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Amanda's Gods and Myths of the Ancient Civilizations
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Greek Myths

A selection of myths courtesy of http://www.hellenism.net/eng/mythology.htm


THESEUS

Theseus was a king of Athens famous for many exploits, and appearing in works by many authors and on countless vases. There is some confusion about Theseus' parentage, some say he is the son of Aegeus and Aethra, and others the son of Poseidon and Aethra. Apollodoros and Hyginus say Aethra waded out to Sphairia after sleeping with Aegeus, and lay there with Poseidon. The next day, Aegeus, who had been visiting Aethra at Troizen, left for his home city of Athens. As he left, he left sandals and a sword under a large rock; should Aethra bear a male child, she was to send him to Athens to claim his birthright as soon as he was old enough to lift the rock and retrieve the items.

Aethra gave birth to Theseus, who came of age and set off for Athens with the sword and sandals, encountering and defeating six murderous adversaries along the way. When Theseus reached Athens, Medea, the wife of Aegeus, persuaded Aegeus to kill the as of yet unrecognized Theseus by having him attempt to capture the savage Marathonian Bull. Theseus does the unexpected and succeeds, so Medea tells Aegeus to give him poisoned wine. Aegeus recognizes Theseus' sword as he is about to drink and knocks the goblet from his lips at the last second.

According to Plutarch and Philochoros, on the way to Marathon to kill the bull, Theseus encounters a fierce storm and seeks shelter in the hut of an old woman named Hecale. She promises to make a sacrifice to Zeus if Theseus comes back successful. He comes back, finds her dead, and builds a deme in her name. Some time after Theseus return to Athens, trouble stirs and blood flows between the houses of Aegeus in Athens and Minos, his brother in Crete.

War and drought ensues and an oracle demands that recompense be made to Minos. Minos demands that seven maidens and seven youths are to be sacrificed to the Minotaur every nine years. Theseus is among the chosen victims and sails off to Crete, promising to Aegeus that his ship's black flag would be replaced with a white flag if Theseus is victorious. In Crete, Minos molests one of the maidens and Theseus becomes angry and challenges him, boasting of his parentage by Poseidon. Minos, son of Zeus is amused and asks Theseus to prove his heritage by retrieving a ring from the depths of the ocean. Theseus being a son of Poseidon succeeds.

Ariadne, daughter of Minos already betrothed to Dionysus, falls in love with Theseus and helps him defeat the Minotaur. Ariadne then leaves Crete with Theseus, who abandons her on Dia (at Athena's behest, according to Pherekydes). In returning to Athens Theseus forgets to switch the black sail with the white one. Aegeus, consequently, watching from afar believes his son is dead and hurls himself into the sea, named the 'Aegean' after him. After Aegeus' death, Theseus must contend against Pallas for the throne. Theseus gets wind of a planned assassination against him and spoils the ambush, killing Pallas and gaining the throne.

Theseus and a good friend of his by the name of Pirithous wanted to marry daughters of Zeus, and begin their quest by abducting Helen. Theseus wins a bet and gets Helen, but must accompany Pirithous to Hades to recover Persephone for him. There is much disagreement here about what happens in Hades, but many traditions say only Theseus makes it back out.

Theseus does two noteworthy patriotic acts to Thebes, accepting Oedipus at Kolonus, and helping Adrastos bury the Seven, fallen in the struggle for the throne of Thebes. Late in his life Theseus loses popularity in Athens and is exiled. He wanders to Scyrus where he is hurled off a cliff by Lycodemes.

Picture Courtesy of : http://aetos.it.teithe.gr/~v13/funny/ancient_greece.jpg

 

 

The Creation

The ancient Greeks didn't have one single creation myth, Many, often contradictory stories explain the way the universe and the World were created. The Creation Myths of the Greeks are called the "Theogonia",and were written by the Greek Poet Hesiodus (Hesiodos), who lived in the 8th century B.C. His stories are one of the oldest known sources about the Greek view of the World. According to him, everything eventually came from Chaos, the empty void at the beginning of creation. From Chaos came five "elements": Gaea, Mother Earth, Tartarus, the Underworld, deep within the Earth, Erebus, the Darkness of Tartarus, Eros, the Power of Love and Night, the Darkness.

Mother Earth, Gaea, produced a son, Uranus, who was the sky. Then they had children. The marriage between them, a mother and her son, wasn't seen as inappropriate, two of their children and two of their grandchildren would also marry each other. Gods could do that, while it was strictly forbidden for humans. Rain fell from the sky onto the Earth, making plants grow; animals appeared from the rivers and ocean. Next, many strangely-shaped monsters and giants were born. Among these were three Cyclops--each of whom had only one huge eye in the middle of his forehead. Uranus treated them cruelly and banished them to the Underworld. Later, some human-shaped giants, called Titans, were born; they later became the first gods and goddesses.

Mother Earth could not forgive her husband Uranus for his treatment of her first children and encouraged the Titans, lead by Cronos, to rebel against their father. He attacked and overpowered Uranus with a sickle and took power from him. Three drops of Uranus' blood fell on the earth and formed the Furies (Erinyes). They had a dog's head and bat's wings and were the spirits of revenge and justice. They hounded murderers, especially those who killed a relative. Another drop fell into the sea, creating foam from which was born the goddess Aphrodite.

Cronos married his sister and became King of the Titans. They had five children but Cronos had been warned that one of them would kill him; so, he swallowed each one as it was born. To save her sixth child, Rhea tricked Cronos into swallowing a stone wrapped in baby's clothing and hid the child among some lesser nature goddesses called nymphs who brought him up safely. This child was Zeus. When he grew up, Zeus returned home in disguise and slipped a potion into Cronos' drink, making him choke. The children he had swallowed were coughed out, whole and safe. They were his daughters Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, and sons Pluto and Poseidon.

A fierce battle then took place. Zeus freed the Cyclops who made thunderbolts for him to hurl. They also made a forked trident for Poseidon, and a helmet that made its wearer invisible for Pluto. But, most of the Titans and giants sided with Cronos. After a terrible struggle the younger gods were victorious. The Titans were banished: one of them, Atlas, was made to hold up the heavens as punishment.

Zeus became ruler of the sky and king of all the gods. Poseidon was made king of the Ocean and Pluto of the Underworld. The home of the gods was Mount Olympus. At first, because it was relatively inaccessible, it was thought to be the actual home of the gods; later it became an imaginary place high above the earth.

 

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ACHILLES

Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus and the Nereid Thetis. He was the mightiest of the Greeks who fought in the
Trojan War, and was the hero of Homer's Iliad.

Thetis attempted unsuccessfully to make her son immortal. There are two versions of the story. In the earlier version, Thetis anointed the infant with ambrosia and then placed him upon a fire to burn away his mortal portions; she was interrupted by Peleus, whereupon she abandoned both father and son in a rage. Peleus placed the child in the care of the Centaur Chiron, who raised and educated the boy. In the later version, Thetis held the young Achilles by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx; everything the sacred waters touched became invulnerable, but while she was dipping him in the water she had to hold him by the heel so the heel remained dry and therefore unprotected.

When Achilles was a boy, the seer Calchas prophesied that the city of Troy could not be taken without his help. Thetis knew that, if her son went to Troy, he would die an early death, so she sent him to the court of Lycomedes, in Scyros; there he was hidden, disguised as a young girl. During his stay he had an affair with Lycomedes' daughter, Deidameia, and she had a son, Pyrrhus (or Neoptolemus), by him. Achilles' disguise was finally penetrated by Odysseus, who placed arms and armor amidst a display of women's finery and seized upon Achilles when he was the only "maiden" to be fascinated by the swords and shields. Achilles then went willingly with Odysseus to Troy, leading a host of his father's Myrmidons and accompanied by his tutor Phoenix and his close friend Patroclus. At Troy, Achilles distinguished himself as an undefeatable warrior. Among his other exploits, he captured twenty-three towns in Trojan territory, including the town of Lyrnessos, where he took the woman Briseis as a war-prize. Later on Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, was forced by an oracle of Apollo to give up his own war-prize, the woman Chryseis, and took Briseis away from Achilles as compensation for his loss. This action sparked the central plot of the Iliad, for Achilles became enraged and refused to fight for the Greeks any further. The war went badly, and the Greeks offered handsome reparations to their greatest warrior; Achilles still refused to fight in person, but he agreed to allow his friend Patroclus to fight in his place, wearing his armor. The next day Patroclus was killed and stripped of the armor by the Trojan hero Hector, who mistook him for Achilles.

Achilles was overwhelmed with grief for his friend and rage at Hector. His mother obtained magnificent new armor for him from Hephaestus, and he returned to the fighting and killed Hector. He desecrated the body, dragging it behind his chariot before the walls of Troy, and refused to allow it to receive funeral rites. When Priam, the king of Troy and Hector's father, came secretly into the Greek camp to plead for the body, Achilles finally relented; in one of the most moving scenes of the Iliad, he received Priam graciously and allowed him to take the body away.

After the death of Hector, Achilles' days were numbered. He continued fighting heroically, killing many of the Trojans and their allies, including Memnon and the Amazon warrior Penthesilia. Finally Priam's son Paris, aided by Apollo, wounded Achilles in the heel with an arrow; Achilles died of the wound. After his death, it was decided to award Achilles' divinely-wrought armor to the bravest of the Greeks. Odysseus and Ajax competed for the prize, with each man making a speech explaining why he deserved the honor; Odysseus won, and Ajax then went mad and committed suicide.

During his lifetime, Achilles is also said to have had a number of romantic episodes. He reportedly fell in love with Penthesilia, the Amazon maiden whom he killed in battle, and it is claimed that he married Medea.

Picture Courtesy of : http://www.louvre.fr/img/photos/collec/ager/grande/ma0589.jpg

 

ADONIS

Adonis was the son of King Cinyras and his daughter, Smyrna. The king's wife made the mistake of comparing Smyrna's beauty to that of Aphrodite's. The Goddess of Love was enraged and caused the king to sleep with Smyrna. When Cinyras came to his senses and realized what he had done he tried to kill his daughter. Aphrodite turned her into a myrrh tree, and the king split the tree down the middle.

From the split, Adonis was born, and Aphrodite whisked him away in a chest. She took him to Persephone to be taken care of. As Adonis grew and became more handsome, it was apparant that Aphrodite would have a fight on her hands for Persephone did not want to return him. The Muse, Calliope, was sent by Zeus to decide the matter. She declared that Adonis would spend a third of the year with Aphrodite, a third of the year with Persephone, and the remaining third would be his alone.

Aphrodite wasn't pleased at all with this ruling and continued to be extremely jealous of Adonis. This, of course, upset her lover, Ares. He turned himself into a boar and killed the handsome young man. This made Aphrodite even madder because now Adonis would be spending the entire year in the underworld with Persephone.

So Zeus finally settled the quarrel once and for all...Adonis spent half his year in Tartarus and the other half among the gods on Olympus.

 

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HELEN OF TROY

There are a couple of different stories about Helen's parents. Her father is Zeus. In one story, he couple with Nemesis in the form of swans. The egg which resulted was entrusted to Leda, who hatched it. In another story, Zeus seduced Leda in the form of a swan and produced the egg from which Helen hatched. In either case, it is apparant that she is of divine birth. Her siblings were Clytemnestra (Agamemnon's wife) and the Dioscouri (Gemini).

Helen was proclaimed to be the most beautiful of all mortal women and was abducted at a young age by Theseus and Peirithous, who drew straws to see who would marry her when she reached the proper age. Theseus won the draw and agreed that he would help Peirithous find an equal mate. He chose Persephone. While they were away, Helen was rescued by her brothers and taken back home. As she got older a great contest was held for her hand in marriage. Odysseus advised her step-father, Tyndareus, to make the suitors promise to defend his choice, and so he chose Menelaus. He was the brother of Helen's sister's husband, Agamemnon. They were very happy together until Paris came into Helen's life.

Aphrodite made Helen fall in love with Paris, as she promised him for choosing her the most beautiful of the goddesses. paris had to choose between Aphrodite, Hera and Athene. This caused Helen to run away to Troy with Paris...with part of her husband's riches. Because the Trojans would not return the loot or his wife, Menelaus assembled a great army and headed to Troy to take back what belonged to him.

After Paris was killed during the ten year seige, his brothers started arguing over who would get their brother's wife. Helen was forced to marry Deiphobus. She even tried to escape, but was brought back. When the wooden horse was brought into the city, Helen knew what was up and mocked the wives of the men inside the horse causing a few of them to almost break their silence.

Once the fight inside the city walls began, Menelaus headed straight to Helen's quarters intending to kill her. He was side-tracked by a fight with Helen's new husband, Deiphobus, whom she stabbed. This factor and the sight of Helen's bare breasts made Menelaus rethink his plan, and he took Helen safely to the ship. They lived out the rest of their days happily. To protect Helen, Zeus had Apollo wrap her in a cloud and bring her to Olympus to reunite with her brothers.

 

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HERACLES - HERCULES

Heracles (Hercules in Latin) was the son of Zeus and Alcmene. His jealous stepmother, Hera, tried to murder the infant Heracles by putting a serpent in his cradle. Luckily for Heracles, he was born with great strength and killed the serpent. By the time Heracles was an adult, he had already killed a lion. Eventually, Hera drove Hercules insane. Due to his insanity, Hercules killed his wife, Megera, and their three children. Heracles exiled himself because of the shame that he had brought on himself through his lack of sanity. Heracles decided to ask the Delphic Oracle what he should do to regain his honor. The Oracle told him to go to Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, and serve him for twelve years.

King Eurystheus couldn't think of any tasks that might prove difficult for the mighty son of Zeus, so Hera came down from her palace on Olympus to help him. Together, the twosome came up with twelve tasks for Hera's mortal stepson to complete.
These tasks are now known as the twelve labors of Heracles.

Heracles' first labor was to kill the menacing Nemea Lion; Heracles strangled the creature and carried it back to Mycenae.

The second task was to overcome the nine-headed snake known as the Hydra (Lernea Hydra in Greek); Heracles' cousin Iolaos helped him out by burning the stumps of the heads after Heracles cut off the heads; since the ninth head was immortal, Heracles rolled a rock over it.

The third task was to find the golden-horned stag and bring it back alive; Heracles followed the stag around for one full year; he finally captured the stag and took it back alive.

The fourth labor was to capture a wild boar that terrorized Mycenae's people; Heracles chased the boar up a mountain where the boar fell in to a snow drift, where Hercules subdued it.

The fifth task of Heracles was to clean the Augean stables, where thousands of cattle were housed, in a single day; Heracles diverted two rivers so that they would flow into the Augean stables.

The sixth labor was to destroy the man-eating Stymphalian birds; Heracles drove them out of their hiding places with a rattle and shot them with poison-tipped arrows.

The sixth task was for Heracles to capture a Cretean savage bull; Heracles wrestled it to the ground and took it back to King Eurystheus.

The eighth labor was to capture the four man-eating mares of Thrace; Heracles threw the master of the mares to them; the horses became very tame, so Heracles safely led them back to Mycenae.

Heracles' ninth labor was to obtain the girdle of the fierce Amazon warrior queen, Hippolyta; Hippolyta willingly gave her girdle to Hercules, but Hera convinced the Amazons that Heracles was trying to take Hippolyta from them, so Heracles fought them off and returned to his master with the girdle.

The tenth labor was to capture the cattle of the monster, Geryon; Heracles killed Geryon, claimed the cattle, and took them back to the king.

The eleventh task was to get the golden-apples of the Hesperides; Heracles told Atlas that if he would get the apples for him, he (Heracles) would carry the heavens for him; when Atlas returned from his task he didn't want to take the heavens back from Heracles but Heracles tricked him into taking back the heavens.

The final (twelfth) labor of Heracles was to bring the three-headed watchdog of the underworld, Cerberus, to the surface without using any weapons; Heracles seized two of Cerberus' heads and the dog gave in. Heracles took the dog to his master, who ordered him to take it back. Finally, after twelve years and twelve tasks, Heracles was a free man.

Heracles went to the town of Thebes and married Deianira. She bore him many children. Later on in their life, the male centaur, Nessus, abducted Deianira, but Heracles came to her rescue by shooting Nessus with a poison tipped arrow. The dying Nessus told Deianira to keep a portion of his blood to use as a love potion on Heracles if she felt that she was losing him to another woman. A couple of a months later, Deianira thought that another woman was coming between her and her husband, so she washed one of Heracles' shirts in Nessus' blood and gave it to him to wear. Nessus had lied to her, for the blood really acted as a poison and almost killed Heracles. On his funeral pyre, the dying Heracles ascended to Olympus, where he was granted immortality and lived among the gods.

Picture Courtesy of : http://www.oz.net/~tamsalan/grekgrf1.gif

MEDEA

Medea, whose name means "the cunning one", was the daughter of the king of Colchis. She was a ruthless sorceress who was something between a witch and a goddess. She was the first wife of Jason who came to Colchis to retrieve the Golden Fleece. It was actually Aphrodite and Eros who caused Medea to fall in love with him as they knew, without her help, he would be unable to perform the tasks her father insisted of him. She did use her magic to aid him in his tasks, and then returned on the Argo with him to Iolcus.

On the way back, with her father's ships in hot pursuit, she cut her half-brother into pieces and threw them into the sea knowing that her father would stop to retrieve them. Iolcus was, at that time, ruled by King Pelias, and Medea tricked his daughters into boiling him, which resulted in his death. Because of this, both Jason and Medea were banished.

Jason went on to take a second wife named Glauce, which really ticked Medea off, and she saw to it that Glauce was given a poisoned wedding dress which burned her skin and killed her. Then she went a little further and killed her own children by Jason. She then escaped to Athens in her grandfather, Helios', chariot and married King Aegeus. This was before Aegeus knew that Theseus was his son, and when he one day showed up in his court, Medea tried to put doubts in her husband's mind that Theseus was not his heir because she wanted her own son by Aegeus to succeed him. But, when Aegeus finally realized that Theseus was indeed his son, Medea fled with her son and returned to become ruler of Colchis

 MINOTAUR

Before he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos struggled with his brothers for the right to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of approval by the gods for his reign. He promised to sacrifice the bull as an offering, and as a symbol of subservience. A beautiful white bull rose from the sea, but when Minos saw it, he coveted it for himself. He assumed that Poseidon would not mind, so he kept it and sacrificed the best specimen from his herd instead. When Poseidon learned about the deceit, he made Pasipha, Minos' wife, fall madly in love with the bull. She had Daedalus, the famous architect, make a wooden cow for her. Pasipha climbed into the decoy and fooled the white bull.
The offspring of their lovemaking was a monster called the Minotaur.

The creature had the head and tail of a bull on the body of a man. It caused such terror and destruction on Crete that Daedalus was summoned again, but this time by Minos himself. He ordered the architect to build a gigantic, intricate labyrinth from which escape would be impossible. The Minotaur was captured and locked in the labyrinth. Every year for nine years, seven youths and maidens came as tribute from Athens. These young people were also locked in the labyrinth for the Minotaur to feast upon.

When the Greek hero Theseus reached Athens, he learned of the Minotaur and the sacrifices, and wanted to end this. He volunteered to go to Crete as one of the victims. Upon his arrival in Crete, he met Ariadne, Minos's daughter, who fell in love with him. She promised she would provide the means to escape from the maze if he agreed to marry her.

When Theseus did, she gave him a simple ball of thread, which he was to fasten close to the entrance of the maze. He made his way through the maze, while unwinding the thread, and he stumbled upon the sleeping Minotaur. He beat it to death and led the others back to the entrance by following the thread.

wpe1.jpg (24068 bytes)

picture courtesy of: www.naschools.net/.../ gentili-g/ed%20greece.htm

 

NEPHELE

Nephele's beginnings were nowhere close to ordinary. The mighty Zeus shaped Nephele from a cloud and gave her life. This was to trick Ixion, a man that had done a lot of wrong in his life. Though the other gods believed Ixion should face the consequences for all of his terrible actions, Zeus tried to see the good in him. That is, until he found out Ixion had a thing for his wife, Hera.

In order to trap Ixion, Zeus created Nephele to look exactly like Hera. As Ixion had sex with the cloud woman, Zeus caught him in the act. Hermes tormented him until he admitted that the gods deserved better. As punishment, Ixion was bound to a fiery wheel that rolled forever across the skies. The result of Ixion and Nephele's coupling was the Centaurus.

Nephele moved on to become the wife of Athamus and had two children named Phrixus and Helle. When Athamus got tired of Nephele, he simply moved on to another wife named Ino, who was the daughter of Cadmus. Nephele was terribly worried that Ino's son would come to inherit the kingdom rather than her own, Phrixus. She was right to be worried because Ino had plans for killing poor Phrixus.

Ino somehow ruined all the corn-seed for the city, and when a messenger was sent to ask an oracle why it happened, Ino bribed him to say that no corn would grow until the young prince had been sacrificed. So, with insistence from all the villagers, the king had no choice.

Just as Phrixus was taken to the altar to be killed, Nephele's prayer to the gods was answered. Hermes sent a ram with a
golden fleece to save him. He flew through the air, and Phrixus' sister, Helle, jumped on, too. As they flew across the strait that separated Europe and Asia, Helle fell from the ram and drowned. The Hellespont was named for her. Nephele's son did make it to Colchis, where he was accepted by the king.

The Ancient City of Athens

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ODYSSEUS

Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin) was the son of Laertes and was the ruler of the island kingdom of Ithaca. He was one of the most prominent Greek leaders in the Trojan War, and was the hero of Homer's Odyssey. He was known for his cleverness and cunning, and for his eloquence as a speaker.

Odysseus was one of the original suitors of Helen of Troy. When Menelaus succeeded in winning Helen's hand in marriage, it was Odysseus who advised him to get the other suitors to swear to defend his marriage rights. However, when Menelaus called on the suitors to help him bring Helen back from Troy, Odysseus was reluctant to make good on his oath. He pretended to have gone mad, plowing his fields and sowing salt instead of grain. Palamedes placed Odysseus' infant son in front of the plow, and Odysseus revealed his sanity when he turned aside to avoid injuring the child.

However reluctant he may have been to join the expedition, Odysseus fought heroically in the Trojan War, refusing to leave the field when the Greek troops were being routed by the Trojans, and leading a daring nocturnal raid in company with Diomedes. He was also the originator of the Trojan horse, the strategem by which the Greeks were finally able to take the city of Troy itself. After the death of Achilles, he and Ajax competed for Achilles' magnificent armor.

When Odysseus' eloquence caused the Greeks to award the prize to him, Ajax went mad and killed himself.

Odysseus' return from Troy, chronicled in the Odyssey, took ten years and was beset by perils and misfortune. He freed his men from the pleasure-giving drugs of the Lotus-Eaters, rescued them from the cannibalism of the Cyclopes and the enchantments of Circe. He braved the terrors of the underworld with them, and while in the land of the dead Pluto allowed Thiresias, Odysseus' mother, Ajax and others to give him adivice on his next journey. They gave him important advice about the cattle of the sun (which Apollo herds), Scylla and Charybdis and the Sirens. From there on the travels were harder for Odysseus, but they would have been much worse of it wasn't for the help of the dead.

With this newly acquired knowledge, he steered them past the perils of the Sirens and of Scylla and Charybdis. He could not save them from their final folly, however, when they violated divine commandments by slaughtering and eating the cattle of the sun-god. As a result of this rash act, Odysseus' ship was destroyed by a thunderbolt, and only Odysseus himself survived.

He came ashore on the island of the nymph Calypso, who made him her lover and refused to let him leave for seven years. When Zeus finally intervened, Odysseus sailed away on a small boat, only to be shipwrecked by another storm. He swam ashore on the island of the Phaeacians, where he was magnificently entertained and then, at long last, escorted home to Ithaca.

There were problems in Ithaca as well, however. During Odysseus' twenty-year absence, his wife, Penelope, had remained faithful to him, but she was under enormous pressure to re-marry. A whole host of suitors were occupying her palace, drinking and eating and behaving insolently to Penelope and her son, Telemachus. Odysseus arrived at the palace, disguised as a ragged beggar, and observed their behavior and his wife's fidelity. With the help of Telemachus and Laertes, he slaughtered the suitors and cleansed the palace. He then had to fight one final battle, against the outraged relatives of the men he had slain; Athena intervened to settle this battle, however, and peace was restored.

 

PERSEUS

The Birth of Perseus

Perseus, the hero of Argolis, was the son of Zeus and Acrisius' daughter Danae. When Acrisius learned from the oracle at Delphi that his daughter would have a son that would kill him, he built an underground bronze chamber where he locked Danae with her nurse. However, Zeus reached Danae through the hole in the roof, in the form of a golden shower. Soon afterwards, Danae gave birth to a boy, Perseus. The boy grew with his mother, until one day Acrisius heard his weeping. Danae was trying in vain to convince her father that the boy was Zeus' son; Acrisius killed the nurse and enclosed Danae and her son in a wooden chest and threw them into the sea. Waves have brought the chest to the shores of the island of Seriphos. Perseus and his mother were found by Dictys, brother of the king Polydectes. He gave them a shelter and brought up the boy as if he had been his own son.

Expedition Against the Gorgons

Perseus grew up to be a handsome young man, one of an exceptional beauty and strength. Polydectes wanted to get rid of Perseus, because he treated him as an obstacle in approaching Danae, who in the meantime had become dear to his heart. One day, Polydectes invited Perseus and some friends to a dinner. He pretended that he wished to marry Hippodamia , and asked what gift each of them was willing to offer. All the other guests agreed that a horse was a fitting gift, but Perseus, who was eager to distinguish himself, said that he would, if necessary, bring the head of the Gorgon Medusa to the king. The next morning, when other guests arrived with horses and Perseus was empty handed, Polydectes demanded from Danae's son to bring him the promised present.

Perseus didn't know how to do this difficult task. Desperate, he walked to the sea shore. Hermes saw him there and asked Perseus about the cause of his worries. After he had heard the story, Hermes promised he would help. Together with Athena, he took Perseus to Graeae, sisters of Gorgons, who among them had one tooth and one eye which all three used in turn. Perseus stole their single tooth and only eye, and in this way persuaded them to show him how to reach Nymphs, who kept winged sandals, a magic bag called kibisis and the helmet of Hades which made its wearer invisible. After he had received these objects from Nymphs, Hermes armed him with the harpe, a short sword shaped like a sickle, and Athena gave him a shield of polished bronze. Equipped like this, Perseus started his journey to where monstrous Gorgons lived, near the Ocean, in Ethiopia, Libya, or the most distant parts of Africa. When he arrived, Gorgons were sleeping. As he knew that their look turns the living into stone, he approached them without looking at them. There were three Gorgons, Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. Of the three, only Medusa was mortal; it was therefore she whom Perseus attacked. He fixed his eyes on Medusa's reflection in the polished surface of his shield. Then he cut off her head with one stroke of the sickle. From the bleeding Medusa's neck, a winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor sprang out. With Medusa's head in his bag, Perseus flew into the air; the other two Gorgons chased him in vain, as he was using Hades' helmet and thus he was invisible.

Perseus and Andromeda

On the way back, Perseus travelled through Ethiopia, when he noticed Andromeda, the daughter of the Ethiopian king Cepheus , chained to the rock. She was being offered as a sacrifice to a sea monster. Perseus fell in love with her at first sight. He promised her father that he would release her if he could have her for his wife. Cepheus agreed, and Perseus killed the monster (see Andromeda).

Perseus, the King of Tiryns

After the marriage, Perseus and Andromeda returned to Seriphos just in time when Danae and Dictys were praying to gods to save them from Polydectes, who had tried to rape Danae. Perseus took his revenge on Polydectes by turning him into stone, using Medusa's head. After punishing Polydectes, Perseus gave Medusa's head to Athena, returned the harpe to Hermes, and Hades' helmet, winged sandals and bag to Nymphs. He handed over the government of Seriphos to Dictys, and then he went with Andromeda to Argos. When Acrisius heard that Perseus was coming, he fled to Larissa. Perseus came after him to persuade him to return to Argos. He succeeded, but despite that, the old prophecy was fulfilled: before leaving Larissa, Perseus took part in a competition in throwing discus, with which he accidentally killed his grandfather. Devastated by the sorrow, he buried his grandfather and then decided not to return to Argos because he was ashamed. He exchanged the kingdom with his cousin Megapenthes , and so he became the king of Tiryns, while Megapenthes became the king of Argos. Perseus fortified cities of Midea and Mycenae. Some legends claim that he was the founder of these cities, as well as the founder of the family of the Perseids.

While he was still the ruler of Argos, Perseus fought with the god Dionysus and his companions. Some say that he killed Dionysus and his wife Ariadne, but there are also stories that they made peace later on, and that Dionysus' cult was permitted in Argos.

Perseus had six sons with Andromeda: Perses, Alceus, Sthenelus, Heleius, Mestor and Electryon, and a daughter Gorgophone. Through his son Electryon, Perseus is the ancestor of the biggest Greek hero,
Heracles (Hercules).

 

Picture Courtesy of: http://www.indiana.edu/~archaeol/kglowack/athens/images2/20.027.JPG

PYGMALION AND GALATEA

Galatea was the ivory creation of a brilliant artist named Pygmalion, who lived on Cyprus. He hated and abhored women and promised himself that he would never get married. Perhaps in trying to create a perfect woman, Pygmalion sculpted a work of art.

The statue he created looked very much alive and he perfected it each and every day until there was nothing left to perfect. The statue was beautiful and Pygmalion fell in love with it. He began to realize how lonely he was when his kisses and caresses where not returned from the inanimate object. He was terribly sad and tried to pretend very hard that his creation was alive.

Aphrodite was very much impressed by this original and devoted love and decided to make Pygmalion's wish come true. At a festival honoring Aphrodite, Pygmalion asked the Goddess of Love if she might assist him in finding a maiden like his statue, but Aphrodite knew what he really wanted. She acknowledged his prayer by causing the altar flame to leap three times.

When Pygmalion returned to his home, he walked over to touch his statue and discovered that it was warm to the touch. So he kissed it, and its lips became soft. His creation was coming to life before his eyes! He joyfully thanked Aphrodite. She was present and their wedding, and Pygmalion and Galatea (what he named his statue) had two children, Paphus and Metharme.

Picture Courtesy of : http://wondersmith.com/heroes/hetairae.jpg



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Amanda's Gods and Myths of the Ancient Civilizations