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Tyche. 6604: Head of Fortuna, end of 1st. century. Archaeological Museum, Corinth.

"The prize must be worth the toil when one stakes one's life on Fortune's dice." (Dolon 1 to Hector 1. Euripides, Rhesus 182).

"Fortune lives a dainty life; to her the wretched pays his court and homage to win her smile; her likewise the prosperous man extols, for fear the favoring gale may leave him." (Theseus. Euripides, Suppliants 554).

"He is a foolish mortal who thinks his luck secure and so rejoices; for Fortune, like a madman in her moods, springs towards this man, then towards that; and no one ever experiences the same unchanging luck." (Hecabe 1. Euripides, Daughters of Troy 1204).

"I am not in the least surprised, as I know that heaven is always willing something new, and likewise that all things, strong or weak, increasing or decreasing, are being changed by Fortune, who drives them with imperious necessity according to her whim." (Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.33.1).

"The following incident proves the might of Fortune to be greater and more marvellous than is shown by the disasters and prosperity of cities. No long sail from Lemnos was once an island Chryse, where, it is said, Philoctetes met with his accident from the water-snake. But the waves utterly overwhelmed it, and Chryse sank and disappeared in the depths...So temporary and utterly weak are the fortunes of men." (Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.33.4).

"La fortuna no se vence
con injusticia y venganza,
porque antes se incita más;
y así, quien vencer aguarda
a su fortuna, ha de ser
con prudencia y con templanza."
(Calderón, La vida es sueño, Escena XIV).

In the greatest confusion the greatest order. Like in the realm of Nature. No one forges his own fortune. Not even the devil could dare to assert the contrary. When misfortune comes, the whole nature helps along, since the will of God must be obeyed. All become the foes of the unfortunate, even the dogs. All help to push the car of misfortune. Then neither heaven nor earth can help. Pride came first, turned everyone into enemies (...) God strikes with blindness whom He wishes to destroy. No wisdom, no understanding can help against the Lord. Proverbs, XXI, 30. When fortune is the grace of God, then a hundred hands obstruct the road of misfortune ... (Translated by Carlos Parada from Carl von Linné i urval av Björn Julén, Aldus klassiker, Stockholm 1962)

Sancho: "Tan de valientes corazones es, señor mío, tener sufrimiento en las desgracias como alegría en las prosperidades...porque he oído decir que esta que llaman por ahí Fortuna es una mujer borracha y antojadiza, y, sobre todo, ciega, y así, no vee lo que hace, ni sabe a quién derriba, ni a quién ensalza."

(Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, Segunda Parte, Capítulo LXVI).

Sancho: "... it is as much the part of great spirits to have patience when the world frowns upon them, as to be joyful when all goes well...and indeed I have heard say, that this same she thing they call Fortune, is a whimsical freakish drunken quean and blind into the bargain; so that she neither sees what she does, nor knows whom she raises, nor whom she casts down."

(Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part II, Chapter LXVI).

Tyche, holding the horn of Amalthea or Horn of Plenty. 2132: Antonia, mother of the Emperor Claudius, holding the horn of plenty, 1C AD. Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

Tyche is Fortune, a powerful goddess who loves different and unpredictable ways, and permanently offers instructive examples to those who neither know nor expect the incredible changes which she can effect. Tyche is one of the OCEANIDS, but it has also been claimed that she was one of the MOERAE, and the most powerful of the sisters.

Tyche governs a vast realm

Not to be an outcast of Fortune is one of the deepest desires of most men and women. For Tyche is one of the mightiest divinities when it comes to human affairs: Beauty and good reputation, they say, are in Tyche's keeping, and even success in love depends on Fortune. In fact, some believe that most things depend on her, including such cardinal things as health, wealth, power, good marriage, and lovely children.

Dashing hopes

Now mortals, having great concern for such achievements, put their hopes in Tyche each day and each night. But on the other hand, Tyche's main pleasure consists in dashing hopes. So, what mortals might achieve and enjoy through years of efforts, she may destroy in one single day by what is called a "reversal of Fortune", a phenomenon which is normally unpredictable, and that is often regarded as "curious", for things may suddenly appear upside-down. In this manner, great careers come to abrupt ends. It does not matter how powerful, or rich, or beautiful someone is when Fortune tries one of her vicissitudes. For at any moment she may just make him or her be seized by a desperate malady and die, or she may bring to naught all achievements and plans by other means. And when this happens, Tyche is called "cruel" and "harsh"; and when things go well, she is seen as giving "gifts", and is therefore called "generous". But others call her "uncertain", for no one knows what she will bring next moment. It is known that arrogant people are hated among gods and men, and for that reason it has been considered adequate to be humble in front of this goddess, abstaining from acts that go beyond man's powers. For neither wisdom nor strength can prevail over Tyche, who works swift changes in the prosperity of men, showing that those who become elated above measure, give proof of their own weakness in the next turn, when she heaps upon them whatever calamities she pleases.

Worthy use of good fortune

And Tyche being so changeable, there are those who try to make a worthy use of their good fortune, so that they may have friends to grieve with them when Tyche is adverse, as well as friends that will rejoice at their successes when Tyche is favorable.

Compassion is not her business

The advantages that may be obtained in war are, they say, determined by Tyche. Yet it is not her duty to feel compassion for her victims, but instead it is up to men not to inflict unbearable outrages to other men. In war, they say, Fortune is impartial, and the defeated must suffer what they themselves have done to the unfortunate. Therefore, those whose affairs prosper usually add clemency to constant success, since it is known that those who indulge in cruelty are fated to shorten their own good fortune. For these reasons, it is also believed that those who show leniency towards the misfortunes of other men, reserve for themselves the hope of mercy from all men. For Fortune changes fast, and life is full with unexpected events like civil wars, robberies, and other crimes. And it is easy to see that he who excludes mercy when dealing with other men, sets up a harsh law against himself, for all time to come.

Trophies made of wood

The Greeks, some say, ordained that trophies of war should be made of wood, so that the memorials of enmity should last for a brief time. And they did so because they understood that a slight turn of Tyche brings the arrogant low, and that humane treatment of the defeated gives occasion for friendship.

3903 detail: Jan Breugel 1568-1625: Naiads filling the Horn of Plenty. Mauritshuis, Den Haag.

Suppliants of Fortune

All situations advise to use the prosperity which Fortune gives for the benefit of other human beings, and never waste it in barbarous savagery. Those who act in such a ruinous way have no right to blame Fortune later, or to become her suppliants. For suppliants are called those who have found Fortune unkind, but still are pure in heart, and not those who have suffered serious defeats because of their own wickedness and greed.

The greedy change their minds

There are those who are not satisfied with their own gifts of Fortune, and some among them may even covet those who belong to others. But when Fortune robs one of them of the comforts he had enjoyed until then, and threatening everything he has achieved, becomes more and more bitter against him, he usually thinks that he may as well be content that at least he preserves his life. To such an extent can Tyche change the thoughts of a man, who only yesterday believed that he could conquer all kind of riches.

Confusion of names and terms

Now, some have said that the world has a soul, which is perfect intelligence and wisdom, and some call it "God", and sometimes "Providence", because it governs the heavens and also those things on earth that concern mankind. But since everything happens as ordained, they also thought that they could call this soul "Necessity" (Ananke), and since the operations of this order are unforeseen and unexpected, they came to the idea that Necessity could be called Fortune. That is how the soul of the world, God, Providence, Ananke, and Tyche came to be confused and regarded as different denominations of one and the same thing.

Grateful Palamedes

In any case, the Oceanid Tyche stands by herself, usually holding the horn of plenty; for Wealth, they say, is nursed by her. That is why, hoping for her generosity, many cities built sanctuaries to her, and in one of them Palamedes dedicated the dice that he had invented.

The gift of Fortune

Others say that what lies outside the sphere of the moral purpose, cannot be possessed by man, and therefore everything should be surrendered to the real owners, who are Fortune and the gods. That is the only way to serenity, they assert. And men, they add, look as if they loved toil, working as they do night and day. But it is not industry and toil they love, but instead reputation and gold. And that is why some call them ambitious and greedy, instead of industrious and hard-working. However, what they may gain is the gift of Fortune, which she herself takes away when she pleases.

Fortune without intelligence leads to ruin

It has also been said that gold, repute, health, strength, beauty, and all other gifts of Fortune, need to be commanded by a man's intelligence. For through his intelligence, or as others put it, his moral purpose, he becomes able to make good use of all gifts, without depending on them. And without intelligence, gold, repute, beauty, and other wonderful gifts of Tyche, may act like poison and destroy a man or a woman. This is, some affirm, what Prometheus 1 meant when he advised his brother Epimetheus not to welcome any gifts from Zeus, but instead always return them. For the gifts of Tyche are external advantages, and undeserved good fortune is a source of misery for the unthinking.



Oceanus & Tethys



Cic.Academica 1.29; Dio.13.21.4, 14.46.4; Hes.The.350ff.; Hom.Dem.420; Hyg.Ast.2.25; Nonn.16.220; Ov.Fast.4.145ff.; Pau.4.30.3ff., 6.25.4, 7.26.8, 9.16.2; Plu.Chance 99-100; Stat.Theb.6.692.