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Headscratchers: Greek Mythology
  • Is there a fictional depiction of Hades where he wasn't either the villain or fairly malicious?
    • Satanic Hamster: Umm, Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys? In those series, he's one of the more decent and respectable of the Gods.
      • I only give them partial credit. While they avoided the Hijacked by Jesus "Hades = Satan" analogy, there was one Xena episode that portrayed the Bacchae as vampires and cast Bacchus (aka Dionysus, god of wine) as Satan. And killed him, long before killing gods became a plot point.
    • Can we count Jaydes from Super Paper Mario?
    • God of War, of all things, has this.
    • The Percy Jackson books seem to depict him as a pretty decent guy as well, despite what the first book might make you think.
      • Even in the first book, he's not exactly evil, just pissed off because someone stole his magic helmet.
      • Sadly ruined by the film adaptation, though. Jarring considering the author of the books actually knows his Greek mythology well, yet They Just Didn't Care! *facepalm*
    • In the video game Zeus, he's just another god.
    • Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus is probably the closest you'll come in the classical corpus.
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympians portrays him as having some sibling rivalry issues and mostly being angry. But if there are other books in the franchise...he's probably not going to be shown as being angry at Zeus and the like. (Well you'd be mad at Zeus too if he destroyed an entire hotel with your lover in it to specifically get your children.)
    • Class of the Titans
    • Basically, popular media is starting to catch on. Basically because everyone loves to subvert Disney. (maybe that was the plan?)
    • Don't know if this is what you were looking for, but in The Frogs he is portrayed as spooky but ultimately not evil. Of course, The Frogs was actually written in Ancient Greece.
    • Epicurus the Sage by William Messner-Loebs and Sam Kieth. He and Persephone were in love and staged the whole thing.
      • It's not like he was the nicest guy in the world in the original myths. I mean, raping and kidnapping Persephone into a forced marriage is not an extremely non-villainous thing to do....
      • 1. He won Persephone over on his own after the initial kidnapping—which is never described as an "abduction" in the original myths—by lavishing gifts on her and eventually letting her go back to her mother when he realized she was genuinely homesick
      • 2. What part of "The other gods were much, much worse" aren't you getting?
      • #1: It varies depending on the version of the story, like just about all their myths. #2. I got it: I just recognize its irrelevance where you don't. Mythical cross-referencing is one of the more powerful tools in fiction. If you can link up several things from different religions or mythologies or literary or folk traditions then it gives the trope an extra...I don't know the word, let's just say Jungian-ish...oomph. Satan is Lord of the Underworld and so is Hades?? Maybe a couple of other light parallels to be drawn too?? DRAW THEM! That's how writers think.
      • Not really - maybe writers who are sloppy or like to box everything in neat little rehashy squares. Also, fyi 'rape' does not mean rape. It is an archaic word for kidnap. No legend ever says he raped her.
    • The Myth-O-Mania books present him as a decent, usually friendly guy (if a bit of a Deadpan Snarker) who made a couple of mistakes and got hugely slandered by his uppity little brother and the guy's unaffiliated daughter and idiot mortal sons. It's a Perspective Flip, but still...
    • Tradewinds: Odyssey Hades is a pretty cool guy and helps out the main character in one of the storylines.
  • Okay, how about Ares?
    • The most obvious adaptation of Greek mythology to portray Ares as a nice guy is Roman mythology. * shifty eyes*
      • There is not that much resemblance between Ares and Mars. Ares was the god of brute strength and love of battle with Athena being the Goddess of skilfully conducted military operations. As Mars developed into a God of War the aspects he took on were closer to Athena's than Ares' as those were more Roman.
      • Anyway, Mars was originally an agricultural god, not a war-god. * shrug* Regarding the page at large, Tanya Huff's Summon the Keeper involves the entire Greek pantheon rather tangentially, and none of the gods are portrayed as at all malicious. Mind, they're also doddering old has-beens. Zeus is a dirty old man, but that's pretty much an original character facet.
    • Ares was pretty malicious. Portraying him as anything else would probably be bowlderisation. Of course, most of the gods were bastards...
    • At least Ares was more or less widely acknowledged by the Greeks as being a jerk, if the other gods' treatment of him is any reflection of contemporary opinion. Dionysus, on the other hand, was basically the god of drunken violence, religious overzealousness, and mob rule, in the worst possible sense (see The Bacchae), and had the entirety of theatre devoted to him. Ares was a saint next to him, but was treated as though he were so much worse, so I feel a tiny bit of sympathy for the guy.
      • Dionysus was fun, and was an important feature in mystery cults and secret rituals. Ares was everything about war that the Greeks didn't like, and pretty much their designated God of Evil. Context is everything.
      • (God of Evil? Are we forgetting Hecate here? Actual goddess of witchcraft? Dionsysus is the god of decadence and stupidity, she's the one in charge of evil.)
      • Hecate, like other possible claimants like Erebus and Nyx, are tertiary gods who figure directly in few myths. Eris, on the other hand, both figures in one prominent myth (the golden apples marked "For the Fairest" which ultimately triggered the Trojan War) and spreads discord for its own sake (admittedly, in that myth, she was overreacting to being snubbed of a wedding invitation). Sounds akin to a goddess of evil to me.
      • Also, Hecate, Erebus, and Nyx aren't actually evil, just a bit creepy. Hell, Hecate even did a few nice things for other people, which in this pantheon makes her practically a saint.
      • So getting so violently drunk that you tear people limb from limb is fun?!
      • They didn't really thought of him as a god of evil, that role was already handed to Typhon.
      • I think Ares war more "everything about war Athens didn't like". Most of the mythological texts we have today, if I'm not mistaken, come from athenian authors, who worshipped, well, Athena, and opposed her to Ares. If we had mythological texts from Sparta, for instance, we would likely see Ares in a much more positive light.
      • Not necessarily. One of the major Spartan centers of worship was a shrine to Athena of the Bronze Horse. Also, Athenians didn't worship Athena to the exclusion of others. She was important to them but they still worshiped the others.
      • Ares rarely screwed around with anybody outside of war.
    • The Illiad? He's no more malicious than the other gods, and perfectly willing to stick it out for the underdogs.
      • No. Read the Iliad. He's a right moaner and loves battle to an...unseemly degree. It's a negative portrayal (contrast the portrayal of Apollo, who's also pro-Trojan but gets none of the bashing Homer gives Ares.)
  • So... Much.. Incest. So.. Cold.
    • Oh, come on. It's mythology. Incest is practically a staple of the genre.
      • That goes back to the idea of keeping the bloodline "pure." You can't be breeding with humans to make gods, that'll taint the genes.
    • How else are the gods going to reproduce?
      • With us vile humans? I certainly hope so.
      • Don't gods make humans? Wouldn't that be the equivalent of fucking your son or daughter anyway?
      • Is that actually in Greek myth?
      • That is how you get demi-Gods like Hercules and Cú Chulainn. Just be careful what you wish for. Zeus could show up as a giant bull.
      • Zeus showing up as a bull isn't so bad. (Especially for some.) The trouble is when Hera shows up as a shrew.
      • Nah. Zeus showing up as a 'shower of gold' (to Danae, Perseus' mother) is much worse.
    • Well, how else is the offspring guaranteed immortality?
    • Incest is not strictly limited to the gods but tends to be constructed as shameful among humans, Oedipus being the most famous example. The myth of Adonis's conception is another case, with his mother Myrrha, being transformed into a myrrh tree for seducing her father.
  • What happens if Sisyphus just refuses to keep pushing the boulder?
    • We're all doomed, that's what.
    • Presumably, the rock rolls down through Tartarus, breaks the walls of wherever they're keeping the Hekatonchires and the Gigantes, and then we're all fucked.'
      • It'd roll over him. Then it'd keep coming back. Rolling Rolling Rolling... RAWHIDE.
      • Isn't Sisyphus pushing it in something that resembles a halfpipe, anyway? I could swear I've seen at least one painting like that.
      • It would break the fourth wall.
      • I believe it is implied in some versions that he could stop at any moment, but being a smartarse 'Ha,ha, I cheated Gods and Death multiple times!' Jerkass he was, he was too damn proud to do it.
      • He can't. He'll keep pushing that boulder whether he wants to or not.
      • I understand that the whole point of that punishment was to keep him from sneaking out of Erebos yet again. I have a feeling Hades and Persephone told him "If you can keep the rock on top of that hill for five minutes, you can get out". At least they gave him something to exercise his brain on, even if his rate of improvement is probably something like one second every nine centuries...
      • Albert Camus wrote a great existential essay about Sisyphus, using his boulder punishment as a metaphor for life. In a nutshell, he said that, since Sisyphus has been giving a task that will last forever and drive him onward through an otherwise meaningless eternity, he's happy with it. But I do like the idea above, that Sisyphus is so arrogant that he's determined to spend forever trying to beat the gods by succeeding at it (something they knew would be impossible, and also knew he'd never be able to accept).
      • Isn't it impossible for him to stop?
      • He just never stops. That's who he is. Also he likes the view of the boulder falling again.
    • Better question: What happens if Atlas lets Ouranos/Uranus hug his mother/wife Gaea?
      • ... Because Ouranos is dead?
      • No, seriously. Killed by Chronos after he refused to acknowledge his uglier children? Blood became the Furies? His member fell into the sea and became Aphrodite? I seem to remember a myth saying that Chronos and the other Titans had hardly any room to live with Ouranos being right on top of Gaia all the time.
      • Interesting, how these myths start with claustrophobia... Titans crushed between their parents... young gods swallowed up by their father... Athena growing up inside her father's head... I sense a motif!
      • Greeks were fetishists of Transformation, being enclosed, incest, humiliation, and more.
    • We all die by being squished between the two.
  • What the hell is up with Zeus's continuous philandering? He knows Hera will find out, and punish the lass and any fruit of the union mercilessly. To have this happen once would put most unfaithful husbands off, but he keeps on doing it.
    • He's a jerk. However, in one collection I read, he was fucking about because he had to beget an anti-Giant Hero (or AGH) with a human woman, or otherwise he would be royally fucked by the giants when they came around. He got warned by a prophecy from Prometheus. However, this collection was very bowdlerized, so take it with a grain of salt.
      • The AGH in question was good ol' Heracles, though it certainly doesn't explain Zeus fucking around beyond that.
      • He doesn't. That's the last time he has sex with a mortal woman.
      • Not necessarily. Hercules traveled on the Argo together with Laertes, Odysseus' father. So that'd make Hercules older than Odysseus, who is older than Helen, another one of Zeus' children.
    • Injecting a bit of reality for the moment, this is probably because claiming descent from the king of the gods is just so much more badass than tracing your lineage to somebody still divine yet less powerful. Then when you cram all the individual myths together, Zeus naturally enough looks rather busy. Besides, if you look at the myths some more, you may find that the king of the gods doesn't actually behave all that differently from the kings of men (who also frequently have some trouble keeping it in their pants)...
      • Realism of a different type: back in the day, there was more than one Zeus. Each locality had its own versions, with their own myths and distinct histories. Some mythologists say that when the Greek cities brought the small towns into their sphere of control, they would also take over their gods, and their stories were absorbed into their general story. There were contradictions, of course, and the myths were changed by later storytellers couldn't make sense of what they'd been handed and "fixed" them. That means that all the different mistresses were actually his wives.
      • This idea is a somewhat discredited. It can't be conclusively disproved, but scholars aren't so hot on the idea anymore, at least wherein Greece is concerned.
      • Yet another possibility, mentioned in the Golden Bough, IIRC, is that in the spring there was a ritual where young men and women would go into the fields at night and have sex to stimulate the growth of plants. The offspring were considered "children of the gods," because it was a holy event. I kind of remember that some of the societies practiced holy prostitution: virgins of a certain age would go to the temple to wait for men and collect money for a dowry.
    • He just plain doesn't care that much. Hera can't do anything to him and he's not really concerned with what happens to his former lovers.
    • Because he can and to quote, History of the World Part I "It's good to be the king." Think about it: he gets credit for rescuing his siblings and kicking his dad's ass, he has the most powerful weapon in all of Greek mythology and the one time a revolt starts, it's only by chaining him in bed while he slept and despite being outnumbered, there was a collective Oh Crap from the entire pantheon the second he got free. Face it, he is Asskicking Equals Authority and Wish Fulfillment incarnate.
    • Values Dissonance, Double Standard. See every classic Greek stories: ideal men are allowed to sleep around, with anything they want while ideal women have to stay faithful.
  • Why so few lesbians? Off the top of my head I can only think of Iphis and Ianthe, though that in itself is debatable as Iphis is raised as a man and later turned into one as a reward. There are gay men passim in the myths, so why not lesbians?
    • Firstly, SAPPHO. The really famous lesbian Greek poet? Secondly, the real answer as to why there are no lesbians is really simple. Who was in charge in Greek society? The men. Therefore, who wrote the myths, histories etc? The men. They were all busy having gaytimes with each other, and women were regarded as inferior anyway, so their lesbian relationships were likely hardly known, let alone written down to be preserved throughout the centuries. Greeks considered male homosexuality as wonderful and a benefit to society, so it was recorded and used in myths. Women simply weren't regarded well enough to have their gayness remembered.
    • Ancient Greeks were Yaoi Fanboys. Homosexual relationships were extremely common. The heterosexual standard wasn't really thought to be as awesome as gay sex.
    • Given the Greeks' usual attitudes towards women, they probably wouldn't have seen the point.
    • What about Artemis? Okay, in theory she asked Zeus to never make her marry as she wanted to remain forever chaste and she's supposed to be the goddess of virginity. But she didn't seem to have much use for men apart from her brother and she DID go on a lot of long hunting trips with small groups of nymphs.
      • And she was very much against the nymphs having any kind of contact with men, based on what happened to Callisto (courtesy of that jackass Zeus). And then there's what happened to Actaeon and to Orion...
      • Don't forget that Zeus only managed to seduce Callisto after assuming Artemis' appearance. Did he know something about their relationship we don't?
    • Come to think of it, Athena made a similar vow about never wanting to marry, didn't she?
      • Nobody's entirely sure on the technical details.
    • And surely there were a few women among the Amazons who liked living in a colony of fit young women a little more than everyone else, who didn't want Hercules?
    • Ironically, the term 'lesbian' is inspired by the Greek island of Lesbos, though there seems to be no direct connection in the usual myths. (According to The Other Wiki, the association with female homosexuality is a fairly modern one via the surviving works and reputation of the poetess Sappho, who was born there in the 7th century BC and notably famous in her time.) Not to be confused with the island of Lemnos, whose womenfolk happened to have killed all their men shortly before the Argonauts arrived and had started to regret it already.
      • From what I heard, the word came about because of because of some mythical queen of that island who was said to be a homosexual, I forget her name.
      • Probably Sappho that was mentioned above. Your source is probably confused.
    • I think this excerpt from Metamorphoses about Iphis and Ianthe demonstrates why there aren't many lesbians in Roman myth, at least:
    Iphis: Hardly restraining her tears, she said ‘What way out is there left, for me, possessed by the pain of a strange and monstrous love, that no one ever knew before? If the gods wanted to spare me they should have spared me, but if they wanted to destroy me, they might at least have visited on me a natural, and normal, misfortune. Mares do not burn with love for mares, or heifers for heifers: the ram inflames the ewe: its hind follows the stag. So, birds mate, and among all animals, not one female is attacked by lust for a female. I wish I were not one! Yet that Crete might not fail to bear every monstrosity, Pasiphaë, Sol’s daughter, loved a bull, though still that was a female and a male. My love, truth be told, is more extreme than that. She at least chased after the hope of fulfilment, though the bull had her because of her deceit, and in the likeness of a cow, and the one who was deceived was a male adulterer.
  • Why was keeping Hope trapped in Pandora's Box considered a good thing? While the Evils were sealed in the box, humanity didn't know of them. When Pandora opens the box and releases them, humanity learns about Evil pretty damned quick. This in mind, wouldn't you want Hope to be freed as well? It's for this reason that this troper prefers a version of the myth that says the last thing in the box was Despair, which would have prevented people from having hope if it were released.
    • Hope is kept trapped in the box? Which version are you reading? I heard that Pandora trapped it and then it started complaining and she let it out.
      • Now you say that I'm not sure it was trapped, but every reference to the myth I've ever seen except the Despair one says that Hope was the last remaining thing in the box. Which still makes no sense as why would Hope be contained within a Can of Sealed Evils? I've never heard of the Hope complaining version before.
      • In the original telling by Hesiod (the important part here being that he was an arch-misogynist), Pandora was practically a time bomb containing every vice you could think of. Sharp-tongued, overbearing, over-curious...basically, if it's immiscible with Extreme Doormat, Pandora had it, and the theoi had intended her to be relentless woe for poor Epimetheos. Anyway, keeping Hope trapped in there? Hesiod thought this further proof that the theoi had created her as nothing but pure woe. (Now why on Gaea he didn't think the female deities were as bad as female humans...Demeter and Persephone spring to mind in a hurry as ones this troper is having trouble seeing as woe elementals.)
      • It's because you don't fuck with goddesses without being fucked with in return. Hesiod wasn't going to take that risk.
    • Greeks thought hope was bad since it usually lead to having hope in hopeless situations, or being disappointed, and inevitably having such hopes be dashed violently. Remember what happened to Orpheus? It's a greek thing. Then again, the version I heard had Hope fly out as a consolation prize to palliate the release of the other evils.
      • Exactly. There's an intentionally ambiguous element to it. Hope is an evil in with the other evils. It's just a special sort of evil.
    • You're completely misinterpreting it. The idea wasn't that hope was trapped in the box, it's that out of all the things the box held, one of them stayed behind. That is, while all of the troubles in the box flew far and wide to fill the world, hope remained with humanity. The implication was supposed to be that in a perfect world, hope would be unneeded, so hope is a virtue unique to a flawed world.
    • A version I read had Foreboding replace Hope as the final 'spite', much like your Despair version. Another version said that Hope was put there as a last salvation of sorts, by whom I don't know.
      • This troper also read a version (the Evslin and Evslin retellings of Greek myth for kids) ages ago that said Foreboding was the only evil still trapped in the box, which of course meant humans could keep hope. To this day that version seems to me to make the most sense.
    • I think the symbolic message is simpler than all that. It's just that, when all those evils were loosed on the world, humanity barely managed to hold onto hope. On a literal level, had hope escaped from the box too, it probably would've vanished forever. As for why it was in the box at all, symbolically, hope doesn't mean anything in a perfect world because there's nothing to hope for; it's only when things are bad (i.e. when the box was opened) that hope for a better life becomes important. Literally, Zeus probably felt a little bad about the box at the last minute, and decided that if he was going to curse humanity, he'd at least make it bearable.
      • That was what this troper always thought it was - the moral was no matter how terrible things got, there always was Hope to help people get through it. One good thing, no matter how small, to help get through the many evils.
    • For that matter, the obvious misogyny in the myth of Pandora ("Women and their curiosity are the root of all evil!") just bugs me.
      • There are some traces of alternate traditions, mostly in artwork, that hint at a very different version of the Pandora myth, though, including one that strongly hints that her husband was the one to open the jar.
      • There's also the fact that the gods specifically designed Pandora to be ultra-curious and thus open the box. It's not like she was that way on her own.
      • I heard in a version that it was Hermes, with parallels as a trickster god, who gave Pandora ultra-curiosity
      • Okay, let's settle this ONCE AND FOR ALL. First, it's "hope" in the sense of "there's still hope", as in "there's still a chance", not "hope" as in the emotion of hope, which doesn't amount to diddly dick in and of itself without the other kind also theoretically existing. And the "evils" trapped in the box are not evil (singular) as in "immorality" but evils (plural), which means "ills"—or contextually, something like "curses" or "scourges". Second, I distinctly remember hearing (at least in some versions of the story) that someone (I don't remember who) had deliberately made sure that hope got in there as a safety measure, a "just in case". Third, in some versions (the oldest, I'm pretty sure) it was a jar instead of a box and it contained blessings instead of curses, which escaped and fled from the world when it was opened, and the thing was closed up in time only for the last one (hope) to be left in there. I guess that one makes more sense. Finally, one single woman making one single mistake does not brand all women as inherent fuck-ups, especially when not explicitly labeled as such. Knock it off with the Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory.
      • Except the Hesiod version (the oldest) does spell that out. She was created as the first woman to punish mankind as a further torment to Prometheus (the creator and patron of humans) for giving them fire. Also, it is definitely curses in the jar and hope trapped with them. There were earlier versions that very little is known about (and are mainly only even proposed as explanations for the inconsistencies in his version), but all later tellings are based off Hesiod's version. The main variation is that pretty much only Hesiod ever tried to play this off as a good thing, as with the other parts of the creation story later Greek writers read it as Zeus just being a complete dick.
  • Okay so Atalanta was seduced by Hipponenes...but didn't she actually sail with the Argonauts?
    • Last I read, Jason felt that a single woman on the ship would probably lead the all the men getting into a fight. (more than they already did)
    • Hipponenes is like "So long sucker" and leaves her to die and stuff.Yeah.
  • So why do fiction always portray Kronos as potentially being alive or resurrecting, but Ouranos is Deader than Dead? Wouldn't he kind of want revenge as well?
    • Kronos is imprisoned in Tartarus. Ouranos is dead enough to... well, a guy up there put it very well.
    • Would you want to live as a castrated giant constantly looking down on the guy who did it? Besides, manhood (literally and figuratively) was of the utmost importance to a man and losing it is a Fate Worse than Death. Also Ouranos was simply a placeholder to explain the Vicious Cycle with no cult while Kronos was a harvest deity that became co-opted by the Romans into Saturn.
  • When did Chronos have Chiron? And why didn't he swallow him?
    • I suppose the prophecy made an exception for centaurs
    • In the version I read, Chiron descended from Ixion and Nephele like the other centaurs, but was the only noble and immortal one among them.
    • Why didn't he swallow him? Would you want to do this twice? (Nightmare Fuel warning!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn_Devouring_His_Son
  • The Hydra grows two heads if you chop off one. What the definition of decapitation here? I mean, what if you severe it at the jawline instead of the neck, leaving the lower jaw intact and still attached? Also, what if just bash its skull in?
    • Ignoring the fact that we're both arguably missing the point, you have to remember that didn't happen. The hydra had killed men who chopped off its heads at the neck only to find two more grow back in their place. Clearly nobody ever tried either of the above as when the hydra was finally defeated it didn't have that many heads. Assuming the heads were permanent, that means that very few people ever actually cut off any of its heads. Probably they were devoured before they thought to bash its head in. Not to mention that would be unnecessary as cauterizing the stump apparently worked just as well.
    • This troper heard in one version of the myth, the hydra would bite off any of its own heads that were FUBAR'd so that they could grow back again.
  • Promethus has his liver torn out by an eagle, but his Healing Factor keeps him alive so that it is eaten again and again. Uranus though, just gets a forceful castration and dies almost instantly. Both of them are supposedly immortal beings, so why was Uranus so easily killed?
    • Prometheus's liver was a specific part of his punishment, not because of any Healing Factor the gods naturally have. The gods are quite capable of being injured and wounded, and need medical attention like anyone else would. In The Iliad, Ares is at one point wounded by an entirely mortal warrior's entirely mundane spear and has to retreat back up to Olympus to be healed.
      • Aphrodite too, and she complains about it. They can be injured, they just can't die.
      • It bears mentioning: Chronos is explicitly more powerful than Ouranos. More powerful and destined to overthrow him. No way that eagle is more powerful than Prometheus - not powerful enough to destroy, just enough to have a snack.
      • Said eagle was at the same level as the Hydra and the Chimaera (being their brother and all), beings that even the gods are careful at being involved with.
      • Okay, Ouranos did NOT die. Gods can't die unless they choose to 'retire' (as with Khiron, who was suffering unbearable agony after Herakles accidentally poisoned him with a hydra's blood arrow). In fact, directly after his castration, he cursed his five traitorous sons (The eldest son, Okeanos did not take part in the, uh...errection insurrection) and deemed them 'Titanes Theoi' or 'Straining Gods' which is why they are later called Titans in the first place (before that, they would simply have been called the Ouranides). He then retreated into the heavens and never took physical form again. The point is that he didn't die, but sufferered the unbearable shame of emasculation. It was also Ouranos' prophecy (probably delivered via his prophetic son Koios) that Kronos' son would rise up and supplant him just as Kronos had done. Once again, Ouranos didn't die, otherwise there'd BE no heavenly dome above.
  • Why, exactly, did such misfortune befall on the line of Cadmus? Semele, Agave, Ino, Labdacus, Laius, Oedipus, Polynices, Eteocles, Antigone, Laodamas, Thersander... Did I miss anyone? In Greek mythology, curses on bloodlines are usually karmic punishments — what did Cadmus or his descendants do to deserve this?
    • Remember Cadmus killing the dragon to sow the dragon's teeth? Yeah, that dragon was sacred to Ares. Cadmus also ended up marrying Harmonia, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, and Hephaestus, none too pleased at his wife's affair, gave Harmonia a rather famous cursed necklace that got passed down the family line.
      • This actually bugs me too: if the dragon was sacred to Ares, how did Cadmus end up marrying his daughter? In the version I read, Ares and Aphrodite came to congratulate Cadmus for freeing Harmonia from the dragon, and it was only when Cadmus and Harmonia found the cursed necklace in the dragon's hoard that the troubles started.
      • I know that when I researched this myth, I found so many different versions it's not even funny. For one thing, no one seems to have agreed on who Harmonia's parents are in the first place, or how the cursed necklace got involved, and whether or not the slaying of the dragon had anything at all to do with the troubles of that family. Many people seem to place the blame solely on the necklace, and say that the necklace was Hephaestus' attempt to get back at Aphrodite by cursing her daughter, but I've seen at least two other presenters named. Ah, mythology. So wonderfully contradictory.
    • Don't forget Pentheus and Actaeon. Arguably, Agave and Ino bring their troubles on themselves by denying Zeus's divinity (and thereby more importantly denying Dionysus's divinity), as does Pentheus. Semele and Actaeon are both in the wrong place at the wrong time. Laius was cursed because he raped and killed a young boy, IIRC. The line of Cadmus seems to be ten different myths which happen to members of the same family, as opposed to, say, the Atreides, whose troubles as a family all spring from the same source.
      • A specific example of their misfortune: Laius rapes a Spartan prince, he's then cursed and Oedipus is cursed because of him (sins of the father and all that). It's all rather unfair. Oedipus' poor sprogs are cursed due to his actions, which were caused by the cursing of his father. Every case is connected somehow. Their family is too big and too varied to have one single source of misfortune, but there's causation at work.
  • Exactly how do divine genetics work anyway? Both Zeus and Poseidon have had relationships with six of the seven Pleiades (minor goddesses who are daughters of Atlas). In most cases, the resulting offspring are mortal humans (my guess is that divinity is based on how far you are genealogically from the original Titans), but when Zeus does it with Maia, their son Hermes becomes a major member of the pantheon. Was Hermes born a mortal but turned into a god by Parental Favoritism or what?
    • Perhaps there are processes involved with becoming a full god that don't have to do just with blood. Maybe weaker or more distant relations of the original gods, as well as demigods, are born mortal but must be made a god by the current rulers, or somesuch. Heracles supposedly became a god after death, and I'm reminded of the scene in the Clash of the Titans remake where Zeus offers Perseus the chance to come to Olympus and become a god. Maybe a lot of these supposed immortals are born mortal, but make the full ascension as soon as Zeus says, "You're in."
      • There's also the interesting case of Dionysus: his mother was mortal, and there's at least one story of someone (his cousin Pentheus) denying his divinity, with predictably awful results. And Hermes actually tricked/bargained his way into the pantheon - look at the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Divinity almost seems to be something you earn or are gifted, at least once you get beyond the first Olympians. (Not always, but often enough.) Of course, given that in several myths mankind is directly descended from Titans (after the flood), and you do have all those many, many stories about gods and goddesses procreating with humans, it could be recessive genes for divinity cropping up here and there.
      • In some myths, the gods gain their divinity by eating ambrosia and drinking nectar - such as Psyche (who was originally totally mortal, until Eros fell in love with her)
      • In Glaucus' case, he was a fisherman who ate an herb that made him a merman and immortal, and later had Oceanus and Tethys give him the rank of god. So it may be a combination of genetics and rank (which may itself confer power?).
    • Genetics had not been discovered at the time.
  • The story goes that Archimedes was asked by a king to find out if a certain crown was made of gold or not. (Without melting it down obviously.) Now the story of how he discovered displacement in the bathtub is well known, but does anyone know if the crown turned out to be fake or not?
    • Probably not. Given what the discovery implied, Archimedes probably forgot all about the original request immediately after and decided to do more sciency things afterwards instead.
    • According to Wikipedia the test proved that the crown was not made of solid gold.
  • The Odyssey: something always bugged me about the climax of the story. Odysseus proves he is the rightful king by stringing his bow, something apparently none of the other suitors can do. But something about that situation doesn't quite jibe with the rest of Odysseus's characterization. Odysseus is always characterized as The Smart Guy rather than The Big Guy; he's more about brains than brawn. He's certainly not a wimp - he was a warrior-king of Ancient Greece, after all - but he's not a superpowered bruiser demigod like Heracles or Achilles. He's probably not even the strongest mortal in Ithaca; at the very least, he's his late thirties when he finally makes it home, and many of Penelope's suitors are younger men in their physical prime. And yet, none of them can beat the old man in what is basically a classic "feat of strength". Did Odysseus have a custom bow, and there was some kind of trick to stringing it that only he knew?
  • Perseus used Medusa's head to turn Atlas into stone, creating the Atlas mountains. Perseus begat Alcaeus and Electryon, one of whom begat Alcmene, who begat Heracles. One of Heracles' labors involved talking to Atlas and covering for Atlas temporarily while Atlas fetched the Golden Apples. The continued presence of the Atlas Mountains indicates that no, he didn't ever recover from his stoning. So, how was he up and about to get involved in the Eleventh Labor, if Heracles' great grandfather turned him into a mountain?
    • Either it is talking mountains or the effects wear off in you are immortal. Also there is the practices of assimilating the local gods and stories into the main pantheon thus lots of contradictions.

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