Most of BwP's page views come from search engine queries. Now and then I click on a referrer to see what the surfer was looking for. Most of the time the search string runs along the lines of the story of pandora. But now and then I find queries that would make good BwP questions. I call these "found" questions. I found two recently. Here is the first:
did medea go to heaven
In a previous post I wrote about Medea as a hero-- that is, someone who is "outstanding," or set apart from normal human life. From this perspective, Medea did go to heaven, as a person whose power and status rivals that of the gods. Euripides, the tragedian, shows that power at the end of his drama Medea by having the sorceress from the Black Sea appear on top of the stage building (the normal place of gods in Greek tragedy) in a chariot pulled by dragons.
But if the surfer is asking whether Medea received immortality among the gods, the answer is not as far as we know. We know very little about her death. Barry Powell, the author of Classical Myth, writes, "There are no traditions about Medea's death; perhaps she never died. According to one story, she married Achilles in the Elysian Fields."
"Never died" may be going a little far.
Bernard Safran, whose cover portraits for Time magazine are his most-recognized work, captures perfectly Medea's "heavenly" quality in the background of his "Medea," seen at the top left of this post.
Light pours from a source to the left and right of the be-pearled matron's head, giving her a kind of halo or aura.
At the same time another source of light-- like a photographer's lamp--sheds on Medea herself and her sons, as if for a normal family portrait.
The dual lighting suggests Medea' s status as goddesslike and human at the same time. She is not "heavenly" like the Virgin Mary: the clouds which ring the backlight define and restrict it. Medea resembles a goddess, but doesn't attain that "always happy" (makarios in Greek) status. At the same time, the front lighting is harsh, bringing out mottling of skin tone; wrinkles; veins and tendons. So we're not looking at a Glamor Shots photo or even the oil portrait of a successful CEO's wife.
Like Medea's life, the painting is cloudy, full of doubt and irony. I love that Safran has made Medea into a modern-day woman. I think of the Medea of the original story as much younger-- she was a teenager when she met her husband Jason-- and much more beautiful, of course. Princesses are supposed to be beautiful. But this woman commands attention. Safran has "gotten" Medea without having to make her ancient Greek.
I hope my "found" question surfer will return to retrieve his or her answer. In the meantime, you can submit your own questions at teenage underscore heroes at yahoo dot com.
(painting ["Medea"] courtesy collection of Bernard Safran)