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Volume 7/8, 2009/2010

Études de Philosophie Antique et Médiévale. Dossier Thomas d'Aquin

Aude Engel
Pages 9-19

Solution de l’énigme du «Sans-Os» dans Les Travaux et les Jours

The investigation of the famous riddle of the «boneless one» (WD 524) gives a new solution: the «boneless one» is man, placed in the conditions of his origins, when he belonged to the silver race and woman was just being created. The «boneless» occurs in a long passage about winter, a cosmic deluge that reproduces the conditions in which mankind fell from the golden age. This happens when Zeus fights the Titans, in a war that almost causes a return to the original Chaos. Fire is the instrument of this war, red is its colour, and similarly : winter has water as its protagonist and white as its colour. Prometheus, son of the Titan Iapetus, has challenged Zeus’ newly gained maturity, a challenge that results, for mankind, in a temporary privation of fire and the creation of the first woman – Pandora. The young woman who lays confortably in her house during winter can be identified with Pandora, in the process of being created, not yet dressed nor educated. Prometheus’ challenge consists in the division of an ox in two shares: on the one hand, the bones covered in shining grease, on the other, the flesh, hidden under the skin. Zeus picks the bony share. The young woman from the winter section, who oints her body with shining grease, represents the divine share, while man gets the other one, the boneless portion, the flesh that involves a new form of mortality: men from the silver race no longer vanish into eternal sleep, like the golden men did. Man in winter, remembering his origins prior to the creation of woman, is condemned to masturbation, the self-caring of his so-called «foot», a quotation from the famous Delphic oracle given to Aegeus when he failed to procreate. So the answer to the hesiodic riddle is the same as the answer to the Sphinx riddle, a riddle which Hesiod happens to quote in the same section (WD 533): man.

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