Delusion, Folly (atê)
ATE was the personified spirit (daimona) of delusion, infatuation, blind folly, rash action and reckless impulse who led men down the path of ruin. Her power was countered by the Litai (Litae) (Prayers) which followed in her wake.
FAMILY OF ATE
PEITHO (Aeschylus Agamemnon 385)
ATE (Atê), according to Hesiod (Theog. 230), a daughter of Eris, and according to Homer (Il. xix. 91) of Zeus, was an ancient Greek divinity, who led both gods and men to rash and inconsiderate actions and to suffering. She once even induced Zeus, at the birth of Heracles, to take an oath by which Hera was afterwards enabled to give to Eurystheus the power which had been destined for Heracles. When Zeus discovered his rashness, he hurled Ate from Olympus and banished her for ever from the abodes of the gods. (Hom. Il. xix. 126, &c.) In the tragic writers Ate appears in a different light: she avenges evil deeds and inflicts just punishments upon the offenders and their posterity (Aeschyl. Choeph. 381), so that her character here is almost the same as that of Nemesis and Erinnys. She appears most prominent in the dramas of Aeschylus, and least in those of Euripides, with whom the idea of Dike (justice) is more fully developed. (Blünmer, Ueber Idee die des Schicksals, &c. p.64,&c.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Hesiod, Theogony 230 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"But abhorred Eris (Strife) bare painful Ponos (Toil), and Lethe (Forgetfulness), and Limos (Starvation), and the Algea (Pains), full of weeping, the Hysminai (Fightings) and the Makhai (Battles), the Phonoi (Murders) and the Androktasiai (Man-slaughters), the Neikea (Quarrels), the Pseudo-Logoi (Lies), the Amphilogiai (Disputes), and Dysnomia (Lawlessness) and Ate (Ruin), who share one another's natures, and Horkos (Oath)."
Homer, Iliad 19. 85 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Agamemnons addresses Akhilleus (Achilles) :] ‘It is the god who accomplishes all things. Ate is the elder daughter of Zeus, the accursed who deludes all; her feet are delicate and they step not on the firm earth, but she walks the air above men's heads and leads them astray. She has entangled others before me. Yes, for once Zeus even was deluded, though men say he is the highest one of gods and mortals. Yet Hera who is female deluded even Zeus in her craftiness on that day when in strong wall-circled Thebe Alkmene (Alcmena) was at her time to bring forth the strength of Herakles (Heracles). Therefore Zeus spoke forth and made a vow before all the immortals : "Hear me, all you gods and all you goddesses: hear me while I speak forth what the heart within my breast urges. This day Eileithyia of women's child-pains shall bring forth a man to the light who, among the men sprung of the generation of my blood, shall be lord over all those dwelling about him."
‘Then in guileful intention the lady Hera said to him : "You will be a liar, not put fulfilment on what you have spoken. Come, then, lord of Olympos, and swear before me a strong oath that he shall be lord over all those dwelling about him who this day shall fall between the feet of a woman, that man who is born of the blood of your generation."
‘So Hera spoke. And Zeus was entirely unaware of her falsehood [for he was beguiled by Ate], but swore a great oath, and therein lay all his deception. But Hera in a flash of speed left the horn of Olympos and rapidly came to Argos of Akhaia (Achaea), where she knew was the mighty wife of Sthenelos (Sthenelus), descended of Perseus. And she was carrying a son, and this was the seventh month for her, but she brought him sooner into the light, and made him premature, and stayed the childbirth of Alkmene (Alcmena) , and held back the birth pangs. She went herself and spoke the message to Zeus, son of Kronos (Cronus) : "Father Zeus of the shining bolt, I will tellyou a message for your heart. A great man is born, who will be lord over hte Argives, Eurystheus, son of Sthenelos, of the seed of Perseus, your generation. It is not unfit that he should rule over the Argives."
‘She spoke, and the sharp sorrow struck at his deep heart. He caught by the shining hair of her head the goddess Ate in the anger of his heart, and swore a strong oath, that never after this might Ate, who deludes all, come back to Olympos and the starry sky. So speaking, he whirled her about in his hand and slung her out of the starry heaven, and presently she came to men's establishments. But Zeus would foreever grieve over her eath time that he saw his dear son doing some shameful work of the tasks that Eurystheus set him.
‘So I [Agamemnon] in my time, when tall Hektor of the shining helm was forever destroying the Argives against the sterns of their vessels, could not forget Ate (Delusion), the way I was first deluded. But since I was deluded and Zeus took my wits away from me, I am willing to make all good and give back gifts in abundance.’"
Homer, Iliad 9. 498 ff :
"The very immortals can be moved; their virtue and honour and strength are greater than ours are, and yet with sacrifices and offerings for endearment, with libations and with savour men turn back even the immortals in supplication, when any man does wrong and transgresses. For there are also the Litai (Litae, Prayers), the daughters of great Zeus, and they are lame of their feet, and wrinkled, and cast their eyes sidelong, who toil on their way left far behind by the spirit of Ruin (Ate): but she, Ate (Ruin), is strong and sound on her feet, and therefore far outruns all Litai (Prayers), and wins into every country to force men astray; and the Litai (Prayers) follow as healers after her. If a man venerates these daughters of Zeus as they draw near, such a man they bring great advantage, and hear his entreaty; but if a man shall deny them, and stubbornly with a harsh word refuse, they go to Zeus, son of Kronos, in supplication that Ate (Ruin) may over take this man, that he be hurt, and punished."
Homer, Iliad 10. 391 ff :
"[The spy Dolon addresses Odysseus :] ‘Hektor (Hector) has led my mind astray with many deceptions (atês). He promised me . . .’" [N.B. Not personified.]
Sappho or Alcaeus, Fragment 25b (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric I) (Greek lyric C6th B.C.) :
"Insatiable (akopeston) Ate."
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 385 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Perverse Temptation (talaina peithô), the overmastering child of designing Destruction (atê), drives men on; and every remedy is futile. His evil is not hidden; it shines forth, a baleful gleam. Like base metal beneath the touchstone's rub, when tested he shows the blackness of his grain . . . and upon his people he brings a taint against which there is no defence. No god listens to his prayers. The man associated with such deeds, him they destroy in his unrighteousness. Such was Paris, who came to the house of the sons of Atreus [Menelaus] and dishonoured the hospitality of his host by stealing away a wedded wife [Helene (Helen)]."
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 763 ff :
"But an old Hybris (Hubris) tends to bring forth in evil men, sooner or later, at the fated hour of birth, a young hubris and that irresistible, unconquerable, unholy spirit (daimon), Thrasos (Recklessness), and for the household black Ates (Curses), which resemble their parents. But Dike (Righteousness) shines in smoke-begrimed dwellings and esteems the virtuous man."
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1227 ff :
"[Agamemnon] little knows what deeds shall be brought to evil accomplishment by the hateful hound [his wife Klytaimnestra (Clytemnestra)], whose tongue licked his hand, who stretched forth her ears in gladness, like treacherous (lathraios) Ate. Such boldness has she, a woman to slay a man."
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1431 ff :
"[Klytaimnestra (Clytemnestra) speaks after murdering her husband Agamemnon:] ‘Listen then to this too, this the righteous sanction on my oath : by Dike (Justice), exacted for my child [Iphigeneia who was sacrificed by Agamemnon], by Ate (Ruin), by the Erinys (Avenging Spirit), to whom I sacrificed that man.’"
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 382 ff :
"O Zeus, O Zeus, who send long-deferred retribution up from below [in the form of the Erinyes] onto the reckless (atê) and wicked deeds done by the hands of mortals."
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 462 ff :
"[Orestes and Elektra pray for their mother's death to avenge their murdered father :] A shudder steals over me as I hear these prayers. Doom has long been waiting, but it will come in answer to those who pray. Ah, inbred trouble and bloody stroke of Ate (Ruin) striking a discord! Ah, lamentable and grievous sorrows! Ah, the unstaunched pain! Our house has a cure to heal these woes, a cure not from outside, from the hands of others, but from itself, by fierce, bloody strife."
Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 949 ff :
"A trophy to Ate (Ruin or Folly) now stands at the gate where they [the brothers Eteokles (Eteocles) and Polyneikes (Polynices)] struck each other and where, having conquered them both, the divine power [the Erinys] stayed its hand."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 143 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Ilos [first king of the Trojan land] followed the cow, who came to what is now known as the crest of Phrygian Ate [i.e. where Ate landed after being cast from heaven by Zeus], where it lay down. He founded a polis there and called it Ilion [Troy]."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 817 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Hera addresses Thetis :] ‘Even the gods are sometimes visited by Ate (Delusion).’"
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 1. 752 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Not good it is for baser men to rail on kings, or secretly or openly; for wrathful retribution swiftly comes. Themis (the Lady of Justice) sits on high; and she who heapeth woe on woe on humankind, even Ate, punisheth the shameless tongue."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 36d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Panyasis, the epic poet [C5th B.C.], ascribes the first toast [of wine from a large Greek drinking cup] to the Kharites (Charites, Graces), the Horai (Horae), and Dionysos, the second to Aphrodite and Dionysos again, the third, however, to Hybris (Violence) and Ate (Ruin). He says : ‘The first portion fell to the lot of the Kharites and the merry Horai (Seasons), and to noisy Dionysos, the very gods who inspired the first round [of drinking]. For the next following Kyprogeneia (Cyprogenea) [Aphrodite] and Dionysos drew the lot. Here men great the greatest good from drinking wine. If a man, content with that, goes back home from the still pleasant feast, he can never meet with nay harm. But if he persist to the full measure of the third round and drink to excess, there rises the bitter doom of Hybris (Violence) and Ate (Ruin), with evils (kakoi) to men in their train. So then, good sir (for thou hast a proper measure of sweet drink), go to thy wedded wife and let they companions rest. For I fear, when that third sweet round is quaffed, that Hybris (Violence) may excite wrath in thy heart and crown a goodly entertainment with an evil end. Nay, obey, and cease from too much drinking.’
And continuing the subject of wine immoderately used, Panyassis says : ‘After the doom of Ate (Ruin) and Hybris (Violence) follows close upon the victim.’"
Seneca, Hercules Furens 90 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Hera rages against Herakles (Heracles) :] ‘Dost think that now thou hast escaped the Styx [i.e. the Underword] and the cruel ghosts? Here will I show thee infernal shapes. One in deep darkness buried, far down below the place of banishment of guilty souls, will I call up--the goddess Discordia (Discord) [Eris], whom a huge cavern, barred by a mountain, guards; I will bring her forth, and drag out from the deepest realm of Dis [Haides] whatever thou hast left; hateful Scelus (Crime) shall come and reckless Impietas (Impiety) [Dyssebia], stained with kindred blood, Error (Error) [Ate], and Furor (Mad Rage) [Lyssa], armed ever against itself--this, this be the minister of my smarting wrath!’"
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 11. 113 ff ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Hera in her vendetta against Dionysos sends Ate (Delusion) to persuade the god's young lover Ampelos to ride on the back of a bull and so bring about his death :]
Ate, the deathbringing spirit of Delusion, saw the bold youth [Ampelos] straying on the mountains away from Lyaios [Dionysos] during the hunt; and taking the charming form of one of his agemate boys, she addressed Ampelos with a coaxing deceitful speech--all to gratify the stepmother of Phrygian Dionysos [Hera].
‘Your friend, fearless boy, is called Dionysos for nothing! What honour have you got from your friendship? You do not guide the divine car of Lyaios (Lyaeus), you do not drive a panther! Your Bromios's chariot has fallen to Maron's lot, his hand manages the beast-ruling whip and the jewelstudded reins. What gift like that have you gotten from Lyaios of the thyrsus? The Panes have their cithern and their melodious tootling pipes; the Satyroi (Satyrs) have the roundrattling tomtom from your patron Dionysos; even the mountainranging Bassarides ride on the backs of lions. What gifts have you received worthy of your love, you, loved for nothing by Bakkhos (Bacchus) the driver of panthers? . . . Now my boy, look here: but you are still kept waiting for the chariot, so just refuse to drive a nervous colt on the road . . . Come this way, do, to the herd, where are the clear-piping drovers and lovely cattle--get on a bull [the boy was destined to die riding the back of a bull], and I will make you conspicuous on his back as the man who can ride a wild bull! Then your bull-body king Dionysos will applaud you more loudly, if he sees you with a bull between your knees! There is nothing to fear in such a run; Europa was a female, a young girl, and she had a ride on bull-back, held tight to the horn and asked for no reins.’
This appeal persuaded him, and the goddess flew up into the air [her task completed]."
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Panyassis, Fragments - Greek Epic C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric I Alcaeus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Greek Lyric I Sappho, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Agamemnon - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Libation Bearers - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
Other references not currently quoted here: Plato Symposium 195d, Empedocles 121.4, Tzetzes on Lycophron 29.