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Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.
The Greek myths were initially propagated in an oral-poetic tradition most likely by Minoan and Mycenaean singers starting in the 18th century BC; eventually the myths of the heroes of the Trojan War and its aftermath became part of the oral tradition of Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are also preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians and comedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age, and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.
Aside from this narrative deposit in ancient Greek literature, pictorial representations of gods, heroes, and mythic episodes featured prominently in ancient vase-paintings and the decoration of votive gifts and many other artifacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.
Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes.
The Amazons (Greek: Ἀμαζόνες, Amazónes, singular Ἀμαζών, Amazōn) are a nation of all-female warriors in Classical and Greek mythology. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia (modern territory of Ukraine). Other historiographers place them in Asia Minor or Libya.
Notable queens of the Amazons are Penthesilea, who participated in the Trojan War, and her sister Hippolyta, whose magical girdle was the object of one of the labours of Hercules. Amazonian raiders were often depicted in battle with Greek warriors in amazonomachies in classical art. The Amazons have become associated with various historical peoples throughout the Roman Empire period and Late Antiquity. In Roman historiography, there are various accounts of Amazon raids in Asia Minor. From the Early Modern period, their name has become a term for woman warriors in general.
The origin of the word is uncertain. It may be derived from an Iranian ethnonym *ha-mazan-, "warriors", a word attested as a denominal verb (formed with the Indo-Iranian root kar- "make" also in kar-ma) in Hesychius of Alexandria's gloss ἁμαζακάραν· πολεμεῖν. Πέρσαι ("hamazakaran: 'to make war' (Persian)"). Alternatively, a Greek derivation from *ṇ-mṇ-gw-jon-es "manless, without husbands" (a- privative and a derivation of *man- also found in Slavic muzh) has been proposed.
Gods and goddesses
Hermes (; Greek Ἑρμῆς) is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and additionally as a guide to the Underworld. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who travel across them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves and liars, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics and sports, of weights and measures, of invention, and of commerce in general. His symbols include the tortoise, the rooster, the winged sandals, the winged hat, and the caduceus (given to him by Apollo in exchange for the lyre). In the Roman adaptation of the Greek religion (see interpretatio romana), Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce.
The Homeric hymn to Hermes invokes him as the one "of many shifts (polytropos), blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods." He protects and takes care of travelers, miscreants, harlots, old crones and thieves.
Artist: John Hoppner
In Greek mythology, Io was the daughter of Inachus, a river god.
Did you know ...
- Heracles already meet Theseus when the latter was only seven years old. After Heracles had finished his labours, he came to visit Pittheus in Troezen where the young Theseus was under the care of his grandfather.
- Theseus was related to his malefactors Cercyon, Procrustes and Sciron. They were all sons of his father Poseidon by other women which makes them technically Theseus' half-brother.
- The daughters of Pelops married the sons of Perseus: Astydameia wedded to Alcaeus, Nicippe to Sthenelus, Lysidice to Mestor and Eurydice to Electryon. This was made by Pelops to extend to his political power over the whole Peloponesse. His sons also became great rulers, Pittheus and Troezen were kings in Troezen, Alcathous of Megara, Atreus and Thyestes of Mycenae and also Sciron who became a warlord of Megara.
- Pleisthenes, son of Atreus was either a hermaphrodite or a transvestite.
- Polydectes pretended that he was going to marry Hippodamia, daughter of Oenomaus and ordered the men in Seriphos to supply him with suitable gifts. This plan was hatched by the king to get rid of Perseus by sending him to fetch the head of Medusa because he wanted to marry the hero's mother Danae.
- The couple, Admetus and Alcestis were actually half-cousins because Admetus's father, Pheres whose mother Tyro also bare Pelias, father of Alcestis.
Orion (Greek: Ὠρίων or Ωαρίων, Latin: Orion) was a giant huntsman of Greek mythology whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion.
Ancient sources tell several different stories about Orion. There are two major versions of his birth and several versions of his death. The most important recorded episodes are his birth somewhere in Boeotia, his visit to Chios where he met Merope and was blinded by her father, Oenopion, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos, his hunting with Artemis on Crete, his death by the bow of Artemis or of the giant scorpion which became Scorpio, and his elevation to the heavens. Most ancient sources omit some of these episodes and several tell only one. These various incidents may originally have been independent, unrelated stories and it is impossible to tell whether omissions are simple brevity or represent a real disagreement.
In Greek mythology, maenads (Ancient Greek: μαινάδες, mainádes) were the female followers of Dionysus, the most significant members of the Thiasus, the retinue of Dionysus. Their name literally translates as "raving ones". Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by him into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of dancing and drunken intoxication. In this state, they would lose all self-control, begin shouting excitedly, engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior, and ritualistically hunt down and tear animals (and sometimes men and children) to pieces, devouring the raw flesh. During these rites, the maenads would dress in fawn skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped by a cluster of leaves; they would weave ivy-wreaths around their heads, and often handle or wear snakes.
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