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"If the universe is the answer, what is the question?"

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Let him lift me on high and hurl me down to black Tartaros with the swirling floods of stern Anankê: do what he will, me he shall never bring to death."
Prometheus

Ananke is the Greek Primordial Goddess (and personification) of inevitability, compulsion and necessity. She is customarily depicted as holding a spindle. Her Roman counterpart is Necessitas.

Overview

Ananke is considered the most powerful dictator of fate and circumstance; mortals as well as gods respected her power and paid her homage. Sometimes considered the mother of the Fates, she is thought to be the only being to influence their decisions

Appearance

Ananke has the appearance of a pale woman with white hair and red eyes usually wearing a white dress. She is customarily depicted as holding a spindle.

Personality

Powers & Abilities

  • Nigh Omnipotence: As one of the Protogenoi, Ananke is an immensely powerful primordial entity capable of rivalling and even surpassing most primordials. She possess unimaginable level of power fully at her will. Her powers over fate and destiny far surpass any being with control of fate (with the exception of Fate itself and maybe Destiny of the Endless).

History

Myths and Legends

According to some versions, Ananke was described as the daughter of Hydrus and Gaia.

One of the Protogenoi or Greek primordial deities, the births of Ananke and her brother and consort, Chronos (the personification of Time, not to be confused with the Titan Cronus) were thought to mark the division between the eon of the endless void of Khaos and the beginning of the cosmos. Ananke is considered the most powerful dictator of fate and circumstance; mortals as well as gods respected her power and paid her homage.

She emerged self-formed at the dawn of creation--an incorporeal, serpentine being whose outstretched arms encompassed the breadth of the cosmos. Ananke and her mate Chronos, their serpentine coils entwined, crushed the primal egg of creation splitting it into its constituent parts of earth, heaven and sea to form the ordered universe. After their act of creation Ananke and Chronos encircled the cosmos to drive the rotation of the heavens and the eternal passage of time. They were beyond the reach of the younger gods whose fates they were sometimes said to control.

Possibly the only ancient representation of the goddess, the torch-bearing, winged figure right is labelled with her name.

Even as she is a primordial deity, she is often overlooked. The primary reason for a lack of recognition for Ananke comes about as she appears primarily in the Orphic tradition of the genealogy of the gods, whilst today, most people’s knowledge of the timeline of the gods comes from Hesiod, and his work the Theogony.

Sometimes considered the mother of the Fates, she is thought to be the only being to influence their decisions, though in truth, all Greek Primordials can control the Fates along with God and Death. According to Schowalter and Friesen, she and the Fates "are all sufficiently tied to early Greek Mythology to make their Greek origins likely.

The ancient Greek traveller Pausanias wrote of a temple in ancient Corinth where the goddesses Ananke and Bia (meaning force, violence or violent haste) were worshiped together in the same shrine. Ananke is also frequently identified or associated with Aphrodite, especially Aphrodite Ourania, the representation of abstract celestial love; the two were considered to be related, as relatively unanthropomorphised powers that dictated the course of life.

In the Timaeus, Plato has the character Timaeus (not Socrates) argue that in the creation of the universe, there is a uniting of opposing elements, intellect ('nous') and necessity ('ananke'). Elsewhere, Plato blends abstraction with his own myth making: "For this ordered world (cosmos) is of a mixed birth: it is the offspring of a union of Necessity and Intellect. Intellect prevailing over Necessity by persuading (from Peitho, goddess of persuasion) it to direct most of the things that come to be toward what is best, and the result of this subjugation of Necessity to wise persuasion is the initial formation of the universe"

In Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame of Paris, the word "Ananke" is written upon a wall of Notre-Dame by the hand of Dom Claude Frollo. In his Toute la Lyre, Hugo also mentions Ananke as a symbol of love.

"Ananke" is derived from the common Ancient Greek noun ἀνάγκη, meaning "force, constraint or necessity." The common noun itself is of uncertain etymology. In Ancient Greek literature the word is also used meaning "fate" or "destiny" (ἀνάγκη δαιμόνων, "fate by the daemons or by the gods"), and by extension "compulsion or torture by a superior." The pre-modern is carried over and translated (by reduction) into a more modern philosophical sense as "necessity", "logical necessity" or "laws of nature".

Mother of the Moirai

The Greek philosopher, Plato in his Republic discussed the parentage of the Moirai or the Fates in the following lines:

"And there were another three who sat round about at equal intervals, each one on her throne, the Moirai (Moirae, Fates), daughters of Ananke, clad in white vestments with filleted heads, Lakhesis (Lachesis), and Klotho (Clotho), and Atropos (Atropus), who sang in unison with the music of the Seirenes, Lakhesis singing the things that were, Klotho the things that are, and Atropos the things that are to be . . . Lakhesis, the maiden daughter of Ananke (Necessity)."

While Aeschylus, the famous tragedian gave us an account in his Prometheus Bound, between Prometheus and the Chorus, where the Moirai were called the helmsman of the goddess Ananke along with the three Erinyes:

Prometheus: Not in this way is Moira, who brings all to fulfillment, destined to complete this course. Only when I have been bent by pangs and tortures infinite am I to escape my bondage. Skill is weaker by far than Ananke.

Chorus: Who then is the helmsman of Ananke?

Prometheus: The three-shaped Moirai and mindful Erinyes.

Chorus: Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do?

Prometheus: Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold.

Chorus: Why, what is fated for Zeus except to hold eternal sway?

Prometheus: This you must not learn yet; do not be over-eager.

Chorus: It is some solemn secret, surely, that you enshroud in mystery.

Here Prometheus speaks of a secret prophecy, rendered ineluctable by Ananke, that any son born of Zeus and Thetis would depose the god. (In fact, any son of Thetis was destined to be greater than his father.)

Orphic Mythology

In Orphic mythology, Ananke is a self-formed being who emerged at the dawn of creation with an incorporeal, serpentine form, her outstretched arms encompassing the cosmos. Ananke and Chronos are mates, mingling together in serpent form as a tie around the universe. Together they have crushed the primal egg of creation of which constituent parts became earth, heaven and sea to form the ordered universe.

Ananke is the mother (or another identity) of Adrasteia, the distributor of rewards and punishments. In the Orphic hymns, Aphrodite Ourania is described as the mother of Ananke and ruler of the three Moirai.

With most surviving ancient sources following the Hesiod genealogy of the gods it is perhaps not surprising that Ananke is rarely mentioned in surviving sources, although her name is used occasionally in Prometheus Bound (Aeschylus) and the Argonautica (Apollonius Rhodius). The Greek traveller and writer Pausanias would also state that in Corinth there was a temple dedicated to Ananke and Bia.

Quotes

Gallery

Trivia

  • In Italy, Ananke does not appear to have been worshiped at all; the description of Necessitas (Ananke) in Horace’s Carmina is purely literary.
  • Horace associates Necessitas with Death or Fortune.
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