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The Greek mythology Portal

Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They are a part of religion in Greece. Modern scholars refer to the myths and study them in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece, its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Greek mythology is embodied explicitly in a large collection of narratives and implicitly in representational arts, such as vase-paintings and votive gifts. Greek myth explains the origins of the world and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and other mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, focus on events surrounding the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths also are preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.

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Detail from Anselm Feuerbach's Amazon battle

The Amazons (Greek: Ἀμαζόνες, Amazónes, singular Ἀμαζών, Amazōn) are a nation of all-female warriors in Classical and Greek mythology. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia (modern territory of Ukraine). Other historiographers place them in Asia Minor or Libya.

Notable queens of the Amazons are Penthesilea, who participated in the Trojan War, and her sister Hippolyta, whose magical girdle was the object of one of the labours of Hercules. Amazonian raiders were often depicted in battle with Greek warriors in amazonomachies in classical art. The Amazons have become associated with various historical peoples throughout the Roman Empire period and Late Antiquity. In Roman historiography, there are various accounts of Amazon raids in Asia Minor. From the Early Modern period, their name has become a term for woman warriors in general.

The origin of the word is uncertain. It may be derived from an Iranian ethnonym *ha-mazan-, "warriors", a word attested as a denominal verb (formed with the Indo-Iranian root kar- "make" also in kar-ma) in Hesychius of Alexandria's gloss ἁμαζακάραν· πολεμεῖν. Πέρσαι ("hamazakaran: 'to make war' (Persian)"). Alternatively, a Greek derivation from *ṇ-mṇ-gw-jon-es "manless, without husbands" (a- privative and a derivation of *man- also found in Slavic muzh) has been proposed.

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Gods and goddesses

Detail from Bouguereau's The Birth of Venus

Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. According to Greek poet Hesiod, she was born when Cronus cut off Uranus' genitals and threw them into the sea, and from the aphros (sea foam) arose Aphrodite.

Because of her beauty other gods feared that jealousy would interrupt the peace among them and lead to war, and so Zeus married her to Hephaestus, who was not viewed as a threat. Her unhappiness in marriage caused her to frequently seek out the companionship of her lover Ares. Aphrodite also became instrumental in the Eros and Psyche legend, and later was both Adonis' lover and his surrogate mother.

Aphrodite is also known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) after the two places, Cythera and Cyprus, which claim her birth. Her Roman equivalent is the goddess Venus. Myrtles, doves, sparrows, and swans are sacred to her. The Greeks identified the Ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor with Aphrodite.

She also has many other names, such as Acidalia, Cytherea, Pandemos and Cerigo. These names were used in specific areas of Greece. When the Greek cities combined, these lesser names were abandoned and a single name, Aphrodite, was adopted. Each goddess represented a slightly different religion but with overall similarities.

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Pallas Athena by Klimt
Artist: Gustav Klimt

Pallas Athena by Gustav Klimt. Athena, goddess of strength, is one of the twelve Olympians.

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Did you know ...

  • Heracles already meet Theseus when the latter was only seven years old.  After Heracles had finished his labours, he came to visit Pittheus in Troezen where the young Theseus was under the care of his grandfather.
  • Theseus was related to his malefactors Cercyon, Procrustes and Sciron. They were all sons of his father Poseidon by other women which makes them technically Theseus' half-brother.
  • The daughters of Pelops married the sons of Perseus: Astydameia wedded to Alcaeus, Nicippe to Sthenelus, Lysidice to Mestor and Eurydice to Electryon. This was made by Pelops to extend to his political power over the whole Peloponesse. His sons also became great rulers, Pittheus and Troezen were kings in Troezen, Alcathous of Megara, Atreus and Thyestes of Mycenae and also Sciron who became a warlord of Megara.
  • Pleisthenes, son of Atreus was either a hermaphrodite or a transvestite.
  • Polydectes pretended that he was going to marry Hippodamia, daughter of Oenomaus and ordered the men in Seriphos to supply him with suitable gifts. This plan was hatched by the king to get rid of Perseus by sending him to fetch the head of Medusa because he wanted to marry the hero's mother Danae.
  • The couple, Admetus and Alcestis were actually half-cousins because Admetus's father, Pheres whose mother Tyro also bare Pelias, father of Alcestis.
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Heroes

Jason and the snake

Jason (Greek: Ἰάσων, Iásōn) was a late ancient Greek mythological hero, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus. He was married to the sorceress Medea.

Jason appeared in various literature in the classical world of Greece and Rome, including the epic poem Argonautica and tragedian play, Medea. In the modern world, Jason has emerged as a character in various adaptations of his myths, such as the film Jason and the Argonauts. He has connections outside of the classical world, as he is seen as being the mythical founder of the city of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

Pelias (Aeson's half-brother) was very power-hungry, and he wished to gain dominion over all of Thessaly. Pelias was the product of a union between their shared mother, Tyro and allegedly the sea god Poseidon.

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Legendary creatures

Medusa

In Greek mythology, Medusa (Greek: Μέδουσα (Médousa), "guardian, protectress") was a gorgon, a chthonic female monster, and a daughter of Phorcys and Ceto; Only Hyginus, (Fabulae, 151) interposes a generation and gives another chthonic pair as parents of Medusa; gazing directly upon her would turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. In classical antiquity the image of the head of Medusa appeared in the evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion. She also has two gorgon sisters. The three Gorgon sisters—Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale—were children of the ancient marine deities Phorcys and his sister Ceto, chthonic monsters from an archaic world. Their genealogy is shared with other sisters, the Graeae, as in Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound, who places both trinities of sisters far off "on Kisthene's dreadful plain",

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