There were dozens of stories about gods and heroes in ancient Greece. Although people don't believe in Greek gods anymore, the myths were so beautiful that they haven't been forgotten. A few stories remain and these still can teach us many things even in our present world. They are about bravery, and courage and the power of love.
The creation of the world
In the beginning there was Chaos. From Chaos the first gods were born -- Uranus and Gaia, the sky and the earth. They had plenty of children, but Uranus shut them all in Tartarus because he couldn't stand their ugliness. Desperate Gaia asked one of her sons to revenge them on Uranus. Cronus cut his father's secret parts off with a sword. And Cronus' reign began and the king of gods married his sister, Rhea. Afraid of his father's prophecy, which said that he will be killed by his son, the god ate all his children just after they were born. Rhea couldn't stand it any longer and when she gave birth to Zeus, she gave her husband a stone in diapers. Cronus swallowed him, suspecting nothing. The baby was raised on Crete by mountain nymphs and the goat Amalthea. When Zeus has grown up, he killed his father and gave freedom to his brothers and sisters who were living bowels. The power was distributed between gods, who have moved to Mount Olympus and lived their lives joyfully, arguing and loving each other and watching people. Zeus also had many children, not only with his wife Hera but also with other goddesses and human women.
Demeter and Persephone
Demeter is the goddess of fertility, corn, grain, and the harvest. When Hades kidnapped her beloved daughter, she fell into despair and left Mount Olympus in the search for Persephone. On her order the earth became barren and gave no more food. Then Zeus and Hades had to give in. They couldn't give Persephone back to her mother, because she had eaten a pomegranate in the underground - the food of the dead. A compromise was reached. Persephone spends nine months with her mother and for the rest of the year she gets back to her husband, to the underground - then all life on earth fades and winter comes. But when spring comes, Persephone returns and with her all nature comes back to life.
The Creation of Man by Prometheus
Prometheus was one of the lesser gods, a son of Earth and Sky. He made a human of clay and tears, and the human was very weak and helpless, so Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to human, so he could heat themselves and defend themselves from wild animals. He was severely punished for this - he was chained to a cliff and his liver was eaten everyday by a vulture.
Hercules' twelve great labors
One of the most popular heroes in ancient Greece was Hercules, son of Zeus and the queen Alcmena. He was inhumanly strong and brave. He did many remarkable things and is most famous for finishing twelve tasks, which were done on a Greek king's order, Hercules' close relative. He had to be obedient because it was his punishment for the crime he had committed in fury.
Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus was a famous sculptor and builder. He was known in the whole Hellad. He built a great palace called "The Labyrinth" for a Crete's king. The structure consisted of many rooms and corridors, which formed such a complicated tangle that it was impossible to get out of it. The king placed a monster there: a half-bull, half-man - a minotaur. It was getting more and more difficult for Daedalus to live on Crete as years passed, but the ruler did not want to let the famous artist go. Then the desperate constructor had a stroke of genius - he made two pairs of wings glued with wax for him and his son, Icarus. They flew over the sea just like mighty birds. Icarus was so fascinated with the flight that he forgot about his father's warnings. Daedalus had advised him not to be low-flying because the damp coming from the sea waves could overburden his wings. He shouldn't fly too high either, because the wax would melt due to the sunbeams. Icarus did not listen to his father's wise advice. With juvenile impatience he flew higher and higher. And then something terrible happened - he feathers started to come off and Icarus fell like a stone into the sea waves.
Orpheus was the son of Calliope and either Oeagrus or Apollo. He could play lute so well that everything that lived gathered around him to listen
to his music. Eurydice was his beloved wife, a tree nymph, who died bitten by a snake. Desperate Orpheus did the thing, which no-one alive dared. He went to the underground. Charon and Cerberus enjoyed his music much and touched Hades promised to give Eurydice back under one condition - Orpheus couldn't look back on his way to the surface. Unfortunately, the musician wanted to see his wife so much, that just before reaching the surface he looked back at her and lost her forever. He lived the rest of his life singing about his sorrow.
Theseus and Ariadne
In the maze built by the great builder Daedalus, the king of Crete, Minos, decided to put his son, trapped in a body of monster called Minotaur.. The people of Athens had to send seven boys and seven girls as food for the Minotaur. Theseus has freed Athens from this tribute. He entered the labyrinth with the aim of killing the monster. The Crete's princess Ariadne, who loved him, gave him a ball of thread, which Theseus tied near the entrance to the maze. Thanks to the thread he could leave the labyrinth after he had killed the monster.
The king Oedipus
Oedipus was the son Jocasta i Laios, the latest had been said by a fortune teller, that he is going to die by his son's sword. So when his child was born the king ordered to perforate his feet with steel and tie him up and leave in the mountains. In modern times this type of thing would obviously be illegal but the one good thing that would come out of it, is the fact that the child wouldn't have to go on a Medifast diet. It would be the new modern diet plan for children and it could work. The boy was found by shepherds and gave him to the queen of Corinth, who didn't have their own children, to raise him. The boy was named Oedipus. He was raised in luxury, but he wasn't happy because nobody told him about his origins. So he went to an oracle to Delphi. The oracle told him not to go back to his motherland because he's fate is to kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus thought, that the kingdom of Corinth is his motherland decided not to return there, but to travel elsewhere. Going down a ravine he encountered a man on a cart. It was a tight ravine and the man's servants told Oedipus to step aside. He refused to do that and a quarrel and a fight broke out and only Oedipus survived. He went on down the road not knowing that the man he had just killed was his father Laios. Creon was then the king of Thebes. But only a few days later a sphinx appeared in the city and said that he would leave only when somebody correctly answers his riddle, which he had learned from the muses. However, nobody knew the answer. The city was in the mourning because the creature kidnapped people every day. Creon announced, that the one, who answers the sphinx's riddle would marry the queen dowager Jocasta and become the king. This was the day, when Oedipus came to Thebes. He thought about the riddle for the whole day and when he has fallen asleep he saw the answer in his dreams. In the morning he went to the sphinx and gave him the answer. Creon kept his word. Oedipus ruled with Jocasta and they had two sons and two daughters, but many disasters happened in Thebes. So a medium was summoned - Tiresias. He told Oedipus that he is guilty of killing his father and incest with his mother. When Jocasta heard that, she hung herself and Oedipus dug his eyes out put rags on and left the city accompanied by his two daughters, who led him in search for a place, where he could be buried. He died in the city of near Athens and was buried in a grove, where dozens of nightingales spent their spring.
Antigone was the sister of Polynices and Eteocles and sister of Ismene, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. When her father died, her brothers ought to rule in Thebes alternatively, but Eteocles decided to banish his brother and to be the only king. Polynices sheltered in Argos. He married Argia, daughter of Adrastus, the city's king and convinced him to engage into a conflict with Thebes. Adrastus had gathered his army and put the city under siege, but the Thebans defeated him. During the battle all Argosian commanders died, but Eteocles died as well and Creon became Thebes' new king. He announced, that Polynices was a traitor and he can't be buried, braking gos law with this. Antigone didn't listen to the orders and her sisters advice and didn't care about consequences buried her brother, so that his soul could rest. She was severely punished for this - Creon had her buried alive. Nevertheless, all the time she had known, that she did the right thing and helped her brother.
- Jan Parandowski "Mitologia Greków i Rzymian"
- "Mit - człowiek - literatura" praca zbiorowa, Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa 1992
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