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The Greek poet Hesiod (c. 700 BCE) is most famous for his works Theogony and Works and Days. In this passage from Theogony, Hesiod relates the birth of the gods from cosmic Chaos and follows the lineage through the great Zeus, King of the Olympian gods, worshipped by Hesiod’s contemporaries: (ll. 1-25) From the Heliconian Muses let us begin... [continue reading]
Homer (c. 750 BCE) is perhaps the greatest of all epic poets and his legendary status was well established by the time of Classical Athens. He composed (not wrote, since the poems were created and transmitted orally, they were not written down until much later) two major works, the Iliad and the Odyssey; other works were attributed to Homer, but even in antiquity... [continue reading]
The pan-Hellenic mythological hero Jason was famed for his expedition with the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece aboard the ship Argo, one of the most popular and enduring legends of Greek mythology. Jason was believed to have been educated by the wise centaur Cheiron in the forests of Mount Pelion. He had been placed under the centaur’s... [continue reading]
published on 21 July 2012
Jason bringing Pelias the Golden Fleece; a winged victory prepares to crown him with a wreath. Side A from an Apulian red-figure calyx crater, 340 BC–330 BCE. On display at the Louvre Museum, Paris, France (Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Sully wing, room 44, Accession number K 127). H. 45.7 cm (17 ¾ in.), Diam. 39.6 cm (15 ½ in.), W. 29.4 cm (11 ½ in.)
Laocoon was a Trojan hero who during the Trojan war tried to warn his compatriots against accepting the gift of the Trojan Horse. However, Athena and Poseidon, who supported the Greeks, sent two gigantic sea snakes to destroy Laocoon. This marble statue, dated to 40-30 BCE, captures the moment the snakes kill Laocoon and his two sons. According to the myth... [continue reading]
published on 15 January 2013
The Trojan king Laomedon(?) from the east pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina (c. 490-480 BCE). The scene is thought to depict Hercules' attack on the city of Troy. (Glyptothek, Munich).
Medusa was one of three sisters born to Phorcys and Ceto known as the Gorgons. According to Hesiod's Theogony, the Gorgons were the sisters of the Graiai and lived in the utmost place towards the night by the Hesperides beyond Oceanus. Later authors such as Herodotus and Pausanias place the Gorgons' abode in Libya. The Gorgon sisters were Sthenno, Euryale... [continue reading]
A 1st century CE Roman sculpture of Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy. She holds a sword and the tragic mask of Hercules. (Vatican Museums, Rome).
Midas was a mythical king of Phrygia who was famous for his ability to change anything that he touched into solid gold. He was also famous for a more unfortunate trait, his donkey ears. These he gained as punishment for judging Pan the better musician than Apollo. In Greek mythology Midas, wandering one day in his garden, came across the wise satyr... [continue reading]
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a monster with the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. The Minotaur was the offspring of the Cretan Queen Pasiphae and a majestic bull. Due to the Minotaur's monstrous form, King Minos ordered the craftsman, Daedalus, and his son, Icarus, to build a huge maze known as the Labyrinth to house the beast... [continue reading]
Greek mythology, as in other ancient cultures, was used as a means to explain the environment in which humankind lived, the natural phenomena they witnessed and the passing of time through the days, months, and seasons. Myths were also intricately connected to religion in the Greek world and explained the origin and lives of the gods, where humanity... [continue reading]