Mythology is the tale of gods, goddesses, heroes and numerous fantastic and terrifying creatures, it touches upon love, hate, war, infidelity, jealousy, contests, betrayal, heroism, treacherous voyages, the relationship between mortal and immortal.
Fate and destiny are interwoven, nothing can be done to avoid that which is written, as those who consult the Delphic Oracle find out, Zeus the chief god of the Greeks has the task of making sure that fate takes its course. The challenges of the unknown are presented over and over, mortals and immortals alike are tested, fate and destiny are beyond frail manipulative powers. People have been fascinated for centuries with the interactions between, mortals and immortals and their tumultuous relationships, who do not feel for Oedipus and the futility of his parents actions to avoid their destiny. Myths reveal destinies interwoven and the futility of actions taken to change fate, it reaches into the deepest stratum of emotions.
ACHILLES the son of King Peleus of Thessaly and the sea nymph Thetis. One of the greatest Greek warriors, he learned his skills from Chiron, leader of the Centaurs, although he was a renowned fighter, his mother knew he was doomed to die. He was invulnerable in all of his body except for one heel, he died when an arrow was shot into his heel by Paris.
ACTEON the son of a royal god, and Autonoe the daughter of Cadmus, he was a famous hero like Achilles and was trained by the centaur Cheiron, he offended the goddess Artemis and paid for it with his life. He was transformed into a stag sending his hounds into a frenzy and being torn apart by them.
AGEUS son of King Pandion of Athens and father of Theseus, whose birth was foretold after Ageus consulted the Delphic Oracle. Ageus then married the sorceress Medea who bore him a son, Medus, Ageus threw himself off the Athenian acropolis and died after he thought his son Theseus was dead, his son returned alive after a treacherous sea mission to be told of the tragic death of his father.
AENEAS was a Trojan hero and son of Anchises and Venus. Aneas married Creusa who bore him a son named Ascanius. Aneas escaped the war in Troy with his father and son and was somehow separated from his wife Creusa during the journey, he was never to see her again. Aeneas later fell in love with Dido, the lovers happily enjoyed each other’s company until Mercury gave Aneas a message that he was to return to duty and undertake a dangerous sea voyage. When he left on his mission, Dido impaled herself with a sword and was consumed by flames. Eventually Aneas married Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus and was able to live peacefully with her.
AGAMEMNON son of Atreus, brother of Menelaus, king of Sparta, married to Clytemnestra. He summoned the Greeks to join the expedition against Troy, and the Greek fleet was delayed at Aulis by lack of wind. Agamemnon decided to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia in order to appease Artemis the goddess of the forest and wild animals. She was sent to Aulis expecting to marry the hero Achilles, there she was sacrificed, Agamemnon was never forgiven by Clytemnestra who became the lover of Aegisthus during the ten year siege of Troy. When Agememnon returned from the war and was changing his clothes in a bathroom, Clytemnesta threw a large net over him, twisting it around his body, Aegeisthus then killed Agamemnon with his axe at the behest of Clytemnestra.
AJAX son of Telamon of Salamis aided the Greeks in their assault on Troy, after the death of Achilles there was a contest for the armor of Achilles, which was forged by the smith god Hephaistos. The armor was given to Odysseus, and Ajax became overwhelmed with jealousy, causing him to plan an attack on his comrades during the night. He was deceived by Athena, into killing a flock of sheep instead. As daylight came Ajax was so mortified by his plan he killed himself with his own sword.
ALCESTIS was the daughter of King Pelias of Thessaly and was to be betrothed to the warrior who was able to yoke a lion and a boar to a chariot. With the aid of Apollo, the god of prophecy, a monarch named Admetus was successful, but during the wedding Admetus forgot to make a sacrifice in gratitude to Artemis, the goddess of the forest and wild animals. His wedding bed was filled with snakes. Apollo assisted Admetus by making the Fates drunk and making them promise that if anyone else would die on Admetus’s behalf, he could continue to live. No one volunteered and Alcestis then gave her life in exchange for Admetus. Persephone, the underworld goddess was so moved by this sacrifice that she restored Alcestis to Admetus and they had two sons.
ALCEMENE was the mother of Heracles, and she was the daughter of Electryon who was the son of Perseus. She was married to Amphitryon but she refused to consummate the marriage until the murder of her brother was avenged. Zeus came to Alcemene disguised as her husband, in order to father a mortal, Amphitryon was angered until it was explained by the seer Tiresias that Zeus wanted to father a mortal to help the gods in their battle against the Giants. Alcmene became pregnant with twins, Heracles the son of Zeus, and Iphicles the son of Amphitryon. Hera Zeus’s jealous wife attempted to thwart the birth, but was tricked and the boys were born safely. Zeus continued to protect the twins and Alcemene lived into old age.
THE AMAZONS a tribe of female warriors descended from Ares the Greek war god, and Naiad Harmonia, the Amazons mated with men and trained their female children to be warriors, they discarded the males born to them. They fought against the Greeks during the Trojan War, it was thought that even though Achilles killed the Amazon queen Penthesilea, he was in love with her. Heracles and Theseus were involved in battles against the Amazons, Heracles managed a great feat which was to steal a girdle belonging to the Amazon queen Hippolyta.
AMULIUS a descendant of the Trojan hero Aeneas, he forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin in order to deny her father an heir. When Rhea Silvia was raped by the god Mars she became pregnant with twins Romulus and Remus, Amulus imprisoned her and ordered the twin sons to be drowned in the Tiber where they were rescued. They returned to Alba Longa and killed their uncle Amulius when they reached manhood.
ANDROMACHE daughter of Eetion king of Mysia, wife of Hector the Trojan warrior. Her entire family was killed during the Trojan War, she was captured by Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. All her family including parents, brothers, husband and son, were killed during the Trojan War. After the war Andromache was captured by Neoptolemus, she bore him three sons and was hated by his wife who was unable to have children. Andromache married Helenus, also a Trojan captive, after Neoptolemus died.
ANDROMEDA daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus, king of the Ethiopians, Cassiopeia boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the sea nymphs, the Nereids. The sea nymphs complained to Zeus, who flooded the land by sending a sea monster to devastate Cepheus’s kingdom. To avoid conflict Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to the beast, as Perseus was flying past carrying the head of the Gorgon Medusa, he saw her and fell in love, both Andromeda and her father gave their consent to marriage if he defeated the monster. By using Medusas head which turned to stone all those who looked at it, he slew the monster, Perseus and Andromeda settled in Tiryns, which was ruled by Perseus. The constellation of Andromeda lies close to that of Pegasus.
ANTIGONE daughter of Oedipus, king of Thebes, and his wife and mother Jocasta. On learning of their accidental incest Oedipus blinded himself and Jocasta killed herself, Antigone then cared for a guided Oedipus during his wanderings around Greece. After his death she returned to Thebes to find her brother Polynices had been killed and his body left unburied, Antigone sprinkled earth over the corpse as a token burial. Her punishment was imprisonment in a cave in which she hanged herself.
APHRODITE was the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility. She was the goddess of sexual love and of the affection that sustains social life. She was married to the smith god Hephaistos, she was not faithful and bore children by several other gods, including Dionysus and Ares. Upon finding out about Aphrodite’s passion for Ares, the smith god made a mesh of gold and caught the lovers together in bed. He then called the other gods to see the pair, they were amused by Hephaistos’s shame, and Poseidon the god of the sea urged Hephaistos to release Ares and Aphrodite. Aphrodite also fell in love with Adonis as did Persephone queen of the dead, there quarrelling was ended by Zeus’s intervention, he deemed that Adonis was to be with himself for one third of the year, Persephone for one third, and Aphrodite for one third. Because of her behavior Zeus made Aphrodite fall in love with Anchises. Aphrodite helped to cause the Trojan War, and to guarantee that Paris would name her the most beautiful of the goddesses, she promised Paris the hand of the most beautiful woman in the world Helen.
APPOLO was the son of Zeus and Leto, he was a twin brother of the goddess Artemis, the virgin huntress. One of the most significant deities of the Greek and Roman religions, he was the god of prophecy, archery and music. He fought the gigantic earth serpent Python at Delphi, Python the offspring of Gaia, mother earth gave revelations through a fissure in the rock so that a priestess, the Pythia, could give answers to any questions that might be asked. After slaying the earth serpent Apollo took its place, although he had to do penance for the killing, he was forced by Zeus to be the slave of a mortal man. His love of healing was said to be due to the plague and its control.
ARES son of Zeus and Hera, was the Greek god of war. Ares had three children by Aphrodite, the goddess of love, his twins Phobos (“panic”) and Deimos (“fear”) fought by his side. Ares was always fearful and overcome by panic on the battlefield, yet he is depicted as an instigator of violence, a tempestuous lover and an unscrupulous friend.
ARGONAUTS- The Argonauts are a band of heroes who accompanied Jason to Colchis on his quest to find the Golden Fleece, they were a group of Thessalian warriors who joined his expedition and became known Argonauts. Their name is derived from their ship they traveled on, the Argo. They crossed a sea of marvels, visited strange lands and overcame many obstacles before reaching Colchis were Hera used the goddess of love Aphrodite to make Media fall in love with Jason.
ARIADNE daughter of Pasiphae and King Minos, ruler of Knossos. Ariadne and Theseus were together until he abandoned her for some unknown reason on the island of Dia, she then became the wife of Dionysus, the god of ecstasy and wine. Dionysus was known as “the roaring one”, a bull-horned god full of power.
ARTEMIS daughter of Leto and Zeus, twin sister of Apollo, Artemis was known as the goddess of the wild. She used to roam the mountains with a band of nymphs, she was a Virgin goddess and brooked no intrusion into her domain. For killing a stag sacred to Artemis, King Agamemnon had his fleet stranded, he had to promise to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to appease the goddess. Actaeon a mortal was changed into a stag by Artemis, after he saw the goddess bathing while he was hunting, he was chased and torn apart by his hunting dogs.
ASCANIUS son of Aeneas and Lavinia, he founded the city of Alba Longa, Aeneas founded Lavinium in honour of Ascanius’s mother Lavinia, a Latin princess whose marriage to him brought peace to the Latin and Trojan people. This made Ascanius the king of Lavinium following Aeneas’s death.
ASCLEPIUS Greek god of healing, son of Apollo god of prophecy and the lake nymph Coronis. Asclepius was a healer and well known throughout Greece, he was taught medicine by the Centaur Chiron. He took over the sanctuary at Epidaurus where sacred snakes were kept. Zeus feared that Asclepius might learn a way of overcoming death, and when he did resurrect one of his patients, Zeus decided he was to be punished for crossing the line of the gods monopoly over immortality. He was killed by a thunderbolt, but at the request of Apollo was placed amongst the stars as Ophiuchus the serpent bearer.
ATLANTA daughter of Iasus of Arcadia, was famous for her hunting prowess. She was deserted by her father and brought up by hunters. She did not wish to marry and those asking for her hand had to first beat her in a race, if they lost they would be put to death. There were many suitors even with the consequences of losing. Aphrodite took pity on a man named Melanion, showing him how to win the race, she gave him three golden apples, they were placed at different points on the course. Atlanta stopped three times to pick up the apples, which allowed Melanion to win the race and take Atlanta as his wife. In his rush to make love to his wife, Melanion forgot a vow to Aphrodite, they were both turned into lions for angering Aphrodite.
ATHENA daughter of Zeus and Titaness, known as the Greek goddess of crafts and war. She was born fully grown and armed, with the assistance of the smith god Hephaistos with a blow from his axe, from the Head of Zeus after he swallowed the pregnant Metis. She was identified with Minerva goddess of wisdom and the arts. Hephaistos tried to rape Athena and to avoid losing her virginity she disappeared so that the semen of the smith god fell to the ground, it then grew into the serpent Erichthonius. The three daughters of Cecrops were given a box by Athena and told not to look inside, when they looked they found themselves gazing upon Erichthonius and went insane. Athena continued to protect Athens and was a goddess involved in the affairs of men, she was an ally to Bellerophon, Heracles, Perseus and Jason. She also helped Odysseus get back to the island of Ithaca after his voyage home from the Trojan War. She offered the matricide Orestes protection, and arranged for him to be tried and acquitted by the ancient court.
ATLAS a Titan, son of Lapetus and Oceanid Clymene. Atlas held up the sky, and his name means, “he who carries”. Atlas offered to obtain the golden apples of the Hesperides, which were guarded by Gaia, mother earth, and presented to Hera at her marriage to Zeus. He did this successfully while Heracles took over his job of holding up the sky, when Atlas returned Heracles asked him to hold the sky for a moment so that he could balance the weight. He tricked Atlas into taking over and resuming his solitary task.
ATREUS son of Pelops and Hippodameia. The house of Atreus had a curse placed upon it by the son of Hermes, the messenger god. The misfortune began after Pelops father of Atreus, brought about the death of Hermes son Myrtilus, there were difficulties between the sons of Pelops, Atreus, Thyestes and Chrysippus over the ownership of the wondrous golden ram, placed in Atreus’s flock by Hermes. Atreus was married to Aerope and they suffered many years distress and unhappiness because of the curse. Atreus and Thyestes murdered Chrysippus, then Thyestes seduced Aerope the wife of Atreus, to gain her help in securing the golden ram, Artreus then slew Aerope and exiled Thyestes, During a reconciliation banquet Atreus served Thyestes the flesh of his own children, when he had finished eating he was shown the hands and feet of his dead sons and told he had consumed them. The course of the sun was halted in horror, Theyestes only surviving son killed Atreus and became the lover of Clytemnestra, the curse ended only after Clytemnestra and Aegisthus were murdered by Orestes.
BELLEROPHON Greek hero, son of Glaucus, he possessed the winged horse Pegasus, which had sprung from the Gorgon Medusa’s blood when she was beheaded by Perseus. Bellerophon was given a gift of a special bridle from the goddess Athena, to help him tame Pegasus. Queen Stheneboea of Argos developed a passion for him and was rejected, she then accused him of attempted rape and the angry King Proteus exiled him to asia Minor expecting his death. He was saved by his service in the local king’s forces, by riding Pegasus he overcame the Chimaera, defeat neighboring people, and the Amazons, then became the champion of Lycia. A constellation was named after his beautiful winged horse. When he attempted to fly to Mount Olympus the home of the gods, Bellerophon was lamed for life when Zeus in anger caused Pegasus to unseat him and he fell.
BOREAS the north wind, son of Eos, goddess of dawn, and Titan Astraeus. During the Persian invasion of Greece Boreas helped the Greek’s plight by damaging the Persian fleet during the battle of Artemisium in 480 BC. Boreas abducted Orithyia, daughter of King Erechtheus of Attica, she bore twin sons, Calais and Zetes, who were born human but after a time sprouted golden wings, they were later killed by Heracles. Boreas was worshipped in the city of Athens.
BRITOMARTIS a daughter of Zeus, her name meant, “Sweet maid”, she resided on the island of Crete where she was a huntress. King Midas wanted her to be his mistress but to preserve her virginity she fled from him and threw herself from a cliff.
BRUTUS son of Tarquinia, who was the sister of Tarquinius Superbus, he was the founder of the Roman Republic. During his early life he was regarded as a simpleton and was thought of as a joke in the house of Tarquinius Superbus, the last Etruscan king to rule Rome. A snake was found in the king’s palace and two princesses, accompanied by Brutus in the role of a jester, travelled to Delphi to ask the Oracle for an explanation of the event. The Oracle said that the first person in the delegation to kiss his mother would be the next ruler of Rome. The princes drew lots to decide who was to kiss their mother on their return trip home, but Brutus tripped and kissed the earth, much to the amusement of the princes. Upon their return the youngest prince raped Lucretia, a Roman matron, after which she stabbed herself to death. This was too much for the Roman aristocracy and they were outraged, Brutus used this event as a means of overthrowing the monarchy and setting up a republic. He was now a gifted speaker and was elected consul, one of the two highest offices of state. There was a conspiracy to restore Tarquinius Superbus to the throne and he had the support of Titus and Tiberius, two of Brutus’s sons. He was chief magistrate and was grief stricken when he had to oversee the arrest and the subsequent, trial and execution of his sons, as foretold by the Oracle.
CADMUS son of Agenor king of Phoenicia and Telephassa, and brother of Europa, when Europa was forcibly taken to Crete by Zeus disguised as a bull, Cadmus and his brothers were sent after her, told not to return without her. They failed in their task but impacted the places where they eventually settled, Cadmus was told by the Delphic Oracle to find a cow with a moon shaped mark on its flank, then to follow the animal and to build a city where the animal layed down to rest. Cadmus sent some of his men for water deciding to sacrifice the animal to Athena, the men were attacked by a serpent sprung from the war god Ares. He killed the serpent and was advised by the goddess Athena to remove its teeth and sow half of them in the ground. Armed men appeared and Cadmus threw stones among them making them suspect each other and fall upon themselves. After a period of penance for killing Ares serpent, Zeus gave Cadmus Harmonia, the daughter of Aphrodite, goddess of love, the gods attended the wedding. It was unusual for an immortal to marry a mortal, and they did not have successful offspring, one of their descendants Pentheus insulted Dionysus and was torn to pieces by the god’s female worshippers. Cadmu’s reign because of his divine wife was considered important.
CASSANDRA daughter of Prian who was the king of Troy, and his wife Hecuba, she was exceptionally beautiful and had remarkable powers of prophecy, given to her as a gift from Apollo. His love for Cassandra was unrequited, hence she was to forever prophesy, but was never to be believed. Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemmon eventually killed Cassandra.
CENTAURS the descendants of Ixion, who was the son of Aries, they had the head, arms and chest of a man and the legs and lower half of a horse. They were depicted as drunken followers of Dionysus, Chiron was an exception and became a tutor to several heroes.
CERBERUS was a three headed hound born to the monsters Typhon and Echidna, he guarded the Greek underworld stopping anyone from returning to the land of the living. One of Heracle’s labours was to fetch Cerberus, the god of the dead Hades allowed this to take place as long as Cerberus was unhurt. Cerberus was dreadful to behold and turned to stone anyone who looked at him.
CHIRON son of Philyra daughter of Oceanos, and the Titan Cronos, he had the body and legs of a horse and the arms and head of a man. He was a student of music, medicine, hunting and welfare and tutored Achilles, Asclepius and Jason. He lived his life in a cave on Mount Pelion, Zeus placed him in the sky as the constellation Centaurus.
CINCINNATUS a Roman hero, his actions saved the early Republic, there was danger of Rome being destroyed by the Aequi, an Italian tribe. In order to thwart this threat Cincinnatus was appointed as dictator, unlimited powers were awarded to him on a temporary basis. A deputation was sent to his farm, with the smallest landholding to qualify for citizenship, he was informed of the Senates decision to make him dictator. There was fear he may abuse his power which he didn’t and after the defeat of the Aequi, he was voted a golden wreath at the end of his sixty days.
CIRCE daughter of Helios the sun god was a powerful witch who poisoned her husband king of the Sarmatians, then went to the island of Aeaea. She turned Odysseus’s men into swine upon their landing in Aeaea, with the aid of Hermmes the messenger god, Odysseus remained immune to her magic. He was able to restore his men to human form and gain the help of the witch for the next leg of his journey, he remained as her lover for a year before she told him how to navigate through the waters of the Sirens and between Scylla a monster, and Charybdis, a whirlpool. She had turned Scylla into a monster when one of her many lovers as shown an interest in her, Circe married Odysseus’s son Telemachus.
CLYTEMNESTRA daughter of Leda and Tyndareos, king of Sparta. She was not faithful to her husband Agamemnon, she had a long affair with Aegisthus who persuaded her to assist him in murdering her husband when he returned from the Trojan War. She hated her husband because he had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis, in return for a fair wind to Troy. When Agamemnon returned home Clytemnestra had him entangled in a net and he was killed by Aegisthus, using a two headed axe. Clytemnestra was tragically killed by her son Orestes.
CREON brother of Jocasta, and ruler of Thebes, Creon offered the throne and the hand of his sister Jocasta to any man who could solve the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus achieved this seemingly impossible task and married Jocasta and took over the kingdom, they had children unaware that Jocasta was his mother. After finding out about their unwitting incest, Oedipus blinded himself, and Jocasta committed suicide, Creon again became regent. A quarrel between Oedipus’s sons Eteocles and Polynices, left them both dead, and Creon ascended the throne, Eteocles was properly buried and Polynies was thrown outside the city walls. Antigone Oedipus’s daughter returned to Thebes and sprinkled Polynices corpse with earth to give him a proper burial. Creon then had Antgone sealed in a cave, the seer Tiresias told Creon to bury the dead and release the living, this he refused to do. What followed was the death of his son, and upon his wife hearing of the son’s death she took her own life.
CRONOS son of Ouranos the sky god, and Gaia the earth mother. He seized control of the universe by overthrowing Ouranos, he then married his sister Rhea. He swallowed all the children he fathered, for fear they may displace him. His wife managed to save one son Zeus, by fooling Cronos, Zeus grew up safely away from his father and when he came of age, he forced Cronos to vomit up his brothers and sisters, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia and Demeter. Cronos was ultimately defeated and banished by Zeus and his brothers and sisters, he disappeared into obscurity.
CUPID Roman god of love, and son of love goddess Venus. Cupid fell in love with Psyche and invisible visited her every night, requesting she not try to see him, curiosity prevented her from complying and she looked causing Cupid to leave her. Psyche searched the sky for Cupid, eventually Jupiter the sky god, granted her immortality allowing her to be Cupids constant companion.
CURTIS a great chasm appeared in the Forum in Rome around 362 BC, it led down to the underworld, it appeared because the Romans forgot to make an appropriate sacrifice to the dead. Marcus Curtis plunged into the chasm on horseback and disappeared for ever.
DAEDALUS was the son of Alcippe, who was the daughter of the war god Ares, he was employed by King Minos and built the Labyrinth for the Minotaur, and the offspring of Pasiphae, Minos’s wife and a great bull. An artificial cow in which the queen placed herself was built, to allow her to mate with the bull and the Minotaur was conceived. Daedalus was imprisoned by Minos for revealing the secret of the Labyrinth, he escaped by making wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son Icarus. Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wax wings melted and he fell into the ocean and drowned. Upon his arrival in Italy he entertained the daughters of King Cocolos with his inventions. Daedalus was found by Minos but was able to kill him with the assistance of Cocalos’s daughters, by pouring boiling water down a pipe into his bath.
DANAE mother of Perseus and daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos, it was foretold that Danae’s son would cause the death of Acrisius king of Argos, to avoid this she was locked in a bronze tower. Zeus visited her as a shower of golden rain and Perseus was conceived, mother and son were banished by the king. A discus thrown by Perseus accidentally killed King Acrisius.
DAPHNE daughter of the river god Peneius, she was a virgin huntress, the love god Eros shot a volley of arrows after being taunted by Apollo the god of prophesy, the first arrow was a gold tipped shaft which struck Apollo making him fall in love with Daphne. The second which had a lead tip caused her to become even more indifferent to Apollo, he pursued her until she could take no more and she turned herself into a laurel tree.
DEMETER Greek goddess of vegetation, and fruitfulness, daughter of Cronos and Rhea, mother of Persephone goddess of the underworld and wife of Hades god of the underworld. Demeter possessed mysterious powers, and was said to hold the power of resurrection. Demeter was devastated when her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades the god of the underworld, to become his wife. While there she refused to eat, her mother lost interest in fertility and plants began to die, and animals stopped multiplying affecting the future of the earth. Zeus intervened and ruled that Persephone would divide the year equally between her mother and her husband, she was not able to return to earth permanently as she had eaten something in the world of the dead.
DIDO a princess of Tyre, she became the queen of Carthage and the abandoned love of Aneas. When her brother ascended the throne of Tyre he killed her husband. Dido managed to escape with a small group of followers, she settled in Tunisia where she founded the city of Carthage. The local ruler agreed to sell her as much ground as a bull’s hide might contain, Dido then cut the skin into strips in order to obtain an adequately sized plot. When the Roman hero Aeneas arrived in Carthage, after being blown off course, he along with fellow refuges was welcomed by Dido. Aeneas and Dido fell in love but he was ordered back by Jupiter, who was sent by Mercury, and was reminded that his destiny was to found a new Troy in Italy. Dido stabbed herself and threw herself into a flaming pyre after losing her lover
DIONYSUS son of Zeus and Semele, god of vegetation, wine and ecstasy, who often adopted the form of a bull horned god, at some point in his life he embarked on a personal quest for women worshippers known as Maenads. His behavior was outlawed in some states, King Pentheus of Thebes attempted to imprison Dioysus to try and curb his orgiastic rituals, but the prison door would not close and the chains fell off him. Dionysus told Pentheus that if he disguised himself as a woman, he could observe the sacred rituals first hand, this the king did and spied on the Maenads while hiding behind a tree. The Maenads discovered him and in a frenzy, thinking he was a lion, tore him apart, to her horror his mother who was one of the Maenads, discovered it was her son who had been killed and not a lion.
THE DIOSCURI twin sons of Leda queen of Sparta, known as Castor and Pollux, known as the heavenly twins, brothers of Helen and Clytemnestra, Polydeuces was the immortal son of Zeus, and Castor the mortal son of King Tyndareos. Polydeuce requested the twins share the divinity between them, living half the year beneath the earth with the dead, and the other half of the year on Mount Olympus with the gods. They are shown together in the constellation Gemini. When they were young they were Argonauts, and during the expedition to retrieve the Golden Fleece, Polydeuce killed Amycus, king of the savage Bebryces. The twins fought against Theseus, and were able to rescue their sister Helen after he abducted her, they then set up a rival to Theseus on the throne of Athens. It was thought that the presence of Castor and Polydeuce on the battlefield, ensured victories no matter what.
ELECTRA daughter of Agamemnon king of Mycenae and Clytemnestra, protector of her young brother Orestes who committed matricide. After Agamemnon was murdered by Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, Electra was so consumed with hatred for Clytemnestra she urged Orestus to avenge their fathers death. She was later remorseful, and her brother fled from the Furies, who sought to punish murderers.
EDYMION was the king of a city in the Peloponnese, he became the lover of the Moon goddess Selene, who bore him fifty daughters. Selene put her lover into an everlasting sleep, because not bare the thought that he would eventually die, Zeus pronounced that he would be allowed to sleep forever in a cave without ageing.
EOS Greek winged goddess of the dawn and child of Hyperion and Theia, she was a charioteer riding across the sky just before sunrise, pulled by her horses Bright and Shiner. Eos was a passionate woman and fell in love with many men, she fell in love with Tithonus, son of Laomedon king of Troy. Eos asked Zeus to make Tithonus immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, and she ended up with a lover helpless with old age, he was then locked in a bed chamber by Eos.
EROS son of Ares god of war, he was the companion of Aphrodite, he was also a mischief maker who fired his arrows of passion into the hearts of gods and humans alike, he was connected in a homosexual relationship with Ares. He was the patron divinity of the Sacred Band of Thebes, a group of one hundred and fifty pairs of lovers, all killed by the Macedonian army, at the battle of Chaeronea. King Philip of Macedon granted them a special burial after the battle.
EUROPA daughter of Telephassa and King Agenor of Tyre, Agenor’s five sons, including Cadmus, were sent to look for their sister after Zeus, disguised as a white bull, swam to the island of Crete with Europa on his back. She bore Zeus three sons, Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon, she then married the local ruler Asterius. Zeus gave Asterius a mighty bronze man, to defend his realm, as compensation for stealing Europa’s virginity.
THE FATES three goddesses known as the Moetae, daughters of the night, they became concerned with the powers which decide what happens to individuals, they were said to spin a length of yarn which represented the allotted time span for each mortal. Zeus although the chief Greek god, was subject to the decisions of the Fates, he was the executor of destiny and not its source. Oracles depicting future events were important to both gods and humans.
THE FURIES the goddesses of Greek mythology, known as Erinyes (” the angry ones”), born from the blood of Ouranos, after he was castrated by Cronos’s son, the blood fell into the womb of Gaia mother earth. The Furies were ugly women with hair that was entwined with snakes, they showed mortals who had shed blood no pity. Orestes was relentlessly pursued by them after he had Avenged Agememnon, his father, by killing Clytemnestr, his mother. After Orestes was acquitted by the ancient Athenian council, which was presided over by the goddess Athena, the Furies were appeased.
GAIA mother earth, came from Chaos and gave birth to Ouranos the sky god, who was her son and husband, there love was so overwhelming their offspring could not emerge from her womb. Cronos the youngest son, decided to overthrow Ouranos, Gaia conceived a sickle for Cronos to cut off his father’s penis from inside the womb. After the god was emasculated the sky separated from the earth, and Gaia conceived the Furies, the avenging goddesses of murderers, from Ouranos’s blood. Gaia saved Zeus when she warned him that a child of his, born by Metis, would replace him as the supreme god, Zeus then swallowed Metis and later the goddess Athena sprang from his head.
GANYMEDE son of Tros king of Phrygia, brother of Ilus. His beauty attracted Zeus who abducted him taking him to Mount Olympus to be his cupbearer. He was given immortality as the constellation Aquarius.
THE GIANTS had human shape, except they had snake like tails attached to their legs, they were born at the same time as the Furies, from the blood that fell into Gaia’s womb after Ouranos’s penis was severed. The gods stood their ground when the Giants attacked Olympus, they could not defeat them as the Giants could not be killed by divine hands. Zeus then fathered Heracles with a mortal woman, and during the battle between the gods and the Giants Heracles killed each Giant with poisoned arrows.
THE GORGONS three sister named Stheno (“strength”), Medusa (“queen”) and Euryale (“wide-leaping”), they were the children of Phorcys, son of Gaia. The only mortal was Medusa who had snakes for hair and could turn to stone any man or thing that looked at her.
THE GRACES the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, goddesses named Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne, they were attendants to Aphrodite and Venus, the Graces represented beauty, gentleness and friendship.
HADES (“the unseen”), Greek god of the underworld, son of Cronos and Rhea, brother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia, he abducted Persephone Demeter and Zeus’s daughter. Charon ferried the dead across the river Styx, the three headed dog Cerberus, guarded the entrance to the underworld, preventing anyone from returning to the world of the living. Hades was never considered an evil force. Because of Demeters distress over the abduction of Persephone, Zeus declared that mother and husband should have equal time with Persephone.
HECATE goddess known for her influence on farming by day, and by night interested in witchcraft, the witch Medea used to invoke Hecate in her magic arts. The Athenians were respectful towards Hecate and they placed offerings of food once a month, where her influence was said to be felt.
HECTOR eldest son of Priam, king of Troy, he was a brave and unbeatable warrior on the battlefield. He mistakenly killed Patroclus lover of Achilles, Achilles refused to fight after quarrelling with Agamemnon. Patroclus borrowed his divine armor and was slain by Hector, Achilles sought out Hector and slayed him, so angry was Achilles he dragged Hector’s corpse round Patroclus’s tomb for twelve days. Zeus intervened by sending Thetis, Achilles mother to stop this behavior, Hector’s body was returned and buried properly, after an exchange of treasure.
HELEN daughter of Leda and Zeus and wife of the Spartan king Menelaus and the cause of the Trojan War. Helen was hatched from an egg laid by Leda, when the egg hatched, she was brought up as a member of the royal family, her brothers were Castor and Pollux, her sister was King Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra. Helen was married to Menelaus and was the most desirable bride in Greece, they were happy for a time, but when she was introduced to Paris son of King Priam of Troy, Paris called upon the love goddess Aphrodite to gain Helen’s affection, they eloped with part of the treasury, after the fall of Troy, Helen and Menelaus reconciled.
HELIOS Greek son god son of the Titan Hyperion, after he crossed the sky, he sailed during the night around the earth in a golden bowl on the waters of Oceanos, he arrived back in the east just before dawn. Helios’s son Phaethon, attempted to steer his father’s chariot but lost control, Zeus steadied the chariot and prevented the earth from catching fire, Phaethon fell and was drowned. Helios had many other children, including Augeas, Circe and Pasiphae, a gigantic statue of the sun god was erected at the harbor of Rhodes, this was called Colossus and was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it was later toppled by an earthquake.
HEPHAISTOS Greek smith god, and son of Zeus and Hera, Hephaistos was lame as a result of intervening in a quarrel between his parents, in anger Zeus flung him from Mount Olympus where he fell upon the volcanic island of Lemnos, Hephaistos survived. He gained his revenge as a grown man, by making a golden throne for his mother that was a trap, none of the gods was able to release Hera. Hephaistos was then invited to return to Mount Olympus permanently, while under the influence of drink Dionysus his friend persuaded him to unlock the device and allow his mother to escape. He married the love goddess Aphrodite and they had a tumultuous relationship, Aphrodite was not faithful, and Hephaistos created a trap to catch Aphrodite in bed with the war god Ares. The Olympian gods laughed at Hephaistos’s situation, the sea god Poseidon promised a remedy if Hephaistos released Aphrodite and Ares. Hephaistos split open Zeus’s head with an axe in order to release the fully grown goddess Athena. Hephaistos later fell in love with, and was rejected by Athena, his semen fell to earth where it gave birth to the serpent Erichthonius.
HERA meaning “lady”, a powerful goddess, she was the daughter of Cronos and Rhea, Hera had a passionate and tumultuous marriage to Zeus, she was insanely jealous and relentlessly pursued Zeus’s mistresses and their children. She sent two serpents to kill Zeus’s infant son Heracles, but the infant was able to strangle them while in his cradle, although later in his life Hera succeeded in driving Heracles temporarily mad. Hera bore Zeus, the war god Ares, Hebe, the cupbearer of the gods, and Eileithia the goddess of birth, there was also the birth of the smith god Hephaistos. Hera was particularly revered in Crete.
HERACLES the son of Zeus and Alcmene, a Greek hero better known as Hercules, the name Heracles means Hera’s glory, Zeus fathered Heracles to champion the battle between the gods and the Giants. Zeus intended Heracles to become the ruler of Mycenae or Tiryns, this was thwarted by Hera causing Heracles to become the slave of Eurystheus, king of Tiryns, she struck Heracles with a bout of madness, causing him to slaughter his wife and three sons. His punishment was to become Eurystheus’s dependent and undertake twelve labours. The first was the killing of the Nemean lion that could not be harmed by arrows, Heracles had to use bare hands and a wooden club. His next labor was a nine headed serpent sacred to Hera, it lived in a swamp at Lerna, for every head of the serpent he severed, two new ones grew in its place. His nephew Iolaus assisted him to triumph, by burning the stumps of each severed head as soon as Heracles cut it off. The king refused to count this exploit as a labour because Heracles had received help. For his next task Heracles had to capture the Ceryneian hind, a beast sacred to Artemis, goddess of the wild, he returned to Tiryns with the hind. He then had to capture the Erymanthian boar which plagued the countryside of Arcadia, he was able to trap it with a net, he also encountered a band of Centaurs who lived in woodlands. He had to clean the stables of Augeas the son of the sun god, Heracles was told to remove the huge piles of dung, from the vast herds of animals that Augeas kept. Heracles did this by diverting the course of a nearby river, the last labour in the Peloponnese was the removal of the Stymphalian birds. The birds had steel tipped feathers with which they killed men and animals, the birds were frightened away by the noise of a rattle, specially made for Heracles by the goddess Athena. Heracles tacked down the bull that had mated with Minos’s wife Pasiphae, who then gave birth to the Minotaur, the bull headed man slain by Theseus, he set the bull free in the Tiryns, at the end of his labours. For his eighth labour he subdued the man eating mares of Diomedes, which he fed on their master’s flesh. For the final four labours he had Heracles bring the girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, he then captured the cattle of Geryon, a western king with three heads, three bodies and six hands. He then brought back the golden apples of the Hesperides, who were the female guardians of the fruit given by the earth goddess Gaia to Hera on her wedding to Zeus. The last labour, the most difficult of all was the descent into the underworld, and with the help of Persephone queen of the underworld, briefly brought back the three headed hound Cerberus. As a result of his labours he attained immortality, an honour no other hero gained. Death came to Heracles through a poisoned garment given to his second wife for him to wear, by the Centaur Nessus. Knowing death was near Heracles consulted the Delphis Oracle, which told him to build a funeral pyre in Thessaly, once he climbed onto it, Zeus appeared in a flash of lightening and took Heracles to be with the immortals.
HERMAPHRODITOS the bisexual offspring of the messenger god Hermes and Aphrodite the goddess of love, Hermaphroditos dismissed the advances of the nymph of a fountain, when he ignored her attentions, Salmacis prayed to the gods to eternally unite her with him. The wish was granted, resulting in her merging with him physically when he bathed in some waters, resulting in a female boy, hence the term hemaphrodite.
HERMES the Greek messenger god, and son of Zeus and Mata, Hermes was the god who most easily crossed the line between the living and the dead, he guided the dead to the realm of Hades the underworld. During the Trojan War Hermes was the one sent to steal that which was otherwise unobtainable. The gods considered sending Hermes to steal the corpse of Hector, to stop Achilles mutilating it, this was not necessary after Thetis the sea nymph persuaded her son to stop.. He is depicted as a young man, with a hat and winged sandals, carrying a herald’s staff crowned with two snakes, this staff assured him safe passage. His great love was Aphrodite with whom he fathered two sons, Hermaphroditos was the first female boy, known for his enormous penis was his brother Priapus.
HERO AND LEANDER great mythological lovers, Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite at Sestos in the Dardanelles, while Leander lived on the Asian side of the channel at Abydos, they were barred from marriage because of Hero’s religious beliefs. They managed to conduct a secret affair, by Leander swimming across to Hero each night, guided by a light she placed in her tower, at dawn he would swim back. On a stormy night the candle blew out, causing Leander to lose his sense of direction and drown, when his body was washed ashore at Sestos, Hero took her life by throwing herself from the tower.
THE HESPERIDES daughters of Hespertus, the evening star, they were called, Hespera, Aegle and Erytheis, guardians of the tree of golden apples given by Gaia, mother earth to the goddess Hera on her marriage to Zeus, chief of the Greeks gods.
HORATIUS a Roman hero who saved the early Republic from the Etruscans, the Etruscans attempted to capture Rome by crossing a poorly defended bridge over the River Tiber, Horatius held them back with the help of two comrades, until the Romans had destroyed the bridge. As the final supports were removed Horatius ordered his comrades back to the Roman ban, they just made it. Horatius had to swim back in full armour, he was saved by prayer, his full name was Horatius Cocles meaning, Horatius the one-eyed.
HYPNOS meaning (“sleep”), the son of Nyx the night goddess, and the brother of Thanatos (“Death”). Morpheus the god of dreams, was his son. Hypnos lived in the underworld, the realm of Hades and never saw the sun, Hera tried to coerce Hypnos to lull her husband Zeus to sleep, so she could attack his son Heracles. He refused as he had already come close to having a thunder bolt hurled at him, he was saved by taking refuge with Night whose power Zeus respected.
INO daughter of Cadmus the king of Thebes and Harmonia, she brought up Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Semele, Ino’s dead sister. Zeus was tricked into appearing to Semele as lightening and thunderbolts and accidentally killed her. Her unborn son Dionysus, was taken from her womb and placed in Zeus’s thigh until the time for his birth, and at the suggestion of Hermes the messenger god, he was suckled by Ino and kept safe from Hera. Hating to be deceived Hera made Ino kill her own children, after this Ino killed herself by jumping off a cliff into the sea.
IO was the daughter of the river god Inachus, and was one of the mortal women who bore children by Zeus. Even though she was a virgin priestess of Hera, Zeus had Io expelled from Argos this allowed him to make love to her at any time. He turned her into a heifer, Hera prevented Zeus from mating with the animal. Eventually Zeus made love to Io on a cloud over Egypt, where she was returned to her human form, she was forgiven by Hera because she was bovine in shape, she was identified with Hathor the Egyptian cow goddess.
IPHIGENIA the eldest daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra of Mycenae, somehow Agamemnon managed to offend the goddess of the forest and wild animals, Artemis demanded that Iphigenia should be sacrificed. Agamemnon deceived his wife Queen Clytemnestra by pretending that Iphigenia was to be married to Achilles, Iphigenia was sacrificed, and Clytemnestra never forgave her husband, and on his return from the Trojan War helped her lover Aegisthus to murder him.
IXION was the king of Larissa and the son of Ares, god of war, to avoid paying a bride-price to Eioneus for his daughter Dia, Ixion prepared a trap for his father-in-law, a pit filled with fire. Eioneus fell into it on a visit to Larissa and died, Ixion became the first man to shed the blood of a kinsman, because of this act the Thessalian king was not able to rule his land. Zeus took pity on him and devised special rites of purification, which Ixion at first was grateful for, this is until he took an interest in Hera Zeus’s wife. Zeus took his revenge by making an exact copy of Hera from a cloud urging Ixion to rape it, his punishment was to spend eternity in the prison beneath the underworld in Tartarus.
JANUS Italian god who was associated with beginnings, he had a temple which was always kept open in a time of war, and closed in time of peace. The month of January, a time for the people to look backwards and forwards, and this was Sacred to Janus. His extra eyes enabled him to catch the nymph Carna who liked to tease lovers and run away, they had a son who became a king of Alba Longa.
JASON a Greek hero, was the son of Aeson and Philyra, was a Greek hero and voyager, Philyra placed him in the care of the wise Centaur Chiron, Chiron was skilled in medicine. The Delphic Oracle warned Pelias, who deposed his half-brother Aeson ruler of Iolcus, that he would be deposed by a man wearing only one sandal. Fear was struck into his heart by the appearance of Jason wearing one sandal, he lost the other helping an old lady across a stream, this was the goddess Hera in disguise. He tried to rid himself of Jason by sending him on an impossible quest, Jason gathered companions who were known as the Argonauts, he was able to complete his quest and return with the golden fleece of a wonderful ram who had flown from Iolcus to Colchis. Part of his success was due to Colchian princess and witch, Medea who became Jason’s wife with the assistance of the goddess Athena, Pelias had assumed that the Argonauts had died in a shipwreck, and murdered Jason’s father Aeson. Pelias is destroyed by Medea’s magic, Jason had three sons with Medea, he deserted Medea after being offered the hand of a princess named Glauce. The full force of Medea’s magic and power was brought down upon Jason, she killed Glauce and killed their sons, he pined for his wife and sons until a piece of rotten timber fell and crushed his skull.
JUNO Roman equivalent of Hera the wife of Zeus, she was the queen of the sky and wife of Jupiter, she was always associated with Eileithyia the Greek goddess of birth. At the touch of a magical herb grown by Flora, the goddess of flowerings and blossoming plants, Juno became pregnant with the war god Mars. Juno had a warlike presence, appearing often armed and wearing a goatskin cloak, which was the garment favored by Roman soldiers. Juno was worshiped along with Jupiter and Minerva the goddess of wisdom and the arts, in her honour the festival of Matrionalia was held.
JUPITER the Roman sky god, at first associated with the elements, storms, thunder and lightning, he later became the protector of the Roman people, becoming their ally in war.
LAIUS son of Labdacus, king of Thebes, and father of Oedipus, a tragic figure in Greek mythology, due to a curse uttered by Pelops son Chrysippus, who later hanged himself in shame. Laius took Jocasta as his wife and they had no children which the Delphic Oracle said was fortunate as Laius was destined to be killed by his son. For a while Laius and Jocaster did not share the marriage bed, then one night Laius slept with Jocasta and a son was conceived, to overturn the prophesy the child was left to die on a mountain, his feet were cut open with a spike. A shepherd herd the child’s screams and took him to Corinth, where the childless king Polybus adopted him and gave him the name Oedipus. Oedipus consulted the Delphic Oracle to find out about his parentage and was told he was told he would be reunited with his parents, and that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus travelled towards the north and encountered Laius who was on his way to consult the Delphic Oracle about the Sphinx, which was creating havoc in the Theban countryside. Oedipus refused to stand aside for the king and a fight ensued and Laius was killed, fulfilling the first part of the destiny.
LAOCOON a Trojan, brother of Anchises, and a priest of the sea god Poseidon, he warned the Trojans not to accept the Greek gift of the Wooden Horse, Laocoon was ignored, and no one offered any help when two great sea-serpents arrived and crushed him and his sons to death. There were many theories as to why Laocoon and his son were killed, one was that the god of prophesy Apollo was punishing him for disobeying a divine command. After they killed Laocoon and his two sons, the serpents hid themselves in the temple of Apollo.
LEDA daughter of King Thestius of Aetolia, she married King Tyndareos of Sparta, two of her children were Clytemnestra the murderous wife of Agamemnon and Helen who was the unfaithful wife of Menelaus, Agamemnon’s brother and the cause of the Trojan War. Leda was also the mother of the Dioscuri, the twin sons Castor and Polydeuces, Leda was loved by Zeus who came to her disguised as a swan, the union culminated in two eggs, one contained Clytemnestra and Helen, and the other the Dioscuri. Helen and Polydeuces father was Zeus while Tyndareos was the father of the mortals Clytemnestra and Castor.
LETO daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, worshipped in ancient Greece, mother of her son Apollo and daughter Artemis, whose father was the sky god Zeus. Leto gave birth to her divine children on the sacred island of Delos, which Poseidon fastened permanently to the bottom of the sea with a huge pillar.
LUCRETIA wife of Tarquinius Collatinus, considered the ideal of Roman womanhood, after being raped at knife point by Sextus, the youngest son of the Etruscan, king Tabquinius Superbus, she made her husband and father promise to avenge her honour before she stabbed herself to death. The outpouring of the people over her death led Brutus to plot an overthrow of the monarchy.
MARS son of Juno and a magical flower, originally the Roman god of fertility and vegetation, but later became associated with battle, as the god of spring he presided over agriculture. He was offered sacrifices before combat, he appeared on the battlefield accompanied by Bellona, a warrior goddess said to be his wife, sister or daughter. He was the father of Remus and Romulus.
MEDEA daughter of Aietes, king of Colchis and the first wife of Jason, she was somewhere between a witch and a goddess, she sacrificed her brother to assist Jason during his difficult voyage. With her magic she disposed of Jason’s enemy, King Pelias of Iolcus. Medea took revenge on Jason after he put her aside to be with Glauce, she killed Glauce by burning her alive in a poisoned wedding dress, she also killed her own children with Jason. She escaped in a magic chariot, she married king Aegeus and bore him a son named Medus. Aegeus already had a son the hero Theseus, she used her magic skills to make Aegeus reject Theseus when he came to Athens to claim his inheritance. After Theseus succeeded in a dangerous task Aegeus recognized him as his own successor, Medea fled with Medus to Colchis, and Medis became a ruler.
MENELAUS king of Sparta, and the youngest son of Atreus, Agamemnon brother of Menelaus led the Greek expedition against Troy to recover Helen, Menelaus’s wife. During the ten hear struggle against Troy, play a secondary role to Agamemnon and the other Greek kings. Aphrodite the love goddess, saved Helen’s lover Paris from being killed by Menelaus, after he declared her more beautiful than the goddess Hera and Athena, in gratitude she gave him the love of Helen, the most beautiful woman alive. After the fall of Troy, Menelaus could not bring himself to kill Helen because of her beauty, the goddess Aphrodite cast a spell and they were reconciled and returned to Sparta where they lived happily.
MERCURY the Roman messenger god who watched over trade and commerce, he was associated with peace and prosperity, he is depicted with a winged hat and staff.
MIDAS son of Gordius and Cybele, he was the king of Phrygia and known for his wealth. His wealth was due to his kindness to Silenus, tutor of Dionysus the god of vegetation, wine and ecstasy. Dionysus was so pleased with the behavior of Midas and offered him whatever he wished, the king asked for everything he touched to be turned into gold. He was at first overjoyed by his gift, until he realized that even his food and drink were being transformed on touching his lips. Dionysus told him he could wash his golden touch away in the River Pactolus, which became famous for the gold dust found on its bed.
MINERVA Roman goddess of wisdom and art, she was worshipped throughout Italy and only in Rome did she take on a warlike character, she is depicted wearing a coat of mail, a helmet and carrying a spear.
MINOS son of Zeus and Europa, he became the king of Crete, he was a just lawyer and cruel oppressor, Minos was known as the ancient ruler of the seas. He employed the craftsman Daedalus whose creations were so lifelike they had to be chained down to stop them running away. When Daedalus and his son Icarus left Crete without permission, Minos sailed to Sicily pursuit, it was there he met his death. When Daedalus arrived in Sicily he went to ground and was hidden by King Cocalos of Kamikos, to find out where Daedalus was hiding he carried a shell and promised a reward to anyone who could pass a thread through it. Daedalus was the only one who could solve this problem and was unable to resist, King Cocalos, on Daedalus’s behalf, claimed the prize. Minos demanded that the craftsman be surrendered to him, but the daughters of Cocalos did not want to lose their inventive maker of beautiful toys, with Daedalus they plotted Minos’s death. When Minos went to the bathroom, Daedalus had led a pipe through the roof and boiling water was poured down upon the unsuspecting King Minos. After his death he became a judge in the realm of Hades, the underworld.
THE MINOTAUR son of a white bull, sent by the sea god Poseidon and Pasiphae, he had the head of a bull and the body of a man, he was fed annually on seven boys and seven girls, sent as a tribute to the Athenians. To stop this annual sacrifice Thesus came to Knossos and entered the maze-like Labyrinth the home of the Minotaur, and killed it. King Midas’s daughter Ariadne assisted him, giving him a ball of thread which he was to unravel on the way to the maze, so that he could find his way back, she also gave Thesus a sword.
THE MUSES were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, they were the inspiration of poetry, music, dance and intellectual activities, there were nine Muses altogether, Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polhymnia, Urania and Calliope.
NARCISSUS the beautiful son of the River Cephissus in Boeotia, and the nymph Liriope, among the many who loved him, including the immortals and mortals, was Echo who pined away leaving only the echo of her voice. Nemesis the goddess of retribution, then condemned Narcissus to spend the rest of his days admiring his own reflection in a pool. When he died he was turned into the flower called Narcissus.
NEPTUNE was an ancient Italian water god, who was identified with Poseidon, but played a less important role.
OCEANOS a Titan who was the son of Ouranos and Gaia, he was also a protector of Zeus’s wife Hera and mother Rhea, when the gods fought the Titans. As the ruler of the sea which the Greeks believed surrounded the world, Oceanos married his sister Tethys and they produced three thousand rivers.
ODYSSEUS king of Ithaca, one of the Greek leaders who took part in the Trojan war, his father was Laertes, whom he succeeded as king of Ithaca, his mother was named Anticleia and his wife was Penelope, who was the sister of King Tyndareos of Sparta. During the ten years of the struggle against the Trojans Odysseus was important as a counselor and a schemer, Odysseus was the inspiration behind the Trojan horse. After the fall of Troy Odysseus tried to appease Athena who was displeased with the looting and the slaughter inflicted by Odysseus and his men. He escaped drowning in the great storm sent by the angry goddess, to shatter the victorious Greek fleet on its way home. He could not entirely avoid blame and Poseidon made sure he was the last Greek leader to reach home, after a journey of ten years. Odysseus encountered many dangers during his long voyage home, he sailed to Thrace where he lost many of his men in battle. Storms drove him to the land of Lotophagi ( the lotus-eaters ), whose diet made visitors forget their homeland, in Sicily he encountered Cyclops Polphemus, whose father was Poseidon, he put out Polphemus’s single eye and was able to escape. He was given a gift of a sack full of wind on the floating island of Aeolus, the ruler of the winds. The curiosity of Odysseus’s men caused them to open the sack and the winds no longer blew. Odyssesus’s ledsquadron of ships being among the Laestrygones, a race of giant cannibals, only his own ship survived. He was able to reach the island of the enchantress Circe, he was able to resist her spells with the aid of the messenger god Hermes and the enchantress restored his men to human shape, after turning them into swine. Circe advised him to sail to the western edge of the encircling sea, the realm of Oceanos, where ghosts from the underworld realm of Hades came to great him. The blind seer Tiresias gave Odysseus a warning about his journey homeward, he told him that if the cattle of the sun god Helios on the isle of Thrinacia, were harmed by him he would never reach home. The difficulties Penelope was facing in Ithaca were spoken about by the ghost of Odysseus’s mother, he also received a warning from his old comrade Agamemnon warning him about coming home, when he returned home he had been murdered by his wife and lover. As he sailed back towards Greece, he was the only man who dared to listen to the song of the Sirens, bird-women of storm. He filled his men’s ears with wax, and had himself bound with strong chords to the mast, he sailed through the straits between Sicily and Italy, where six of his crew were seized by the six-headed monster Scylla. As Tiresias had foretold the voyagers were tempted by hunger to slay some of Helios’s cattle, the men killed and cooked several of the cows when Odysseus was asleep, they then deserted him. They were later drowned in a storm sent by Zeus, at the request of Helios. Alone Odysseus was almost swallowed by the great whirlpool Charybdis, after this he shifted to the island of the sea nymph Calypso, who became fond of him and proposed marriage. Immortality could not tempt him and after seven years, the gods forced Calypso to let Odysseus set off again, he was shipwrecked in the land of the Phaeacians, and offered a passage back to Ithaca. He secretly landed near his own palace, which he entered disguised with Athena’s aid, as a beggar. Loyal Penelope had been patiently waiting Odysseus’s return, and although pressured to marry one of many noble suitors, she put them off pretending that she could not marry until she had finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law Laertes. Each night she unraveled the shroud, until one of her maids betrayed the trick, after ten years she finally agreed to marry the suitor who could bend and string Odysseus’s great bow. The challenge proposed on the advice of Athena, the only suitor who succeeded in the challenge was a beggar, who then removed his disguise and revealed himself as Odysseus. With the assistance of his son and two loyal retainers, Odysseus dispatched the suitors and hanged the maid who had betrayed Penelope. Reunited with his family, including his father Laertes, Odysseus then defeated an attack by the relations of the suitors, Ithaca was then returned to peace. Zeus threw a thunderbolt which signaled the end of the fighting.
OEDIPUS (“swell foot”) was the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes, a curse was put on the ruling house of Thebes after Laius as a guest at the court of Pelops, had taken sexual advantage of Pelop’s son Chrysippus. Laius was warned that any son Jocasta bore him, would kill him, after abstaining for some time a son was conceived by Laius and Jocasta, the son had his feet pierced and was left on a mountainside to die. A shepherd saved the baby and took it to king Polybus of Corinth, who adopted Oedipus, when Oedipus was fully grown he consulted the Delphic Oracle to find out about his parentage. He was told his destiny was to kill his father, he fled north, this is where he encountered Laius who’s charioteer deliberately ran over Oedipus’s foot, Oedipus ended up killing everyone there except one of his father’s servants who escaped. There was distress over Laius’s death, and fear of the Sphinx who was causing havoc in the countryside. The regent Creon announced that whoever rid the city of the Sphinx would be offered the throne and the hand of Jocasta, by killing the creature Oedipus fulfilled his own destiny by marrying his mother after killing his father. The lived happily for a time producing two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters Antigone and Ismene, then a plague settled on Thebes and Creon was sent to ask the Delphic Oracle for a remedy. The command given by the Oracle was to drive the murderer of Laius out of the city, although the seer Tiresias announced that Oedipus was the guilty one, the king would not believe this until he traced those involved in his own exposure as a child. Upon realizing his crime Oedipus blinded himself and left Thebes, his mother and wife Jocasta, has already committed suicide. With the help and care of his daughter Antigone, Oedipus found spiritual peace in a sacred grove at Colonus near Athens. His death was considered a good omen by the Athenians, because in gratitude for the sanctuary he was given, Oedipus had foretold that his bones would save them from future attack by the Thebans.
ORESTES was the son of King Agamemnon of Mycenae and Clytemnestra, and was said to have committed matricide. Because of his crime there were places associated with his purification. When Agamemnon left to lead the Greek expedition against Troy, his wife took a lover Aegisthus, when Agamemnon returned ten years later the two lovers murdered him. Orestes killed his mother to avenge the crime. The Furies were avenging deities seeking all those with blood on their hands, they relentlessly pursued Orestes. Orestes went to Delphi for help, since Apollo had advised him to slay his father’s murderers, Orestes was told to go to Athens and stand trial by the Areopagus, an ancient council presided over by Athena. The verdict in his favour calmed the Furies, so they were renamed the Eumenides ( the soothed goddesses ).
ORPHEUS was a Thracian singer son of Calliope, Muse of poetry. Orpheus’s wife Eurydic died of a snake bite, Orpheus was so saddened by his loss that he no longer played or sang. He decided to risk his life in a journey to the land of the dead, in the hope of bringing Eurydice home. He was able to charm the boatman Charon, who ferried him across the Styx, and the three-headed Cerberus, using his music, so that he could enter the underworld. Hades and his wife Persephone granted Orpheus his only desire, on the condition that under no circumstances was Orpheus to look back at Eurydice until both of them were completely returned to the land of the living. But Orpheus was so overwhelmed at being reunited with his wife he glanced back in the half light. Eurydice turned into a ghost and sank back to Hades kingdom forever. Orpheus’s fate was to be dismembered by Thracian maenad, the female worshipers of Dionysus, the god of vegetation, wine and ecstasy, they tore him apart and tossed his head into a river, it floated down the river calling Eurydice.
PAN son of the messenger god Hermes and the Greek god of the mountainside, the pastures, sheep and goats, he was goat-horned and goat legged. He was playful, but could be irritable if woken from his afternoon nap, he played on a pipe, known as a syrinx after a nymph of that name turned herself into a red-bed to avoid his advances. He could also be a frightening god, he made the Persians flee in panic, assuring an Athenian and Plataean victory. He assisted Zeus during the battle against Cronos and the Titans.
PANDORA the Greek Eve, and bringer of all sorrows for mankind, she was the first woman and was created by Hephaistos the smith god, on Zeus’s order to upset Prometheus, the Greek god of fire and friend of men. She went to live among men and was given a gift from the gods, it was a sealed jar containing all the misfortunes of existence, curiosity overcame her and she broke the seal, releasing sorrow, disease and conflict. This resulted in men who originally comprised the human race gained a mortal female companion, and untold woes.
PARIS one of the fifty sons of King Priam of Troy, responsible for causing the Trojan War, by wooing Menelaus’s wife Helen so that she left her husband, king of Sparta and fled with her lover to Troy. His attractiveness was a gift from Aphrodite, the goddess of love, after he chose her as the most beautiful of the goddesses, in return Aphrodite offered Paris the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. It was Paris who killed the great warrior Achilles by shooting a poisoned arrow and finding his one vulnerable spot, his heel.
PASIPHAE daughter of Helios the sun god, and wife of Minos, the king of Crete, Poseidon the sea god sent a white bull as a sign of Minos’s right to rule the island, the king refused to sacrifice the animal. Poseidon was so angered by the lack of respect he was shown, he pronounced a curse causing Pasiphae to passionately desire the bull, Daedalus made a cow that Pasiphae fitted in and so was able to mate with the bull. From this union she gave birth to the Minotaur.
PEGASUS the flying horse belonging to the Corinthian hero Bellerophon, born from blood which spilled from the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa, who was pregnant by the sea god Poseidon. Bellerophon was given a magic bridle by Athena, to help him tame Pegasus, who threw him, on the instruction of Zeus, as he tried to fly to Mount Olympus.
PELOPS son of King Tantalus, the ruler of a kingdom in Asia Minor, the sea god Poseidon loved Pelops so much, he carried him off to Mount Olympus. Tantalus was honored by the gods as no other mortal, he was allowed to eat the immortal food served to the deities, nectar and ambrosia. But Tantalus fell from divine favour and suffered eternal torment, Tantalus cut up, boiled and served his son Pelops to the gods to test their omniscience, only Demeter the goddess of vegetation, ate this meal eating a piece of Pelops shoulder. The gods returned Pelops to life and replaced the missing piece of his shoulder with ivory, by favour of Poseidon he became a charioteer. Oenomaus king of Elis, offered his daughter Hippodameia in marriage and his lands to anyone who could defeat him in a chariot race, Pelops accepted the challenge, but he had to agree that Oenomaus could shoot an arrow at him if he caught up with his chariot. Pelops bribed the king’s charioteer Myrtilus to remove the linchpins from his master’s chariot, but upon winning Pelops refused to acknowledge his assistance and threw Myrtilus into the sea. The consequence of this was that the father of Myrtilus, the messenger god Hermes, placed a curse that afflicted the descendants of Pelops.
PENELOPE daughter of Icarius, king of Sparta, and nymph Peribaea, wife of Odysseus, waited almost twenty years for Odysseus to return from Troy, many suitors wanted her hand in marriage. She kept these suitors at bay by pretending to weave a shroud for her father-in-law Laertes. Each night she unraveled the day’s work, Odysseus’s return saved her from an enforced second marriage. She refused to believe it was really him until Odysseus described their bed carved from a tree trunk still rooted in the ground.
PERSEPHONE daughter of Zeus and Demeter the earth goddess, she became Queen of the underworld after she was abducted by Hades. Zeus promised his daughter to Hades without consulting her mother, but Hades rose from the underworld and took his bride by force, Demeter was grief stricken. Zeus intervened and ruled that Persephone should spend each year with both her husband and her mother, but she was unable to return entirely to the living world because she had eaten in Hades realm. This was an old idea that strictly divided the food of the living from the food of the dead,
PERSEUS son of Zeus and Danae, daughter of Acrisius king of Argos, Danae had been shut up in a tower to thwart a prophesy that foretold that if she had a son, he would kill Acrisius. Zeus visited her as a golden shower and Perseus was born, Acrisius placed mother and son in a wooden chest and cast it on the sea. The protection of Zeus brought them safely to the island of Seriphos where Perseus grew up among fishermen, when Perseus was fully grown he was sent by the local ruler Polydectes to bring the head of the Gorgon Medusa, he was assisted by the goddess Athena as she hated Medusa. He first had to visit the Graiae, three old hags who shared a single eye, this he seized and forced the Graiae to tell him about the nature of the Gorgons, their three dreadful sisters. He was warned that a direct glance from Medusa’s eyes would turn him to stone, he received three gifts from nymphs, a cap of invisibility, winged shoes and was able to fly to the Gorgon’s cave in the west. He approached Medusa by watching her reflection in his shield, he cut off Medusa’s head and flew away from her two sisters, unseen. He used the powers of the head and having saved Andromeda from a sea monster, then married her, several people had to be turned to stone before he and his bride were able to return safely to Dane. Perseus returned his magical equipment to Hermes, the messenger god, Perseus vested Argos to find that Acrisius had fled to Larissa on hearing of the grandson’s arrival. The prophesy was fulfilled when Perseus competed in the games at Larissa and his discus hit the old man on the head, because of the accident. Because of the accident Perses chose to be the king of Tiryns rather than Argos, after Perseus and Andromeda died Athena placed them both in the sky as constellations.
PHAEDRA daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae of Crete, Theseus made her his second wife, after he abandoned her sister Ariadne who helped him kill the Minotaur the bull headed creature. Phaedra desired her stepson Hippolytus, the son of Theseus’s earlier marriage to the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. Hippolyta was horrified by her passion for him and Phaedra hanged herself and left a message to Theseus saying his son had tried to rape her. Theseus exiled his son who was later killed in a chariot accident.
PHAETHON son of the sun god Helios and Clymene, daughter of Oceanos, he lost control of his father’s four-horse chariot and threatened the world with a terrible heat. Zeus stopped him with a thunderbolt which sent Phaethon crashing to the earth. Phaethon’s exploit could be traced in the shape of the Milky Way, while he was reflected in the constellation of Auriga, the charioteer.
THE PLEIADES the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas, named Maia, Electra, Taygete, Celeno, Metrope, Asterope and Alcyone, they became stars in order to escape from the passionate intentions of Orion the giant hunter. Their appearance in the night sky in May coincides with the beginning of summer, and the constellation of Orion then appears to be in pursuit of them.
POLYPHEMUS the son of Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa, he was a Cyclops, a one eyed giant. He lived on the island of Sicily, where Odysseus landed during his long journey home, saying his name was Nobody, Polyphemus treated the Greeks as part of his flock, shutting them in his cave and eating them one by one for his evening meal. Odysseus devised a cunning plan, he got Polyphemus drunk on wine and put out his single eye with a stake, Polyphemus cried out to the other Cyclops’s that he was being attacked by Nobody. They ignored his cries considering him drunk, or mad. In the morning Polyphemus opened the entrance to the cave to let out his flock, feeling the back of each animal as it passed to be sure that no men escaped. He was unaware that Odysseus and his men had tied themselves to the underside of the sheep enabling them to leave undetected. Poseidon vowed to take revenge on Odysseus for his crime against his son.
POSEIDON son of Cronos and Rhea, he was the Greek god of the sea and was particularly associated with horses and bulls. After the overthrow of Cronos, his three sons divided the world between them, Zeus took the sky. Hades the underworld and Poseidon the sea, while all three ruled the land. It was agreed that Zeus was the senior deity, and unruly Poseidon who challenged his leadership, once chained him up with the help of Hera Zeus’s wife Hera, and Athena his daughter. Earthquakes were attributed to Poseidon’s anger and Hades was afraid that the roof of the underworld would cave in because of the way Poseidon shook the earth. Poseidon rode the deep in his chariot pulled by golden seahorses, in his hands a trident, a weapon capable of furiously stirring the waters. His wife was a sea nymph named Amphitrite, one of his children bore the name of the sea monster Triton, who was turned into a merman by the Greeks. Poseidon had many children by other partners, he mated with the Gorgon Medusa and from this union came the winged horse Pegasus. Worship of the sea god was widespread among the Greeks, because the Athenians chose Athena as the deity of their city, Poseidon flooded the countryside until Zeus intervened and brought about an understanding.
PRIAM son of Laomedon and the nymph Strymo, daughter of the River Scamander. By the time of the Trojan War he was already an old man who had fathered fifty sons, some by Queen Hecuba, the rest by other women. Priam was kind to Helen during the long siege when she eloped to Troy with his son Paris. Priam was killed in the courtyard of his palace when the Greeks sacked Troy.
PROMETHEUS son of the Titan Iapetus, and one of the older Greek gods, who sided with Zeus in his fight against his father Cronos. Famed for his affection for mankind, giving them fire. Zeus has hidden fire away, but Prometheus stole it and brought it to the earth, causing friction between him and Zeus. Zeus tied him to a rock and sent an eagle to eat his liver, the immortal organ grew at night as fast as the bird could consume it by day. Prometheus was released after giving Zeus the information that the sea nymph Thetis, who was being pursued by both Poseidon and Zeus, would give birth to a son mightier than his father. By making sure Thetis married a mortal ruler, the gods protected themselves because she gave birth to Achilles an invincible, but not immortal fighter. Zeus’s anger on occasion was explained away by poor sacrifices, although Prometheus was not an entirely straightforward helper, he gave fire but from fire came weapons of war, plus the disruption of a simple way of life and the unhappiness that followed.
PSYCHE the mythological princess who eventually was able to be with the love of her life, Eros. Because beautiful Psyche was adored by people instead of Aphrodite, she sent her son Eros to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest creature he could find. But Eros fell instantly in love with Psyche and forgot his mother’s command, they became lovers but Eros forbade Psyche to look upon him. When she did he fled in fear of what Aphrodite would do to him now the secret was out. Zeus intervened and agreed that the lovers were to be together for eternity.
PYGMALION a king of Cyprus, had a statue of his ideal woman made as no real one measured up to his expectations, he then fell in love with it. Aphrodite took pity on him, and brought the statue to life and made it love him, they had a daughter named Paphos.
REMUS AND ROMULUS were the twin sons of Rhea Silvia and Mars and the two founders of Rome. King Numitor of Alba Longa was deposed by his brother Amulius, he forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin, ensuring that Rhea Silvia, only daughter of his brother Alba Longa, could not claim the throne. She was raped by the war god Mars in his sacred grove and Rhea Silvia gave birth to Romulus and Remus. Instead of killing the twins as Amulius had ordered, the servants cast them on the Tiber, their cradle was carried away by the water and came to rest on a mudbank. Mars sent his sacred wolf to look after Romulus and Remus and they were found in the wolf’s lair by a shepherd named Faustulus, who took the babies home, he raised them as shepherds. Their ability to lead others and fight became widely known, one day Numitor met Remus and guessed who he was and was reunited with his lost grandchildren, they were not content to live in Alba Longa and instead left and founded Rome. During a bitter quarrel Romulus killed Remus, showing remorse at the funeral. Romulus ruled Rome which flourished and became a haven for runaway slaves and other fugitives, it also had a shortage of women. Romulus overcame this problem by capturing Sabine women at a nearby festival, after a forty year reign he disappeared and was believed to become the war god Quinnus.
RHADAMANTHYS son of Europa and Zeus, brother of Minos and Sarpedon. He was thought to be one of the three Judges of the Dead and lived in the paradise of Elysium.
RHEA daughter of Ouranos and Gaia, and wife of Cronos, she bore six children, the hearth goddess Hestia, the goddess of vegetation Demeter, Hera the earth goddess, the underworld god Hades, the sea god Poseidon and the sky god Zeus. Upon hearing that one of his children would depose him, Cronos swallowed all his children as they were born, except for Zeus as Rhea substituted the baby with a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. Zeus was raised on the island of Creted where Rhea was worshipped.
RHEA SILVIA the mother of Remus and Romulus, and the only child of Numitor, the king of Alba Longa, forced to become a Vestal Virgin by Amulus the brother of the king of Alba Longa, who he deposed. She was raped by Mars in his sacred Grove, her twin sons Romulus and Remus were placed in a basket and tossed into the Tiber, where they were eventually rescued by a shepherd Faustulus who raised them safely.
SARPEDON son of Zeus and Europa, adopted by Asterius king of Crete, he quarreled with one of his brothers over the throne of Crete and fled to Asia Minor, where he founded the Greek city of Miletus. Zeus allowed him to live to a great age.
SATURN the ancient Italian corn god he ruled the earth during the time of a lost Golden Age, at the end of December a festival in his honour, the Saturnalia was held in Rome and the celebrations lasted for seven days.
THE SATYRS the wild spirits of Greek and Roman woodlands, they had a horse-like appearance and were associated with Dionysus the Greek god of vegetation, wine and ecstasy, they played an important role in his festivals.
SIBYL in Roman mythology she was a prophet who lived in southern Italy, she became immortal but was condemned to an endless old age because she refused the favours of Apollo the god of prophesy. She was ancient when Aeneas consulted her about his visit to the underworld. She possessed a collection of books called the Sibyline Books, detailing Rome’s destiny, they were offered for sale during the rule of the Etruscan kings, when the offer was refused Sibyl burned three hundred books and offered the other six at the same price. The offer was still refused and the last three were offered at the original price, the Romans bought the books before all the irreplaceable oracles were totally destroyed.
SILENUS the son of the Greek messenger god Hermes, usually depicted as the elderly companion of Dionysus the Greek god of vegetation, he was a fat bald man with the tail and ears of a horse. Because of the kindness King Midas showed to Silenus, Dionysus granted King Midas the golden touch.
SISYPHUS the son of King Aelus of Thessaly and Enarete, he was known for his trickery for which he was punished by endless labour in Tartarus, a place of punishment beneath the underworld. Sisyphus is credited with the foundation of Corinth, he angered Zeus by revealing that the god had abducted the daughter of a river god, Zeus then sent Thanatos god of death, to take Sisyphus to the underworld, Sisyphus managed to temporarily make Thanatos his own prisoner. The gods again claimed him, he then tricked Hades into letting him return to earth, he had told his wife to do nothing if he died, Sisyphus said that his body was unburied and the customary offerings to the dead had not been made. He said he must attend to the arrangements himself before he could be said to be truly dead. Zeus ran out of patience and condemned Sisyphus to Tartarus to pay for his lifelong behavior, for eternity he had to roll a block of stone to the top of a hill only to see it roll back down again.
THE SPHINX the daughter of Echidna, fathered by either Orthus or Typhon, a monster with the face and breasts of a woman, the body of a lion and the wings of a bird, sent as a curse on the city of Thebes, by the Goddess Hera. While guarding a pass to the city and asked all who wished to pass, a riddle, if they failed to give the correct answer they were eaten. The riddle was, what thing walks on four legs in the morning, on three in the evening and is weakest when it walks on four. The correct answer was Man, because he walks on four as a baby and leans on a stick in old age. When Oedipus gave the correct answer the Sphinx hurled herself over a cliff and died, his reward for destroying the monster, he was made king of Thebes and married the widowed queen Jocasta, fulfilling his tragic destiny and marrying his mother.
TARPEIA daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, commander of the Capitoline fortress in Rome and she played a role in saving the city. A war between Roman and Sabines had been provoked by Romulus’s abduction of Sabine women, to provide wives for Rome’s men. Tarpeia let the Sabines into her father’s fortress after making them promise to give her what they wore on their left arms, their shields. Tarpeia was killed by the Sabines, as they threw their shields at her, after they realized she had tricked them.
TARQUINIUS SUPERBUS the last Etruscan king of Rome, his youngest son Tarquinius Sextus caused the end of the monarchy by raping the Roman matron Lucretia, which caused Brutus to lead a rebellion. Tarquinius was defeated and the Roman republic was established.
THESEUS the son of Aegeus, his mother was Aethra, Aegeus consulted the Delphic Oracle and was told not to untie his wine skin until he returned home, he then visited his friend King Pissheus of Troezen. Realizing Theseus was going to father a powerful son, immediately after the celebration feast for his safe return to Athens, Pittheus made his guest drunk and put him to bed with his daughter Aethra and Theseus was conceived. Before returning home, Aegeus took the pregnant Aethra to a great boulder under which he placed his sword and sandals. He told her that should she have a son, she must wait until he was strong enough to lift the boulder before she sent him to his father’s court. After he left Pittheus said his daughter’s lover was really Poseidon. When Theseus came of age Aethra told him that he was heir to the Athenian throne and he retrieved the sword and sandals, he slew several bandits, a son of Hephaistos, and a sow, the daughter of the monster Typhon, on his journey to Athens. He was forced to accept a wrestling challenge with Cercyon king of Eleusis, the ruler died and Theseus became king of Eleusis. On his arrival in Athens he learned his father Aegeus was not able to hold on to the throne, the apparently heirless king was challenged by the fifty sons of his half-brother Pallas. Aegeus had also fallen under the spell of Medea the former wife of Jason and a powerful witch, she wanted her son Medus to succeed Aegeus, although his true identity was hidden, Medea knew who he was. Medea persuaded Aegeus to let her poison the stranger at the banquet, Theseus was saved when the king recognized his sword as Theseus carved the meat and the plot was revealed. Medea fled from Athens with her son and Aegeus named Theseus as his successor. To secure the safety of Athens Theseus dealt with Pallas’s sons, he then killed a wild bull that was ravaging Marathon, he slew the Minotaur, the offspring of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete. When he left to confront the Minotaur his father asked that, should he survive the encounter, he was to change the sale of the tribute ship from black to white on the homeward voyage. The goddess Aphrodite gave Theseus an ally in Ariadne, a daughter of the Creten king, who fell in love with Theseus. No one had ever found their way through the maze to the Labyrinth where the Minotaur lived, Princess Ariadne helped Theseus after he had agreed to marry her, by giving him a sword and a ball of thread with one end attached to the entrance so that he would be able trail the string into the Labyrinth and follow the string back. He was able to slay the Minotaur and set sail to Athens with Ariadne and the rest of the Athenian party, he left Ariadne on the island of Dia, it is suggested that he was in love with another woman. He was punished for his heartless act as his ship approached Athens, he forgot to change the sail an indication to his father that he was alive. Aegeus saw a black sail, and thinking his son dead, threw himself off the Athenian acropolis. Because of his father’s suicide Theseus became the king of Athens, and joined all the communities of Attica into one state, apart from enlarging Athen’s territory. He then undertook many dangerous and heroid missions, on one he captured Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, from his union with her a son named Hippoytus was born, she died shortly afterwards. Theseus offered Oedipus and his daughter sanctuary at Colonus near Athens, there was disruption when his second wife Phaedra, another daughter of Minos, became infatuated by her stepson who rejected her. She was so humiliated by his rejection she hanged herself and left a letter for Theseus in which she accused Hippolytus of attempted rape. He was exiled in a chariot accident before his father discovered the truth. Theseus later captured the twelve year old Helen, daughter of Zeus. As a future wife, he claimed she was the only one worthy enough to be his wife. Her two powerful brothers, the Discuri, defeated the Athenians and drove Theseus abroad, he died on the island of Scyros, where its king, fearing his presence pushed him over a cliff. His bones were kept in a shrine after Admiral Cimon went to Scyros and brought them back to Athens.
THETIS a sea nymph and the daughter of Nereus and Doris, was the mother of Achilles ,the Greek hero, because she was fated to bear a son mightier than his father, both Zeus and Poseidon discarded any thoughts of possessing Thetis. Zeus ensured that she became the wife of a mortal King Peleus of Phthia, she bore him seven sons, but was unhappy with the mortality of her children. She tested them with fire and boiling water, which none of them could withstand, the youngest boy Achilles was dipped in the Styx, the river of the dead, by Thetis. As she held him she forgot to wet the heel she held him by, resulting in him not being totally immortal. This done she left Peleus and returned to the sea but continued to help Achilles as far as she could during his lifetime.
TIRESIAS the son of a nymph, Chariclo and Everes, descendant of one of Cadmus’s own men. So wise his ghost kept its wits and was not overcome by forgetfulness like the other inhabitants of the underworld. He advised Odysseus that he would never return home to Ithaca if he harmed the cattle of Helios, the sun god. During his lifetime he warned King Pentheus in vain about the identity of Dionysus, when the powerful god came in disguise to Thebes. Because of Pentheus’s refusal to listen to the seer, he gravely offended Dionysus and was torn to pieces by the god’s worshippers, the maenads. Tiresias confirmed the pronouncement of the Delphic Oracle that it was Oedipus who was responsible for the plague which troubled the Thebans. He, struck mating snakes with his staff and was turned into a woman, after living as a woman for a period of time, he witnessed the same sight and became a man again. Tiresias was asked by Zeus and Hera, the Greek deities, to settle a dispute between them as to which sex got the most pleasure out of love. Upon saying it was the female Hera blinded him, Zeus then bestowed upon him the power of prophesy and a long life.
THE TITANS the children of Ouranos, the sky, and Gaia, the earth, these gigantic beings were the older gods who ruled before the Olympian gods, who were the brothers, sisters and children of Zeus. The Titans included Cronos, Rhea, Coeus, Metis, Mnemosyne and Hyperion. They came to power after Cronos emasculated his father Ouranos with a sickle given to him by Gaia his mother. The battle between the older generation of gods, the Titans led by Cronos, and the younger generation, the Olympians led by his son Zeus, lasted ten years and shook the universe. After the battle Zeus through the deities who has opposed him down to Tartarus, the land beneath the underworld.
TYPHON serpent monster conceived by Gaia, mother earth, he wanted to establish himself as the ruler of the world, he was destroyed by Zeus with a thunderbolt. The volcanic activity of Mount Aetna in Sicily was believed to be caused by Typhon’s imprisonment beneath the crater. Zeus and Typhon fought and at one point Zeus was left helpless in a cave, weaponless and without his sinews, he was aided by the messenger god Hermes. Before his death he fathered the Chimaera, the sea monster who was killed by Perseus.
VENUS the Roman goddess of love, she was originally associated with agriculture, her most significant act was to return Aeneas’s spear after it had stuck in a tree stump during his fight with the Italian champion Tumus.
VESTA the Roman goddess, guardian of the domestic hearth and the personification of the ceremonial flame. Ceremonies were conducted in her honour by the Vestal Virgins, young girls from noble families who took vows of chastity for the thirty years during which they served her.
VIRGINIA daughter of a Roman centurion named Virginius, and connected with a major constitutional change and her death led to the ending of aristocratic tyranny in 449BC. A corrupt official Appius Claudius lusted after Virginia, and he used the law to claim she was a slave of his and had her handed over to him. Her father stabbed her rather than suffering her dishonor, the Roman army supported his actions, along with the poorer citizens not then bearing arms. Thereafter restrictions were placed on magistrate’s powers.
VULCAN the Roman smith god, he was associated with Maia and Vesta, both were goddesses of the hearth, his smithy was located underneath Mount Aetna in Sicily
XANTHUS the offspring of the Harpy Podarge and Zephyrus, the west wind, he was one of two immortal horses belonging to Achilles, and had the power of speech. Achilles inherited the horses from his father, King Peleus of Phthia, who had received them as a wedding gift from the gods in honour of his marriage to the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles took Xanthus and Balius to Troy with him, Xanthus was struck dumb by the Furies, after warning Achilles that his own death was near.
ZEUS ruler of mount Olympus, was the son of the Titans Cronos and Rhea. Cronos was warned that he would be dethroned by his own son, to avoid this fate Cronos swallowed all his children at birth. However this enraged his wife Rhea who was pregnant with Zeus, who then fled to Crete were she gave birth to him in a cave of Dicte. Zeus was cared for by Nymphs and guarded by the Curetes, who would clash their shields and spears together to prevent Cronos from hearing Zeus voice. While Zeus was hid safe in the cave Rhea wrapped a stone in clothes and gave it to Cronos to swallow, tricking him into believing that it was her newborn child.
Once Zeus grew to manhood he set out to topple his father, and with the aid of Metis who gave him a poison that would force Cronos to vomit all the children he had swallowed, he was able to set his siblings were free. He then waged war against Cronos and the titans and was victorious, Zeus then became ruler of heaven.
Zeus divided the world up between himself and his two brothers, Hades and Poseidon. Zeus chose to rule the sky, Hades the underworld and Poseidon the sea, the earth and Mount Olympus the home of the gods, were regarded as common territory. Hades preferred to be among the dead and was an infrequent visitor to his brothers, Zeus had no control over destiny but he made sure that fate took its proper course. Due to his many mortal and immortal lovers, Zeus incorporated the attributes of rival deities, there was much conflict between Zeus and Hera, she was so jealous she spent most of her time persecuting Zeus’s lovers and their children. Zeus punished Hera by suspending her from a pinnacle by her wrists and hung weights on her ankles, for her cruelty towards Heracles his hero son.
The Olympians declared Zeus to be the ruler over the gods on Mt Olympus in Thessaly and every four years would hold a festival including games to honor Zeus which today is now known as the Olympic Games.
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