The other day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that he can’t instantly stop Streets and San employees from taking too many sick days because, “no matter how much I would like to play Zeus, god-like, throwing thunderbolts, I don’t get to.”
It’s no surprise that Emanuel would like to be an all-powerful god. But Zeus, king of Olympus, was never the deity who came to mind when I thought of Emanuel. He’s always reminded me more of a minor deity in the Hellenic pantheon: Monetos, the god of fundraising.
According to Bulfinch’s Mythology, Monetos was the offspring of Horcus, the god or spirit of oaths, and Terpsichore, the muse of dance. Everywhere he walked, he kept pressed to his ear a conch shell, which allowed him to communicate with both gods and mortals.
The most famous legend about Monetos concerns a festival held in honor of Zeus. In those days, it was customary for the Greeks to sacrifice domestic animals to the gods, in order to win their favor. Zeus ordered Monetos to communicate an acceptable sacrifice to the mortals.
The chief priest was a man named Eurystos, who was known for his stinginess. When Monetos called to Eurystos through his conch shell, the priest indicated that he would sacrifice five bulls to Zeus at the festival. Monetos was incredulous.
"Five bulls?” he exploded. “You can do better than that. You can do 10 bulls.”
Eurystos protested that the bulls were needed for next spring’s mating season, but Monetos was unmoved.
"Zeus is a very powerful individual,” he reminded the priest. “Do you know what’s going to happen if you only sacrifice five bulls to Zeus? Do you know how angry he’ll be? Entire herds of sheep will die of scurvy. Puss will rain from the sky for 40 days and nights. Virgins will be defiled by minotaurs. Ravens will learn to speak Persian and communicate military secrets to Xerxes. And all because you’re too cheap to sacrifice ten bulls!”
Then Monetos threw his conch shell to the ground. He refused to take another call from Eurystos. Finally, the priest sought him out in person.
“Oh, god of fundraising,” Eurystos said. “Accept my apology. I will gladly sacrifice ten bulls to Zeus.”
And he did. The festival was a big hit. Monetos himself came to mingle for an hour. The next spring, every cow gave birth to two calves, and every olive tree produced a double bounty. Eurystos became the most influential priest in Greece. Monetos always took his calls, and he was even invited to a private meet-and-greet on Olympus with Zeus himself.
After that, when Monetos ordered a priest to sacrifice ten bulls, the priest sacrificed ten bulls.
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