Re: The three fates

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 25 1997 - 06:32:44 EST

At 11:32 PM -0600 2/24/97, David McKay wrote:
>25th February, 1997
>How is your Greek mythology? My colleague, Karen, is an art teacher, and
>has a student who wants to know what were the three fates. Can anyone help,
>or point me in the right direction, please?

This is not really a B-Greek question inasmuch as it has nothing to do with
either the LXX or the GNT. Any good dictionary should give you the basic
info under "Fates," but you'll find more in mythological dictionaries or in
the Oxford Classical Dictionary under "Fates" or "Moirae." The traditional
conception is that there were three Fates, aged women, spinning woollen
threads of individuals' destinies. The word MOIRAI actually means
"portions" or "apportioners" (this was the original sense also of the word
DAIMONES, whence comes our English word "demons" with its very varied and
fuzzy range of meanings. The names of the MOIRAI in tradition are Clotho
(KLWQW), who spins the threads of individual destinies, Lachesis (LACESIS),
who measures the threads to their proper length, and Atropos (ATROPOS), who
cuts them. There are numerous representations in literary works; one
powerful one is in Catullus 64, where the Fates are present at the wedding
of Peleus and Thetis and sing out the implications of the birth of Achilles
to the pair now being married; they are described vividly there in the way
that they are most commonly pictured in tradition. A much older,
fascinating description of their activity in the myth of Plato in Book 10
of the Republic, where we have a heavily-symbolic account of an
eschatological death and rebirth into a new life that is not without
significant analogies to the Christian theological conception of spiritual

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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