The Mythical Figures and Beasts of Ancient Greece

 


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Ancient Greece is a uniquely preserved culture we know much about through study and research. Greek mythical figures and beasts played a pivotal role in Greek society and folklore at that time.

The Mythical Figures and Beasts of Ancient Greece

While gods and goddesses may have been the most important beings in Greek mythology, there were many other characters that were essential to these tales. Mortals were very important in Greek myths; without them, there would be no one for the gods and goddesses to “play with”. Also integral were Greek mythical figures – these fantasy animals and partially human beings served a vital role in the myths that were told during this time.

One of the most talked about mythical figures of all time has to be Medusa. Depicted as a woman with snakes on her head instead of hair, the story of Medusa begins with a mortal woman. It is said that Medusa was so beautiful as a young girl, her looks enchanted Poseidon, and turned his attention away from Athena. This angered Athena so much that she changed Medusa into a gorgon, a mythical beast with snakes for hair and a face so hideous that it turned anyone who looked at it into stone. This was not enough revenge for Athena, and later she guided Perseus to find Medusa and kill her.

Another of the major Greek mythical beasts was Cerberus, the three-headed dog. This animal was the offspring of Typhoeus (an immortal storm giant) and Echidna, a monster that was half human and half snake. Cerberus had three dog heads, a snake's tail, and snakes protruding from its monstrous back. Cerberus's position was at the entrance to the underworld, where he allowed the dead to enter but not to leave. Only a few living mortals were ever able to get past Cerberus, including Orpheus, who charmed him to sleep with music.

A final look at Greek mythical beasts comes up with Hecatoncheires, literally translated as the “hundred handed”. Three of these existed, named Aegaeon, Cottus, and Gyges. Born to Gaea and Uranus, they hated their father so much that Uranus was forced to imprison the Hecatoncheires back into Gaea's womb. They were later released by Zeus, when he was fighting against the Titans; they were able to hurl a hundred boulders at a time at their opponents.

There were many lesser Greek mythical figures and beasts as well, and there was a definite hierarchy among the different mythical characters. These animals and sometimes human hybrids made up the majority of the story lines that went along with the gods and goddesses.

Richard Monk is with Facts Monk - a site with a wide variety of facts on Greece .

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