Mythology, is a collection of tales, belonging to a particular culture or religion. In Greece, there is an abundance of such stories that date back thousands of years, and have been used through time to teach us important life lessons and to better understand our human nature. The Gloria Deo Academy said that: "Concepts like Cardinal Virtues are important to learn. However, it’s tough to explain them outside of Greek mythology. That’s because all of these virtues are found repeatedly throughout the myths". We pick up on these moral lessons through stories and then incorporate them in daily life.
I have put together some of my favourite tales from the ancient Greek world that have definitely inspired me and taught me a lot throughout the years!
Jason and the Golden Fleece
Jason, one of the most famous Hellenic heroes, is renowned for his quest to capture the Golden Fleece of Colchis. During his sea journey abroad the mythical ship Argo, Jason and his crew of fifty heroes encounter numerous obstacles which they overcome through a combination of their virtuous acts, courage, and the help of mortals and gods.
This story teaches us to face the challenges in our own life in a similar way. Surround yourself with other brave souls to travel with you on your path. Act virtuously, aim to do good, and keep the common good in your mind. Accept help offered by others and welcome gifts and opportune events from the universe and gods.
Medusa and Perseus's Shield
When faced with difficult problems, feelings of uncertainty, stagnation and paralysis can sometimes set in.
The story of the Greek hero Perseus offers a way to overcome such feelings. Perseus, who was born to Zeus and a mortal women named Danae, was a young man with a noble character. He set out to kill the snake haired gorgon Medusa, and save his mother from slavery. His problem is represented by Medusa, who turns those who look upon her face directly into stone. Perseus manages to slay Medusa by observing her in the reflection of his shield. On his way home he also saves Andromeda, his future wife, by fighting and beating another monster.
During his journey the Greek hero displays endless courage, uses his wisdom and seeks justice. The story of Perseus and Medusa is a story of perseverance, bravery, and dignity. Perseus shows us the length one would go to in order to save the ones you love.
We can approach our own problems in a similar way, viewing them from a different perspective and angle, rather than head on. Using our intelligence to work things out and continue on.
The Abduction of Persephone by Hades
Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture.
According to The Greek Travel Tellers,
"As Persephone grew, so did her beauty. When Hades, the god of the Underworld, saw her, he immediately fell in love with her and decided to abduct her. According to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, one sunny day the young Persephone was collecting flowers in some field with her close friends, the Ocean Nymphs. The carefree Persephone moved away from her companions in search of the most beautiful flower. When she reached out to pluck a wondrous narcissus, Earth yawned open and Hades appeared in his golden chariot and snatched her away to the Underworld while she was in tears. Demeter was looking in vain for her daughter day and night. The land and crops of the earth began to wither. After a while, the Sun, looking at everything from the sky, felt sorry for the goddess and told her what happened. Demeter went to Zeus and demanded that Persephone be returned, or else she would not let the earth blossom again".
They end up coming to the agreement that Persephone would spend eight months per year with her mother on Earth. The remaining four months she would spend as queen of the underworld with Hades.
The myth of the abduction of Persephone symbolizes the seasonal changes and the fertility of the land. The dark winter months, when weather is at it's harshest, is when the goddess is sad with her daughter living in the underworld. The rest of the year coincides with summer and spring, where the elated Demeter gives abundance of produce to the land.
It is a beautiful symbolic tale that you should read more into! It really showcases the unbreakable connection between mother and child, as well as a reminder to live in accordance with nature, and of coarse to not roam away in a field picking flowers - ha ha ha!
Hercules and his labors
A very well know Greek hero of Mythology, who attracts attention, not only for his extraordinary strength, but also for his outstanding character and ethos, is Hercules. Hercules was the son of the goddess queen Hera, and his name literally means the glory of Hera.
His story begins after the completion of his education as a teenager. He is faced with the dilemma of which life path to choose, the difficult road of the 'good side', a path full of adventures and struggles that will lead to a virtuous life and immortality, or the intriguing road of "darkness", filled with pleasure and power but also wickedness, injustice and illegal wealth. There is much more interesting detail to the whole story that I won't bombard you with now, but definitely worth a further look into. Let's not forget that most of the knowledge lays between the lines and in the details indeed.
After Hercules chooses the 'Good path' of life, he goes off to meet king Eurystheus, who hoped to humiliate him by giving him ten tasks that seemed unbeatable to any mortal.
The first labor was to kill the Nemean Lion, who kidnapped women from nearby villages and devoured all warriors that came across it. Hercules managed to corner the lion in it's cave and strangled it with his bare hands. With the help of goddess Athena, he skinned the beast and returned to Eurystheus's palace in Tiryns wearing the lion's hide.
The second target was the Lernaean Hydra. A giant serpent monster with many heads. Hercules fought fiercely, but every time he cut a head of the beast, two more grew in it's place. The battle was hopeless until his nephew Iolaus helped Hercules finish the Hydra off. The dead serpent's remains became the Hydra constellation.
The next task was to capture the Ceryneian Hind. A magical deer that was faster than an arrow, sacred to Artemis, the goddess of hunt. Hercules swore to track it down and return it to her. After a long journey Hercules managed to capture it. When Eurystheus saw the creature, he demanded to keep it, but once Hercules set it free, it ran to it's mistress.
The fourth mission was to capture the Erymanthian boar, which had ravaged many fields and tormented locals for a long time. Adviced by the wise centaur Chiron, Hercules trapped it by chasing it into thick snow, and thus helped the people.
The fifth task was to clean the stables of king Augeas, where he kept his divine cattle. It had not been maintained in years and was out of control. Hercules promised to clean it in one day, if he could keep one tenth of the livestock. Augeas agreed, expecting the hero to fail. Instead, Hercules rerouted two nereby rivers through the stables, and managed to wash through the space, completing yet another task.
Next came three more monstrous enemies, each requiring a clever strategy to defeat. The carnivorous Stymphalian birds, The Cretan bull, and the horses of king Diomedes, trained to devour his guests.
The ninth labor involved someone more dangerous than any monster. Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Hercules was to retrieve the sacred belt she wore, given to her by Ares, god of war. He met with the queen and battled, impressing her so much that she gave him the belt.
For his tenth labor, Hercules had to steal a herd of magical red cattle from Geryon, a giant with three heads and three bodies. Hercules beat the giant and returned to Eurystheus. That should have been the end but the king announced that he didn't count the two labors where the hero received help. So he set out for two more tasks, retrieve a golden apple from the Hesperides nymphs as well as to bring back Cerberus, a three headed hound that guarded the entrance to the underworld.
After all this, a twelve year toil, the king finally declared the hero's journey complete, and Hercules earned a place in the divine pantheon.
His victory of coarse signifies a deeper importance, with lots of symbolism and meaning hidden in each and every part of the tale.
In overcoming the chaotic and monstrous forces of the world, and through his labors, the hero swept away what remained of the Titan's primitive world order, reshaping it into one where humanity can thrive. Hercules tamed the world's madness, acted virtuously and became a hero.
As we can see, there is so much one can learn from mythological stories. Looking into Mythology is vital for one's growth and human experience - we encourage you to get reading!