meteor struck the earth? Includes links to major scientific studies concerning meteroites linking them to cultural myths

Great Geminids
regarding asteroid 3200 Phaethon

Wierd Geminids

Gary Kronk: Geminids

Space Weather: Geminids Gallery

Ottawa Astronomy and Observatory: Geminid Images
some very amazing pictures

Space: Leonid Showers
has a gallery for the meteor showers


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