The Men of the Women of Greek Mythology
Achilles was the dude known for heel trouble. He was the son of Thetis and King Peleus. Now, Thetis was immortal (and was married off to a mortal only because of the prophesy that her son would be far greater than his father) and no mother wants to see her child die. So Thetis took her little son to the river of Styx and dipped him in it, burning off all his mortality. She had to hold his ankle, however, to keep him from falling in, and so left that spot as his weakness. There is a long story about him, and it is very important, so you should read it in the Myth Pages when it gets there, but I have to keep it short here. To make a long story short, he was the greatest Greek warrior ever (despite being a serious jerk) but despite this, he was destined to die in the Trojan War and fulfilled the prophesy when Paris (with the help of the Gods) shot him in the ankle with a poisoned arrow. That picture is a detail from The Death of Achilles.
To read the story of Actaeon, check him out here in the Myth Pages. If you're too lazy, I'll just give you an overview. He was a prince who went out hunting and mistakenly saw Artemis bathing, but was enraptured, so he didn't run away like he should of. She saw him, and changed him into a stag, then called his own dogs, who ripped their master apart. Nice, huh?
Asclepius was the God of Healing. He was the son of Apollo and Coronis, and had lots of kids. He was mortal, but was so amazing a healer that he started bringing people back to life. Hades complained, and so Zeus had to strike him down with a thunderbolt. But after the fact, he felt really bad about it, and so Zeus made Asclepius a God and placed him among the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus. Asclepius had lots of kids, the most prominent of which was Hygeia.
Apollo was the twin brother of Artemis. He was called Phoebus, and he was the God of Music, Healing, Prophesy and Light. He had a set of Golden Arrows that caused excrutiating and immediate death or plague. In Classical Mythology he was considered the standard for male beauty, but was actually a relatively late arrival to the Olympic pantheon. His cult could be found especially at Delphi, where his arrows slew Python and enstalled his own oracle. This was a CLEAR symbol of the expulsion of the old earth-matriarchal religion and its replacement by the new Olympic, patriarchal regime.
Ares was the much disliked God of War. His name probably came from the Greek word for "revenge" or from the Greek battle cry. The Areopagus, "Rock of Ares," in Athens is named after him because of his involvement in the first murder trial there. Ares had killed Poseidon's son, Halirrothius, because of the rape of Ares' daughter, Alcippe. He was loved only by Aphrodite, with whom he had a longstanding love affair. He was the father of Love, Fear, and Panic, as well as Harmonia, Penthesilea, and maybe all of the Amazons. No one liked him, and few Greeks worshipped him, though his cults could be found in Scythia and Thrace.
Atlas is the dude who holds the dome of the world on his shoulders. You might ask, what did he do to deserve such a heavy fate? Well, I'll tell you. When the Olympians were taking over Olympus from the Titans (see the Myth Pages), Atlas stormed the gates. Zeus punished him with holding up the earth and heavens forever more. His name means a couple things, it could mean, "he who dares," "he who suffers," "bearer," or "endurer." If you have to choose one, go with "bearer." Anyway. Atlas was a son of Iapetus and Clymene and he was more than just a pillar of strength (wow i'm just full of bad puns). He was also the father of the Hesperides, the Hyades, and the Pleiades. It was also after him that the island Atlantis was named, for he was thought to be its king.
Cecrops was a legendary ancestor of the Greeks, half-man, half-snake. He came from a time when the matriarchy was still dominant. He was the King of Athens, and the arbitrator in the fight between Athena and Poseidon (see the The Naming of Athens). He decided in Athena's favor, and the capital of the city was named Cecropia in his honor.
Cheiron, or Chiron, was the King of the Centaurs, and unlike the rest of his race was known for his wisdom, kindness, and his extensive knowledge of healing. He was the son of Cronos and Philyra. Originally, he was the Thessalian God of Healing, but that changed when the Hellenic Gods took over. He was incorporated as the wise centaur. In Greek Mythology, he was the tutor of Asclepius, Theseus, and Achilles (among others). When he left earth, died, or whatever, he was placed in the sky as the constellation Sagittarius. The name means "hand".
Cronos was the youngest of the Titans and their leader. He led a revolution against his father, Uranus, and hacked off his pop's genitals. Now this was all done with Gaia's (his mom) consent. She wanted her OTHER children (the Hundred-Handed Giants and the Cyclopes) to be free from where Uranus imprisoned them - but after Cronos took power, he put his uglier sublings right back where he'd freed them from. Gaia was no one to be messed with, so she got Zeus (Cronos' youngest son) to kill Cronos. Zeus let out the "monsters" for good. According to Hesiod, Cronos went on to rule Elysium.
Deucalion is, in some ways, the First Man. He's sort of like Noah (if you know Judeo-Christian myth), except I like him more. Deucalion was the son of Prometheus (below) and Clymene, and when Zeus destroyed the race of Man in a flood, only Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha were spared because of their piety. It helped that Prometheus was psychic and told his son to build an ark, too. But anyway, when the flood was over the couple went to the Oracle of Themis and asked what they should do to repopulate the Earth. The Oracle told them to "throw their mother's bones over their shoulders." For a minute they were very confused - how could they do that? But then, they realized the Oracle meant Mother Earth (Gaia), and so they picked up stones from the ground and threw these over their shoulders. Deucalion's stones became the new race of men, and Pyrrha's became the new race of women.
Dionysus was the God of Wine, Vegetation, Ecstacy, and the Life-Force, which makes him a VERY important God. In terms of Classical Mythology, he almost completely escaped it. He arrived very late to the Olympic pantheon, and only sat there when Hestia gave up her throne to him. In actuality, he was one of the OLDEST of the Greek Gods, but not popular among the Classical Greeks, and little recognized. He was the son of Zeus and Semele, but his mother was incinerated accidentally, so the young God was born from Zeus' leg. In the Orphic tradition (of which he was a major part) he was born of the union of Zeus and Persephone in the form of snakes. He is followed by his female devotees, the Maenads who are often seen in an ecstatic frenzy. He invented the vine from which wine is made. He had power over life, death, and resurrection. He also had the formidable power of creating madness. He was a God who could be found often in darkness, but sometimes in light as well.
Epimetheus was the brother of Prometheus and the son of Iapetus. His name means "hindsight." He was given the gift of Pandora, the first woman, as a wife. Because of her the box of icky things was opened and evil introduced to the world. See Prometheus for more.
Eros is the Greek for Love. In some mythology Eros is born of Nyx and the Wind before any other Gods existed, other sources use him as a fundamental element, but later in Classical Mythology he was the son of Aphrodite. For the philosophers, Eros represented the love between boys and men, as opposed to the love between men and women ruled by Aphrodite, but this wasn't his only interpretation. There's a beautiful myth, perhaps his most famous, about what went down with him and Psyche. You can read it in the Myth Pages. By any account he was beautiful. By most he is fickle. Although he has the ability to be very serious. Read the myth. It's cool.
Hades was the God of the Dead and one of the three sons of Cronos. He won the Underworld in the casting of lots between Zeus, Poseidon, and he. He had no cult, except in Elea (surprisingly), but was worshipped by all in some way. He is strongly involved only in the myth of the Rape of Persephone. He eventually became known as Pluton, the "Wealthy One." And much much later, the "House of Hades" as the name for the Underworld, was shortened simply to "Hades".
Helios was the Sun God. He was the son of the Titans Theia and Hyperion, and the father of Phaëthon (among others). He was the patriarchy's version of Hemera, when Classical mythology began to replace the Pelasgian cults, Helios and his sister Selene took over the roles of Hemera and Nyx. Helios drove his golden chariot across the sky every day and then circled back around every night on the river Oceanus, which girdled the world.
Hephaestus was the son of Hera - some say he was the son of Zeus too, but to read more about that, go to Hephaestus' Birth in the Myth Pages. He was the Smith God, the God of the Fire, and his cult was especially practiced on the volcanic island of Lemnos, where Hephaestus supposedly landed after having been thrown from Olympus and falling for a day. Hephaestus was a master craftsman, and often brought his wife, Aphrodite, beautiful gifts. He was unbelievably strong, though lame, and enabled the birth of Athena by splitting the head of Zeus. He had robots to help him move around his shop and Olympus. He was generally the nicest male God on Olympus.
Heracles, called Hercules by the Romans, is the most well-known of the Greek Heroes. He was NOTHING like the Disney movie or the WB T.V. show - so get that out of your head right now. The story of his 12 Labors will be coming to the Myth Pages soon. Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene (see Alcmene for the story of his conception). Despite Hera's hatred for the child, he lived. He killed snakes in his crib, and mistakenly killed his teacher in a rage by braining him with a lute. When he grew up, Hera made him insane and he killed his wife and children. He had to do penance for this (the 12 Labors). The 12 Labors gained him the most notoreity. He died after his second wife, Deianeira, smeared what she thought was a love potion, but was actually deadly poison, on his robe. Well, he didn't quite die. He ascended to Heaven and became one of the Gods. There is much more to be said about him, but check out the Myth Pages.
Hermes was another of the nice Olympian Gods. He was the son of Zeus and Maia, and a cunning little thief from the day he was born. The Pleiade Maia bore him on Mt. Cyllene in Arcadia. Baby Hermes immediately made a lyre from a tortoise he killed and the guts (for strings) of some of Apollo's cows - which he stole, and led backwards out of the pen, fooling Apollo with the footprints. Eventually he was caught and had to give the lyre in Apollo. Hermes grew to become the Herald of the Gods as well as the God of Thieves, Liars, Trade, and especially Travel. He is also the Patron God of Communication. He was often shown with a wand with two snakes around it (the caduceus) and a winged cap and sandals in Classical Mythology. Earlier, he had been represented solely by a herm (a plain pillar with protruding genitals and perhaps a head on top) or simply a pile of stones on the road. The cairn, in Greek, is "herma" and is what Hermes probably got his name from. The cairn on the side of the road invokes the protection of Hermes.
Jason was one of the cooler heroes. He was the son of King Aeson of Thessaly and Philyra. Aeson's brother Pelias stole the throne and Philyra shipped Jason off to Cheiron (see above). Now, Pelias got the news from the Oracle at Delphi that a man with one sandal was going to cause his death. So when a full-grown Jason showed up with a sandal missing (lost carrying Hera-in-disguise across a river), he freaked out. He couldn't kill his guest, so he sent him on an "impossible" mission. He offered to name Jason the heir if he could bring back the Golden Fleece from Colchis. Needless to say, with much work, the mision was accomplished. It was Jason's leadership of the Argonauts (on that mission) that made him famous. Upon their return, they found that Pelias had murdered Aeson (assuming the shiip was lost) and he had no plans on giving up the throne. But Jason had married Medea who took care of things for him (thus ending Pelias' life and his line). He died in the end when a piece of driftwood from the Argo hit him on the head. The photo is Alan Aldridge playing Jason in the Medea
Oceanus was the oldest of the Titans, a son of Gaia and Uranus (below). He was the personification of the ocean that encirled the Earth - originally the Greeks called Oceanus the personification of ALL oceans, but later he was restricted to being the Atlantic Ocean - the area around the Pillars of Heracles. Oceanus and his mate Tethys (who personified the fertile ocean) were the parents of the Oceanids and all the river Gods, in Classical mythology. Before that, some stories said that Oceanus and Tethys gave birth to all living things, and that the world was populated through their love. In pre-Classical myth, Oceanus and Tethys ruled the planetary power of Venus, love.
Odysseus is very famous from The Iliad and The Odyssey. He was the husband of Penelope and very very smart. He was known for his cunning and wit, as well as his wisdom, and you wanted him on your side in a battle. He was important and influential in the Trojan War, and his return home was a big trial. Eventually he made it and suceeded his father Laertes as the King of Ithaca. The stories about him are important, but you'll have to read them in The Iliad and The Odyssey in the Myth Pages.
This is a pretty depressing story. He was the son of King Laius, but was exposed to die on the hillside with pierced ankles because an oracle predicted that if Laius had a son, he would kill his father. But Oedipus was found by a friendly shepherd (of which there are a serious abundance in Greek Myths) who brought the child to the King of HIS country - King Polybus. So Polybus raised him until the day that he told him that he was only his adoptive father. Then Oedipus went a-wandering for his real father. On the road, King Laius and his herald were traveling, too. The herald insulted the young Oedipus (who was impetuous and had anger management issues), and Oedipus killed both men. Oedipus was freaked out that he'd killed these random people, but continued on his way to Thebes. That's where he met the Sphinx and answered her riddle. Eventually, not knowing that the Theban royalty were his biological family, he married the widowed queen Jocasta (his mother) and had some kids. Eventually, Oedipus said that he wouldn't rest until the murderer of the previous King (Laius, his father) was brought to justice. He didn't know it was him. It sucked all around. There was a big plague. Everyone died. Jocasta committed suicide once she figured out what had happened, Oedipus blinded himself and wandered aimlessly. Antigone (Oedipus' daughter) died too, because of some other stuff. It was a tragedy. No really. A tragedy written in three parts by Sophocles. Check out the Myth Pages for more.
Pan was an Arcadian God, half-goat half-man. He was the son of Hermes and a nymph (but he was so ugly that his mother screamed, dropped him, and ran away when she saw what she'd given birth to). He's credited with the invention of masturbation. He was known for being horny and was associated with the Mother Goddess. Despite being typically frustrated in his lusts, he did have a daughter by Echo named Iynx. He was most well known for his chase of Syrinx.
Perseus was another major hero. His story is written briefly in the Myth Pages, but I'll describe him here, too. Perseus was the son of Zeus (see below) and Danae. The story of his birth is really cool, but you'll have to check out Danae to read that, because I don't feel like writing it twice. Basically, he had to said he would get the head of Medusa, and then had to figure out how to do it. Luckily for him, Athena hated Medusa and offered to help him. He went all over the place and before he returned home he'd thrown the Graeae's one eye into a lake, slain Medusa (causing the birth of Pegasus and Chrysaor), killed an annoying sea monster of Poseidon's, saved (and married) the beautiful Andromeda, and turned a lot of annoying people into stone. When he got home to Seriphos, the king was trying to steal Danae (Perseus' mom) and but Perseus stopped that pretty fast. The king was killed and Perseus was installed as the new king. During his reign he expanded the kingdom and made it a serious power.
Poseidon was another of the three sons of Cronos. He won the Sea as his realm in the casting of lots. Poseidon was very much a Sea God (he took his position from the earlier cult god Nereus) but he was also called Ennosigaios, Earthshaker and was the God of Earthquakes. Poseidon was very prevalent in Classical times. He was invoked before sea-voyages and horse-races. The Isthmian Games were dedicated to him. Every coastal city was in some way connected to him. But he lost cities to other patrons as well: Corinth to Helius, Athens to Athena, Argos to Hera (and was seriously bitter about that, and dried up the rivers for a while). He was married to Amphitrite and lived with her in Aegae.
Prometheus was the son (supposedly) of Iapetus. He is solely a Classical character, but there he was known as the wisest of the Titans. His name means "Forsight" and his brother Epimetheus' name means "Hindsight". Appropriately, they were known for their respective traits. Prometheus shaped men out of clay, and was the first to give them fire (which bought him an eternity chained to a rock with an eagle tearing out his liver every day). That was actually a combination of two things. First he stole the sacred fire from Hestia's hearth to give to humans. Then he made matters worse by teaching humans how to trick the Gods with their sacrifices and save the rich fatty meat for themselves. Zeus wasn't having any of that. And so . . . Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus were the only ones spared being locked in Tartarus, because Prometheus forsaw that the Olympians would win the Battle for Olympus and sided with Zeus.
Aethra was Theseus' mom - but his dad is debatable, it was either Poseidon or Aegeus, the King of Athens. His OFFICIAL dad was Aegeus. It really all started with Aegeus' trip to the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle told him not to untie his wineskin until he got home - but Aegeus didn't really understand, so before he went home he visited his friend, King Pittheus of Troezen. Pittheus understood the Oracle's message and realized that Aegeus was going to have a pretty awesome kid. So he got Aegeus drunk and into bed with Pittheus' daughter, Aethra. Nine months later, little Theseus was born. Now, one way or another, Aegeus found out, and he put his own sword and sandals under this HUGE rock for his son to get. Saying if his son could get them he would be worthy of the throne. Of course, Theseus did once his mom told him that he was the heir to the Athenian throne. But then Theseus had to go and GET the throne, which was a whole other story (which can be found in detail in the Myth Pages). Eventually he got it. Then he did the whole Minotaur slaying thing and saved the beautiful Ariadne. Then he lost her to Dionysus. Eventually he got himself into trouble when he demanded Helen of Troy for his wife. The Dioscuri (her brothers) weren't too happy about that, and even though he escaped the destruction the brothers wrought on Athens, he was eventually killed by a King who feared sheltering him and pushed him off a cliff.
That picture on the left is Theseus pulling out the dead Minotaur to Athena.
Typhon and his mate, Echidna were the children of Gaia and Tartarus (the personification of a deep pit in the Earth). They were mosters so hideous that when the Gods saw them, they all shape-changed into animals and ran away, and who could blame them? Typhon had a hundred heads, each one touching the stars, with eyes that dripped venom and mouths that spit lava and rocks. Put simply, Typhon was NOT your average housepet. He was so strong that he pulled up mountains and threw them at the Gods. Finally, Zeus recovered his guts and began to fight back - the other Gods followed suit, but the battle was terrible. In the end, Typhon ripped up Mt. Aetna and threw it at Zeus. Zeus threw a thunderbolt and the mountain flew back to land on top of Typhon where the monster continued to smolder away. Echidna and their offspring lived on, and were a challenge to future heroes.
Zeus was the youngest son of Cronos. He was alotted Heaven and Earth as his realms during the casting of lots. Given enough time, he could have populated the Earth on his own, considering the number of affairs and children he had. He was clearly the Indo-European Sky-God. He was the God of Sky, Weather, Thunder and Lightening; Cloud-Gatherer; God of Home and Hearth, of Hospitality to Strangers; of Oaths; In Crete, Zeus is merely the consort to the dominant Mother-Goddess. The oak was the special tree of Zeus, and was a prominent part of matriarchal mythology before his arrival. Zeus had an oracle at Dodona who used the oaks' rustling to make their predictions. There is so much information about Zeus I cannot possibly cover it all here. Suffice it to say that he overthrew his father, Cronos, in his conquest of heaven. That he led the War Against the Giants. That he bore a billion and one important Goddesses and some Gods. That he slept with almost every important Nymph (grown Goddess or Woman who was not a Virgin). That he was married to Hera.
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Last Updated January 23, 2008