Mythology

Mythology

The myths in ancient Greece were created in order to explain natural disasters, and to give people something to believe in, to provide strength and hope. All Greek myths are closely connected to history. Sometimes one can not tell when the myth stops and history begins!
Myths were passed from mouth to mouth, others were written down and were mostly related to gods and heroes, the beginning of the world, death and birth, good and evil and generally about everything that the ancient world's science could not explain.

Cretan mythology

Minos
Minos was one of the sons of Zeus and Europe. He ruled the palace of Knossos, which was the mightiest and most beautiful palace in Crete at the time. Almost all the kings of Knossos were called 'Minos', so in the end this name meant "king". Apart from being the king of Knossos, Minos was also the king of Crete, high priest, chief justice and commander of the army. He was married to Pasiphae and together they had four daughters and four sons. Minotaur, Androgeo and Ariadne were some of his children.

Minotaur

There was a time when Minos had to assert his right to the throne of Crete and he asked for a sign from the gods. Poseidon sent him a white bull, which came out of the sea. Minos had to sacrifice the beast, but he was so enchanted by the animal, that he sacrificed another in his place and kept the one gods had sent. Apollo was so annoyed, that he enchanted Pasiphae, the wife of Minos and she fell in love with the beast. Minotaur was born as a punishment for the disregard Minos had shown to the gods. Minotaur was a monster with a human body and head of a bull. Because of his appalling appearance, he was confined in the Labyrinth, a very complex prison, so that nobody could see him. Minos had another son, called Androgeo, who won the races in Athens. But instead of giving him the prize, the Athenians murdered him. When Minos found out, he gathered his army and fleet, laid siege to Athens and conquered it. When people started dying of hunger, they agreed to be imposed on a punishment. Every year a tribute of seven young men and seven maidens would be sacrificed to Minotaur. Theseus, son of Aegeas, the king of Athens, killed the carnivorous monster with the help of Ariadne, daughter of Minos. She gave him a sword and a ball of string. Theseus started reeling the string off when he entered the maze and reeled it on again to find his way out.

Daedalus and Ikarus

Minos wanted to construct a building of unique beauty and intricacy. Therefore he invited Daedalus from Athens, who was a famous engineer and architect. Daedalus built the palace of Knossos and the Labyrinth. But Minos, in fear of losing Daedalus, imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the palace. Daedalus then asked to be given wax in order to make some work of art to please king Minos. But instead, he made two pairs of wings, which he fixed onto the shoulders of Icarus and on himself and flew away from Minos. Icarus was told not to fly too high, as the wings would melt in the sun. But the young man, thrilled with flying, defied his father's advice and headed for the sun! The wax wings melted and he fell into the sea, near an island. Daedalus, in great pain, buried him in this island, which was later called Icaria. The sea where Icarus drowned is called the Icarian sea.

Ariadne
Daughter of Minos. She helped Theseus kill the carnivorous monster Minotaur. She gave Theseus a ball of string, so that the hero could reel it off once he entered the Labyrinth, and reeled it back on, to find his way out. After successfully killing the monster, Theseus fled away with Ariadne. They stopped to rest in the island of Naxos, and it was there that Ariadne was abducted by god Dionysus.

Greek Mythology

The war of the Titans

In the very old times, people explained the creation of the world with a myth. Myths are not to be confused with history, although they are related to historical events. Myths were mostly referred to gods and heroes, good and evil, or disasters. In the beginning, there was chaos. Then the Earth was created. The Earth gave birth to the mountains, the sea, the day and the night. The sky surrounded the Earth with his blue colour and covered her. He sat on his throne and ruled the world. He married the Earth and she bore him the Titans, gigantic creatures with supernatural powers. After many years, Crones, one of the Titans, managed to become ruler of the world. He married Rea and they had many children: Hestia, Demeter, Pluto, Poseidon, and Zeus. But Crones was a selfish man. He was afraid that his children might take over, so he ate them. Zeus, who was the strongest of the children, decided to take over. To achieve that, he had to beat the Titans and Crones. So, a terrible war began, which was called the war of the Titans, between the Titans, with Crones as their leader, and Crone's children with Zeus as their leader. In the end, Zeus ruled the world and there was peace everywhere. Zeus married Hera and they had many children. They lived happily on Mount Olympus.

The twelve gods of Olympus
 
Zeus
Supreme ruler of the Olympians. Father of gods. He was born in Crete. His mother Rea being in great despair, since Crones ate his newborn children, hid Zeus in an isolated cave, up in the Dikti Mountains. Then she wrapped a stone in cloth, so Crones would eat it. Zeus was later taken to another cave, called Ideon Andron, in the Ida Mountains and was raised by a nymph, Amalthea. He took over the supremacy after a long war with the Titans.

Hera
Goddess of marriage and family, wife of Zeus. People all over Greece worshipped her and many ancient temples were consecrated to her.

Poseidon
God of the sea and natural disasters, like earthquakes and storms, brother of Zeus. He lived in his watery palace with his wife, the nymph Amphitrite. Holding his trident, he would gallop away upon his chariot, which was pulled by two white horses, causing wild tempest. Once Athena and Poseidon disputed about who would become patron deity of Athens. The city would belong to the one who would give the most useful gift to the citizens. Poseidon, then struck the earth with his trident and out popped a horse. Athena, on the other hand, made an olive tree sprout from the earth, laden with olives. This made the Athenians vote in favour of Athena.

Athena
Goddess of wisdom, patron of crafts and arts, daughter of Zeus. She was believed to have been born from the head of Zeus, therefore she was wise and just. Because she would protect the cities against their enemies and would lead the warriors to victory, she was considered protector of peace. She assisted various heroes such as Perseus, Jason,and Cadmious achieve their feats. She was patron deity of Athens and helped the city become famous all over the world.

Artemis
Virgin goddess of hunting, daughter of Zeus. She hunted together with the giant Orion. Apollo, her brother, annoyed at their relationship, dared her to an archery contest. He showed her the target, which was floating in the sea. Artemis succeeded with the first cast. Unfortunately, the target proved to be her beloved Orion.

Apollo
God of light, music, prophecy and music. Apollo and his sister Artemis were children of Lito and Zeus. They were very close to each other. Apollo would play his lyre and Artemis would dance with the nine muses. Once, he was crossing the Thessalian Tempi and met Daphne, daughter of the river Pinios and Earth. He fell in love with her and tried to take her to the Mount Olympus. Daphne cried for help from her parents. Her mother the Earth, opened her arms and swallowed Daphne. Now, in her place one could see a beautiful plant. It was the laurel, which, from that day on became the sacred plant for Apollo, since it reminded him of his beloved Daphne. Apollo spent most of his time in Delphi. It was there that he killed the dreadful dragon Python, which was the terror of the villagers nearby. Where the beast was buried, people built a temple to honour the god. This temple was known as the oracle at Delphi. There lived Pythia, a priestess, who would pronounce the prophecies and would give people advice.

Hermes
Messenger of the gods, son of Zeus and Mea, known as Mercury by the Romans. He was the courier of Zeus and god of commerce. He wore winged sandals and travelled swiftly everywhere. He also led the souls of the dead to the Underworld. When he was a young boy, he found an empty shell of a tortoise, put strings around it and made this way the first lyre, which he then gave as a gift to his beloved brother Apollo.

Demeter
Goddess of agriculture, sister of Zeus. She brought good harvest to the people. She had a daughter, Persephone. One day Persephone was playing in a valley when she saw a beautiful flower, a narcissus and tried to pick it. But at that very moment, the earth opened up and Pluto, the ruler of Hades, enchanted by her beauty, took her to the Underworld. Demeter tried in vain to find her. She, then started mourning and as a result there was poor harvest. Famine spread all over the country. The people asked from Zeus to help them. He then decided that Persephone should live most of the time with her mother. When Demeter had her daughter with her, she was happy and the plants would blossom. But when Persephone was away, Demeter was unhappy and the crops withered. With the presence of Persephone on earth, spring, summer and autumn came. When she was absent, winter came. This is how the ancient Greeks explained the changes of the seasons.

Ares
or Mars as he was known to the Romans, god of war.
Humans and gods loathed him, but Athena detested him the most. Even Zeus told him: "Of all the gods you are the most hateful because it pleases you to bring division between men".

Hephaestus
God of fire and crafts, son of Zeus and Hera, patron of blacksmiths. He was very ugly and was walking with a limp. The gods believed that his disability was caused after he had intervened in a fight between Zeus and Hera, where Hephaestus had supported his mother. Zeus got so upset that he grabbed him by the foot and threw him out of the palace, in the space. Hephaestus was wandering all day long and by sunset, he fell onto the island of Limnos, where he got injured. He taught men how to use fire and make beautiful things to decorate their houses. He married Venus, the goddess of beauty and love.

Estia or Hestia
Goddess of hearth, place near the fireplace where the whole family sat. She was also goddess of home and family. Every city had an altar in the square, which was dedicated to Hestia. The emigrants, the exiles, the chased and the beseechers asked for mercy and protection from the goddess. When a family moved, one of the first things they took with them, was the statue of the goddess.

Aphrodite or Venus
Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love. She was the most beautiful of all the goddesses of Mount Olympus. This gorgeous goddess married Hephaestus, the god of fire and blacksmiths. She later married Mars, the god of war.

Other Gods

Dionysus
God of wine, vineyard and spree, son of Zeus and Semeli. The ancient Greeks pictured him in a long robe, with a wreath of laurel and ivy around his head, wandering around in the feasts, spreading laughter and joy. He was also called "Liberator" , since he freed people from the coldness of winter and kept sorrow away. To honour him the people of Athens celebrated the "Dionysia", a holiday dedicated to the god.

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