The moirs or moirai (ancient Greek Μοῖραι Moírai, Latin Moerae, sg. Moira (Μοῖρα Moíra, German ”share, lot, fate”, Latin Moera)) are a group of goddesses of fate in Greek mythology. Their counterparts in Roman mythology are the Parcenes. Among the Etruscans, the Moirs stand above the gods.

As an appellative, the word moíra means a part of the whole, such as the share of a spoil of war. Since Homer, moreover, it has stood for the fate assigned to all living beings from birth, which arises as an inevitable consequence of the divine distribution of roles. The term moíra is ambivalent in content, since while it is usually associated with calamity and is used euphemistically for death, it can also stand for the good fortune of the one favored by fate. The main negative meaning prevails not only in literature, it is also clear from numerous funerary inscriptions from the sixth century B.C. to late antiquity.

In the oldest literature, Homer”s epics, moira occurs almost exclusively in the singular, but not in the sense of a single goddess, but as the personified fate of each individual. The distinction between the appellative use of moira and the use as personification is often not possible. She is clearly recognizable as a goddess, for example, when she appears in battle together with Thanatos or the keren. In the Iliad, she appears as the one who leads everyone to the end at the end of their life, for example when Lycaon says that she has delivered him to the Pelides for the second time, or when Hector must remain alone outside the walls of Troy because of her, and she haunts him when his life is ended. and Tlepolemos to Sarpedon, since their time to die has come. The idea that she spins a thread for mortals at birth, into which fate has already been spun, appears in Hector when he is eaten by dogs after his death, or in Achilles, who, when his time has come, must endure whatever fate has spun him, but not before, when his time had not come and Hera can still protect him. It is in this sense that she appears when Agamemnon says that Zeus, Moira, and Erinys have put delusion into his heart. In the plural, the Moirs appear only once in Homer, and that too without being named. In the Odyssey, the spinning sisters appear at one point as the Kataklothes (Κατακλῶθες Kataklṓthes, German ”Zuspinnerinnen”).

The relationship of the gods to the Moirs seems to indicate that the gods cannot change the fate they have determined. Zeus wants to save Sarpedon, whose time has expired, but cannot do so without destroying the rest of the order. Especially he as the supreme god cannot disturb the existing order and is therefore also worshipped as Zeus Moiragetes.

In post-Homeric literature, the Moirs usually appear as a triad, their names being Klotho (Κλωθώ Klōthṓ, German ”the spinner”), Lachesis (Λάχεσις Láchesis, German ”the allotress”), and Atropos (Ἄτροπος Átropos, German ”the inevitable”). There are different variants about her ancestry. In Hesiod”s Theogony the three Moirs are mentioned in one place as daughters of Nyx, in another place as daughters of Zeus and Themis and as sisters of the Horen. In the Orphics they are daughters of Nyx Epimenides calls them the daughters of Kronos and Euonyme.

The literature testifies to the persistent idea of the great power of the Moirs, which, however, was never fleshed out in a binding way. Since the Moirs could be thought of as present everywhere, they appear on Olympus as well as in Hades, Tartarus, or among men. Their attributions vary between the extremes as Chthonioi to Olympioi at the side of Zeus and they are placed close to the Horen as well as to the Erinyes and Keren. In Hesiod”s Shield of Heracles, they stand ready on the battlefield as the Keren pounce on their victims; the Keren appear here merely as the enforcers of the fate sealed by the Moiren. To emphasize their closeness to each other, the Erinyes are called Moirs in the Orphics, and in a hymn in Stobaios, Klotho and Lachesis are invoked to send the Horae. In Pindar they appear as goddesses of law, who stand aloof from evil intentions. They lead Themis to Zeus as a wife, support Heracles in founding the Olympic Games, are the goddesses who appear with Eileithyia at a birth, and are generally invoked as helpful goddesses. Pausanias, in a pictorial description of Tyche, mentions that she was one of the Moirs in Pindar. Aeschylus emphasizes the kinship to the Erinyes, who are praised together for manhood and the happiness of brides and as stewards of law, even if the law is broken by Apollo. In The Bound Prometheus, the power of the Moirs and Erinyes is portrayed as binding men and gods alike: They guide the helm of necessity; even Zeus, as the one who regulates the law of fate, cannot escape the fate already determined. In Euripides, the Moirs are outwitted by Apollo, but are also invoked as those closest to Zeus” throne, and in Apollodorus” Library, Apollo obtains the prolongation of Admetos” life through supplication. In Aristophanes they appear in the underworld, but also sing at the wedding of Zeus and Hera.

In older works of art there are no attributes of the Moirs, later the Skeptron. In Roman times, Klotho carries a spindle, Lachesis a lot stick or a globe, and Atropos a scroll or tablet or a sundial. The Library of Apollodor describes them in their fight against the giants Agrios and Thoon as armed with iron clubs.

The Etruscan religion included the idea of the transience of man and peoples. Thus, the Etruscans were given eight or, according to other sources, ten saecula of existence. A saeculum lasted until the death of the last person born in the preceding saeculum. The death of the individual could be postponed by religious rituals for up to ten years, the end of the Etruscan people for up to 30 years. A first postponement was granted by the supreme god, Tinia, but for a second one “the Moirs, still ruling over the gods, were responsible, whose names the Etruscans were not allowed to pronounce.


  1. Moiren
  2. Moirai
  3. ^ Moirai in Oxford Living Dictionary
  4. ^ “The Princeton Dante Project (2.0) – Long Toynbee “Cloto””.
  5. Homer, Odyssee 19,592 f. „Für jedwedes Ding haben die Unsterblichen jedem Sterblichen seinen Anteil bestimmt.“
  6. August Mayer: Moira in griechischen Inschriften. 1927.
  7. Homer, Ilias 21,83
  8. Homer, Ilias 22,5
  9. Homer, Ilias 22,303
  10. Ilíada XXIV, 209. 200 – 216: texto español en Wikisource. Texto griego en Wikisource.
  11. 200 – 216: texto español en Wikisource. Texto griego en Wikisource.
  12. Α. Ρίζου-Ραγκαβή, 1888: Λεξικόν τής ελληνικής αρχαιολογίας. Εν Αθήναις: Α. Κωνσταντινίδης, σ. 680-1· M. Howatson, 1989: The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford: OUP (μτφ. Β. Φόρη, 1996, Θεσσαλονίκη: Αφοί Κυριακίδη, σ. 506).
  13. Όμηρος – Ἰλιάς – Ῥαψωδία Ω΄ – στ.48 από Βικιθήκη
  14. Πλάτωνος Πολιτεία 617b από Βικιθήκη
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