Greek Creation Myth
In the beginning, Chaos, an amorphous, gaping void encompassing the
entire universe, and surrounded by an unending stream of water ruled
by the god Oceanus, was the domain of a goddess named Eurynome,
which means "far-ruling" or "wide-wandering".
She was the Goddess of All Things, and desired to make order out of the
Chaos. By coupling with a huge and powerful snake, Ophion, or as some
legends say, coupling with the North Wind, she gave birth to Eros, god of
Love, also known as Protagonus, the "firstborn".
Eurynome separated the sky from the sea by dancing on the waves of
Oceanus. In this manner, she created great lands upon which she might
wander, a veritable universe, populating it with exotic creatures such as
Nymphs, Furies, and Charites as well as with countless beasts and
Also born out of Chaos were Gaia, called Earth, or Mother Earth, and
Uranus, the embodiment of the Sky and the Heavens, as well as
Tartarus, god of the sunless and terrible region beneath Gaia, the Earth.
Gaia and Uranus married and gave birth to the Titans, a race of
formidable giants, which included a particularly wily giant named
In what has become one of the recurrent themes of Greek Mythology,
Gaia and Uranus warned Cronus that a son of his would one day
overpower him. Cronus therefore swallowed his numerous children by
his wife Rhea, to keep that forecast from taking place.
This angered Gaia greatly, so when the youngest son, Zeus, was born,
Gaia took a stone, wrapped it in swaddling clothes and offered it to
Cronus to swallow. This satisfied Cronus, and Gaia was able to spirit the
baby Zeus away to be raised in Crete, far from his grasping father.
In due course, Zeus grew up, came homeward, and got into immediate
conflict with the tyrant Cronus, who did not know that this newcomer
was his own son. Zeus needed his brothers and sisters help in slaying
the tyrant, and Metis, Zeus's first wife, found a way of administering an
emetic to Cronus, who then threw up his five previous children, who
were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. Together they went to
battle against their father. The results were that all of his children, led by
Zeus, vanquished Cronus forever into Tartarus' domain, the Dark World
under the Earth.
Thus, Zeus triumphed over not only his father, and his father's family of
Giants, he triumphed over his brothers and sisters as well, dividing up
the universe as he fancied, in short, bringing order out of Chaos.
He made himself Supreme God over all, creating a great and beautiful
place for his favored gods to live, on Mount Olympus, in Thessaly. All the
others were left to fend for themselves in lands below Mount Olympus.
Zeus made himself God of the Sky and all its phenomena, including the
clouds as well as the thunderbolts. Hestia became goddess of the Hearth.
To his brother Poseidon, he gave the rule of the Sea. Demeter became a
goddess of Fertility, Hera (before she married Zeus and became a jealous
wife), was goddess of Marriage and Childbirth, while Hades, one of his
other brothers, was made god of the Underworld.
Zeus did indeed bring order out of Chaos, but one of his failings was that
he did not look kindly upon the people, those creatures that populated
the lands over which he reigned. Many were not beautiful, and Zeus had
contempt for anyone who was not beautiful. And of course they were not
immortal, as the Olympian gods were, and they complained about the
lack of good food and the everlasting cold nights. Zeus ignored their
complaints, while he and the other gods feasted endlessly on steaming
hot game from the surrounding forests, and had great crackling fires in
every room of their palaces where they lived in the cold winter.
Enter Prometheus, one of the Titans not vanquished in the war between
Zeus and the giants. It is said in many myths that Prometheus had
created d a race of people from clay, or that he had combined specks of
every living creature, molded them together, and produced a new race,
The Common Man. At the very least he was their champion before Zeus.
Fire for cooking and heating was reserved only for the gods to enjoy.
Prometheus stole some of the sparks of a glowing fire from the
Olympians, so that the people below Olympus could have fire for cooking
and warmth in the winter, thus greatly improving their lot in life.
Zeus was furious at this insult to his absolute power, and had
Prometheus bound and chained to a mountain, sending an eagle to
attack him daily.
Adding insult to injury, Zeus had his fellow Olympian, Hephaestus,
fashion a wicked but beautiful creature to torment Prometheus. It was a
woman, whom they named Pandora, which means "all gifts". She was
given a precious and beautiful box, which she was told not to open, but
curiosity got the better of her, and out flew "all the evils that plague
men." The only "gift" that stayed in the box was "Hope".
So, from "far-ruling" Eurynome to the creation of the Common Man,
Greek creation myths are inextricably filled with difficulties, though often
ameliorated by the gift of Hope. A myriad of other myths tell of the joys
and adventures of great heroes and heroines, other gods and goddesses,
as well as fantastic creatures from all parts of ancient Greece.
The Myth of Prometheus
Prometheus was a Titan from Greek myth, born from the union of the
Titan Iapetus and the Nymph Asia he was one of four children born to
the pair. The siblings of Prometheus included Menoetius, Atlas and
Epimetheus, all of them Titans. The name Prometheus means foresight,
his brother's name Epimetheus means hindsight.
Their father, Iapetus led the revolt against the Gods, his children
Menoetius and Atlas joined with him, while his other two sons,
Prometheus and Epimetheus sided with the Gods. Menoetius was killed
during the revolt and Atlas was given the weight of the world to bear for
his actions during the revolt.
According to the myths, a horrendous headache overcame Zeus and no
healer of the realm was able to help the Lord of the Gods. Prometheus
came to him and declared that he knew how to heal Zeus, taking a rock
from the ground Prometheus proceeded to hit Zeus in the head with it.
From out of Zeus' head popped the Goddess Athena, with her emergence
Zeus' headache disappeared.
Prometheus and Epimetheus journeyed to Earth from Olympus, they
ventured to the Greek province of Boitia and made clay figures. Athena
took the figures and breathed life into them, the figures that Prometheus
had created became Man and honored him. The figures that his brother
Epimetheus had created became the beasts, which turned and attacked
Zeus was angered by the brother's actions, he forbade the pair from
teaching Man the ways of civilization, Athena chose to cross Zeus and
taught Prometheus so that he might teach Man.
For their actions, Zeus demanded a sacrifice from Man to the Gods to
show that they were obedient and worshipful. Man went to Prometheus
to inquire which parts belonged to Zeus and the Gods, and which parts
belonged to Man. At Prometheus instructions, Man sacrificed an ox and
placed the sacrifice into two bags. In the first bag the bones were placed
with the fat from the ox placed on top to conceal them. In the second bag
the meat was placed with the intestines on top to conceal them as well.
Prometheus called for Zeus to choose which portion of the sacrifice he
and the other Gods demanded. Zeus chose the bag with the fat on top,
giving the Gods the bones of the ox as their sacrifice.
Zeus was angered by the actions of Man and Prometheus, he forbade the
Gods to give fire to Man. Prometheus was upset with Zeus' proclamation
and was determined to bring fire to Man, but Zeus had guarded the
entrance to Olympus. Athena told Prometheus about an unguarded back
entrance to Olympus where he would be able to enter with ease.
Prometheus snuck into Olympus at night through the back entrance that
Athena had told him of. He made his way to the Chariot of the Sun and
lit a torch from the fires that burned there. Extinguishing the torch,
Prometheus carried the still hot coals down the mountain in a pithy
fennel stalk to prevent being seen. Upon reaching the lands of Men,
Prometheus gave to them the coals, breaking Zeus' order by giving fire to
Zeus was extremely angered by Prometheus' actions, he had not wanted
fire to be given to Man, Zeus set out to make a trap for Prometheus. Zeus
gathered the gifts of the Gods and created Pandora and her box, into the
box he placed all the horrors of the world. Pandora was sent to
Prometheus as a gift from Zeus himself.
Prometheus saw the curse that Pandora and her box carried, he refused
the gift, giving it instead to his brother Epimetheus who opened the box
and released the chained horrors upon the world.
Zeus was personally affronted by Prometheus actions, he had refused a
gift from the Lord of the Gods himself. At Zeus order Prometheus was
chained to a rock in the Caucasus Mountains where his torture was to
be carried out. Every day a great Eagle would come to Prometheus and
eat his liver, leaving only at nightfall when the liver would begin to grow
back once more, only to repeat the process again the next day.
Zeus offered to free Prometheus if he would tell the secret of the
prophecy that told of the dethroning of Zeus one day, Prometheus
refused. The mother of Prometheus, the Nymph Asia, also had the gift of
Foresight and went to Zeus and told him the secret of the prophecy. The
prophecy told that the offspring of Zeus and the Nymph Clymene would
one day rise up and destroy Zeus and Gods.
Zeus sent Heracles to free Prometheus from the rock, but required that
Prometheus still be bound to the rock for the rest of eternity. A link of
the chain he had been bound with was set with a chip of the rock and
Prometheus was required to carry it with him always. Men also created
rings with stones and gems set into them to commiserate with him and
to honor Prometheus for the actions he had taken on their behalf.
Throughout history, Prometheus has symbolized unyielding strength that
In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered
Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, to create her and he did, using
water and earth. The gods endowed her with many talents; Aphrodite
gave her beauty, Apollo music, Hermes persuasion, and so forth. Hence
her name: Pandora, "all-gifted".
When Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by
presenting Pandora to Epimetheus, Prometheus' brother. With her,
Pandora had a jar which she was not to open under any circumstance.
Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the jar, and all evil
contained escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the
lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing
which lay at the bottom, and that was Hope
Deukalion and Pyrrha – The Flood in Greek Mythology
DEUKALION and PYRRHA were the first king and queen of Northern
Greece--the regions of Opountian Lokris, Malis, Phthiotis and the
Thessalian lands. Deukalion was the son of Prometheus, the creator of
mankind, while Pyrrha was the daughter of Pandora, the first woman.
They were born in the time of the Bronze Race of Man, a warlike race
who succeeded the Silver and the Gold. Of these the Bronze was the first
naturally born generation, and the first to include both men and women.
The first race, the Golden, had been moulded of earth in the time of
Kronos, and passed away without producing any issue. The second race,
the Silver, was created by Prometheus during the reign of Zeus, and
marrying the Melian nymphs sired the Bronze race.
The Bronze generation, however, was very corrupt. Zeus was angered by
their impiety and sent a Great Deluge to the envelop the earth and
destroy them. Only Deukalion and Pyrrha survived--having been warned
of the impending calamnity by Prometheus, they mounted a chest and
sailed to the dry peaks of Mount Parnassos. Other Greek regions also
claimed survivors--King Dardanos was said to have sought refuge on
Mount Ida in the Troad, Kerambos was carried to the heights of Mount
Othrys by the Nymphs, Megaros fled to Mount Gerana, Arkas and
Nyktimos were preserved on Mount Kyllene in Arkadia, and the tribe of
Parnassos fled to the heights above Delphoi. Io and her son Epaphos,
who lived in Egypt, were also preserved.
Zeus then caused the waters to recede. In Northern Greece Poseidon split
the mountains at the Vale of Tempe to release the waters trapped in the
Great Thessalian Plain. Deukalion and Pyrrha then consulted the
Delphic oracle to ask how they might repopulate the earth and were told
to cast the bones of their mother over their shoulders. They answered
this riddle by casting stones--the bones of Mother Earth--one producing
a tribe of men and the other of women.
Deukalion had several sons and daughters. The most famous of these
were Hellen, the eponymous king of the Hellenes (i.e. Greeks), and
Pandora (named after her grandmother), Protogeneia and Thyia, three
maidens loved by Zeus. Deukalion's descendants were rulers of most of
the kingdoms of mythical Greece. His most famous great-grandsons
included Sisyphos, Salmoneus, Athamas, Diktys and Polydektes, Ion and
Endymion. The intervening generations consisted mostly of eponyms (i.e.
figures who gave their names to tribes or places) with little or no
THE JUDEO – CHRISTIAN RELIGION
Read Genesis (1-9)
Creation, the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the
CHARACTERS AND PLACE IN MYTHOLOGY
Characters and Places in Greek Mythology: http://www.theoi.com/
Daedalus & Icarus
Daedalus was a famous architect, inventor, and master craftsman. He
created many objects that figure prominently in various myths. Among
his inventions and creations were the wooden cow he constructed for the
queen Pasiphae, the Labyrinth of the Minotaur at Knossos, artificial
wings for himself and his son Icarus, and he was even said to have
His homeland was Athens but his parentage is uncertain. Alcippe,
Merope and Iphinoe are all mentioned at different times as being his
mother. His father's identity was never precisely established but many
claim that it was Metion, son of Erectheus.
For a short time, his apprentice was his sister's son Perdix. Other
sources claim that his apprentice was his nephew Talos. At the age of
twelve Talos displayed a skill that nearly rivaled his mentor's. When
Daedalus feared that the boy would surpass him in talent, he murdered
the boy by tossing him from the Acropolis of Athens. He was then tried at
the Areiopagus, which was the ancient Greek court, and banished from
his home city of Athens.
He fled to the island of Crete, where he began to work at the court of
King Minos and Queen Pasiphae, in the magnificent palace of Knossos.
There he constructed a wooden cow for the queen to hide in to satisfy her
amorous longings for a white bull sent by Poseidon, and by which she
became pregnant with the Minotaur.
When the Minotaur was born, Daedalus built the Labyrinth to contain
the monstrous half-man, half-bull. For years Minos demanded a tribute
of youths from Athens to feed the creature. Eventually, the hero Theseus
came to Crete to attempt to slay the Minotaur. Ariadne, daughter of
Minos and Pasiphae, fell in love with Theseus and asked Daedalus to
help him. Daedalus gave her a flaxen thread for Theseus to tie to the
door of the Labyrinth as he entered, and by which he could find his way
out after killing the monster. Theseus succeeded, and escaped Crete with
Ariadne. Minos, enraged at the loss of his daughter, not to mention the
killing of the Minotaur, shut Daedalus and his son Icarus into the
Daedalus managed to get out of the Labyrinth - after all, he had built it
and knew his way around. Daedalus decided that he and his son Icarus
had to leave Crete and get away from Minos, before he brought them
harm. However, Minos controlled the sea around Crete and there was no
route of escape there. Daedalus realized that the only way out was by air.
To escape, Daedalus built wings for himself and Icarus, fashioned with
feathers held together with wax. Daedalus warned his son not to fly
too close to the sun, as it would melt his wings, and not too close to
the sea, as it would dampen them and make it hard to fly.
They successfully flew from Crete, but Icarus grew exhilarated by the
thrill of flying and began getting careless. Flying too close to the sun god
Helios, the wax holding together his wings melted from the heat and he
fell to his death, drowning in the sea. The Icarian Sea, where he fell, was
named after him and it is said that Heracles (Hercules), who passed by,
gave him burial. Daedalus lamented his dead son and then continued to
Sicily, where he came to stay at the court of Cocalus in a place called
King Minos then went in pursuit of Daedalus, hoping to trick the great
inventor into revealing himself. At each city he visited, Minos offered a
reward to whomever could thread a spiral seashell. Eventually, Minos
came to Camicus in Sicily and presented the contest at Cocalus' court.
Cocalus knew of Daedalus' talents, and gave the shell to him. The clever
Daedalus tied the string to an ant, place the ant at one end of the shell,
and allowed the ant to walk through the spiral chambers until it came
out the other end.
When Minos saw that someone had solved the puzzle, he demanded that
Cocalus surrender Daedalus. Cocalus promised to do so, but he
persuaded Minos to take a bath and stay for some entertainment. Minos
agreed, and was consequently murdered by Cocalus' daughters, who had
been so taken by the toys and gifts which Daedalus had bestowed upon
them and did not want any harm to come to him.
Daedalus eventually left Camicus, much to the dismay of king Cocalus
and his daughters, and ended up in Sardinia with a group led by Iolaus,
who was a nephew of Heracles.
The Myth of Perseus
There were two twin brothers Proteus and Acrisius who took turns ruling
a kingdom until Proteus lay with Acrisius's sister after which Proteus
fled. Proteus married Anteia. There was a war and they divided the
kingdom: Acrisius got Argos, Proteus got Tiryns. Seven giant cyclops
fortified Tiryns with massive walls.
Acrisius married Aganippe and had no sons,
but one daughter Danae. She was beautiful
above all the women of Argos. Acrisius asked
an oracle how to have a son. The priestess told
him he would never have a son, and that his
grandson would someday kill him. The only
escape would be to kill his daughter himself.
That he couldn't do, so Acrisius locked up
Danae in a dungeon with brazen doors. Zeus
came upon her in a shower of golden rain
which fell in her lap, and she bore a son
When Acrisius discovered Perseus, Danae told
him that Zeus was his father. He did not
believe her, but he was afraid to kill them for
fear of the gods, so he locked them in a
wooden ark and launched them into the sea.
They were washed up on a island named Perseus.
Seriphos among many islands. A kind
fisherman named Dictys ("net") found the chest, opened it and found
them still alive. He and his kind wife had no children and took them
home and cared for both of them for many years, until Perseus was
Dictys' brother, Polydectes, was the local king, who fell in love with the
still very beautiful Danae. Perseus, now grown, was a formidable
defender of his mother against Polydectes. So Polydectes sought a plan to
get rid of Perseus. He pretended to be in love with Hipposdameia,
daughter of Pelops, and called his subjects together to announce their
marriage. He asked each to give him gift of a horse, and all did so, except
Perseus, who had no horse. Perseus announced that declared he would
bring back a better gift than anyone else. This is what Polydectes wanted,
so he asked Perseus to bring back the head of Medusa as a gift.
The Medusa was one of the three Gorgon sisters. They were monsters
who lived on an island, who were known far and wide because of their
deadly power. They had tusks like boars, protruding tongue, thick
dragon scales, hands of brass, wings of gold, and a face so ugly that all
who looked at it were turned to stone. Medusa was distinguishable from
the others because she had snakes for hair. Medusa had been beautiful
in her youth, especially her hair, but had lain with Poseidon in the
temple of Athene. For punishment, Athene had cursed Medusa to look as
she does. She was the daughter of Phorcys who had offended Athene by
leading the Libyans of Lake Tritonis in battle.
Perseus left on a ship, without telling his mother where he was going,
and sailed to Greece to find out where the Gorgons lived. The priestess at
Delphi told him to seek the land where they eat only acorns. He went to
Dodona, the land of talking oak trees which declare Zeus's will and
where the Selli lived who made bread of acorns. They did not know where
the Gorgons lived, but told him he was under the protection of the gods.
As he continued, he met a man carrying a wand of gold with wings at one
end, wearing a winged hat and winged sandals. It was Hermes,
messenger of the gods. Hermes told him he must be properly equipped to
fight Medusa, and what he needed was in the possession of the Nymphs
of the North (Stygian Nymphs). Their locations was known only to the
Gray Women, [who were the sisters of the Gorgons]. These women dwelt
in a land where all was dim and shrouded in twilight. No ray of sun
looked ever on that country, nor the moon by night. They were very old
and withered, and had only one eye [and one tooth] between the three of
them. It was their custom to take turns with it: when one was done using
it, she would remove it from her forehead and hand it to another.
All this Hermes told Perseus, and then unfolded his plan. [Because the
Gray women were the sisters of the Gorgons, he would have to trick
them.] He must keep hidden until he saw one of them remove the eye
from her forehead. Then he must rush foreward and take the eye and
refuse to return it until they told him how to find the Nymphs of the
Hermes then presented him with a sword made of diamond (adamant)
made by Hephaestus, which could not be broken by Medusa's scales.
Athena then appeared and gave him her breastplate of polished bronze
which he carried on his left arm, and the sword in his right. She told him
to look at Medusa only in its reflection, to avoid being turned to stone.
Hermes then guided Perseus on a long journey across the ocean to the
foot of Mount Atlas where the Gray sisters acted as lookouts. He found
the Gray Women sitting in their thrones, in the dim light looking like
gray swans. They had the form of swans, but human heads, and under
their wings they had arms and hands. Perseus executed the plan exactly.
When he snatched the eye [and the tooth] it was a moment before the
three realized they had lost it, for each thought the other had it. But
Perseus told them he had it, and they [reluctantly] told him the location
of the Nymphs of the North. Then he gave them back the eye. [He kept
the eye and tooth to keep them from warning their Gorgon sisters of his
He and Hermes then left for the Land of Hyperboria, the land beyond the
North Wind. It is said of that land, "Neither by ship nor yet by land shall
one find the wonderous road to the gathering place of the Hyperboreans."
But Perseus had Hermes with him, so the road lay open. He found a host
of happy people who are always banqueting and joyous. They showed
him great kindness and welcomed him to their feast, and the maidens
dancing to flute and lyre paused to get him the gifts he sought. These
were a) winged sandals enabling him to fly, b) a magic silver pouch that
would adjust itself to the size of whatever it held, and c) a cap or helmet
of darkness from Hades which made the wearer invisible. Hermes knew
where the Gorgons lived, so the two flew back across the Ocean and over
the sea to the Terrible Sisters' Island.
The Gorgons were all three asleep when Perseus found them. In the
mirror he could see them clearly: they had great wings, bodies covered
with golden scales, and hair a mass of twisted snakes. Athene now
appeared beside him and told him which one was the Medusa. The other
two, Stheno and Euryale, were immortal. Perseus looked at them in the
shield, and Athena guided his hand as he cut off her head. To his
surprise the winged horse Pegasus and the warrior Chrysaor grasping a
golden curved sword sprang full grown from her dead body. Perseus was
unaware that these had been begotten on Medusa by Poseidon in the
temple of Athene. He decided not to antagonize them and dropped her
head into the pouch. The other two sisters were awakened by their new
nephew, but could not find him because of his cap of invisibility. He
escaped southward and Hermes left him.
Strong winds blew him across the sky like a raincloud, so he stopped to
rest near the palace of the Titan Atlas, who refused him hospitality. As a
punishment, Perseus showed the Gorgon's head to Atlas and turned him
into a range of mountains that now bear his name. The next day he flew
across the Libyan desert and some drops of the Medusa's blood fell on
the sand and bred a swarm of poisonous snakes, one of which later
killed Mopsus the Argonaut. [He dropped the eye and tooth into Lake
As he rounded the coast of Philistia (Palestine) he caught sight of
Andromeda, who was chained to a cliff on the seashore. She was the
daughter of Cepheus, the Ethiopian King of Joppa (Tel-Aviv, nearest port
to Jerusalem), and his wife Casseiopeia. Casseiopeia had boasted that
both she and her daughter were more beautiful that the Nereids, some
very beautiful sea nymphs. They complained to Poseidon who sent a
flood and a sea monster to devastate the coast near Joppa (the Gaza
Strip). When Cepheus consulted the Oracle of Ammon he was told that
his only hope of deliverance was to sacrifice his daughter Andromeda to
the sea monster. His subjects chained her to a cliff, wearing certain
jewels, and left her to be devoured.
As Perseus flew over, he at first almost mistook her for a marble statue.
Only the wind ruffling her hair and the warm tears on her cheeks showed
that she was human. Perseus instantly fell in love with Andromeda. As
Perseus flew to her and asked her why she was chained there. Shy
Andromeda, totally different from her vainglorious mother, at first did not
answer. Finally, she told Perseus her story, but broke off with a scream
as she saw the monster approaching.
Perseus saw Cepheus and Cassiopeia watching anxiously nearby and
quickly went to consult with them. They agreed that if he rescued her,
she should be his wife and Cepheus offered him his kingdom as a dowry.
They also agreed to let Perseus take her back to his home at Seriphos. He
took to the air, grasped his sword, and diving murderously from above,
beheaded the approaching monster, which was deceived by his shadow
on the sea. He had drawn the Medusa's head from the pouch in case the
monster had looked up. The headless body of the monster dropped back
into the water. He laid Medusa's head face down on some seaweed,
which turned instantly to coral. He then cleansed his hand of blood and
made three altars, on which he sacrificed a calf, a cow, and a bull to
Hermes, Athene, and Zeus respectively.
On Andromeda's insistence, the wedding took place immediately, even
though Cassiopeia insisted that the pledge of her hand had been forced
on them by the circumstances, and that Agenor (Phineas), King Belus's
twin brother, had already been betrothed to her. The wedding feast was
rudely interrupted when Agenor entered at the head of an armed party,
claiming Andromeda for himself. "Perseus must die!" Cassiopeia cried
In the ensuing fight, Perseus struck down many of his opponents, but,
being greatly outnumbered, was forced to snatch the Gorgon's head from
the coral and turned two hundred of them to stone.
Poseidon set the images of Cephus and Cassiopeia among the stars. The
latter, as a punishment for her treachery, is tied in a market basket
which is sometimes turned upside-down. But Athene afterwards honored
Andromeda image in a more favorable place because she had insisted on
A year later Perseus took Andromeda with him back to Seriphos. She had
born Perseus a son, Perses, who was left with Cepheus to be heir to the
throne of Joppa. When they arrived, they found that the wife of Dictys
was long since dead, and the Dictys himself and his mother Danae had
had to flee from Polydectes, who was furious at Danae refusal to marry
him. They had taken refuge in the temple. Perseus learned that
Polydectes was holding a banquet in the palace with all the men who
favored him. Perseus went straight to the hall, with the breastplate of
Athena on his chest and the silver pouch at his side. He announced to
Polydectes that he had brought the promised love-gift. They poured scorn
on his claim to have brought back the head of the Medusa, whereupon
Perseus showed it to the king and everyone there and they all turned to
stone. This circle of bolders is still shown at Seriphos. He then gave the
head to Athene who bore it always upon the aegis, Zeus's shield, which
she carried for him. Hermes returned the sandals, pouch, and helmet to
the guardianship of the Stygian nymphs.
When the islanders knew they were free from the tyrant, it was easy for
him to find Danae and Dictys. He made Dictys king of the island, but he
and his mother decided to go back with Andromeda to Argos to try to be
reconciled with Acrisius after the many years since he had put him and
Danae in the wooden chest. They were accompanied by a party of
cyclopses. When Acrisius heard Perseus was coming, he fled to Larissa in
Thessaly to avoid the fulfillment of the oracle. When they reached Argos,
Perseus found that Acrisius was gone, and where he was no one could
say. Perseus had been invited to the althletic funeral games that the King
Teutamides of Larissa was holding to honor his dead father. He went to
participate, and when he threw the discus, it was carried out of its path
by the wind and fell among the spectators. It struck the foot of Acrisius
and killed him, fulfilling the prophecy. Greatly grieved, Perseus buried
his grandfather in the temple of Athene, and ashamed to reign in Argos,
he went to Tiryns where Proteus had been succeeded by Megapenthes
and arranged to exchange kingdoms with him.
Perseus fortified Midea, founded Mycenae, so named because when he
was thirsty a mushroom (mycos) sprang up, giving him a stream of
water. The cyclopses built walls around both cities.
Perseus and Andromeda lived happily ever after. They had five more
sons: Alcaeus, Sthenelus, Heleius, Mestor, and Electryon, and a
daughter Gorgophone ("slaying of the Gorgon"). Their son Electryon was
the grandfather of Hercules.
Theseus was a king of Athens famous for many exploits, and appearing
in works by many authors and on countless vases. There is some
confusion about Theseus' parentage, some say he is the son of Aegeus
and Aethra, and others the son of Poseidon and Aethra. Apollodoros and
Hyginus say Aethra waded out to Sphairia after sleeping with Aegeus,
and lay there with Poseidon.
The next day, Aegeus, who had been visiting Aethra at Troizen, left for
his home city of Athens. As he left, he left sandals and a sword under a
large rock; should Aethra bear a male child, she was to send him to
Athens to claim his birthright as soon as he was old enough to lift the
rock and retrieve the items.
Aethra gave birth to Theseus, who came of age and set off for Athens
with the sword and sandals, encountering and defeating six murderous
adversaries along the way. When Theseus reached Athens, Medea, the
wife of Aegeus, persuaded Aegeus to kill the as of yet unrecognized
Theseus by having him attempt to capture the savage Marathonian Bull.
Theseus does the unexpected and succeeds, so Medea tells Aegeus to
give him poisoned wine. Aegeus recognizes Theseus' sword as he is about
to drink and knocks the goblet from his lips at the last second.
According to Plutarch and Philochoros, on the way to Marathon to kill
the bull, Theseus encounters a fierce storm and seeks shelter in the hut
of an old woman named Hecale. She promises to make a sacrifice to Zeus
if Theseus comes back successful. He comes back, finds her dead, and
builds a deme in her name. Some time after Theseus return to Athens,
trouble stirs and blood flows between the houses of Aegeus in Athens
and Minos, his brother in Crete.
War and drought ensues and an oracle demands that recompense be
made to Minos. Minos demands that seven maidens and seven youths
are to be sacrificed to the Minotaur every nine years. Theseus is among
the chosen victims and sails off to Crete, promising to Aegeus that his
ship's black flag would be replaced with a white flag if Theseus is
victorious. In Crete, Minos molests one of the maidens and Theseus
becomes angry and challenges him, boasting of his parentage by
Poseidon. Minos, son of Zeus is amused and asks Theseus to prove his
heritage by retrieving a ring from the depths of the ocean. Theseus being
a son of Poseidon succeeds.
Ariadne, a young woman in Crete already betrothed to Dionysus, falls in
love with Theseus and helps him defeat the Minotaur. Ariadne then
leaves Crete with Theseus, who abandons her on Dia (at Athena's behest,
according to Pherekydes).
In returning to Athens Theseus forgets to switch the black sail with the
white one. Aegeus, consequently, watching from afar believes his son is
dead and hurls himself into the sea, named the 'Aegean' after him. After
Aegeus' death, Theseus must contend against Pallas for the throne.
Theseus gets wind of a planned assassination against him and spoils the
ambush, killing Pallas and gaining the throne.
Theseus and a good friend of his by the name of Pirithous wanted to
marry daughters of Zeus, and begin their quest by abducting Helen.
Theseus wins a bet and gets Helen, but must accompany Pirithous to
Hades to recover Persephone for him. There is much disagreement here
about what happens in Hades, but many traditions say only Theseus
makes it back out.
Theseus does two noteworthy patriotic acts to Thebes, accepting Oedipus
at Kolonus, and helping Adrastus bury the Seven, fallen in the struggle
for the throne of Thebes. Late in his life Theseus loses popularity in
Athens and is exiled. He wanders to Scyrus where he is hurled off a cliff
Hercules, the Latin equivalent of Heracles, was the son of Jupiter and
Alcmene. His jealous stepmother, Juno, tried to murder the infant
Hercules by putting a serpent in his cradle. Luckily for Hercules, he was
born with great strength and killed the serpent. By the time Hercules
was an adult, he had already killed a lion. Eventually, Juno drove
Hercules insane. Due to his insanity, Hercules killed his wife, Megara,
and their three children. Hercules exiled himself because of the shame
that he had brought on himself through his lack of sanity.
Hercules decided to ask the Delphic Oracle what he should do to regain
his honor. The Oracle told Hercules to go to Eurystheus, king of
Mycenae, and serve him for twelve years. King Eurystheus couldn't think
of any tasks that might prove difficult for the mighty son of Jupiter, so
Juno came down from her palace on Olympus to help him. Together, the
twosome came up with twelve tasks for Juno's mortal stepson to
These tasks are now known as the twelve labors of Hercules. Hercules'
first labor was to kill the menacing Nemean Lion; Hercules strangled the
creature and carried it back to Mycenae. The second task was to
overcome the nine-headed snake known as the Hydra; Hercules' cousin
Ioloas helped him out by burning the stumps of the heads after Hercules
cut off the heads; since the ninth head was immortal, Hercules rolled a
rock over it. The third task was to find the golden-horned stag and bring
it back alive; Hercules followed the stag around for one full year; he
finally captured the stag and took it back alive. The fourth labor was to
capture a wild boar that terrorized Mycenae's people; Hercules chased
the boar up a mountain where the boar fell in to a snow drift, where
Hercules subdued it. The fifth task of Hercules was to clean the Augean
stables, where thousands of cattle were housed, in a single day; Hercules
diverted two rivers so that they would flow into the Augean stables. The
sixth labor was to destroy the man-eating Stymphalian birds; Hercules
drove them out of their hiding places with a rattle and shot them with
poison-tipped arrows. The sixth task was for Hercules to capture a
Cretean savage bull; Hercules wrestled it to the ground and took it back
to King Eurystheus. The eighth labor was to capture the four man-eating
mares of Thrace; Hercules threw the master of the mares to them; the
horses became very tame, so Hercules safely led them back to Mycenae.
Hercules' ninth labor was to obtain the girdle of the fierce Amazon
warrior queen, Hippolyta; Hippolyta willingly gave her girdle to Hercules,
but Juno convinced the Amazons that Hercules was trying to take
Hippolyta from them, so Hercules fought them off and returned to his
master with the girdle. The tenth labor was to capture the cattle of the
monster, Geryon; Hercules killed Geryon, claimed the cattle, and took
them back to the king. The eleventh task was to get the golden-apples of
the Hesperides; Hercules told Atlas that if he would get the apples for
him, he (Hercules) would hold the heavens for him; when Atlas returned
from his task, Hercules tricked him into taking back the heavens. The
final labor of Hercules was to bring the three-headed watchdog of the
underworld, Cerberus, to the surface without using any weapons;
Hercules seized two of Cerberus' heads and the dog gave in. Hercules
took the dog to his master, who ordered him to take it back. Finally, after
twelve years and twelve tasks, Hercules was a free man.
Hercules went to the town of Thebes and married Deianira. She bore him
many children. Later on in their life, the male centaur, Nessus, abducted
Deianira, but Hercules came to her rescue by shooting Nessus with a
poison tipped arrow. The dying Nessus told Deianira to keep a portion of
his blood to use as a love potion on Hercules if she felt that she was
losing him to another woman. A couple of a months later, Deianira
thought that another woman was coming between her and her husband,
so Deianira washed one of Hercules' shirts in Nessus' blood and gave it
to him to wear. Nessus had lied to her, for the blood really acted as a
poison and almost killed Hercules. On his funeral pyre, the dying
Hercules ascended to Olympus, where he was granted immortality and
lived among the gods.
JASON AND THE GOLDEN FLEECE
The Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece is one of the oldest
myths of a hero's quest. It is a classic story of betrayal and vengeance
and like many Greek myths has a tragic ending. It begins when Jason's
Uncle Pelias kills Jason's father, the Greek King of Iolkos, and takes his
throne. Jason's mother brings him to Cheiron, a centaur (half man, half
horse) who hides him away and raises him on the Mountain of Pelion.
When Jason turns 20, he journeys to see Pelias to reclaim his throne. At
a nearby river, Hera the Queen of the Gods approaches him disguised as
an old woman. While carrying her across the river he loses a sandal and
arrives at court wearing only one. Pelias is nervous when he sees Jason
missing a sandal, for an oracle has prophesied that a man wearing only
one sandal shall usurp his throne.
Jason demands the return of his rightful throne. Pelias replies that
Jason should first accomplish a difficult task to prove his worth. The
task is for Jason to retrieve the Golden Fleece, kept beyond the edge of
the known world in a land called Colchis (modern-day Georgia in
Southwest Asia). The story of the fleece is an interesting tale in itself.
Zeus, the King of the Gods, had given a golden ram to Jason's ancestor
Phrixus. Phrixus later flew on the golden ram from Greece to Colchis,
whose king was Aietes, the son of Helios the Sun God. Aietes sacrificed
the ram and hung the fleece in a sacred grove guarded by a dragon, as
an oracle had foretold that Aietes would lose his kingdom if he lost the
Determined to reclaim his throne, Jason agrees to retrieve the Golden
Fleece. Jason assembles a team of great heroes for his crew and they sail
aboard the Argo. The first stop of the Argonauts is the Greek Isle of
Lemnos, populated only by women. Unknown to Jason and his crew, the
women have murdered their husbands. The Argonauts fare much better
though; in fact the women use the occasion as an opportunity to
repopulate the island.
After many more adventures, the Argo passes Constantinople, heading
for the Straits of Bosphorus. The Straits of Bosphorus are a narrow
passageway of water between the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea and
the Black Sea. To the ancient Greeks, this was the edge of the known
world. The Straits are extremely dangerous due to the currents created
by the flow of water from the Black Sea. The ancient Greeks believed that
clashing rocks guarded the straits and that the rocks would close
together and smash any ship sailing through. Jason had been told by a
blind prophet he assisted how to fool the rocks. He was to send a bird
ahead of him. The rocks would crash in on it and then reopen, at which
point he could successfully sail through.
When Jason finally arrives in Colchis he asks King Aietes to return the
golden fleece to him as it belonged to his ancestor. Reluctant, the king
suggests yet another series of challenges to Jason. He must yoke fire-
breathing bulls, plough and sow a field with dragons' teeth and then
overcome the warriors who will rise from the furrows. Aietes is confident
the tasks are impossible but unbeknownst to the king, his daughter
Medea has taken a liking to Jason. She offers to assist Jason if he will
marry her. He agrees. Medea is a powerful sorceress and Jason is
Jason and Medea return to Greece where Jason claims his father's
throne, but their success is short-lived. Uncomfortable with Medea's
magic, the locals drive Medea and Jason out of Iolkos. They go into exile
in Corinth where the king offers Jason his daughter in marriage. He
agrees and so violates his vow to the gods to be true only to Medea.
Furious, Medea kills the woman, kills Medea and Jason's children and
then ascends to Mount Olympus where she eventually marries Achilles.
Jason goes back to Iolkos where his boat the Argo is on display. One day,
while he sits next to the boat weeping, the decaying beam of his ship the
Argo falls off and hits him on the head, killing him outright.
*See the white MYTH book for accounts of the Iliad (Trojan War) and