Greek myths and legends is the name given to stories which are told as part of the mythology of ancient Greece, concerning the nature of the world, the array of gods and deities, the fantastic mythical creatures, and the vast number of fictional heroes. These myths were widely told in ancient Greece and formed the basis of many religious traditions and rituals at the time. The ancient Greek’s prayed to different gods for different things, including as a good harvest, good health or increased wealth.
Some Greek myths were told by people as a way of explaining certain things which were not properly understood by the people at the time. Although these stories were mainly passed from person to person via oral storytelling and poetic traditions, some famous Greek literature has survived to this day, and they are now thought of as classic works of fiction. The oldest pieces of Greek literature are Homer’s poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. As well as finding examples of Greek myths in surviving literature, archaeologists have managed to find out a lot about the mythology of ancient Greece from archaeological excavations in places like Crete. Many ancient statues and vases have been discovered, which are adorned with pictures that show famous mythological scenes. Here are some examples of famous Greek myths:
Examples of Greek Myths
Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus was a talented sculptor, architect and artist, who was the father of a young boy called Icarus. He was asked by King Minos of Crete to design a complex labyrinth to house the fearsome Minotaur; a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. The labyrinth was designed to be impossible to escape from without prior knowledge of the route, and King Minos decided to lock Daedalus and his son in a tower on the island of Crete to prevent him from revealing the secrets of the maze.
In an attempt to escape from the tower, Daedalus constructed a set of wings each for himself and Icarus. These wings were made by securing various sizes of feathers together with wax to create a large enough surface area for them to take flight. Before giving his son the set of wings, Daedalus warned him that he must not fly too close to the sun, or else the wax on the wings would melt and they would fall apart. After equipping themselves, Daedalus and his son took to the skies, soaring on the breeze and making their escape from the tower. However, Icarus, who was filled with excitement about his newfound ability to fly, began to rise higher and higher, forgetting his father’s warning about the heat of the sun. Before he had chance to realise what was happening, the wax began to melt and the wings fell apart, sending Icarus tumbling into the sea below. Daedalus was forced to carry on alone, mourning for his dead son and cursing his own craftsmanship.The area of sea in which Icarus drowned is now known as the Icarian Sea.
The Midas Touch
King Midas was the ruler of a region of the Greek empire known as Phrygia. One day, some of his subjects brought him a mythic creature known as a satyr, who they had found wandering lost in the fields. Recognising the satyr as a friend of the god Dionysus, King Midas promised to take care of him and help him to make his way back home. Dionysus was so pleased that Midas had treated the satyr with such respect and dignity that he offered to grant the king one wish. Knowing that money makes the world go round and that unlimited gold would secure his position as king, Midas wished that everything that he touched would be turned into gold. Testing his new found ability on a branch and a stone, Midas was thrilled to watch them turn to gold. Although he was initially pleased by his new powers, he soon discovered that even the food and drink that he touched would turn to gold. In one particularly shocking turn of events, Midas accidentally turned his own daughter into a golden statue.
Horrified by the powers of his new “gift”, Midas returned to Dionysus to beg for the powers to be removed. Dionysus agreed to this, telling Midas that the gift would be gone if he washed himself in the waters of the river Pactolus. Ever since then, the river has been known for its shimmering golden river bed.
Perseus and the Medusa
Perseus was a famous Greek hero, who was part man, part god. His mother was the beautiful princess, Danaë, who had been impregnated by the god, Zeus during a sacred ritual. Danaë’s father had been warned by an oracle that this baby would kill him when he was fully grown, and the king decided to try to prevent this by casting mother and baby off into the sea in a wooden chest.
Years after these events, Danaë fell in love with another king named Polydectes, who was also afraid of Perseus. Polydectes decided to get rid of Perseus by sending him to slay an “unbeatable” foe – the Medusa. It was reported that the hideous Medusa had hair which was made out of vicious snakes and could turn anybody to stone if they looked at her directly.
In order to defeat the Medusa, Perseus procured a helm of darkness which made him invisible, a pair of winged sandals which allowed him to fly, and a magnificent sword made out of a reflective material. By wearing the helm, he was able to sneak into the Medusa’s cave without being seen and by using the reflective sword he was able to see the monster without looking at her directly. When he eventually chopped the head off of the Medusa, a beautiful, winged horse sprang from the body of the beast and Perseus claimed him for his own. Keeping the head of the Medusa in a bag, Perseus was later able to use it to turn his enemies to stone.