Ancient Greek Religion: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes of Myth

6 heroes and villains of Greek mythology

The gods weren’t the only ones doing silly things – they were backed by a troop of monsters, Titans, and heroes.



Bravery was something Herakles – son of Zeus – had to learn early in life; one of his first acts was to eliminate two snakes sent by the goddess Hera to assassinate her in her cradle. Such feats continued into adulthood: he is perhaps best known for having accomplished the 12 impossible “labors” given to him by King Eurystheus – which included the killing of beasts such as the lion. of Nemea, whose golden fur made him impervious to the attacks of a mortal.


Betrayal, revenge and justice – these are the elements that have made the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece so fascinating over the years. The story begins when Jason’s father, the king of Iolcus, is killed by his half-brother Pelias. Vowing to reclaim the throne, Jason joins forces with the Argonauts (a group of 50 heroes) in an effort to acquire the Golden Fleece, a symbol of royalty that lies beyond the edge of the known world.


Revered as the greatest of all ancient warriors, Achilles is the protagonist of Homer’s Iliad; his most notable feat was to kill the Trojan Prince Hector during the Trojan War. According to legend, Achilles’ mother goddess, Thetis, had plunged it into the River Styx to make it invulnerable, except for her heel – the part of the foot from which she held it. As such, when the Trojan Prince Paris shot Achilles in the heel with an arrow, he died. It is from this tale that we derive the expression “Achilles heel”.



Medusa was certainly monstrous, although it could be argued that her villainous acts were somewhat beyond her control. Daughter of the sea gods Phorcys and Ceto, she was a breathtaking mortal woman – until she summons Athena’s jealousy and transforms into a hideous creature with hair snakes. According to legend, anyone who looked at Medusa would turn to stone.


Greek mythology has its fair share of gruesome deeds and grisly events, but those attributed to Cronos are among the most disturbing. Son of Uranus, master of the universe, Cronus dispatched his father’s genitals with a large stone sickle before throwing his testicles into the sea. When his own children – Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon – were born, Cronus devoured them all in an attempt to circumvent a prophecy that suggested they would overthrow him.

The minotaur

According to Athenian legend, King Minos – one of the many sons of Zeus – imprisoned the murderous minotaur, a mythological creature who was half-bull and half-man (and also the offspring of Minos’ wife, Pasiphae) in a labyrinth on the island of Crete. Every nine years, a tribute of children (seven Athenian boys and seven young girls) was given to the monster until he was killed by Theseus, son of the Athenian king, Aegeus.

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