Jupiter’s claim to a Bay of Gibraltar temple raises Zeus’ hackles
…and the Father of the Gods ponders the reality of Political Correctness
‘Do we still have any relevance in this day and age?’ Zeus wondered aloud, staring at the fumes and flames of the Cepsa refinery less than a small thunderbolt’s throw from the balcony of the Ocean Village penthouse which was the Olympian gods’ new home in Gibraltar. ‘When was the last time that anyone called for our intercession in mortal affairs?’ he continued. ‘Occasionally tourists have poured libations at the temple on Olympus – probably still do – but these were gestures, little more than something to amuse their companions. It’s at least a couple of centuries since a mortal took me seriously… when that English poet with a floppy tie and long hair – Lord Bryon, I think his name was – visited Olympia. He understood the concepts of god-head and its power, though I could never grasp what his endless rhymes and iambic pentameters meant.
Even the games, held originally to honour us, have become a hostage to human politics, and sullied by cheating and scandals of drug abuse. I’m beginning to wonder whether there’s any point to being immortal…’ his morose soliloquy tailed off.
Hera shook her head sadly. How Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle – whom Zeus had loathed for their questioning of his powers – would have laughed at these semi-philosophical musings and doubts. Heavens knew when they had started, but they had surfaced during the visit to their Roman relatives, the Jupiter family – exiled eons earlier from the Eternal City by Emperor Constantine to a hill-side village near Florence; a village noted today as the site of countless Vespa scooter rallies – its godly inhabitants ignored.
Though Zeus had grumbled about the family’s decision to quit the ancestral clouds and marbles of Olympus – escaping Greece’s ailing economy and the tide of transient refugees – he had quickly adjusted to their new home on the Rock; had taken enthusiastically to a diet of fish and chips which he believed to be the local cuisine; and had clearly enjoyed the new comforts of 21st century living. He had soon tired of tormenting the apes which were their neighbours a-top the Rock. And he had been happier than she had seen him for many centuries.
But all this had changed during the Italian visit. A morose change which hinged on two simple words ‘political’ and ‘correct’…sometimes abbreviated as ‘PC’. Jupiter had used the phrase in describing public reaction to the Emperor Constantine’s imperial edict that the old Roman gods should be abandoned. And it had prompted a long – and in Zeus’ case soul-searching – discussion.
‘Suddenly everything we represented was tainted, wrong,’ Jupiter had said. ‘And some of those mortals who might have spoken up in our defence remained silent for fear of incurring imperial displeasure, while others were similarly dumb in case they offended someone who had taken up the new faith.
‘Of course that wasn’t the first time that we’d been side-lined,’ the Italian pater familias had admitted, sinking his third goblet of Amaretto. ‘Several of Constantine’s predecessors declared themselves to be gods, and were worshipped as such… but they coexisted in parallel with ourselves. Roman families retained their individual Lares et Penares, the household deities which linked them personally to each of us. And these remained beyond the reach of imperial edicts…
‘Then there were the sects. At times, followers of the Bacchantes and Vestal Virgins even outnumbered my congregations – though their temples and statues never outshone mine. I believe they even built a temple in Carteia on the other side of the bay where you Olympians are living now, though I never visited it myself,’ he added smugly.
The mention of ‘statues’ had already set Zeus seething, and the reference to the temple near the hated Cepsa oil refinery brought his ire to the boil. Claims by some classical historians that the massive statue by Phidias, the sculptor and architect of the Acropolis, was of Jupiter rather than Zeus had infuriated him. And though Jupiter had never claimed that one of the ancient world’s seven wonders represented him, neither had he denied it – an omission enough to widen the chasm between the Roman pantheon and that of Olympus. A rift that had lingered down the ages, and one which this visit had begun to bridge.
While Zeus gave no sign of the anger his host’s remark had provoked, Hera, with millennia of experience of her husband’s moods, sensed the undercurrent and a probable eruption which, almost certainly, would not only ruin their holiday but fatally damage the new accord between the two celestial families.
‘It seems to me that political correctness is being distorted by this new social bogeyman of sexual equality. It’s getting out of hand,’ she said in an attempt to draw the conversation away from statues and temples.
And succeeded. ‘Shouldn’t that be “bogeywoman”,’ Zeus chortled, annoyance temporarily shelved, but not forgotten,
‘Well, the way that PC has come to control so much of mortal behaviour beggars belief, and I sometimes wonder why we bother about their affairs – particularly as we no longer use our powers to intervene and are nothing more than observers. The old ways were the best…’ Zeus tailed off vaguely.
Juno pointed to the latest British folly combining political correctness with the equality of the sexes in which a Chief Constable – whatever that was – had insisted that women be allowed to sing in what was a traditional male voice choir.
Like most of the Olympian family – other than Athena, who had embraced an aggressive feminism – Hera, the most traditional and conservative of all, considered mortal claims to sexual equality both idiotic and illogical. She believed that in spite of the antics of some of her daughters, a goddess’ place was in the home, in the kitchen, and attending to the needs of her male counterpart.
The celestial conversation drifted away from political correctness and sexual warfare. But, later, in the Jupiters’ guest-room – a conversion of the bath-house forming part of the old Roman theatre at Feosola – Zeus vented his irritation over his host’s claim to the temple in Carteia near the refinery.
‘Now that’s political correctness at its worst,’ he announced, without heed to sense or logic. ‘It’s got nothing to do with politics or what is right or wrong. It‘s all about jealousy… the hoi polloi are envious of their betters, of their status and their pleasures, and want to drag them down to their own miserable levels.
And on their uncomfortable easyJet return to the Rock, Zeus had returned to this argument time and time again, like a tongue feeling out an uncomfortable tooth. Now he had come back to it again. Hera sighed. The reality was that, although he was wrong in condemning Jupiter for ‘political correctness’, he was probably right about the hoi polloi.
Look at the fuss the lesser mortals had made about fox-hunting and the fur trade….