Today’s vase, ‘Argus‘ tells a story that could have been a script for the Real Housewives of Olympus! It tells the tale of betrayal, a jealous goddess, a many eyed monster, a beautiful reward and livestock. Okay, maybe livestock is not be a common feature on the ‘real’ housewives … YET!
A Humble Priestess
When your father is a cult leader and you’re a woman in the ancient world, your career paths are very limited. It seemed almost natural that Io would end up as a priestess in her father’s cult in Argos dedicated to Hera. She may have thought she was in the land of milk and honey, but all that would change when she was the one producing the milk.
A lustful God
When you’re an ancient god there’s so much to keep you busy. Watching down on everyone, maybe paying a little extra attention to the younger and prettier women, can sure get the hormones flowing. And Zeus wasn’t just any god. He was THE god. And when he saw young priestess named Io in a temple dedicated to his wife he knew he must have her.
You Know Your wife is My Boss, right?
We often think of workplace harassment as a fairly modern development, but Io would have valid reason to disagree. Io worked as a devoted priestess at Hera’s temple. Zeus was Hera’s husband. Do you see where this is going?
It must have been no easy task to say no to the head honcho god, but Io did. She refused him over and over again. Of course Zeus grew tired of this, so he convinced her father to throw her out through his Oracles.
Meanwhile, Back at Olympus
No one knows exactly how Hera found out that her husband was once again lusting and chasing after someone else. A mortal no less! I’d imagine she was sitting around with some of the other goddesses and one of them ‘let it slip’ that her husband was up to his old tricks.
Whichever goddess let the news slip, must have known that Hera could become viciously jealous. Hashtag #frenemies.
This ain’t the county fair!
Right then and there Hera would have summoned Zeus immediately. And knowing Zeus, he would take his time getting there, he must have had some idea what was in store. You know the other goddesses would wait, glued to their seats for the impending events about to unfold.
Straight away, Hera wasted no time once Zeus arrived. She demanded Io be brought before them. And once she was? Hera immediately turned her into a cow. Talk about Hera ‘milking’ the situation.
Rightfully concerned that her husband would not let this end here, she had her loyal servant Argus keep an eye or a hundred on the now bovine Io. Argus was literally a monster with 100 eyes, and the namesake of our vase.
If goddesses wore hair extensions, this is when Hera would flip her hair satisfyingly.
A womanizer gets a case of conscience
Hera was not wrong about Zeus not letting go of the mortal of his desire. Perhaps his role in the transformation of poor Io into a cow impacted his conscience. Or maybe it was he still hadn’t gotten the girl after all this trouble?
Zeus decided to send messenger god Hermes to kill Argus, which he did by enchanting him into a deep sleep by playing his flute and then smiting him.
But Hera knew! And prior to the smiting she had all of Argus’ eyes transferred to the tail of a peacock. She told all her friends it was to honour his loyalty and thank her friend.
Did I mention she had a chariot pulled by peacocks?