Monday, October 06, 2014



Martin P. Nilsson (1874-1967), Greek Piety, tr. Herbert Jennings Rose (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948; rpt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1969), p. 61:
Tyche is connected with a verb which signifies 'hit (a mark), happen, reach, get to (something)'; its primary meaning is 'that which happens'. The word is usually rendered 'fortune' or 'luck', but can also mean 'ill luck'. We must remember the purely objective meaning of the word, which may be expressed by the phrase 'the way things go'.
Id., pp. 86-87:
Tyche is the last stage in the secularizing of religion in its conceptions of the powers which govern the universe and the destinies of man. The comedian Philemon puts the thought into most pointed words:
In Tyche we have no deity, no, no! but what happens of itself (to autómaton) to each of us, that we call Tyche.
Tyche can quite simply and objectively signify the course of events, for instance in the great historian Polybios, who made it his aim to show the causal connexion of historical facts, in other words, to explain them and understand them from a rational standpoint. But occasionally even Polybios cannot get clear of the popular conception and uses its expressions. Tyche brings about great changes and plays with men as with little children; she is deceitful and incalculable, she loves to turn human reckonings upside-down. New Comedy has much to say of Tyche; she is blind and unhappy, unjust and senseless, she does three things badly for one well, she changes from day to day, she makes the rich poor, foresight and good council [sic, read counsel] are of no avail against her. The feeling, however, that Tyche was a divine power had not been lost. A fragment of Menander says:
Whether Tyche is a divine afflatus or an intelligence (nous), it is she who guides all things and turns them about and saves them, whereas human foresight is nothingness and idle chatter.
However, men could not get rid of the idea that there are gods who govern their destinies. The forms of religion were so influential that they forced even Tyche into their sphere. Tyche was personified and became a goddess, with the natural result that her bestowal of good luck was emphasized. She received temples and statues, which showed her holding a steering-oar, a cornucopia, and sometimes with a mural crown on her head, for she became the tutelary goddess of cities. She was given an altar in domestic worship, but in New Comedy she does not appear as a goddess with a cult.
Philemon, fragment 137 Kock:
οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν οὐδεμία τύχη θεός,
οὐκ ἔστιν, ἀλλὰ ταὐτόματον, ὃ γίνεται
ὡς ἔτυχ´ ἑκάστῳ, προσαγορεύεται τύχη.
Menander, fragments 482-483 Kock (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
Have done with talking of intellect; for the human intellect amounts to nothing, while Fortune's—whether we call it divine spirit or intellect—this is what steers all and veers and saves, whereas mortal forethought is smoke and nonsense. Take my advice and you'll not blame me: everything that we think or say or do is Fortune, and we are but countersigners ... Fortune ever holds the tiller. This goddess alone we ought to speak of as both intellect and forethought unless we perversely take pleasure in empty names.

παύσασθε νοῦν λέγοντες· οὐδὲν γὰρ πλέον
ἁνθρώπινος νοῦς ἐστιν, ἀλλ' ὁ τῆς τύχης
(εἴτ' ἐστὶ τοῦτο πνεῦμα θεῖον εἴτε νοῦς)
τοῦτ' ἔστι τὸ κυβερνῶν ἅπαντα καὶ στρέφον
καὶ σῷζον, ἡ πρόνοια δ' ἡ θνητὴ καπνὸς        5
καὶ φλήναφος. πείσθητε κοὐ μέμψεσθέ με·
πάνθ' ὅσα νοοῦμεν ἢ λέγομεν ἢ πράττομεν
τύχη 'στίν, ἡμεῖς δ' ἐσμὲν ἐπιγεγραμμένοι.
τύχη κυβερνᾷ πάντα· ταύτην καὶ φρένας
δεῖ καὶ πρόνοιαν τὴν θεὸν καλεῖν μόνην,        10
εἰ μή τις ἄλλως ὀνόμασιν χαίρει κενοῖς.
See also Jon D. Mikalson, Religion in Hellenistic Athens (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), pp. 62-63.

Related post: Blind Fortune.

Joel Eidsath writes:
A fragment of Menander that W.H.D. Rouse would have his students memorize was:

τυφλόν τε καὶ δύστηνόν ἐστιν ἡ τύχη.

I imagine that this is what Nilsson is referring to with "New Comedy has much to say of Tyche; she is blind and unhappy..."

Another, perhaps related to "she changes from day to day" was:

τὸ τῆς τύχης τοι μεταβολὰς πολλὰς ἔχει.

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