Greek Mythology is a mix of several important elements of Greek culture:
Just The Facts
- Greek mythology is a collection of the traditional stories and plays of the Ancient Greek people, similar to American stories about planting apple seeds or chopping down cherry trees, but with killing and rape instead of fruit trees.
- It is the oral and written legends of the Hellenistic people from around 750 BCE to 363 CE. The legends were often told through poetry so that it was easier to remember but also because the Greeks love of rap battles.
- Many of these myths are still well known today, thanks to such prominent figures in history as Sophocles, Homer, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Iron Maiden.
- Greek culture was adapted by Rome and the gods were given Latin names, yet the toga remains the finest adapted element from the ancient culture.
Cracked on Greek Mythology
Welcome to Cracked.com's topic page on Greek Mythology. In this section, we will gain knowledge and appreciation for the beliefs and writings of one of the most influential societies in the ancient world, and, in the process, mock them for their inaccuracies. Here is a basic overview of the mythological world and its residents. If you enjoyed this, maybe you'll also enjoy the Cracked article, "Bukkake of the Gods: Japan's Most Insane Creation Myths."
Cyclops- A giant with one eye. There were three Cyclopses in Greek mythology, and they made Zeus's thunderbolts and weapons for gods, along with Hephaestus. Apollo killed them in revenge for vicariously killing his son, and Zeus eventually returned them from Hades. Homer also described a land of Cyclopses in the Odyssey.
Nymph- A nymph is an embodiment of nature in the form of a young, beautiful human woman. They protected their designated area based on their type: land, water, wood, etc. These include muses, which were spiritual inspirations. They were servants and jailbait for the gods.
Titan- A titan was a giant and one of the 12 sons and daughters of the god Uranus and goddess Gaia. They bred with each other, and two of the most important, Cronus and Rhea, produced Zeus and his siblings. The fact that a southern football team's name is based on giants who married their sisters is probably a coincidence.
Centaur- A centaur is half-man and half-horse. They were either the children of Ixion and a cloud that looked like Hera that Zeus made to prevent rape, or descendents of Apollo and a nymph. We aren't going to question this logic, but we're pretty sure that horse should be involved.
Satyrs- Satyrs were male nymphs that hung out with Pan and Dionysus. They were half-man, half-goat, and pretty much all art depicting them having boners. A satyr play was the Greek equivalent of modern Japanese entertainment, as the comedies involved rape and the more serious plays involved skipping and hopping.
Minotaur- The Minotaur, Asterion, was part man, part bull. He was a product of Poseidon, pissed at the King of Crete not sacrificing a bull, making the King's wife bang the bull. She did this by asking Daedulus, an architect, make her a fake bull out of wood. You'd think that this would cause some questioning, but we all know how Greeks feel about using wooden animals as tricks.
Gorgons- The three gorgons were monsters with fangs, tusks, wings, snake belts, claws, and the ability to turn people to stone, which kind of makes the sharp appendages excessive. The best-known Gorgon, Medusa, also had snake-hair and was the only one that was not immortal. Their purpose was to guard objects, and they also possessed healing powers
Harpies- were death spirits that appeared to be part women and part eagle. Zeus used them to torture Phineus, an oracle who said too much, by having them swoop down and steal his food whenever he was about to eat. They are glorified seagulls. The sirens were probably harpies that could sing and lure ships.
Hecatonchires- Hecatonchires are giants with 50 heads and 100 hands. There were three of them named Gyges the Big-Limbed, Cottus the Striker, and Briareos/Aigaion the Sea-Goat. They lived in Tartarus after Uranus, their father, decided that they were too ugly, and eventually Zeus rescued them and they defeated the titans by throwing big rocks at them thus proving the saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" to be flawed in the sense that the words prompt the stoning.
The gods were important characters in Greek mythology. They lived in the same world as man, and possessed powers and had an element or domain that was under their control. Kind of like if the Planeteers had a cult following and did more than protect the environment. Each city-state had a temple to a specific god or goddess, and Olympia was the Mecca or Vatican City of the Greek religion. There were 13 major gods, 12 of whom were said to live on Mount Olympus, and they were referred to as the 12 Olympians. There were other gods as well, but they were less important and less influential.
Zeus was the king of the gods and the god of thunder and the sky. With his rulership over the gods, dozens of children, (including many of the other major gods) and his portrayal resembling an old, bearded man, Zeus was the Papa Smurf of Greek religion. Zeus's weapon of choice was a thunderbolt forged by the Cyclops. He would smite those who displeased him with this.
Piss off Zeus? You're totally smurfed.
Zeus' greatest accomplishment was freeing his siblings, who had been swallowed by their father, Cronus, with a poison that forced the father to vomit them out. A war then broke out, involving Zeus, the other gods, and other mythical creatures in a war called the Titanomocy against the titans, including Cronus. Eventually they overtook the Titans and imprisoned them in the Greek equivalent of Hell. Zeus's temple was at Olympia, where the Olympics were held in his honor and an altar was built to him made from the ashes of sacrificed animals, which seems like a half-assed attempt at appeasing the god. "Oh, we didn't get around to carving an altar, just burn that cow on that pile over there." In Rome, Zeus was renamed Jupiter.
Hera was the goddess of marriage and women. She was Zeus's sister and wife, as well as the queen of the gods. She was the mother of several major gods and was pissed off about how Zeus slept around. Because of this, when Zeus' baby's mama gave birth, he would usually either chain up Hera and hide his illegitimate child, or transform his bastard child into an animal so she wouldn't find out. Otherwise, Hera would throw snakes in the baby's crib, like she did to his son Heracles, or torture the mother. While a man with Ixion tried to give her a little action on the side, Zeus had him bound to a fiery wheel. Clearly, Hera was a great choice for goddess of marriage. Her Roman name was Juno and her main area of worship was in the city of Argos.
Poseidon was the brother of Zeus and Hera. He was the Greek god of the sea, horses, and earthquakes, which may not seem like things that belong together, but the Greeks threw horses to into the sea as a sacrifice, a practice occasionally re-enacted at carnivals, and earthquakes were one of the natural disasters that Poseidon caused with his trident. Much like his brother, Zeus, Poseidon loved the ladies; except by loved, we mean raped, and by ladies, we mean ladies and monsters. Several of his children were produced through rape. In one case, his sister tried to escape by turning into a horse, so Poseidon also turned into a horse, and then raped her. This act was one lesbian encounter and Cleveland steamer away from being the very embodiment of internet porn. Poseidon's rage caused most natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes. His Roman counter-part is Neptune and his shrines were at Pylos and Thebes.
Hestia was a sister to the three aforementioned gods and goddess, and was the Greek god of the hearth, which is a fire symbolic of domestic life. She is the opposite of her brothers, meaning she was a calm virgin instead of a man-whore who smote everything. She didn't really do much of anything except light the fire at Mount Olympus, which she moved away from because she was disapproved of the fighting.
"Oh no you didn't"
Just look at that disapproval; hand on the hip, finger wagging; you can't get much more disapproving than that. Hestia didn't really get a permanent altar in any city like the other gods; rather, her altar was every fireplace in Greece. Her Roman counterpart is Vesta.
Hephaestus was the god of technology, blacksmiths, fire, and artisans, and he was the son of Zeus and Hera. His main qualities were being a blacksmith and being ugly and deformed. So ugly and deformed, in fact, that Hera threw him from Mt. Olympus because she couldn't stand to look at him. To get back at her, Hephaestus gave her a throne that trapped her when she sat on it. Eventually, the god of wine, Dionysus got him drunk so that he would free her. Hephaestus's ugliness caused the goddess Athena to reject him, and as a result, Hephaestus forged the eerily coincidentally named Athenian king, Erechtheus, except instead of a hammer and anvil, he used his hand and his pants-hammer, if you catch our drift. The rest of Hephaestus's accomplishments involve making armor, chariots, or weaponry for the gods and goddesses, and making the first woman, Pandora, except this time, using mud instead of spunk. Hephaestus's main shrine was in Lemnos, and his Roman equivalent was Vulcan.
Athena is the goddess of wisdom, arts, justice, skill, war and industry. Athena's conception and birth is probably one of the more bizarre myths. It begins, the way many Greek myths seem to, with Zeus seducing a woman; in this case, it was Metis, the goddess of prudence. Zeus' grandmother, Gaia, told Zeus that Metis's child might be a son more powerful than Zeus. At this point, Zeus did the rational thing; Zeus swallowed the pregnant Metis, which seems to be a common pastime the Greek gods. Metis proceeded to make a robe and helmet for her future daughter, Athena, whilst living in Zeus' stomach. We can only speculate as to how, but we assume that in preparation for the swallowing of Metis, Zeus practiced on a sewing machine, a hammer and anvil, and several pounds of scrap iron. The forging of the helmet gave Zeus headaches, so his son, Hephaestus, proceeded to split Zeus' skull open with an axe, a primitive form of aspirin. Athena then popped out as a fully-grown woman wearing the helmet and robe. We like to think that the Ancient Greeks used this story as an alternative to answering the question of where babies come from. This would have made fathers' ouzo-related hangovers far more interesting, axe-related, and then disappointing for many Greek children. Athena's main shrine was in Athens, and her Roman counter-part was Minerva.
Apollo was the son of Zeus and a titan named Leto. He was the god of music, poetry, oracles. Apollo was a warrior, using a bow and arrows made by Hephaestus, and tended to kill things, pissing off other gods. When he was young, Hera tried to kill Leto with a dragon named Python, so Apollo killed it with his bow. Unfortunately, Python was Gaia's child, so Apollo had to work as a cowherd for 9 years. Later, Apollo killed the Cyclopses to get back at Zeus, and was forced to work as a shepherd. Since Apollo was the god of music, each of these punishments was accompanied with a sad trombone noise.
After killing Python, Apollo took over the oracle at Delphi, the site where he had killed the dragon. This is the same oracle from The 300, except instead of floating around and being scantily clad, she was just got high on fumes and told Socrates how great he was. Because of this, Apollo received oracular powers, which he used to pick-up chicks by offering them powers instead of the modern approach of turning the power into a lame pick-up line. Either way, it didn't work. One woman, Cassandra, took his powers and then rejected him, instead of doing something stupid like when Poseidon's sister turned into a horse. In fact, Apollo's rejections mostly seemed better planned than the other gods'. Marpessa, another of his ladies, turned him down because he was immortal and would tire her out. The nymph, Daphne, on the other hand, turned herself into a tree instead of banging Apollo, who had been stalking her.
Apollo also liked men, including a Spartan prince named Hyacinth. They practiced throwing the discus together, which is surprisingly not innuendo, but the god of the wind blew one of Apollo's discuses into Hyacinth's head out of jealousy and killed him. Apollo made a flower of Hyacinth's blood, which became an annual festival for Sparta, which now seems far less manly, knowing that they celebrate flowers and gay sex. Apollo's main shrine was at Delphi, and his Roman name was still Apollo, except by that point he had been combined with the sun god, Helios.
Artemis was Apollo's twin sister and was the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, and, fertility, which is strange, since she was chaste, a side effect of being a woman who spends most of her time shooting wild boars. Actaeon saw her bathing, and in response, Artemis turned him into a stag and released the hounds, Mr. Burns-style. It was probably a good thing that she remained a virgin, because while she was a healer, she also spread rabies, leprosy, and gout. Overall, Artemis' virginity and love for deer made her comparable to a crazy cat lady, except with deer. She really didn't do a whole lot else besides hunt and kill people who were arrogant or killed her deer. There was a Spartan festival dedicated to her, in which boys attempted to steal cheese from an altar whilst being whipped, but scholars cannot determine a logical explanation as to how this relates to Artemis. Artemis's main shrine was at Ephesus and was a Wonder of the World
Demeter was a sister of Zeus and the goddess of agriculture. She and Zeus had a daughter named Persephone, who was abducted by Hades. Demeter pretty much just spent her time looking for her daughter and teaching people about agriculture. Eventually, Zeus made Hades give her back, but Hades gave Persephone a special pomegranate that made her return to Hades for a third of the year. During that time, Demeter would not allow crops to be grown. She had four other children, who must have felt like the Jackson 5 members that weren't Michael. Demeter also attempted to repay King Celeus by turning one of his sons into a god. This involved setting the son on fire, which the family was surprisingly not happy about. Demeter decided that since they didn't want that, a better reward would be teaching the brother to grow corn. He was eventually almost murdered for trying to teach another king how to grow crops, so Demeter turned that king into a lynx. Corn is of equal importance to immortality in the eyes of the gods. Demeter had shrines all over the place and her Roman counter-part was Ceres.
Ares was the god of war and a son of Zeus and Hera. While he was a major god and Olympian, the Greeks didn't see him as very significant (so insignificant, his Encyclopedia Mythica article is mostly an advertisement) and there aren't many stories about him. He mainly just killed ruthlessly and had children, who also killed ruthlessly. The other gods didn't like him because he was kind of a dick. His Roman equivalent is Mars, the supposed father of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, and his shrine was at Thrace.
Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and love. Her birth was caused by Uranus's severed balls falling into the sea. Because she was so attractive, Zeus was concerned that all the gods would fight and kill each other in order to marry her, so they gave her to Hephaestus out of pity for his ugliness and so he would stop trapping his mother on thrones. This was not the perfect marriage, as Hephaestus showered her with gifts, and she slept around. Eventually, the sun god Helos caught her sleeping with Ares, and told Hephaestus about it. Hephaestus trapped the two of them in a net and brought them to Mt. Olympus so they could be punished by the other gods. The other gods laughed and came to a consensus that they would "tap that." Poseidon eventually had Hephaestus free the two. Aside from sleeping around, she also made people fall in love to get back at them for pissing off her or her daughters. Hippolytus worshipped Artemis instead of Aphrodite, so Aphrodite made him fall for his stepmother, and he and his stepmother ended up dead. Artemis found out and sent her boar after Aphrodite's lover, Adonis, who Aphrodite had been a surrogate mother for, and the boar ate his balls, killing him. It's like the Christian statement, "From dust you are born and unto dust you shall return," except in this case, the ashes are testicles. Her Roman counter-part is Venus and her main place of worship was amongst prostitutes.
Hermes was the messenger god and the god of shepherds, merchants, orators, athletes, and thieves. He was the son of Zeus and a nymph named Maia. He invented several musical instruments including the lyre, which he made to repay Apollo for stealing his cattle. He was originally a god of fertility, symbolized by a stone penis that travelers would add stones to as they passed. His main jobs consisted of being a messenger and guiding the dead souls to Hades. His children included Pan, who was half goat and a hermaphrodite because Hermes was just as perverse as the other gods. He also killed a giant to save a nymph who was in charge of cattle. His Roman counterpart was Mercury and he was mostly worshipped in Arcadia.
Dionysus was the god of wine, theatre, and agriculture. He was the son of Zeus and a priestess named Semele, who Hera tricked into getting smote by Zeus. Zeus saved the unborn Dionysus from his dead mother and sewed him to his thigh. You'd think with Hera's animosity toward Zeus's bastard children, she would attempt to kill the baby again, but non-deadly attacks to that area were not considered until the 1990's. Instead, Hera just made him insane and an alcoholic. Dionysus eventually rescued his mother from Hades and made her a goddess. He was aided by Prosymnus, a shepherd who died during the journey, who Dionysus gave the gift of a dildo made from an olive branch, which is probably not the best material to insert in any orifice. Dionysus also granted Midas the golden touch, and many of his other myths involve him driving women to insanity. His Roman name was Bacchus and his temple locations varied.
Hades was the Greek underworld, which was ruled by the god Hades. To get there, one would have to cross the River Styx. After the hangman came down from the gallows and the jig is up, they would leave a coin under the deceased tongue to pay for the ferry, driven by Charon. At that point, Charon would come sail away with them. Rumor has it it's the end of paradise. Next were the gates of Hades, devoid of allusions to 70's progressive rock bands. They were guarded by Cerberus, a three-headed dog that prevented souls from escaping from Hades.
Tartarus was a pit and the lowest point in existence. It was a prison for those who pissed off of were enemies of the gods. The gods tortured those cast there by strapping them to flaming wheels, having an eagle eat their liver for eternity, having them push a rock up a hill for eternity, or keeping food out of reach. It was the Greek equivalent of hell or some parts of Central America.