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Category Archives: Mythology

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14 Jokes for Mythology Lovers

by March 19, 2019

Think you know your Greek Mythology? From Creatures to Titans, check your knowledge and see if you Get all these jokes for mythology lovers:
1. This serious amount of mythological cuteness:
2. Someone is a clever clogs:
3. A Gamer’s Interpretation:


4. This succinct synopsis:
5. Obviously this is a theme:
6. Someone really knows their Greek mythology:
7. When Hubris gets you Down…
8. Who doesn’t love a visual?
9. A good infanticide joke:
10. Umm… where is this art school? Sounds like my new best friend is there…
11. Don’t try this after your next big night…
12. Awww… poor Prometheus!
13. OMG – this works on so many levels…

Titans of Greek Mythology

by March 5, 2019

Okay, today we are talking about the Titans of Greek mythology.
Now, of course there are a lot of sources when it comes to discussing ancient Greek mythology, but we are going to use Hesiod’s Theogony, which is sort of like the Bible of the ancient Greek world.
So first, what is a Titan? Titans are the children of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth). According to Hesiod, there were 12 original Titans: the brothers Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Cronus and the sisters Thea, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys.
Chart Showing Greek Mythology Genealogy

The Genealogy of the Titans of Greek Mythology

As all Greek mythology goes, the Titans have a pretty dramatic tale, filled with violence, revenge and punishment… and it all started with mother earth (Gaia) who encouraged her children to rebel against their father after he had shut them up in the underworld (Tartarus).
The brothers and sisters chose Cronus as their leader and once he had disposed Uranus, he became ruler.
This, however, did not last long. Cronus’ son Zeus rebelled against him and a 10 year battled ensued called the Titanomachia. The Titans lost and those who sided with Cronus (his siblings) were thrown back into the underworld, Tartarus.
Painting of the Titanomachia

The Titanomachia as painted in The Fall of the Titans by Cornelis van Haarlem in 1588–1590

Perhaps surprisingly, the Titans are not pictured by Hesiod as evil monsters who the gods fortunately overthrew… but a happy golden race. This idea is continued by the Romans who saw Cronus as Saturn.
Here is a breakdown of the original 12 Titans. You’ll notice some are much more important than others…
1. Mnemosyne – She is the goddess of memory. “Mnemosyne” is derived from the same source as the word mnemonic, that being the Greek word mnēmē, which means “remembrance, memory”. Mnemosyne is the mother of the nine Muses.
Mnemosyne painting

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s depiction of Mnemosyne.

2. Tethys – Sister and wife of Titan-god Oceanus, mother of the Potamoi and the Oceanids. Tethys had no active role in Greek mythology and no established cults.
3. Theia – Also called Euryphaessa “wide-shining”, her brother/consort is Hyperion, a Titan and god of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).
4. Phoebe – She had two daughters, Leto, who bore Apollo and Artemis, and Asteria, a star-goddess who bore an only daughter, Hecate. Given the meaning of her name and her association with the Delphic oracle, Phoebe was perhaps seen as the Titan goddess of prophecy and oracular intellect.
5. Rhea – She is known as “the mother of gods” and therefore is strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, who have similar functions. The classical Greeks saw her as the mother of the Olympian gods and goddesses, but not as an Olympian goddess in her own right.
Rhea

Statue of Rhea

6. Themis – She is described as “[the Lady] of good counsel”, and is the personification of divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom. Her symbols are the Scales of Justice, tools used to remain balanced and pragmatic.
7. Oceanus – Believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the divine personification of the sea, he is an enormous river encircling the world.
8. Hyperion – With his sister, the Titaness Theia, Hyperion fathered Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn).
Painting of Greek Deities

The three children, depicting different times of day.

9. Coeus – He played no active part in Greek religion and appears only in lists of Titans. Coeus was primarily important for his descendants.
10. Cronus – He was the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans. He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus.
Painting of Cronus and Uranus

Cronus castrating his father Uranus

11. Crius – As the least individualized among the Titans, he was overthrown in the Titanomachy.
12. Iapetus – He was the father (by an Oceanid named Clymene or Asia) of Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius. Iapetus is sometimes thought as the progenitor of mankind, similar to Japheth (יֶפֶת), the son of Noah, based on the similarity of their names and the tradition.

Ancient Monster Survival Guide

by February 27, 2019

By Brittany Garcia, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
While most people know about the ancient Greek monsters like: centaurs, harpies, cyclopes, mermaids, sirens, the chimera, hydra, giants, and et cetera; the goal of this survival guide is to expose the truth behind the uncommon Roman monsters that hide under our very noses!
The following monsters are very dangerous and should NOT be approached under any circumstance. Most of these creatures and monsters eat people, so if you see one please contact your local animal control or ancient history enthusiast.
1. Yale or Eale

Illustration of the Yale or Eale

Meaning of Name: “To move back” – perhaps in reference to its horns.
First Spotting: Ethiopia
Form: Antelope or goat-like creature that is the size of a hippopotamus, with an elephant’s tail, usually black or tawny in color, with the jaws of a boar and movable horns.
Food: People and large animals
How it attacks: Presumably, it must ram its prey with its moveable horns and tusks.
Latest Spotting: A popular emblem in medieval times for royal banners, the yale or eale has found its way to Yale University’s banners and perhaps into the basements of the campus itself.
Weaknesses: Other Eales or Yales, tall mountains, and loud university rallies.
Sources: Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.


2. Manticore

Manticore

Meaning of Name: Man-Eater
First Spotting: Persia
Form: Body of a red lion, a human head, with a trumpet-like voice. Sometimes it is seen with horns or wings.
Food: People and large animals
How it attacks: Its tail has been found in the form of a dragon or scorpion which shoots poisonous spines that paralyze and kill its victims.
Latest Spotting: Commonly, the manticore has been spotted in archaic themed video games such as God of War and Age of Mythology. Recently, one manticore was seen debuting in his first film: Percy Jackson and Sea of Monsters. He sadly did not survive to make a sequel.
Weaknesses: A ranged weapon…maybe or, it is probably just best to stay away.
Sources: Ctesias, Indica, Pausanias, Guide to Greece, Aelian, On Animals, Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Eusebius, Against Hierocles, Photius, Myriobiblon.


3. Basilisk or Regulus

illustration of Basalisk

Meaning of Name: “Little King”
First Spotting: Cyrene, Libya
Form: A small snake “not longer than twelve fingers” with a crown shaped crest on its head. At times, the basilisk is seen with the head of a cockatrice due to its odd birthing ritual involving a toad and cockatrice.
Food: Anything!
How it attacks: By bite or gaze; its bite or gaze is extremely lethal.
Latest Spotting: A large basilisk was spotted in the early Harry Potter film franchise living in Hogwarts’ pipes. Rowling also mentions its presence in her own monster guide book: read it here. Its eggs are a unique and rare item that players attempt to find in the latest video game: Final Fantasy XIV.
Weaknesses: The scent of a weasel for some reason scares and may even be lethal to Basilisks, so when going out this Hallow’s Eve make sure to have your special weasel “perfume” at the ready! Also, a mirror to reflect its lethal gaze may work as well.
Sources: Pliny the Elder’s Natural History


4. Cacus

Illustration of Cacus

Meaning of Name: “The Evil One”
Origins: Rome; Aventine Hill
Form: A giant who breathes fire and smoke. He is the son of Vulcan.
Food: Human flesh, but not their heads. He nails the heads of his victims decoratively outside his cave.
How it attacks: He attacks and kills its enemies and prey by breathing fire and smoke onto them.
Latest Spotting: While Cacus has not been seen since Hercules apparently strangled him to death; The Percy Jackson series makes mention of him; suggesting that he did not die or has a brother.
Weaknesses: Divine strength or a big club. Let’s take a tip from Hercules and use the skills of a demi-god to defeat this monster and any of his siblings.
Sources: Virgil, Aeneid, Ovid, Fasti, Propertius, Elegies.


5. Amphisbaena

Illustration of Amphisbaena

Meaning of Name: “Mother of Ants”
First Spotting: Libyan Desert sprouting from the blood of Medusa’s head, and later by Cato’s army.
Form: A two headed serpent, whose tail has the second head; however this “serpent” is about the size of a long worm. The addition of wings and chicken feet was reported by later sightings.
Food: Anything living or dead
How it attacks: It has a poisonous bite.
Latest Spotting: They appear to have been a popular inspiration within Insular art during the Middle Ages; however they are said now to be “summoned” by a Dungeon Master when playing the game: Dungeons and Dragons.
Weaknesses: Really thick shoes and an aggressive stomp.
Sources: Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, Aelian, On Animals, Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History.


Safety and Caution Procedures
Now, while most of these monsters will leave you alone if you leave them alone; if you happen to run into one of these creatures you must :

I. Run as fast you can and avoid eye contact
II. Summon your inner hero strength and fighting skills
III. Pray to the Roman Gods
IV. Rent a Pegasus and fly away.

DISCLAIMER: The Unofficial Ancient Roman Monster Survival Guide is neither responsible for any harm or deaths that occur as a result of “monster hunters or enthusiasts” attempting to capture or tame these creatures.

Hippolytus: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

by February 7, 2019

By Jocelyn Hitchcock, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
It sounds like something straight out of a modern –albeit extremely tragic- weekday soap opera: step-son (Hippolytus) incurs the wrath of someone higher up (Aphrodite) because he fails to honor the cultural customs associated with her; scorned woman (Aphrodite) initiates plan of revenge on step-son by having step mother (Phaedra) fall in love with him; step-son rejects step-mother’s advances; step-mother kills herself and blames it on step-son; father (Theseus) exiles step son; father discovers truth; father is racked with guilt; father and son make up; son dies.
All that’s missing is a bad plastic surgeon and someone miraculously coming back from a full brain transplant.
Painting of Theseus and Hippolytus

Crop of Phaedra and Hippolytus (1802), by the French neoclassical painter Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (Louvre, Paris). The painting manages dramatically to squeeze in several elements of the plot: the youth expresses his resistance to Phaedra, even as the nurse whispers in her ear; meanwhile Theseus clenches his fist in rage.

It’s a story about love, deception, honesty, and vengeance. The characters, both human and divine, are deeply flawed and show a sweeping range of human emotion and spirit.
Written by Euripides, the play Hippolytus won a performance contest as part of a trilogy in Athens in 428 BCE. The play is part of a larger commentary and myth sequence based on Hippolytus, and many stories focusing on Phaedra herself. Versions by Seneca the Younger (Phaedra), Ovid (Metamorphoses and Heroides), and the much later Jean Racine (Phedre) all contribute to our understanding of Hippolytus as a character and Hippolytus as a legend and play.
Painting of Hippolytus' death by Rubens

Death of Hippolytus. Rubens, Peter Paul (Flemish, 1577-1640). c.1611-1613.

Euripides’ Hippolytus
The play itself focuses on the theme of love, and particularly love scorned. It should come as no surprise then that we find Aphrodite, vengeful and cunning as she is, at the center of the whole drama. At the start, Aphrodite explains that Hippolytus refuses to honor her, having sworn a vow of chastity to Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Disregarding warnings from others to show respect to Aphrodite, Hippolytus remains steadfast in his commitment to Artemis- something that sets Aphrodite on a path of revenge.
Painting of Phaedra

Phaedra agonizing over her love for Hippolytus. Phèdre by Alexandre Cabanel

While serving a year of voluntary exile in Troezen in the northeastern coast of Peloponnese after murdering a local king and his sons, King Theseus of Athens and his second wife Phaedra come into contact with Theseus’ bastard son, Hippolytus. Hippolytus was the product of King Theseus’ rape of an Amazon woman, Hippolyta, and had been reared all through childhood in Troezen by King Pittheus. So, already there is a distance between Hippolytus and his father. However, Aphrodite sees this as a chance to enact her vengeance and makes Phaedra fall in love with Hippolytus, her step-son.
Phaedra begins to fall into the state of love sickness and won’t eat or sleep- all of which the chorus and Phaedra’s nurse are witnessing but are sworn to secrecy over. Phaedra, not wanting to bring dishonor on her family, resigns herself to starve to death. Her nurse, though, directly going against Phaedra’s wish to die without Hippolytus knowing what was going on, went and told. Hippolytus then flew into a fit of rage not just against Phaedra, but against all womankind to the point Phaedra thought her only option was to hang herself. She did so, and left a note insinuating that it was because Hipolytus’ raped her.
Painting of Hippolytus with his parents

Hippolytus, Phaedra and Theseus. German School, 18th Century

After her death, Theseus finds his wife and the note and banishes his son, calling down a curse from Poseidon. Despite his protests of innocence, Hippolytus flees the city. The curse from Poseidon produced a sea monster that spooked his horses, resulting in Hippolytus being dragged along the rocks, dying. Theseus was thrilled to see Hippolytus suffering, since he still believed him to be responsible for his wife’s death… that is, until Artemis appears and tells him the truth. Hippolytus forgives his father for his own death as he is carried away and Artemis promises to exact revenge on Aphrodite.
Painting of Hippolytus' death

The Death of Hippolytus, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912).

Of course, the story portrayed by Euripides is perhaps the most well-known about Hippolytus. But he is more than just a play. In honor of Hippolytus, virgin maidens before their weddings would cut off a lock of hair as a dedication. There was also an ill-defined mystery cult to Hippolytus, a temple to Hippolytus in Troezen, and conflated stories combining Aphrodite and Hippolytus, and Phaedra and Hippolytus, linking them as symbols of love.
There is no doubt that the story of Hippolytus, especially as presented by Euripides, is a tragedy. It demonstrates just how powerful divine and human emotions can be, with love, vengeance, and guilt being portrayed as simple truths of humanity.

The Sailor Who Ruined Trojan Heroes’ Lives

by February 6, 2019

The Trojan War cycle is replete with anecdotes of home-wreckers and homecomings. Sure, everyone knows the sad stories of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and Odysseus and Penelope, but there are a few more tragic tales lurking in the background. Enter Nauplius, a nasty, vengeful sailor who made quite a few soldiers’ returns from the war very, very miserable.
Portrait of the Revenge seeking Sailor

Nauplius

Keeping the Helen Oath
In his Epitome, often included as part of his Library, Pseudo-Apollodorus retells the story of – what else? – the Trojan War. In his version of events, when Menelaus, king of Sparta, realizes that his wife, the beauteous Helen, has absconded with the Trojan prince Paris, he calls upon his brother, High King Agamemnon, to raise an army. Agamemnon invokes an oath sworn by all the former suitors for Helen’s hand, that, if anyone should abduct or threaten Helen, all of them must come to help her husband get her back.
Painting of Helen of Troy

‘Helen of Troy’ (1865) by Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton.

One such suitor was Odysseus, king of Ithaca and husband of Helen’s cousin, Penelope. Although the oath had been his idea, he is not all too keen at having to leave home to make war on a foreign city for God-knows-how-long. As a result, he fakes madness when Agamemnon’s men come to pick him up. But clever Palamedes – son of the aforementioned Nauplius – realizes his ruse and proves Odysseus’s sanity by threatening the life of Odysseus’s infant son, Telemachus. To protect his little boy, Odysseus drops the act and then must join Agamemnon’s forces, since he isn’t insane. To avenge himself, Odysseus forges a letter from King Priam of Troy that makes Palamedes out to be a traitor and hides some gold in Palamedes’ tent. Agamemnon discovers the letter and orders Palamedes stoned to death for his perceived treachery.
Painting of Palamedes

Palamedes before Agamemnon in a 1626 painting by Rembrandt.

Treachery and Death!
Nauplius resolved to avenge himself on the Greek commanders. He did so in several ways. First, according to the late antiquity myths chronicled by Dictys Cretensis, the Greeks aimed to sail home from Troy with all their booty. But the gods chose to wreck their ships, including those of the hero Ajax of Locris. Ajax managed to survive by clinging to a log – think Titanic-style – and, seeing a light in the distance, tried to float to safety. But Nauplius had set the torch up; the land where it was situated was actually a dangerous cliff, not on a safe shore, and so when Ajax paddled towards it, he eventually was dashed on the cliffs – to his death. Other accounts state that he kindled a fire on a mountain that didn’t really contain a harbor down below, which was pretty tricky.
Painting of Poseidon and Ajax

Poseidon kills Ajax the Lesser.

Oeax, brother of the late Palamedes and son of Nauplius, took up his father’s mantle. He spread malicious gossip to lots of Greek wives who were home waiting for their husbands to return to Greece. He told Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, and Aegiale, wife of the hero Diomedes (also Odysseus’s BFF), that their husbands “ were bringing back women they preferred to their wives.” Infuriated at the prospect of their spouses supplanting them with foreign slave-mistresses, Clytemnestra and Aegiale turned their hearts against their husbands. Pseudo-Apollodorus includes among the list of wives whom Nauplius corrupted the wife of Idomeneus, king of Crete.
When Diomedes finally came home to his city of Argos, Aegiale barred the gates against his entry. She never let him in, and so Diomedes allegedly fled to Italy, where he founded a handful of cities. Clytemnestra, of course, had the stronger revenge. She began sleeping with Agamemnon’s cousin, Aegisthus, and plotted to kill her husband when he came home, in part for his sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, prior to the war. Not only did Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon, she also bore Aegisthus a daughter bigamously (Dictys Cretensis says they were married), named Erigone. Ouch!
Painting of Clytemnestra

‘Clytemnestra’ (1882) by John Collier.

By Carly Silver, Contributing writer, Ancient Origins

Achilles (The Iliad)

by October 24, 2018

© Dan Lim, 2006 p: 416-863-5115Known From: The Iliad

“If I return home to my dear native land, lost then is my glorious renown, yet shall my life long endure, neither shall the doom of death come soon upon me”
-Achilles, From The Iliad
The hero of The Iliad, Achilles is the central character and fiercest warrior in Homer’s epic. He is portrayed as being hot-headed, ferocious, and often filled with grief. Achilles as the mournful warrior is a theme that Homer recounts several times during the course of The Iliad. Combining the nature of a grieving Achilles with his supposed immorality and unrelenting rage on the battlefield makes for a complex and deeply human Greek hero.
Achilles was supposedly the son of the water goddess, Thetis, and the mortal king Peleus. Achilles’ mother is a recurring character in The Iliad and she attempts to aid her son in numerous ways. While Homer makes no reference to Achilles as an immortal; other variants of the stories, written by the Roman poet Statius, describe how Thetis held her infant son by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx to grant him everlasting life.
As a young man Achilles was reared by the centaur Chiron, who was said to be kind, wise, and knowledgeable in the ways of medicine. While a disciple of Chiron, Achilles fed on the innards of lions and wild swines. In The Imagines, a work written by the Greek poet Philostratus of Athens, Chiron is said to have told the young Achilles:
“For although you have been taught by me thus gently the art of horsemanship, and are suited to such a horse as I, some day you shall ride on Xanthus and Balius; and you shall take many cities and slay many men.”
The prophecy would be fulfilled within the pages of The Iliad. 
Xanthus and Balius were the names of the two horses that would drive Achilles’ chariot into battle. This prediction by Achilles’ teacher would be fulfilled within the pages of The Iliad.
Click the link to read more about Achilles
-The Glory and the Tragedy of Achilles