Perspectives on Iris, Goddess of sea and sky
Leight, Megan Elizabeth
MetadataShow full item record
This master's thesis has three principal objectives: 1) to present the history of Iris, from the end of the Dark Ages through Archaic and Classical Greece, 2) to highlight the iconography and material culture most relevant to Iris, and 3) to discuss some of the broader thematic concepts of her appearance in the literary record. One of the main obstacles in this work has been the lack of contemporary research focused on the figure of Iris. While authors often remark about her typical attributes, few go into detail about the myths that mention her or the artwork that she appears on, and next to none fully endeavor to evaluate her collective mythology. This paper seeks to fill this scholarly omission by bringing forth a current discussion of Iris. It will utilize literary and visual evidence from the 8 th to the mid 4 th centuries in ancient Greek history as a focused timeline for the appearance of Iris' myths and motifs. Iris represented a physical and symbolic connection of the mortal and divine realms, linking the gods to humanity, in her role as the go-between messenger goddess. This paper seeks to demonstrate how Iris' role as the gods' envoy was systematically usurped by the character of Hermes. The simultaneous changes happening in the Greek social system at the publication of the epic poems of Homer are indicative of the power exchange in the divine pantheon between the heralds. The visual and literary evidence provide compelling evidence regarding this social transformation. The social and economic history of the formation of the oikos and polis mimics the introduction of Hermes and subordination of Iris. The lack of contemporary scholarship focused on Iris and her roles is a distinct gap in classical research, and this paper seeks to offer an interpretation of the goddess for future research and discussion.