From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Personification of Ruin
Member of the Family of Eris
AbodeMount Olympus or
Personal information
ParentsEris[1] or
by Zeus
Roman equivalentError

In Greek mythology, Atë, Até or Aite (/ˈt/; Ancient Greek: Ἄτη) was the goddess of mischief, delusion, ruin, and blind folly, rash action and reckless impulse who led men down the path of ruin. She also led both gods and men to rash and inconsiderate actions and to suffering. Até also refers to an action performed by a hero that leads to their death or downfall.



Hesiod's account[edit]

Atë was represented as the daughter of Eris, the goddess of strife, through parthenogenesis.[4]

"And hateful Eris bore painful Ponos ("Hardship"),
Lethe ("Forgetfulness") and Limos ("Starvation") and the tearful Algea ("Pains"),
Hysminai ("Battles"), Makhai ("Wars"), Phonoi ("Murders"), and Androktasiai ("Manslaughters");
Neikea ("Quarrels"), Pseudea ("Lies"), Logoi ("Stories"), Amphillogiai ("Disputes")
Dysnomia ("Anarchy") and Ate ("Ruin"), near one another,
and Horkos ("Oath"), who most afflicts men on earth,
Then willing swears a false oath."[5][6]

Homer's account[edit]

In some versions of the myth, Atë was called the eldest daughter of Zeus[7] and sister of the Litae (Prayers).


The goddess Peitho (Desire) was called the daughter of Atë.[8]

"Perverse Temptation (talaina peithô), the overmastering child of designing Destruction (atê), drives men on; and every remedy is futile. His evil is not hidden; it shines forth, a baleful gleam. Like base metal beneath the touchstone's rub, when tested he shows the blackness of his grain . . . and upon his people he brings a taint against which there is no defence. No god listens to his prayers. The man associated with such deeds, him they destroy in his unrighteousness. Such was Paris, who came to the house of the sons of Atreus (Menelaus) and dishonoured the hospitality of his host by stealing away a wedded wife Helene."[9]


Banishment of the goddess[edit]

On Hera's instigation, Atë used her influence over Zeus so that he swore an oath that on that day a great mortal man descended from him would be born (brought into the light by Eileithyia, goddess of "birth-pangs"), who would become lord of all men who dwell about him (the Argives). Hera immediately arranged to delay the birth of Heracles to Alcmene and bring forth Eurystheus prematurely (to whom Heracles would later become subject), born to Nicippe (unnamed), wife of Sthenelus. In anger, Zeus flung Atë by her hair down to earth, from the starry heavens, forever forbidding her return to Mount Olympus and heaven (the starry sky). Atë then wandered about, treading on the heads of men rather than on the earth, wreaking havoc and delusion amongst mortals. The Litae ("Prayers") follow after her, but Atë is fast and far outruns them.[10]

The Bibliotheca claims that when thrown down by Zeus, Atë landed on a peak in Phrygia called by her name. There Ilus later, following a cow, founded the city of Ilion, known as Troy. This flourish is chronologically at odds with Homer's dating of Atë's fall.[11]

Other stories[edit]

In the Argonautica, Hera says that "even the gods are sometimes visited by Atë".[12]

According to Nonnus, at Hera's instigation Atë persuades the boy Ampelus whom Dionysus passionately loves, to impress Dionysus by riding on a bull from which Ampelus subsequently falls and breaks his neck.[13]

Among the tragic writers, Ate appears in a different light: she avenges evil deeds and inflicts just punishments upon the offenders and their posterity,[14] so that her character here is almost the same as that of Nemesis and Erinnys. She appears most prominent in the dramas of Aeschylus, and least in those of Euripides, with whom the idea of Dike (justice) is more fully developed.

A fragment from Empedocles refers to the "Meadow of Atë",[15] which probably signifies the mortal world.[16]


In the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare introduces the goddess Atë as an invocation of vengeance and menace. Mark Antony, lamenting Caesar's murder, envisions:

"And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Atë by his side come hot from Hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice

Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war ...

Shakespeare also mentions her in the play Much Ado About Nothing, when Benedick says, referring to Beatrice,[17]

"Come, talk not of her. You shall find her the
infernal Atë in good apparel" (2.1.251-252).

So too, in King John, Shakespeare refers to Queen Eleanor as "An Ate stirring [John] to blood and strife" (2.1.63), and in Love's Labours Lost Birone jeers "Pompey is moved. More Ates, more Ates! stir them on! stir them on!" (5.2. 688-9).

In Spenser's The Faerie Queene, a fiend from Hell disguised as a beautiful woman is called Ate. This is a possible parallel to the fallen angels.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 230
  2. ^ Homer, Iliad 19.91
  3. ^ Aeschylus, Agamemnon 385
  4. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 230
  5. ^ Caldwell, p. 42 lines 226-232, with the meanings of the names (in parentheses), as given by Caldwell, p. 40 on lines 212–232.
  6. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 226–232 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Homer, Iliad 19.91
  8. ^ Aeschylus, Agamemnon 385
  9. ^ Aeschylus, Agamemnon 385 ff.
  10. ^ Homer, Iliad 19.85 ff.
  11. ^ Apollodorus, 3.143
  12. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.817
  13. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 11.113
  14. ^ Aeschylus, Choēphóroi 381
  15. ^ Inwood, Brad, ed. (1992). The Poem of Empedocles. University of Toronto Press. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-8020-5971-6.
  16. ^ Dodds, E. R. (1957). The Greeks and the Irrational. Beacon Press. p. 174.
  17. ^ Shakespeare, William. "Much Ado About Nothing" (PDF). Folger Shakespeare Library. Retrieved 30 November 2020.