On Fortune- 68° Delphic Law

68) Recognize fortune (Τυχην νομιζε)

Pindar says: ““Daughter of Zeus Eleutherios (Liberator), Tyche our savior goddess.” while Orpheus calls Her the daughter of Eubouleos. Pausanias informs us that: “”Homer is the first whom I know to have mentioned Tyche in his poems. He did so in the Hymn to Demeter, where he enumerates the daughters of Okeanos, telling how they played with Kore, the daughter of Demeter, and making Tyche one of them.” Beautifully, an anonymous poet celebrates Her: “Tyche, beginning and end for mankind, you sit in Sophia’s (Wisdom’s) seat and give honor to mortal deeds; from you comes more good than evil, grace shines about your gold wing, and what the scale of your balance gives is the happiest; you see a way out of the impasse in troubles, and you bring bright light in darkness, you most excellent of gods.”

A powerful Goddess who loves different and unpredictable ways, and permanently offers instructive examples to those who neither know nor expect the incredible changes which She can effect. For Tyche is one of the mightiest divinities: beauty and good reputation are in Tyche’s keeping, and even success in love depends on Fortune. In fact, all believe that most things depend on Her, including such cardinal things as health, wealth, power, good marriage, and lovely children. All situations advise to use the prosperity which Fortune gives for the benefit of other human beings, and never waste it in barbarous savagery. Those who act in such a ruinous way have no right to blame Fortune later, or to become Her suppliants. For suppliants are called those who have found Fortune unkind, but still are pure in heart, and not those who have suffered serious defeats because of their own wickedness and greed.

In most of Her representations She is barely distinguishable from Demeter: the crown, cornucopia and Ploutos-child being common attributes of both Goddesses. Indeed Lady Fortune often appears to be merely an aspect of the Goddess Demeter (Her early connection with the fecundity of the soil is remarkable in this). The figure of this Goddess has nothing to do with capricious and incomprehensible chance: tyche theôn “destiny sent by the Gods”; tyche daimonos, “heaven-sent good-fortune”, which all suggest divine dispensation and Providence. What comes by Tyche is unforeseeable and mysterious, but it is managed by divine providence and will, not by random chance. Since everything happens as ordained, the Theologians of Hellas also thought that they could call the soul of the world “Necessity” (Ananke), and since the operations of this order are unforeseen and unexpected, they came to the idea that Necessity could be called also Fortune. That is how the soul of the world, Providence, Ananke, and Tyche came to be identified and regarded as different denominations of one and the same thing.

Tyche stood apart from the traditional Gods of the polis and came to be venerated as an omnipresent (i.e., “universal” or pantheistic), and cosmological deity: “It is Fortune’s intelligence that steers the world.” Polybios makes it clear, reflecting on the words of Demetrius of Phalerum: “For if you take into consideration not an endless expanse of time nor even many generations, but rather only the last fifty years, you should be able to understand from them the harshness of Fortune. For do you think that the Persians, or the king of the Persians, or the King of the Macedonians, even if one of the Gods had prophesied the future for them, would ever have believed that the very name of the Persians would have vanished utterly- they who were the masters of the world- and that the Macedonians, whose name was scarcely known earlier, would now rule over all? But since this is the case, it seems to me now that Tyche, who makes no treaties with this human life of ours, who devises all sorts of new twists to confound our calculations, and who shows her power in completely unexpected ways, is demonstrating to all men, by settling on the Macedonians the prosperity that had once belonged to the Persians, that she has merely lent them these blessings until such time as she decides to do something else with them.”

Thus, from all the above considerations, comes perfectly the statement of Pausanias: “I am not in the least surprised, as I know that heaven is always willing something new, and likewise that all things, strong or weak, increasing or decreasing, are being changed by Fortune, who drives them with imperious necessity according to her whim.” It is known that arrogant people are hated among Gods and men, and for that reason it has been considered adequate to be humble in front of this Goddess, abstaining from acts that go beyond man’s powers. For neither wisdom nor strength can prevail over Tyche, who works swift changes in the prosperity of men, showing that those who become elated above measure, give proof of their own weakness in the next turn, when She heaps upon them whatever calamities She may judge appropriate. What lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, cannot be possessed by man, and therefore everything should be surrendered to the real owners, who are Fortune and the Gods.

Here Fortune: I invoke you with prayers, good, controlling one,
mild, protectress of the roads, for the happy goods,
Artemis who guide, of great name, born
from the blood of Eubouleos, who have unsurpassable glory,
sepulchral, ever moving, praised by men.
In you indeed the life of the mortals is always varied:
because to some you prepare abundance much filled with goods,
to the others bad poverty stirring wrath in the heart.
But, Goddess, I beg you to come favourable to life,
full of riches for the happy goods.

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