In Greek mythology, Peitho (Ancient Greek: Πειθώ, romanized: Peithō, lit. 'Persuasion') is the goddess who personifies persuasion and seduction. Her Roman name is Suada or Suadela. She was typically presented as an important companion of Aphrodite. Her opposite is Bia, the personification of force. As a personification, she was sometimes imagined as a goddess and sometimes an abstract force; her name was used both as a common and proper noun. There is evidence that Peitho was referred to as a goddess before she was referred to as an abstract concept, which is rare for a personification. Peitho represented both sexual and political persuasion.
Peitho's ancestry is unclear, as various authors provide different identities for her parents. Hesiod in the Theogony identifies Peitho as the daughter of the Titans Tethys and Oceanus, which would make her an Oceanid and the sister of notable goddesses such as Dione, Doris, and Metis. Other sources, such as lyric poet Sappho, state she was the daughter of Aphrodite. Aeschylus identifies her as the daughter of Aphrodite in Suppliant Women (Hiketides), but also describes her as the child of Ate in Agamemnon. Nonnus in his Dionysiaca describes the Charities as including Peitho, Pasithea, and Aglaia, all three of them daughters of Dionysus and Aphrodite. The Hellenistic era elegiac poet Hermesianax also refers to Peitho as one of the Charities. Alcman describes her as the daughter of Prometheus.
Nonnus lists Peitho as the wife of Hermes, the messenger of the gods. However, commentary on Euripides Orestes noted that Peitho is the first wife of Phoroneus, and the mother of Aegialeus and Apia. Another Argive tradition describes her instead as the wife of Argos, Phoroneus's grandson. The Suda states that she was the mother of Iynx, however, the text also gives her parents as Ekho and Pan.
Peitho plays a limited role in mythology, mainly appearing with or as a companion of Aphrodite.
A fragment by Ibycus describes Euryalus being nursed by Aphrodite and Peitho, described as tendered eyed (aganoblepharos), among rose blossoms. She is also described as the nurse of the baby Erotes.
Nonnus gives her a role within the marriage of Kadmos and Harmonia, as she appears to Kadmos in the form of a mortal slave and covers Kadmos in a mist to lead him unseen to the palace of Electra, Harmonia's foster mother, on Samothrace. Peitho often appears on a 5th century epinetron by the Eretria Painter depicting Harmonia’s bridal preparations with Aphrodite, Eros, Persephone (Kore), Hebe, and Himeros. She was also depicted in art at the weddings for Dionysus and Ariadne, Alkestis and Admetos, Thetis and Peleus, and at the union of Aphrodite and Adonis. A hydria Meidias Painter shows Peitho fleeing from the scene of the abduction of the Leukippidai by the Dioskuri, indicating either that she persuaded the women into eloping or that she does not condone the marriage by Athenian standards.
When Zeus ordered the creation of the first woman, Pandora, it was Peitho and the Charites who put golden necklaces around her neck, and the rich-haired Horai (Seasons) crowned Pandora's head with spring flowers. Extravagant jewelry, particularly necklaces, viewed with suspicion in Ancient Greek literature, as it was typically seen as a way for women to seduce men, making the necklace a way to enhance Pandora’s sexual attractiveness and persuasive abilities.
In art, Peitho is often represented with Aphrodite during the abduction of Helen, symbolizing the forces persuasion and love at work during the scene. Her presence at the event may be interpreted as either Paris needing persuasion to claim Helen as a prize for choosing Aphrodite, or Helen needing to be persuaded to accompany him to Troy, as Helen's level of agency became a popular topic of discussion in the 5th century. Peitho's presence brings the question of whether mortals have the ability to resist her power or whether they are bound to her persuasive abilities.
Cult and FunctionEdit
In her role as an attendant or companion of Aphrodite, Peitho was intimately connected to the goddess of love and beauty. Peitho was associated with marriage, as a suitor or his father had to negotiate with the father of a young woman for her hand in marriage and offer a bridal price in return for her. The most desirable women drew many prospective suitors, and persuasive skill often determined the suitor's success. Plutarch includes her on a list of five deities for new couples to pray to, included also are Zeus (Teleios), Hera (Teleia), Aphrodite, and Artemis.
Aphrodite and Peitho were sometimes conflated, more commonly in the later periods, with the name Peitho appearing in conjunction with or as an epithet of Aphrodite's name. This helps to demonstrate how the relationship between persuasion and love (or desire) was important in Greek culture. She is also identified with Tyche in Suppliant Women (Hiketides). Despite her connection to Aphrodite in Athens, Peitho was more commonly associated with Artemis over Aphrodite in the Peloponnese, with the two goddesses either sharing a temple Artemis at Argos or Peitho being an epithet for Artemis. At Argos, this temple was also shared with Hypermestra, who was acquitted in trial of a case brought by her father, as she was the only Danaid who did not murder her husband on her wedding night as per he father's orders. With this association, Peitho is connected to persuasive speech generally as opposed to just seductive persuasion.
Peitho was an important figure for emphasising civic harmony, particularly in Athens and Argos, and harmony within interpersonal relationships. Notably in Athens, the unification (synoikismos) of the city by Theseus was only possible with the intervention of both Aphrodite and Peitho to create democratic spirit and cooperation. In Argos, she was paired with the early kings of the city, functioning as a civic unifier in a similar role as Harmonia, the first Queen of Thebes. Plutarch outlines Peitho’s role in interpersonal harmony in Moralia, where he states that persuasion’s role within a marriage is so that spouses can achieve their wants without quarreling. In Eumenides, Athena thanks Peitho after convincing the Furies of her reasoning in acquitting Orestes and successfully defusing the strife. However, Peitho may be a destructive force when used for seduction or selfish personal gains, such as in Agamemnon where Clytemnestra curses Peitho for Paris’s stealing of Helen, and she uses persuasion convince Cassandra to enter the house in order to murder her.
Pausanias reports that after the unification (synoikismos) of Athens, Theseus set up a cult of Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho on the south slope of Acropolis of Athens. In recognition of this myth, both goddesses were worshipped in the Attic Aphrodisia Festival. Peitho was worshipped as the goddess of both sexual and rhetorical persuasion in Athens from the 4th century into the Roman Imperial era, the time of Pausanias’s writing. However, some scholars believe it is possible that worship dates to the 6th century, but there is not strong evidence for this assertion. A votive inscription to Peitho was found at the site of the Temple of Aphrodite, reinforcing the link between these goddesses at Athens. The Theatre of Dionysus had seat reserved for the priestess of Peitho. Rhetorician Isocrates notes in Section 249 of Antidosis that sacrifices are made to Peitho annually.
Peitho was an important figure to Athenian rhetoricians in 5th century and was considered an important figure for human affairs, as persuasion was a major component to rhetoric. Persuasion was considered essential for the democratic state's success.
Pindar refers to courtesans and prostitutes in Corinth as the servants of Peitho, however, he does not elaborate on whether there was any cults associated with Peitho in the city nor whether courtesans had a particular reverence for the goddess.
According to Pausanias, Peitho had also a sanctuary and a cult at Sicyon and Argos. He also describes an image decorating the throne at the Temple of Zeus at Olympia where Aphrodite, rising from the sea, greeted by Eros and crowned by Peitho. There is also evidence that Peitho had cults in Paros, Thasos, and Lesbos.
- Marsh, Charles (2015). "The Strange Case of the Goddess Peitho: Classical Antecedents of Public Relations Ambivalence Toward Persuasion". Journal of Public Relations Research. 27 (3): 229–243. doi:10.1080/1062726X.2015.1024249 – via Taylor & Francis Group.
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