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6 Most Popular Stories in Greek Mythology and The Fascinating Lessons and Ideas They Give

Updated on March 4, 2017

Origin of Greek Mythology

Stories on Greek Mythology, in modern times, simply make for a good read. However, this was not so in the past. In Ancient Greek society, what is now called Greek Mythology made of up majority of the religion in Ancient Greece. Greek Mythology went so far as to influence the structures of the political and even economic systems at the time. The Greeks truly believed in their highly polytheistic religion, that consisted of many entrancing and epic tales.

The Best Stories of Greek Mythology

The Stealing of Fire

The story centres around the gods, most notably, Prometheus, who had a liking toward mankind. Prometheus devised a plan to steal the creation of fire from Hephaestus' workshop. Prometheus threw a golden pear into the courtyard of Mount Olympus with a note attached that read, "For the most beautiful goddess of all". This action created a row between the goddesses, while the gods simply looked on in amusement. Using this as a distraction, Prometheus snuck into Hephaestus' workshop and stole fire, which he gave to mankind.

Zeus was furious upon the revelation of the deed and had Prometheus chained to the Mount Caucasus where an eagle would peck at his liver forever. Later on, it was Hercules, demigod and son of Zeus, who would kill the eagle and set Prometheus free. The story reminds us of the importance of fire to humanity's history and how this discovery single-handedly catapulted mankind from our "caveman' ways to the use of crafted tools and eventually machines, vastly increasing productivity. It also shows how our pleasures can drive us to do great or terrible things.

Pandora's Box

The story goes that Pandora was crafted by the gods and she was the first woman on earth, coming into existence after the males already walked to Earth. Pandora's creation was intended to function as a punishment to mankind, to whom Prometheus had given fire, which was stolen from the gods. All the gods gave Pandora gifts; she was given a box which the gods told her contained many special gifts, but she was not to open the box.

In the end, Pandora, like many humans, could not contain her curiosity and urge and so opened the box, releasing all the evils and wickedness of the world in the form of spirits. While all this evil was released, there was one good thing that came from the box, and that was hope. The story challenges the reason of why there exists such wickedness and suffering in the world.

The Pride of Narcissus

In this story, there exists a being by the name of Narcissus. Narcissus was the son of River God Cephisus and nymph Lyriope and was welled loved by the god Apollo, as he was of extraordinary beauty.

The myth states that Narcissus attracted many a suitor, all of whom he rejected harshly. Narcissus also caught the eye of a young man by the name of Aminias, whom he also rejected and Narcissus subsequently gave Aminias a sword. Full of grief, Aminias killed himself at the doorstep of Aminias. But just before he did, he uttered a prayer to make Narcissus suffer for all the pains he had inflicted on others.

The prayer of Aminias was heard and Narcissus, while treading through the woods one day came across a river. Upon looking onto the river he became transfixed by the image he saw, that is, his reflection. He so adored and admired the image, that although he could not obtain it in a truly tangible form, he sat and stared at his reflection until the hands of death took him. Even in the Underworld, he stared still at his reflection in the River Styx. This story examines the power those with so-called beauty will always possess over the rest and shows how pride and lust can cause one's downfall. This is where that word narcissist originated, which means "one full of self-pride".

The Minotaur

This story is one of the most fascinating and popular in all of the Greek Mythology. It is the story of the Minotaur, a creature that was half-man and half-bull, who was conceived when Pasiphae, the wife of Minos who is the king of Crete, is impregnated from a bull sent by Zeus. While embarrassed, King Minos, all the same, did not desire the death of the son of his wife and instructs the inventor Daedalus, a man possessing a brilliant mind, to construct a maze in which he places the minotaur.

It eventually came to be that Minos’s son Androgeus would be killed by the Athenians.The outcome of this was that King Minos goes to war with Athens, which he wins. As punishment, King Minos demands King Aegeus of Athens pay tribute to him. This tribute being that Athens would send seven men and women each year to Crete to serve as a sacrifice to the Minotaur.

Theseus, son of the King Aegeus took it upon himself the task of slaying the Minotaur against his father's will stating that if he was successful , he would return on a ship with red sails and if not, one with black sales. He travelled to Crete as one of the sacrifices. While there, he captured the heart of Princes Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, and she told him a way of escape the maze using thread, if he did manage to slay the beast. Upon entering the maze, Theseus managed to slay the beast using a blade he had previously hidden within the folds of his clothes and uses the advice of the princess to escape the maze.

There was night of drunken celebration of the prince's success and safe return from the maze and in this confusion, the Princess Ariadne, who was to return with Theseus to Athens, is forgotten in Crete. Theseus, in his sadness, forgets to change the black sails to red and upon his return to Athens, his father, seeing the black sails, assumes his son dead and in his grief, throws himself from a cliff and into the sea. The story amazes with the courage of a man to engage in mortal combat with such a beast, as well as the joy of success can bring tragic twists. It shows how unfair life can be to the most undeserving of us.

Daedalus and Icarus

Daedalus went to Crete to design and construct the maze which to contain the minotaur by request of the king Minos. Every so often, the king would send a number of persons into the maze as sacrifices to the minotaur. It so happened that it was Daedalus who had advised the Princess Ariadne that one could use thread to find one's way back out the maze upon entrance. The Princess, in turn, relayed this information to Theseus, who was a sacrifice to the minotaur. The end result was Theseus slaying the Minotaur and succeeding in exiting the maze. This angered the king who imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in a tower.

As the ground was too well guarded and the sea too dangerous an escape route as well, Daedalus designed wings from wax and branches of the osier tree to escape by air. Daedalus taught his son to fly using the wings and together they initiated their escape plan. They made their way out of Crete and while flying over the ocean, the little boy Icarus was too excited and immature. Although his father had cautioned him not to, Icarus went flying low and high and ended up flying too close to the sun. As a consequence, the wax in the wings of Icarus melted and Icarus met his demise in the depths of the ocean. The story reminds us of how childish abandonment can lead to disobedience resulting in disastrous consequences. Also, it gives thought to the idea of human beings flying the same way birds can, that is, the way nature intended.

King Midas' Golden Touch

This story goes that a satyr and intruded upon the Sacred Rose Garden of King Midas. The intruder was brought before the king but the king, upon recognizing him as a follower of Dionysus decided not to punish him. This pleased the God Dionysus and the god decided to reward the king my granting him any one of his desires. King Midas foolishly asked for a touch of gold and although the god warned him of the potential dangers of this desire, the king persisted. And so it was that the king acquired a touch of gold.

The king was thrilled with his new found ability to turn all he touched into gold, but soon after found that it was quite disabling. The King found that he could not eat or drink or do many a thing the typical person could. Now desperate to be rid of what he now considered a curse, the king begged Dionysus to take away his touch of gold. The god instructed the King to bathe in the River Paktolos, which he did and this caused gold dust to settle on the sand of the river and was carried away to the country of Lydia, giving the country great riches. The story shows how our greed can quickly backfire on us, and that one man's garbage can be another's gold, literally.


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    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      This is a good overview of some great Greek myths. I was writing a short story which incorporates the myth of The Minotaur. Thanks for helping confirm some of the details.