As the whole world is aware of, apart from practical and innovative, the minds of the ancient Greeks were incredibly imaginative, gifting the world with fascinating tales in an attempt to explain the miracle of life and the world around them. With the Olympian gods in leading the roles, and the battle between mortals and immortals being the core of the tales, most of the Greek mythology has survived through the works of Homer and Hesiod, the second most important ancient Greek poet after Homer.
Sit back and relax as we take you on a journey through the most popular tales of Greek Mythology, where everything is possible!
Eros and Psyche
Statue of Eros and Psyche by Antonio Canova - credits: peacefoo/shutterstock.com
Psyche was the daughter of a royal couple. She had two older sisters and she was so stunning, that she even overshadowed Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. Men used to lust after her while, during her time, the altars of Aphrodite were being abandoned as they all worshiped the irresistible princess instead of the goddess. The rejection angered Aphrodite, who ordered her son, Eros to make Psyche fall in love with the most inferior and least reputable man he could find. Then, one day, Psyche’s father received an oracle from god Apollo who instructed him to take Psyche dressed in a bridal dress on a high mountain where he had to wait for the arrival of the groom. Terrified, he did so, and Psyche was taken to a high mountain until Zephyros, the gentle western wind, picked her up and carried her to a valley where she fell asleep on the grass.
When she woke up, she discovered a dazzling palace. Psyche entered the palace reluctantly and was welcomed by invisible servants. That night, an unknown man lied beside her on the bed. Despite Psyche’s fear for her life, the stranger treated her tenderly, though he disappeared before the crack of dawn. From then on, the stranger returned each night. In the meantime, Psyche’s sisters started looking for her. The stranger warned Psyche that her sisters were approaching and advised her to ignore them. Originally, Psyche agreed to obey his desires but later felt bad for the cruel way she was about to treat her sisters. Eros, who was the secret lover of Psyche, pitied her and allowed her to welcome her sisters, warning her not to disclose his identity.
Psyche welcomed her sisters in her palace, and when one of them insisted on asking for her husband's identity, she simply replied that he was a young handsome man who always spent the day chasing animals. Her sisters got extremely jealous. Their younger sister was suddenly rich and married to an incredibly beautiful man while they had ended up with ugly, old and sick husbands. Eros repeated his warning and then told her she was pregnant.
By using fraudulent tricks, her sisters managed to make Psyche admit that she did not know who her husband was and ask for their help. They advised her when her husband fell asleep, to bring a candle to his face and see who he was. Psyche did as she was told and discovered that her husband was Eros himself, with his bow and arrows next to the bed. Curious, Psyche touched one of his arrows and was injured by the edge, making her fall in love with Eros. The candle dripped on the shoulder of the sleeping god, who jumped awake and flew away, angry with Psyche for not keeping her word.
At the last moment, Psyche grabbed his foot and was lifted up in the air with him. When exhaustion forced her to leave him, Eros acknowledged that he had been hurt by his arrows, and therefore had desperately fallen in love with Psyche, but flew away leaving her in the wilderness. Psyche took revenge from her sisters by driving them to suicide and continued looking for Eros while he lied wounded on his mother's bed.
Desperate, Psyche approached Aphrodite, who tormented the unfortunate Psyche without knowing she was pregnant and gave her a series of impossible tasks to complete, which she did with the help of a superior power. By then, Eros had recovered from his injury. Filled with a lust for Psyche, he escaped from the room where his mother had imprisoned him, found his beloved, and flew to Zeus to ask him to approve his marriage with her. Zeus agreed and announced to Aphrodite that Psyche was about to become a goddess. He ordered Hermes to bring the girl to Mount Olympus, where the wedding was celebrated with joy. Eros and Psyche remained married and acquired a son, Voloupta (meaning ‘sensual’ in Greek).
Pandora's box - credits: Fer Gregory/Shutterstock.com
Zeus, having received an oracle from Prometheus revealing to him that a child of his born by Thetis would outpower him and steal his throne, decided to punish humankind. He instructed Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, and volcanoes, among others, to create a woman out of clay and give her a human voice. Hephaestus worked hard and created a masterpiece. Goddess Athena liked this clay creature, blew life into her and taught her how to weave and dress. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, made her beautiful. Hermes taught her how to charm and deceive. Zeus was satisfied when he saw her; he named her Pandora and sent her as a gift to Epimetheus.
Despite Epimetheus having been warned by his brother, Prometheus, that he should never accept gifts from Zeus because there would always be a trap, Epimetheus ignored his brother's warning, fell in love with Pandora and married her. Zeus, as a gift for their wedding, gave Pandora a beautiful box, on the condition that she would never open it. For a while, Epimetheus and Pandora were very happy. As time passed, however, Pandora became increasingly curious about what was in the box. She could not understand why someone would send her a box if she could not see what was in it, and one day, defeated by her curiosity, she decided to open it. She took the key, put it in the lock, turned it around and carefully opened the lid to take a quick look.
Before realizing what was going on, the room was filled with terrible things: illness, despair, evil, greed, aging, death, hatred, violence, cruelty and war. Terrified, she closed the lid with force leaving only the spirit of hope in the box.
The myth of Pandora’s Box is preserved in various versions with the ones from Hesiod, Aesopus, and Aeschylus, being the most popular. According to one variation, probably the oldest one, Zeus had filled the box with real gifts ordering Pandora to never open it. Curious as she was, Pandora disobeyed Zeus, opened the box, and as a result, all of the good it contained, all the things Zeus had given to the people, except for Hope, flew back to heaven. Despite its many variants, it is not clear whether Zeus wanted to punish people with what was released from the box or whether the punishment was the woman herself, with many comparing Pandora's box with the apple of Eve.
Theseus and the Minotaur
Sculpture of Theseus the Minotaur fighting by Etienne Jules Ramey - credits: meunierd/Shutterstock.com
According to Greek Mythology, Minos, King of Crete and son of Zeus and Europa, once asked god Poseidon to give him a sign whether him of his brother, Rhadamanthus, should take the throne of Knossos from King Asterios. Poseidon sent him a beautiful white bull and asked him to sacrifice it in his honor.
Minos, however, dazzled by the beauty of the animal, decided to mislead Poseidon and sacrifice another bull in its place. Of course, Poseidon realized what had happened and, outraged, made King Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull. Desperate, Pasiphae sought the help of a skillful craftsman and artist, Daedalus, who built a wooden cow dummy, Damalis, covered in true cowhide. Pasiphae entered the dummy and, fooled, the bull mated with her. From this, the famous Minotaur was born, a monster with a human body and a bull’s head that fed with human blood.
When King Minos saw the monster, he asked Daedalus to build a dark building with endless corridors to imprison the Minotaur. Thus, Daedalus constructed the Labyrinth, a complex network in which anyone who entered, couldn’t find the way out. At one point in history, Minos’ son, Androgeus, took part in the Panathenaic Games, where he won several times. Driven by envy, the people of Athens killed the young athlete, and Minos declared war on the Athenians, defeating them with ease. As a punishment, Minos forced Athenians to send to Crete, every nine years, seven young men and seven young women to be devoured by the Minotaur.
Theseus, son of Aegeus, the king of Athens, did not endure this humiliation and asked that he be one of the seven young men sentCrete, with a special mission; to kill the Minotaur in the dark labyrinth. Upon his arrival, he met with the daughter of Minos, Ariadne, and they both fell in love. Ariadne then gave Theseus a threaded rope -known as Ariadne's thread- and advised him to tie its end to the entrance of the labyrinth and unroll it as he moves inside the labyrinth so that, when he killed the Minotaur, he could find the exit. Theseus entered the dark arcades holding the thread and managed to kill the Minotaur by cutting his head, thus giving a definitive end to Minos’ cruelty. Then, he managed to return to the exit, following the thread.
Theseus took Ariadne with him and, along with the rest of the Athenians, they began the trip back home. They made a stop at Naxos, where god Dionysus appeared in Theseus’ dream and told him that they had to leave the island without Ariadne since she was meant to stay there and become his wife. Ariadne stayed in Naxos, married Dionysus, and was later brought to Mount Olympus to become immortal.
When the rest of the Athenians sailed to Athens, they forgot to change the black sails on their ships, symbolizing the mourning for the loss of young people. When Aegeas saw the black sails, thinking that Theseus was killed, he fell from the cliffs of Cape Sounio, giving the sea in which he drowned the name it holds to this day: the Aegean Sea.
Tip: discover more of Crete’s fascinating history and mythology with a Knossos Palace And Archaeological Museum Tour!
Greek Mythology is an integral part of the Greek culture, even today. It has exceedingly influenced Western civilization, its philosophy, history, politics, art, and literature and has served as an inspiration to poets and artists from across the world. Don’t skip on learning the deepest secrets of antiquity and the hundreds of myths to be found under every rock you turn. If you’re visiting Greece with your kids, treat them to a captivating adventure that will unveil the gems of Greek mythology through our Percy Jackson tours, where they will get the chance to trace Percy Jackson’s footsteps and witness the famous book come to life!