The footygods: Eileithyia


by Ian Latham

Birth is a big thing. I’ve seen blokes cry talking about the birth of their kids. My wife did more than cry when giving birth to our kids. The ancient greeks had a goddess for birth called Eileithyia. She was also the goddess for labour pain, perhaps to show that you didn’t get one without the other. And when she was happy with the world, you might have your baby with all the pain of a few deep breaths. But when she was cranky, you might be stuck there screaming for months.

On Saturday night of course, the Giants faced the Swans at Sydney Olympic park. It was their first game and the bookies were giving them a fifteen goal start. And with a team largely made up of kids on debut; who could blame the bookies?

It wasn’t a bad crowd and there seemed to be a lot of orange within it. But with the Swans pushing for the upper reaches of the eight, you would have thought that their bigger bodies and greater skills would just blow the Giants away. And they did in the third quarter. But for the rest of the game, the Giants looked pretty good.

As Eileithyia can tell you, birth can take a few tears. And it takes time for a baby to grow. But the birth of a new team was a big thing to be a witness to. And watching them grow up will be even better.




  1. Nice work, Ian. The Footygods can be tough work at times (especially trying to spell some of them on the home page teaser) but the effort is always rewarded.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    “As Eileithyia can tell you, birth can take a few tears.”

    What that sentence actually means depends on how you pronounce the final word.

  3. There was a fair bit of Labor pain just north of the border as well on Saturday night.

  4. Phanto – what’s the difference between the QLD ALP and a Tarrago? A Tarrago has 8 seats.

  5. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Ian, depending on the nuances of pronunciation, the word ‘eileithya’ could either mean truth or very stupid. Time will show which meaning the GWS experiment will embody. Nice work.

  6. Bill Loukas says

    Dear Ian,

    This is an unlikley forum for a discussion about ancient Greek, but further to Phil Dimitriades response:

    The Greek word for truth is “???????”, pronounced “alithea” with a soft ‘th’ as in ‘thing’.

    The Greek work for stupid is “???????”, pronounced “ilithios” with a soft “i” as in “in” and also with a soft ‘th’ as in “thing”. So the words are not dissimilar in their pronunciation, however, the first syllable clearly sounds differently.

    As you will be aware Greek is an inflected language and in both words the stress falls on the identically sounding – though differently spelt – second syllable.

    As regards the correct pronunciation of the goddess’s name, Eileithyia, (in Greek: ?????????) to avoid confusion to the non-Greek reader, I concur with the opinion of the eminent linguist Joseph Emerson Worcester, author of the seminal work A comprehensive dictionary of the English language, Boston, 1871, p. 480, where he corrects the pronouncements of Walker and Trollope et al, as per his rule 3 of Greek pronunciation, where he notes the word has four syllables as in Greek (and Latin) , i.e roughly pronounced “I-lith-y-a” “not I-lith-y-i’-a as in Walker” (e.g. Walker and Trollope, A key to the classical pronunciation etc., London, 1830, p. 123), which makes its pronunciation closer still to each of the words “???????” and “???????”, both of which are also pronounced with four (4) syllables.

    Importantly, the word Eileithyia, (in Greek: ?????????) the stress also falls on the second syllable.

    Now, “???????” is feminine noun- as are all nouns ending in ?, just as Eileithyia, (in Greek: ?????????) is a feminine (proper) noun and the use of either word is preceded in Greek by the feminine prefix “?”.

    The word “???????” is a masculine noun and/or adjective , as in “O ??????? ” meaning, roughly, ‘the stupid (man)’. When applied to a woman, one would say “? ?????a” meaning, roughly ‘the stupid (woman)’. However, in Greek conversation, it is unnecessary to complete the relevant sentence by adding the word “man” or “woman” because in the case of a man the presence of the prefix “O” and the suffix “??”in ??????? identifies the subject as a man, just as the prefix “?” and the suffix “a” in “?????a” identifies the subject as a woman.

    To my mind we can discount the word Eileithyia, (in Greek: ?????????) as meaning ‘truth’ or “???????” as it clearly starts with an “a” sound and not an “i”.

    However, to my mind and ears there is nothing to separate the sound of the Greek pronunciation of the word Eileithyia, (in Greek: ?????????) from the Greek word “?????a” meaning ‘stupid woman’.

    Why the sage ancient Greeks would name the goddess of childbirth “stupid woman” is either inexplicable or entirely understandable depending your point of view, and, of course, your gender.

    I note that Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee, Ph.D, author of the Encyclopedia Mythica states that, according to Homer, Eileithyia was the goddess of birth-pain, not the goddess of childbirth, per se.

    If this is right, then the answer becomes abundantly clear: the goddess was named by a woman.

    Best Regards

    Bill Loukas

  7. Bill Loukas says

    Dear readers,

    Further to my last, it seems this forum does not accept Greek font, hence my last post has been rendered (even more) incomprehesible! Perhaps we should just stick to football!

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