Most stories in mythology stay away from dark or supernatural powers. The demonic wizards and the hideous old witches who haunted Europe and America, too, up to quite recent years, play no part at all in the stories. The ideas of dark arts, if you will, didnt peak the interests of early audiences enjoying Greek mythology. In recent years, this type of genre in modern media has become very popular. This shows the differences between what people cared about in entertainment back then, compared to now.
Circe and Medea (the only witches) are described as young, beautiful, and delightful. Not what most think of when talking about witches.
Chapter One: The Gods
1. Cronus (Uranus): Cronus was the most important of the Elder Gods. Zues, (his son) dethroned him and seized the power over all other Titans.
2. Zues (Jupiter): Zues was called the Lord of the Sky, Rain-God, Cloud Gatherer, and wielded thunderbolts. If all the divinities combined their power, Zuess power would still be greater.
3. Hera (Juno): She was known as the protector of marriage and grew a reputation for punishing the many women who Zuess fell in love with. She was Zuess wife and sister.
4. Poseidon (Neptune): He was Zuess brother and ruler of the sea. He was married to Amphitrite, the granddaughter of the Titan Ocean.
5. Hades (Pluto): He was the ruler of the dead and resided in the underworld. He was also referred to as God of Wealth, of the precious metals in the earth.
6. Pallas Athena (Minerva): Without a mother to give birth to her, she was the daughter of Zeus alone. She is the battle-goddess and described as fierce and ruthless.
7. Phoebus Apollo: He is the most Greek of all the gods and called the master musician. He was born on the island of Delos.
8. Artemis (Diana): Because of her birth on Mount Cynthus, she was also called Cynthia. She was the huntsman-in-chief to the gods, and known as the Lady of Wild Things.
9. Aphrodite (Venus): She was known as the Goddess of Love and Beauty. When described, it was said that she was irresistible and stole the wits of the wise.
10. Hermes (Mercury): The son of Zues and Maia who is famous for his winged sandals, Hermes was the messenger for Zues. He appears the most compared to any other god in mythology.
11. Ares (Mars): He was the son of Zues and Hera, and was known as the God of War. He has been described as murderous, bloodstained, the incarnate curse of mortals; and, stangely, a coward.
12. Hephaestus (Vulcan): Described as ugly and lame, he was known as the God of Fire. He is believed to be the son of Zues and Hera, but possibly Hera alone, who had him out of anger towards Zues.
13. Hestia (Vesta): Just like Athena and Artemis, Hesita was a virgin goddess. She was Zuess sister, and known as the Goddess of the Hearth.
14. Eros (Cupid): He is the God of Love, and fairest of the deathless gods. His greatest glory is that he cannot do wrong nor allow it, says Plato.
15. Iris: is the Goddess of the Rainbow. She was a messenger of the gods in the Iliad, but not replaced by Hermes in later writings.
16. the Muses: The 9 daughters of Zues and Mnemosyne. There used to be no extinction from each other, but later each had their own special field.
17. Pan: He was Hermes noisy and merry son. He was also part animal, sporting goat horns and hoofs.
18. Demeter (Ceres): She was the middle daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Demeter was one of the original twelve Olympians and one of the supreme deities of the earth.
19. Dionysus (Bacchus): Known as the God of the Vine, Dionysus was also one of the supreme deities of earth, alongside Demeter. He was the son of Zues and Semele, which made him the only god with a mortal parent.
Chapter Two: The Two Great Gods of Earth Were Created
When visiting this chapter of Edith Hamiltons Mythology, were greeted by the fact that
immortal gods were of little use to human beings, meaning that oftentimes humans felt little to no connection to these immortal beings. Something that fuels interest of audiences is relatability. No one will ever relate to being immortal and having supernatural powers like Zues or Poseidon. However, people often draw to an idea or person who they see themselves in. This is where Demeter and Dionysus come into play. They experience human emotions just like us. While Demeter experiences tremendous depression after her child is kidnapped by Hades, Dionysus life is full of sadness, including the tragic story of his birth. In these ways the Demeter and Dionysus are very similar. Even though the two characters are similar, they definitely have their differences too. Dionysus, being the God of Wine, is often associated with ecstasy and the ups and downs which wine can have on a person. Demeter represents motherly love for her child. These two ideas that the two gods represent, dont exactly coincide with each other.
Chapter Three: How the World and Mankind Were Created
Chaos gives birth to Night and Erebus out of swirling energy. From Night and Erebus comes Love who then produces Light and Day.
The creation of Earth remains unexplained as it appears from Love, Light, and Day. Earth produces Heaven and Mother Earth who proceeded to create all life.
Mother Earth started creating life by producing a group of horrible monsters. These included Cyclopes with 1 eye and beings with 50 heads and 100 hands.
Titans are now born and one of the main Titans, (Cronus) eliminates Father Heaven and then proceeds to rule the universe. After this, the Giants and Furies have been created.
Cronus starts to eat each of his own children as they are born because of news one is fated to kill him. Rhea, (his wife) hides one out of anger towards Cronus, and the baby grows up to be Zues. Zues forces Cronus to regurgitate every one of his children.
The siblings of Zues join forces to take down the Titans, with help from Prometheus. With the help from the monsters who had been enslaved by the Titans, Zues and his siblings win the fight.
The Titans are now chained up in the bowels of the earth. The only Titans who remain free are Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus. Their other brother, Atlas, must forever carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.
At this time, the earth was believed to be a disk separated into parts by the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The mystical river known as Ocean flowed around the disk, on the outskirts of the earth.
Chapter Four: The Earliest Heroes
Prometheus and Io
Prometheus is chained up in the Caucasus, who sometimes comforts a heifer. The cow turns out to be a woman named Io, who was seduced by Zues, then turned into a cow after Hera retalliated in anger. Hera imprisons the cow, but Zues sends Hermes to rescue and free Io. Hera finds out that Io was rescued and proceeds to send a gadfly to annoy her endlessly Io to no end, which forces her to wander throughout the world. Soon after meeting Prometheus, Io now learns she will soon be turned back into a human and carry Zuess son. This son turns out to be Hercules, who ends up freeing Prometheus.
One day, Zues spots Europa in the fields one day and decides he wants her. Zues proceeds to turn into a bull, and Europa is intrigued. She gets on the bulls back and Zues chargers over the sea to Crete, which is away from where Hera can see Zues. Zues now turns into his normal form and proceeds to seduce Europa.
The Cyclops and Polyphemus
The Cyclopes were monsters who were the only original children of earth who weren’t banished after the victory of the Olympians. They were also the forgers of Zuess thunderbolts. One of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, is plagued by the tragic fact that the beautiful sea nymph Galatea doesnt return his feelings of love towards her.
Flower-Myths: Narcissus, Hyacinth, Adonis
In the 1st story of the narcissus flower, Zues uses the flower as bait to help Hades kidnap Demeters daughter, Peresphone. The 2nd story tells the tale of the handsome young man, Narcissus. Many admire his beauty but he often breaks the hearts of those who find him attractive. One whose heart was broken, was echo, who only repeated what was said to her, hence the modern definition of echo. Then Nemesis, the personification of righteous anger, punishes Narcissus, causing him to only love himself. While gazing at his reflection in a pool of water, he falls into the water, and dies. The nymphs then create a flower named after Narcissus.
Apollo accidentally kills his friend, Hyacinth, with a discus. This causes the flower to be created. However, in another version, Zephyr causes the discus to strike Hyacinth, and Apollo creates the flower out of remembrance and respect.
Adonis was a very handsome young man. So handsome in fact that even Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is enamored by him. During a hunt, a boar kills him, and Adonis forever is stuck in Peresphones realm of the dead. The red anemone springs up where his blood makes contact with the ground.
Throughout these stories we get quite a bit more insight into Zuess life. His actions during these stories are often questionable and obscene. He always makes decisions based off of what he feels without even taking into consideration the ideas or thoughts of others. This makes Zues look like an awful personality. He seduces women for his own pleasure, and suffers little to no consequences. However, these women who are seduced often suffer all of the repercussions of Zuess terrible doings. Io is turned into a cow, and after facing punishment from Hera, wanders the earth for many years. After all of this suffering she must bear the child of Zues. All of this while Zues more less just sits back and does nothing. In another case of Zues mistreating someone, he changes to the form of a bull just to seduce Europa. Zues waits till hes just out of Heras sight and uses Europa. Today we see Zues often described as a hero in many ways, but after closer inspection, you can find the true qualities of Zues.
Chapters Five and Six: Cupid and Psyche / Eight Brief Tales of Lovers
Cupid and Psyche
The princess Psyche is so beautiful, men worship her instead of Venus, which causes Venus to send Cupid to try and make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest creature in the world. Cupid falls in love with Psyche and Venus is upset that she has defied her once again. Venus makes Psyche perform 4 tasks, which include sorting seeds, fetching the golden wool from wild sheep, filling a flask with water from the river of Styx, and journey to the underworld. Psyche performs all of these but she falls into a deep sleep, Cupid convinces Jupiter to make her immortal, and Venus finally accepts her.
Pyramus and Thisbe
Pyramus and Thisbe are in two families that hate each other, but they decide to elope. Thisbe goes to meet Pyramus but leaves and drops her cloak because a lioness was there. Upon finding the bloody cloak, Pyramus believes Thisbe was killed, and Pryamus kills himself. Thisbe returns to find Thisbe dead, and in turn, kills herself.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus is a talented musician whose music moves anyone or anything. His wife is killed, and using his music, journeys to the underworld to convince Hades to let Eurydice return to the world of the living. Hades agrees but Orpheus cannot look at Eurydice once during their return home, or else Eurydice will go back to the underworld forever. Orpheus makes the decision to turn around and ends up getting killed by Maenads.
Ceyx and Alcyone
Ceyx, the king of Thessaly goes on a long journey while his wife, Alcyone, stays home and prays for him to the gods, particularly Juno. His ship had already been wrecked, but Juno sent Alcyone a dream tells her what befell him. Alcyone wakes up from the dream and rushes to the shore to find the body of Ceyx. The gods turn both of them into birds and they fly together endlessly.
Pygmalion and Galatea
A sculptor named Pygmalion hated women, and his only form of comfort is through his art. He designs a statue of a woman which is so beautiful, he falls in love with it. Venus rewards Pygmalion by making the statue come to life. He named her Galatea.
Baucis and Philemon
Jupiter and Mercury set off to earth to test friendliness of the people living in Phrygia. The only people kind to them are an old poor couple whose names are Baucis and Philemon. Jupiter and Mercury reveal themselves, and flood Phrygia and the people living there except for Baucis and Philemon. The gods offer to grant one wish they desire and Baucis and Philemon choose to never be apart from each other.
Endymion is an attractive young man who was a shepherd. He was loved by Selene, the Moon. She magically casts a spell which puts him to sleep, and she visits him during his sleep. However she is deeply depressed because he can never love her back.
Daphne is a beautiful nymph who is loved by Apollo. He pursues her but she refuses, and she is chased all the way to her father, the river god Peneus. Peneus transforms Daphne into a laurel tree. Apollo claims it will forever be his sacred tree.
Chapter Seven: The Quest of the Golden Fleece
Jason is a very unique character that we get to learn about extensively in The Quest of the Golden Fleece. When we are first introduced to Jason, he is very confident. Pelias is described as being scared upon seeing Jason, because of the oracle about the man with one sandal. Even though it is erie to Pelias that the prophecy came true, Pelias probably wouldnt be scared if the man wasnt intimidating. After Pelias shows the journey Jason must take, Jason doesnt rises up to the idea of an adventure quickly. He shows a type of confidence and carefreeness people often associate with young people. Throughout the tasks Jason remains to be a charming character. It makes sense that people help him when he needs it the most during the life threatening tasks. Jason returns home from the quest to awful news about his parents’ death. As one can assume, this takes a toll on a persons personality and may change them for the worst. Now the charming young man in Jason feels betrayed and seeks revenge on Pelias. Out of her love for Jason, Medea starts planning revenge to kill Pelias and bring back Jasons father. However, lots of this seems to be Medeas doing while Jason still seems to be a flat character, until his marriage to the daughter of the King of Corinth. Jason showed the meanness that was in him, brilliant hero though he had seemed to be (Hamilton, 175). Though the marriage didnt seem much to Jason it was not the smartest thing to do knowing Medea, who was madly in love with him, would hear about it. After Medea arranged the death of his wife he came full of fury for what she had done to his bride (Hamilton, 179). He seems very ignorant at this point of his story. They carried her away through the air out of his sight as he cursed her, never himself, for what had come to pass, (Hamilton, 179). Jason shows no growth throughout his story. The same young man who acted quickly to adventure when offered was the same ignorant and immature person who never cursed himself for what had come to pass.
Chapter Eight: Four Great Adventures
Phaethon shows us that pride can overcome someones critical thinking. But none of this wise talk meant anything to the boy. A glorious prospect opened before him (Hamilton 182). Phaethon thinks only of the future and the glory that will come after his journey. He skips over the warnings and negatives that come along with this journey. Proudly and joyously Phaethon mounted it and they were off (Hamilton 183). This clearly states the emotions that were flowing through him before the chariots were sent free. Deep down, he probably knows that his decision to fly the chariot will end in his demise, but his foolishness got the better of him.
Bellerophon shows excessive hubris after the defeat of the Chimera, Solymi, and the Amazons. His eager ambition along with his great success led him to think thoughts too great of a man, the thing of all others the gods objected to. (Hamilton 190). After the failed journey to Olympus, he realizes his foolishness and doesnt let himself be seen out of humiliation. This is proved on page 190, when Hamilton states, Thereafter, Bellerophon, hated of the gods, wandered alone, devouring his own soul and avoiding the paths of men until he died. (Hamilton 190). Bellerophon was a great warrior until the mistake that lead to his demise. His great hubris ruined the rest of his life.
The tale of Daedalus and Icarus echoes the same lessons taught throughout the story of Pinnochio. The comparison is fitting because of the similar relationships between the main characters in the two stories. Both stories have a father figure, who in this story is Daedalus, and a son who doesnt listen to their father and gets into trouble. However, as stories often show, what elders say youth disregards. (Hamilton 193). After being clearly warned by his father, Icarus doesnt care and selfishly does what he wants. This decision of flying too close to the sun, leads to Icaruss demise.
Chapter Nine – Twelve: Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, Atalanta (of the boar hunt)
From a young age, Theseus was destined to be a heroic character. Aegus went back to Athens before the child was born, but first he placed in a hollow a sword and a pair of shoes and covered them with a great stone (Hamilton 209). Theseus grew strong and pushed away the stone with ease. Not many other people of his age could do such a thing. Theseus was a special case. On his journey, he encounters fierce bandits including Sciron, Sinis, Procrustes. He doesnt just get past these bandits. Each one he killed differently, using the same methods the bandits used to kill others. Just like any heroic act this tale spread far and Theseus had already become a hero. When he reached Athens he was an acknowledged hero and he was invited to a banquet by the King (Hamilton 211). After the death of his love interest, Ariadne, he shows remorse. His sadness keeps him from remembering to put up the black flag, which in turn, leads to King Aegeuss death. However, he overcame this hard time in his life and wanted to do good as the new King of Athens He declared to the people that he did not wish to rule over them; he wanted a peoples government where all would be equal. (Hamilton 216). He was a wise and good king. What matters most in a hero is not just how they act immediately during a battle, but what they do in the long term. Theseus proved himself as a young warrior, and as a sharp-witted king. A part of the story that has some mystery to it is when Theseus forgets to put up the white flag on his journey home. Some may speculate and argue that this was a plot of his to get on the throne as King of Athens.
Perseus didnt exactly have the most comfortable of early lives. When in the carven chest the winds and waves struck into fear into her heart she put her arms, not without tears, round Perseus tenderly she said, O son, what grief is mine. But you sleep softly, little child (Hamilton 199). Despite all of that, one main thing that is a natural trait of heroism, is independence. The perfect example of this is Perseuss fight big fight with Medusa. Two great gods were watching over him (Hamilton 201). Before his encounter with Medusa he is helped by Hermes, Athena, and the nymphs of the North. His entire mission sounds like more of a scavenger hunt, in which he travels to find out who will help him next. Though he is well assisted by many, it still is quite the feat to conquer Medusa.