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Greek mythology

//Greek mythology
Greek mythology 2017-09-05T19:03:38+00:00

Greek mythology

1. Introduction to Greek mythology

acropolis, Athens, Greece

acropolis, Athens, Greece

Greek mythology in general is supposed to give us a picture of how mankind used to think and feel many years ago. The old people in Greece used to consider Greek mythology to be similar to a religion. The myths lead us back in time to when man had a connection to the earth and nature; they take us back in time to a strange beautiful animated world. Nobody know if these myths were first told in this way or when they were first told exactly but many great and very famous poets have been created through the myths.

The Greeks did not believe that the Gods created the universe; instead they believed that the universe was created by the Gods. Before the Gods there was only heaven and earth, the Titans were heaven and Earth. We have tried to write out the myths in an easy and an interesting way, with not too much but not too less of each myth. I have read each myth a couple of times by a few different authors and then have written them in my own way. I hope you enjoy reading through the myths.

2. The Titans

Aesculapius, Greek mythology

Aesculapius, Greek mythology

The Titans were also often called the older Gods. Nobody knows for how long exactly they were in the universe. They were huge in size and had unbelievable strength. There were a lot of them but they don’t all appear in Mythology. The leader of the Titans and the most important was called Cronus, (Saturn in Latin) He remained the leader until his own son Zeus took over his throne and also assumed all the power for himself.  It has been said that when Zeus took over his fathers throne, Cronus ran away to Italy, where he introduced the Golden Age, which was a period of peace and happiness that lasted for all the entire duration of his reign.

Some other Titans that we should mention are Ocean, a river that circled around the world; Ocean’s wife Tethys; Hyperion, the father of the dawn, the moon and the sun; Mnemosyne, which means memory; Themis, most often translated as justice, Lapetus was important because of his sons, Atlas, who bore the earth on his shoulders, and Prometheus, who was the savior of all mankind. These were the only Titans otherwise called older Gods, which did not entirely disappear with the arrival of Zeus, but they took a lower place in Mythology.

The 12 Olympian Gods were the highest in authority among the Gods that succeeded to the Titans. They were named the Olympians because they lived on Olympus; Olympus is the highest mountain in the central area of Greece. The entrance to where they lived, slept and feasted on ambrosia and nectar, was guarded by a very big gate of clouds, kept by the seasons.

3. The 12 Gods of Olympus (the Olympian Gods):

Zeus in Greek mythology

Zeus in Greek mythology

ZEUS (Jupiter in Latin) was the chief; he dethroned his Father Cronus and then had a draw with his brothers Poseidon and Hades for their share in the universe. Zeus won the draw and became the main ruler of the Gods. He was the lord of the sky, the rain and the cloud gatherer. His weapon was a thunderbolt, which he hurled at those who displeased him. He was married to Hera but was famous for his many affairs with other women. He was also known as the God that punished those who lied or broke oaths.

POSEIDON (Neptune in Latin) was the brother of Zeus. After his Father Cronus was dethroned he took part in a draw between his two brothers Zeus and Hades in order to share the power of the world. His prize was to become the ruler of the sea. The Greeks on both sides of the Aegean were sea men and he was widely worshiped by these people. Besides being the ruler of the sea, he also gave the first horse to man, so he was honored as much for the one as for the other. He married Amphitrite, a granddaughter of the Titan Oceanus.  As well as horses, he had some connection with bulls. His weapon was a trident, which could shake the earth, and shatter any object. He was the most powerful Olympian god, after Zeus.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

HADES (Pluto in Latin) was the second brother of Zeus that took place in the draw after his father was dethroned. He had the worst draw and was made the ruler of the underworld; his main responsibility was to rule over the dead. He was also the God of wealth because of worthy metals that were drawn from the earth. He rarely left his dark realm to visit Olympus or the rest of the earth, he was not a welcome visitor anyway because he showed no pity and was a terrible but not evil God. Hades abducted his wife Persephone, then carried her away and made her the queen of the underworld. Although he was the king of the dead, Death itself had a different God who was named Thanatos (Orcus in Latin).

HERA (Juno in Latin) was Zeus wife and sister; she was raised by the Titans Ocean and Tethys. She took care mostly of married women and was the protector of marriage. Zeus and Hera did not have a happy marriage as he raped her and she then married him to hide her shame. She was always finding Zeus was falling for other women and many great arguments, fights and wars were started over her asking for revenge about Zeus’s infidelities. The peacock and the cow were sacred animals to her and she adored the large city of Argos.

Athena in Greek mythology

Athena in Greek mythology

ATHENA (Minerva in Latin) was Zeus daughter alone. No mother gave birth to her. She sprung from Zeus head fully grown and armored. She was the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. She was fierce and brave in battle but only ever fought in order to protect the state and home from enemies from the outside. She was pre-eminently the Goddess of the city, the protector of civilized life and the leader of handicrafts, and agriculture.

She invented the bridle which allowed men to tame horses. She was Zeus favorite child. He trusted her alone to carry the horrible aegis, his buckler and his most prided weapon, the thunderbolt.  Athens was her favorite city the olive, her favorite tree and the owl her most loved bird. She was one of the three virgin goddesses.

ARES (Mars in Latin) was Zeus and Hera’s son; both parents detested him for he was the God of war. He was described as hateful, murderous and bloodstained but he was also a coward. When he moved the voices of groaning arose and the earth streamed with blood behind him. The dog was wrongly chosen as his animal and his bird was the vulture.

APOLLO (Phoebus in Latin) was the son of Zeus and Leto. He was born on a small island on the boarder of Mykonos called Delos. People often say that he is the most Greek of all Gods. He is mentioned a lot in Greek poetry as the God of music, pictured with his golden lyre bringing happiness to Olympus by playing his peaceful music. He is also the God of light as no darkness ever crossed his life and the God of truth because nothing but the truth ever came out of his mouth.

One of Apollo’s most important tasks is to harness his chariot daily with four horses and drive the sun across the sky. The laurel was his favorite tree; many creatures were sacred to him but mostly were the dolphin and the crow.

Artemis in Greek mythology

Artemis in Greek mythology

ARTEMIS (Diana in Latin) was Zeus and Leto’s child and the twin sister of Apollo. She was born on Mount Cynthus on the island of Delos. She was described as the lady of the wild things, the huntsman of the gods and also the protector of the young. Artemis was one of the three virgin Goddesses and the goddess of chastity. The cypress tree was sacred to her; and so were all wild animals but mostly the deer.

APHRODITE (Venus in Latin) was the goddess of love and beauty; she was the irresistible goddess who stole even the wits of the wise. In addition to her natural gifts she had a magical girdle that compels anyone she wishes to desire her. There are different stories about her birth; one story is that she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

The other story goes back to when Cronus castrated Uranus and threw his severed genitals into the sea, they say that she then arose from the sea foam on a giant scallop and walked on to shore in Cyprus.  She was married to Hephaestus, her favorite tree was the myrtle and her favorite birds the dove, the sparrow and the swan.

HEPHAESTUS (Vulcan and Mulciber in Latin) was the God of fire. He was the only God that was lame and sometimes said to be the son of Zeus and Hera other times said to be the son of Hera alone who was taking revenge on Zeus for producing Athena. He was an ugly but a peaceful looking God. Some say that Hera was angry about giving birth to an ugly son so she threw him from Mount Olympus into the sea, making him lame, others say that he took his mother’s side in an argument with Zeus and Zeus flung him off Mount Olympus making him lose both legs. His wife was Aphrodite.

HESTIA (Vesta in Latin) was the goddess of the Hearth and the symbol of the home around which a new born child is carried before it is received in to the family. She was Zeus’s sister and like Athena and Artemis a virgin goddess. She does not have a distinct personality and does not play many parts in myths. Every meal on Olympus began and ended with some offering to her. Each city had a public hearth sacred to her where fire was never allowed to be put out.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

HERMES (Mercury in Latin) was the son of Zeus and Maia, he was the fastest of all Gods and for that reason he was Zeus messenger. On his feet he wore winged sandals; wings were also on his hat and on his magic wand, the Caduceus. He was the god of thieves and commerce and also the guide for the dead to go to the underworld.  He appears in mythology more than any other of the Gods because of a very popular statue that makes him appear graceful and swift of motion.

THE GODS OF THE WATERS

Poseidon was the lord and the ruler of the sea, the Mediterranean and the friendly sea, now the black sea. Underground rivers also belonged to him. Ocean, a Titan, was the lord of the river Ocean, a great river that flowed around the whole world. His wife, also a Titan, was Tethys. The Oceanids, the nymphs of this great river, were their daughters. The gods of all the rivers on earth were their sons. Pontus, which means the deep sea, was a son of mother earth and the father of Nereus, a sea god far more important than he himself was.

4. The lessor Gods of the earth

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Nereus was called the old man of the sea. “A trusty and gentle God, which thinks just kindly thoughts and never lies. His wife was Doris, a daughter of Ocean. They had fifty lovely daughters, the nymphs of the sea, called Nereids from their fathers name, one of whom, Thetis, was the mother of Achilles, Poseidon’s wife, Amphitrite, was another Triton was the trumpeter of the sea. His trumpet was a great shell. He was the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Proteus was sometimes said to be Poseidon’s son sometimes his attendant. He had the power both of foretelling the future and of changing his shape at will. The Naiads were also water nymphs.

They dwelt in brooks, springs, and fountains. Leucothea and her son Palaemon, once mortals, became divinities of the sea, as did also Glaucus, but all these three were unimportant. Earth herself was called the all mother, but she was not really a divinity. She was never separated from the actual earth and personified. The goddess of the corn, Demeter (Ceres in Latin) was a daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and the god of the vineyard. Dionysus also called Bacchus were the supreme deities of the earth and of great importance in Greek mythology Pan was the chief. He was Hermes son, a noisy merry god, the Homeric hymn is his honor calls him, but he was part animal too, with a goats horns, and a goats hoofs instead of feet he was the goatherds god, and the Shepard’s god, and also the companion of the woodland nymphs when they danced. He was always in love with one nymph or another but he was always rejected because of his ugliness. Silenus was sometimes said to be pans son and sometime his brother, a son of Hermes. He was a jovial fat old man who usually rode an ass because he was too drunk to walk. He is associated with Bacchus as well as with pan, he taught him when the wine god was young, and, as is shown by his perpetual drunkenness, after being his tutor he became his devoted follower.

Besides these gods of the earth, there was a very famous and very popular pair of brothers, Castor and Pollux, who in most of the accounts were said to live half of the time on earth and half in heaven. They were the sons of Leda and are usually represented as being gods, the special protectors of sailors. They were also powerful to save in battle. They were especially honored in Rome where they were worshiped as “the great twin brethren to whom all Dorians pray. However, the accounts of them are contradictory. Sometimes Pollux alone is held to be divine, and castor a mortal who won a kind of half-and-half immortality merely because of his brother’s love. Leda was the wife of king of Tyndareus of Sparta, and the usual story is that she bore two mortal children to him, Castor, and Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, and to Yeus, who visited her in the form of a swan, two others who were immortal, Pollux and Helen, the heroine of the Troy. Nevertheless, both brothers, Castor and Pollux, were often called sons of Zeus, indeed, the Greek name they are best known by, the dioscouri, means the stripling of Zeus. On the other hand, they were also called “sons of Tyndareus, the Tyndaridae. The Sileni were creature’s part man and part horse. They walked on two legs, not four, but they often had horse’s hoofs instead of feet, sometimes horse’s ears, and always horses tails. There are no stories about them but they are often seen on Greek vases. The satyrs like pan were goat men, and like him, they had their home in the wild places of earth. Aeolis, king of the winds, also lived on earth.

An island, Aeolian, was his home. Accurately he was the only regent of the winds, viceroy of the gods. The four chief winds were boreas, the north wind, in Latin aquilo, favonius, zephyr, the west wind. Notus the south wind also called in Latin auster, and the east wind, Eurus, the same in both Greek and Latin. The Centaurs. They were half men, half horse and for the most part, they were savage creatures, more like beasts than men were. One of them however, Chiron was known everywhere for his goodness and his wisdom. The gorgons were also earth dwellers. There were three, and two of them were immortal. They were dragon like creatures with wings, whose look turned to men like stone. Phorcys, son of the sea and the earth, was their father. The graiae were their sisters, three Graz women who had but one eye between them. They lived on the bank of the ocean. The sirens lived on an island in the sea. They had enchanting voices, their singing voices, and their chanting lured sailors to their death. It was not known what they looked like, for no one saw them ever returned.

5. The earliest heroes

PROMETHEUS AND IO

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Two of the earliest heroes were Prometheus and Io. Two poets first wrote about these heroes, The Greek poet Aeschylus and the Roman poet Ovid.

Prometheus had been bound to a rock by Zeus in order to serve a punishment for giving fire to men. It was then that a strange creature approached him. This creature looked like a wild beast but had a voice of a young girl who seemed mad with misery. Prometheus recognized the voice. He had heard of her story and he called her by her name. The creature was amazed at the sound of her voice. She stood as still as a statue and started asking Prometheus many questions :

      ‘Where am I?’

            ‘Are you being punished?’

            ‘Did you do wrong?’

            ‘Why are you bound to this rock?’

When he answered that she was looking at Prometheus who had given fire to mortals, she realized that she knew him and had heard his story before. They then spoke freely to one another. He told her how Zeus had treated him and she told him that Zeus had also been the reason that she had been transformed from a beautiful young girl into a wild starving beast.

Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife was the cause of her misfortunes. Zeus had fallen in love with Io but Hera’s jealousy was stronger than Zeus’ love. When Hera had found out about Zeus falling in love with this young girl, he had denied it. Hera asked him to give her the young maiden that he had immediately transformed into a beast and Zeus, having no other choice but to please his jealous wife had agreed. He handed over Io in the form of a beast and watched her misery and unhappiness but he could not do anything to help her.

Hera then gave Io to Argus in order for him to take care of her. This was a good arrangement since Argus had 100 eyes. Zeus ordered Hermes to kill Argus and so as soon as Argus went to sleep Hermes obediently killed him not knowing that Hera knew the plan and had already taken off Argos’ eyes and placed them in to her favorite bird, the peacock.

It seemed that Io was free but no, Hera sent a fly after her to plague and sting her to madness.

Prometheus listened to her story and tried to comfort her by telling her to look at her future. Io said goodbye and continued on her way. One of the seas she crossed was named after her, the Ionian Sea but she was truly comforted when she reached the Nile and then Zeus appeared once again this time as a human. He informed her that she was to give birth to a child which she would name Epaphus, and he would live happily in honor. Io’s descendant in the future would be Hercules and it is he that Prometheus will later owe his future to.

EUROPA

Oceanus, Greek mythology

Oceanus, Greek mythology

Io was not the only young girl that became famous in mythology because Zeus fell in love with her. There was another young girl that is known far more widely-Europa, the daughter of the king of Sidon. Opposite Io, Europa was very fortunate as she did not suffer at all.

Once early morning Europa was awoken by a very strange and bad dream, in her dream there were two continents, both in the shape of a woman, and they were each trying to possess her. The one continent Asia claimed that she owned her for she gave birth to her, then the other continent that didn’t then have a name claimed that Zeus had given her the permission to abduct the maiden. After this horrible dream, she decided not to try to sleep again. She sent for her companion to go out with her to the country side near the sea where they often met to bathe, dance or collect bunches of flowers in a basket.

Europa’s beauty was of fragile craftsmanship in the opinion of any man. As she was placing the flowers in the basket, Zeus was conquered, not only by the pretty scent or her beauty but also by the arrow that the mischievous Cupid had planted in his heart. The great lord of the sky fell madly in love with Europa.

Although Hera, Zeus’ wife was occupied with other things Zeus decided not to risk approaching Europa, so he turned himself in to a bull, a beautiful powerful animal with a gentle appearance that did not frighten Europa or her companions, they all desired to mount this bull.

Europa was the first to mount the bull, and before the others approached the bull rushed and leaped over the wide waters to the shore. On their journey they passed by many sea Gods, they saw Nereids riding dolphins and they even saw Poseidon himself. Europa was afraid of all these creatures and she held on to the bull with all her strength. At this point she was sure that this was no ordinary bull, an animal in appearance but with the mind of a God. She cried and begged the bull to pity her and not abandon her in some unknown place, Zeus calmed her down in a gentle way and they soon reached their destination which was Crete.

The island of Crete belonged to Zeus, everything he could wish for happened there. His marriage to Europa took place there. She gave birth to two sons Minos and Rhadamantus, which were well known for their justice upon the earth, therefore they were announced as the judges of the dead but her own  name is still the best known of all.

6. Flower myths

NARCISSUS

Narcissus, Greek mythology

Narcissus, Greek mythology

Narcissus is remembered for having fallen in love with his own reflection.

Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephisus and the nymph Liriope; He was greatly loved by Apollo. He was known for his charming and beautiful appearance.

His mother was told that he would have a long life, provided he never looked upon his own appearance. All the young nymphs fell in love at first sight with him but he was very vain and they didn’t mean much to him. His rejection, however, of the love of the nymph Echo (whom had previously been punished by Hera for being another one of the women that Zeus fell in love with) or of his lover Ameinias drew upon him the revenge of the gods. He fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a river, he then realized that he loved himself more than he could ever love any body else, with that thought he pined away (or killed himself); the flower that bears his name sprang up in the country side where he died.

HYACINTHUS

Hyacinthus was a young handsome Spartan prince loved by the gods Apollon and Zephyros. The West Wind grew jealous of his rival in love, and one day as the pair were playing discus, blew the discus off course causing it to strike Hyakinthos in the head and kill him. The grieving Apollon then transformed the dying youth into a larkspur flower which he inscribed with the wail of mourning AI, AI.

ADONIS

Adonis Greek mythology

Adonis Greek mythology

One of the most famous flower deaths was that of Adonis. Every year most girls in Greece mourned for him and then they rejoiced when his flower, the blood-red anemone was seen blooming again. Aphrodite, the goddess of love adored Adonis. She loved him from the moment that he was born; it was then that she decided that he should become hers one day. She carried him to Persephone in order for her to take care of him until he grew up, but Persephone also began to love him and would not return Adonis to Aphrodite, not even when Aphrodite went down to the underworld to get him. Neither goddess would yield.

At the end Zeus, himself had to judge between them. He decided that Adonis should spend half of the year with Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, then half the year with Persephone, the goddess of the dead. However Adonis made over to Aphrodite his own share in addition. This is the reason that Adonis can be counted among those who were in the Underworld and came back to be among the living. He lived happily with Aphrodite who sought only to please him, but one sad day he was out hunting when he tracked down a mighty boar. With his dogs, he brought the boar to bay and hurled his spear at it. His spear did not kill the boar but only wounded it, the boar mad with pain attacked him with its great tusks. Aphrodite heard her lovers groan and flew to him in her winged car.

She kissed him as he was softly breathing his last few breathes, the dark red blood was flowing out of his wound on his white skin. As he died he did not realize that although his wound was cruel, the wound his death had created in Aphrodite’s heart was deeper. She whispered in his ear even though she realized that he could no longer hear her. Where each drop of Adonis’ blood had touched the ground a crimson flower sprang up.

7. Myths of love and adventure

CUPID AND PSYCHE

Cupid and Psyche in Greek mythology

Cupid and Psyche in Greek mythology

Once there was a king who had three beautiful daughters.  The youngest was called Psyche and she was the most beautiful of the three.  Some even say that the Goddess of beauty Aphrodite felt she could not equal to this mortal girl.  Aphrodite did not like feeling second, she neglected her own life and her duties and spent all her time watching over Psyche with rage and jealousy.  She asked her own son Cupid mischievous enough in his own nature, to help her get rid of this mortal girl, she ordered him to throw one of his love arrows into Psyche’s heart and make her fall in love with the most despicable creature in the whole world. He agreed, as he always did, and was prepared to obey his mother’s commands. There were two fountains in Aphrodite’s garden, one of sweet drinking waters, the other of bitter water.

Cupid filled two large vases, one from each fountain, and placing the vases on the top of his quiver, quickly flew to the chamber of Psyche, whom he found sleeping. He dripped a few drops from the bitter water on to her lips, even though the sight of her almost moved him to pity; he  then touched her side with the point of one of  his arrows. At the touch she awoke, and opened eyes straight on to Cupid (he himself was invisible), this startled Cupid so much that in his confusion he wounded his side with his own arrow. Taking no notice of his wound, his whole thought now was to repair the mischief he had done, and he poured the drops of joy over all her silk hair.

As year passed by Psyche’s two older sisters’s married rich princes and moved away. Young men continued to admire Psyche’s beauty but nobody seemed interested in marrying this young virgin mortal. She spent all her time sat alone in her apartment, deplored her solitude, sick of her great beauty which, while it procured abundance of flattery, had failed to awaken love. Her parents afraid that their daughter had made one of the gods angry consulted the oracle of Apollo; the answer that they received confirmed their suspicions. Their daughter had been put under a spell and no mortal lover could ever love her. Her future husband was waiting for her on the top of the mountain. He was a monster whom neither Gods nor mortals could resist.

Her parents felt dismay and grief but Psyche remained calm and told her parents that they should have grieved for her when her admirers were everywhere and treating her with a larger respect than the Goddess Aphrodite herself. Now she will remain a victim of Aphrodite’s forever, then she begged her parents to take her to the top of the mountain where her unhappy fate was awaiting her. The procession took place the next day. It reminded her parents more of a funeral than a nuptial pomp, they took Psyche to the top of the mountain, then with heavy hearts returned home without their precious beautiful daughter.

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche

Psyche stood on the edge of the top of the mountain, frightened and close to crying, the gentle Zephyr (the God of the west wind) raised her from the earth and put her down again in a green meadow. She lay down and fell asleep. When she awoke, she stood up and looked around. All she could see was trees, and far away a fountain of clear crystal water – everything was so beautiful that she realized that no mortal could ever live here, this was the art of a God and only a God. She then saw a building close in the distance which she approached and entered. Every object she saw before her filled her with pleasure and amazement.

Golden pillars were supporting the roof and the walls were enriched with carvings and paintings of beasts of chase and rural scenes that were immediately adored by the eye of every beholder. She walked further on and she perceived that besides the apartments of state, that the others were filled with rich treasures, beautiful, precious and rich productions of nature and art, while she was admiring all these riches, she heard a voice but could not understand where the voice came from.

The voice said that all she saw belonged to her; the voices that she would hear all belonged to her servants that would obey her commands. A room had been prepared for her to rest, a bath was ready for her to bathe in and when she got hungry, she was told to sit at the table and food would be served. All happened as the voice had said but without any body’s appearance, the food was rich and the wine of nectar, music was playing in the background but no musician was to be seen.

Days passed and still she had not seen her destined husband’s face. He arrived after darkness and left again after dawn. She begged him to stay with her and allow her to behold him but he would not agree to that. He did not wish for her to see him for it was his pleasure, for many reasons to keep concealed. He asked her to love him as an equal and not as a God. He granted all her wishes and tried his hardest to keep Psyche happy.

Psyche’s loneliness was getting worse and worse every day and she missed her parents and two sisters a lot. That night, after dark she told her husband that she wished for her two older sisters to visit her palace and share her riches, he unwillingly agreed to her sisters being soon brought to see her. She called to Zephyr and told him about her husband’s command; Zephyr obediently brought her two sisters across the mountain and to their sister’s valley. The girls embraced her and she happily returned their caresses. She led them into her palace and offered to share all riches with them. The two girls envied their younger sisters riches and treasures, they asked Psyche a lot of questions about her husband and soon made her confess that she had not yet seen her husband’s face.

Her sisters reminded Psyche that her husband was supposed to be a beast and would one day eat her alive. They advised her to provide herself with a lamp and a knife and to see her husband’s face while he would sleep that night. If he was a monster they said that she should cut of his head with the knife and recover her liberty. Psyche trusted her sisters and their words frightened her, that night, when her sisters left, she provided herself with an oil lamp and a large knife and silently rose over her husband’s figure in bed. There she saw that no hideous beast was there but a beautiful and charming young God with skin as white as snow and wings on each shoulder. She leaned over to have a better look at her husband but a drop of hot oil fell from the lamp on to his shoulder and he opened his eyes and looked straight in to her eyes.

Without saying a word he stood up and flew out of the window, Psyche tried to follow him but instead of flying she fell out of the window on to the ground. Cupid beheld her as she lay on the dusty ground and asked her if this was the way she had tried to repay his love, he said that his love could not dwell on suspicion, that he would not punish her for what she had done but he would leave her for ever. He left her lying on the ground and flew far away. When she recovered from her fall, she stood up and saw that the palace had disappeared and she was now stood in a field not far from where her two sisters lived. She found them and told them the story of her misfortune, they both pretended to grieve but inwardly rejoiced and thought that now this God would choose one of them.

The next morning they ascended the mountain and called upon Zephyr to receive them and bear them to his lord, then they leapt up, and not being sustained by Zephyr, both fell down the precipice and was dashed to pieces. Meanwhile Psyche wandered day and night without food or drink in search of her husband, she came to a high mountain with a temple on the top, with hope that this was where he love dwelled she started to climb the mountain. When she entered the temple she saw heaps of corn and barley, scattered around were rakes, spades and other instruments of harvest, she started to sort them out and put everything in to its place. The temple belonged to the Holy Ceres who appeared suddenly and was pleased with Psyche, She told her that she knew the story of her misfortune and advised her to surrender herself to Aphrodite, maybe then she would win her forgiveness and also win her lost husband back. Psyche obeyed Ceres commands and started the journey towards the temple of Aphrodite feeling doubtful and frightened that this journey could be fatal.

Aphrodite received Psyche with anger, she asked her if she had at last remembered that she had a mistress, she said that her son was sick, from a wound that had been given to him by his wife. She would make trial of her housewifely. Aphrodite led Psyche to a storehouse where a great quantity of wheat, barley, bean and lentils lay on the ground mixed up. She ordered Psyche to remain in the storehouse and separate all the grains before the darkness fell. Aphrodite left her there alone to complete this task. Hunger and thirst had taken all of Psyche strength away and so she sat silently and stupidly and starred at the grains without moving a finger towards separating them. Cupid, who had been silently watching over Psyche, stirred up the little ant to take compassion on her, the leader of the anthill followed by millions of other ants approached the heap and carrying grain by grain they separated all the grains neatly into heaps, then the ants disappeared out of sight.

cupid and psyche in Greek mythology

cupid and psyche in Greek mythology

Aphrodite returned at the approach of twilight, when she saw the task done she exclaimed that this was not the work of Psyche but of her sons Cupid, she threw a piece of old bread at Psyche and went away. The next morning she reappeared and gave a second task to Psyche. She was to travel down the river until she would find sheep feeding without a shepherd, these sheep had golden fleeces and Aphrodite wanted a sample of fleece from every sheep. Psyche obediently went to the riverside, but there she found the river God whom had told her that these sheep were deadly dangerous, he gave her directions how to fulfill Aphrodite’s task and so Psyche returned with her arms full of the Golden Fleece. Once again, Aphrodite was not satisfied and so she gave Psyche a third task

She was to visit the Goddess Proserpine and fill a small box with some of her beauty. Aphrodite wanted the box of beauty before dark so that she could paint her face with the beauty in order to appear in front of the circle of Gods that evening. When Psyche started on the dangerous road to Proserpine’s house, a voice was heard, the voice told her that if she walked through a cave she would avoid the deadly three headed dog and finish the third task safely but once she held the box of beauty she must not open the box. Psyche was encouraged by this advice and obeyed the voice. Proserpine filled the box for her and handed it back to her. Psyche, having got so far successfully through the third dangerous task desired to put some beauty back on to her own face as to be more beautiful for her beloved husband. She opened the box but in there was no beauty of any kind instead was an infernal and truly Stygian sleep, that as soon as it was freed took possession of her and she fell down in the middle of the road, a sleepy body without sense or motion.

Cupid was now recovered from his wound and was searching for his beloved Psyche, he found her and pricked her with one of his arrows, and Psyche woke up. He told her to return the box to his mother and he would take care of the rest.

Then Cupid, swift as lightning, presented himself before Jupiter with his supplication. Jupiter lent a favoring ear, and pleaded the cause of the lovers so earnestly with Aphrodite that he won her consent. On this he sent Mercury to bring Psyche up to the heavenly assembly, and when she arrived, handing her a cup of ambrosia, he said, “Drink this, Psyche, and be immortal; nor shall Cupid ever break away from the knot in which he is tied, but these nuptials shall be perpetual.”

At last, Psyche became united to Cupid, and in time they had a daughter, whose name was Pleasure.

PYRAMUS AND THISBE

Pyramus and Thesbe, Greek mythology

Pyramus and Thesbe, Greek mythology

The berries on the Mulberry bush are red, instead of their original white, the reason for this is the death of two young lovers under the bush.  Pyramus was the most beautiful youth in Babylon and Thisbe, the loveliest maiden of the East.  The two children grew up in a one-room house that had been interconnected. Over the years, they fell in love with each other, their parents refused them to see each other and for them to get married. They continued loving one another and exchanged words of love through a hole in the wall, until one day they agreed to elope together, Pyramus gave Thisbe the location of the place they would meet, and they agreed.

Thisbe arrived first at the mulberry bush outside the city, but as she waited for Pyramus a lion appeared with her jaws covered in blood from a previous kill that day. Thisbe, frightened by the sight of the lion ran and hid in a nearby cave.  When Pyramus arrived at the mulberry bush, he saw Thisbe’s cloak, that he had gifted to her out of love, covered in blood and torn to pieces, then he saw the lion’s footprints. He realized that his only love had been killed by the lion. He took out his sword that she had gifted him and stabbed his own chest. Thisbe then returned to their meeting place only to see Pyramus lying on the ground under the mulberry bush with his sword impaling his chest. As he breathed his last breaths she took his sword and brought the blade into her own soft flesh. There in love and peace, they died together.

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

Orpheus was one of the best musicians that ever lived. One note he sung, one strum of his lyre and wild animals would crawl to him, trees would tear their roots to be closer to him. He had more power than any other mortal because he was the son of the Muse Calliope. He lived a quiet and peaceful life until he met Eurydice, with whom he fell madly in love with. The rustic Goddess Aristaeus saw Eurydice’s beauty and envied her. She did not care about their love and sent a poisonous snake after Eurydice. The snake bit her and instantly killed her. Orpheus was inconsolable. His grief was bitter so he decided to take action. With his lyre he descended into the underworld.

A usual mortal would have come across many difficulties to reach the underworld but even Cerebus the three headed dog that guarded the gate to the underworld was charmed by the sound of his music and let him pass. He met Hades and Persephone and told them his sad story. They were both touched by the story and led him to Eurydice – they gave him a chance to win his love back. She would follow him out of the underworld without him turning back to see her until they reached the sun light, only then would she be changed from a shade to a mortal once again. If he looked back even once she would be lost forever. Orpheus agreed and rejoiced. He turned and left the dark hall of the underworld and as he walked he listened carefully for her footsteps behind him, but a shade makes no sound.

The closer he got to the sunlight the more he believed that the Gods had tricked him into leaving the underworld. Only some feet away from the sun light he turned behind. He saw Eurydice, but only for a second as her shade was being pulled back among the other dead people, she was gone. Orpheus tried to return in to the underworld and demand her back but one could not enter the underworld twice. There are a few different tales about his death but he was torn apart by an animal of some kind. The Muses mourned the death of their son and saved his head, to sing forever.

CEYX AND ALCYONE

Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, the god of the wind, and her mother was either Enarete or Aegiale. She was the loving wife of Ceyx, King of Trachis. Ceyx ruled his kingdom with justice and in peace. Alcyone and Ceyx were admired by gods and mortals alike for their great physical beauty, as well as the great love they had for each other. They were so happy in their marriage that they used to often playfully call one another Zeus and Hera. This bothered the chief of the gods who regarded it an insult. Zeus waited for the right time to punish the loving couple who dared to compare themselves to Gods.

Ceyx was still in suffering over his brother’s death and troubled over some ominous signs that had observed. So, he decided to travel to consult the oracle of Apollo at Carlos in Ionia. Alcyone, however, tried to persuade her husband not to travel through the dangerous seas to consult the oracle. She knew of the danger from the fury of the winds which even her father, the God of winds, could not always control: she begged her husband to take her along with him. But Ceyx wouldn’t put his beloved wife through this kind of danger. Alcyone watched from afar, with a bad feeling as the ship carrying her husband was getting away from the harbor.

Zeus, the chief god, decided this was an opportune time to punish the couple for their disrespect. He threw a thunderbolt that raised a furious storm engulfing the ship which began to sink. Ceyx realized that the end had come for him and, before he got drowned, he prayed to the Gods for his body to be washed ashore so as to enable his beloved Alcyone to perform the funeral rites. As Ceyx breathed his last breath, his father Esophorous, the morning star, watched helplessly, hiding his face with clouds, he was unable to leave the heavens and rescue his son.

Alcyone waited for her husband to return, she prayed to the Gods every day for him to be safe. When Morpheus told her of the ship wreck she ran to the shore and saw a body being washed ashore, after performing the last rites, she realized that she could not live without her beloved husband so she drowned herself in the same sea that had taken her husbands life away. The Gods on Olympus were affected by the fate of this loving couple and out of shame Zeus turned their bodies into beautiful kingfisher Halcyon birds.

The phrase “halcyon days” owes its origin to this beautiful myth of Alcyone and Ceyx. According to the legend, for three weeks every January, Aeolus, the father of Alcyone, calms down the winds and the waves so that Alcyone, in the form of a kingfisher bird, can safely build her nest on the beach and lay her eggs.

PYGMALION AND GALATEA

Pygmalion and Galatea, Greek mythology

Pygmalion and Galatea, Greek mythology

The gifted young sculptor from Cyprus was a real woman hater. He vowed never to marry and did not attempt to hide his hatred for all women. One day he created an black ivory statue of a woman, his creation was so striking that no real woman came close. The statue was perfect for Pygmalion because it did what no living woman could do, it was quiet, it did not cause a stir nor did it argue so it fit perfectly into Pygmalion’s life. He named his creation Galatea and without realizing so he soon fell deeply in love with his statue.

He treated his statue with love and care. Every day he would dress her, feed her, look in to her eyes and talk, put her to bed and spoil her as if she was living and breathing, quietly accepting his love.

One day Pygmalion attended Aphrodite’s annual festival which was held in Cyprus, after making his offering at the altar, he politely asked the Goddess to give him a wife as perfect as his creation. The fire on the altar enlarged showing a sign that she might of heard his prayer. He returned home after the festival to take care of Galatea, as he bent down to kiss her ivory lips, he realized that her lips were no longer cold and hard but soft and gentle. Then he realized that Aphrodite had granted his wish and Galatea, his beloved statue had come to life. Their eyes met and both saw instant love for the first time.

BAUCIS AND PHILEMON

One day two of the Gods descended to earth disguised as mortals, they walked around the area where an old poor couple Philemon and Baucis lived. They knocked at many door asking for hospitality but nobody accepted them until they knocked at the old couple’s door. They entered into an old cottage, the roof was made of straw and reeds from a nearby marsh, the old couple had been married since their youth in this cottage and had grown old together.

Their poverty did not stop them for offering hospitality to visitors. They set them a bed made of dried grass in order for them to rest and lighting the fire they started to prepare a meal for these unknown guests, the meal consisted of olives , berries, nuts, radishes, eggs, cream cheese and their home made wine. As the old couple served the meal they realized that each time the bowl of wine was drained, it replenished itself and so did the bowl of olives, berries and nuts. They felt afraid of what they were witnessing, and fearing the power of their visitors they decided to slaughter their one and only goose. They were old and were afraid that they would not be able to catch the goose, finally the bird fled for shelter to the Gods themselves.

Then, the Gods announced to the old couple that they lived in a wicked neighborhood and that all except for themselves should be punished. With these words, the Gods flew the old couple to the top of a high mountain, as the couple looked down, they saw the whole country side flooded with water, but their own small cottage remained. They were in tears as they thought of this terrible tragedy that had come upon their neighbors. While they wept, the Gods changed their small poor cottage into a rich temple the wooden supports became marble columns and the straw roof was now a golden roof. Then the Gods asked the old couple to make a wish, the old couple wished to be priests in the temple and prayed to die together, Philemon asked never to see his wife’s tomb nor to be buried by her. The Gods granted their wishes and the old couple spent many years guarding the temple, and as soon as the time came for them to say farewell to one another, they were turned into trees, standing close together and growing from one double trunk.

ENDYMION

Endymion in Greek mythology

Endymion in Greek mythology

Some say that Endymion was a shepherd, other say that he was a king and others say that he was a hunter. He was born in Thessaly and was the son of Zeus himself or Aethlius. His mother was the nymph Calyce.

As he hunted one day, the Goddess of the Moon saw him and was enchanted by his beauty.  Sorry that he was mortal and she a Goddess she put him into an eternal sleep so as he would then have eternal youth. She spent her time visiting and looking over the beautiful Endymion who was not dead but asleep.

DAPHNE

Daphne was another beautiful love and marriage hating young maiden – whom we so often meet in mythology. It is said that she was Apollo’s first love but she ran away from him. Apollo was a great archer but sometimes he was a bit too full of himself, one day he saw Eros (Cupid), the son of Aphrodite, Eros was also a great archer, his arrows were well known for inserting turns of love into a person’s heart. Apollo insulted young Eros about his abilities as an archer. Eros angry at Apollo’s insult shot two arrows, one dipped in gold and the second dipped in lead.  The arrow dipped in gold struck Apollo but the arrow dipped in lead struck Daphne who was passing by at that time. The arrow dipped in lead would make the person it hit never have the desire to love anybody of the opposite sex. Apollo chased the young maiden but she ran from him endlessly. When she got tired of him chasing her she asked her father, Peneus, the God of the river to help her. Peneus felt sorry for his daughter and transformed her into a laurel tree. Apollo continued to adore the laurel tree, and until today the laurel tree is a symbol of the God Apollo.

ALPHEUS AND ARETHUSA

Arethusa was yet another young maiden that detested love and that vowed that she would never marry. One day, she was out hunting and when she got tired of the chase, she came upon a crystal clear river, she undressed and bathed in the still waters. While she was swimming to and fro, she felt something below her, in the water. She jumped out of the river and stood on the bank, then she heard a voice, it asked her why she had run away. Without looking back, she fled in horror and the faster she ran, she could still feel this thing behind her. At last she could run no longer – so she stopped and faced the ‘God’, who explained that his name was Alpheus and he was the God of the Rriver – he was following her only out of love.  She insisted that she wanted nothing to do with him but he continued to follow her. Arethusa then called to her God Artemis for help. Artemis transformed Arethusa into a spring of water. Arethusa plunged down and emerged in Ortygia, the place in which her spring still bubbles up on holy ground, sacred to Artemis. It is said that she is still not totally free of Alpheus, as he changed himself back into a river, and now his water mingles with hers in the fountain. It is also said that if a wooden plank is thrown into the Alpheus (named after Alpheus) in Greece that it will reappear in Arethusa’s spring in Sicily.

8. The quest of the Golden Fleece

The Quest of the Golden Fleece is also well known as Jason and the Argonauts.

The golden fleece in Greek mythology

The golden fleece in Greek mythology

This story starts with a Greek king called Athamas, who got tired of his wife and in order to marry another woman locked his first wife Nephele away in a dungeon. Nephele was afraid that her husband’s second wife would try to kill her two sons in order to take over the kingdom. Nephele’s fears were justified. Atharmas’s second wife lied to Athamas and told him that in order for them to be able to harvest crops again; she had been told by a God that they must sacrifice the two boys.  When the boys had been taken to the altar, a large ram with a golden fleece appeared from nowhere and snatched the two boys in answer to their mother’s prayers, the ram had been sent by the God Hermes. While the ram was flying over the sea between Asia and Europe the one boy fell and drowned in the deep sea. The eldest of the two survived the journey, his name was Phrixus.  He landed in the country of Colchis on the unfriendly sea (The Black Sea). The Colchians were not usually friendly people, they were half horse and half men but they were kind to Phrixus and as soon the baby grew up healthily in a cave, he married one of the king’s daughters. At the wedding Phrixus surprisingly sacrificed the ram that had saved his life to Zeus and he gave the Golden Fleece to his father in law, King Aetes, who hung the Golden Fleece on a tree outside a cave in a land that no mortal had ever seen.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Phrixus had an uncle, who by rights was a king in Greece but his kingdom had been taken away by his nephew, a man named Pelias. The King’s son Jason had been sent away secretly to a place of safety, where he had grown up and now boldly returned to claim his fathers kingdom back from his wicked cousin. Pelias had been told by an oracle that somebody wearing one sandal would one day kill him. One day such a man came to the town, he was tall, blond and his one foot was bear. Nobody knew him but many had suspicions, some said that he was Apollo, others that he was Aphrodite’s lord. Pelias hid his terror and approached the stranger. He asked him whom he was and which country was his father land. Jason answered gently that he had returned home to recover the honor of his house, his land and his riches.

He was his cousin Jason, and he told him to keep all riches but to hand over the throne. Pelias did not show his anger but was cunning he challenged Jason and told him that if he fulfilled a certain task, he would hand over the throne, the crown and the kingdom with Zeus as his witness.  Jason’s curiosity and wish for adventure took the better of him since he accepted to embark upon the quest which was to return the Golden Fleece to this town. He knew that this would indeed be a voyage and let it be known. Many young Greek men, including Hercules (the greatest of all heroes), Orpheus (the master musician), Castor with his brother Pollux,  joyfully met the challenge and joined Jason even though the quest was lethally dangerous.  They set sail in the ship Argo.

There first stop was at Lemnos, a strange island where only women lived. The women on the island had risen up against the men and had killed them all, except for one man, the King himself.  This King’s daughter, Hypsipyle was a leader among the women and had pitied her father setting him afloat on a large raft which had finally carried him to safety. However, the women welcomed Jason and his Argonauts and when they heard that they had no plan to remain on their island, they gifted the men with food, wine and garments before they sailed away.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Soon after they sailed away from Lemnos, they lost Hercules from the company. A young man called Hylas lost a valuable item in the sea and dived in to retrieve it, a water nymph that had been swimming underneath the ship, saw his beauty and wished to kiss him. She dragged him down into the deep sea and he drowned, Hercules dived into the water to find Hylas but disappeared in the deep water that Hylas had drowned in, he later swam back to shore but finally the ship had to leave without him.

Their next adventure was with the Harpies: gigantic, frightful flying creatures with curved beaks and claws – the Harpies were loathsome to any other living creature. When the Argonauts pulled their ship ashore for the night they met an old man who lived on the island, to whom the gift of prophecy had been given by the God Apollo. He had foretold many people what would happen and this had displeased Zeus, who liked his acts to remain a mystery. Zeus had punished the old man, whenever he needed to dine; the Harpies swooped down and ate all his food.

When the Argonauts saw this poor old man whose name was Phineus, weakly walking towards them on unsteady feet and dying of starvation, he knew through his gift of prophecy that two men alone could help him, and they were in Jason’s group; when he explained this, they gladly agreed to try and help him. They set up a rich table of food for the old man and stood by the table with their swords drawn, as soon as the old man sat down to eat, these creatures appeared from the sky, ate everything and left such a terrible odor behind them that Phineus and Jason’s men had to leave the area. Castor and Pollux, the two sons of the North wind, followed the harpies and struck at them with their swords.

They would gladly have killed them, had Iris, the rainbow messenger of the gods, not stopped them. She said that they were not to kill the harpies as they were Zeus’s hounds but she would break the oath and the harpies would not trouble Phineus any more. The two men returned happily and comforted the old man, who sat feasting with his heroes all that night. Phineus gave the men some wise advice, through his gift of prophecy about the dangers lying before them. He told them about the clashing rocks, called the Symplegades that rolled against one another, while the sea boiled up around them. The only way to pass between them was to first use a dove as a trial. If the dove passed the rocks and was not crushed then the chances were that the men could pass the rocks too, if the dove was crushed then the men should return to their homes and give up on the quest for the Golden Fleece.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

The next morning the men bid farewell to Phineus and started off once again, this time with a white dove and were soon in sight off the huge rolling rocks. They could not believe that there was a way through these rocks, but they freed the dove and watched it. She flew through the rocks and came out safely; the tips of the feathers on its tail had been cut off as the rocks had trapped them as they rolled together. The men swiftly followed the dove once again in between the rocks. As the rocks parted the men put all their strength into their oars, and they too emerged safely. They just made it in time for as the rocks clashed together again, the end of the stern ornament was broken off. Since these men passed, these rocks have been rooted fast to one another and have never caused any more trouble to sailors.

Not far from the Symplegades was the country of the warrior women (the Amazons), these women were the daughters of a peaceful and sweet nymph called Harmony. Their father, however was Ares (the terrible God of War), the women had followed their father’s ways and not their mother’s. If the heroes had halted and joined battle with the Amazons, it would have been a bloodshed as the Amazons were not gentle women. The wind was favorable and the heroes hurried on past the dangerous women. They saw the Caucasus as they sped past and even got a glimpse of Prometheus on his high rock above them. They did not stop to take a better look but hurried on past, the same day at sunset, they arrived at Colchis, the place of the Golden Fleece.

The golden fleece in Greek mythology

The golden fleece in Greek mythology

They spent that night on their ship, staring at Colchis feeling that they had no help save their own valor. However up in Olympus, the Gods were consoling themselves with them. Hera, who had been watching over them, visited Aphrodite in order to ask for help. Aphrodite the Goddess of love was surprised at Hera’s visit as they were not friends. When Aphrodite heard the Queen of Olympus’s story she agreed to help her and the heroes as much as she could. The two Goddesses agreed that Cupid, Aphrodite’s son was to throw one of his love-arrows and make the daughter of the Colchian King fall in love with Jason, then they would not be in danger of losing their lives to the King.

The young maiden whose name was Medea, could work very powerful magic and could easily save the Argonauts if she were to use her dark knowledge for their benefit. Aphrodite promised to gift Cupid a solid ball of gold if he were to help them out; he gladly seized his bow and arrow and swept down to Colchis.

Meanwhile, the heroes had gone ashore to ask the King for the Golden Fleece. They were safe for the time being as Hera had wrapped them in a thick mist and they managed to reach the palace unseen. Once they had reached the entrance to the palace, the mist dissolved and the warders led the strangers into the palace and sent word to the King of their arrival. The King came at once and welcomed the strangers, ordered his servants to prepare a rich table of food, light fires and heat water in order for the strangers to bathe and eat. His daughter Princess Medea stole into the room, curious to see the strangers and as soon as she set eyes on Jason, Cupid shot an arrow straight into her heart.

The arrow burned her like a flame and her soul melted with sweet pain, turning her face first first white then red, and ashamed of herself she stole back unseen to her chamber.

After the strangers had been fed and bathed, King Aetes asked them who they were and why had they come. Jason answered that they were all sons or grandsons of the Gods who had sailed from Greece in hope that he would gift them the Golden Fleece in return for whatever service he asked of them. They were willing to conquer his enemies or do anything else he wished.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

King Aetes grew very angry as he listened to Jason. He, like all other Greeks, did not like strangers and wanted to keep them away from his country. He thought that if these men had not eaten at his table he would instantly have killed them. He thought of a plan: He told Jason that he respected brave men, and if they proved to be so, he would gift them the Golden Fleece. The trial of their courage, he explained, was something that he himself had already performed. It was to yoke two bulls that he owned, whose feet were of bronze and whose breath was of fire, and thereafter to plough a field with these bulls.

After that trial, the teeth of a dragon must be cut into furrows, and seeds which would immediately spring up into a crop of armed men which then must be cut down as they advanced to attack, this was to be a fearful harvesting. The King once again said that he had fulfilled this task and would give the Golden Fleece to no man braver than himself.

Jason sat and listened to the King speechless, this task seemed impossible and beyond the strength of any man. At last, he answered that he would accept the trial even if it killed him, and with those words he stood up and led his comrades to the ship where they were to spend the night. Medea’s thoughts followed after him, and all through the night he was the only person on her mind; she had guessed what her father had planned and her heart screamed out in fear for him.

Once in the ship, the heroes sat down and held a council, they each urged Jason to let them take on the trial but Jason would not agree. As they spoke, one of the Gods’ grandsons appeared whose life had once been saved by Jason. He told the men of Medea’s power and magic and persuaded Jason to return to the palace and try to win her heart, not knowing that Cupid had already done this. As this seemed like the only chance for Jason to achieve this task, he agreed and was grateful to the young prince.

Medea sat alone in her chamber weeping, she felt shame that she cared so much for this stranger and was planning to help him and go against her own father. She looked at a bag of herbs that had been used for killing people and even thought of drinking the herbs herself. Then a thought cheered her up, she owned a magic potion that made him who rubbed it on his body safe for that day, he could not be harmed by anything or anyone. She stood up, wiped her tear stained face, placed the potion in her bosom and went to find her nephew, the young prince whom Jason had once helped. She found him immediately as he had also been searching for her in order to beg her to help Jason. She agreed at once and sent him to the ship to tell Jason where and when to meet her.

As soon as Jason got the message, he started off to the meeting place and saw Medea who had been waiting there, and for some time they stared at one another without speaking. Medea did not know how to speak to Jason and at last he spoke first, bathing her in endless compliments about her looks. She shyly accepted them and gave Jason the potion and explained how it was to be used and would have given him her heart and soul as well if he’d asked for it. She said that if too many of the dragon teethed men attacked him, he was to throw a stone into their midst, which would encourage them to fight one another until all were killed. She then asked Jason not to forget her and he promised that he would never forget her and if she ever came to Greece that he and his people would worship her as if she were a Goddess.

They soon parted and she returned to the castle and wept over her treachery to her father. He returned to the ship and sent two of his comrades for the dragon’s teeth. The next day he commenced the trial, and when he entered the field where the King and the bulls were waiting for him, the bulls rushed out from their lair breathing flames of fire, though when they approached Jason, terror overcame them. Jason withstood the great creatures just like a great rock withstands the sea and the waves. He forced each one of them to the floor and then fastened the yoke upon them, by the time he had finished plowing and had placed the dragon’s teeth into the furrows, the crops were springing up with men in armor rushing at him to attack him. Jason threw a stone at their midst and the warriors turned upon each other and were killed by their own spears, the furrows filled with blood. Jason’s contest was ended in victory, leaving King Aetes bitter.

The golden fleece in Greek mythology

The golden fleece in Greek mythology

The King returned to the palace, vowing that they should never have the Golden Fleece. Hera however was working for the brave men, and she made Medea, who was all bewildered with love and misery, determine to fly with Jason. That night Medea stole out of the house and ran to the ship, she fell on her knees before the heroes, begging them to take her with them. She told them that they had to get the Golden Fleece immediately and then sail off otherwise they would all be killed.

A terrible serpent guarded the Golden Fleece but she would make it go to sleep and then it would do the men no harm. Jason rejoiced and promised Medea that they would marry as soon as they reached their part of Greece. He followed her to the area where the Golden Fleece had been hung. Medea approached the serpent with no fear, singing softly to it until it fell asleep, then Jason grabbed the golden fleece and ran to the ship holding Medea’s hand. The strongest men were put at the oars and they rowed with all their strength down the river towards the sea having Medea and the Golden Fleece aboard the ship with them.

By this time the king became aware of what had happened and sent his son, Medea’s brother Apsyrtus with a great army of men after Jason’s ship. Once again Medea saved them by doing a terrible thing, she killed her own brother.

By then the adventures of the heroes were almost over. They would have been in more danger on their return but Hera was watching over them and Medea saved them from a dangerous creature named Talus as they passed by Crete.

Finally they arrived in Greece where they disbanded, each hero going to his own home and Jason taking Medea and the Golden Fleece to Pelias. While they were on their quest, terrible deeds had been done. Pelias had talked Jason’s father into killing himself and his mother had died out of grief. Jason turned to Medea and asked her to help him punish this wickedness. Medea played a trick on Pelias’s daughters and they killed their father without realizing what they had done. Jason had his revenge.

Everything that Medea did whether it was wicked, evil or good had been done for Jason. Jason and Medea moved to Corinth, were married and had two sons. Medea often thought of her father and family back in Colchis but her love for Jason seemed more important to her. The first example of Jason’s betrayal towards Medea was when he secretly married the daughter of the King of Corinth. The King feared Medea’s powers so he ordered her and her two sons out of the country. While Medea sat alone one day, her thoughts as always with Jason, he suddenly appeared.

He offered Medea gold and fortune for as he said he was not a man to forget a friend. Medea reminded him of all the help she had given him, and that she had saved his life more than once. Jason’s answer was that it was not her that had saved his life but it was Aphrodite, as she had persuaded her son to make Medea fall in love with him. Medea was very angry and decided to kill Jason’s bride in revenge. She took a robe and anointed it with deadly drugs, and then she placed the robe into a basket and told her eldest son to gift the robe to Jason’s bride. As soon as Jason’s bride wore the robe, a fire devoured her, and melted away her flesh. She was dead.

When Medea knew that Jason’s bride was dead, she planned another dreadful task. She killed her own two sons without feeling any sorrow. When Jason found his dead bride he vowed to kill Medea, but when he arrived back at her house all he found there was his two dead sons. Jason always cursed her, never himself, for all that had happened.

9. Great adventures

PHAETHON

Phaethon in Greek mythology

Phaethon in Greek mythology

The palace of the sun was a wonderful place. It was made of gold, jewels and ivory. It was always daylight there, darkness was unheard of. Very few mortals could have long endured that unchanging lightness, but no mortal had ever found the way to the palace of the sun.

One day a young boy, half mortal on his mother’s side dared to approach the palace. He had to pause every few minutes and clear his dazzled eyes but his mission was so urgent that he continued on into the palace and into the room where the Sun God was sitting. There he weakened, he could bear no more.

Helios, the Sun God, looked down at the young boy kindly and asked him why he had come. The young boy answered that he needed to find out whether he, the Sun God, was indeed his father or not because although his mother had told him that he was his father, his school mates laughed at him when he told them. Helios smiled and took off his crown so that the boy could look at him without distress. He addressed the boy by his name Phaethon and told him that his mother Clymene had told him the truth. He said that he promised to do anything his son wished in order to prove that he was his father and he called upon the Styx, the river of the oath of all Gods as a witness to his promise.

Phaethon smiled and cried to his father that he wished to take his place just for one day and to ride the golden chariot around the skies giving sunlight to the earth. His father would have refused Phaethon’s wish but as he had called upon the Styx, he could not. He knew that his son thought that his job was beautiful and easy but it was not. Helios tried his hardest to persuade his young son to change his wish but Phaethon had often dreamt of riding his father’s chariot and would not change his mind. As Phaethon mounted the chariot and set off he felt himself the Lord of the Sky, but he lost control of the chariot on the steep hill that he had to ascend, his horses took control but the earth was set on fire. The greater Gods threw thunderbolts at the chariot in order to save earth but Phaethon burned to death, the only mortal to have ever driven the chariot of the sun.

PEGASUS AND BELLEROPHON

Pegasus in Greek mythology

Pegasus in Greek mythology

In Ephyre, the city that was later named Corinth, the king’s name was Glaucus. He was the son of Sisyphus who had been cursed in the underworld to roll a stone up a steep hill forever because he had betrayed a secret of Zeus. Glaucus drew down on himself the displeasure of heaven. He used to be a great horseman, but he fed his horses with human flesh so that they were fierce in battle, he had been thrown off his chariot by the Gods and his own horses had eaten him.

In the same city lived a bold young man who was said to be Glaucus’s son. Others said that the young man, Bellerophon was Poseidon, the Ruler of the sea’s son and looking at Bellerophon’s gifts of spirit and body this was likely the truth. More than anything in the world Bellerophon’s dream is to ride Pegasus, a winged, wild horse that had sprung from the Gorgon’s blood when Perseus had killed her. Bellerophon went to the temple of Athena to pray for his wish to come true. Athena later appears in Bellerophon’s dream and gives him a golden bridle which, she said would tame the wild horse. It did, and Pegasus became Bellerophon’s loyal horse.

Later, Bellerophon kills his brother entirely by accident. He goes to Argos where the king Proteus purifies him. But Bellerophon’s situation becomes complicated when the king’s wife, Anteia, takes an interest in his beautiful body and bold character. Bellerophon denies the queen’s wishes, but the evil, jealous woman told her husband that the boy had mistreated her and must die. Proteus did not want to kill Bellerophon personally because the boy had dined at his table, so instead he asks the boy to deliver a letter to the Lycian king.

With Pegasus, Bellerophon traveled easily and quickly and met the Lycian king, staying with him for nine whole days. When the king opens his letter, the letter had clear instructions to kill Bellerophon. But like Proteus, the Lycian king did not want to offend Zeus by acting violently towards his guest, so instead he sent Bellerophon on an impossible journey to kill a monster, Chimaera. With the help of Pegasus, however, Bellerophon kills the beast without harming himself. He returned to Proteus, and Proteus thereafter sent him on many more challenging and dangerous adventures.

Finally, the bold Bellerophon wins Proteus’s respect, and the king even gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage. Unfortunately, Bellerophon loses favor with the gods when he attempts to become more than a mortal and take a place on Mount Olympus. When he tried to make the journey up to the gods’ kingdom on the mountain, Pegasus threw Bellerophon off his back. Bellerophon wandered alone, “devouring his own soul,” until he finally died. Pegasus then became Zeus’s favorite beast, lived in the stables of Mount Olympus and brought thunder and lightning to Zeus.

OTUS AND EPHIALTES

Otus and Ephialtes were the twin sons of Poseidon and Iphimedia. They were giants but did not look like other monsters; instead they were handsome and noble faced. They were still very young when they began to challenge the Gods on several occasions. First they kidnapped and imprisoned Ares, until the Gods reluctantly send Hermes down to set him free. Their next challenge was to place one mountain on top of another, it was then that Zeus was ready to strike them both down with a thunderbolt but their father Poseidon begged that they be spared and finally Zeus conceded. Their third challenge was to try to capture Artemis, she ran away when she saw the twins approach but they chased her even through the waters until she disappeared and a beautiful white animal appeared where she had been last seen. Otus and Ephialtes both threw their spears at the animal but the animal also disappeared and the spears rebounded and killed the twins. This was Artemis’ revenge.

DAEDALUS

Daedalus in Greek mythology

Daedalus in Greek mythology

Daedalus was the architect who constructed the Labyrinth for the Minotaur in Crete, and who showed Ariadne how Theseus could escape from it. When the king Minos found out that the Athenians had escaped he imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth. When Daedalus realized that he did not know the way out along the paths, he built a pair of wings for himself and his son from feathers and wax. He warned his Icarus not to fly to high because the sun would melt the wax and the wings would then be destroyed. As they flew to their escape Icarus was overwhelmed by power and excitement and flew too high. The sun melted the wax and Icarus fell into the deep waters of the black sea, and was never found.

10. Great heroes before the Trojan War

PERSEUS

Perseus in Greek mythology

Perseus in Greek mythology

Acrisius was the king of Argos; he had one child, a beautiful daughter called Danae. Although her beauty was more than any other girl on the land, king Arcisus was still not satisfied, he wanted a son. He made a long journey to Delphi to ask the God if there was any hope than one day he would be the father of a boy. The God said no and then told him something even worse, He said that one day Danae would give birth to a son, and her son would kill king Acrisius. King Acrisius returned to Argos, having decided that the only solution would be to kill his beautiful daughter. He would not do this himself, not because he was a loyal father but because he was afraid of the terrible punishments that the Gods gave to those who shed blood. He had a house built, out of bronze that had sunk underground but one part of the roof was above the ground, open to the sky and allowing air and light into the house. There he locked his daughter up and guarded her. Danae there lived her live as a prisoner between the bronze walls through the long hours, having nothing to do, nothing to see but the sky and the clouds moving. One day a mysterious thing happened to her, a shower of gold fell from above and filled her house, she realized that it was Zeus, who had visited her in this shape and she knew that the child she bore was his son.

She kept her son a secret from her father for a long time but as her son grew up, it became more difficult to do this and one day the king discovered the boy whose name was Perseus, he was furious and would not believe Danae when she cried that her son’s father was Zeus. The king knew that this boy’s life was a great danger to his own life and so he put his daughter and his grandson into a large wooden chest and placed the chest into the sea.  The waves carried the chest to the island of Serifos, where it was found by a fisherman called Dictys. Dictys found the chest, broke it open and took Danae and her son home, where his wife who was just as kind and gentle as he was, took care of Danae and Perseus. There they lived for a few years until Dictys’s brother Polydectes fell in love with Danae but did not want her son Perseus and so he thought of a way to get rid of him.

He told Perseus stories about some fearful monsters called the Gorgons; they lived on an island and were well known because of their deadly power. Polydectes told Perseus that he badly wanted the head of one of the Gorgons; he wanted this more than any thing in the world.  Polydectes arranged a large party to announce to the villagers about his marriage to Danae, he invited everybody including Perseus, when his guests entered the house; everybody carried a gift except for Perseus who had nothing that he could give. He was young and proud and so he stood up and announced that he would gift Polydectes the head of Medusa. Nothing could have suited Polydectes better as Medusa was one of the Gorgons.

As Perseus started his dangerous journey, he was not aware that he was being watched over by two Gods, Zeus and Athena.  On his journey he met a young man who was wearing winged sandals and a winged hat. Perseus recognized the man as Hermes, the guide and giver of goodness. Hermes told Perseus that in order to find the Gorgons he must first travel to Libya, where he would find the Graiae, three women that shared one eye and one tooth, he must steal the eye and tell the Graiae to show him the way to the Gorgons, only when they did this would he return the eye. Hermes gave Perseus the directions and gifted him his sword that could not be bent or broken by the Gorgons. Then he gave him a shield that Athena had sent, he told Perseus that when the time came for him to attack Medusa to use the shining shield as a mirror, that way the Gorgon’s deadly power could not affect him. Perseus started off again towards Libya with much more hope of victory.

He came across the Graiae, stole their eye and they leaded him to the shore of Oceanus, the island where the Gorgons lived. He then returned the eye to the Graiae and the three women flew far away happy to have their eye back.

The Gorgons were all asleep when Perseus first set eyes on them, in the mirror of his bright shield he could see them clearly, they were large creatures with wings, and their bodies were covered with scales and their hair, a mass of twisting snakes.  Athena told him which one was Medusa, this was very important as she was the only Gorgon of the three that could be killed as the other two were immortal. Perseus with his winged sandals that Hermes had gifted him flew above the three Gorgons looking at them only through his shield because one look from the Gorgons turned men to stone. He aimed a stroke at Medusa’s neck and swooped low enough to seize her head. At this moment the other two Gorgons woke up and shocked at their sister’s slay they tried to pursue the slayer. Perseus was wearing the helmet that Hades had gifted him and was safe because he was invisible to the two Gorgons.

On the journey back, he came to Ethiopia and stopped to rest there. There he found a lovely maiden that had been given to a horrible sea serpent for food. Her name was Andromeda and she was the daughter of a vain and selfish woman called Cassiopeia, who had boasted that she was more beautiful than the daughters of Nereus, the Sea God and the Gods had punished her daughter instead of Cassiopeia. Perseus cut the serpents head off just as he had done to Medusa and took Andromeda back with him.

When Perseus finally reached the house where he had grown up, it was empty. The fisherman’s wife had died many years ago and Danae, his mother and Dictys, the man he saw as a father had run away to escape from Polydectes, who was furious that Danae had refused to marry him.

Perseus had also been told that at that moment Polydectes was holding a banquet with the men that favored him. Perseus entered Polydectes’s house, holding the head of Medusa in his arms, as each man stared at Medusa’s head, he was turned to stone.

Perseus made Dictys the king of the island and there he lived, rich and happy. Perseus, Andromeda and Danae decided to return to Argos and make amends with the king Acrisius. When they arrived in Argos, Perseus immediately wanted to take part in a great athletic contest, In the discus-throwing when his turn came and he threw the heavy disk, it swerved and fell among the audience. Acrisius was there and the blow was fatal, he died a quick death. The God’s oracle had come true and Perseus did not feel any grief to have killed the man who had tried to kill himself and his mother. Perseus and Andromeda had a son Electryon, who was well known as the grandfather of Hercules.

THESEUS

Theseus in Greek mythology

Theseus in Greek mythology

Theseus was the son of the Athenian king Aegeus; he grew up in his mother’s home in the south of Greece. Aegeus had returned to Athens before his child was born, but first he had placed in a hollow a sword and a pair of shoes, there he had covered them with a large stone, he had told his wife that if his child ever grew strong enough to roll the stone out of its place and to get the sword and shoes, only then should he travel to Athens and claim his father. As Theseus grew up, he was far taller and stronger than other boys of his age and so when he was sixteen years old, his mother took him to the large stone. Theseus rolled the stone away with no trouble; she then told him that the time had arrived for him to travel to Athens to seek his father. A ship was placed at disposal by his grandfather, but Theseus refused to travel by water, he wished to travel by land as he wanted to become a great hero like his cousin Hercules, as soon as possible. He travelled by land to Athens, killing any bandit that tried to approach him.

Greece rang with praises for the young man who had cleared the mountain paths of bandits and when he reached Athens, he had been already acknowledged as a hero and was invited to a banquet by the king, who of course had no idea that this young man was his son.  King Aegeus had heard of the young mans popularity and had invited him to the palace to poison him as he was afraid that he would be voted king and take over the throne. This idea was not king Aegeus’s but Medea’s the heroine of the quest of the Golden Fleece, she knew through her sorcery that Theseus really was. When Theseus entered the palace she ran to offer him a cup of poison but Theseus was excited about meeting his father and so he drew his sword immediately and king Aegeus knocked the cup of poison from his hands onto the floor. Medea escaped to Asia as she always did.

King Aegeus introduced his son Theseus as his heir and the new heir apparent soon had the opportunity to endear himself to the people of Athens.

Theseus in Greek mythology

Theseus in Greek mythology

Years back, a terrible misfortune had happened to the city of Athens. Minos, the powerful king of Crete, had lost his only son Androgeus, while his son had been visiting king Aegeus. King Aegeus had sent his guest to kill a dangerous wild bull on an expedition full of peril. Instead the bull had killed Androgeus, and then Minos invaded the country, captured Athens and declared war unless every nine years the people sent him a group of seven maidens and seven youths to Crete where they were fed to the Minotaur.

The Minotaur was a monster, half bull, half human. Poseidon had gifted a great bull to Minos in order for Minos to sacrifice it to him but Minos didn’t slay the bull as he had felt sorry for it and as a punishment, Poseidon had made Minos’s wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. The Minotaur was the child of Pasiphae and the bull. Minos did not kill this creature when it was born; instead he had Daedalus, a great architect and inventor, build the labyrinth, which became famous throughout the world. One inside, one would walk endlessly through the small paths without ever finding the exit, this was where the Minotaur lived and also the group of youngsters that were sent every nine years from Athens were placed in the labyrinth and left to the Minotaur. This was the doom that waited fourteen youths and maidens a few days after Theseus arrived in Athens.

At once Theseus offered to be one of the victims, he planned to kill the Minotaur, but only told his father his plan. He promised, that if he succeeded, he would have the black sail which the ship of misery carried, changed to a white sail, this way king Aegeus would know before the ship arrived back in Athens that his son was safe.

When the young victims arrived in Crete they were paraded before the Cretans on their way to the labyrinth. Minos’s daughter Ariadne saw the victims and as soon as she saw Theseus, she fell madly in love with him. She sent for Daedalus and told him to tell her the way out of the labyrinth, then she called for Theseus and told him that she would help him escape the labyrinth if he promised that then he would take her back to Athens and marry her. Theseus immediately agreed and so she gave him the clue that Daedalus had given her, a ball of thread which he was to fasten at one end on the inside of the door and to unwind as he walked on. This he did and waked boldly into the labyrinth in search of the Minotaur. He found the Minotaur and it was asleep, he leapt upon it and battered it to death with his bear hands as he had no other weapon. When he recovered from the fight, he followed the ball of string to the exit and taking Ariadne and the other youngsters with him sailed the ship and travelled towards Athens.

They stopped at the island of Naxos to rest, there they lost Ariadne. Some say that Theseus deserted her there; others say that she got sea sick and swam to shore and by the time Theseus sailed in, she had died. Both stories agree on that when he sailed near to Athens he had forgotten his promise to change the color of the sail. The black sail was seen by Theseus’s father and out of sadness he jumped off a mountain of rocks into the sea and was killed. The sea in which he was killed has been called the Aegean ever since.

Theseus became the king of Athens and he was very a very fair and wise king, all his people were equal and Athens soon became one of the happiest cities on the earth. His name often appears in myths about his heroic deeds such as a battle against the Centaurs which were half human, half animal creatures with the body of a horse and the head, chest and arms of a human and in the quest of the Golden Fleece. Theseus also went to war against the female warriors known as the Amazons after he kidnapped and married Antiope, one of the Amazons that bore him a son, Hippolytus. After she gave birth, the rest of the Amazons invaded Athens in order to rescue her, they were defeated by Theseus and the Athenians and no other enemy ever entered Athens as long as Theseus was ruling.

After his Amazon wife died, Theseus finally married Phaedra, said to be Ariadne’s sister. Phaedra fell madly in love with her step son, Hippolytus, who rejected her love. Phaedra then hung herself and left a note to be found by Theseus saying that her step son had raped her and that she had hung herself out of shame. Theseus was furious and he asked his patron Poseidon to destroy his son, the God fulfilled the kings wish, later when Theseus found out the truth, he knew that he had had his only son killed.

Theseus had been banished from Athens, after what had happened with his son the people of Athens recognized him as king only in name. Realizing that he would never have real control of the kingdom again, he went into exile cursing the Aegean. He ended up on the island of Scyrus, where on pretense, King Lycomedes welcomed him friendly, but one day took him up onto a mountainside and threw him into the sea. Theseus’ death went unnoticed, but after all his adventures, the oracle of Delphi ordered the Athenians to bring the ashes of Theseus back to his own country. There they built a great tomb for him and held it in memory of a protector of the defenseless.

HERCULES

Hercules in Greek mythology

Hercules in Greek mythology

Hercules was the greatest hero of Greece; he was what all Greece except for the Athenians admired. He was the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmena; He was born a mortal but later earned a position among the Gods. Both of his parents were married to somebody else when they conceived Hercules. Zeus’ wife, Hera was very angry about this affair and she tried to kill Hercules, by sending two poisonous snakes into his crib, almost immediately after he was born. Her attempt failed as Hercules was later found in his crib, laughing a baby laugh and carrying a dead snake in each hand.  Before he was in his teens, he had already proved himself an unerring marksman with a bow and arrow, he was one of the best wrestlers and had super strength. He soon met a woman called Megara and had two children. Hera continued to be jealous of the young Hercules and drove him mad, in a rage Hercules killed his wife and his children then he became sick with grief. He prayed to the God of the Sun Apollo, for redemption. To be forgiven for his crime he was given a series of labors that if he managed to complete his soul would be cleansed. By rights Hercules had the right to the throne but Hera tricked Zeus into crowning Eurystheus instead.  Hercules was sent to king Eurystheus for twelve years to complete the labors.

His first task was to kill the Nemean lion, this was a large lion, whose hide was not responsive to weapons and it plagued the whole district of Nemea in the Argolis. Hercules cornered the lion into its cave and then wrestled it to death. He then skinned the lion and made a cape out of its skin and a helmet out of its jaws, which he always wears. Hera later placed the lion among the stars as the constellation Leo.

King Eurystheus was so surprised and afraid when he saw his heroic cousin returning alive wearing the lion’s skin that he hid himself in a storage jar, from there he ordered the next labor which was to find and destroy the monstrous, nine headed water serpent called Hydra. Hydra lived in the swamps of Lerna and was difficult to defeat because as soon as one of her heads was cut off, two grew back in its place. With the help of Iolaos, Hercules applied burning brands to the several stumps of where her heads had been cut off, cauterizing the serpent’s wounds and preventing regeneration. In his battle with Hydra he accidentally crushed a gigantic crab that had come to assist Hydra. Hera later placed Hydra and The crab among the stars as the constellations Hydra and Cancer.

Hercules’s third labor was to capture the Cerynitian Hind; this was a female deer, with golden horns, sacred to the Goddess Artemis. Hercules spent a year tracking down this deer and when he finally found it he aimed his arrow between the deer’s two fore legs, he hit the animal without drawing blood but Artemis was still displeased at the treatment of her animal. Hercules blamed the king Eurystheus and begged Artemis to let him borrow the dear to fulfill his labor. The deer might have been placed among the stars as a constellation, like the other beasts from Hercules’s labors.

The fourth labor was to capture alive a great Erymanthian boar, after chasing the great boar through the snow on mount Erymanthos, he netted the boar and brought it back alive to king Eurystheus who cowered even lower in his jar at the sight of the great boar.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Eurystheus was very pleased with himself for thinking of the fifth labor; he was so sure this task would humiliate his heroic cousin. Heracles was to clean out the stables of King Augeas in a one single day. King Augeas owned many herds of cattle which had deposited their manure in such quantity over the years that the smell hung over the whole of the Peloponnesus. Instead of employing a shovel and a basket as Eurystheus had imagined he would do, Heracles changed the direction of two rivers so that they flowed through the stable yard and did the job done without Hercules even getting dirty. But because he had demanded payment of Augeas, Eurystheus refused to count this as a Labor.

The sixth labor was to hunt down the Stymphalian birds that lived in a marsh near the lake Stymphalus in Arcadia these birds fed on human flesh and killed men with feathers of brass.  Heracles could not approach the large birds in order to fight them because the ground was far too swampy to bear his weight and too dirty to wade through. The goddess Athena gave him some golden castanets, the noise that the castanets made caused the birds to fly, once they were in the air, he shot them down by the dozens with his bow and arrows.

The seventh labor was to kill the bull that queen Pasiphae, king Minos’s wife had once fallen in love with and had given birth to the Minotaur that had been killed by Theseus. Although the bull breathed flames of fire, Hercules overpowered it and shipped it back to king Eurystheus.

Next Hercules was ordered to bring back the mares of Diomedes. These horses dined on unlucky guests that accepted Diomedes’ hospitality. He managed to round them up and once he showed the mares to king Eurystheus, he set them free and they were eventually eaten by wild beasts on Mount Olympus.

The ninth labor took Hercules to the city of the Amazons; he had to retrieve the belt of their queen for it was a wish of Eurystheus’ daughter. The Amazons were warrior women, who had invented the art of fighting while riding their horses. Theseus helped Hercules on this mission, he managed to get the belt and Theseus kidnapped an Amazon princess.

The tenth labor was to steal the cattle of Geryon who was a three-bodied, four-winged giant who lived on the red island of Erytheia, today known as Spain. The two headed watch dog Orthrus rushed at Hercules as he was leaving with the cattle and Hercules killed it with a single blow from the wooden club that he was carrying the quest of the apples of the Hesperides was the eleventh labor. The Hesperides were nymphs that Hera had entrusted with some certain apples that she had received as a wedding present. Ladon a many headed dragon guarded the cave were the apples had been hidden. Hercules had been told that he would need the help of a Titan named Atlas. Atlas was only too happy to oblige and he showed Hercules the cave where the fruit was hidden. Hercules killed the dragon with an arrow from over the garden wall and stole the apples.

Hercules’ final labor was to bring the hell hound Cerberus up from Hades, the kingdom of the dead. Hercules threatened Charon the Boatman to take him across the famous river of the underground, the Styx. Then he met the greater challenge Cerberus, the hound had many heads, razor teeth, a snake for a tail and more snakes growing out of his back. Hercules chocked Cerberus and then dragged him back to Tiryns, where he received his well earned credit for the final labor.

During his life with his twelve labors, Hercules had managed to find time to remarry. This time he married a woman named Deianira.  Deianira’s love for Hercules ended due to the kingdom of Greek gods. Unknowingly, Deianira presented her husband with a cloak that she thought was covered in a love potion. She thought that by giving the cloak to her husband, he would love her alone forever.  The cloak was really covered in poison and it burned Hercules skin to the point that he committed suicide. Hercules requested a fire be made and he jumped into the fire to burn himself alive. Zeus saw this take place and he requested Hera’s forgiveness that she granted. He then made his son Hercules become an immortal and Hercules was delivered to Olympus to live out the rest of his life.

ATALANTA

Atalanta in Greek mythology

Atalanta in Greek mythology

Atalanta was the daughter of Skhoineus (or Iasios), at her birth, her father was disappointed because he wanted a son and not a daughter cast her away into the wilderness. She survived only because she was suckled by a female bear and later found and raised by passing by hunters. She became a great Arcadian huntress and was a favorite of the goddess Artemis. She vowed to the goddess that she would keep her virginity She became very swift and used to leave all men in any race, and once she won a wrestling match against king Peleus, who later became Achilles’ father, during the games that were held in honor of the king. Living, having grown up and hunting in the wilderness, she remained always ready to defend herself, and, for example, when the two Centaurs tried to rape her, she shot them down and killed them both. She took place in the quest of the Golden Fleece and was always the first to draw blood in any hunt. Atalanta was reunited later with her father, who insisted that she married. She agreed but on condition that she would marry the man who could defeat her in a race, anyone that tried to fight her but could not win would be put to death. Hippomenes however asked for the goddess Athena’s help and she gave him three golden apples that he must cast before Atalanta in the race. When Atalanta bent down to lift the golden apples, she was slowed enough to allow him to win the race. Their marriage was short as Hippomenes, neglected to pay Aphrodite her dues and he and Atalanta were transformed into lions.

11. The Trojan War

The Trojan war Greek mythology

The Trojan war Greek mythology

Thousands of years before Christ, there was a rich and powerful city on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The name of this city was Troy and it remains famous until today, the reason for its fame was a war that is told in one of Greece’s longest poems, the Iliad. The founder of Troy was Ilus. Ilus was succeeded by his son, Laomedon. Laomedon, however, was killed by the great hero Hercules and was then succeeded by his son, Priam. The Trojan War happened during Priam’s reign.

The cause of the war was a dispute between three jealous Goddesses. An evil Goddess of Discord, Eris was angry at being disliked by the other Gods of Olympus and so in order to cause trouble, she threw a golden apple into the air at the wedding of king Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis, on the golden apple three words had been marked, for the fairest. All the Goddesses that had attended the wedding wanted to claim the golden apple but at the end the choice was narrowed down to three: Aphrodite, Athena and Hera. They asked Zeus to judge the between them but Zeus wisely refused to have anything to do with the matter. He advised them to go to Mount Ida, near Troy, where they would find a young prince named Paris, who at the time was tending his father’s sheep. He was a great judge of beauty. Paris, although a prince, had been assigned by his father Priam to do the work of a shepherd because the king of Troy had been warned that one day his son would be the ruin of his country.

The Trojan horse in Greek mythology

The Trojan horse in Greek mythology

At that time Paris was living with a lovely nymph called Oenone. He was amazed when the three Goddesses appeared before him asking him to judge their beauty. Each one of the Goddesses bribed him with rich prizes. Hera promised to make him Lord of Europe and Asia, Athena promised that he would lead the Trojans to victory against the Greeks and leave Greece in ruins, Aphrodite promised that the fairest woman in the whole world would be his. Paris was weak and a little bit of a coward and so he gave the golden apple to Aphrodite. Paris’ judgment is still famous as the real reason of the Trojan War.

The daughter of Zeus and Leda, Helen was the fairest woman in the world; she was the sister of Castor and Pollux. Helen was married to Menelaus, who was the king of Sparta and the brother of Agamemnon. Aphrodite led Paris in to Greece and having asked Cupid to help by throwing one of his magic love-arrows into Helens heart showed Paris where Helen and Menelaus lived. Menelaus and Helen received Paris graciously as their guest and the ties between hosts and guests were strong as each was bound to help and never to harm the other. Paris broke that bond, when he stole Helen and took her away from Greece.

When Menelaus returned and found out that Helen was gone, he called upon all of Greece to help him. All Greeks except for Achilles, the son of Peleus and Odysseus, king of the island of Ithaca willingly agreed to help Menelaus destroy Troy. Odysseus pretended to be in insane and was found by the messenger plowing a field with salt instead of seeds, the messenger threw Odysseus’ youngest son in front of the plow and when Odysseus turned the plow aside the messenger had proved that he was not insane and he was forced to join to rest of the Greeks. Achilles was kept back by his mother, who knew that her son would be fated to die in Troy; she dressed him as a girl and sent him to the court of Lycomedes to hide among the other maidens. When the messenger arrived he saw the maidens admiring the trinkets where as one maiden was admiring the swords and daggers, he picked out Achilles and he was forced to join the Greeks.

The Trojan war Greek mythology

The Trojan war Greek mythology

With these two great heroes added to the Greek army, they set off accepting Agamemnon, Menelaus’ brother as their leader. Agamemnon made sacrifices to all the Gods except for Artemis, when they made the sacrifice to Apollo, the Calchas informed the leaders that the war would last for ten years. Before the fleet set out for Troy, they met at Audis, a place of strong winds and very dangerous tides. It was impossible for them to sail as the north wind continued to blow day after day. The Greek army was desperate. At last, the soothsayer, Calchas, declared that he had a message from the Gods. Artemis was very angry at Agamemnon for not making a sacrifice to her and so she demanded him to sacrifice his only daughter, Iphigenia to her.  Agamemnon yielded as his reputation with the army was as stake. He sent for his daughter telling his wife that he had arranged for her to be married to the great hero Achilles. When Iphigenia arrived ready for the wedding, she was carried to the altar of Aphrodite to be killed. As soon as she died, the north wind stopped blowing and soon the army arrived in Troy. They had a strong army but the Trojans were also a strong people. For nine whole years victory wavered, once on the one side, once on the other. A quarrel flared up between Achilles and Agamemnon, and for some time it seemed the Trojans were assured victory. The quarrel was once again about a young maiden, Chyseis, whom Agamemnon had stolen and her father demanded her back. Her father prayed to Apollo to bring back his daughter and Apollo shot fierce arrows at the Greeks and without them knowing the reason, many were killed. At last Achilles called for an assembly of the whole army, he said that they were not strong enough to fight the Trojans and the Gods and tried to find out what had angered Apollo. The prophet Calchas knew what had happened but in order for him to speak he made Achilles promise to protect him. Calchas declared that Chyseis must be returned to her father in order for peace with the Gods. Agamemnon had to agree as his whole army had turned against him. He returned Chyseis and in her place, he stole Achilles’ maiden Briseis. Achilles gave an oath that Agamemnon would pay dearly for this deed. That night Achilles’ mother Thetis appeared in front of him, she was as angry as her son was and told her son to have nothing more to do with the Greeks, after saying these words she went up to Olympus to ask Zeus to grant victory to the Trojans. Zeus was reluctant, he favored the Trojans, but Hera, his wife wanted the Greeks to win the war. He could not resist Thetis, but Hera guessed what the discussion was about and began to make plans as to how she might help the Greeks. The plan Zeus had made was simple, he knew that the Greeks were weak without Achilles, so he sent a dream to Agamemnon, promising him victory if he attacked. While Achilles remained in his tent, a fierce battle took place, the hardest that had been fought. Up on the walls of Troy, sat king Priam and other old men, they were men wise of the ways of war, and now watched the contest. Close to them was Helen, she was the reason for all the bloodshed and the deaths but as the old men gazed at her they did not blame her, all men should fight for such beauty, they thought. To their astonishment the battle soon ceased, it was evident that a sensible decision had been made to allow the two men, that the war concerned, to fight alone.

The Trojan horse in Greek mythology

The Trojan horse in Greek mythology

Paris was the first to strike but Menelaus caught the spear on his shield and hurled his own spear. After fighting for some time Menelaus had taken hold of Paris’s helmet, the fight would have ended there and Paris would have been killed if it was not for Athena interfering. She did not believe that the war should end until the whole of Troy was destroyed and so she undid Paris helmet and he ran away into the crowd. Menelaus stood and spoke to both armies. He demanded that Helen should be returned to him and the Trojans were about to agree until a Trojan shot an arrow at Menelaus, he wounded him very slightly but this was the cause for the war to continue. On the Greek side with Achilles gone, the two best fighters were Ajax and Diomedes, the two of them killed many Trojans that day. The second best Trojan fighter, after Hector, was prince Aeneus who came close to death at Diomedes hands that day. Aeneus was the son of Aphrodite, when Aphrodite saw that her son had been wounded, she ran to the battlefield to save him. Diomedes knew that Aphrodite was a little bit of a coward and so he leapt on her and wounded her hand, she let Aeneus fall and ran up to Olympus weeping, Zeus reminded her that she was the Goddess of Love and Kindness and not of war. Although his mother had failed to save him, Aeneus was not killed. Apollo wrapped him in a cloud and sent him to sacred Pergamos, Troy’s holy site, there Artemis then healed his wounds.

Diomedes continued to fight until he came face to face with Hector, to his dismay behind Hector stood Ares, the bloodstained God of War was fighting for Hector. Diomedes cried to the Greeks to fall back, while slowly facing the Trojans. Then Hera got angry. She ran down to the battlefield and stood next to Diomedes, she whispered to him to continue the battle and not to fear Ares. Diomedes rushed at Ares and hurled his sword at him, as the sword entered Ares’ body, Athena drove it home. Ares yelled out of pain louder than any man on the battlefield. Since the Greeks were getting closer to victory, Hector returned to the city and asked his mother, Hecuba and his sisters to offer sacrifices to Athena but Athena did not respond to their prayers because of her enmity towards Paris, as he had judged her. While Hector was in the city, he met his wife, Andromache and his son, Astyanax at the temple of Athena. Andromache begged Hector to stay with her and not return to the battle, he was a father, mother, brother and husband to her as she had lost all her family in wars. Hector had to return to the battle or else he would be called a coward by his fellow warriors and he could not bear this thought. As he bent to embrace his baby son, his fearsome helmet scared Astyanax and the boy drew away from his father. Hector laughed and prayed to the Gods that one day his son would become as brave and as fearsome as himself as a warrior. But this was not to happen.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Hector returned to the battlefield, eager to fight. At that moment Zeus remembered his promise to Thetis to avenge Achilles wrongs. He ordered all Gods to remain on Olympus and he alone descended to earth to help the Trojans. It was then hard for the Greeks, their great champion was far away, sitting alone in his tent depressed at his mistakes. When the evening ended the battle, the Trojans had almost driven the Greeks back to their ships. The Trojans rejoiced that night whereas Agamemnon was ready to give up the battle and return to Greece. Nestor, who was the oldest and the wisest of the Greeks, spoke out boldly to Agamemnon and told him that if he had not angered Achilles, the Trojans would not be defeating them and instead of thinking of ways to run away from the battle, he should be thinking of ways to make up with Achilles. Agamemnon agreed to return Briseis to Achilles and send many rich gifts with her.  He begged Odysseus to take his offer and apology to Achilles, Odysseus agreed and set off with Ajax and Nestor with him, as Achilles’ ambassadors. Achilles welcomed his three friends with rich food and wine but when he heard their offer, he refused immediately. He said that all the gold of Egypt could not make him return to the war, he said that he planned to return to Greece and told his friends that if they were wise, they would do the same. Agamemnon was very upset when he received Achilles’ answer and was seriously thinking of ending the war and returning home but Nestor, then suggested to send two warriors to gather intelligence and to gauge the morale on the camp of Troy. Odysseus and Diomedes immediately volunteered for the reconnaissance. At the same time though, Troy had sent its own spy, called Dolon to the Greek camp. Odysseus and Diomedes captured Dolon, and then tortured him until he told them that Rhesus, the king of the Thracians had recently arrived by a gold chariot drawn by two immortal horses with his army. Once they had this information, the two men murdered Dolon, and then sneaked into the Thracian camp, murdered Rhesus and his army of twelve men. Odysseus and Diomedes stole the two immortal horses and returned to their camp. The next day, the fighting continued, at first the Greeks were able to drive the Trojans back for a while but then the wind changed once again and blew in favour of the Trojans. Before midday, three of the Greek leaders had been wounded, Odysseus, Agamemnon and Diomedes.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Hera up above was furious, she tricked Zeus and dressed up and when he embraced her she rubbed some sleeping potion on him and he fell fast asleep. At once the battle turned in favor of the Greeks, Ajax threw Hector to the ground, but before he could wound him, Aeneus lifted him and took him away. With Hector gone, the Greeks were able to drive the Trojans back, far away from their ships. Troy would have been destroyed that day had Zeus not woken. He understood the trick that Hera had played on him and sent her back to Olympus, she cried and said that she had not been the one helping the Greeks but it was Poseidon, the Sea God. She ran back up to Olympus and Zeus ordered Poseidon to leave the battlefield at once. As soon as the Sea God obeyed, the battle once again turned against the Greeks. Apollo had given Hector some extra power and the Greeks ran like sheep, back to their ships, hopelessly dreaming of dying bravely in front of them. Despite Ajax’s brave defense of the Greek ships, he did not manage to prevent Hector from burning one of the Greek ships. When Achilles saw the Greek ship on fire, he allowed his beloved companion and squire, Patroclus to wear his armor and to drive the Trojans out of the Greek camp. His pride would not allow him to rejoin the fighting. When the Trojans saw Patroclus join battle, they returned to their camp, thinking that Patroclus was Achilles. During the fighting, Patroclus killed the Lycian king, Sarpedon. Apollo sent Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death) to take the spirit from Sarpedon’s body and return it to Lycia for a proper funeral. After driving the Trojans out of the Greek camp, Patroclus did not return to Achilles, but continued to fight. Apollo hit his head and stunned him, while Hector killed Patroclus when he was stunned and helpless. Hector then stripped the armor from Patroclus’ body and wore it himself. Although Ajax and Menelaus managed to recover Patroclus’ body, the fierce fighting continued around the body, the fighting ended when Achilles heard of the death of Patroclus. He was unable to rejoin the fight immediately because he was unarmored and Athena told him to go to the top of a mountain and shout three times, he did this and as the sun shone behind him, he was mistaken for the Sun God himself and the day’s fighting ended.

Achilles in Troy

Achilles in Troy

The next day Achilles returned to the battlefield, grief stricken by Patroclus’ death, wearing new armor from his mother that had been fashioned by the God Hephaestus. Achilles was determined to find and kill Hector as he had now realized that his pride had cost him his friend’s life. That morning before the battle there was an argument between Achilles and Odysseus. Achilles refused to eat anything before he had killed Hector whereas Odysseus advised him not to go in to battle without eating first. At the end Zeus, who agreed with Odysseus, sent Athena to secretly nourish Achilles with ambrosia.

Zeus had decided that the Olympians were allowed to visit the battle again, as now he had fulfilled his promise to Thetis and Zeus did not want Achilles to destroy Trot today – he would decide the time for Troy to be destroyed.

Achilles set out that day to avenge his friend, killing as many Trojans as he could and driving them back towards their city in a rout. It was only when Achilles killed Priam’s youngest son Polydorus that Hector appeared before him ready to avenge his brother. Achilles would have killed him there and then, but Zeus did not think that this was either the time or place for Hector to die and so Apollo hid Hector in a cloud. Achilles’ heart was filled with rage that his mortal enemy had escaped him so he pursued the Trojans that were running away. He killed so many Trojans that day that the Scamander River was choking with bodies and blood. There was a mad scramble by the Trojans to hide behind the tall walls. Apollo aided the running Trojans by disguising himself and encouraging Achilles to chase him, this way the Trojans and their allies were able to escape his deadly pursuit.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Hector alone, now was standing outside Troy’s wall, but he too lost his nerve when he saw Achilles running towards him. Achilles chased Hector around the wall until Athena appeared, disguised as Deiphobus, Hector’s brother. Hector stopped running because he thought that he would confront Achilles with his brother but when Deiphobus vanished he realized that he had been tricked into fighting Achilles by the Gods. Hector tried to persuade Achilles into returning his body to his family if he should lose the fight but Achilles promised that he would rather feed the body to the vultures. Hector made a brave charge at Achilles, but Achilles managed to dodge away from Hector’s spear and ran his own spear through Hector’s body. Once Hector was dead, Achilles stripped the armour that he had stolen from Patroclus and then dragged Hector’s body behind his chariot, as he returned to the Greek camp. Among those who saw Hector’s death were his parents, King Priam and Hercube and his distraught wife Andromache, who had now become a widow. Hector’s body was burnt and the ashes were buried.

Now that Hector was dead, Achilles knew that his own death was near as his mother had told him. He did one last great feat of arms before his fighting ended forever. Prince Memnon, son of Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, came from Ethiopia to help Troy with a large army, for some time even though Hector had died, the Greeks had been hard pressed and lost many good warriors, including Antilochus, Nestor’s son. Achilles managed to kill Memnon, but then Paris shot an arrow at Achilles and Zeus directed the arrow to the only place on his body that could kill him, his heel. As he died, Ajax carried his body from the battlefield and Odysseus held the Trojans back. His ashes were buried in the same place as his friend Patroclus. After the funeral, it was decided that Achilles’ armor that had been given to him by his mother Thetis, made by the God Hephaestus, would be the prize to the next best Greek warrior. Ajax and Odysseus both took place in the contest for Achilles’ armor. Odysseus was awarded the armor from the Greek leaders. Ajax was furious with the judge’s decisions and decided to kill Odysseus that night. Athena, who was Odysseus’ protector, drove Ajax mad and he started to kill flocks of sheep imagining that he was killing the Greek leaders who had awarded Odysseus the armor. He slaughtered a large ram, imagining that the ram was Odysseus, and as he returned to sanity, he was shocked at what he had done and in his despair, killed himself with the sword that Hector had given him. Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus refused Ajax’s body to be buried and wished for it to be exposed to the dogs and the vultures. Odysseus persuaded the Greeks to fight for Ajax’s body to be buried as he thought that Ajax deserved that much respect, he succeeded and once his body had been buried, Odysseus gave the armour to Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus. The Greeks were dismayed by the deaths of their two greatest heroes. The city now seemed more invulnerable than ever.

Theseus in Greek mythology

Theseus in Greek mythology

The Greek prophet Calchas told them that Troy would not be destroyed until Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles joined the war and that Hercules’ bow and arrows must be brought to Troy. Odysseus easily persuaded Neoptolemus to join them in war, at the time young Neoptolemus was living with his mother Deidameia, on the island of Skyros. The bow and arrows of Hercules now belonged to a Greek king called Philoctetes, whom the Greeks had abandoned on the island of Lemnos as a poisonous snake had bitten him and the Greeks did not believe that his terrible wound would ever heal. Philoctetes was bitter at the Greeks for having left him on the island and so he refused to return to Troy with the Greeks. He wished to kill Odysseus, Agamemnon and Menelaus whom he thought were responsible for him being left wounded on Lemnos. He would have killed Odysseus had Hercules himself not appeared, now as a God. He persuaded his friend Philoctetes to return to Troy with the Greeks and assured him that once in Troy he would finally be healed. When he arrived in Troy, he was healed by one of the Greek healers, named Machaon, the son of Aslepius. Once he started to fight the first person that he injured with his arrow was Paris. Paris remembered his first wife Oenoe’s words as he had abandoned her for the beautiful Helen. She had said that she would heal him if he ever was wounded, however, she was now bitter at Paris for not returning sooner and she declined to heal him. Paris returned to Troy and died there. Oenone regretted her decision almost immediately but when she arrived in Troy with the herbs to heal Paris it was too late, and so there she hanged herself out of grief. One last small army came to help Troy. Eurypylus, the son of Telephus, helped Troy against his father’s wishes. He killed many Greeks, including Machaonthe healer, and then was killed by Neoptolemus in revenge for Machaon’s death.

Now with Paris dead, his two brothers Helenus and Deiphobus, fought over who was to marry Helen. The Trojan chose Deiphobus and forced Helen to marry him.

Odysseus

Odysseus

Odysseus captured the Trojan prophet Helenus as he tried to escape from Troy, he persuaded Helenus to reveal the secret of the weakness of Troy and he was told that Troy could not be destroyed until the Palladium, which was a statue of Athena was removed from inside Troy’s walls. That night Odysseus and Diomedes stole the Palladium from Troy.

The Greeks then thought that in order to destroy Troy, they needed to get some of their forces within Troy. It was Odysseus’ idea to build the great wooden horse, which would be left on the beach with some of Greece’s most selected men led by Odysseus, hiding inside the belly of the wooden horse. Once the horse had been built the main force of the Greeks left the camp with their ships and hid behind the nearest island. Sinon, who was a Greek spy had been left behind, to convince the Trojans that the Greeks had abandoned the war and that they should carry the wooden horse into Troy as a symbol that the Trojans had won the war.

That night after carrying the wooden horse into their camp, the Trojans celebrated their apparent victory. The Greek warriors climbed out of the wooden horse and opened the gates to allow the rest of the Greek army to enter the city. Great fighting then ensued in the middle of the night in Troy and although the Trojans fought well, too many of them had been killed in the first hour of the fighting.

Two Trojan leaders alone survived, Antenor and his family who had been protected by Menelaus and Achilles because he had given them some good advice before the war had begun. The second leader of Troy that survived was named Aeneas, he was the son of Aphrodite and Anchises and had withdrawn from Troy with his family and had migrated to Italy.

By the early morning, Troy had been destroyed. Neoptolemus had killed Priam, Menelaus and Odysseus had killed Helen’s new husband Deiphobus and Astyanax and all the Trojan women were to become slaves to the Greek leaders. Neoptolemus took Andromache, Agamemnon took Cassandra and Odysseus took Hecuba as his slave.

12. Odysseus

Odysseus

Odysseus

After Troy had been destroyed, the Greeks celebrated their victory for a long time. They forgot that their victory was due to the Gods and made no sacrifices, the Gods were very angry with the Greeks and decided to punish them.  On their journey back to Greece, Agamemnon came close to losing all his ships, Menelaus was taken by a fierce wind to Egypt, some of the army drown in the deep seas, Odysseus was not killed and he didn’t suffer as much as some of the other Greeks but he suffered longer. He wandered for another ten years after the fall of Troy before he finally arrived home. On Ithaca, the island where his home was, things had gone from bad to worse while he had been missing, it had been taken for granted that he was dead, only his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus still hoped for him to return.  All the people on Ithaca assumed that Penelope was a widow and should marry again. Men came from other close by islands to win the love of Penelope but she had eyes for nobody else. They were all greedy and overbearing that swarmed into Odysseus’ house, slaughtered his animals, drank his wine, burnt his wood, ordered his servants around and wanted to win his wife on top of everything else. Telemachus also hated the men as they treated him as if he was unimportant and beneath their notice. The men insisted on not leaving until Penelope decided to marry one of them. Penelope and Telemachus were helpless as there were only two of them but swarms of men. Penelope hoped to tire them out, she told them that she could not marry until she had woven a fine and exquisitely shawl for Odysseus’s father, the old Laertes, against the day of his death. The men had to give in, for such a religious purpose; they agreed to wait until she had finished the shawl. Penelope spent every day weaving and every night unwavering what she had woven during the day. One of her servants told the men what she was doing and they caught her in the act. After they discovered the trick she had played on them they became more insistent and her life became even more difficult. Matters remained that way until the tenth year of Odysseus’ wanderings.

Athena in Greek mythology

Athena in Greek mythology

Athena, who had punished Odysseus and misled him, had now forgiven him and was prepared to help him return to his faithful wife Penelope. She brought the sad case of Odysseus before the other Gods, when Poseidon was missing. She explained that Odysseus was a prisoner on an island that was ruled by the nymph, Calypso, who loved Odysseus and never planned to let him go. Calypso treated Odysseus well but Odysseus longed for his home, his wife and his son. The Olympians were touched by Odysseus’ story and Zeus sent Hermes to Calypso to order her to free Odysseus and to start him on his journey back. Athena was pleased with the result of this meeting but she had her own plans also. She was very fond of Telemachus, not only because he was Odysseus’ son but he was also a sober, wise and discreet young man. He did not deserve to remain on Ithaca watching his mother’s servers and so Athena disguised herself as an old beggar and went down to Ithaca.  As she approached the gates of Odysseus mansion, Telemachus saw the stranger and offered Athena his hospitality. As the two sat and ate, Telemachus confided in this stranger about what was happening in his life, he told her that he did not know where his father was, and that the mansion had been plagued with suitors for his mothers hand in marriage. Athena advised Telemachus to warn the men off and then to fit a ship and to make a journey to find out his fathers fate. She told him that his father had survived the Trojan War and that he should make a journey to find Menelaus and Agamemnon, as these were the two that most likely had news of his father. As she left, Telemachus felt the change and he realized that the stranger had been divine.  The next day he called for an assembly, where he told the men of Ithaca his plans and asked them to build him a large ship and to find him twenty rowers to man her. He begged the suitors to leave his mother alone until he returned with news of his father. The jeered and teased him, they blamed Penelope for not having chosen one of them to marry. They refused to help him build the ship and made it clear that he would not go on any voyage. Telemachus left the men in despair and walked along the sea shore praying to Athena. Athena heard him and came to him once again, this time she was disguised as a Mentor, who was his father’s most trustworthy friend. She spoke words of courage and comfort to him and promised that a ship would be built and she herself would travel with him. Telemachus ran home to get ready for the journey. He waited for the darkness when everybody in the house was asleep, then he went down to the ship where Mentor (Athena) was waiting, embarked towards Pylos, old Nestor’s home.

Poseidon water God

Poseidon water God

They found Nestor and his sons on the beach making a sacrifice to Poseidon. They were warmly welcomed but old Nestor could give them little help as to where Odysseus was, as he had not had any news since they left Troy.   Nestor suggested that Telemachus should visit Menelaus, who had drifted all the way to Egypt before coming home. He offered to send him to Sparta in a chariot with one of his sons that knew the way; Telemachus accepted the offer and started the next day for Sparta where Menelaus’ palace was with Nestor’s son.

As they arrived in Sparta, a warm welcome awaited them, they bathed in Menelaus’ palace in silver bathtubs, and then the house maidens rubbed their bodies with sweet smelling oils. A rich table of food was set before them, and Menelaus came to sit with them, as he spoke of how brave and noble Odysseus was, tears came to Telemachus’ eyes. He had not yet told Menelaus who he was but Menelaus had guessed. The table was interrupted as Helen walked into the room; Helen recognized Telemachus immediately because he looked like his father, and called him by his name. Nestor’s son told Menelaus that Helen was right, his friend was Telemachus, Odysseus son and they were visiting his palace to see if he could give them any news, good or bad of Odysseus.

Menelaus told the young boys his story, of how Poseidon had punished him by drifting him away to Egypt, he was running out of food and drink when a sea nymph had taken pity on him and told him that her father the sea God, Proteus, knew the way that he could escape from the island of Pharos. In order to make her father tell him, he must capture her father and hold him down until he told Menelaus the way to escape. It had been a difficult task to catch and hold down the sea god but he had achieved it and had told him the way to escape and that Odysseus was being kept on an island by the nymph Calypso, and that he was pining away there for he was home sick.

Menelaus had no other news of Odysseus since they had left Troy, ten years ago. As Menelaus mentioned Troy, they wept, Telemachus for his father, Nestor’s son for his brother, Menelaus for all the brave men that had died in the war but nobody knew for whom Helen wept. The young men spent the night in Menelaus’ rich palace and slept in comfort until dawn.

Meanwhile Hermes had carried Zeus’ command to Calypso, she did not take the news well as she had saved Odysseus’ life when his ship had wrecked a short distance from her island and had took care of him and loved him ever since. She knew better though than to disobey Zeus’s orders and so she went to the rock where she knew she would find Odysseus upon, looking out into the sea and dreaming of Ithaca, Penelope and Telemachus. When she told him that she was going to set him free, Odysseus thought that she was playing a trick on him, she gave him some wood and nails in order for him to build a raft, she placed food and drink upon the raft and set it to sail.

Odysseus

Odysseus

Odysseus traveled for eighteen days on the raft, never once closing his eyes to sleep. The sea had been calm for the eighteen days and now he could see the top of a high mountain and thought that he was close to being saved. At that moment Poseidon saw him and realized what the Gods had done, he summoned all the violent winds and let them loose, blinding sea and land with rain-clouds. As the raft was tossed up side down Odysseus saw death before him once again.

As he fainted a sea God was at hand and raised him from the water like a sea-gull, she left him in the shallow waters of a near by island. When Odysseus awoke, he was naked and starving, he had no idea where he was but Athena had arranged matters well for him. The island belonged to the Phaeacians, which were kind people and excellent sailors. Their king Alcinous was a sensible man that allowed his wife Arête make all the important decisions for him. They had a daughter who had not yet married, she was called Nausica.

As Nausica was in charge of the duties of the house, she was at the river washing clothes and bathing when she saw Odysseus. Her friends ran away in fright when they saw the strange man, Nausica paused as he asked for help. She told Odysseus where he was, gave him some rags to cover himself with and told him to find his way to her fathers palace where he would be welcomed as the Phaeacians treated strangers with kindness and respect, she did not want to walk him there herself for she was afraid at the conclusion that the people would make if she was seen with a tall handsome stranger like he was. Odysseus respected the young girl’s sense and followed her from a distance to her father’s palace. As he entered the house he fell upon his knees and begged queen Arête for help, the king quickly lifted him off his knees, set a rich table of food, gave him new clothes, a comfortable bed to sleep in and a promise that his ship would take the stranger home, he did not ask who the stranger was.

The next morning, in the presence of all the Phaeacian leaders, Odysseus began to tell his story; he started with his departure from Troy and the storm that had struck his ship. He, his men and his ship had been driven across the sea for nine days and nine nights until they made it to the land of the Lotus eaters but as tired and as hungry as they were, they had been forced to leave quickly as they were fed flower food on this island, the few who ate this food, lost their longing for home and had to be dragged upon the ship and then chained down as they cried to remain on the island and eat the sweet flower food forever. Their next adventure had been with the Cyclops Polyphemus, where they had lost a lot of their men, and then taken out the Cyclops only eye.  Worst than all, it was then that Poseidon had become more angry at Odysseus as Polyphemus was his son. Poseidon had then vowed that Odysseus would reach home after along time of suffering and only after he lost all of his men. This anger had followed Odysseus for the next ten years. From the Cyclops Island they had then reached the island of the Winds that was ruled by Aeolus who could still or arouse the winds at his own pleasure. Aeolus had welcomed Odysseus and his men and offered them good hospitality, when it was time for them to leave Aeolus had packed the Storm winds in to a leather sack which was tightly fastened; he gifted the sack to Odysseus. Although this was an excellent situation for Odysseus and his men, some of his crew was curious to see what was in the sack and so as they opened it, they freed the storm winds. After days of danger, they finally saw land, it would have been better to remain in the storm, as the land belonged to the Laestrygons, cannibals of gigantic size that destroyed all of Odysseus ships except for the one he was on that had not yet entered the harbor when the attack had been made. The next island that they stopped on was the worst disaster yet, for it was the island of the Aeaea, which was owned by the witch woman Circe, who turned any men that approached her into a beast. She invited some of Odysseus’ men into her house where she changed them into swine and fed them acorns. Lucky for Odysseus, he and a party of men had been too cautious to enter the house; they had watched what had happened from a distance and then fled back to the ship. Odysseus’ men would not follow him and abandon the swine here and so Odysseus had sailed alone trying to find a way to help and release his men. While he was sailing, he met Hermes who gave him a potion to rub himself with, the potion would make anything that Circe offered him to drink or eat harmless to him. Hermes told him that he must then threaten to kill her if she did not transform the swine back in to men. Odysseus returned to the island and did exactly what Hermes had told him, when he had drank the wine that Circe offered him, she was so surprised that he had not been transformed that she offered to grant him anything he wished for. He told her to transform the swine back in to men and so she did, after this, she treated them with such generosity and kindness that Odysseus and his men had remained on the island with her for a long period of time. When the time came for them to leave, she helped them with her magic knowledge and told them what they had to do in order to get home safe. They must cross the river Ocean and place the ship on Persephone’s shore where there was an entrance to Hades, the underworld. Odysseus must enter the underworld and find the spirit of Teiresias, who had been the holy man of Thebes, only he could tell Odysseus how to get home alive. In order to make Teiresias speak to him, he was to fill with the blood of cattle a large pit, only then would the spirits approach the blood and he would find Teiresias. Odysseus made the journey, found Teiresias and asked the seer many questions. He was told that, the chief danger that awaited them was that they might injure the oxen of the Sun when they reached the island where they lived. Anybody that hurt the oxen was to be doomed as they were the most beautiful oxen in the world and much prized by the sun. He said that Odysseus would reach home but trouble would be awaiting him there and in the end he would gain victory. From Circe Odysseus knew that next they would pass the island of the Sirens. The Sirens were brilliant singers whose voices made any man forget everything else and their last song would steal their life away. Odysseus told his men about them and that the only way to pass them safely was for each man to block their ears with wax. Odysseus however was determined to hear them so he told his men to tie him with strong ropes on board the ship so that he could not get away however much he tried. This they did, they passed the island safely but Odysseus’s heart ached with longing, the ropes held him down safely until he and his men were out of danger. A sea peril next awaited them, between Scylla and Charybdis, where the Argonauts had passed, there six men were killed, they would have not lived much longer anyway as although they had been warned the crew acted foolishly at their next stop. They were so starving that they killed some of the oxen while Odysseus was on a walk, praying. When Odysseus returned the oxen had already been slaughtered and eaten and so there was nothing he could do. As they left the island a thunderbolt shattered the ship, all men drowned except for Odysseus. He drifted in the sea for many days until finally he was cast ashore on the island of Calypso, where he had been a prisoner of her love.

The story ended here and his audience sat in silence, shocked by the tale. At last the king spoke up and told Odysseus that he was now safe and he would take him home on his own ship that very day. He was gifted many rich gifts sure to enrich him and he rested on the ship.

When he woke up, he was sleeping on a beach, his belongings next to him, he did not recognize where he was.  Athena appeared in front of him and when she told him that this was his homeland he kissed the ground. She informed him about what was going on at his house and promised to help him get rid of the suitors. She changed him in to an old beggar so that he could wander around unrecognized and told him to go to his swineherd Eumaeus, a man that was faithful and trustworthy beyond praise. Odysseus spent that night with Eumaeus, who welcomed the stranger, fed him well and put him up for the night giving him his own thick mattress and blanket.

Meanwhile Athena went to Telemachus who was still with Menelaus and Helen, she told him to return home but before going to his mother to pass by Eumaeus, his father’s swineherd. When Telemachus arrived, he was introduced to the old beggar, and then he sent Eumaeus to give his mother the good news of his return. While Telemachus was alone with the beggar, Athena transformed Odysseus in to his normal appearance; Telemachus immediately thought that he was looking at a God. Odysseus told him that he was no God, but his father who had returned home after twenty years, they embraced in tears. Telemachus informed his father about the suitors that were bothering him and his mother and together they thought of a plot of how to kill the suitors. It was decided that they would both go to the house, Odysseus as a beggar and Telemachus would hide all the war weapons in a place that would be easy for himself and his father to reach when the time came. When Eumaeus returned, the old beggar had left.

As Odysseus entered his dear dwelling, Argos who had been his dog that he had bred before leaving for Troy, recognized his master and wag his tail, he didn’t have the strength to approach his master and as Odysseus wiped a tear from his eyes, the old dog died.

Athena urged Odysseus to enter the palace and to beg for some food from his wife’s suitors. It was against the Gods wishes to not treat a stranger well, so the men gave him some crusts of bread to eat and some water to drink. One man, Antinous, refuses to allow Odysseus to eat and threw a stool at him, hitting him in the back. The other suitors did not like his behavior as they knew that many times Gods came down to earth disguised as beggars to test the mortals, they were now afraid. Penelope, who had heard the commotion, entered the room. She took kindly to the stranger and ordered her oldest maid Eurycleia to bathe the beggar’s feet and then rub them with oil. Eurycleia had been Odysseus’ nurse since he was a child, noticed a scar above the hero’s knee as she bathed his feet. He had been attacked by a wild boar while hunting as a young man. Eurycleia recognizes the stranger at once as her master, and embraces him. Odysseus silences her, so that she would not ruin his plot prematurely. The next morning the suitors returned to the palace more insolent than ever but during the night Penelope had thought of a plan. She had found out a bow and arrow that belonged to Odysseus, only Odysseus could handle this bow and arrow. Her plan was to tell her suitors that whoever managed to throw the arrows through twelve rings would be proved as powerful as the God-like Odysseus and would win her hand in marriage. Telemachus instantly saw his mother’s words as an advantage for him and his father and insisted that he would be the first to try to throw the arrows. He might have made it, if Odysseus had not signed him to give up. After he gave up, one by one the suitors took their turn but the bow was too stiff and not even the strongest could bend it. Odysseus who had been certain that nobody would be able to win the contest, had stepped out into the courtyard with Telemachus, he told his son to close all the entrances and exits of the palace and to order his oldest nurse Eurycleia to lock all the servants in to a room. When Odysseus entered the dining room, the last of the suitors had just failed, Odysseus insisted that he took place in the contest, the suitors denied to allow him, but Penelope said that the stranger should also try. Eumaeus handed the bow and arrows to Odysseus who examined the weapons for some time before sending the first arrow through the twelve rings, Telemachus armed now took his place beside his father as Odysseus shot a second arrow through one of the suitor’s neck. The crowd sprung up and searched for their weapons but no weapons were to be found. Odysseus and Telemachus quickly killed all the suitors except for one who was a priest and had treated Odysseus, even as a stranger well. Those of the servants who had consorted with the suitors were hung in the courtyard, where the rest were ordered by Telemachus to clean the dining room where all the dead suitors lay. The battle or the slaughter was now over; the servants embraced Odysseus as Eurycleia ran to tell Penelope that Odysseus was back. When Penelope came and saw Odysseus, she believed that he was a God disguised as her husband, even when she saw the scar on his knee; she still didn’t believe that this was her husband. She told Eurycleia to make up a bed for this man in the hall, Odysseus protested strongly against this, he said that he, himself had carved the double bed out of the living bark of an olive tree and then he asked Penelope if she had found anyone else with this talent. when Penelope heard these words, she knew that this man was Odysseus, her loving husband standing in front of her, she fell into his arms, weeping.

13. Aeneas

Aeneas in Greek mythology

Aeneas in Greek mythology

Aeneas was the son of Aphrodite; he was one of the great heroes of the Trojan War, second only to Hector on the Trojan side. When the Greeks destroyed Troy, he managed to escape from the city with his mothers help, carrying his father and his little son on his shoulders. After long wanderings and many difficulties, he finally arrived in Italy, where he killed those who opposed to his entering the country, married the king’s daughter and founded a city. He was always thought of as the real founder of Rome as Romulus and Remus, the actual founders, were born in the city that son built, Alba Longa.

When he had first set sail from Troy, many Trojans had joined him, all were eager to find some place to settle, but nobody knew where that place should be. Many times the men had tried to build a city but bad omens or misfortunes had always driven them away. At last Aeneas had been told in a dream that the place that he should go to was in the west, called Italy today but was then called Hesperia, the Western country. When he had had this dream, he was in Crete, and although the Promised Land was far away he immediately started the journey towards the land where he would be able to call home. If he had then known of the troubles that he would meet on this journey he would not have been so eager to rush in to making the journey.

At his first stop, he came across the Harpies which Jason and the Argonauts had already previously done. The Greek heroes had been bolder or better swordsmen, they had been on the point of killing the horrid creatures when Iris intervened, but the Trojans were driven away by them, and forced to sail away to escape them.

At their next stop, to their amazement they met Andromache, Hector’s wife. When troy had been destroyed, she had been taken by Neoptolemus as a servant. Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus had soon abandoned her for Hermione, Helen’s daughter, but he did not survive this marriage for long and after his death, Andromache had married the Trojan prophet Helenus. They were now ruling the country and welcomed Aeneas and his men with joy.  They entertained them with the richest hospitality and before they bade them farewell, Helenus gave them some useful advice about their journey. They must not land on the nearest coast of Italy which was the East coast because it was full of Greeks. Their destined home was on the West coast, towards the North, but they must not take the short way there which was to go up between Sicily and Italy because those waters were guarded by Scylla and Charybdis, which the Argonauts had managed to pass only with the help of Thetis. He gave Aeneas careful directions of how to avoid Scylla and Charybdis, by making a long circle around Sicily, and reaching Italy from the North side.

When the Trojans had left their kind hosts and had reached the south west part of Sicily, they had to stop to rest. Helenus, however, for all his powers had not been aware that the south west part of Sicily had been taken over by the Cyclops. Aeneas and his men escaped the Cyclops by sailing into deep waters so that the Cyclops could not reach them. They escaped that peril, but only to meet another as great. While they were sailing around Sicily, they were struck by a storm such as they had never seen before or since. It was clear to them that the storm was not a physical phenomenon and in point of fact Hera was behind it.

Hera hated all Trojans, since Paris had judged Aphrodite more beautiful than her, she had been Troy’s worst enemy during the war, and she especially hated Aeneas as she knew that Rome would be founded by his descendants, men of Trojan blood. Hera did her best to drown Aeneas and would have achieved her goal if Poseidon had not seen what she had done and calmed the seas and made it possible for the Trojans to reach land. They had been blown by the storm from Sicily to the North Coast of Africa. The place where they arrived was close to the Carthage and Hera immediately began to plan how she could make their arrival to their disadvantage.

Carthage (today known as Tunisia), had been founded and was ruled by a widow named Dido. Hera’s plan was to make Aeneas, who had lost his wife on the day he had left Troy, fall in love with Dido and settle down there with her, forgetting his plans of making Italy into his home. Hera’s plan would have worked if it hadn’t have been for Aphrodite. She asked for Zeus help to allow Dido to fall in love with Aeneas, in order for her to protect him as long as he was in her country but to encourage him to later carry on his journey to Italy. Dido fell in love with Aeneas and they lived together for a long time, but when Aeneas decided to leave and to continue his journey to Italy, as he and his men sailed away they saw a large flame arise in Carthage. Dido had killed herself for her love towards Aeneas.

The journey from Carthage to Italy was easy compared to what they had previously been through. Once they reached Italy, Aeneas had been told by the prophet Helenus to seek the cave of the Sibyl of Cumae, a woman of deep wisdom, who could foretell the future and advise him on what to do next. When he found this wise woman she told him that she would guide him to the underworld where his father Anchises who had died before the great storm, would tell him all he needed to know in order for him to enter the underworld, first he must find in the forest a golden bough growing on a tree, he must break off the bough and take it with him. At first it was difficult to find the golden bough but finally he found it and descended into Hades, after many dangerous meetings with spirits and adventures he found his father who greeted him with joy. They had much to say to each other. Anchises led Aeneas to Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, of which the souls on their way to live again in the world above must all drink. He spent some time showing his son all their descendants who sat by the river waiting for their turn to drink the water and lose the memory of what in their former lives had suffered and done. Finally Anchises gave his son instructions of how he would best establish his home in Italy and how he could avoid all the difficulties that lay before him. After they said their farewells, Aeneas returned to his ships and the next day they sailed up to the coast of Italy in search of their promised home.

Terrible trials awaited the little band of adventurers; once again it was Hera that caused the trouble for the Trojans. She made the most powerful people of the country fiercely oppose to the Trojans settling there. If it had not been for Hera things would have worked out well for them. A war started in Italy, which lasted for many years. The story ends with Aeneas killing Turnus who was the leader of the Italian warriors, marrying Lavinia, the king’s daughter and building a great city in Italy. At last he had found himself a home.

14. Great families in Greek mythology

THE HOUSE OF ATREUS

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

The House of Atreus is one of the most famous families in Greek mythology. Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in to the war against Troy, belonged to this family. All of his immediate family, his wife Clytemnestra, his children, Iphigenia, Orestes and Electra, were as well known as he was. His brother was Menelaus, the husband of Helen, for whose sake the Trojan War was fought. It was an ill fated house, the cause of all the misfortunes was held to be an ancestor. A King of Lydia called Tantalus had brought upon himself a terrible punishment through a wicked deed. The evil that he had started continued after his death. His descendants were also responsible for wicked deeds and were punished. A curse seemed to hang over the family, making almost all the men sin and invite suffering and death down upon themselves and the innocent. Thus Tantalus became one of the inhabitants of the underworld as punishment of his evil deeds.

TANTALUS AND NIOBE

Tantalus was the son of the great Zeus; he was honored by the Gods more than the other mortal children of Zeus. They allowed him to eat nectar and ambrosia at their table. In return for the favors that he received from the Gods, he killed his only son Pelops and boiled him in a large cauldron then called the Gods to dine with him in his palace on earth believing that the Gods would not know what they were being served. The Gods of course knew and drew back from the horrible banquet, deciding to punish Tantalus so badly that no other mortal, having heard his story would ever try to deceive the Gods again. His punishment was to be set in a pool in Hades where he would always be thirsty but when he bent down to drink the crystal clear water, it dried up and he was always hungry but when he tried to reach for the heavy, juicy fruit that grew on the trees around him, the fruit would dry up before he could grasp it. His never dying always would be athirst and his hunger never satisfied.

Tantalus’ daughter, Niobe, lost all her children and was then turned to stone. His son, Pelops, was murdered, cooked, and restored to life, where the Gods gave him good fortune. His grandsons, Atreus and Thyestes, struggled all their life for power, and Atreus committed a variation of Tantalus’ cannibalistic trick with Thyestes’ children. His great-grandson, Agamemnon, was murdered by another great-grandson, Aegisthus, who was in turn killed by another great-great-grandson, Orestes.

IPHIGENIA AMONG THE TAURIANS

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

The Gods did not like human beings being sacrificed to them, any mortal that did such a thing was considered to be evil. When the Goddess Artemis had realized that Iphigenia’s mother and father had their daughter stood on the altar ready to be sacrificed to her, Artemis, snatched her away and transported her to the Tauroi, making her immortal, and put a deer in place of the girl upon the altar.” The goddess swept the young princess off to Tauris where she became a priestess at the Temple of Artemis. Iphigenia’s mother and the other mortals who had taken place on the scene were sure that Iphigenia had been carried away to heaven. The Taurians worshiped both Artemis and Iphigenia, until one day Iphigenia’s brother Orestes and his faithful friend Pylades arrived there; after a while, they recognized Iphigenia’s identity and she helped them to steal an image from Artemis’ temple, in order for her to be free from this country and to able to return alive to her home country. The Taurians tried to stop the Greeks from leaving their country alive but Iphigenia spoke to them and at last they managed to sail their ship to the seas beyond.

15. The Royal house of Thebes

CADMUS AND HIS CHILDREN

When Europa was carried away by Zeus disguised as a bull, her father sent her two brothers to find her. One brother, Cadmus, went to Delphi to ask Apollo where she was. Apollo told him to stop looking and build a city of his own. The God said that he would find a heifer after leaving Delphi and she would lead him to the place. This is how Thebes was founded. He first had to kill a dragon that guarded a nearby spring. This dragon was killing all his men! He killed it, and with the help and advice of Athena, built the city. Cadmus’ wife was called Harmonia. They had four daughters (Semele, Ino, Agave, Autonoe) and one son. All of the daughters led tragic and miserable lives. Semele died in front of the unveiled glory of Zeus. Ino’s husband was struck with madness and killed their son, Melicertes. With his dead body, Ino jumped into the sea and the Gods saved them both. Dionysus drove Agave mad and she killed her son Pentheus, because she thought that he was a lion. Autonoe’s son accidentally stumbled upon Artemis’ bathing area, then Artemis changed him into a deer and he was killed by his own dogs. After the death of Pentheus, Cadmus and Harmonia left Thebes to get far away from all this misfortune. However, it didn’t work and they were turned into serpents when they reached Illyria. Their story proves that the innocent suffer as often as the guilty for no reason.

OEDIPUS

King Laius of Thebes was the third descendant of Cadmus. His wife was called Jocasta. Apollo, who was the God of Truth sent him an oracle, that warned King Laius that one day his own son would kill him. Everyone knew it was futile to try and change an oracle, but Laius tried anyway. When his son was born, he had his feet tied together and left him on a lonely mountain to die. He believed he had succeeded in freeing himself from the oracle. Many years later, he was away from home and he and all his men, but one, were killed by bandits. This case was pretty much left alone because Thebes had bigger problems at the time. A Sphinx, a creature shaped like a winged lion, but with the face and breast of a maiden, laid waiting outside the gates of the city. The Sphinx stopped every traveler and asked them a riddle. If they couldn’t answer it, she would eat them; none of the travelers succeeded. The Sphinx was brought to an end when one man, Oedipus, answered her riddle correctly. Oedipus was a wanderer far away from his hometown of Corinth. He left because an oracle revealed that he would kill his father, supposedly Polybus, but he wouldn’t allow that. The grateful citizens made him king and he married Jocasta. When the two sons of Jocasta and Oedipus were men, a horrible famine hit Thebes. Apollo declared that the only way it would stop was if King Laius’ murderer was punished. Oedipus sent out a search for this person. He asked Tiresias, a blind prophet, to reveal his identity. Tiresias was reluctant, but the answer finally came out. The murderer was—Oedipus himself! Oedipus thought this was totally crazy! Jocasta told him the story of King Laius’ death. When he found that King Laius had been murdered just before he had arrived in Thebes and he had been with five men, things clicked. Oedipus had killed some men on his way to Thebes. One of the survivors of that catastrophe was sent for. A messenger from Corinth came to announce the death of Polybus. The messenger tells Oedipus that he is not the son of Polybus. When the old survivor enters, the messenger recognises him as the man who gave the baby to him. They reveal that Oedipus actually was the son of Laius. The prophecy had come true. Oedipus had killed his own father, married his own mother and had children that people would shiver to look at. He searched for his wife and mother and finds she had killed herself because the truth had gotten out. He punished himself by poking out his eyes. He would now enter a dark world of refuge.

ANTIGONE

Perseus in Greek mythology

Perseus in Greek mythology

After Jocasta’s death and all the evils that came with it, Oedipus lived on in Thebes while his children were growing up. He had two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, and two daughters Antigone and Ismene. They were unfortunate young people, but far from being monsters people would shudder to behold. Oedipus and Polyneices abdicated the throne because of the bad family status, and Jocasta’s brother, Creon, was accepted as regent. After a while Oedipus was expelled from Thebes and his daughters were his only friends; his sons had helped to expel him. After Oedipus was gone, his sons both competed for the throne. Eteocles succeeded and expelled his brother from Thebes. Polyneices took refuge in Argos where he assembled an army to go against Thebes.

As Antigone and Oedipus were wandering, they came to an area near Athens where the Furies, now Benign Goddesses had a place sacred to them as a rest for suppliants. The place was called Colonus. It was here that Oedipus died. Finally, at the end of his life Oedipus was happy. Ismene had come from Thebes and was with her sister when Oedipus died. They both returned to Thebes and found their brothers fighting. Each brother had seven champions that would fight with them. The sisters, because they couldn’t take sides, stayed in the palace waiting for one to kill the other.

A young boy who had not yet become a man had been killed. His name was Menoeceus. Tiresias had said that Thebes would only have been saved with his death. Menoeceus was Creon’s son but Creon could not kill him. Creon told his son to leave but Menoeceus had insisted on fighting for his country, as he had no skills as a warrior he was soon killed. Nothing was happening between the armies so they left the two brothers to fight, in the end they killed each another. Creon then made a law saying that anybody that provided Polyneices or his army with a burial would be killed. This law was to punish the dead and make them wander forever. Burying the dead would give them an abiding place to rest in. Eteocles and his army were given great burials. Antigone and Ismene were shocked at this law. Antigone said that it was wrong not to bury the dead and against her sister’s wishes, Antigone buried her brother, Polyneices and made a sacrifice. The King’s men caught her and she was questioned then put to death, Ismene was never heard of after Antigone’s death.

THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Polyneices had been given a burial at the expense of his sister’s life, but five of the chieftains who had marched with him on Thebes lay unburied. Adrastus was the only one alive out of the seven. He went to Theseus, the king of Athens and begged him to allow the five men to be buried. Theseus refused, but then his mother, Aethra stepped in and told Theseus that he was supposed to defend all who had been wronged and that this was one of those occasions. Theseus agreed, but insisted on asking his people first. His people would tell Thebes that they wanted to be on good terms but could not see a wrong like that being committed. A messenger suddenly appeared from Thebes asking for the King of Athens. Theseus answered that there was neither a king nor a leader in Athens but that the people ruled for themselves. Theseus gave this message to the messenger to take back to Creon, the leader of Thebes. Creon would not listen and so the Athenians fought against and conquered Thebes. Then they washed, covered and buried the dead. The families and wives of the five men were somewhat comforted and Adrastus spoke the last words for each man but Evadne, Capaneus’ wife, who jumped into the blazing pyre and killed herself in order to go to the underworld with her husband. Most mothers were now at peace knowing that their son’s souls had been put to rest but the sons were not. They vowed revenge on Thebes and ten years later they conquered Thebes. Tiresias, the seer died when escaping during the flight of all Thebans. When Thebes fell, the Greeks had not yet sailed to the Trojan land. Diomedes, the son of Tydeus was one of the bravest warriors that later fought before the walls of Troy.

16. The Royal house of Athens

This family was especially marked, even among the other mythological families, by the peculiar happening which visited its members. There is nothing stranger told in any story than some of the events in their lives.

CECROPS

Cecrops was the first King of Attica. He did not have any human ancestors and he, himself, was half-dragon. He was held responsible for the Goddess Athena becoming the protector of the city of Athens. Because of his choice of Athena over Poseidon, Poseidon became angry with Cecrops. He would often send floods and storms to the city as punishment. Others stories say the Cecrops was merely an ordinary man. He was the son of Erechtheus of Athens, whose reign is said to have begun agriculture.

PROCNE AND PHILOMELA

Procne and Philomela were sisters. The elder of the two, Procne, who married Tereus of Thrace. Tereus seemed to be a man who embodied all the detestable qualities. The two had a son, named Itys. Five years after the birth of their first son, Procne begged Tereus to let her see her family whom she had been isolated from. He reluctantly assented and decided to go with Procne. As soon as Tereus laid eyes on Philomela, he fell in love with her. He thought she was as beautiful as a Nymph. Tereus told Philomela that he had received news of Procne’s death and forced her into a pretense marriage. Soon Philomela found out the truth. This angered her and she threatened to tell the world and make Tereus an outcast among men. This brought fury and fear to Tereus. He cut her tongue out so that she could tell no-one, and left her in a heavily guarded place. He told Procne that she had died along the road. In those days people could not write so Philomela’s case seemed hopeless. Back in those times the only thing she could do was draw. She decided to weave her story. She was so good that her finished product told of what had happened to her. She had an old lady deliver it to Procne. This outraged Procne. She first freed Philomela, then saw her child. His resemblance to her father struck her and she killed him. She served him up to Tereus for dinner that night. Later she told him what she had done. For a moment he could not move, and the sisters started to run. He later chased them down and was about to kill them when the Gods changed them all into birds. Procne felt bad about what she had done to her son. Procne became the nightingale who sang the saddest story of all. Philomela became a swallow who can never sing, but can only twitter. Tereus became an ugly hawk.

PROCRIS AND CEPHALUS

The niece of these unfortunate sisters was called Procris, and she was as unfortunate as they had been. She was married happily to Cephalus, a grand-son of the king of the winds Aeolus. Procris and Cephalus had only been married a couple of weeks when Aurora took Cephalus away. Even with all her tricks, the beautiful and radiant goddess could not get him to love her. Annoyed at his devotion, Aurora told Cephalus he could go back, but his wife probably wasn’t even faithful. This made Cephalus go mad with jealousy. He decided that she was so beautiful and he could never satisfy himself until he had totally proved that she had been unfaithful to him. He disguised himself and went into his household. Here he found that he was being missed and that Procris desperately wanted him back. He still did not give up on his plans. He would try passionately to make her love him as a stranger. He would try to make love to her; he would try everything in his power. She would only say that she was faithful to her Cephalus. One day he went overboard. He tried petitions, persuasions, and promises. For a moment she did not strongly oppose him, but didn’t love him either. He became enraged. “O false and shameless woman, I am your husband. By my own witness you are a traitor!” she looked at him, and her love turned to hate. How cruel he had been to do this. She ran away into the mountains. Realising his error, and how senseless he had really been he ran after her. He tried to make it up to her and after a while, they got back together again. They had some happy years together. Procris gave Cephalus a javelin that always hit its target. One day when hunting together, they separated to hunt game and Cephalus heard some noise in the bushes and threw his javelin. He went to see his prey when he noticed that it was Procris dead, pierced in the heart.

ORITHYIA AND BOREAS

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

One of the sisters of Procris was Orithyia. Boreas, the north wind fell in love with her, but her father Erechtheus, and the Athenians were opposed to his suit. Because of Procne’s and Philomela’s sad fate and the fact that the wicked Tereus came from the north, they had developed a hatred for all who lived there and refused to give the maiden to Boreas. They were foolish to think that they could keep what the great North Wind wanted and one day when Orithyia was playing on the river bank with her sisters, Boreas swept down in a great gust and carried her away. The two sons that she bore him, Zetes and Calais, went on the Quest for the Golden Fleece with Jason.

CREUSA AND ION

Creusa was the sister of Orithyia and Procris. She too was an unfortunate woman. One day, when she was still a child, she was out in the fields picking flowers and was about to turn home when a man appeared out of nowhere. He was a handsome man, and was Apollo himself. She screamed, but he still carried her off to a dark cave. Even though he was a God, she hated him. When the baby was born, he provided no assistance. The bottom line was that she could be killed for having a baby. Under these circumstances, she left the baby in the cave to die. Years later, out of sorrow and curiosity, she went back to see what had become of the baby. There were no bloodstains in the cave. A wild animal had at least not eaten him. The strange thing was that the clothes she had given him where gone. She determined that a great bird must have taken him away. Her father gave Xuthus, a man whom had helped him in the war, Creusa’s hand in marriage. Xuthus was a foreigner. They desperately wanted to have a child, although they could not. They decided to go to Delphi, the city to go when in need of something. Creusa left her husband in the city to go the shrine. There she met a young boy who was the gatekeeper. She wondered why such a young boy was in charge of the holy of holies. She asked him where he came from. He replied that he did not know, though the people of the temple found him lying on the stairs and raised him up. He was proud that he did not serve men, but Gods. She began to cry. The boy asked her why she was doing this because Delphi was the city where pilgrims came to rejoice. She told him that she had come to find out what had happened to a baby she had known while her husband sought a child. She told the story of how Apollo had come and had a child with her. The boy grew angry and said that it was not true, that Apollo would not do that. She replied that she was positive. The boy said she must not try to make Apollo a villain. Xuthus then came and told Ion that he was his son. This made Creusa mad that some unknown child was to be their son. Ion gave Xuthus a strange look and Creusa then saw the clothes that she had given to her son that she had thought was dead. Ion was indeed her son and hugged him, but he backed away angrily. Pallas Athena appeared in a vision and revealed the story. After this Creusa and him hugged each other with perfect joy. It was declared that Ion was to be a King.

MIDAS

King Midas in Greek mythology

King Midas in Greek mythology

Midas, whose name has today become synonymous for riches and avarice, profited little from his riches. His experience of possessing them lasted for less than a day and curiously threatened him with a rapid demise. He was an example of sinful folly, for he meant no harm; he merely did not give the matter any intelligent thought. His story amply suggests that he was not enriched in this department.

He was the King of Phrygia in West central Anatolia, and he was known for the ornate rose gardens decorating his palace. Once, when Dionysus was leading his army onto India, old Silenus strayed into the King’s rose gardens while drunk. The fat old drunk had fallen asleep in the rose beds and was found by the servants of the palace. The servants bound him with rosy garlands, set a flowering wreath on his head, woke him up and took him to Midas. Midas welcomed him, as he recognized him as being Dionysus’ faithful companion and entertained him for ten days, then he took him back to Dionysus, who was so happy to have him back that he promised Midas that he would grant a wish. Midas, in his avarice, wished that whatever he touched would turn to gold. Dionysus had no other choice but to grant the King’s wish even though he could foresee what would happen at the next meal. Midas tried his new power on all matter of things like stones and walls and saw nothing until the food he lifted to his mouth became a lump of metal. Dismayed and very hungry and thirsty he was forced to return to the God and implore him to retract the favor. Dionysus instructed him to go and wash himself in the River Pactolus and then he would lose the fatal gift. He did so, and that was said to be the reason why gold was found in the sands of the river.

In another tale, Midas acted as the judge of a music contest between the gods Apollo and Pan, the God of the Pastures. Midas declared Pan the winner, and the angry Apollo gave the king the ears of a donkey. Midas wore a hat to hide the ears and made his barber swear never to tell anyone the embarrassing secret. Unable to keep the secret, the barber dug a hole and whispered into it, “King Midas has the ears of an ass.” Reeds later grew from the hole, and whenever a breeze blew through them, they whispered the secret to anyone who was nearby.

ASCLEPIUS

Aesculapius, Greek mythology

Aesculapius, Greek mythology

Asclepius was the god of medicine and reputed ancestor of the Asklepiades, the ancient Greek doctors’ guild.

He was the son of Apollon and the beautiful Trikkaian Princess Koronis. His mother had died in labor and was laid out on the pyre to be consumed, but his father rescued the child, cutting him from her womb. From this he received the name Asclepius “to cut open”. The boy was raised by the kentauros (centaur) Kheiron who instructed him in the school of medicine. Asclepius grew so skilled in the craft that he was able to restore the dead to life. However, because this was a crime against the natural order, Zeus destroyed him with a thunderbolt. After his death Asclepius was placed among the stars as the constellation Ophiochus (“the Serpent Holder”). Some say his mother was also set in the heavens as Corvus, the crow (korônê in Greek). Asklepios’ apotheosis into godhood occurred at the same time. He was sometimes identified with Homer’s Paion, the physician of the gods.

Asclepius was depicted as a kindly, bearded man holding a serpent-entwined staff. He is almost completely absent from ancient Greek vase painting, but statues of the god are quite common.

THE DANAIDS

The Danaids in Greek mythology

The Danaids in Greek mythology

The story of the Danaids begins before they were born.

Long ago, there were these two brothers who had some serious sibling rivalry afoot. One was named Danaus, and he was the King of Libya. The other was King Aegyptus of Egypt. Anyway, while each brother was officially friendly towards the other – they both coveted the land of the other. What made matters worse was that each brother had fifty children. Aegyptus had fifty sons and Danaus had fifty daughters (now what are the odds of that happening, I ask you!). Aegyptus thought this worked out perfectly – his sons would marry Danaus’ daughters (the Danaids), and their children would rule both kingdoms.

Danaus was not a fan of this plan. Aegyptus’ sons were rough, coarse and rowdy and wouldn’t have made great sons-in-law. Plus, Danaus was getting a touch of empty-nest syndrome – I mean, it’s hard to say goodbye to your child, but imagine saying goodbye to all fifty of them at once! The problem was that King Danaus didn’t have the power to begin a war against his brother – Aegyptus had the required power (in more ways than one) to bring a serious conflict to Danaus. Thus Danaus feared that Aegyptus’ sons would come and take the Danaids away by force. So “secretly” he built a ship, a beautiful ship, with fifty oars, and he fled with his daughters to Greece. They landed in Argos, and the people there saw the ship rowed by the fifty shining princesses and were awed! They made Danaus their king – and since he was trying to avoid publicity this didn’t work out so well. But the people believed that Danaus had been sent from the Gods and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The danaids, Greek mythology

The danaids, Greek mythology

Perhaps he was sent from the Gods, for his reign in Argos was a time of peace and prosperity. That is, until the day that another fifty-oared ship landed in Argos. This may shock you, but somehow Aegyptus’ fifty sons had found out about the Danaids migration and followed to claim their brides. Danaus was still too afraid to oppose them, so he agreed to their demands and prepared a decadent wedding feast – but before they were married he brought his daughters around him. To each of his fifty daughters he gave a dagger and instructed them to murder their new husbands as soon as they were alone.

That may sound like an easy decision: stay with your parents for the rest of your life and murder a beautiful and relatively innocent man who loves you, or marry the beautiful and virile man. But it wasn’t so simple. Back then, there were laws and stritures that said people must obey their fathers – especially daughters had to obey their fathers, or risk being turned out without any support whatsoever, which could easily mean death. So when faced with the decision, forty-nine of the Danaids obeyed Danaus and slaughtered their husbands. However, only Hypermnestra, the oldest daughter of Danaus, didn’t obey. Lynceus, the oldest son of Aegyptus, honoured her wish to remain a virgin, so by the end of the night, Hypermnestra was pretty clear that murder was not her goal. The two ran away to avoid Danaus’ wrath, and to have a happy life together.

They did, too.

But back in Argos, Danaus and his other daughters weren’t having such a great time. Despite his efforts, no one really wanted to marry a princess who had slit her last husband’s throat on the marriage bed. That somehow dampened some peoples’ ardour. So basically the rest of the poor Danaids lived the rest of their lives with no companions save each other and remained virgins! Hardly a happy, fulfilled or productive life.

Even Danaus recognized that the whole virginity issue wasn’t such a great idea. He needed an heir, and his daughters weren’t giving him one. So he had to track down Hypermnestra and Lynceus and bring them back. They ruled Argos after him and had a son named Acrisius. Acrisius had a daughter. And her name was Danae.

GLAUCUS AND SCYLLA

Glaucus and Skylla in Greek mythology

Glaucus and Skylla in Greek mythology

Ovid tells us that Glaucus was a fisherman who had been fishing one day from a green meadow that sloped down to the sea. He had spread his catch out on the green grass and was counting the fish when he saw them all begin to stir and then, moving towards the water, slip into it and swim away. He was amazed. He was not sure if a God had done this or if there was a strange power in the grass. He picked some grass and ate it, an irresistible longing for the sea came over him and he could not deny it. He ran and jumped into the waves. The sea gods accepted him kindly and called on Oceanus and Tetus to take his mortality away and to turn him into a God. A hundred rivers poured their water upon him; he fainted in the rushing flood. When he recovered he had become a sea God with green hair like the sea and fins with a fish-tail body. To the dwellers in the water a familiar form but strange to the dwellers on the earth. Scylla liked his appearance when she was bathing in the sea and he rose from the sea. She was afraid at first and ran to a safe distance away from where she could watch him. Glaucus told her that he was no monster but a God with power over the waters and that he loved her. Scylla ran away from him and was soon gone. Glaucus was in despair as he had fallen in love with Scylla and visited Circe, a sorceress, and beg her for a love potion in order to melt Scylla’s hard heart. As he told Circe his tale of love, Circe fell in love with him, she spoke to him with the sweetest words but Glaucus did not return her love, he could not get over his great love for Scylla. Circe was very angry and jealous of Scylla; she prepared a bail full of poison and poured the poison into the bay where she knew that Scylla often bathed. As soon as Scylla next bathed in the bay, she was turned into a monster, out from her body fierce dogs heads and serpents grew, as the beastly forms were a part of her she could not rid herself of them. She stood there rooted to a rock and in her misery she hated everything and everyone that came within her reach. She was a danger to all sailors that passed close to her, as Jason, Odysseus and Aeneas found out.

ERYSICHTHON

Greek mythology

Greek mythology

Erysichthon was an arrogant man lacking in reverence. This is the only myth in which Ceres appears cruel and vindictive. Erysichthon cut down the tallest oak in a grove that was sacred to Demeter. His servants did not agree when he ordered them to cut the great tree down, so he seized an axe himself and attacked the great trunk where the dryads used to dance around. Blood flowed from the tree as he struck it and a voice was heard that warned him that he would surely be punished by Ceres for this crime. These marvels did not scare him off but he continued to strike until the great oak fell to the ground. The Dryads rushed to Ceres to tell her what had happened and she was deeply offended and promised to punish the criminal in a way never known before. Ceres dispatched famine to dwell in his stomach so that he would never be able to sate his hunger and that no abundance shall ever satisfy him. He will starve when eating food, Famine obeyed the command and caught Erysichthon while he slept and she wrapped her thin arms around him, she filled him with herself and planted hunger within him. He woke starving and called for something to eat, the more he ate the more he wanted, he ate and ate but was never satisfied. At last he had spent all his wealth on food and had nothing else left but his daughter, so he sold her too, but in the sea where his daughter’s new ship lay, she prayed to Poseidon to rescue her and the Sea God heard her prayer and transformed her into a fisherman. Her new master now only saw a fisherman on the beach, whom he called to and inquired whether he had seen a young girl moments ago. The fisherman swore by the God of the Sea that no man or woman had come to this shore except for himself. When the master left, the girl returned to her previous form, she then returned to her father and told him what had happened; there he saw an endless opportunity to make money this way. He sold her again and again and each time Poseidon transformed her into a different creature and each time she escaped from her master and returned to her father. At last when the money she had earned for her father in order to sate his hunger was not enough, he consumed his own body.

POMONA AND VERTUMNUS

Pomona and Vertumnus were Roman divinities, not Greek. Pomona was the only nymph that did not love the wild woodland. She cared for fruits and orchards alone and gardening was her favorite art. She had shut herself away from all men, alone with her beloved trees. Of all men that sought her Vertumnus, the God of gardens and orchards, was the most ardent, but he could make no headway. At last Vertumnus, persisted, and finally won her by appearing to her in his own true beauty. Pomona and Vertumnus were listed among the Numina, or guardian spirits of Roman mythology, who watched over people or over aspects of the home or fields, in their case, of course, orchards and gardens. She had her own priest in Rome, and a grove sacred to her called the Pomonal that was located not far from Ostia, the old port of Rome.

17. Short myths

AMALTHEA

In one myth Amalthea was a goat on whose milk, Zeus as an infant was fed with, in another myth, she was a young nymph that owned the goat. It was said that she had a horn in the middle of her head that was always full of whatever food and drink people around her wished for. Her horn was known as the horn of plenty.

THE AMAZONS

The Amazons were a nation of women, all warriors and men-haters. They used to live around the Caucasus and their chief city was Themiscyra. Strangely enough, they inspired artists to make statues and pictures of them far more than poets to write about them. They invaded Lycia and were repulsed by Bellerophon. They invaded Phrygia when Priam was young and Attica when Theseus was king. He had taken away their queen and they were trying to rescue her, but Theseus defeated them. In the Trojan War, they fought the Greeks under their queen, Penthesilea, according to a story not mentioned in the Iliad, told by Pausanias. He said that queen Penthesilea was killed by Achilles, who mourned for her as she lay dead, so young and so beautiful.

AMYMONE

Amymone was one of the Danaids. Her father had sent her to draw water from a spring when a satyr saw her and pursued her. Poseidon hard her cry for help, loved her and saved her from the satyr. With his trident he made her honor the spring which bears her name.

ANTIOPE

Antiope was a princess of Thebes that bore two sons to Zeus, Zethus and Amphion. Fearing her father’s anger she left the children on a lonely mountain as soon as they were born, but they were discovered by a herdsman and brought up by him. The man then ruling Thebes, Lycus, and his wife Dirce, treated Antiope with great cruelty until she determined to hide herself from them. Somehow they recognized her or she recognized them, and gathering a band of their friends, they went to the palace to avenge her. They killed Lycus and brought a terrible death upon Dirce, tying her by her hair to a bull. The brothers threw her body into the spring which was ever after called by her name.

ARACHNE

Arachne was a young maiden from Lydia, who had been gifted the art of weaving. Not only were her finished products beautiful to look at, but the very act of her weaving was a very beautiful sight. People abandoned their own duties to watch over Arachne weaving. When one day she was asked if the Goddess of weaving, Athena had taught Arachne how to weave, she laughed and was offended that her weaving had been mentioned in second to Athena’s weaving and so she answered that her products were more beautiful than the Goddess’.  Athena heard the young maiden’s comments and was offended, she decided to give Arachne a second chance and transformed herself into an old beggar and approached Arachne. She advised Arachne not to offend the Gods but Arachne told the old beggar to save his breath and that if Athena was offended by her work then she would agree to participate in a contest against her whenever the goddess wished. Athena accepted the challenge and revealed her true form. The people that had been watching Arachne weaving shrunk back in fear at the sight of the goddess but Arachne held her head up high and stuck to her claim. Athena weaved a beautiful scene of Poseidon and the salt water spring, herself with an olive tree and gifts at her temple in the city of Athens. The bystanders watched this scene appearing out of threads, with wide eyes. Arachne, created a tapestry with scenes of Zeus’ various infidelities: Leda, holding a swan, Europa on the back of a bull, Danae standing in the golden rain shower. The creatures in the tapestry looked alive and even Athena herself was forced to admit that Arachne’s work was much better than her own. Athena was furious at losing Arachne’s challenge and so she tor the tapestry to pieces and destroyed the loom. Athena made Arachne feel so guilty at winning the challenge that she hung herself, but then Athena took pity on Arachne and brought her back to life but not as a mortal, as a spider so that she and her descendants to hang forever from threads and weave for the rest of their time.

ARION

Arion is said to be a real person, a poet that lived about 700 B.C, but none of his poems have ever reached us, and all that is well known about him is the story about his escape from death, which is quite like a mythological story. He had traveled from Corinth to Sicily in order to participate in a music contest. He was a master of the lyre and he won the prize. On his return journey, his sailors coveted the prize and planned to kill him. Apollo appeared to Arion in a dream and told him of the danger in front and of how he could save his life. When his sailors attacked him, he begged them for a favor before he died, he asked to be able to play and sing for one last time, the sailors accepted this wish and at the end of his song, Arion flung himself into the sea, where dolphins, who had been drawn to the ship by his enchanted music, bore him up as he sank and carried him to the nearest land.

ARISTAEUS

Aristaeus was a bee-keeper; he was the son of Apollo and the water nymph Cyrene. When all his bees died for some unknown cause, he went to his mother for help. She told him that Proteus, the wise old God of the sea could show him how to avoid another similar disaster, but would only do so if compelled. Aristaeus must seize the God and chain him, a very difficult task, as Menelaus on his way home from Troy found out. Proteus had the magic ability to change himself into many different forms, however if his captor was resolute enough to hold him fast through all the changes, he would finally give in and answer the question that he had been asked. Aristaeus followed the directions that his mother had given him and went to Proteus’ favorite haunt, the island of Pharos, or otherwise called Karpathos. There he managed to seize Proteus and not let him go, in spite of all the terrible forms he assumed, until the god was discouraged and returned to his own shape. Then he told Aristaeus to sacrifice to the Gods and leave the carcasses of the animals in the place of sacrifice. Nine days later, he must go back and examine the bodies. Once again Aristaeus did as he had been told, and on the ninth day, he found a marvel, a great swarm of bees in one of the carcasses. He was never again troubled by any blight or disease among his bees.

AURORA AND TITHONUS

Tithonus was the husband of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn and she had bore the dark-skinned prince Memnon of Ethiopia who was killed at Troy while fighting for the Trojans. Tithonus, himself had had a strange fate. Aurora had asked Zeus to make him immortal and Zeus had agreed, but Aurora had not thought to ask also that he remained young. So, it came to pass that he grew old, but could not die. At last, he was helpless, he was unable to move his hands and legs, he prayed for death but there was no release for him. He must live on forever, with old age forever pressing upon him more and more. At last in pity the goddess laid him in a room and left him there, shutting the door. There he babbled endlessly, his words had no meaning as his mind had gone with the strength of his body. He was only the dry husk of a man. He shrank and shrank in size and at last Aurora with feeling for the natural fitness of things turned him into the skinny and noisy grasshopper.

BITON AND CLEOBIS

Biton and Cleobis were sons of Cydippe, a priestess of Hera. She longed to see a most beautiful statue of the goddess at Argos, made by the great sculptor Polyclitus the Elder, who was said to be as great as his younger contemporary, Phidias. Argos was too far away for her to walk and there were no horse or oxen to draw her. But her two sons determined that she should have her wish. They yoked themselves to a car and drew her all the long way through the dust and heat. Everyone admired their filial piety when they arrived, and the proud and happy mother, standing before the statue prayed that Hera would reward her two sons by giving them the best gift in her power. As she finished her prayer the two lads sank to the ground. They were smiling, and they looked as if they were peacefully asleep; but they were dead.

CALLISTO

Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon, a king of Arcadia who had been changed into a wolf because of his wickedness. He had set human flesh on the table for Zeus when the God had been his guest. His punishment was deserved, but his daughter suffered as terribly as he and she was innocent of all wrong. Zeus had seen her hunting in the train of Artemis and fallen in love with her. Hera, furiously angry, turned the maiden into a bear after her son was born. When the boy had grown up and was out hunting, the goddess brought Callisto before him, intending to have him shoot his mother, in ignorance of course. But Zeus snatched the bear away and placed her among the stars, where she is called the Great Bear. Later her son Arcas was placed beside her and was called the Lesser Bear. Hera, enraged at this honor to her rival, persuaded the God of the sea to forbid the Bears to descend into the ocean like the other stars. They alone of the constellations never set below the horizon.

CHIRON

Chiron was one of the Centaurs, unlike the others who were violent and fierce creatures, Chiron was known everywhere for his goodness and wisdom. The young sons of great heroes were often entrusted to him so he could train and teach them. Achilles was one of his pupils and so was Aesculapius, the great physician; The famous hunter Actaeon, too and many another. He alone among the Centaurs was immortal and yet in the end he died and went to the lower world. Indirectly and unintentionally Hercules was the cause of his dying. He had stopped in to see a Centaur who was a friend of his, Pholus, and being very thirsty he persuaded him to open a jar of wine which was the common property of all the Centaurs. The aroma of the wonderful liquor informed the other Centaurs what had happened and they rushed down to take vengeance on the offender. But Hercules was more than a match for all of them. He fought them off, but in the fight, he accidentally wounded Chiron, who had taken no part in the attack. The wound proved to be incurable and finally Zeus permitted Chiron to die rather than live in pain forever.

CLYTIE

Clytie’s story is unique, for instead of a God in love with an unwilling maiden, here, a maiden is in love with an unwilling God. Clytie loved the Sun-god and He found nothing to love in her. She pined away, sitting on the ground out of doors where she could watch him, turning her face and following him with her eyes as he journeyed over the sky. Sp gazing she was changed into a flower, the sunflower, which ever turns towards the sun.

DRYOPE

Her story, like a number of others, shows how strongly the ancient Greeks disapproved of destroying or injuring a tree. With her sister Iole she went one day to a pool intending to make garlands for the nymphs. She was carrying her little son, and seeking near the water of a lotus tree full of bright blossoms, she plucked some of them to please the baby. To her horror she saw drops of blood flowing down the stem. The tree was really the nymph, Lotis, who fleeing from a pursuer had taken refuge in this form. When Dryope, terrified at the ominous sight, tried to hurry away, her feet would not move; they seemed rooted in the ground. Iole watching her helplessly saw bark beginning to grow upward, covering her body. It had reached her face when her husband came to the spot with her father. Iole cried out what had happened and the two men, rushing towards the tree, embraced the still warm trunk and watered it with their tears. Dryope had time only to declare that she had done no wrong intentionally and beg them to bring her child as often as they could to the tree to play in its shade, and some day to tell him her story so that he would think whenever he saw the spot ‘’Here in this tree trunk my mother is hidden’’. She also begged the men to tell her son never to pick flowers, and to think that every bush could be a Goddess in disguise. Then she could speak no longer, the bark closed over her face. She was gone forever.

EPIMENIDES

Epimenides is a figure of mythology only because of the story of his long sleep. He lived around 600 B.C. and is said as a boy when looking for a lost sheep to have been overcome by a slumber with lasted for fifty seven years. On waking he continued the search for the sheep unaware of what had happened, and found everything changed. He was sent by the oracle at Delphi to purify Athens of a plague. When the grateful Athenians would had given him a large amount of gold and treasures, he refused and asked only that there should be friendship between Athens and his own home, Cnossos in Crete.

ERICTHONIUS

He is the same as Erechtheus. Homer knew only one man of that name. Plato speaks of two. He was the son of Hephaestus reared by Athena, half man, half serpent. Athena gave a chest in which she had put the infant to the three daughters of Cecrops, forbidding them to open it. They did open it, however, and saw in it the serpent like creature. Athena drove them mad as a punishment and in the end they killed themselves, jumping from the acropolis. When Erictonius grew up, he became the king of Athens. His grandson was called by his name, and was the father of the second Cecrops, Procris, Creusa and Orithyia.

HERO AND LEANDER

Leander was a young man living in Abydus, a town on the Hellespont, and Hero was Priestess of Aphrodite in Sestus on the opposite shore. Every night Leander swam across to her, guided by the light, some say of the lighthouse in Sestus, some say of a torch that Hero always set blazing on the top of a tower. One very stormy night the light was blown out by the wind and Leander perished. His body was washed up on the shore and Hero, finding it, killed herself.

THE HYADES

The Hyades were daughters of Atlas and half sisters of the Pleiades. They were the rainy stars, supposed to bring rain because the time of their evening and morning setting, which comes in early May and November, is usually rainy. They were six in number. Dionysus as a baby was entrusted to them by Zeus, and to reward them for their care he set them among the stars.

IBYCUS AND THE CRANES

He is not a mythological character, but a poet that lived about 550 B.C. only a very few fragments of his poems have ever come down to us. All that is known of him is the dramatic story of his death. He was attacked by robbers near Corinth and mortally wounded. A flock of cranes flew by overhead, and he called on them to avenge him. Soon after, over the open theatre in Corinth where a play was being performed to a full house, a flock of cranes appeared, hovering above the crowd. Suddenly, a man’s voice was heard. He cried out as if he was panic-stricken, ‘’the cranes of Ibycus, the avengers!’’ the audience in turn shouted, ‘’the murderer has informed against himself.’’ The man was seized, the other robbers discovered and all put to death.

LETO (LATONA)

She was the daughter of the Titans Phoebe and Coeus. Zeus loved her, but when she was about to bear a child, he abandoned her, afraid of Hera. All countries and islands were afraid for the same reason, and refused to receive her and give her a place where her child would be born. On and on she wandered in desperation until she reached a bit of land which was floating on the sea. It had no foundation, but was tossed hither and thither by waves and winds. It was called Delos and besides being of all islands the most insecure it was rocky and baron. But when Leto set foot on it and asked for refuge, the little isle welcomed her gladly, and at that moment four lofty pillars rose from the bottom of the sea and held the island firmly forever. There Leto’s children were born, Artemis and Phoebus Apollo; And in after years Apollo’s glorious temple stood there, visited by men from all over the world. The barren rock was called ‘’the heaven built isle’’, and from being the most despised it became the most renowned of the islands.

LINUS

In the Iliad a vineyard is described with youths and maidens singing, as they gather the fruit, ‘’a sweet Linus song.’’ This was probably a lament for the young son of Apollo and Psamathe – Linus, who was deserted by his mother, brought up by shepherds, and before he was full-grown torn to pieces by dogs. This Linus was, like Adonis and Hyacinthus, a type of all lovely young life that dies or it is withered before it has born fruit. The Greek word ailion! Meaning ‘’woe for Linus! ’’ Grew to mean no more than the English ‘’alas!’’ and was used in any lament. There was another Linus, the son of Apollo and a Muse, who taught Orpheus and tried to teach Hercules, but was killed by him.

MARPESSA

She was more fortunate than other maidens beloved of the Gods. Idas, one of the heroes of the Caledonian Hunt and also one of the Argonauts, carried her off from her father with her consent. They would have lived happily ever after, but Apollo fell in love with her. Idas refused to give her up; He even dared to fight with Apollo for her. Zeus parted them and told Marpessa to choose which man she would have. She chose the mortal, fearing, certainly not without reason, that the god would have not been faithful to her.

MARSYAS

The flute was invented by Athena, but she threw it away because in order to play it she had to puff out her cheeks and disfigure her face. Marsyas, a satyr, found it and played so enchantingly upon it that he dared to challenge Apollo to a contest. The god won, of course, and punished Marsyas by flaying him.

MELAMPUS

He saved and reared two little snakes when his servants killed the parent snakes, and as pets, they repaid him well. Once when he was asleep they crept upon his couch and licked his ears. He got up in a great fright, but he found what he understood what two birds on his window sill were saying to each other. The snakes had made him able to understand the language of all flying and all creeping creatures. He learned in this way the art of divination as no one ever had, and he became a famous soothsayer. He saved himself, too by his knowledge. His enemies once captured him and kept him a prisoner in a little cell. While in the cell, he heard the worms saying that the roof beam had been almost gnawed through so that it would soon fall and crush all beneath it. At once he told his captors and asked to be moved elsewhere. They did as he said and directly afterward the roof fell in. then they said how great a diviner he was and they freed and rewarded him.

MEROPE

Her husband, Cresphontes, a son of Hercules, and king of Messenia, was killed in a rebellion together with two of his sons. The man who succeeded him, Polyphontes, took her as his wife. But her third son, Aepytus, had been hidden by her in Arcadia. He returned years later pretending to be a man who had slain Aepytus and was kindly received therefore by Polyphontes. His mother however, not knowing who he was, planned to kill her son’s murderer, as she thought him. However, in the end she found out who he was and the two together brought about Polyphontes’ death. Aepytus became king.

THE MYRMIDONS

These were men created by ants on the island of Aegina, in the reign of Aeacus, Achilles’ grandfather, and they were Achilles’ followers in the Trojan War. Not only were they thrifty and industrious, as one would suppose from their origin, but they were also brave. They were changed into men from ants because of one of Hera’s attacks of jealousy. She was angry because Zeus loved Aegina, the maiden for whom the island was named, and whose son Aeacus, became its king. Hera sent a fearful pestilence which destroyed the people by thousands. It seemed that no one would have been left alive. Aeacus climbed to the lofty temple of Zeus and prayed to him, reminding him that he was his son and a son of the woman he had loved. As he spoke he saw a troop of busy ants. He cried to his father to make these ants people as to fill his city once again. A peel of thunder seemed to answer him and that night he dreamed that he saw the ants being transformed into human shape. At daybreak his son Telemon woke him saying that a great host of men was approaching the palace. He went out and saw a multitude, as many as the ants in the number, all crying out that they were his faithful subjects. So Aegina was repopulated from an ant hill and its people were called Myrmidons after the ant (myrmex) from which they had sprung.

NISUS AND SCYLLA

Nisus, king of Megara, had on his head a purple lock of hair which he had been warned never to cut. The safety of his throne depended upon his preserving it. Minos of Crete laid siege to his city, but Nisus knew that no harm would come to it as long as he had the purple lock. His daughter Scylla, used to watch Minos from the city wall and she fell madly in love with him. She could think of no way to make him care for her except by taking her fathers lock of hair to him and enabling him to conquer the town. She did this; She cut it from her fathers head in his sleep and carrying it to Minos she confessed what she had done. He shrank from her in horror and drove her out of his sight. When the city had been conquered and the Cretans launched their ships to sail home, she came rushing to the shore, mad with passion and leaping into the water, seized the rudder of the boat that carried Minos, but at this moment a great eagle scooped down upon her, it was her father whom the gods had saved by changing him into a bird. In terror she let go of her hold and would have fallen into the water, except that suddenly she too became a bird. Some god had pity on her, traitor though she was, because she had sinned through love.

ORION

He was a young man of gigantic stature and great beauty and a mighty hunter. He fell in love with the daughter of the king of Chios, and for love of her, he cleared the island of wild beasts. The spoils of the chase he brought always home to his beloved, whose name is sometimes said to be Aero, sometimes Merope. Her father Oenopion, agreed to give her to Orion, but he kept putting the marriage off. One day when Orion was drunk, he insulted the maiden, and Oenopion appealed to Dionysus to punish him. The god threw him into a deep sleep and Oenopion blinded him. An oracle told him however that he would be able to see again if he went to the east and let the rays of the rising sun fall on his eyes. He went as far east as Lemnos and there he recovered his sight. Instantly he started back to Chios to take vengeance on the king, but he had fled and Orion could not find him. He went on to Crete, and lived there as Artemis’ huntsman. Never less in the end the goddess killed him. Some say that Dawn also called Aurora loved him and that Artemis in jealous anger shot him. Others say that he made Apollo angry and that the god by a trick got his sister to slay him. After his death he was placed in heaven as a constellation, which shows him with a girdle, sword, club and lions skin.

THE PLEIADES

They were the daughter of Atlas, seven in number. Their names were Electra, Maia, Taygete, Alcyone, Merope, Celaeno, and Sterope. Orion perused they but they fled before him and he could never seize any of them. Still he continued to follow them until Zeus pitying them, placed them in the heavens as stars. But it was said that even there Orion continued his pursuit, always unsuccessful, yet persistent. While they lived on earth, one of them, Maia was the mother of Hermes. Another, Electra was the mother of Dardanus, the founder of the Trojan race. Although it is agreed that there were seven of them, only six stars are clearly visible. The seventh is invisible except to those who have especially keen sight.

RHOECUS

Rhoecus, seeing an oak about to fall, prompt it up. The dryad who would have perished with it told him to ask anything he desired and she would give it. He answered that he only wanted her love and she consented. She bade him keep on the alert for she would send him a messenger, a bee to tell him her wishes. But Rhoecus met some friends and forgot all about the bee, so much so when he heard one buzzing he drove it away and hurt it. Returning to the tree, he was blinded by the Dryad, who was angry at the disregard of her words and the injury to her messenger.

SALMONEUS

This man was another example of how fatal it was for mortals to try to imitate the gods. What he did was so foolish however those in later years it was often said that he had gone mad. He pretended to be Zeus. He had a chariot made in such a way that there was a loud clanging of brass when it moved. On the day of Zeus’ festival, he drove it furiously through the town, scattering at the same time fire brands and shouting to the people to worship him because he was Zeus, the thunderer. Instantly there came a crash of real thunder and a flash of lightning. Salmoneus fell from his chariot, dead

The story is often explained as pointing back to a time when weather magic was practiced. Salmoneus, according to this view was a musician trying to bring on a rain storm by imitating it, a common magical method.

SISYPHUS

He was a king of Corinth. One day he chanced to see a mighty eagle, greater and more splendid than any other bird, bearing a maiden to an island not far away. When the river god Asopus, came to him to tell him that his daughter, Aegina had been carried off, he strongly suspected by Zeus and asked his help in finding her, Sisyphus told him what he had seen. Thereby he drew down on himself the relentless wrath of Zeus. In Hades he was punished by having to try forever to roll a rock uphill which forever rolled back upon him. Nor did he help Asopus. The river god went to the island but Zeus drove him away with his thunderbolt. The name of the island was changed to Aegina in honor of the maiden and her son Aeacus was the grand father of Hercules who was called sometimes Aeacides, descendant of Aeacus.

TYRO

Tyro was the daughter of Salmoneus. She bore twin sons to Poseidon-but bearing her father’s displeasure if he learned of the children’s birth, she abandoned them. They were found by the keeper of Salmoneus’ horses, and brought up by him and his wife, who called once Pelias and the other Neleus. Tyro’s husband Cretheus discovered, years later, what her relation with Poseidon had been. In great anger he put her away and married one of her maids, Sidero who ill-treated her. When Cretheus died the twins were told by their foster mother who their real parents were. They went at once to seek out Tyro and discover themselves to her. They found her living in great misery and so they looked for Sidero, to punish her. She had heard of their arrival and she had taken refuge in Hera’s temple. Nevertheless Pelias slew her, defying the goddess’ anger. Hera revenged herself, but only after many years. Pelias’ half brother, the son of Tyro and Cretheus, was the father of Jason whom Pelias had tried to kill by sending him on the quest of the golden fleece. Instead, Jason was indirectly the cause of his death. He was killed by his daughters under the direction of Medea, Jason’s wife.

18. The mythology of the Cyclades Islands

Different myths say that the name of the group of islands rooted from the Greek word kiklos (which means circle), as the islands are scattered around the sacred island of Delos or because the winds that blow strongly in this region forced the boats to spin out of control.
Mythical fables are attributed to the formation of each island, while legends reflect their turbulent history. Due to the location of the Cyclades between the continents of Greece, Asia and Africa, they were a trading link throughout their history and spread the development of culture to the surrounding regions.