Greek mythology does not just tell the stories of gods and goddesses, however. Human heroes–such as Heracles, the adventurer who performed 12 impossible labors for King Eurystheus (and was subsequently worshipped as a god for his accomplishment); Pandora, the first woman, whose curiosity brought evil to mankind; Pygmalion, the king who fell in love with an ivory statue; Arachne, the weaver who was turned into a spider for her arrogance; handsome Trojan prince Ganymede who became the cupbearer for the gods; Midas, the king with the golden touch; and Narcissus, the young man who fell in love with his own reflection–are just as significant. Monsters and “hybrids” (human-animal forms) also feature prominently in the tales: the winged horse Pegasus, the horse-man Centaur, the lion-woman Sphinx and the bird-woman Harpies, the one-eyed giant Cyclops, automatons (metal creatures given life by Hephaistos), manticores and unicorns, Gorgons, pygmies, minotaurs, satyrs and dragons of all sorts. Many of these creatures have become almost as well known as the gods, goddesses and heroes who share their stories.
GREEK MYTHOLOGY: PAST AND PRESENT
The characters, stories, themes and lessons of Greek mythology have shaped art and literature for thousands of years. They appear in Renaissance paintings such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Raphael’s Triumph of Galatea and writings like Dante’s Inferno; Romantic poetry and libretti; and scores of more recent novels, plays and films.