22 SEPTEMBER

THE DREAMS OF KINGS

SERIES II · EPISODE VI

 

When the Aged King finally returned home, to his Island Kingdom of Ithaca, he intended to live out the rest of his days in peace and sleek old age, until death came to him.

 

You see, the Age of Heroes was coming to an end. And so, with his band of brothers, loyal men, and fellow travellers, he established a court of song, of dancing, of merrymaking and story. In that court, men gathered to drink wine, play tunes upon the lyre, and tell stories. 

 

The King told the best stories of all...

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This episode of lore and legend tells not one, but four different myths and legends about the dreams of kings - all of whom could be called tyrants! It begins a multi-episode arc for the remainder of this series. The framing narrative of Odysseus as the Aged King, living at the end of the age of heroes, is based upon lost epics which told the closing chapters of his story.  

 

Since the work is lost, we have only the outlines of the tale - and must provide our own details and interpretations of its key incidents. 

 

As Odysseus contemplates his life and a newly complicated relationship with his son, he confronts the legacy of his own ruthless and bloody actions at Troy and during his return home to Ithaca. This plays out against in dialogue with other tales of Kings and their hubris, and the role that the supernatural power of dreams plays in their punishment and downfall. 

 

The story of Erysichthon, or King Aethon, sees the tyrant caught between the opposing forces of fertility and abundance, represented by Demeter, goddess of crops and vegetation, and the dark and destructive force of Hunger, a primordial spirit born from Night, which the laws of nature decree can never meet. This is true except in the context of dreams, where Aethon is tormented by the illusion of abundance, but cursed with insatiable hunger, a curse which spills out of his dreams into his waking life. In the full story, King Aethon not only sells his daughter into slavery, but she is granted the power of shape shifting by the gods to escape her captivity: but this only leads her father to keep selling his daughter as a slave or in the form of animal chattel, after which she would change her shape, escape, and run back into her father’s hands. In later moral literature, Aethon was often used as a symbol for material desires and lusts which could never be satisfied, and the moral degeneracy that resulted.

 

The Story of the King and his Adviser, and of the King who dreams his son’s death, have both been adapted from the writings of the Greek historian Heretodus. Since these legends were set many years after the time of Odysseus and the Odyssey, they have been adapted to resemble Greek folk tales which might have become attached to later figures; but these stories were in fact attached to very specific figures. The story of the King and his adviser swapping clothes was told of the Persian King Xerxes and his royal advisor and uncle Artabanus: the kingdom which he sought to attack and conquer was Greece itself, and resulted in the Second Greco-Persian War.  Although Xerxes initially won many victories in Greece, he eventually retreated. The stories of his review of his army on the hill and his whipping of the sea for defying him are also part of the legends recorded by Heretodus. 

 

The King who accounted Himself the happiest man alive was King Croesus of the kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia; the Wise Man who chastised him was Solon, an Athenian statesman who was remembered as one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Croesus’ family was responsible for introducing coinage into Greek society, and Croesus himself is said to have issued the first gold coins of a standardised purity, the Croeseid, leading to his association with great wealth - epitomised in the phrase ‘as rich as King Croesus’. 

 

He traced his ancestry back to the Greek race and Greek gods through the family of Hercules.  According to Heretodus, As well as losing his son Atys to the fate prophecied by his dream, Croesus went on to consult the Oracle of Delphi which infamously told him if he went to war, a great empire would fall. Croesus initiated a pre-emptive war against the encroaching Persian Empire and lost: the fallen empire was his own. His captor King Cyrus ordered him burned on a pre, curious to see if his Greek gods would save him. On the pyre, Croesus was heard to wail Solon’s name three times; this intrigued Cyrus, who asked the meaning of the word, and was told the story of Croesus’ confrontation with Sólōn. This sparked the empathy of Cyrus, who recognised himself in the story. He spared Croesus and allowed him to become one of his own royal advisors. Historians debate whether Croesus truly survived, was executed, or committed suicide. 

 

Continuing a theme seen in the Penelope episode, these stories about dreams and dreamers have been incorporated in the Odysseus family dynamic of sharing dream-stories to make a point. Here, Odysseus is at logger-heads with his son Telemachus. Though he considers his dream and its interpretation that Telemachus will try to kill him unbelievable, the interplay of these dream stories illustrates a conflict between an older and wiser Odysseus who is ambivalent about his own legend, and his son Telemachus, who feels over-shadowed by it.  So, Storyfolk, we are left asking: will the prophecy come true? Could Telemachus, the loyal son of the Odyssey, really turn so profoundly against his father? 

 

Make sure you keep on tuning in to find out!

Rick Scott
STORYTELLER

SOURCE MATERIAL

Source Texts

Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Bk. VIII at the Internet Classics Archive

Herotodus, The Histories, Bk. I & VII at the Internet Classics Archive

​​​Geography

"Ancient Thessaly." on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Aug. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Anatolia." on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Lydia." on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

​​​

Research Sources

 "Ovid" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Erysichthon of Thessaly" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Sep. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Aethon" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Jul. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Demeter." on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Demeter." on Theoi Mythology Database

"Limos." on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Jul. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

 "Limos." on Theoi Mythology Database 

"Second Persian invasion of Greece" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Xerxes I" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Artabanus (son of Hystaspes)." on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Aug. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

​"Herodotus" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Croesus" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Cyrus the Great" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Solon" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Oct. 2020. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

"Atys (son of Croesus)" on Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 Dec. 2019. Web. 22 Oct. 2020.

 

EPISODE CREDITS

Stories interpreted and performed by Rick Scott.
Sound editing, audio design and original illustrations by Rick Scott.
Lore & Legend Series Themes composed and performed by Robert Bentall.

Podcast hosting by Anchor. Video and audiogram creation using Headliner.

Additional sound and effects sourced from the community at Freesound.org.

AUDIO CREDITS

Incidental music, background ambience and sound effects by multiple authors sourced from Freesound.org. See below for the full list of audio files and attribution credits:

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