Greek mythology has fascinated humans since times immemorial. From references in Shakespearian plays to the naming of the celestial bodies, Greek mythology is pretty widespread. These stories in ancient times served as pillars of moral guidance and provided purpose and meaning to life. Over time, science has given logical explanations for a number of phenomena that were otherwise explained by myths, but the popularity of these stories still remains intact.
This article sums up a few of the most famous Greek mythologies:
1. The myth of Arachne
Arachne was a beautiful woman born to a famous dyer of Lydia named Idmon. She had exceptional skills in weaving and the villagers believed she was trained by Athena, the goddess of weaving herself. Being a usual mortal, Arachne was soon very proud of her skills and began boasting about it.
One day, annoyed by constant remarks of her work being compared to Athena’s, Arachne claimed that she was not taught by Athena, and could weave better than her. When Athena heard of these claims, she disguised herself as an old woman and visited Arachne. She asked Arachne to not instigate the wrath of the Gods, as it might lead to disastrous consequences. Arachne was not moved and challenged Athena for a contest to prove her skills.
Athena was instigated and transformed into her true form. The competition began and people from all over the village collected to witness this unnatural fight. While Athena’s tapestry depicted the powers of the Greek Gods, Arachne chose to weave their more amorous side. She weaved how Zeus raped the Leda, The Spartan Queen by turning into a swan, how he abducted Aegina and seduced Danae. Regardless of the depictions, both the tapestries looked nothing short of spectacular.
After the competition was over, Arachne and Athena revealed their work. The sight of Arachne’s tapestry made Athena furious. She destroyed Arachne’s tapestry and turned her into a spider, cursing her descendants to hang from threads.
2. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus was an extremely talented musician of the ancient times. He is believed to be the son of Apollo, the God of music. The melody in Orpheus’s music enthralled not only the living but the non-living as well. It is said that even rocks and trees moved in order to be closer to him.
Orpheus’s music gathered audience from near and afar. It was on one such occasion that Orpheus met Eurydice, and fell in love at first sight. Orpheus’s music and charm attracted Eurydice too, and the couple soon decided to get married. Their wedding was blessed by Hymenaios, the God of marriage, and the surrounding was filled with joy.
After the wedding ceremonies were over, Orpheus and Eurydice decided to head back to their home. It was at this time when Aristaeus, a shepherd, and former lover of Eurydice tried to attack Orpheus. Orpheus was cautioned and started running away holding Eurydice’s hand. Aristaeus tried to follow them but the couple ran fast and Aristaeus soon lost hope.
Unaware of Aristaeus’s departure, Orpheus and Eurydice kept running. It was during the run that Orpheus felt Eurydice stumble and fall. He looked around to find that Aristaeus had already left, and Eurydice had fallen on the ground, bitten by a snake. Her face turned pale and she died in Orpheus’s arms.
Soon after Eurydice’s death, Orpheus decided to visit the underworld to bring her back. He sang to Hades, the God of the underworld, and his wife, Persephone. Moved by the despair in Orpheus’s music, Hades allowed Eurydice to return back to the living world. He told Orpheus that his wife would follow him to the upper land, but he was not supposed to turn, or she will disappear, never to return.
Orpheus began his journey to the upper world, filled with joy. His heart longed to turn around, but he kept a check on his emotions. As soon as he reached the upper world, he turned around, only to look at Eurydice, who was still in the dark. The promise was broken and Eurydice thus disappeared into the dark. Orpheus returned to the underworld again, but his efforts went in vain.
Orpheus’s life changed drastically after Eurydice’s death. He lost purpose and his music turned sad. He abandoned the company of women and was later killed by a group of irate ladies. His soul then traveled to the underworld, where he was reunited with Eurydice, the love of his life.
The love of Orpheus and Eurydice has inspired numerous artists, and the myth remains one of the most popular Greek mythologies even in the present day.
3. The myth of Icarus
Icarus was the son of Daedalus, an ancient engineer known for his extraordinary skills. Daedalus initially used to live in Athens but was later sent to the island of Crete as a punishment for killing his nephew. He then worked for Minos, the king of Crete. It was in Crete that Daedalus met Naucrete, a mistress-slave of the king and fell in love with her. They got married and Icarus was born.
Minos was gifted a beautiful white bull by Poseidon, the sea god. He had promised to sacrifice the bull to the sea, which he later refused. Angered by Minos’s behavior, Poseidon cursed Pasiphae, Minos’s wife, to fall in love with the bull.
Desperate for the bull’s attention, Pasiphae asked Daedalus to build a hollow wooden cow. Abiding by the orders, Daedalus designed a beautiful hollow cow that Pasiphae entered to seduce the bull. Their union resulted in the birth of Minotaur, a half-bull, half-human creature.
Furious at Daedalus for building the cow, Minos ordered Daedalus and Icarus to be imprisoned in a tall tower. Before the execution of the punishment, Daedalus was asked to design a labyrinth that no one would ever be able to escape. It was in this labyrinth that Minos kept Minotaur, who then could never escape.
After being imprisoned, Daedalus was in continuous search of ways to escape. He soon came to the conclusion that they could only flee via air since the land and the sea were under strict supervision. Daedalus started collecting feathers of birds that flew above the tower and stuck them with wax to design two pairs of full-fledged wings. He gave one of the pairs to his son, along with two pieces of advice. One, flying too close to the sun will melt the wax, and two, flying too low will cause them to be blown away by the wind. They were thus supposed to take extreme care of the height in order to fly safely.
Daedalus and Icarus flew off the building and were soon flying over the sea. Taken over by the joy of flight, Icarus flew higher and higher. Daedalus warned him once and again, but the warnings went in vain. Icarus was soon flying high up in the sky. The heat from the sun melted the wax and Icarus fell right into the sea, dead. Daedalus cursed himself for the death of his son, but no amount of despair could bring his dead son back to life.
4. The myth of Oedipus
Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. When a priest of the kingdom visited the baby, he declared that Oedipus would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. Laius, scared by the prediction, pinned Oedipus’s feet and left him under a mountain to die. He was picked by the shepherds of Corinth, who handed him over to the king Polybus and queen Merope. Polybus and Merope raised Oedipus as their own son. Upon growing older, he came to know of adoption. Oedipus then went to Delphi to ask the Priest about his parentage.
The priest told him his fate, and horrified by the idea of killing his father, Oedipus swore to never return to Corinth. He instead decided to go to Thebes.
The way to Thebes had a narrow road where Oedipus encountered an old man in a chariot. The two quarreled over giving way and Oedipus ended up killing the old man. Upon reaching Thebes, Oedipus came to know that the Thebans were being terrorized by a monster, who was eating them if they failed to answer a riddle correctly. The people of Thebes also told Oedipus that the king of Thebes was murdered on his way to find a solution to the puzzle. Oedipus attempted the puzzle and gave the right answer. Enraged, the monster killed itself and Oedipus was made the king of Thebes. He also married the Jocasta, the king’s widow.
Years after Oedipus ruled the kingdom of Thebes, a man from Corinth visited Oedipus with the news of Polybus’s death. He also said that the people of Corinth wanted Oedipus to return to rule the kingdom. Relieved of having not killed his father, Oedipus shared his story of the priest with his wife. Jocasta told Oedipus to not fear priests as a similar oracle had predicted that his son would kill his husband, but he was instead killed by a stranger on his way to Delphi. This reminded Oedipus of his encounter with the old man, and he realized having killed his own father. Jocasta speculated for pin marks on Oedipus’s feet and found him to be her son. Taken aback by the truth, Jocasta committed suicide. Ashamed of his actions, Oedipus took a pin from her dress and blinded himself.
Oedipus was banished from Thebes and later moved to Athens, where he died in a grove of trees called Colonus.
5. The myth of Pandora’s box
Pandora was the first woman on earth. She was created by the Greek Gods as a punishment to mankind. The Gods blessed her with qualities of all sorts, making her beautiful as well as skillful. Zeus, the God of all Gods, asked Hermes, the God of trade to teach Pandora to be deceitful, stubborn and curious. Pandora was gifted a box by the Greek Gods, which she was not allowed to open ever.
The curiosity instilled in Pandora could not keep her from opening the box for long. She opened the box, and out came the illness, hardships and evil spirits. Scared, she closed the box immediately, locking hope inside.
It is said that hope was locked in the box as a part of Zeus’s plan to make humans suffer on disobeying the Gods. Pandora’s Box has been depicted in a number of paintings and has been popular in artists of all eras.