In my series, the title given to the bull-god, the sacred king. He was, as far as I can tell, the precursor to Zeus, although later myths say he was the son of Zeus.
Carl Kerényi has a whole chapter on Zagreus in Dionysos, Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, which of course I won’t repeat in its entirety here. The highlights:
page 113: “The Cretans of the Greek period spoke of a Zeus of their own, stressing the Cretan mythologem of his birth by the use of the epithet “Kretogenes,” “he who was born in Crete.” By this they meant the god born in a Cretan setting that included the cave. If we drop the Greek names “Zeus” and “Dionysos,” there remains the great anonymous snake god who, according to the late testimony of Himerios, held his marriage “in Cretan caves.”
“Less archaic than the seduction by a snake was the universally known myth of the rape of Persephone. “Hades,” “Plouton,” or the “subterranean Zeus” were only cover names for the ravisher. Fundamentally he too was a great anonymous god. To the version in which the scene of the rape was Sicily, Nonnos in his Dionysiaka appended an account of the snake marriage. Demeter leaves Crete with her virgin daughter Persephone and hides her in a cave near the spring of Kyane. Thither comes Zeus, the bridegroom in the form of a snake:
…through marriage with this heavenly dragon
Persephone’s womb became fruitful, prepared
To give birth to Zagreus, the horned infant.
Aischylos bears witness to the contradictory identity of Zagreus, on the one hand with a “subterranean Zeus,” on the other with his subterranean son. “Zagreus,” “he who captures alive,” was also a cover name, a circumlocution for a great god, in fact the greatest god of all time. He visits his hidden daughter in a cave, and she bears him to himself as his own son. The “mystic” feature which we have presupposed in the relationship between Dionysos and Ariadne here appears in an archaic myth in which generation and birth never go beyond the same couple. Taking his mother or daughter to wife, the son or husband begets a mystic child who in turn will court only his mother. To such involvements the snake figure is more appropriate than any other. It is the most naked form of zoë absolutely reduced to itself”
Later in the book, Carl observes: “It is certain that if Pentheus, a transparent and unequivocal name with the somber meaning “man of suffering,” could become a man’s name at Knossos it was only because the names of gods–“Zagreus” as well as “Pentheus”–were also given to persons and because int he fesstive calendar the god’s somber aspect prepared the way for the opposite aspect.”
Robert Graves says on page 110 in The Greek Myths:
“Because the vine cult reached Greece and the Aegean by way of Crete–oinos, ‘wine’, is a Cretan word–Dionysus has been confused with Cretan Zagreus, who was similarly torn to pieces at birth.”
His name means He who defies his fate.
I will add more information about Menoetius as books in the series become available.
Menoetius is the king of Mycenae’s bastard son, elevated above his natural station by his father, who still carries a torch for Menoetius’s mother, though she disappeared after her son’s birth and has never been seen since.
Rumors have named her an accomplished priestess from Ys, a mysterious island far in the west off the coast of Brittany. The slave Alexiare claims he saw her once create lightning in the night sky. Consequently, secrets, mystery, and a hint of fear surround this youth.
Menoetius is seventeen at the beginning of The Year-god’s Daughter. He sails to Crete at his father’s command, charged with ferreting out weaknesses in this rich, powerful society.
His fate, or Athene, has other plans for him.
Four words to describe him: grave, sad, devout, intense. His hair is “dark like oak-wood,” his eyes a singular blue, like the heavens at the summit of Mount Ida. (what modern people would call “cobalt.”) The first time Aridela sees this man who will play such an important part in her life, she is very near death, bleeding from a gore wound. His eyes make her believe he is no mortal but the Goddess herself, come to fetch her daughter home.
Menoetius’s purpose as one point of Athene’s sacred triad is to protect Aridela. He has other obligations, however, which will be revealed as the series progresses.
Once I saw my first image of the “Divine Antinous,” I was struck by how much he resembled my interior idea of Menoetius. I’ve used Antinous’s image as the cover of In the Moon of Asterion, to portray this important character in the series.
Photo: “Antinous Pio-Clementino Inv256 n2” by Unknown – Jastrow (2006). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antinous_Pio-Clementino_Inv256_n2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Antinous_Pio-Clementino_Inv256_n2.jpg