The Iliad is the first written record of Greece. Greek mythology begins with Homer in 1000 B.C. Mankind was the center of the universe so the Greek gods were created in mans image. It was a rational universe where artists and poets focused on the human form. Gods were powerful but human, and they inhabited an understandable world. They showed human weaknesses (i.e. Zeus trying to hide affairs from a jealous Hera). Humans could enjoy and even laugh at the gods. They were not afraid of them. Magic was almost nonexistent. There were two witches – Circe and Medea – but they were portrayed as being beautiful and young. The focus was on beauty, not fear. There were a few dark spots; for example, sometimes the gods acted cruelly. Most mythical monsters emphasized the heroism of the characters.
Although the gods were unpredictable, they were beautiful and human- like; nothing was really terrifying in mythology. In the Odyssey, poet and priest beg Odysseus for lives – kills the priest and spares the poet. Priests were of little importance. Very limited sense of right and wrong in Homers heaven. Traces of a time when there were beast-gods – satyrs, goatmen, centaurs; Hera was a divine cow before she became a heavenly queen. Often referred to as cow-faced. Mythology was not a religion but more of an early science. The explanations of how something came to be. Some myths explain nothing – pure entertainment. Religion is there – what the humans need. The gods evolve. For example, Zeus changes from being on the side of the strong to being the protector of the weak. God of justice. 12 Great Olympians: Supreme among the gods who seceded the Titans. They share Olympus as their home. It is Greeces highest mountaintop. It is not a heaven. The entrance was a great gate of clouds (guarded by the seasons). It was a place of perfect blessedness where they feasted on ambrosia and nectar and listened to Apollos lyre.
ZEUS: (Jupiter) ruler of all living things (ruler of heaven) POSEIDON: (Neptune) ruler of the sea and horses HADES: (Pluto) ruler of the underworld and dead HESTIA: (Vesta) goddess of the hearth HERA: (Juno) Zeuss wife; protector of marriage ARES: (Mars) god of war ATHENA: (Minerva) battle goddess; goddess of city and wisdom APOLLO: (Sol) god of light, truth, sun, lyre, archery, prophecy
ZEUS: (Jupiter) He and his brothers drew lots for their share of the universe (after Zeus has defeated Cronus) – sea went to Poseidon and the underworld went to Hades. Zeus became the supreme ruler; lord of the sky; rain-god; cloud gatherer. He wielded the thunderbolt and he was more powerful than all the other gods together. He was not, however, omniscient or omnipotent. He could be opposed and deceived; fate could be stronger. He falls in love with one woman after another and stoops to trickery to hide his infidelity from Hera. His grandeur is his breastplate – the Aegis – that was awful to behold. He demands from men right action and sacrifices (He doesnt tolerate liars or those who break oaths.) Bird: Eagle Tree: Oak – it was said that his will was revealed by rustling oak leaves.
HERA: (Juno) Zeuss wife and sister She was brought up by the Titans Ocean and Tethys. Said to be the protector of marriage. Her daughter Ilithys helped woman in childbirth (according to some myths). She was revered in her position as Zeuss wife, but mainly she spent her time punishing the many women that Zeus loved. She would punish them even when they had been tricked and were innocent. Her anger was terrible. She holds grudges. (i.e. the Trojan War would have ended in honorable peace, but for a Trojan who judged another to be fairer than she, so Troy lay in ruins.) In one myth, she is the protector of the heroes, but in no other (Quest of the Golden Fleece). Hera is sometimes said to have been a divine cow, or else she is described as cow-faced. Cow and peacock are sacred to her Argos is her favorite city.
POSEIDON: (Neptune) Zeuss brother, second only to him in eminence. Remember that the Greeks were sea goers; therefore, Poseidon was very important to them. He was the god of the sea. His wife was Amphitrite (granddaughter of the Titan, Ocean). They had a splendid palace under the ocean, but you could find them more often in Olympus. He gave the first horse to man. He also controlled the storm and calm. When he drove his golden chariot over the waters, tranquil peace prevailed. Poseidon was also known as the earth-shaker, meaning that he caused earthquakes. He carries the Trident, which is a three- pronged spear. Animals: the horse and the bull
HADES: (Pluto) He was the god of the underworld, god of wealth, and god of precious metals hidden in the earth. He is the third brother and he rules over the dead. He was far-famed for a cap or helmet that he owned which made the wearer invisible. He rarely leaves the underworld, because he is unwelcome in Olympus. He is unpitying and terrible, but not unjust. His wife is Persephone (Proserpine), whom he carried away from the earth and made queen of the underworld. He is king of the dead, but not death himself.
HESTIA: (Vesta) She is Zeuss sister and she is the oldest god. She is the guard of the hearth fire. Although she is one of the virgin goddesses, she has no distinct personality. She is more the symbol of the home. Children were carried around her before being received into the family. Meals begin and end with offering to her. Cities had public hearths to her where the fires were never allowed to go out. When they established new colonies, coals from the hearth of a city were carried to kindle the new cities hearth. In Rome, six virgin priestesses, called the vestal virgins, tended her fire. She is also said to be the protector of athletes.
ARES: (Mars) Son of Zeus and Hera, who both hate him. He is the god of war. He is often described as ruthless, bloodthirsty, murderous, and even cowardly. His sister is Eris (Discord) and his nephew is Strife. It is said that the goddess of war, Enyo, walks beside him with Terror, Trembling, and Panic. The Romans liked Mars much more than the Greeks liked Ares (according to the Aeneid). He is said to be Aphrodites lover in some myths. He is not a distinct personality – more of a symbol of war. There are no cities where he is worshipped. Bird: vulture ** Dog said to have been wronged by being chosen by him.
HEPHAESTUS: (Vulcan and Mulciber) He is the god of fire, the blacksmith to the gods, and patron of handicrafts. Some accounts hold that he is the son of Zeus and Hera, or Heras alone, born in retaliation for Zeus having brought forth Athena. He is the only ugly god, and he is lame as well. He was cast out of heaven either by Zeus, when Hephaestus defended Hera, or by Hera, when she saw he was deformed. However, according to Homer, he is in Olympus still. He is the workman of the immortals (armorer and smith). He did have handmaidens in his workshop – which was forged from gold – who helped him. His wife in the Iliad was Aglaia, but in the Odyssey, she was Aphrodite. He is a kindly, peace-loving, and popular god who is known as the protector of the smiths.
PALLAS ATHENA: (Minerva) She is the daughter of Zeus alone. No mother bore her. She sprang, full-grown and fully armored from his head. She is Zeuss favorite child and he trusted her to carry the awful Aegis and his thunderbolts. Most commonly known as Athena, she is the battle goddess and the goddess of wisdom. In early myths such as the Iliad, she is fierce and ruthless, but in later myths, she only defended her home from outside enemies. She was the goddess of the city (with Hephaestus), protector of civilized life, handicrafts, and agriculture. She was also the protector of weavers. Athena was the inventor of the bridle and although Poseidon gave the first horse to man she was the one who tamed the horses and made them useful. She is most often described as gray-eyed or flashing eyed and she is the chief of the (3) virgin goddesses; therefore, she was referred to as The Maiden. She had a temple at the Parthenon City: Athens Bird : owl Tree: Olive (It was created by her.)
PHOEBUS APOLLO: (Sol) He was the son of Zeus and Leto (Artemis twin). Born on the little island of Delos he is the god of light, truth(Phoebus means brilliant or shining), medicine, poetry, and the sun (Other myths name Helios the Sun god). He was also known as a healer – he taught men the healing arts. Apollo was a master musician of the golden lyre (given to him by Hermes). He was lord of the silver bow and the Archer-god. His oracle was the Oracle at Delphi, the most important shrine, and was considered to be the center of the world. At this shrine, the answers to pilgrims questions were answered by a priestess in a trance. (She was put into the trance by vapors rising from a cleft in the rock – which a stool was set over.) This was the only direct link between gods and men. It showed how to make peace with the gods and what their divine will was. There are a few myths where he is cruel. He once had a contest with a python that lived in the caves of Parnassus, but he won this frightful contest with his unerring arrows. Tree: Laurel Animals: Dolphin and crow were sacred to him Castalia was his sacred spring and Cephissus was his river.
ARTEMIS: (Diana) She was lady of the wild things and huntsman-in-chief to the gods. One of the three virgin goddesses. She was the protectress of the youth. As Apollo was the sun (Phoebus), she was the moon, called Phoebe and Selene (Luna in Latin). Selene was Helioss sister and by association became Artemis, too. Later she is identified with Hecate, and therefore is aptly named goddess in three forms. Selene in the sky, Artemis on Earth, and Hecate in the lower world and in darkness. Hecate was the Goddess of the Dark of the Moon; she was associated with deeds of darkness and ghostly places. In her the uncertainty between good and evil, which is present in every god, is most clearly shown. Tree: Cypress Animal: Deer (and really all wild animals.)
HERMES: (Mercury) Son of Zeus and Maia (daughter of Atlas). He was graceful and swift. He wore winged sandals and a low-crowned winged hat, and he carried a magic wand called the Caduceus. He was Zeuss messenger god, but he was more than that. He was the most cunning of the gods and was a master thief. He stole Apollos herds before he was even a day old, and created the lyre to give to Apollo to win back his forgiveness. He was the god of commerce and the market and the protector of traders. He is also the solemn guide of the dead, leading them to their final home.
APHRODITE: (Venus) The goddess of love and beauty, who beguiled men and gods alike, and could steal even the wits of the wise with her enchanting laughter. She is the daughter of Zeus and Dione in the Iliad, but in later poems is said to have sprung from the foam of the sea (aphros means foam is Greek). With her beauty comes and without her there is no love or beauty anywhere. She is also shown to have two sides: one where she is soft and weak, spreading love and joy and the other where she is treacherous and malicious, using her powers to hurt others (especially men). In most stories, she is the wife of Hephaestus and in some Cupid is her son. Tree: Myrtle Bird: dove (and sometimes the sparrow and the swan)
The Lesser Gods
LESSER GODS: 1.Pan – He is Hermes son and he is a noisy, merry god. He has goats horns and hooves. He was the Shepard god and the companion of the nymphs. However, he was never more than a companion because the nymphs rejected his love since he was so ugly. He was a wonderful musician who played pipes made of reeds. It is said that sounds heard in the wilderness at night are made by him, and that is where the word panic came from. 2.Silenus – Possibly Pans son (or his brother). He was a jovial, fat, old man who usually was depicted riding a donkey – because he was too drunk to walk. He is associated with Bacchus (Dionysus) – the wine god.
3.Castor and Pollux – These two were brothers who were the protectors of sailors. They were very important because the Greeks were sea- goers. They were the sons of Leda who was the wife of King Tyndareus of Sparta. The usual story is that she bore two children to him Castor and Clytemnestra and two to Zeus – who visited her in the form of a swan – Pollux and Helen (of Troy). They were considered very powerful in battle. 4.Sileni – There is little known about him, other than the fact that he was part man and part horse. He had two legs with hooves and a horses tail and ears.
5.Satyrs – They were the goat men and they were at home in wild places (like Pan). 6.Oreads – These were the nymphs of the mountains. 7.Dryads – They were the nymphs of the trees (very similar to the Oreads). 8.Naiads – These were the water nymphs who lived in the brooks, streams, and fountains. 9.Aeolus – He was the King of the Winds and he live on Earth in Aeolia. 10.Centaurs – They were half man and half horse and for the most part they are savage creatures. One, Chiron, was known everywhere for his goodness and wisdom.
11.Gorgons – There were three and two were immortal. They were dragon-like creatures with wings whose looks turned men into stone. 12.Sirens – Enchanting creatures whose looks were never described, they had beautiful voices and no one who ever saw them returned. 13.Fates – They were very important, because it is said that at birth they gave every man evil and good to have. 1.Clotho – the spinner, who spun the thread of life 2.Lachesis – the disposer of lots, who assigned each man his destiny 3.Atropos – who carried the abhorred shears, and cut the thread at death.
The Underworld: Hades and his queen Persephone rule the underworld. It is found beneath the secret places of the Earth and there are various entrances to it. There are two divisions to the underworld, Tartarus and Erebus. Tartarus is deeper and is the prison to the sons of earth. Erebus is the place where the dead pass as soon as they die. As is the case in most of mythology, the underworld varies according to each poet. Homer described it as a miserable, unreal dream, a vague and shadowy place that was inhabited by shadows. According to Virgil and later poets, it is a place where the wicked were punished and the good were rewarded.
Virgils geography: (Roman) There is a path leading down to where Acheron, the river of woe, pours into Cocytus, the river of lamentation. Charon is the aged boatman who ferries the souls of the dead across to the farther banks, but he will only do so if passage money is placed on the lips of the dead at death and they are duly buried. On the far banks, Cerberus, a three-headed dragon-tailed dog, guards the gates of the underworld. He will permit anyone to enter, but no one to leave. There are three judges who pass sentence on the dead upon their arrival. They are Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus. If you are found to be wicked, you are sent to everlasting torment. If you are found to be good, you are sent to the Elysian Fields, which is a place of perfect blessedness. There are three other rivers that separate the underworld from the earth: 1.Phlegethon: the river of fire 2.Styx: the river of unbreakable oath (by which the gods swear) 3.Lethe: the river of forgetfulness
Somewhere in this vast region is Plutos palace, surrounded by huge wastes and large meadows of ghostly, pallid flowers. No poet has ever really described it otherwise. The Erinyes (Furies) are also placed in the underworld where they punish evildoers. They were usually represented as three (Tisiphone, Megaera, and Alecto). According to Virgil, Sleep and Death (his brother) also dwelt in the lower world. Dreams ascended from there to men. They passed through two gates, one of horn for true dreams and one of ivory for false dreams.
The Lesser Gods of Olympus
1. Cupid (Eros) – he is the most important of the lesser gods. fairest of the deathless gods he is often portrayed as a serious youth who gives good gifts to men. Sometimes said to be Aphrodites son and sometimes only her companion. He is often represented as being blindfolded – because love is often blind. 2. Hebe – goddess of youth. She is the daughter of Zeus and Hera and there are no stories about her except that of her marriage to Hercules. 3. Iris – goddess of the rainbow and a messenger of the gods. 4. The Graces – the are never portrayed as separate personalities, but as a triple incarnation of beauty and grace. They are the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. a.Aglaia (splendor) b.Euphrosyne (mirth) c.Thalia (good cheer)
5.The Muses – they are nine in number and they are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. They are all of one mind, their hearts are set upon song and their spirit is free from care. He is happy whom the Muses love. They made men forget their sorrows and troubles. 6.Ocean – a Titan was lord of the river ocean the great river encircling the Earth. 7.Pontus – which means deep sea, was a son of Mother Earth and the father of Nereus. 8.Nereus – the Old Man of the Sea (Mediterranean) He was a trusty and gentle god who thinks just and kindly thoughts and never lies. His wife is Doris, a daughter of Ocean and they had 50 daughters (the Nereids). One Thetis was the mother of Achilles and another was Poseidons wife, Amphitrite. 9.Triton – the trumpeter of the sea. His trumpet was a great shell. He is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. 10.Proteus – was sometimes said to be Poseidons son, sometimes his attendant. He had the power of foretelling the future and changing his shape at will.
Two Great Gods of Earth
Two Great Gods of Earth: Most gods at best were troublesome, but two were the humans best friends: 1. Demeter (Ceres) – goddess of the corn – daughter of Cronus and Rhea. 2. Dionysus (Bacchus) – god of wine Cornfields before vineyards – first cultivation. It was appropriate that Demeter was a goddess because women tended the fields. They were worshipped not with bloody sacrifices, but with humble acts that made fields fruitful. Chief festival was at harvest – September – every five years. Lasted for nine days. Most sacred days with sacrifices, processions, etc. Other parts of the festival were held in the temples, but little is known about that because the participants took a vow of silence. Dionysus was soon linked with Demeter, and they were worshipped together, which made sense because they were both essential to daily living.
DEMETERS TALE : Hades kidnaps Persephone, Demeters daughter, and takes her down to underworld. Demeter leaves Olympus and wanders the earth as an aged woman. Four maidens take her in (her story is that she fled from pirates and slavery). Their mother (Mataneira) tells them to bring her home. She becomes the nurse of mothers young son Demophoon. She tries to give him immortal life by feeding him ambrosia and placing him, at night, in the red-hot fire. The mother finds out by watching one night and screams. Demeter seizes her and flings her on the ground. She shows herself as a goddess and demands that a temple be built to win back her favor. They willingly built the temple, which Demeter inhabits, but that year nothing grew – famine would destroy the earth. Zeus sends gods to change her mind, but she is unwavering. The earth will not bear fruit until her daughter is returned to her. Zeus sends for Hades.
Persephone wants to go, but Hades makes her eat pomegranate seeds, because he knows then she will have to return. Persephone returned and reunited with her mother; however, Demeter is worried about the pomegranate seeds. Rhea offers a compromise. Her daughter will return to Hades four months out of every year. One for each seed she ate. Demeter makes the fields grow again. Persephone, the maiden of spring and summer, dies every year. That is why we have the seasons. Fall is Persephone dying, winter is her dead, and spring and summer are her rebirth.
DIONYSUS TALE: Dionysus was the last god to enter Olympus and the only god whose parents were not both divine. Thebes was his city, and his mother was the Theban princess, Semele. Zeus was so smitten by Semele that he told her he would do anything she asks, he swears by the river Styx and therefore cannot take it back. She tells him that she wants to see him in his full glory as King of Heaven and Lord of the Thunderbolt. This wish was put into her heart by Hera, and Zeus knew that no mortal could see him like that and live, but he had sworn by the river Styx and there was nothing he could do. He comes to her like that and she dies, but he takes her unborn child, who is near birth and hides him in his side until he was ready to be born. Then he was sent to the nymphs of Nysa, the loveliest of all the earths valleys.
It is said that Zeus later placed them in the heavens as stars, the stars that bring rain when they near the horizon. So, Dionysus was born of fire and nursed by rain, the hard burning heat that ripens the fruit and the water that keeps the plant alive. He grew to manhood and wandered, teaching men the culture of the vine and the mysteries of his worship and everywhere he was accepted as a god. One day, near Greece, a group of sailors saw him. They believed he had a noble presence and that he was the son of kings who would pay ransom for his return. They seized him and tried to tie him with rope. They ropes would not stay. Every time they touched his hands or his feet they would fall away, and he sat there looking at them with a smile. The helmsman was the only one who realized that this must be a god and told them to set him free or great harm would come to them.
They did not listen and suddenly wine ran in streams down the deck, and vines overtook the ship. Dionysus turned into a lion and the sailors jumped over the side of the boat in fear. They were instantly turned into dolphins; all except the helmsman who Dionysus held back telling him he had found favor with one who was indeed a god. Those who opposed him or mocked him were destroyed. He rescued Ariadne and falls in love with her. When she died, it is said that he took a crown that he had given her and placed it among the stars. He also rescues Semele from Hades and takes her to Olympus to dwell with the gods. She is a mortal, but she is the mother of a god and therefore fit to live in Olympus.
He could be kind and beneficent or cruel and harsh. For example, the Maenads, also known as the Bacchantes, were mad women frenzied by wine who did terrible deeds including capturing wild animals, tearing them to shreds, and eating their raw flesh. His worship was a contrast of freedom and ecstatic joy and savage brutality. Pentheus, King of Thebes, refuses to recognize or listen to warnings that Dionysus was a god. Madwomen see him as a mountain lion and tear him apart. He was like the wine itself – can warm and cheer, or can destroy and make them commit frightful crimes. His festival was the beginning of Greek drama/theatre. Especially tragedies – appropriate for Dionysus who causes his own pain. He died in the winter, but his death was terrible – torn to pieces by Titans on Heras orders, only to be resurrected and die again. (Rebirth – life as stronger than death.) He was the tragic god.
In the beginning, there was only chaos and darkness, an empty void. This huge vacancy gave birth to Gaea (the earth), to Tartarus (the great region beneath the earth), to Erebus (the darkness of the underworld), and Night (the darkness over the earth). Then Erebus slept with Night, who gave birth to Ether (the heavenly light), and to Day (the earthly light ). How the World and Mankind Were Created:
Later Night alone produced Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, Dreams, Nemesis, etc. Meanwhile Gaea alone produced Uranus (the starry sky), the Mountains, and Pontus (the sterile sea). Uranus became mate and equal to Gaea, because he "covered" her on all sides. As a couple (he-sky, her-earth) they procreated the Twelve Titans, the three Cyclopes, and the three Hecatoncheires (with the fifty heads and hundred arms each).
Uranus hated these latter children, and they hated him. In anger, he pushed them back into Gaea's womb and kept them there. This was very painful for Gaea and she plotted revenge against Uranus. She fashioned a flint sickle and called upon her children to avenge her. All but Cronus, the youngest Titan, refused to help her for fear of Uranus's wrath.
That night, when Uranus came to lie with Gaea, Cronus, hiding in ambush, was able to grab his father's genitals and sever them with the flint sickle. As the blood fell to the earth the Furies, the Ash-Tree Nymphs, and the Giants were created. When Cronus heaved the testicles into the sea Aphrodite arose from the foam. We hear no more of Uranus in the myths.
Cronus then became leader of the Titans, and confined the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires to Tartarus. He married his sister Rhea, and they produced many offspring. But Cronus had been warned by both Uranus and Gaea that a child of his would replace him as leader of the Titans, so when Rhea gave birth to a child and presented it to Cronus, he would swallow the baby. This is what happened to Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon shortly after each was born. The Rise Of Cronus
Rhea finally wised up, and when Zeus was born she presented Cronus a stone wrapped in the swaddling clothes, which he swallowed thinking it was the newest child. Zeus grew to manhood on the island of Crete, attended to by nymphs. He sought and got advice from Metis, another Titaness, who prepared an emetic potion for him. Soon, disguised as a cupbearer, he was able to get Cronus to drink the potion. Cronus immediately vomited up all the children he had swallowed, all safe and sound, and fully-grown. They overwhelmed Cronus and bound him as a prisoner in Tartarus. Then began a great war between the Titans and the Olympians with the Olympians as the winner. Many Titans were punished for their part in the war, including Atlas whose punishment was the weight of the world.
Two Titans were spared, because of their loyalty to Zeus during the war: Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus was given the task of creating men. He took clay from the earth and fashioned figures from it and then Athena breathed life into the men. Meanwhile, Epimetheus was given the task of assigning qualities to the animals that populated the earth. He had many qualities to give out, strength, cunning, quickness, etc., but when Prometheus brought his creation to receive his gift, Epimetheus had already given all the good qualities away. They decide to make men walk up right like the gods did as their special quality. After the Great War
Prometheus loved his creations and he wanted to help them in whatever way he could, so he went to the sun and lit a torch to give to the men to use for cooking and warmth. Zeus was mad that Prometheus had stolen fire for the men and he demanded that something be done to regain he favor. Here again, Prometheus wanted to help his men friends so he tricked Zeus. He took an animal for sacrifice and he took the good meat and covered it with entrails. Then he took the guts, eyeballs and all the unusable part in another pile and covered it with shiny fat. Finally, he gave Zeus the choice of which he wanted. Zeus took the pile covered with shiny fat thinking it to have meat underneath. He had been tricked and from then on the men got to keep the good part of the animal to use and they gave all the unusable parts to Zeus as a sacrifice. Now Zeus is very angry and he seeks revenge by putting out all the fire on earth. Prometheus, once again, stole fire for men and Zeus declared that he would be punished.
Zeus is also angry with Prometheus because Prometheus knows which of Zeuss children will overthrow him and he will not tell Zeus. As punishment for his three sins against Zeus, Prometheus is chained to a rock with unbreakable chains and every day an eagle comes and tears out his liver (every night it grew again because Prometheus was immortal.) This torture would continue until one of two conditions was fulfilled. Prometheus could tell Zeus who would dethrone him OR An immortal had to agree to die for him and a mortal had to break the chains. Eventually, the second condition was met: Chiron the Centaur volunteered to die for Prometheus, and Hercules broke the chains.
Zeus was also angry with man for their part in the entire affair and because Prometheus cared so much about them, that he decided to punish them as well. He created woman (Pandora) as punishment. She was given beauty and charm cunning and curiosity. Men were enthralled with her. Prometheus warned to be cautious of gifts from Zeus. She found a secret box and was told by her husband, Epimetheus, never to open it – which of course she did (because of the curiosity in her nature.) When the box was opened, it unleashed all manners of plagues and sickness upon the earth. However, Prometheus had also slipped Hope into the box, and it was hope that saved mankind.
Hercules: The greatest hero of Greece. Very different from Theseus (Hero of the Athenians). Hercules was the strongest man on Earth and he had the self-confidence that went along with physical strength. He considered himself equal with the gods – they needed his help to conquer the giants. Throughout his life, he had the perfect confidence that he could not be defeated. In the end, he was killed by magic. However, for all his strength, intelligence was not a strong suit of Hercules (he once was too hot and pointed an arrow at the sun and threatened to shoot it.) He was extremely emotional. Such emotions in such a strong man could be endearing, but were often fatal because of his rage. After the surge of rage had passed, he would humbly agree to any punishment proposed. Without his consent he could not have been punished by anyone, yet nobody ever endured so many punishments.
He was born in Thebes and for a long time he was thought to be the son of Amphitryon, a distinguished general. In reality, he was the son of Zeus, who had visited Alcmena (Amphitryons wife) in the shape of her husband while he was away fighting. She bore two children: Hercules to Zeus and Iphicles to Amphitryon. Before the boys were a year old, Hera, in her jealous rage, was determined to kill Hercules. At midnight one night, two great snakes crawled into the childrens nursery. As they reared up above the crib, the children awoke. Iphicles screamed and tried to get out of bed. Hercules grabbed each snake by the throat and held them fast. The snakes wound their bodies around him, but still he held them. Alcmena and Amphitryon heard Iphicles cries and came running. There was Hercules holding two huge limp bodies, and it was known from that day forth that he was destined for greatness. Teiresias, the blind prophet, said that people would sing of Hercules and that he would be the hero of all mankind.
Hercules is said to have killed many innocents without meaning to, because he was unaware of his great strength. Hercules fought and conquered the Minyans who had been making the Thebans pay a large tribute. The Thebans gave him the hand of Princess Megara as a reward. He was devoted to her and their children. When she had bore him three sons, Hera sent a madness upon Hercules and he killed his children and Megara, too, as she tried to protect the youngest. When his sanity returned he found himself in his bloodstained hall, the dead bodies around him, confused as to what had happened. Watching from a distance Amphitryon saw that the fit was over and approached Hercules to reveal to him what had happened. Hercules was distraught and determined to kill himself; however, the friendship of Theseus saved him.
Theseus took Herculess bloody hands, a gesture that would have defiled him and given him part in Hercules guilt. Theseus Told him he could not be guilty if he knew not what he was doing and offered him refuge in his city. Hercules took the offer, but he only stayed there a short time. His guilt was unbearable and he went to the oracle to ask for advice. The priestess told him he must be purified. She sent him to his cousin Eurystheus, King of Mycenae, and told Hercules to submit to him. He went willingly. It is plain from the rest of the story that the priestess knew what Eurystheus was like. When the strongest man on Earth came to him and offered himself to be a slave, Eurystheus devised, urged by Hera, 12 all but impossible tasks. They are called The Labors of Hercules.
The Labors Of Hercules HUH?! ? Lets trade. You hold the world and Ill get the apples.
1.The first was to kill the lion of Nemea, a beast no weapons could wound. Hercules solved that problem by choking the breath out of him. He carried the body back; however, after that Eurystheus would not let Hercules back into the city. He gave him his orders from afar. 2.Next Hercules was to go to Lerna and kill a creature with nine heads called the Hydra. This was very hard because one of the heads was immortal, and the others, if you cut them off would spring up two in that place. He was helped by his nephew Iolaus who brought him a burning brand, which he used to sear each neck as he cut the head off so that another one could not sprout. The immortal head he buried under a great rock.
3.He was to bring back a stag with horns of gold that was sacred to Artemis and lived in the forests of Cerynitia – ALIVE. He could have killed it easily, but to bring it back alive took him an entire year. 4.Then he was to capture a great boar that had its lair on Mount Erymanthus. He chased the beast from one place to another until it was exhausted and he drove it into the deep snow and trapped it. 5.Next, he was to clean the Augean stables in one day. Augeus had thousands of cattle and the stalls had not been cleaned out for years. Hercules diverted two rivers to make them flow through the stables and had them cleaned quickly. 6.He was to drive away the Stymphalian birds, which were a plague because of there enormous numbers. Athena helped by driving them out of their coverts and he shot them as they flew up.
7.He had to get the savage bull that Poseidon gave to King Minos. He captured it, put it in a boat, and brought it back. 8.Next, he had to get the man-eating mares of King Diomedes. He killed Diomedes and drove the horses off unopposed. 9.He was to bring back the girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. She gladly gave it to him, but Hera interfered, making the Amazons think that Hercules was trying to take their queen and they charged him. He killed Hippolyta, forgetting how kind she had been and assuming her responsible for the attack. He managed to get away with the girdle. 10.Next, he was to bring back the oxen of Geryon, a monster with three bodies. On his way, Hercules reached the land at the end of the Mediterranean and set up two great rocks as a memorial to his journey (now Gilbralter and Ceuta). Then he took the oxen back.
11.He then had to get the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, but he did not know where they were. Atlas was the father of Hesperides and Hercules asked him to get the apples for him. Atlas gladly gave the burden of the world to Hercules. He came back with the apples and told Hercules that he could keep on holding up the sky that Atlas would take the apples for him. For once Hercules had his wits about him, for he agreed – if Atlas would take the burden back long enough for Hercules to put a pad on his shoulders. Once Atlas bore the weight again, Hercules picked up the apples and went on his way. (It was during this time that he freed Prometheus. 12.The last labor was the worst. He had to go to the underworld and bring Cerberus – the three-headed dog – up from Hades. He was given permission to take him if he used no weapons except for his hands. He conquered the terrible beast, lifted him up, and carried him to Mycenae. While he was in the underworld, he freed Theseus from the Chair of Forgetfulness. Eurystheus did not want to keep Cerberus and made Hercules take him back.
After he had made atonement for the death of his wife and children, Hercules had many other adventures. He fought for the hand of his next wife, Deianira. On their way home they reached a river where Centaur Nessus acted as a ferryman. He took Deianira on his back and midway across the river he insulted her. She screamed in fury and Hercules shot him as he reached the other bank. Before he died, he told Deianira to take some of his blood and use it as a charm for Hercules, should he ever love another woman more than her.
One of the worst things that Hercules ever did led indirectly to his own death. He deliberately killed his good friend in order to avenge an insult offered to him by the young mans father, King Eurytus. Zeus punished him for this, making him a slave to a Queen for a year. She would sometimes even make him dress as a woman and do a womans chores. He swore revenge on the King. As soon as he was free, he collected an army, captured the Kings city and put him to death. Before he completed the destruction of the city, Hercules sent a band of maidens home to his wife. The man who brought them told Deianira that Hercules was madly with one of them named Iole. She took the centaurs blood and anointed a robe with it and sent it to Hercules. When he put the robe on a great pain seized him and he lived in torture. He could still kill others, but it seemed that Hercules could not die. Deianira heard about what her gift had done to him and she killed herself. Hercules would eventually do the same. He ordered a great pyre be built on Mount Oeta. He was carried to it and he knew that he could die and he was glad. He lay down on the pyre as one upon a couch. He was taken to Heaven where he reconciled with Hera and married her daughter Hebe.
Oedipus Rex There was once a young man named Oedipus. As he approached manhood, he went to the Oracle at Delphi to ascertain what his fate was. The oracle told him that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Determined that this would not happen, Oedipus left his home, Corinth leaving behind his father, the king, Polybus. In his wandering, he came to Thebes, which was plagued by the Sphinx. The Sphinx was a creature like a winged lion, who lay in wait of travelers and when they came she seized them and gave them a riddle to solve.
She promised that if they succeeded she would set them free, but no one ever answered the riddle correctly. No one could solve her riddle and when Oedipus heard this story he set out to find her and solve the riddle. He was a homeless, friendless man and his life meant little to him. When he found her she asked him, What creature goes on four feet in the morning, on two at noonday, on three in the evening?
Man, was his answer and he was correct. The sphinx inexplicably killed herself. The Thebans were so happy that they offered Oedipus the hand of their recently widowed queen as a reward. He became king and they lived happily for many years having two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, and two two daughters, Antigone and Ismene. When their sons had grown to manhood, Thebes was visited by a terrible plague. Everything was dying - men, crops, and livestock. Jocastas brother Creon went to the Oracle at Delphi to ask for help.
He returned with good news. The plague would be stayed if they found who had murdered King Laius, Jocastas first husband, and punished him. Oedipus was relieved and began his search immediately. He went to Teiresias, the blind prophet, and asked him to reveal what he knew. Teiresias refused, but when pushed told Oedipus that he himself was the murderer. When He told Jocasta of the strange encounter, she replied that it was impossible, that Laius was killed by robbers at a place where three roads met. Oedipus was shocked and asked how many men were with Laius.
She told him that there were five in all – all killed but one. He sent for the man, telling his wife that before he came to Thebes he met a man with four attendants at the place where three roads meet. The man pushed him out of the way and struck him with a stick. Angry, Oedipus killed them. While they were talking, a messenger came from Corinth and told Oedipus that Polybus was dead. Learning that Oedipus had fled his home to avoid killing his father the messenger smiled wisely and told Oedipus that Polybus was not his real father.
The messenger told Oedipus that he had gotten Oedipus from a servant of Laius, and Polybus had taken him as his own to raise. The servant came in and did not want to tell what he knew, nut eventually relented, telling Oedipus that he was given orders to kill the child, but that he hadnt the heart. He told Oedipus of a prophecy that the child was destined to kill his father – Laius. He gave the child to the messenger, who gave him to Polybus.
In running from his fate, Oedipus had unwittingly run right into it. He fled his hometown in fear of killing his father. Along the way, he killed a King – Laius. The other attendant of Laius had hidden while his friends were slaughtered and not wanting to admit his own cowardice had made up a story of robbers who had killed the King, when it had actually been one man. Both Oedipus and Laius had tried to circumvent the predictions of the Oracle, and in doing so, both had caused the tragedy to occur.
As the messenger and servant were talking, Jocasta, who knew more of the story than Oedipus, had run from the room, begging Oedipus to listen no more. When he went to find her and ask her if the story was true, he found that she had hung herself. Taking a brooch from her dress, he stabbed out his eyes, feeling that it was a relief to no longer see the world that had once been so bright. Oedipus, naturally, resigned as King, and Jocastas brother Creon takes the throne.