Saturday, April 3, 2010

Greek Mythology 101

I fell in love with books during my elementary years. My alone moments were spent reading at the library. I had a varied like in books but there was one book that really intrigued me the most---Greek mythology!

Having watched "Clash of the Titans" yesterday revived my fascination with the subject. However, like the other books that I've read and turned into movies, "Clash of the Titans" was another disappointment in terms of the storyline. It had great effects but since the story was digested and given a touch of cinematic effect, I found it too little in terms of action and adventure. I believe it would have been better if the writers stuck to the original version where the other gods such as Hermes and Athena played their role in his adventure. Emphasis on the mythical weapons that Perseus used to beat Medusa like the adamantine curved sword (given by Hermes), Athena's highly polished bronze shield, and the invisibility helmet, magic wallet, and winged sandals provided by the nymphs.

Over-all, "Clash of the Titans" would have been better off as a TV mini-series like "The Odyssey" starring Armand Assante in 1997 where he depicted King Odysseus and the latter's 10-year voyage back to his homeland, Ithaca, after the Trojan War.

The Greek gods were dysfunctional to say the least. Family squabbling and infidelity left and right truly makes a great story. I suggest you pick up a book and check it out.
Here's a crash course on this subject.

Titans - Often called the Elder Gods, they were for many ages the supreme rulers of the universe and were of enormous size and incredibly strong. Cronus, the most important of the Titans, ruled the universe until he was dethroned by his son Zeus, who seized power for himself. The other important Titans were Oceanus, the river that flowed around the earth; Tethys, his wife; Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory; Themis, the goddess of divine justice; Hyperion, the father of the sun, the moon, and the dawn; Iapetus, the father of Prometheus, who created mortals; and Atlas, who carried the world on his shoulders. Of all the Titans only Prometheus and Oceanus sided with Zeus against Cronus. As a result, they were honored and the others were bound in Tartarus. Eventually, however, Zeus was reconciled with the Titans, and Cronus was made ruler of the Golden Age.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Mt. Olympus - home of the Gods.

Gods and Goddesses:
Zeus - god of the sky and ruler of the Olympian gods. Zeus corresponds to the Roman god Jupiter.

Hera - Queen of the gods, the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, and the sister and wife of the god Zeus. Hera was the goddess of marriage and the protector of married women. She was the mother of Ares, god of war; Hephaestus, god of fire; Hebe, goddess of youth; and Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth. Hera was a jealous wife, who often persecuted Zeus's mistresses and children. She never forgot an injury and was known for her vindictive nature. Angry with the Trojan prince Paris for preferring Aphrodite, goddess of love, to herself, Hera aided the Greeks in the Trojan War and was not appeased until Troy was finally destroyed. Hera is often identified with the Roman goddess Juno.

Apollo and Artemis - Twin offspring of Zeus. They became two of the most important Olympian divinities. Artemis remained a virgin and took hunting as her special province. Apollo became associated with music and prophecy. People visited his oracle (shrine) at Delphi to seek his prophetic advice.

Hermes - Zeus son by the nymph Maia. Hermes is the Olympian trickster god who had the power to cross all kinds of boundaries. Hermes guided the souls of the dead down to the underworld, carried messages between gods and mortals, and wafted a magical sleep upon the wakeful.

Athena - Virgin goddess of warfare and crafts work. She also served as the protector of the city of Athens.

Hades - God of the underworld and brother of Zeus.

Persephone - Daughter of Zeus and Demeter (goddess of agriculture). Abducted by Hades to become his wife and became the goddess of the dead and the fertility of the earth. She is the personification of the revival of nature during spring.

Poseidon - God of the seas and brother of Zeus. He was the husband of Amphitrite, one of the Nereids, by whom he had a son, Triton. Poseidon had numerous other love affairs, however, especially with nymphs of springs and fountains, and was the father of several children famed for their wildness and cruelty, among them the giant Orion and the Cyclops Polyphemus. Poseidon and the Gorgon Medusa were the parents of Pegasus, the famous winged horse.

Heroes and Demi-gods:
Hercules - Was the hero noted for his strength and courage and for his many legendary exploits. Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles. He was the son of the god Zeus and Alcmene, wife of the Theban general Amphitryon. Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, was determined to kill her unfaithful husband’s offspring, and shortly after Hercules’ birth she sent two great serpents to destroy him. Hercules, although still a baby, strangled the snakes. As a young man Hercules killed a lion with his bare hands. As a trophy of his adventure, he wore the skin of the lion as a cloak and its head as a helmet.

Achilles - Was the greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War. He was the son of the sea nymph Thetis and Peleus, king of the Myrmidons of Thessaly. When the Fates prophesied that Achilles would die in the Trojan War, Thetis attempted to make her infant son immortal. In one version of the story, Thetis rubbed Achilles with ambrosia and placed him in the hearth fire to make him immortal. According to a later legend, she bathed him in the River Styx. The waters made him invulnerable except for the heel by which his mother held him. The term Achilles heel has become popularized to refer to someone’s or something’s key weakness.

Perseus - Slayer of the Gorgon Medusa; he was the son of Zeus, father of the gods, and of Danaë, daughter of Acrisius, king of Árgos. Warned that he would be killed by his grandson, Acrisius locked mother and child in a chest and cast them into the sea. They drifted to the island of Seriphus, where they were rescued and where Perseus grew to manhood. Polydectes, king of Seriphus, fell in love with Danaë, and, fearing that Perseus might interfere with his plans, sent him to procure the head of Medusa, a monster whose glance turned men to stone.

Aided by Hermes, messenger of the gods, Perseus made his way to the Gray Women, three old hags who shared one eye between them. Perseus took their eye and refused to return it until they gave him directions for reaching the nymphs of the north. From the nymphs he received winged sandals, a magic wallet that would fit whatever was put into it, and a cap to make him invisible. Equipped with a sword from Hermes that could never be bent or broken and a shield from the goddess Athena, which would protect him from being turned to stone, Perseus found Medusa and killed her. Invisible in his cap, he was able to escape the wrath of her sisters and with her head in the wallet flew on his winged sandals toward home.

As he was passing Ethiopia, he rescued the princess Andromeda as she was about to be sacrificed to a sea monster and took her with him as his wife. At Seriphus he freed his mother from Polydectes by using Medusa's head to turn the king and his followers to stone. All then returned to Greece, where Perseus accidentally killed his grandfather Acrisius with a discus, thus fulfilling the prophecy. According to one legend, Perseus went to Asia, where his son Perses ruled over the Persians, from whom they were said to have gotten their name.

Mythical Creatures:

Minotaur - monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man.

Centaurs - creature which is half human, half horse.

Cerberus - A three-headed, dragon-tailed dog that guarded the entrance to the lower world, or Hades.

Gorgons - One of three monstrous daughters of the sea god Phorcys and his wife, Ceto. The Gorgons were terrifying, dragonlike creatures, covered with golden scales and having snakes for hair. They had huge wings and round, ugly faces; their tongues were always hanging out, and they had large, tusklike teeth. They lived on the farthest side of the western ocean, shunned because their glance turned persons to stone.

Two of the Gorgons, Stheno and Euryale, were immortal; Medusa alone could be killed. The hero Perseus, a gallant but foolish young man, volunteered to kill Medusa and bring back her head. With the help of the deities Hermes and Athena, Perseus cut off Medusa's head. From her blood sprang the winged horse Pegasus, her son by the god Poseidon.


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