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10 Things Most People Get Wrong About Greek Mythology

greek mythology
Odysseus and the Sirens, eponymous vase of the Siren Painter, c. 480–470 BC (British Museum). Credit: Jastrow / Public Domain

Ironically, Greek mythology is itself the subject of many myths that are widely believed by many people around the world.

Some of this misinformation stems from action-packed Hollywood movies while other such myths about mythology have been passed down from generation to generation.

No matter how stories are told, the end result is the same—the stereotypical personification of ancient gods and creatures are often very far removed from the truth.

Let’s take a look at some of the most misunderstood ancient Greek gods and mythical creatures.

Medusa wasn’t the only woman in ancient Greece with snakes for hair

When you think of Medusa, you immediately picture her horrific hair made of snakes.

However, Medusa is wrongly singled out as being the only woman in Greek mythology to look like this.

Don’t forget that Medusa was merely the only mortal of the three Gorgon sisters; the other two sisters, Stheno and Euryale, also had reptilian locks.

Zeus: The serial womanizer of Greek mythology

Zeus was known in his time as much more than the father of the gods. He was also a womanizer, and as such, he fathered many, many offspring!

He would transform into various animals to fulfill his desires; therefore, his ‘children’ are quite interesting.

All in all, he seduced both Demeter and her daughter Persephone—who later married his brother—while he was transformed into a serpent.

He also charmed Asteria and Aiginia while in the form of an eagle, Boetis as a goat, Europa as a bull—and even fooled some women into letting them believe he was their husband!

Pandora is the grandmother of mankind

Pandora is often mentioned in reference to the infamous box.

However, Pandora is actually the grandmother of the human race! It’s not really discussed often; however, Pandora was the wife of Epimetheus and mother to a mortal daughter, Pyrrha.

When Pyrrha married her cousin, Deukalion, the gods sent a massive flood to destroy the earth and the mortals.

However, Pyrrha and Deukalion managed to survive, and after seeking help from the Oracle at Delphi, were told to cast the bones of their mother to the ground so that the world would be repopulated.

According to the ancient poet Ovid, They correctly presumed that the Oracle meant the bones of “Mother Earth,” so they threw rocks behind them, successfully repopulating the Earth.

The story of the first immortals

In fact, it all begins with Chaos, Gaia’s (mother Earth) father and Eros (love).

It sounds simple enough, but then Gaia gave birth to Ouranos (the sky), the Sea, and the Mountains.

It gets complicated, as she then later married Ouranos and gave birth to the Titan Cronus.

Cronus married his sister, Rhea, giving birth to the original Olympian immortals: Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, Hestia, Hades, and Zeus. And that’s the complicated, true version of this story!

Theseus was a bit of a jerk

Despite his reputation for slaying the Minotaur in Crete and managing the difficult exit of the Labyrinth, which cost numerous lives, Theseus also had a tendency to make decisions based on what best served him at the moment.

An example is when he took the princess Ariadne from her home on Crete with him when he left the island only to later abandon her on the island of Naxos.

Also, according to Plutarch, upon founding today’s Greek capital of Athens, he took it upon himself to populate the city by raping women.

However, in Plato’s Republic, Socrates warns about not believing that Theseus raped or kidnapped women to populate Athens, indicating that there were various interpretations of the myth.

Artemis held a grudge and would kill over it

The goddess of hunting is known for her shrewd skills and being the protector of animals.

However, while she is known as the goddess of childbirth in Greek mythology, she is also the destroyer of many young women.

In fact, she killed six of Niobe’s daughters for insulting her mother, Leo. Clearly you didn’t want to get on her bad side!

Ares had a soft side in Greek mythology

Apparently, the god of war had a soft spot: his sister Athena, the goddess of war.

Ares obeyed his sister’s orders, as she was also the goddess of defense and righteous battle.

This can be seen in the Iliad, when Athena often intervenes to ensure a fair battle, and Ares always bows to her command.

Hades wasn’t such a monster…really!

The god of death and the underworld wasn’t really such a bad guy. Specifically, it wasn’t his choice to rule the underworld; he was stuck with the job that no one wanted.

Call it bad luck or getting the short end of the stick, but whatever it was, Hades’ fate made him appear to be pure evil.

However, this was unfairly so because Hades wasn’t the one who was responsible for the redemption of souls; the three demigod brothers, namely Minos, Aiakos, and Rhadamanthys had that fun job!

There is one main mother to the many monsters in Greek mythology

There might be many monsters in Greek mythology; however, most of them share the same mother, Echidna.

She was a relative of Medusa and the wife of Typhon, who happened to be a hundred-headed dragon!

Together, they spawned many of the most terrifying and famous monsters of Greek mythology, such as the Nemean lion, Cerberus, Hydra, and Ladon.

She was also mother of the Chimera, the Sphinx, Scylla, the Colchian dragon, and the eagle that ate Prometheus’ liver every day for an eternity as punishment!

The goddess Aphrodite as a warrior

The goddess of love and beauty had a hidden side due to her romantic relations with Ares, the god of war. She bore three children from Ares—Eros, Phobos, and Deimos.

Surprisingly, there were, therefore, several statutes and other depictions of her found in many port cities, showing Aphrodite armed and in armor, something you wouldn’t expect from the goddess of love in Greek mythology.

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