Nemesis (mythology)

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In Greek mythology, Nemesis (Greek, Νέμεσις), also called Rhamnousia/Rhamnusia ("the goddess of Rhamnous") at her sanctuary at Rhamnous, north of Marathon, was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods). The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess; the goddess of revenge. The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word νέμειν [némein], meaning "to give what is due". The Romans equated the Greek Nemesis with Invidia. (Aronoff 2003).

"Nemesis" is now often used as a term to describe one's worst enemy, normally someone or something that is the exact opposite of oneself but is also somehow similar. For example, Professor Moriarty is frequently described as the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.

Contents

Background

Inexorable divine retribution is a major theme in the Hellenic world view, providing the unifying theme of the tragedies of Sophocles and many other literary works. Hesiod states: "Also deadly Nyx bore Nemesis an affliction to mortals subject to death." (Theogony, 223, though perhaps an interpolated line). Nemesis appears in a still more concrete form in a fragment of the epic Cypria.

She is the implacable of justice: that of Zeus in the Olympian scheme of things, but it is clear she existed prior to him, as her images look similar to several other goddesses, such as Cybele, Rhea, Demeter and Artemis.[1]

As the "Goddess of Rhamnous", Nemesis was honored and placated in an archaic sanctuary in the isolated district of Rhamnous, in northeastern Attica. There she was a daughter of Oceanus, the primeval river-ocean that encircles the world. Pausanias noted her iconic statue there. It included a crown of stags and little Nikes and was made by Pheidias after the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), crafted from a block of Parian marble brought by the over-confident Persians, who had intended to make a memorial stele after their expected victory.

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