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Arachne he is a mythological character that we all connect to the spider and we are not entirely wrong. If it is automatic today to think of this animal, it is not so obvious that we know the story behind it. It is a fascinating myth that is worth being told.
Arachne in literature
Ovid narrates it in the VI book of Metamorphosis, even if the character is already mentioned in Virgilian Georgics, and then we find Arachne also elsewhere, always in the pages of well-known authors. Let's start by mentioning its appearance in Dante's Inferno where it appears in Canto XVII, and also returns to Purgatory, in Canto XII. Later to resume this interesting figure he thinks about it Boccaccio in De mulieribus claris and does the same by Giambattista Marino in the poem Donna che cuce.
Crossing national borders, we can read "The black spider" (Die schwarze Spinne), a short novel written by the Swiss Jeremias Gotthelf (1841) in which the Greek myth is intertwined with the popular tradition of the Bernese peasants, the place of its origins.
Daughter of the Idmone dyer, Aracne is a lively young woman, lives in Lydia, in the city of Colofone, famous for its purple. Perhaps also due to her father's profession, from an early age she immediately proved very skilled in weaving and in embroider. In fact, it is able to create real works of art, delicate and well done, with a simple pile of threads, capable of transmitting strong emotions and almost hypnotizing the viewer.
Well aware of her own ability and not at all modest, the young woman from Lydia one day pushed herself to affirm that not even the skilled Athena would have been able to do better. obviously Athena she is considered the greatest expert on the subject. She too is not a champion of modesty and when she learns of the indirect challenge launched by Arachne she certainly does not overlook it. On the contrary, she takes her opponent head on and accepts the challenge that the girl throws at her, a public embroidery competition.
Beware, he doesn't do it right away. First she makes another move: seized by strong anger, she turns into an old woman and introduces herself to Arachne trying to convince her to take up the challenge and be content with being proclaimed the best human weaver, among mortals. Let alone if the very good weaver withdraws her challenge, then Athena is forced to resume her own appearance and to "fight" with the sound of sewing stitches.
There are beautiful depictions that show the scene of the challenge between embroiderers but we too can well imagine it. There are Arachne and Athena who are busy embroidering with their skeins side by side and as time passes their textile wefts begin to take shape. Our protagonist with her threads "paints" them loves of the gods, their faults and their deceptions, Athena on the other hand chooses to tell by embroidering all their best feats and their own powers. He sings his praises in the true sense of the word.
Once the two works are finished and compared, there is no doubt, that of Arachne is a notch better. It seems animated with a life of its own, the characters seem to breathe, it is precise and funny, dramatic and brilliant. Even the goddess herself is forced to admit supremacy of her rival but she is certainly not willing to do so publicly by walking away from defeat. Here then is that he takes Arachne's canvas and destroys it, divides it into a thousand pieces and grabs the shuttle in his hand, using it to attack the young woman, injuring her blood.
A little naively, the good mortal weaver is shocked by the reaction of the goddess, so angry and vengeful, and runs away to try to kill herself, in search of a tree to hang herself. The goddess envious of her skill is not willing to give her such a simple and in a certain sense not very cruel way out and invents an ad hoc sentence. He decides that the young woman will have toweave for the rest of his days and swing from the same tree from which he wanted to kill himself. It's not over, the most perverse part of the punishment is missing. Arachne would not have had to spin with her hands, as imagined, but with her mouth, because she would have become a giant hideous spider.
Arachne in Ovid
Let's hear what it tells us Ovid of his Metamorphoses. “ (...) Minerva accepts the challenge ... the blond-haired goddess frowned at the happy success and tore up the canvas quilt that discovers the faults of the gods and hit Arachne's forehead with the spool of boxwood several times. The unhappy one did not suffer: furious, he tightened his throat with a halter and remained dangling. Athena, moved, freed her, but said: - Alive or wicked, and hanging down as it is now. And why do you torment yourself in the future, for your lineage you continue the punishment and for the late nephews -. Then starting, she sprinkles it with sauces of magical herbs: immediately the crime touched by the fatal medicine fell and her nose and ears fell off with the horsehair: the head became small and all the limbs shrink: the slender fingers stick together, instead of the feet, in the hips: belly is what remains, from which it comes drawing the stamens and, transformed into a spider, counted the web of the past " .
Arachne in Dante
Dante puts Arachne yes toHell who in Purgatory writes in the latter
"O crazy Aragne, yes I saw you / Already half a spider, sad up the rags / Of the work that was done badly for you".
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