Tyche- The Original Lady Luck

Tyche of Antioch copy in the Vatican Museums Photo Credit- www.theoi.com

Tyche, or Tykhe in Greek, was the goddess of fortune, chance, providence and fate.  Although some sources identify her as an Oceanid, a daughter of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys, other sources have indicated her parents were Aphrodite and either Zeus or Hermes.  Some sources give her a husband called Agathos Daimon, literally “good spirit”, which emphasizes her later association with good luck.  She is depicted holding a rudder as she was the deity charged with guiding the affairs of the world.  In this aspect she was a one of the Moirai, or Fates.  Tyche is also shown with a ball, showing the unsteadiness of fortune as it can roll any which way, and with the Ploutos or cornucopia.  Her most favorable aspect was Eutykhia, Good Fortune.  Her partner was Nemesis, or Fair Distribution.  Nemesis was the downside of Tyche, who kept the blessings of Eutykhia in check.

Some of the earliest mentions of Tyche are in the 5th century BCE poetry of Pindar, which refers to her as a “savior goddess”.  In the Theogony of Hesiod, she works with her sister Eudora, and together the two are Luck and Bounty.  Tyche is also heralded as Bounty in a Homeric Hymn to Demeter.  Tyche was honored as a patron goddess of many Greek cities in ancient Greece.  Works of arts were created for her worship, including Agathe Tyche (Good Fortune) by Praxiteles and the Tyche of Antioch by Eutychides known as ‘The Tychaion’.  The original has been lost, but there are several copies installed at both the Vatican and the Louvre.  Her image graced coins, jewelry and shrines.  Her worship gained popularity during the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great, and altars to her popped up everywhere.  Eventually, her worship was used to unify a diverse population.  As her visage was on coins, flipping a coin was an excellent way to let Tyche decide.  If her image came up on the flip, the answer was favorable.

On top of being a deity, Tyche has become the personification of good luck.  Initially she was depicted as erratic- as “blind luck- but that changed in later literature. Both Plato and Aesop’s Fables use Tyche as a unifying concept of good luck.  The Romans called her Fortuna, but the associates and meanings were the same.  Fortuna was depicted with a wheel, which became the Wheel of Fortune.  As Fortuna spins the Wheel of Fortune, fate changes as we are symbolically tied to the wheel.   This symbol gained popularity in the Middle Ages as the Rota Fortuna.  Fortune can take you high and throw you right down again.  This has been enshrined in the Wheel of Fortune tarot card.

ER