Greek Mythology is remarkable because of its many adventurous stories, moral lessons and tragic endings.
From the supreme ruler of the gods, Zeus to an earthly warrior on the path of redemption, Heracles, many characters and happenings in this ancient mythic world have become intricately fused into our pop culture, arts and vocabulary.
For instance, the story of Achilles, a semi-divine hero/warrior is one you may reckon with.
Having one of his heels as the only part of his body susceptible to manmade weapons, Achilles meets his painful end from an arrow piercing his heel and today, a vulnerability, weakness or weak spot may be called Achilles’ Heel.
Again, Sisyphism which means continuous labour that produces nothing is coined from Sisyphus, a Greek King cursed to push a boulder up a hill in the pits of Tartarus for all eternity.
You could actually say to someone, “chasing Usain Bolt is a sisyphean task!”
Finally, “…having the Midas touch,” a common phrase used to describe skilled athletes or financial bigwigs comes from an ancient King in Greece, Midas.
King Midas hoped to change everything within his grasp to gold after the tragic death of his wife. “If only you were gold, you’d be with me forever,” he said.
But soon after, he prayed to the same gods for a revokement of the golden touch.
Ha! In an earlier installment of this series, I spoke about Athena, Atlas and Sisyphus. Right now, I’ll be adding two unique gods to that explosive adventure.
Want to read part one? Click here…
Let’s get seriously underway.
My favourite characters from Greek Mythology
In this peculiar Greek creation story, Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus are put in charge of making fauna by Zeus.
Together, they create many awesome animals with astonishing talents.
The brothers give birds the gift of flight, fishes the gift of swimming and insects the gift of pollination.
But then, when it comes to crafting man, Prometheus is so pleased with his creation that he presents his favourite work to the goddess Athena.
Contented with this artistic prowess, Athena gifts man the divine breath of the gods and he too, lives much like other beings.
Now on earth, man is left to scavenge for fruits and cultivate the soil since he has no particular gifts. Also at the time, man lacks a means of heating, cooking or lighting and as such, he is super scared of the dark.
This bothers Prometheus a whole lot because without fire, man (his favourite creation) has no real advantage over other animals.
And after seeking counsel from Athena, Prometheus decides to steal fire from Zeus.
The king of the gods is angered! He ceases the flames from man and lets Prometheus off with a warning.
Again, Prometheus steals the flames of Olympus but this time, from Hephaestus (the blacksmith god) forges.
The fire ushers in a new era for mankind. Cooking starts, weapons are easily crafted and there is no longer a reason to be scared of the dark.
Hmm… Zeus watches scornfully as man prospers from Mount Olympus and you know what he does?
Well, the supreme ruler gets Prometheus chained to a rock. Not just bound up, he instructs an eagle to devour the titan’s liver and bowels for all eternity!
In another story, Heracles rescues Prometheus from this harsh suffering. He kills the eagle with his bow and arrow then breaks off the chains.
Because of Prometheus’ selfless sacrifice, I’d really like to meet him if he wasn’t a fictitious character.
Where can you find Prometheus?
In today’s world, you’ll require a spaceship to make a round trip to see Prometheus.
The primordial fire god has one of Saturn’s moons named after him.
#2. Heracles or Herakles
Heracles is a popular warrior and mighty demigod. He’s mostly known for his twelve labours which I’ll be talking about in a moment.
A son of one of the god king’s many mistresses, Heracles (called Hercules in Roman Mythology) inherits super strength and endurance from his dad, Zeus.
As a baby, he kills two live snakes sent by a bitter Hera, queen of the gods.
With his exceptional strength, Heracles masters the art of war, archery and swordsmanship from a young age.
And according to an ancient prophecy, Heracles, a great grandson of Perseus is destined to become the next King of Mycenae, an ancient Greek city but with her power and historic influence, Hera “steals” this prophecy from the demigod by causing the premature birth of his cousin, Eurystheus.
Now the sworn King of Mycenae, Eurystheus makes his cousin’s life perilous with many impossible tasks and journeys.
The Twelve Labours of Heracles include.
1. Killing the Nemean lion. Heracles chokes the mighty predator with his bare hands and wears its fur as a trophy.
2. The Hydra of Lerna. A mythical serpent with nine heads, it is a difficult creature to slay because for each head Heracles severs, two new ones regenerate.
3 & 4. Capturing the golden horned hind and wild boar. Heracles employs his archery skills in capturing this sacred hind, one of Artemis‘ creations. As for the boar, he fatigues the beast by making it run through snow.
5. Cleaning up the filthy Augean stables. He uses his super strength to channel a flowing river into the stables and without touching horse shit, Heracles cleanses the stables.
6 & 7. The birds of prey and the fearsome bull. Using a musical instrument from Athena, Heracles disturbs the birds and one by one, shoots at them with his poisoned arrows. He bundles the fearsome bull to Mycenae after beating the creature with his club and bare hands!
8. Taming Diomedes’ mares. Diomedes’ mares eat human flesh and this wicked King sacrifices foreign visitors to the horses. On Heracles’ arrival, he feeds the King to the bloodthirsty mares and he leads them to his ship thereafter.
9. The belt of Hippolyta. What starts out as an easy labour soon breaks into an all out war after Hera’s interference. Together with his warriors, Heracles fights and defeats the powerful Amazons. He retrieves the belt of Hippolyta from her corpse!
10. Stealing the cattle of Geryon. Ever heard of the Strait of Gibraltar? If you haven’t, it’s also called the “Pillar of Hercules” and it’s where the Mediterranean sea and Atlantic ocean converge. Heracles actually mixes the waters by splitting the mountains into half before his next task. He fights Geryon and steals his cattle.
11. The golden apples of Hesperides. Heracles frees Mr Prometheus (haha) from his everlasting turmoil after his helpful advise about getting the golden apples of Hesperides. He is told to ask Atlas for assistance but things would quickly turn awry as Heracles carries the entire weight of the sky in the titan’s stead.
12. Walking Cerberus from the depths of Hades. Finally, King Eurystheus instructs the demigod to fetch Cerberus (Hades’ deadly three headed dog with a serpent tail) from the underworld. Heracles makes his intentions clear to Hades and obeys his simple yet difficult command – make no use of brute force or weapons. Somehow, Heracles defeats the sinister creature and walks it to Mycenae.
The story of the labours of Heracles is one of hope, bravery, strength and redemption.
The warrior sought to cleanse his afflicted past (like Kratos – see part one – he is tricked into murdering his own family) by completing this odyssey imposed on him by his wicked cousin, the King of Mycenae.
Where can you find Hercules?
Umm, I’d say maybe two places.
There’s a city in California and a crater in the first quadrant of our moon named after the Greek warrior.
But if Heracles had to choose, I’m sure he’ll pick living in Sacramento, the capital city of California over the moon anytime.
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.
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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