Sing, Muse, with your high clear voice
Of Kastor and Polydukes.
The sons of Tyndraeus,
Fathered of Olympian Zeus.
Brought into being august Leda
Below the crest of Taygetes.
With treachery she was subdued
Cloud shrouded son of Kronous.
Hail! Sons of Tyndraeus
Riders of swift horses.
Damazo - a transliteration of the Greek word used in this hymn to
describe Zeus stealthy conquest of Leda. This word also is used to
describe the taming of a horse, the submission of a young wife, it is
also used to describe the captured enemy, or the young men in society
who do not yet have authority. Many more coy translations will use
some sort of euphemism. Or better some sort of self censorship. But we
should call a spade a spade or in this case let us call a rapist a
rapist. We are all familiar with the story of Zeus in the guise of a
swan 'seducing' the Lacedamonian queen Leda. Most laws in the modern
world see using disguise to have sex means that consent can not be
given, and therefore can be prosecuted as rape.
After this event the story becomes more confused, and unpleasant. One
tradition has it that Leda went home and made love (was this a case of
spousal rape?) to her husband Tyndraeus. From this Leda 'gave birth'
to an egg. Adding to the confusion. Most agree that after this day
Leda 'gave birth' to an egg. Some traditions say this egg was only
with the Dioskouri, others that it also contained the sisters as well,
Helen and Klytaemnestra. This explains the strange situation in the
poem where the Disokouri are described as beings sons of Zeus, as well
being sons of Tyndraeus.
The Disokouri were popular heros among the ancient Greeks, as they are
shown as being friends and protectors of mortals. They often appear to
sailors as St. Elmo's Fire, or to landlubbers as bees. In this hymn
they are described as being riders of swift horses. The brothers, who
still exist in our culture as the foundation of the zodiac symbol
Gemini, were very popular. So much that many families would leave
plates set at the table for the twin sons of the son of Kronos.
The tale of Leda and the Swan has been popular with artists, which is
why I was able to find a Cezanne painting of the rape, and well a
including this link to a Yeats poem on theme. Of course Yeats is
better able to tell this story than my own poor efforts.