Ancient and modern

What Angela Rayner could learn from Hera

7 May 2022

9:00 AM

7 May 2022

9:00 AM

Whatever one thinks of her politics, Angela Rayner is clearly a pretty sporting party, and the joke she made about using her charms to distract the PM in the House is surely well in character. The ancient Greeks knew all about such crafty female tricks played on benighted males, never more delightfully exemplified than (surprisingly) in the West’s first work of literature, Homer’s Iliad (c. 700 bc).

In Book 14, the pro-Greek goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, is furious with her husband for supporting the Trojans. So she decides to distract him – by sending him to sleep. She dolls herself up, persuades the goddess of sex Aphrodite to give her an irresistible sex charm, bribes Somnus, god of sleep, to make sure that when the moment comes, Zeus will stay properly conked out, and then sashays off to the top of Mount Ida, where Zeus is keenly watching the battle.

His first sight of her inflames his lust, and he asks what she is doing there, and where her horses and chariot are. I’m just on the way to visit friends, she says innocently, but I thought you ought to know. The horses are waiting for me at the bottom of Ida. Good, says Zeus. Let them wait. His come-on pitch cannot be recommended: I have had great sex, he says, with lots of women – he lists five mortals, with offspring, and three goddesses – and with you too, but have never felt as I do now.

No doubt fuming at this over-detailed recitation of his past liaisons, Hera has no option but to come across all coy and excited: we cannot make love on top of Mount Ida, she protests. Everyone would see! Let’s go to bed at home back on Olympus. No way, says Zeus: I shall wrap Ida in a golden cloud not even the Sun can penetrate. And so they make love, and very soon Zzzzzzzzeus … game, set and match to Hera.

What a splendid Hera Angela Rayner would make! It is just a pity that when the story broke, she denied it and joined in the outrage expressed on her behalf. Hera would have told everyone to lighten up and grow up, and that girls can have their fun too.

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