In Greek mythology, Tyche, also pronounced as “Tykhe” (Roman Name – Fortuna), was the goddess of fate, luck, and providence.
Goddess Tyche is also known as Eutychia, the goddess symbolizing good luck, happiness, and affluence.
Tyche, in most Greek mythology illustrations of the Hellenistic period, is depicted as a blindfolded, winged goddess with a crown wielding a scepter and cornucopia. She was believed to be the steering wheel who guided and controlled world affairs as well as the naturally-occurring incidents.
One of her depictions also shows her holding a ball that can roll however it wants, symbolizing the uncertainty associated with fate in general.
One of the monuments honoring Tyche is a temple in Argos. It is believed that Palamedes offered the dice invented by him in this temple known as the Temple of Fortune. She was also hugely revered by the Parthian kings, and her imagery was minted on all the coins circulated in the Parthian empire.
He primarily discovered the dice set and a game similar to the game of draughts. He was one of the soldiers representing the Greeks in the Trojan war and also the Euobean prince born to King Nauplius and an Oceanid nymph from 4000 Oceanids, called Clymene, the goddess of success, fame as well as infamy.
According to Hesiod, Tyche was born to Oceanus, a Titan, and his consort called Tethys.
However, as per the other accounts of Greek mythology, Tyche is known to be born to Zeus and Aphrodite.
Tyche is believed to be married to Agathodaemon, a spirit in Greek mythology who was responsible for the happiness and protection of families.
Mythological Beliefs About Goddess Tyche
Tyche was considered to be a good messenger who delivered happy, positive messages to people about outcomes not in their control.
She had the power to determine defeats and victories. It was said that if you managed to win something without regard for meritocracy, it meant that you just got lucky because fortune had smiled on you, symbolizing the smile of Tyche during his or her birth.
According to Polybius, when unexplained natural disasters or events in politics happened wherein it was difficult to trace back to the cause or what triggered them, Tyche was usually considered to be the unknown force leading to such inexplicable occurrences.
Tyche was also considered to be a good messenger who delivered happy, positive messages to people about outcomes not in their control. Tyche had the power to determine defeats and victories.
According to Polybius, when unexplained natural disasters or events in politics took place, and it was difficult to trace back to the cause or what triggered them, Tyche was usually considered to be the unknown force leading to such inexplicable occurrences.
Tyche’s Companion and Downside
Tyche showered people with extravagant good luck, plenty, and fortune. So, to prevent extreme arrogance caused due to such extravagance from taking over the good in human beings, goddess Nemesis was responsible for doing the balancing or moderating act. Nemesis was the goddess of indignation who kept the unreasonable fortune of people in check.
Nemesis made sure people blessed with undeserved good luck were kept a beady eye on. And she also ensured punishment for those who engaged in crime or wrongdoings, thinking they would get away with it luck by chance.
Taking over Olympian Gods
The Hellenistic period witnessed an intense churning of various social and political events. During this period, Alexander the Great had begun his reign in Greece, and with his rule started a fury of dramatic events.
Traditionally the Olympian gods were believed to have been responsible for declaring the fate of such events, whether good or bad. However, the supremacy of the Olympian gods was wonderfully veiled by goddess Tyche’s ability to accurately predetermine the eventual outcome as well as the course of events.
The goddess not only declared the inevitable fortune of individuals but also of a group of people or larger communities.
Worship of Tyche
Goddess Tyche is worshipped and idolized at Itanos, a port situated located along the northeastern coast of Crete. She is paid homage as the daughter of an Athenian king called Erecthheus. She was called the Tyche Protogeneia and was well known for sacrificing herself in order to salvage the city.
During the rule of Alexander, when Tyche’s power became prominent and visible, explaining the uncertainties she caused with her strength to declare anyone’s fate, mankind’s reverence for her then grew multifold. Her status was therefore elevated from abstract symbolisms to a primary deity highly respected by the Pagans.
There were several cults introduced to worship Tyche across the Mediterranean. The famous statue of Agathe Tyche created by Praxiteles is one of the most celebrated art pieces representing Tyche. It was venerated along with many other Greek gods.
Another popular work of art is known as the Tyche of Antioch, made by Eutychides, which served as an exemplary framework for creating the images of different Greek goddesses.
Tyche also shares a depiction with Demeter in her temple at Thebes. In this temple, she is shown holding the infant Plutus in her arms, representing her endless control and power to offer abundance and riches.
The Different Depictions of Tyche
In the Parthian empire, which was ruled by Vologases I, the son of Vonnones II, Tyche’s imagery was represented on all the Greek coins used back in the day and this supremacy of imagery on Parthian coinage went on for almost 200 years.
She reserved the right to appear on most Hellenistic coins for about three hundred years.
Tyche is also depicted as the constellation of the zodiac sign, Virgo along with Demeter and Astraea.
Apollo, the classical Greek god of truth, healing, dance, and music, is believed to have directed and instructed Tyche symbolizing the fact that Tyche even heavily influenced the will of gods. One of the famous Greek playwrights and dramatists, Euripides, used Tyche in his stories to add aesthetics and hint at major themes and meanings for a stronger representation of ideas.
Tyche as a goddess of fate is even depicted in several poems written by Pindar. According to him, goddess Tyche has complete authority over the final results of various events and competitions in Athletics.
Tyche was also worshipped at Pharae in Messenia, located at Smyrna. Her statue was created by Bupalus with the world or the globe on her head supported by one of her hands. The other hand is shown holding the horn of Amalthea.
In the art of Sicyon situated in Achaia, Tyche was represented with the horn of Amalthea. There is another piece of art representing the winged god Eros along with Tvche located in Elis at Thebes.
In Roman mythology, she is called Fortuna and is depicted as someone wearing a military armor dress and a mural crown. The mural crown was a peculiar headpiece representing the protective walls of the city. It served as an emblem of the goddesses responsible for keeping an eye out on the city.
In the depiction of Tyche of Antioch, the Orontes river is shown at her feet in the form of a male swimmer. This further strengthens her existence as an Oceanid in Greek mythology.
Note – The mural crown of Tyche symbolizes that she is the prime goddess and protector of the city, Sparta. Her crown also depicted the foundation of the city. Several artists have been inspired by the artwork created in Ancient Greece and Rome based on Tyche and her different representations.
According to Matheson, the Goddess Tyche, being one of the Oceanids, is considered to be an ocean goddess of some kind. Citing how Pindar refers to her in his poems, “he implores her to keep watch around Himera, a port,” and how she is often depicted holding a ship’s rudder.
From the Fables
Zeus ordered Tyche to show the mortals the two ways of life: the way of freedom and the way of slavery. The initial path to achieve freedom was made hard and bumpy by Prometheus, with no water anywhere to drink and steep pathways full of dangers.
However, over time with a persisted journey along the path, the terrain gradually gets smoother and easier, adorned with water bodies and fruit trees on the sides. This means that the whole experience and pain of conquering impassable routes is worth it. And those who manage to successfully ace this difficult journey get to breathe the air of freedom.
The way of slavery is said to begin with zero hardships. It is a pleasant road with all the resources available in the surroundings for the mortals to live a comfortable, almost luxurious life. But in the end, the journey becomes overwhelming as the path gets harder and unassailable.
Another story goes this way – a farmer plowing his field accidentally stumbles upon a treasure of gold for which he thanks the goddess earth Gaea and, to honor her, erects an altar dedicated to her. Goddess Tyche, upon witnessing the farmer rejoicing in his riches, feeling disappointed that she was not given equal respect and veneration, appears in front of the ungrateful farmer and warns him about his future. She tells him that he would be the first person to turn to her temple for help once all the gold and wealth he found gets stolen.