Greek mythology is the combination of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices.
ZEUS: the king of Gods, god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order and justice.His weapon was a thunderbolt which he hurled at those who displeased or defied him, especially liars. He was married to Hera but often tested her patience, as he was infamous for his many affairs. He was the son of Cronus and brother of Poseidon and Hades. In roman he was called Jupiter.
HERA: wife and sister of Zeus, the supreme goddess, patron of marriage and childbirth, had a special interest in protecting married women. She often tried to get revenge on Zeus’ lovers and their children. In roman she was called Juno.
POSEIDON: brother of Zeus god of the sea and protector of all aquatic features.His weapon was a trident, with which he could make the earth shake, causing earthquakes, and shatter any object. He was second to Zeus in power amongst the gods. In roman he was called Neptune.
HADES: was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, lord of the underworld and ruler of the dead.The Greeks were not keen on uttering his name, afraid of causing some kind of reaction that would end up with them dead sooner. Instead, they decided to give him another name, Plouton, deriving from the Greek word for wealth, due to the precious metals mined from the earth. Thus, Hades also became the god of wealth. In roman he was called Pluto.
APHRODITE: daughter of Zeus, goddess of love, desire and beauty. Apart from her natural beauty, she also had a magical girdle that compelled everyone to desire her. Married to Hephaestus, although she had many adulterous affairs, most notably with Ares. In roman she was called Venus.
HEPHAESTUS: son of Zeus and Hera, god of blacksmiths, sculptors, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. According to an account, after Hephaestus was born, Hera threw him from Olympus because he was crippled; he fell into the ocean and was raised by Thetis and Eurynome. He is symbolized with a hammer, an anvil and a pair of tongs. Married to Aphrodite. In roman he was called Vulcan.
ATHENA: daughter of Zeus, goddess of reason, intelligent activity, arts and literature.Her birth is unique in that she did not have a mother. Instead, she sprang full grown and clad in armor from Zeus' forehead.She became the patron goddess of Athens after winning a contest against Poseidon by offering the olive tree to the Athenians. In roman she was called Minerva.
HERMES: son of Zeus and Maia, god of commerce. Acted as a messenger of the gods and the link between mortals and the Olympians. He was the protector of travelers, thieves and athletes. In roman he was called Mercury.
ARTEMIS: daughter of Zeus and Leto, twin sister of Apollo, goddess of chastity, virginity, the hunt, the moon, and the natural environment.
As soon as Artemis was born, she helped her mother give birth to her twin brother, thereby becoming the protector of childbirth and labour. In roman she was called Diana.
APOLLO: son of Zeus and Leto, twin brother of Artemis, god of light, prophecy, inspiration, poetry, music and arts, medicine and healing. He is often depicted playing a golden lyre.
ARES: son of Zeus and Hera, the god of war. He represented the raw violence and untamed acts that occurred in wartime, in contrast to Athena, who was a symbol of tactical strategy and military planning. All the other gods, except for Aphrodite despised him. In roman he was called Mars.
HESTIA: sister of Zeus, goddess of the hearth, family, and domestic life. she was born into the first Olympian generation and was one of the original twelve Olympians, she was later replaced by Dionysus. In roman she was called Vesta.
DIONYSUS: Son of Zeus and the mortal Theban princess Semele.The youngest Olympian god, as well as the only one to have a mortal mother.
God of wine, celebrations, and ecstasy. In roman he was called Bacchus.
ACHILLES: one of the main characters that participated in the Trojan War andthe central character and greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad. His mother was the nymph Thetis, and his father, Peleus, was the king of the Myrmidons. When Achilles was born, his mother wanted to make him immortal and thus, dipped him in the river Styx. However, she did not realize that his heel, by which she held him, was not touched by the waters, and so that was the only part of his body that remained mortal.
The death of Achilles is not narrated in the Iliad, although it was predicted by Hector with his dying breath. Paris, the brother of Hector, managed to kill the hero with an arrow that landed on Achilles’ heel, the only vulnerable part of his body. The arrow was poisoned and some sources say that it was guided by the god Apollo. Achilles was cremated and his ashes were mingled with those of Patroclus.
ODYSSEUS: also known by the Latin name Ulysses. He was a legendary hero in Greek mythology, king of the island of Ithaca and the main protagonist of Homer's epic, the Odyssey. This epic describes his travails, which lasted for 10 years, as he tries to return home after the Trojan War and reassert his place as rightful king of Ithaca. During the war, Odysseus was most famous in the war for his contribution to create the Trojan Horse, a huge wooden horse that was supposed to be a gift to the Trojans by the retreating Greeks. The Trojans accepted the gift joyfully and started celebrating around it. When the night fell and everyone was drunk, the Greek warriors, who had hidden in the hollow body of the horse, revealed themselves and slew the Trojans, winning the war.
About his death, the son of Odysseus and Circe, Telegonus, reached adulthood and wanted to meet his father. He went to Ithaca, but as he reached the shore, he killed some sheep as he was hungry. Odysseus went and fought with him, not knowing who the other person was. Odysseus was eventually killed by Telegonus.
THESEUS: was the mythical king of Athens and was the son of Aethra by two fathers, Aegeus and Poseidon.His adventures benefited the city and region of Athens, helping in the consolidation of the Athenian power through shrewd political maneuvering. He also led the Athenian army on a number of victorious campaigns. In addition, he was credited as the founder of democracy, voluntarily transferring many of his powers as king over to an elected assembly. He gained a reputation for helping the poor and oppressed. While growing up, he looked up to his older cousin Heracles. Theseus and Heracles later saved each other's lives, Heracles through his strength, Theseus through his wisdom.In middle age, his wisdom deserted him. He began going on foolish adventures, and making bad decisions. His efforts to produce an heir for the throne led to more problems. The people of Athens grew tired of the turmoil he produced. Eventually, he died in exile. The city did not bother to bring his body home. Generations passed without much thought being given to Theseus. Then, during the Persian wars, Athenian soldiers reported seeing the ghost of Theseus and came to believe that he was responsible for their victories. The Athenian general Kimon received a command from the Oracle at Delphi to find Theseus' bones and return them to Athens. He did so, and he was reburied in a magnificent tomb that also served as a sanctuary for the defenseless. One of the greatest myths for Theseus is “the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur”.
HERACLES-HERCULES: is best known as the strongest of all mortals, and even stronger than many gods. He was the son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene.Offsetting his strength was a noticeable lack of intelligence or wisdom. Hercules is known for his numerous far-ranging adventures. Some of these adventures are known as the “Twelve Labours” :
- Slay the Nemean Lion.
- Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
- Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
- Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
- Capture the Cretan Bull.
- Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
- Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
- Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
- Steal the apples of the Hesperides.
- Capture and bring back Cerberus.
About his death: Travelling to Tiryns, a centaur, Nessus, offers to help Deianira across a fast flowing river while Heracles swims it. However, Nessus is true to the archetype of the mischievous centaur and tries to steal Deianira away while Heracles is still in the water. Angry, Heracles shoots him with his arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Thinking of revenge, Nessus gives Deianira his blood-soaked tunic before he dies, telling her it will "excite the love of her husband". Deianira gives Heracles the bloodstained shirt. Lichas, the herald, delivers the shirt to Heracles. However, it is still covered in the Hydra's blood from Heracles' arrows, and this poisons him, tearing his skin and exposing his bones.Heracles uproots several trees and builds a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, which Poeas, father of Philoctetes, lights. As his body burns, only his immortal side is left. Through Zeus' apotheosis, Heracles rises to Olympus as he dies.
PERSEUS: the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans, was, alongside Cadmus and Bellerophon, the greatest Greek hero and slayer of monsters before the days of Heracles. Perseus beheaded the Gorgon Medusa and saved Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. He was the son of the mortal Danae and Zeus. He was also the great grandfather of Heracles, also a son of Zeus.
Acrisius, Danaes’ father fearful for his future, but unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods by killing the offspring of Zeus and his daughter, he cast the two into the sea in a wooden chest. However, they managed to arrive safely to the island of Seriphos, where Polydectes ruled. The king's brother, Dictys, who was a fisherman, caught the chest in his net and pulled it to shore, freeing Danae and her son. Perseus grew up to become a strong young man. He was married to Andromeda, daughter of queen Cassiopeia. Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons: Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, Electryon, and Cynurus, and two daughters, Gorgophone, and Autochthe.Eventually, Perseus was killed by Dionysus. To be immortalised, Perseus and Andromeda were turned into stars and would live together in the sky.
JASON: the leader of the Argonautic Expedition in the quest of retrieving the Golden Fleece. He was the son of the king of Iolcus, Aeson, but it is not certain who his mother was. When Jason was still a baby, his half-uncle Pelias, vying for the throne of Aeson, killed all of Aeson's children, and overthrew Aeson; however, he failed to kill Jason. The baby was sent to the centaur Chiron, who nurtured him to adulthood. Jason, a grown man, returned to Iolcus to attend some games held by Pelias in honour of the god Poseidon. He started creating a party of heroes, who were collectively called the Argonauts, after the name of Jason's ship, Argo. The Golden Fleece was located in the mythical region of Colchis that would take a long time to reach.Jason and the Argonauts eventually reached Colchis, where they were welcomed by King Aeetes. The Golden Fleece was in the possession of the king, gifted to him by Phrixus when he arrived there on a flying golden ram. Aeetes said he would give the fleece to Jason if he successfully completed three tasks.The first task was to plow a field using Khalkotauroi, fire-breathing oxen; Medea gave Jason an ointment that protected him from the fire. The second task was to sow dragon's teeth in the field, causing an army of stone warriors to appear. Jason was forewarned by Medea, and following her advice, threw a rock into the army. The soldiers, not knowing who had thrown the rock, killed each other. The third task was to take the Golden Fleece from a sleepless dragon. A sleeping potion, provided by Medea, was enough for Jason to overcome the dragon and take the Golden Fleece.The Argonauts eventually managed to return to their home. Jason was married to the sorceress Medea. Pelias' son exiled Jason and Medea.The couple went to Corinth, where Jason fell in love and was engaged with Creusa. Medea, infuriated, confronted Jason, but he ignored her. As a revenge, Medea killed Creusa by giving her a dress that stuck on her and put her on fire; her father Creon was also burned trying to save his daughter. Medea then killed her sons that she had with Jason, fearing he would kill them as retaliation. She then abandoned Jason, flying to Athens on a dragon chariot sent by her grandfather, the sun god Helios. Years later, Jason managed to reclaim the throne of Iolcus with the help of his friend, Peleus. However, he remained lonely, having lost the favour of Hera after breaking his vows to Medea. He died while sleeping under the stern of his ship Argo, which having rotten fell on him.