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The Fates (Greek & Roman)

The Fates (Greek & Roman)

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The Moirae or Moerae (The Fates), in Greek mythology, were the white-robed personifications of
destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcae, euphemistically the "sparing ones", or Fata; also equivalent to the
Germanic Norns). The Greek word moira literally means a part or portion, and by extension one's
portion in life or destiny. They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal from birth to
death. Even the gods feared the Moirae. Zeus also was subject to their power, as the Pythian priestess at
Delphi once admitted; though no classic writing clarifies as to what exact extent the lives of immortals
were impacted by the whims of the Fates themselves. A supposed epithet Zeus Moiragetes, meaning
"Zeus Leader of the Morae" was inferred by Pausanias from an inscription he saw in the second
century CE at Olympia: "As you go to the starting-point for the chariot-race there is an altar with an
inscription to the Bringer of Fate. This is plainly a surname of Zeus, who knows the affairs of men, all
that the Fates give them, and all that is not destined for them."Zeus does not appear to have been
mentioned, and Pausanias' inferred assertion is unsupported in cult practice, though he noted a
sanctuary of the Moirae there at Olympia, and also at Corinth and Sparta, and adjoining the sanctuary
of Themis outside a city gate of Thebes

H. J. Rose writes that Nyx ("Night") was also the mother of the Moirae as she was of the Erinyes, in the
Orphic tradition.
The three Moirae were:
\u2022
Clotho spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle. Her Roman equivalent was
Nona, (the 'Ninth'), who was originally a goddess called upon in the ninth month of pregnancy.
\u2022
Lachesis measured the thread of life with her rod. Her Roman equivalent was Decima (the
'Tenth').
\u2022

Atropos was the cutter of the thread of life. She chose the manner of a person's death. When she
cut the thread with "her abhorr\u00e8d shears", someone on Earth died. Her Roman equivalent was
Morta ('Death').

The Moirae were supposed to appear three nights after a child's birth to determine the course of its life.
The Greeks variously claimed that they were the daughters of Zeus and the Titaness Themis (the
"Institutor") or of primordial beings like Nyx, the Night, Chaos or Ananke, Necessity.

In earlier times they were represented as only a few \u2013 perhaps only one \u2013 individual goddess. Homer's Iliad speaks generally of the Moera, who spins the thread of life for men at their birth, Moera Krataia "strong Moira" or of several Moerae. In the Odyssey there is a reference to the Kl\u00f4thes, or Spinners. At Delphi, only the Fates of Birth and Death were revered. In Athens, Aphrodite, who had an earlier, pre- Olympic existence, was called Aphrodite Urania the 'eldest of the Fates' according to Pausanias.

Versions of the Moirae also existed on the deepest European mythological level. It is difficult to
separate them from the other Indo-European spinning fate goddesses known as the Norns in Norse
mythology and the Baltic goddess Laima and her two sisters. Some Greek mythographers went so far
as to claim that the Moirae were the daughters of Zeus\u2014 paired with either Ananke or, as Hesiod had it
in one passage, Themis or Nyx. Whether or not providing a father even for the Moirae was a symptom
of how far Greek mythographers were willing to go, in order to modify the old myths to suit the
patrilineal Olympic order, the claim was certainly not acceptable to Aeschylus, Herodotus, or Plato.

The Moirae were usually described as cold, remorseless and unfeeling, and depicted as old crones or hags. The independent spinster has inspired fear rather than matrimony. "This sinister connotation we inherit from the spinning goddess," write Ruck and Staples. Some mythologies depict them instead as the traditional maiden, mother, and crone.

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