Ananke (mythology)

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This article is about the mythological figure. For Jupiter's irregular moon, see Ananke (moon).

In ancient Greek religion, Ananke (/əˈnæŋk/), also spelled Anangke, Anance, or Anagke (Greek: Ἀνάγκη, from the common noun ἀνάγκη, "force, constraint, necessity"), was the personification of inevitability, compulsion and necessity, depicted as holding a spindle. One of the Protogenoi, Ananke marks the beginning of the cosmos, along with her father and consort, Chronos (Chronos protogenos — not the titan Cronus). She was seen as the most powerful dictator of all fate and circumstance which meant that mortals, as well as the Gods, respected her and paid homage. Considered as the mother of the Fates according to one version, she is the only one to have control over their decisions[1] (except, according to some sources, also Zeus[2]).

According to the ancient Greek traveller Pausanias, there was a temple in ancient Corinth where the goddesses Ananke and Bia (meaning violence or violent haste) were worshipped together in the same shrine. Her Roman counterpart was Necessitas ("necessity").[3]


"Ananke" is derived from the common Ancient Greek noun ἀνάγκη (Ionic: ἀναγκαίη anankaiē), meaning "force, constraint or necessity." The common noun itself is of uncertain etymology.[4] Homer uses the word meaning necessity (ἀναγκαίη πολεμίζειν, "ιt is necessary to fight") or force (ἐξ ἀνάγκης, "by force").[5] In Ancient Greek literature the word is also used meaning "fate" or "destiny" (ἀνάγκη δαιμόνων, "fate by the daemons or by the gods"), and by extension "compulsion or torture by a superior."[6] The word is often personified in poetry, as Simonides does: "Even the gods don’t fight against ananke".[7]

In the philosophical sense it means "necessity", "logical necessity"[8] or "laws of nature".[9]

Ananke in literature[edit]

Ananke as represented by a modern illustration of Plato's Republic.

The word "Ananke" is featured in Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame of Paris, written upon a wall of Notre-Dame by the hand of Dom Claude Frollo. In his Toute la Lyre, Hugo also mentions Ananke as a symbol of love. Here is what Hugo had to write about it in 1866.

Religion, society, nature; these are the three struggles of man. These three conflicts are, at the same time, his three needs: it is necessary for him to believe, hence the temple; it is necessary for him to create, hence the city; it is necessary for him to live, hence the plow and the ship. But these three solutions contain three conflicts. The mysterious difficulty of life springs from all three. Man has to deal with obstacles under the form of superstition, under the form of prejudice, and under the form of the elements. A triple ananke (necessity) weighs upon us, the ananke of dogmas, the ananke of laws, the ananke of things. In "Notre Dame de Paris" the author has denounced the first; in "Les Misérables" he has pointed out the second; in this book (Toilers of the Sea) he indicates the third. With these three fatalities which envelop man is mingled the interior fatality, that supreme ananke, the human heart.

Hauteville House, March, 1866. Victor Hugo, Toilers of the Sea, 1866, p. 5[10]

Sigmund Freud in "Civilization and Its Discontents" (W. W. Norton, New York: 1961, p. 104) said: "We can only be satisfied, therefore, if we assert that the process of civilization is a modification which the vital process experiences under the influence of a task that is set it by Eros and instigated by Ananke — by the exigencies of reality; and that this task is one of uniting separate individuals into a community bound together by libidinal ties."

She is also the title of a science fiction short story by Stanisław Lem, in the series of the Tales of Pirx the Pilot. Ananke, used in the meaning of force and obsession (Anankastic personality disorder), is the key to the solution of a disastrous spaceship accident.

Ananke in popular culture[edit]

There is reference to Ananke early in John Banville's novel The Infinities. In explaining how the gods fashioned humans so that they would procreate, the narrator (Hermes) says that the gods gave humans lust, "Eros and Ananke working hand in hand". Norbert Wiener, in his book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, presents Ananke as the personification of scientific determinism, contrasted with Tyche as the personification of quantum indeterminacy, in the often-quoted sentence: "The chance of the quantum theoretician is not the ethical freedom of the Augustinian, and Tyche is as relentless a mistress as Ananke."

In Kelly McCullough's Ravirn series, Ananke is a prominent figure in all the books under the guise of Necessity. In Philip K. Dick's novel VALIS, Ananke is mentioned as "blind necessity or blind chance, according to some experts...blind chance: chaos, in other words". Described alongside the term 'Noos' as the overwhelming chaos which reason, Noos, tries to constrain.

In Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's comic book series The Wicked + The Divine, Ananke is the immortal caretaker of the Gods of The Recurrence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abril Cultural (1973). Editora Victor CivitaDicionário de Mitologia Greco-Romana (in Portuguese). Editora Victor Civita. p. 134.  OCLC 45781956
  2. ^ "Theoi project: Moirae and the Throne of Zeus". Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  3. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Necessitas". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 97.
  5. ^ Iliad 4.300, Odyssey 4.557: Lidell, Scott: A Greek English Lexicon: ἀνάγκη
  6. ^ E.Ph.1000, Xenophon, Hiero 9.4
  7. ^ Simonides Fr. 4.20 Diehl: C. M. Bowra (1958), The Greek Experience. W. P. Publishing company, Cleveland and New York, p. 61
  8. ^ Aristotle, Metaph.1026.b28, 1064.b33: Lidell, Scott: A Greek English Lexicon: ἀνάγκη
  9. ^ Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.11.1: Lidell, Scott: A Greek English Lexicon: ἀνάγκη
  10. ^ Victor Hugo, Toilers of the Sea, 1866, p. 5

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