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YMMV: Classical Mythology

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Every myth comes in at least two or three variants, and that is just the ones handed down to the present! Of note are:
    • One of Ares' Hymns described him as kind of a Proud Warrior Guy while the other described him as more of the Blood Knight that people are more familiar with.
    • Either Persephone was tricked into eating pomegranate seeds so that she'd have to split her time, or she chose to eat them so she could stay with Hades and just claimed she was tricked in order to get My Beloved Smother off her back. Some versions of the story even indicate that Persephone was equally attracted to Hades (mostly because of his power) and knew what she was doing when she plucked the flower that brought on her abduction
    • Hades and Pluton, despite being different names for the same godnote  were seen very differently. Where Hades was the guy who made sure all deaths were final, Pluton was known for providing material wealth, as well as seeds (which are both found in the earth). Thus, Pluton was far more popular with the Greeks than Hades could ever hope to be.
    • Plato thinks Orpheus is a coward who mocked the gods by trying to go to Hades and get his lover back alive, instead of choosing to die in order to be with the one he loved.
    • Loads and loads for Odysseus. Is he one of the most cunning and admirable heroes because he was faithful to his men, loyal towards his wife (relatively) and ultimately hated warfare, and was a Bad Ass Guile Hero on top of it? Or is he a slimy, low-life coward for exactly those same traits, making him a womanly wimp who would never win in a square fight?
    • Some believe Achilles and Patroclus to have been not just best friends but lovers, which may add another dimension to Achilles' behavior after Patroclus' death. Since nearly Everyone Is Bi it is very much likely to have been the case.
    • Athena did not punish Medusa. She turned her to a monster to exact revenge on all men.
    • The idea that Medusa was transformed at all is an example. She and her sisters were originally the daughters of Phorcys and Ceto (children of Pontus and Gaia) and were already monstrous. It wasn't until the fifth century that artists began portraying them as beautiful and it wasn't until Ovid about three hundred some odd years later that they became maidens who were transformed by the gods.
    • That said, in Ovid's ACI, were Medusa and Poseidon lovers or did Poseidon rape her?
    • Medusa's sisters, Stheno and Euryale get tons of this (when people remember them, anyway), primarily because very little is written about them. Who were they? Where did they go after their sister was vanquished? What did they do to elicit Athena's wrath? Did they do anything at all?
    • The whole myth of Medusa as some sympathetic figure was actually twisted around by Ovid. In the original Medusa never was a priestess of Athena raped by Poseidon; she was a sea monster all along, and so were her sisters.
    • Hera is almost always seen as the enemy of Heracles. However, there were other interpretations in which they have more of a positive relationship with each other. (After all, Hera was the patron deity of where Heracles lived)
  • Complete Monster:
    • Tantalus, who, in order to prove that the gods were not infallible, served them his son, Pelops as the main course at dinner, expecting them to eat it. Instead he proved that even Olympian gods have standards. It was this myth that established cannibalism, infanticide, and violating xenia (the Greek code of hospitality) as major taboos in Greek society, and Tantalus is consistently portrayed as one of the, if not the, most reprehensible character in the mythos.
    • Following in Tantalus' terrible example is Lycaon, a brutal tyrant who served human flesh to Jupiter as a means of proving that he was not really a god. Unlike Tantalus, who was motivated by egoism, Lycaon did this in order to destroy the hopes of his oppressed people, who hoped Jupiter was coming to save them from their ruler. He also, depending on the version of the myth, was himself a cannibal. In punishment, Jupiter made him the first werewolf, noting as he did so, that it was only Lycaon's form that had changed; his savage nature remained exactly the same.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Can be this for modern audience. Since many hero have questionable behavior and very few of them get an happy ending.
  • Designated Hero: Whether you were a hero in Greek myth was not dependent on how Jerkass you were, how many babies you killed, or whatever.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Among modern fans of Greek myths, Hades is generally accepted as one of the nicer gods of the pantheon.
    • Endovelicus is the only Lusitanian god still remembered by the Portuguese people, and also very popular as a recipient of worship in the Western Roman Empire.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Echidna and the Sirens. Granted they were also half-snake and half-bird respectively. Eris could also qualify.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Different Greek city-states (poleis) chose different gods as especially important and different heroes to claim as their own. Also, every city had to have at least one mythical founder, preferably a demigod or god, whose name frequently tied in with the city's name. This of course led to quite a few conflicting myths which basically showed that "our town's deity or our local hero can beat their deity or hero" or "this great hero really is our local boy, not theirs". For instance, Thebes and Argos quarreled over Herakles; unfortunately we only know the Theban version (partly because the Thebans were on better terms with the Athenians), but quite possibly the villainous role played by Hera is due to the fact that the Argeians were great worshipers of Hera.
  • Fridge Horror: The story of King Midas plays on this trope: "OK, yippee, everything you touch turns to gold. Now go try to eat your dinner. Or hug your daughter."
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Ares doesn't get much respect for his savage nature. As Mars, the Romans thought he was hardcore. Though that may be a little bit of Crazy-Prepared. A city at war as often as Rome might prefer to have his favor after all. And after all one could argue that Mars was grateful to Rome.
    • For that matter, the Spartans loved Ares and considered him their patron. We get stories of him as The Scrappy because the vast majority of Greek myth we have comes from the Athenians, and he was the rival of their primary patron, Athena (goddess of—among other things—defensive/just war and strategy).
  • Hell Is That Noise: Pan loved to scare the shit out of lonely travelers by hiding nearby and letting out a bloodcurdling scream. Ever wonder where we get the word "panic?" Now you know. This, combined with his enormous penis and insatiable sex drive, makes Pan a god you never want to mess with.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The Amazons. In the myths, they were just about the only civilization at the time where women oppressed men instead of the other way around. What part of the world do you think they lived in? Ukraine and Russia (according to Herodotus, that is).
    • Eros and Psyche. The God of Love falls in love with and marries a girl who later goes on to become the Goddess of the Soul. You could say that they are Heart and Soul.
  • Ho Yay: Quite a lot going on here. The Greeks had different ideas on homosexuality than modern cultures do. Just to name a few famous duos, Achilles and Patroclus, Apollo and Hyacinth(us), Heracles and Hylas, Zeus and Ganymede. The list really goes on.
    • On the ladies' side, we have this...interesting mention of Athena and Artemis during the story of Persephone's kidnapping:
    ...Pallas [Athene], on that side hand in hand with her beloved Diana [Artemis]...
  • Magnificent Bastard: Odysseus. His possible father, Sisyphus as well.
    • The Romans were ambivalent about him because on one hand he was responsible for the fall of Troy and they claimed to be descended from the Trojans; on the other hand they also believed they were descended from Ulysses through his grandsons Latinus (son of Telemachus and Circe) and Italus (son of Telegonos and Penelope).
  • Memetic Badass: Every Greek hero either became this or sought to become this. Who would win in a fight between Achilles and Leonidas, again?
    • Hercules (shut it) stands above them all, being probably the most widely recognized of all the Greek heroes. Having once wrestled death itself into submission and holding up the sky itself, his name has entered into the English language as "Herculean", a feat of extraordinary strength.
  • Memetic Molester/Memetic Sex God: Zeus. There's a reason he's the page image for Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal. Notably, though, most depictions of him leave out such things as Ganymede...even if those works which depict him without his bisexuality will happily show female-on-female action.
  • Misblamed: Some stories depict that Aphrodite took her wrath to anyone who was claimed to be more beautiful than her, and even said that she was the one who turned Medusa into a Gorgon because she's more beautiful than Aphrodite, or she was the one Cassiopeia boasted Andromeda on in terms of beauty, causing her to request Poseidon to demand Andromeda's sacrifice. The more believed versions was that Aphrodite has no business within these territories, she only did those jealousy things on Psyche; Medusa became a gorgon because Poseidon raped her in Athena's temple, which incited Athena's wrath, whereas Cassiopeia boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, beautiful creatures of the sea, which was taken as an insult by Poseidon. There were also several women considered most beautiful/on equal/better than Aphrodite, and she didn't go on a jealous rage: Helen of Troy (in which she even approves and uses to persuade Paris in Trojan War) and Heracles' mother Alcmene.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Hubris. That was the cardinal sin; you could do just about anything else (yes, even rape and murder with a good enough excuse) and come out a hero, but putting yourself above your place (as compared to the gods) was a big no-no.
    • The big three were Hubris (See above), impiety, and violation of xenias. Hubris and xenias were often a part of impiety; people indulging in hubris often didn't limit themselves and ridicule the gods, which tended to get negative attention. And xenias was the domain of Zeus himself, making repeated, willful violations of hospitality as good as direct affronts to the authority of the Lord of Olympus. Honoring xenias honored Zeus, trampling the tenants of hospitality was an insult to him.
    • Cronus eating his newborn children one by one as each were born, becoming the same as his prejudiced father, Uranus, but arguably worse.
  • One True Pairing: To modern audiences anyway, Hades/Persephone is this. It helps that they had probably the most comparatively happy romance out of the Olympians and that Hades was probably the most loving and faithful husband among the Gods.
  • Running the Asylum: There was no single specific canon in Greek times or even Roman, and though every poet claimed the Muses for inspiration, they nonetheless didn't always listen to each other's continuity, and each city had its own preferred traditions (the Athenians bashed on Ares, the Spartans and Romans loved him).
  • The Scrappy: The Spartans and the Romans were both much more fond of Ares (or his local Expy) then the Greeks were (the Greeks tended to favor the strategic war goddess Athena over Ares). On the other other hand, modern media seems to be learning enough from Sadly Mythtaken portrayals to have Ares as the God of Evil rather than Hades. Properly speaking, if you're looking for a Greek god of evil you won't find one: however; there are Kakia (vice), Hubris (see above), Dyssebia (impiety), Dysnomia (anarchy or political corruption, the correct interpretation is not known), Koros (greed and a rare male example of good or evil), Ate (foolishness) and others.
  • Squick: Best example: How Kronos castrated his father Uranos. Think about it (if you dare): At first, Uranos made sure that Gaia's children never were born, by constantly raping her, so their way out was...blocked. So Gaia gave unborn Kronos a weapon, and Kronos did the deed while Uranos was doing the other deed.
    • Poseidon's various escapades in stallion guise with the mares of Greece, fathering many of the supernatural horses populating the mythic world (Including Pegasus in Ovid's myths, via his rape of Medusa, although he was probably in human form this time). Of course, once again he's got nothing on his younger brother Zeus.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: The ancient Greeks never intended for Ares, Hades, or Hephaestus to be sympathetic - they never even really liked them. Although it was more justifiable in Ares' case, Hades was hated by the Greeks because they feared death, and Hephaestus was loathed because he was an ugly cripple. To modern audiences, however, Hades and Hephaestus are often viewed as the nicest of the Greek Gods, while the gods the Greeks adored, such as Zeus and Hera, often come across as Jerkass Gods at best or tyrants at worst. Ares, on the other hand, was adored by the Spartans, and the militaristic Romans conflated him with Mars - he got a Mythological Hero Upgrade.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The cause of Achilles's sulk was a much bigger deal in his milieu. Some would notice that Achilles' sulk is also an example of a lack of a soldierly sense of duty to his comrades.
    • Also, the way nearly everybody treated women, the way kings sometimes treated their subjects, and the way hospitality was taken so extremely seriously. Now it's kinda... silly, in comparison.
    • Hades' kidnapping of Persephone, as mentioned earlier, was considered a Greek wedding. By today's standards, it would be kidnapping, but an appropriate modern interpretation of the events would be Hades and Persephone falling in love, reaching and agreement and then eloping behind Demeter's back to dodge a Parental Marriage Veto, and not to mention they're most stable couple in the Pantheon. And that's not even getting into whether you prefer Persephone as the sweet little innocent who gets kidnapped and perpetually victimised, or the smothered teen who intentionally seduced Hades to get free from her, (Or maybe both).
      • Demeter's treatment of Persephone is a more mild example; the fact that she kept trying to protect her whether Persephone wanted it or not and starved the world for months when Persephone went missing was treated as a good thing because it showed her as a devoted mother. By today's standards, this is seen as exceedingly extreme.
      • Hell, everything about Hades qualifies. Even though he was one of the only two gods who could be remotely considered decent people by modern morals (the other being Hephaestus - and he was hated by the Greeks simply because he was ugly), the Greeks hated him even more than Hollywood does! Why? Because, well...he was the God of the Dead, and nobody wants to die. They'd avoid saying his name and look away when making sacrifices - temples to Hades weren't even named because venerating death was seen as a bad thing.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: The Chimera is supposed to be female, but since she has the mane of a male lion, you'd be forgiven if you thought she was male.
  • What an Idiot:
    • The very concept of Hubris.
    • There were occasions where, given the circumstances, mortals did things so thoroughly stupid and/or pig-headed that the gods' typical Disproportionate Retribution was hard to bat an eye at. For example, the crew of the Odyssey (save Odysseus himself) perished under Poseidon's wrath after killing and eating the sacred cattle of Helios. Which the blind seer Tiresias had specifically warned them not to do. On top of that, they had already made Poseidon mad beforehand.
    • Also, Theseus and Pirithous' plan to abduct Persephone from the Underworld was widely recognized as absolutely hare-brained. Hades got pissed, tied them both up in chains of forgetfulness, and only agreed to let Theseus go when Hercules arrived to rescue them.
    • Laomedon, Priam's father and a king of Troy, had Apollo and Poseidon working for him as part of their punishment for ticking off Zeus in some way. So he had Apollo watch his herds and Poseidon build a wall. And then he tried to welsh on paying them. Apollo sent a plague that killed thousands of people, and Poseidon sent a sea monster to eat one of Laomedon's daughters, but Laomedon managed to talk Heracles into killing the beast. And then tried to welsh on paying him. So Heracles and his comrades sacked Troy.
    • Arachne. Did she honestly think that she could get away with claiming to be better than Athena at weaving? Even more so if we consider that in at least one version, Athena herself told Arachne to not be arrogant an warned her about her own damnation.
    • As well as all those mortals, Cronus, leader of the Titans, counts too. After defeating Uranus to free the Cyclopes and Hecatonchires, you'd think he would try to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Instead, he goes and reimprisons them with no well-recorded reason, pissing off Gaia all over again and inciting her to raise Zeus to overthrow Cronus.
  • Why Does Everyone Think Im Deadpool:There are plenty of people that mistake Hades as the God of Death instead of the Dead (Death was Thanatos' and the Keres' position).
  • The Woobie:
    • Both Hades and Hephaestus, by modern standards. One is the lonely (until he got his wife), overworked, generally disliked and often-misunderstood god of the Underworld. The other is the equally-disliked, equally-overworked, crippled, undeniably brilliant smith-god with a hot wife who's screwing everyone but him.
    • Io got a crappy deal too. After being desired by Zeus, she had to be turned into a cow to hide from Hera's wrath. And Hera still found her and had her tethered and guarded by the hundred-eyed watchman Argus. And even after Hermes beheaded Argus and saved Io, Hera sent a gadfly to chase her out of Greece and into Egypt. Only then did Io find peace as a priestess of Isis.
    • In Ovid's Metamorphoses, the sisters Medusa, Euryale and Stheno got turned into Gorgons after Medusa was raped (in some versions of the myth, in others it was consensual) by Poseidon in Athena's temple - and of course we all know Medusa's final fate at the hands of Perseus, with Athena's help.
    • There is no version of Tiresias that was not put upon by the world. Once a priest of Zeus, he's said to have been turned to a woman for interrupting snakes mating. S/he then spent several years as either a priestess of Hera, a prostitute, or both. S/he is later turned back to a male by leaving another set of snakes alone, but this gets the attentions of an arguing Zeus and Hera. They're having an argument about who enjoys sex more: Zeus says women get more pleasure out of it, and Hera says the man gets more pleasure. They ask Tiresias (who clearly has experience on both ends), and he lets out the secret that a woman's climax is ten times better than a man's climax. Hera gets upset and strikes him blind; Zeus can't undo the blindness, instead giving him prophesy to make up for it. Which makes Tiresias miserable, because peoples like Oedipus waste his time by demanding his help and then ignoring his advice.
      • Then there's the one where he was struck blind by stumbling across Athena in the bath. By accident. Athena also cannot undo said blindness and is sincerely sorry for her mistake... but then she gives him prophesy too, and you know what followed.
    • Nerites; there is no version of him that doesn't get permanently transformed into a shellfish for extremely petty (by today's standards) reasons. To make matters worse, in one of them, he was the first person Poseidon truly loved.
    • The original cyclopes. Their father locked them in Tartarus since birth. Their older brother Cronus doesn't bother to free them after his rebellion. When Zeus frees them, they return his favor by forging weapons for the gods and finally live peacefully working as Hephaestus's helpers. That's until Zeus kills Asclepius and a vengeful Apollo doesn't have the guts to turn against his father, so he kills the group of cyclopes who forged Zeus's lightning bolt instead. Though there are versions that have both them and Asclepius get better.
    • Cassandra. There's literally nothing that ever seems to go right for this girl, making her perhaps one of the biggest woobies in Classical Mythology on a whole. First, either Apollo tries to rape her, she commits the "sin" of blowing his affections off, or she leaves her work as one of the priestesses of his temple in Troy without counting on how that would piss the Hell outta him. Then, he curses her so that none of her visions of the future are ever believed. Then the Trojan War happens and her brother dies. Then she starts to lose it. Then she tries to hide in Athena's temple only to be kidnapped and violently raped by Ajax the Lesser. Then, she ends up as King Agamemnon's concubine. And finally, Agamemnon's cheating wife Clytemnestra kills her. And if the Agamemnon play is to be believed, she clearly'' knew shit was about to go down but was resigned already to her and Agamemnon's bloody fate, not attempting to run away even when the local elders expressed some sympathy for her.
    • Jerkass Woobie: Hera's not nice by a long shot, but her husband continually cheats on her- the goddess of marriage- even though he knows it will make her mad. And she can't punish him because he's stronger than her, so she has to settle for hurting his lovers and children.
    • Oedipus. Big Time. He accidentally kills his own father while traveling in order to avoid this fate, marries his mother and have four children with her, then blinded himself after finding the truth. It doesn't end there. His two sons exile him and he dies wandering with his daughter, who's also his half-sister.

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