τμῆμα 119 τοῦ Ἡρακλείτου:

ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων

"A man's character is his fate."


Zefs and Destiny in Hellenismos

Destiny or Fate is under the dominion of Zefs (Ζεύς), who is called by his epithet ýpatos (ὕπατος), supreme and highest; therefore, to understand Destiny, which is under the control of the highest deity, is most important in Ællînismόs (Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion. This idea is well expressed by the words of Akhilléfs (Ἀχιλλεύς) to King Príamos (Πρίαμος) of Troy from the Ἰλιὰς Ὁμήρου:

"…on the floor of Jove's (ed. Zefs) palace there stand two urns, the one filled with evil gifts, and the other with good ones. He for whom Jove the lord of thunder mixes the gifts he sends, will meet now with good and now with evil fortune; but he to whom Jove sends none but evil gifts will be pointed at by the finger of scorn, the hand of famine will pursue him to the ends of the world, and he will go up and down the face of the earth, respected neither by Gods nor men. Even so did it befall Peleus; the Gods endowed him with all good things from his birth upwards, for he reigned over the Myrmidons excelling all men in prosperity and wealth, and mortal though he was they gave him a Goddess for his bride. But even on him too did heaven send misfortune, for there is no race of royal children born to him in his house, save one son who is doomed to die all untimely; nor may I take care of him now that he is growing old, for I must stay here at Troy to be the bane of you and your children.” [1]

The Orphic hymn To the Fates states that destiny is known only to Zefs and the Mírai (Moirai or Moerae, Μοῖραι), even the other deathless Gods do not know it:

Μοῖρα γὰρ ἐν βιότῳ καθορᾷ μόνον, οὐδέ τις ἄλλος

ἀθανάτων, οἳ ἔχουσι κάρη νιφόεντος Ὀλύμπου,

καὶ Διὸς ὄμμα τέλειον· ἐπεί γ’ ὅσα γίγνεται ἡμῖν,

Μοῖρά τε καὶ Διὸς οἶδε νόος διὰπαντὸς ἅπαντα.

For in life Fate alone can clearly see, but not the other

Immortals, who reign on the peak of snowy Ólymbos (Olympus),

none but Zefs' unblemished eye. Because all of what happens to us,

is known completely by Fate and the mind of Zefs. [2]

The fact that destiny is known to Zefs should not be confused with the Augustinian and Calvinist Christian ideas concerning predestination. In our religion, the concept of "damnation" is nonsensical. The souls of all beings consist of the same substance as that of the Gods and, therefore, partake in their goodness. The concern of Zefs is the progress of souls and the harmonic concordance of the Kózmos (Κόσμος). He is not choosing who is to be saved and who is to be doomed, but, rather, he is affecting the best possible life such that we can progress, regardless as to how that life may appear to us. Also, as outlined below, we have a role in our own destiny and we partake with considerable freedom.

The concept of Destiny in Ællinismόs has aspects that bear some similarity to the Buddhist or Hindu idea of karma, yet there are subtleties which make the Greek conception a bit different, more nuanced and complete.

There are three Hellenic words, each of which have been translated as "destiny," but each of these words has a specific meaning:

The Three Pillars of Destiny

1) Anángi, Khrónos, and Míra

The word míra (moira, μοίρα) is defined as degree, like the degrees of a circle. It is one's current position in destiny. Míra is a common word meaning part or portion. Therefore, Míra is one's allotted part or portion of life; it is where we sit in relationship to the whole.

Míra is controlled by Zefs (Ζεύς) who in this role is known by the epithet Mirayǽtis (Μοιραγέτης). It is in this capacity that Zefs knows the affairs of mortals, what is or is not fated to them.

Zefs Mirayǽtis has dominion over Míra in partnership with the Mírai (Moirai or Moerae, Μοῖραι), the Fates, those Goddesses who control destiny. The Mírai are the daughters of Anángî (Ἀνάγκη) [3]. Anángî is Necessity, the most powerful force of the Kózmos. Anángî is in partnership with Khrónos (Χρόνος) who is Time and is sometimes called her father. They are depicted in iconography as a snake wrapped around the Kózmic Egg, which is symbolic of the whole of creation. It should be evident from their titles alone that we are dealing with vast primordial powers inherent in the universe.

The partnership of the Mírai with Zefs is entirely dependent on his will. He is their leader. He presides over the Mírai and, if he chooses, he can reverse or rescue a mortal from his destiny. Being direct minions of Zefs, the Mírai have oracular ability necessary for their function: they know future events.

The Mírai are known in English as the Fates. They are:

Láhæsis (Lachesis, Λάχεσις [Latin: Decuma])

Klôthóh (Clotho, Κλωθώ [Latin: Nona])

Átropos (Ἄτροπος [Latin: Morta]).

In Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου, Isíodos (Ἡσίοδος) says that the Mírai are the daughters of Zefs and Thǽmis (Θέμις) [4], but earlier in the poem he calls them the daughters of Nyx (Night, Νύξ) with no father [5]. The Orphic hymn to the Mírai calls them daughters of Nyx [6].

Láhæsis is the Apportioner who measures the thread of life for each person. Klôthóh is the Spinner who spins the thread of life. Átropos the Inflexible cuts the thread, i.e. death. Thus, the Mírai are Goddesses intimately involved with birth, the duration of life, and death.

"The saying that Lachesis or the giver of the lots is the first of them, and that Clotho or the spinster is the second of them, and that Atropos or the unchanging one is the third of them; and that she is the preserver of the things which we have spoken, and which have been compared in a figure to things woven by fire, the both (i.e. Atropos and the fire) producing the quality of unchangeableness. I am speaking of the things which in a state and government give not only health and salvation to the body, but law, or rather preservation of the law, in the soul..." [7]

Also included as one of the Mírai is Týhi (Tyche, Τύχη) [7], the Goddess of chance and fortune:

"Approach strong Fortune, with propitious mind

And rich abundance, to my pray'r inclin'd:

Placid, and gentle Trivia, mighty nam'd,

Imperial Dian, born of Pluto fam'd;

Mankind's unconquer'd, endless praise is thine,

Sepulch'ral, widely-wand'ring pow'r divine!

In thee, our various mortal life is found,

And some from thee in copious wealth abound;

While others mourn thy hand averse to bless,

In all the bitterness of deep distress.

Be present, Goddess, to thy vot'ry kind,

And give abundance with benignant mind." [8]

She is referred to by Píndaros (Πίνδαρος) as a daughter of Zefs the Liberator. Týhi is represented as guiding the affairs of the world.

"Daughter of Zeus the Deliverer (Ælefthæréfs, i.e. 'he who frees')! thou saving Goddess, Fortune! I pray thee to keep watch around Himera (ed. an ancient city of Sicily); for, at thy bidding, swift ships are steered upon the sea, and speedy decisions of war and counsels of the people are guided on the land. Verily, the hopes of men are tossed, now high, now low, as they cleave the treacherous sea of fancies vain. But never yet hath any man on earth found a sure token sent from heaven to tell him how he shall fare in the future, but warnings of events to come are wrapped in gloom." [9]

There is yet another aspect of Míra, the brother of the Mírai who is known as Móros (Μόρος). Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου calls him a son of Nyx, with no father mentioned, and he describes his sister and brother as types of death:

"And Night (Νὺξ) bare hateful Doom (Μόρος) and black Fate (ed. the Goddess Κήρ, violent death) and Death (Θάνατος; ed. a more natural death [?])..." [10]

Móros is called Doom, and he seems to be the destiny of one's death, or perhaps, simply one's destiny, which may be difficult for one to accept, but, according to Aishýlos (Αἰσχύλος), the mighty Titán (Τιτάν) and great friend of mankind, Promîthéfs (Προμηθεύς), provided for us a gentle gift:

Promîthéfs: Through me mankind ceased to foresee death (μόρος).

Leader of the Chorus: What remedy could heal that sad disease?

Promîthéfs: Blind hopes I made to dwell in them.

Leader of the Chorus: O merciful boon for mortals. [11]

The following two aspects of Fate are similar to the Asian idea of karma, a word which simply means "action." Karma is a much misunderstood term; it simply refers to the cause and effect resulting from any action. The Greeks divide cause-and-effect into two, that referring to the effects resulting from past action, and that referring to one's current life and how one's actions effect the future:

2) Pæprômǽnî (Πεπρωμένη) Pæprômǽnî refers to that which has already occurred and how it reflects on the present and the future.

3) Eimarmǽnî (Εἱμαρμένη) Eimarmǽnî is the path one takes in life, the choices one makes, and how this reflects on the future. The nature of Eimarmǽnî allows for a certain flexibility in Míra, that our character, will, and actions have the ability, to some degree, to alter our Fate.


[1] Ἰλιὰς Ὁμήρου 24.525-540, trans. Samuel Butler 1898.

[2] ὕμνος Ὀρφέως 59.11-14, trans. by the author.

[3] Πολιτεία Πλάτωνος (The Republic) 617c.

[4] Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 901-905:

"Next he (ed. Zefs) married bright Themis who bare the Horai (Hours), and Eunomia (Order), Dike (Justice), and blooming Eirene (Peace), who mind the works of mortal men, and the Moirai (Fates) to whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honour, Clotho, and Lachesis, and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have."

(trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914)

This parentage is also confirmed in Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου 1.3.1:

"By Themis, daughter of Sky, he had daughters, the Seasons, to wit, Peace, Order, and Justice; also the Fates, to wit, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropus..."

(trans. J. G. Frazer, 1921)

[5] Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 217-222:

"Also she (ed. Nyx) bare the Destinies and ruthless avenging Fates, Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to have, and they pursue the transgressions of men and of Gods: and these Goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty.."

(trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914)

[6] ὕμνος Ὀρφέως 59.1-2:

"Daughters of darling Night, much nam'd, draw near,

Infinite Fates, and listen to my pray'r;..."

(trans. Thomas Taylor, 1792)

[7] Νόμοι Πλάτωνος (The Laws) Book 12.960e-d, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.

[8] ὕμνος Ὀρφέως 72, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1792.

[9] Ὀλυμπιονῖκαι Πινδάρου Ode 12.1, trans. Sir J. E. Sandys, 1915.

[10] Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 211-213, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914.

[11] Προμηθεὺς Δεσμώτης Αἰσχύλου 250-253, trans. Paul Elmer More, 1899.

For terms related to Destiny, please visit this page: GLOSSARY OF DESTINY

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology , the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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