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Atë, Até or Aite (// or UK: //; Ancient Greek: ἄτη) is the Greek goddess of mischief, delusion, ruin, and folly. Até also refers to the action performed by a hero, usually because of hubris, that often leads to their death or downfall. Mythology personifies Atë as the daughter either of Zeus or of Eris.
Homer's Iliad (Book 19) depicts Atë as the eldest daughter of Zeus (with no mother mentioned). On Hera's instigation, Atë used her influence over Zeus so that he swore an oath that on that day a great mortal man descended from him would be born (brought into the light by Eileithyia, goddess of "birth-pangs"), who would become lord of all men who dwell about him (the Argives). Hera immediately arranged to delay the birth of Heracles to Alcmene and bring forth Eurystheus prematurely (to whom Heracles would later become subject), born to Nicippe (unnamed), wife of Sthenelus. In anger Zeus flung Atë by her hair down to earth, from the starry heavens, forever forbidding her return to Mt. Olympus and heaven (the starry sky). Atë then wandered about, treading on the heads of men rather than on the earth, wreaking havoc and delusion amongst mortals.
The Litae ("Prayers") follow after her, but Atë is fast and far outruns them.
The Bibliotheca (3.143) claims that when thrown down by Zeus, Atë landed on a peak in Phrygia called by her name. There Ilus later, following a cow, founded the city of Ilion, known as Troy. This flourish is chronologically at odds with Homer's dating of Atë's fall.
In Nonnus' Dionysiaca (11.113), at Hera's instigation Atë persuades the boy Ampelus whom Dionysus passionately loves, to impress Dionysus by riding on a bull from which Ampelus subsequently falls and breaks his neck.
In the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare introduces the goddess Atë as an invocation of vengeance and menace. Mark Antony, lamenting Caesar's murder, envisions:
"And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Atë' by his side come hot from Hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war ...
Shakespeare also mentions her in the play Much Ado About Nothing, when Benedick says, referring to Beatrice,
"Come, talk not of her. You shall find her the
infernal Atë in good apparel ...
So too, in King John, Shakespeare refers to Queen Eleanor as "An Ate stirring [John] to blood and strife" (2.1.63), and in Love's Labours Lost Birone jeers "Pompey is moved. More Ates, more Ates! stir them on! stir them on!" (5.2. 688-9).
- Atsma, Aaron J. "Ate". Theoi Greek Mythology. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
- Tuchman, B., The March of Folly, p. 47, Alfred A. Knopf, 1984
- Calasso, Roberto – The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
- E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, University of California Press.
- Grimal, Pierre, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 978-0-631-20102-1. "Ate" p. 65
- Hesiod's Theogony
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Ate"