My most interesting characters from Greek Mythology including Sisyphus, Athena and Atlas.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a huge fan of traditional stories such as Nigerian folklore, mythical creatures, ancient history of African gods, and other mythologies including Roman, Norse and Egyptian.
So, in early summer of 2009 when I finally got a PlayStation Two console with a God of War DVD game, you can only imagine how curious and excited I was to uncover the absorbing story of Kratos, a critical protagonist of the God of War franchise created by David Jaffe.
My obsession with God of War
Cut to a war between the Spartans and Barbarians in PlayStation’s immersive world, Kratos – Captain of the Spartan army is vanquished in battle and about to meet a brutal end in the hands of his adversary, Auric.
Excruciatingly, he cries out to Ares (the true god of war), “Ares! Destroy my enemies and my life is yours.” The Captain is then rescued and he fulfils his end of the bargain by serving Ares for many yonks.
Unbeknownst to Kratos, Ares tricks him into killing his own family under the guise of making him a perfect warrior.
As the game unfolds, the Ghost of Sparta (Kratos is also called that) figures out this trickery and he goes on a vengeful quest to kill Ares.
He succeeds. Not easily tho.
Somehow, the Ghost of Sparta becomes a pawn for Athena. And again, he goes on a gruesome rampage after being wronged by his own father, Zeus!
“If all of Olympus will deny me my vengeance then all of Olympus will die. I have lived in the shadow of the gods for long enough, the time of the gods has come to an end!” – Kratos.
The new God of War brings carnage to Mount Olympus and with his epic set of blades, he takes on the Greek pantheon and just according to prophecy, kills Zeus.
In more recent installments, Kratos has a new origin story in Norse Mythology starring his son, Arteus who he calls “Boy” more than half the time.
Ha! I’ve drifted off topic because I’m just as excited about Kratos as I am about mythical legends.
So right about now, I’ll be discussing three ancient characters in Greek Mythology I’d like to meet.
Let’s get seriously underway.
My favourite characters from Greek Mythology
Ha! If Loki was a man, he’d be called Sisyphus.
Sisyphus is a cunning King in Greek Mythology and mastermind of trickery. I mean, this mere mortal cheats death twice.
A descendant of the fire god – Prometheus – Sisyphus is about to kick the bucket and when he is finally visited by the god of death, Thanatos, the King showers the deity with beautiful praises and adoration.
He gifts Thanatos an attractive piece of jewellery to wear and thanks him for personally bringing the news of his own death.
Unbeknownst to the death god, it is a trap!
The jewellery quickly transforms into a strong leash, binding Thanatos.
Sisyphus flees afterwards and for many decades, no one dies from war, sickness or famine. Humans live like gods on earth and this angers two original gods – Hades, the god of the underworld and Ares, the god of war.
Ares scours the earth for clues and on finding Thanatos, he frees the death god from bondage thereby continuing the cycle of death for all of mankind.
Already an old man, Sisyphus is again approached by Thanatos and this time, he follows the god of death to the underworld without much resistance.
However, on arriving at the underworld, Sisyphus goes before Hades to beg for a second chance at life so that he can arrange a proper burial ceremony for himself (beforehand, he tells his wife not to bury him extravagantly).
Having mercy on the King, Hades gives him permission to journey to the land of the living on the condition that he returns by nightfall.
Sisyphus flees with his wife for a second time!
He is eventually captured and punished in Tartarus.
In the darkest realm of hell, King Sisyphus pushes a huge rock up a hill but each time he is close to the peak, the rock becomes heavier and heavier and rolls back down.
Ouch! The torture continues…
Where can you find Sisyphus?
Sisyphus is trapped in the underworld, rolling a boulder for all eternity so I wouldn’t particularly like to meet him. But then, I’d imagine him by his father’s side on Saturn’s moon (see part two) if he is eventually freed.
Prometheus here I come!
The goddess of wisdom, strategic warfare and weaving is much like her father, quick to anger and liberal with curses.
Birthed from a terrible headache, Zeus instructs Hephaestus to split his head open with an axe! After which a beautiful Athena emerges wielding a sword, armor, spear and shield.
She is literally born ready.
Athena (known as Minerva in Roman Mythology) becomes a revered deity who has an entire temple dedicated to her existence.
Ordinary men seek after her wisdom, women pray for her blessings and warriors hope for her good charm in the time of battle.
Athena is often pictured with Nike (goddess of victory), an owl, a radiant helmet, a shield with Medusa’s head, bow and arrows, sword and spear, war sandals, armor, and a pet lion or pack of wolves on some occasions.
Like I said, Athena placed a number of curses on her subjects and caused many atrocities.
- Athena transforms beautiful Medusa to a gorgon. She gives her vicious sharp fangs and a hair of living, venomous snakes!
- Athena interferes in the Trojan war.
- Arachne changes into a spider. The mortal dares to challenge the goddess of wisdom in an epic weaving contest and is victorious. Envious, Athena makes her a spider, cursing her to weave webs to this day.
Across the world, there’re a number of statues and buildings constructed in honour of the goddess of wisdom and the most known would probably be the Parthenon monument in Athens, Greece.
The temple of Parthenon is currently one of the world’s most visited places, it is a symbol of Greek achievement in the arts and of Athenian democracy.
Where can you find Athena?
Ahem, the thing is there’s a whole lot of villages, towns, boroughs and cities named after the wisdom goddess. Some of which are listed below.
- A village in Wisconsin
- A village in Michigan
- A village in Louisiana
- A town in Maine
- A town in West Virginia
- A town in Vermont
- A town and village in New York
- A township in Ontario, Canada
- A borough in Pennsylvania
- A city in Texas
- A city in Ohio
- A city in Tennessee
- A city in Alabama
Such prestige! But you know what I think?
If Athena lived among us today, you’d find the goddess of wisdom chilling in her temple in Athens, the capital city of Greece, basking in the worship of her subjects in Parthenon!
I always pictured Atlas to be a book of map illustrations and tables. But after coming across an image of a man supporting the sky on his bare shoulders, I dug deeper into Greek Mythology.
Atlas, a titan and son of Lapetus and Clymene, is cursed to carry the weight of the sky on his shoulders after leading a conquest against Zeus.
In ancient times, Heracles approaches the being and requests his assistance to retrieve the golden apples of Hesperides (one of his twelve labours) and Atlas agrees to help.
Heracles has to carry the sky as the titan fetches the sacred apples from the garden of his daughters. And on returning, Atlas tries to trick the demigod.
“Let me go with the golden apples to King Eurystheus,” Atlas says. “And I will take the sky from you when I return.”
Now, there are several versions of what happens next and they all agree that Heracles is well aware of Atlas’ trickery.
“Oh that’ll be so kind! But before you go, can you help me hold the sky while I wear my lion fur? My back itches and you know this isn’t exactly an easy task,” Heracles replies.
Sympathising with the demigod, Atlas collects the weight of the sky and almost immediately, Heracles takes the golden apples of Hesperides and leaves. Never to return, never to be seen again.
In alternate tales, Heracles builds two pillars to support the heavens, freeing the titan from everlasting turmoil. And in yet another, he pretends to lose his grip and Atlas is quick to “save” the sky.
Where can you find Atlas?
Astronomically, Atlas is a moon of Saturn and a crater in the first quadrant of earth’s moon but personally, I think Atlas would live in the Atlas mountains of Northern Africa.
So, you read it all. Thanks!
If this has captured your interest and you’re looking for additional resources to explore the intricacies of Greek Mythology, you can check out the following.
- Microsoft Encarta
- Encyclopedia Britannica
- Khan Academy
And these YouTube channels.
- See U in History
- Mythology & Fiction Explained
I think what’s most unique about Greek myths is their importance, relativity and bigger-than-life personalities. And although there are many versions and timelines, the strong themes are often similar.
Who is your favourite character in this Greek mythic world? Kindly tell me in the comments section.
Hey, click here to read part two of this article. 🙂
I’ve really had loads of fun discussing my favourite characters from Greek Mythology with you and I can’t wait to hear from ya!
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