Benny4700’s Top Twelve Favourite Greek Myths


I’m a very nostalgic person and now that I’m at university I find myself constantly looking back on the fantastic times I had at Sixth Form, the amazing friends I made and the life lessons I learned (God I sound like Mary Alice Young from Desperate Housewives…) The point is that I, as most people who know me well will attest, adore Classical mythology and history. I studied it at A level, my bookshelves are lined with Tacitus and Suetonius and I was raised on Greek mythology, so I have decided to honour the Classical Greek religion by listing my top 12 (because of the 12 Olympians) Greek myths, not only as a tribute to Classical Greece but also as a little trip down nostalgia lane for me. Remember that this list in entirely subjective and chances are you may not feel the same.

12) Everyone in Tartarus

Yeah I know it’s a cop-out but I just couldn’t choose one that stands out. Tartarus is basically the ancient Greek equivalent of Hell. After death, most souls would go to another part of the underworld (Ordinary people would go to the Asphodel Meadows, Heroes would go to the Isles of the Blessed and the virtuous dead would go to the Elysian Fields.) but Tartarus is different, originally it was reserved for the Titans but later on it just became the general destination for the damned, each with their own specially chosen punishment that is in some way reflective of either their life, the reason why they were condemned or sometimes not symbolic at all and just general quirky sadism.

 Twinned with Belgium

Amongst the souls in Tartarus are the Danaids who murdered their husbands and are punished by having to carry large jugs of water to fill up a bath which will wash away their sins, however, in typical Tartarus fashion, the jugs have holes in them and so the water spills out. King Ixion is strapped to a burning wheel, forever doomed to spin out of control in the same way that he had allowed his life’s perversions to. Damocles is seated at a table filled with tempting food but if he reaches out for some the sword above his head will fall and slice him in two, Sisyphus is doomed to push a large boulder up a hill everyday only for it to roll down the other side every night. Tantalus is fastened in a river with a branch from an apple tree above him and the river running underneath him. If he reaches for an apple, the branch will move and if he reaches for water, the river will part away from his hand, indeed, it is from Tantalus that we get the word tantalize. So yeah, Tartarus is not a nice place and I guess that’s why it fascinates me in the way that it does. It’s for the same reason people still read the Divine Comedy, Hell is interesting. We like to see these people being punished in quirky ways, we like the imagery and the idea that maybe the god’s aren’t quite as benevolent as we would think. Something you’ll hear me say a lot throughout this list is just how douchey the god’s can be. Tartarus is a great example of this, horribly sadistic but each punishment is just too quirky to hate.

11) King Midas

Everybody knows this one; it’s the definitive story of greed. The God Dionysus finds that, once again, his old satyr tutor and friend Silenus had gone missing. Silenus had in fact turned up, drunk, in the rose garden of King Midas. Midas recognises the satyr and nurses him before taking him to Dionysus who asks Midas what he wants as thanks for recovering the old drunk. Midas’s greed leads him to ask for everything he touches to turn to gold. Dionysus, being pretty drunk himself, agreed.

 Presumably before singing Fame and claiming to see a double rainbow all across the sky.

Midas then tests his newfound gift by picking up a stone and then by touching a branch, both of which turn to solid gold. The king rushes home to find that when he tries to eat food it turns to solid gold in his hands. Midas’s wife kisses him, at which point she turns into a golden statue, his daughter hugs him and Midas weeps as she too turns into solid gold. Midas hurries to Dionysus who tells him to bathe in a nearby river thus removing the curse and to this day the river has always been a source of gold. It is this myth that gives us the term ‘Midas touch’ eg someone who is highly successful. I think I like this myth mostly because it takes the character of Midas, who is a generic greedy man, and it breaks him. He doesn’t get his wife and daughter back (only in the child friendly versions is the ending more optimistic) and he renounces all his worldly possessions and joins the cult of the god Pan. Furthermore the idea of taking something typically deemed good, in this case wealth, and blowing it to such an excess that it becomes a curse is relatively new at this point but nowadays we have such a social recognition for it that it seems to crop up in multiple fables, short stories and children’s books. The story also gives us the iconic imagery of a man turning something to gold via touch, something we see countless more times in popular culture (Goldfinger, Heroes and…Others) the myth of the Midas touch is one that is full of great imagery and a brilliantly tragic character.

10) Actaeon and Artemis

Of all the myths on this list the story of Actaeon and Artemis is by far the most brutal. Actaeon is a great hunter and one day, whilst hunting for a particularly elusive stag with his hunting dogs, he stumbles upon the goddess Artemis, patron of hunters, virginity and the moon, bathing with her nymph servants. So transfixed by her beauty is Actaeon that he cannot move and Artemis soon notices him. In a moment of undeniable brutality the goddess transforms Actaeon into a magnificent stag and proceeds to set his own dogs on him who tear him apart. This is very much a defining moment for Artemis who is generally perceived as this pure woman who keeps hunters in check and maintains the balance between humanity and nature. Here we see a very different version of her. So wrapped up in the importance of her own purity is she that she savagely murders a man, with his own pets no less, for daring to accidently stumble upon her bathing. It also taps into a very real fear of not being able to speak out to save one’s self. Actaeon cried out for his dogs to heel and to spare their master but instead of words came…whatever noise a stag makes…It’s a great story with a very bloody ending and a defining moment for one of the more popular goddesses.

9) Orpheus and Eurydice

This is without a doubt one of the most tragic love stories of all time. Romeo and Juliet, Jack and Rose, Fatty Arbuckle and that woman he killed. None of them hold a candle to Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus is a musician, one of the greatest in all of Greece. One day his beautiful wife Eurydice is playing in a forest glen when a particularly sleazy satyr appears and tried to rape her.

Connection?

Eurydice flees, trips and falls into a snake’s nest where she is promptly bitten to death. When Orpheus finds out what has happened he resolves to rescue his bride. He goes into the underworld itself to petition Hades to release his wife. At first Hades refuses because, ya know, he’s a dick that way. Once the god realises just who Orpheus is however, he asks him to play on his lyre.

 

No, that’s LIAR

Orpheus obliges and the beauty of his music is such that it reduces Hades to tears and it is decided that Orpheus can have his wife back, providing he continues playing his music, which Eurydice will follow, and not turn back or she would remain dead. Orpheus begins his trek towards the outside world, his music still playing, eventually though he becomes paranoid, wondering whether Hades would remain true to his word. Unable to bear it any further, he turns and sees that Eurydice is indeed behind him, her eyes turn from joy to despair as she is dragged back into darkness, uttering only one word. ‘Why?’ That is friggen heart-breaking. Not only is this story highly depressing and likely to make you want to slice your wrists open but it’s also very symbolic. It’s actually rare for someone living to go to the underworld and when they do it’s highly significant. It represents the conquering of death. When Heracles did it, it was because of his determination to prove himself, when Orpheus does it, it’s for love. He braves Hell for the woman he loves. The myth is also about the power of music, it’s Orpheus’ playing that sways Hades and makes Eurydice follow him but there is also a theme of trust, Orpheus’ paranoia made him turn back and lose Eurydice forever. This is possibly the quintessential tragic love story, it’s got everything you could possibly want from a great Greek myth, and it gets to me every single time.

8) Hephaestus and Hera’s chair

The origin of Hephaestus is pretty tragic but there are two versions. Either he’s born ugly and Hera throws him from Mt Olympus causing him to become lame OR Hera and Zeus are arguing and Hephaestus chooses his mother’s side causing Zeus to throw him from Mt Olympus. Either way he’s cast down and the fall cripples him. Hephaestus is raised by nymphs who teach him the art of metalwork and fire. Later on in life, Hephaestus returns to Mt Olympus to join the other gods whereby Hera refuses to admit him because of his ugliness and, as we all know, all ugly people are inherently evil.

 

How is he not a picture of goodness?

So Hera turns Hephaestus away and, in retaliation, he builds a beautiful, golden chair, because nothing says fuck you like an expensive, well-made piece of furniture. Hera, of course, accepts the gift and places it in the throne room, trying it out immediately. As soon as the goddess sits down, ropes and chains spring forth and tie Hera to the chair. She demands to be released and, naturally, Hephaestus refuses and leaves. One by one all the gods beg for Hera to be released and each is turned away. Eventually the rest of the god’s come up with a plan to free Hera. They offer Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, as a trophy wife for Hephaestus. He accepts, although Aphrodite ishardly happy about it, the chair frees Hera and Hephaestus is allowed to join his bretheren. I think I like this myth because it adds something of a reality, as realistic as a Greek god can be, to the mythos of ancient Greek religion. Hephaestus isn’t like the other gods, he’s physically flawed. While the other gods always seemed very beautiful and practically perfect, Hephaestus is an ugly cripple. It’s a great dose of realism to an otherwise often very fansical pantheon. Lots of other people look at this myth and think the matching of Hephaestus and Aphrodite is a little cruel. It’s almost as if the other gods are making a joke out of it and to some extent I agree, they do get a kick out of it, but I don’t think there’s any love between the two. Hephaestus is probably only into it because it’s Aphrodite, the living personification of beauty, and Aphrodite, although forced into it, always came across as a little disgusted by the whole setup. It’s not really a relationship in the sense that neither of them truly care about the other, it’s a very open arrangement. I actually think it’s pretty funny in its own way. As much as I love Hera, and I do think she’s a great character, I do love how she’s sort of put in her place by Hephaestus, it’s even a little satisfying because Hera isn’t above doing terrible, terrible things and whilst I can argue that most of the time she’s entirely justified, here she’s just a total bitch. In a way it really is a classic underdog story.

7) Aphrodite, Ares and the Golden Net

As I said before Aphrodite was sort of forced into marriage to Hephaestus and she wasn’t entirely happy with the situation. She takes a lover in the form of Ares, the god of violence and blood lust in combat. In this story, Hephaestus is told about Aphrodite’s indiscretions and, whilst he doesn’t care that Aphrodite’s getting her groove thang on with another guy he does care that people may be laughing at him. It’s this paranoia that leads Hephaestus to set up a trap. He tells Aphrodite that he’ll be away for a while before setting up a golden net above their bed. When Aphrodite calls Ares over and they go to bed, the net falls on them, entrapping them halfway through coitus. Hephaestus comes back along with all the other Olympians. The gods get a kick out of watching the two, half-naked lovers struggle to escape but the goddesses all agree that it’s shameful. Hermes even remarks that he would love to take Ares place if he could, even if it meant being put in such a public place. Whilst Ares just sits there half embarrassed, half furious, Aphrodite seems to enjoy the publicity and carries on regardless.

 

To be fair though she did get her own show on MTV afterwards…

I think a lot of the reason why I like this myth is the fact that it is a comedy. The image of these two naked lovers hoisted in a net surrounded by people is just hilarious; I like how Aphrodite does just carry on and how Ares is so awkward about the whole thing. There’s also a lot of symbolism in this in the sense that the goddess of love is having an affair with the god of violence, I guess that’s a comment on lust and how some women are attracted to really violent men. This story has a lot of funny imagery, coupled with some symbolism, a great set-up and even some character development, definitly one to check out.

6) Hades and Persephone

Persephone (the goddess of flowers) is walking in a field one day, admiring nature when Hades (god of the underworld) rides up from the underworld and kidnaps her, taking her to his subterranean palace. Persephone’s mother Demeter (goddess of the harvest and the seasons) searches the earth for her, neglecting her divine duties, meaning that crops die and the harvest fails. The other gods find out what Hades has done and demand that he release her. Hades responds by telling Persephone that he will let her go but invites her to dinner first. Persephone, in a spirit of defiance, refuses. Eventually though her hunger gets the better of her and she eats 6 pomegranate seeds. Hades tells her that because she’s eaten food from the underworld, she has to stay there for 6 months every year. During those 6 months, Demeter laments the fact that her daughter is in the underworld, neglecting her duties and allowing the crops to die, thus explaining autumn and winter. The rest of the year, when Persephone is with her mother, Demeter does her job, thus explaining spring and summer. When my old Classic’s teacher talked about this myth the general reaction from the rest of the class was one of disgust, I didn’t share this. I think Hades is a really tragic god. When the three brothers divided the world between them, Hades pulled the short straw and got lumbered with the underworld. He’s ruling over the realm of the dead, that’s friggin depressing. Hades is a lonely character, he doesn’t kidnap Persephone for the sake of being evil or just because he’s a dick, it’s a desperate move. He kidnaps Persephone simply because he is so longing for human contact. It’s a very depressing story from the perspective of all the characters involved. I love the relationship between Demeter and Persephone and how a mother losing her daughter causes such dramatic seasonal change, it’s very much a mother/daughter relationship, the turmoil caused by their separation is very realistic. It’s a great myth but it’s also very depressing at the same time and I think it’s a huge shame that people tend to think of Hades as a douche, mostly because of this myth and the Disney film. When I hear it, I think of it as, like I said before, a tragic story for everyone involved, and maybe there’s even some symbolism in the sense that there’s a young woman torn between her mother and her love interest (Even if this version is a little more…rapey…)

5) Theseus and the Minotaur

This is probably one of the more famous of the myths on this list, the legend of the Minotaur. It’s probably one of the main hero based tales in existence and is actually a pretty good three act structure, going from origin to Theseus’s involvement to Theseus’s return to Athens. The story begins when Minos is attempting to gather the support of the nobles of Crete so that he may become king. He prays to Poseidon to send him a sign to signify his blessing and Poseidon does so, on the condition that once every year Crete throws a festival honouring him and that Minos sacrifice his best bull of the herd, the blessing is sent and Minos becomes king. For the first few years this goes well but on the fifth year the bull is so perfect that Minos cannot bring himself to kill it. Instead he sacrifices the second best bull. When Poseidon finds out, he’s pissed. He asks a favour of Aphrodite and she causes Minos’s wife to fall in love with the bull. The Queen becomes smitten with the bull and spends almost every day out in the field admiring it. Eventually she goes to the finest mind in Crete, the builder/engineer/architect Daedalus and asks him to help her. Daedalus builds her a hollow, mechanical bull suit which she uses to woo the bull and she soon gets pregnant. When she gives birth to the Minotaur, Minos is initially horrified but soon he realizes that he may as well use the beast.

Originally they went with tourist attraction but he was quickly replaced with the leaning tower of Crete

Minos asks Daedalus to build him a vast labyrinth underneath Crete, which he does. Realizing that Daedalus is the only one who knows the way through the maze, he has the builder and his son, Icarus, imprisoned. At the time Crete had just conquered Athens after a particularly fierce and bloody war and, in an act of retribution, Minos orders that every season 10 young men and 10 young women be sent from each of Crete’s conquered regions to act as tributes. These tributes are sent into the labyrinth were they are promptly killed and eaten by the Minotaur. After the fifth season the son of the king of Athens, Theseus, comes of age and volunteers to go to Crete and kill the Minotaur, his father eventually agrees but asks that when he returns he cast white sails instead of the conventional black to let his father know that he is alive. Once in Crete Theseus meets Ariadne who immediately falls in love with him and gives him a ball of string. Theseus kills the Minotaur and uses the string to find his way back out. Ariadne and Theseus decided to get married but then Phaedra, Ariadne’s sister meets Theseus, THEY fall in love and leave Ariadne on an island. On their way home, Theseus forgets to change the colour of his sails and his father, who has stood watch since his son left, throws himself into the ocean, believing his only son and heir to be dead.

 

Boy, Theseus is a bit of a dick isn’t he…

This myth has everything. Action, romance, a tyrant, a monster, beastiality and, by today’s standards at least, a pretty strong anti-hero. This is a story filled with symbolism. The basic idea of a half man/half monster living in the centre of a vast maze is a very psychological concept. The Minotaur represents the primal rage and animalistic violence within us all whilst the maze represents, not only the mind in general, but also the barriers of society. The animal is within us all but society has made it very difficult for us to truly get in touch with it again and yet there’s also the inevitability that at times, we all succumb to our animal side. Minos is probably one of the great mythological villains. The idea of him taking a curse and turning it into a weapon is brilliant. Not only is the Minotaur physically very domineering but there’s also the idea that nobody in Athens knows what’s going on in Crete with their children, their imaginations are running wild and Minos is trying to guarantee that reality matches, or even exceeds their expectations. The design of the Minotaur is also pretty brilliant. I’ve seen different versions of it in popular, mainstream culture but I think the myth really does have the best version, physically intimidating and very much a hybrid of civilised man (in this case represented by royalty) and animalistic urges and rage (the bull). I love it for its symbolism, characters and concept.

4) Medusa

Medusa is generally just looked at as, like the Minotaur, a classic adventure story with a decent dose of symbolism, and yeah I can see that, but what a lot of people don’t know is the origin of Medusa which really throws the character into a new light. Medusa was originally a priestess of Athena in Athens. She was considered to be the most beautiful woman in the entire city, all the men wanted her and all of them had tried to have her, but because of her strict vows of chastity and devotion to Athena, Medusa spurned them all. One day, Poseidon looked down from Olympus and saw Medusa, instantly becoming filled with lust; he visited her and demanded she sleep with him, Medusa refused. Naturally Poseidon did not take this well and chased Medusa into the temple of Athena where she begged for the goddess to help her. Her pleas were ignored and Poseidon proceeded to rape her. Athena discovered exactly what had happened and of course punished Poseidon for raping Medusa, giving her all the warmth and loving care she needed to become emotionally and psychologically secure again. Oh, no wait; she turned her into a hideous monster for losing her virginity in her temple.

 

We just reached Piers Morgan level douchbaggery people!!

On top of turning her into a monster, Athena also banishes Medusa to a remote island, makes it so whenever men look her in the eye she’ll be turned to stone and then tops it off by spreading rumours of her existence, attracting people to the island in hopes of claiming the glory for killing her. Meanwhile, Perseus’s mother is going to marry an asshole king. The King tells Perseus that if he brings him the head of Medusa then he won’t marry his mother. Perseus agrees and is visited by Athena (bitch alert) who gives Perseus a sword, shield and Hermes winged shoes as well as giving him some idea of where he needs to go. Eventually he finds the three witches who can see the future, but they share one eye between them. When Perseus steals their one eye they are forced to tell him to go to find the two remaining Gorgon sisters, who are immortal because I don’t know.  The Gorgon sisters are coerced into telling Perseus exactly where Medusa is. When he arrives, he sees the statues of all of Medusa’s previous victims and, using the reflection in his shield, beheads the evil rape victim. Whilst flying back, the blood from the head drops to the ground and little baby snakes spring into life. Perseus arrives home and shows the king Medusa’s head, turning him, and the rest of the royal court, to stone and saving his mother.

This is another one of those really iconic myths. I love the characters, the story is a conventional adventure in places but Medusa’s back story is so tragic that it adds another depth to a character most people just think of as the poster child for monsters. The story also tells us so much about the gods, not only their attitude to mortals but also their attitude to each other. Athena doesn’t punish Poseidon because he’s an Olympian and Olympian’s stick together; Medusa is just some whore who desecrated her holy temple in her holy city. There’s also an element of comedy with the witch sisters and the eye and Perseus is actually one of the more likable heroes, granted he brutally murdered a woman whose only crime was to be raped but he wasn’t to know that, as far as he was concerned, he was killing a dangerous monster to save his mother from marrying a dick. I love the imagery of the stone garden, all the men frozen in terror and in time, in a way it’s a little bit beautiful but at the same time hauntingly eerie. I love the symbolism with Medusa’s ability to turn people to stone; it works as a curse because it means no man can look at her lustfully ever again without dying.

Yeah because all the guys are gonna want to tap that…

3) The Trojan War

Yet gain, another myth that everybody knows, at least by name. The Trojan War, at least in mythology, begins when the gods of Olympus have a party. Eris, goddess of discord, finds out that she is not invited and proceeds to gate-crash the festivities in the most subtle way possible. She turns up and throws a golden apple with the words ‘I belong to the fairest’ into the middle of the room before leaving. The apple attracts the attention of three major goddesses. Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, Athena, goddess of wisdom and valour in combat, and Hera, goddess of women, childbirth and the queen of the gods. After several hours of intense cat fighting,

 

Artist’s depiction

Zeus eventually decides to intervene, telling the goddesses to ask to fairest of all mortal men, Paris of Troy, to choose for them. The goddesses agree and go to Paris, asking him to present the apple to the fairest of them all, typically though, each attempt to bribe him. Athena offers him all the worlds wisdom, Hera offers him a kingdom to rival all others and Aphrodite offers him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. After a long and tense deliberation process (which here means one boner later) Paris chooses Aphrodite. The other goddesses are pissed and head back to Olympus whilst Aphrodite visits Helen in Sparta, making her fall in love with Paris, who is told to collect her himself. A raiding party is sent out to Sparta and Helen is kidnapped. By the time Helen’s husband, Menelaus, realises the distinct lack of wife in his palace, Paris is already save back inside Troy. The furious Menelaus sends word to the other kingdoms of Greece and a huge army is assembled by the various kings of the region including Agamemnon, who sacrifices his daughter for a good wind, Achilles, the immortal, and Odysseus of Ithaca. The ships head to Troy and war begins. Meanwhile, in Olympus, the gods look down as the beaches of Troy become embroiled in more violence than Christmas with Mel Gibson.

 

That’s the face of a man with bodies in his basement…

The god’s begin to argue and eventually choose sides. Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo and Artemis side with Troy whilst the others side with the kingdoms of Greece. For the next 10 years the war rages, resulting in something of a stalemate. The Greeks take the beach but the city itself holds strong. Achilles’s best-friend/gay lover (I’ve seen the fan-fic people) is killed and Achilles goes mad with rage, leading to the death of Paris’s brother and Troy’s finest soldier, Hector whose body is dragged around the walls of the city. Odysseus finally comes up with an idea to breach the city walls. A large, wooden horse is constructed and the majority of the Greek fleet leave, however, the best warriors are placed inside the horse which is then perceived as a gift (Troy was the horse breeding capital of the ancient world, its significant) and brought inside the city. That night all the Trojans get very, very drunk and, once they are all asleep, the men emerge from the horse and slaughter them all, re-kidnapping Helen and bringing her back to Sparta.

 

She’s like the Daphne of the ancient world…

So everyone goes home and they all live happily ever after…Except for Odysseus who just sort of gets lost for 10 years…And Agamemnon whose wife murders him because of the whole daughter sacrifice thing…And the Trojans who are all brutally murdered and their city burnt to the ground…Huh…

I have to admit, I’ve never read the Iliad but from what I hear, it’s a pretty damn good poem/book. I mean, I know the back story and the events after the war but that last year is pretty new to me. I own the book and I will read it at some point, I already know that its Achilles story and I do know some of the plot points. Also, nobody knows what happened during the first 9 years, the books are lost, the best we have to go on is the Iliad and poorly written fan-fic. So yeah, why do I like it? Well, put simply, it’s practically a world war. It’s fought between the major states of the known, civilised world at the time and it even involves the gods, there are parts of the Iliad where Artemis and Apollo are actually shooting down Greek soldiers, how awesome is that?! That’s another reason why I love it, when it boils down to things not only is it effectively just a story about gods fucking about with mortals, it’s triggered by one bitter goddess almost literally throwing the cat among the pigeons because she didn’t get invited to a party. That is brilliant, and continues to be used to this day, serving as Maleficent’s motive in Sleeping Beauty. The fact that something so trivial as not being included in something coupled with the gods, almost genetic, tendency to be total douchebags, leads to one of the greatest wars in all of fiction. That’s just brilliant; it really sets aside the difference in the god’s attitude to life compared to mortals. The best thing about it though probably is the fact that the gods are involved to the degree that they are, including the stuff with Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, who is a main cause of the war, symbolic of the lengths to which man will go in the name of love. Anyone who says that Aphrodite is just a ditz or isn’t an important goddess is frankly a friggen idiot, she’s arguably the most powerful. The story of the Trojan War is about love, bitterness and is a timeless story of gods fucking around with mortals and I for one adore it.

2) Medea

Yeah I know I’ve talked about this one but frankly I adore it. The story begins with Medea, who has been spreading rumours and verbally insulting Jason, her soon to be ex-husband and the King of Crete) because he is planning to disregard their sacred oaths of marriage and marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon king of Corinth. From here Medea manipulates her way into not only getting another day in Corinth but also having a place to stay after she’s killed the king and Glauce. From here, Medea brutally burns Glauce and her father alive as well as murdering her children, partly to save them from the public outburst at her actions but also to spite Jason. At the end of the play, Jason is left a broken man and Medea flees in a dragon drawn chariot

Pimp my ride circa 431 BC

I’ve already spoken about why I love this play so much but I highly doubt any of you have read my review of it so I’ll have to go through it again. YOU’RE WELCOME. I love the supporting characters, Creon and Aegeus are likable characters, Glauce is enjoyably immature and childish and I like the fact that the children don’t talk. The plot is great and the fact that it centres on two such strong characters helps it a lot. Jason is a douchebag but he see’s nothing wrong in what he’s done, in fact he had the best intentions, as far as he’s concerned Medea’s being unreasonable and irrational. He would’ve let Medea stay in the palace with himself and Glauce, she would’ve lived well and their children would still have been first in line. Medea may just be one of the greatest characters ever written, period. She sees Jason’s betrayal as hurtful in itself but her main chagrin is with the fact that they’d made sacred oaths, at least sacred to her culture, and he disregarded them. Her determination, intelligence, cunning and grade A manipulation are both clear and defining to her character. When she speaks with people you can almost see the cogs turning in her head, she analyses ever single part of the conversation, picks up on a weakness and exploits the shit out of it. She’s also an actress, she plays the part of the loving mother, the friend, the weak and desperate woman, she’s a regular Meryl Streep.

I’ve always said this movie needed more infanticide…

I also love the fact that, in many ways, they’re both as bad as each other, neither of them ever conceed to ebing wrong and they remain infuriatingly stubborn throughout the play. Recently I was re-reading the play and I realised something, Medea never leaves her house, everybody comes to her. That’s just another level of brilliant symbolism. I’ve said it before but the play is basically about the fact that women are dangerous, at least more dangerous than they seem and Medea is the poster child for dangerous women. She’s intelligent, smart, manipulative, patient and above all, willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants.The symbolism is wonderful, the characters are great, the fact that the gods choose Medea’s side is both brilliantly triumphal and horrifically tragic from Jason’s point of view. I freaking adore it.

1) The Odyssey

Well, yeah. Kinda obvious when you think about it. The Odyssey is the story of King Odysseus of Ithaca and his men’s struggle to get back home. After the fall of Troy, Odysseus takes a detour to rape and pillage but, after getting drunk and falling asleep on the beach (he does this CONSTANTLY) they are attacked by the angry villager’s reinforcements and are forced to flee. The group arrives on the island of the Lotus Eaters who are on a huge high from eating a rare form of lotus bud grown only on their island, the men are practically dragged back to the ships and, desperate for food and water, arrive at an island where a small group searches for food. They come across a cave and are feasting themselves on a larder filled with fine wine and cheeses, eventually though, the owner of the cave returns and is revealed to be a Cyclops named Polyphemus. After devouring several of Odysseus’s men, the king drugs the giant, tells him his name is Nobody (actually pretty smart) and proceeds to blind him. They escape by hanging onto the underside of the Cyclops’ giant sheep and, as they are sailing away and Polyphemus is blindly raging that nobody has hurt him (meaning the other Cyclops think he’s insane and stay away from him) Odysseus, being incredibly stupid and selfish, reveals his name to the Cyclops and the monster, following the noise, hurls huge stones, destroying several ships and killing god knows how many innocent men.

 

Our hero everybody!

Polyphemus then turns out to be a son of the god Poseidon who just so happens to be ruler of the seas. So now Odysseus not only has his own selfish quest for a reputation going against him but he’s also pissed of the one god who he really needed on side. That’s like being in an ambulance with your pregnant wife and telling the driver his mother’s a whore. Anywho, Odysseus goes on many similar adventures meeting characters like the Laestrogonians, a race of giant cannibals, and femme fatales Circe and Calypso, both of whom Odysseus sleeps with (in fact he spends 7 freaking years with Calypso). Whilst Odysseus is sailing home his wife, Penelope, is beset with suitors who hope to marry her and take over the country as well as gaining the reputation from screwing Odysseus’s woman. Furthermore, Telemachus has finally come of age and begins to search for his father as well as taking more responsibility for the household and almost being murdered in the process. Eventually Odysseus does return home and slaughter all the suitors with the help of the goddess Athena, who has become pretty smitten with the king, and all is well again.

There is so much to talk about with this story. The characters, the plot, the imagery, the themes everything is just perfect. Firstly, the characters. Penelope is a loyal/terrified wife but whatever angle you look at her from she’s still an intelligent character, she stalls more than 100 horny men for several years for God’s sake.

That’s like stalling 2 Charlie Sheens for a month!

Telemachus is enjoyable and his story arc of going from boy to man is relatable enough; he even gets a funny line every now and then. Euryclea is adorably loyal, the suitors are sleazy enough to make them decent villains and I’d be lying if I said the chapter where their deaths are described in very vivid detail (it’s like a scene from Saw it really is) didn’t make me feel all warm inside. Odysseus…Yeah I think he’s a dick. Ok he’s intelligent and he’s meant to represent the new type of ideal man, the thinker, the resourceful one, the guy who can talk his way out of anything but almost everything he does can be put down to klios (Ancient Greek word for reputation). He’ll often endanger himself and his crew simply because there’s a chance he’ll come out of it at the end looking pretty damn awesome. That’s really fucking irresponsible! When I finished the book I always wanted to see the families of the Odysseus’s dead men come in at the end and really rip him a new one because guess what? None of his men come back alive, they all die! They managed a ten-year war with an ancient super power alright but 3 years with this guy? Hero my ass, he’s selfish and irresponsible, he cheats on his wife with two different women, perhaps three, while she’s desperately trying to remain pure and devoted to him, he’s an ass! I thought it then and I still think it now. Nevertheless the story is great, a real typical adventure story, monsters, beautiful women, gods, the sea, what more do you need? There’s also not really a coherent story, it jumps around a bit. It starts with flashback and really begins in the middle with Odysseus telling his story to the Phaeacian king. Homer effectively beat Tarantino at his own game, 4000 years before he was even born.

There is no way a cyclops fight scene wouldn’t make this film more supremely awesome than it already is.

There are so many themes in this myth. Loyalty, growing up, taking responsibility, love, honour, reputation all of them are touched on. I love the imagery, it’s got more ocean simile’s than I can count, and the fact that it’s set in the Mediterranean gives a lot of opportunity to really write about the beauty of the area. The main reason why I adore this story has to be personal, it’s the nostalgia. I first read this book in a Classics lesson and I loved it for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned but it’s also going to remain synonymous with the people in my Classic’s set, the teachers and the in-jokes. We talked about Hermes’s questionable sexuality, Odysseus being a douche, how Penelope could do better and that Euryclea and Eumeaus should marry (it was like a living fanfic.net in that room sometimes). I guess that’s a personal reason and isn’t entirely relevant but I stand by it. If a book can be so closely associated with a group of people it’s not just that the book is special or that it’s only the people that are special. They both have to be significant. The Odyssey is a fantastic story, great characters, story, themes and imagery but I can’t think of it without my Classic’s set and I can’t think of my Classic’s set without thinking of this story. For me they are one and the same and that is why the Odyssey is my favourite Greek myth of all time.

 

Benny4700

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One thought on “Benny4700’s Top Twelve Favourite Greek Myths

  1. Thanks for the likes guys, I really appreciate it 🙂

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