ASCLEPIUS was a son of Apollo and Coronis, the daughter of a King of the Lapiths. Some accounts say that his pregnant mother had slept with an old flame and been destroyed by either Apollo or his sister Artemis, forcing a remorseful Apollo to save the boy from her womb. Asclepius was a pupil of the wise old centaur (horse-man) Cheiron. Inheriting his father's skill in healing, he succeeded in raising men from the dead. This angered Hades, who persuaded Zeus to kill Asclepius with a thunderbolt. He was resurrected himself and became the patron hero/god of physicians.
ATALANTA was devoted to Artemis and a maiden huntress herself. Prince Meleager awarded Atalanta the skin after a great hunt which slew the Calydonian wild boar, partly because she deserved it and partly because he loved her. When his two uncles objected, he killed them, at which his mother Althaea burned the magic holly-log that held his life and Meleager died. (One of his sisters went on to marry Heracles.) Atalanta refused to marry anyone who couldn't beat her in the hundredyard dash. No one could until Aphrodite loaned Melanion some of the golden apples which Heracles had fetched from the Hesperides. Melanion dropped them as he ran and won the race when Atalanta stopped to pick them up. It was not a lucky marriage by most accounts--in one version, both were turned into lions because he failed to thank Aphrodite.
BELLEROPHON was a Corinthian hero, a grandson of Sisyphus. At the court of Tiryns, the queen tried to seduce him and accused him of seduction when he refused her. (This is a variant of an old Egyptian tale, also found in the Bible's story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and in the story of Theseus's son. His most famous feat was the destruction of the famous Chimaera, a monster part lion, part serpent, and part goat. In post-Homeric tales, he also becomes the master of the winged horse Pegasus.
DAEDALUS was an Athenian smith and inventor who made a famous labyrinth and other goodies for King Minos of Crete, who did not let him leave the island, even for a quick vacation. Daedalus therefore made wax wings for himself and his son Icarus, but when they flew away, Icarus flew too close to the sun, so that the wax melted and Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.
DEUCALION was warned by his father Prometheus of a great flood with which Zeus planned to destroy humanity. He built an ark and survived it. Afterwards, he and his wife Pyrrha successfully begged Zeus to recreate humanity, which he did by having them toss stones behind them. This is the Greek version of an old Mesopotamian story found in the Epic of Gilgamesh and parallel to the Biblical flood story.
ECHO lost all voice of her own as punishment for distracting Hera while Zeus was off playing around. She fell in love with the beautiful but vain Narcissus, who repulsed her advances. Aphrodite punished him by having him waste away from hopeless love of his own reflection in a pool. The narcissus flower sprang from his blood.
EUROPA,, the sister of Cadmus, was a Palestinian princess who gave her name to the European continent. Zeus admired her while she was playing in the fields. The god took the form of a friendly bull. When she climbed on his back he flew off with to Crete, raping her on arrival (perhaps in the form of an eagle). She had three sons by Zeus--MINOS, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon. They quarrelled, and Minos assumed sole rule of Crete, though some say he left a third for Rhadamanthus. Rhadamanthus was said to have invented the Cretan legal system. After death, he and Minos became judges in Hades. The third judge of the dead was Aeacus, a son of Zeus by Aegina, and the father of the Peleus who later married Thetis. Minos was happily married to Pasiphae, a daughter of Helius, but Poseidon made her fall in love with a sacred bull. She had the inventor Daedalus build her a hollow wooden cow, in which she hid so that the bull was tricked into making love to her. She gave birth to a man-bull monster, the Minotaur, which Minos kept in a maze, the Labyrinth, also designed by Daedalus. Idomeneus, Minos's grandson, was a co-leader with Agamemnon, of the Greeks at Troy. He promised the gods a sacrifice of the first person he saw when he returned home from Troy safely. The "person" was his son. Either ldomeneus carried out his vow, an act which horrified his people so much that they sent him into exile, or he failed to do so, which then led to his exile.
King MIDAS of Phrygia was granted a wish by Dionysus, perhaps for returning the latter's follower Silenus (Seilenes). He asked that everything he touch turn into god, but this turned out to indclude food, drink, and his favorite daughter, so he begged the god to undo his gift. He later was cursed again, this time by Apollo.
ORPHEUS was the greatest singer-songwriter of all time. His songs even won his wife Eurydice (Euridike) back from the dead on condition that she not look back while they were leaving. Unfortunately, she did look back and had to remain. Orpheus was said to have founded "mystery" cults which promised immortality. He was eventually torn to pieces by women followers of Dionysus, and he generally stands for the "Dionysian" side of Greek religion.
PERSEUS was the son of Danae, who had been locked in a tower by her father Acrisius--for good reason, since her son was destined to kill him. While in the tower, Danae was seduced by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold. Her father suspected that she had somehow renewed a past affair with his brother Proteus. He put Danae and the baby Perseus out to sea in wooden chest, but they were rescued. Perseus did eventually kill his grandfather, although he did so accidentally. Perseus's greatest feat was killing Medusa. She was one of the three sister Gorgons (winged, snake-haired monsters), and just looking at her turned men to stone. Perseus used a mirror to cut off her head safely. He used the head to rescue the princess Andromeda from a sea-monster. They married, built the great city of Mycenae and eventually became constellations.
PHAETON was the son of the sun god Helius (and thus a grandson of Hyperion). Wanting to show off to his sisters, he kept asking his father to let him drive the sun chariot. When Helius finally gave in to his whining (and that of his mother and sisters), Phaeton could not keep the sun's horses under control and scorched the earth, till Zeus finally blasted him out of the sky with a thunderbolt.
PHILOMELA and Prokne (Procne) were sisters of King Erechtheus of Athens. Philomela was seduced or raped by her brother-in-law, King Tereus of Thrace, while her sister Prokne was out of town. He then cut out her tongue so she could not tell Prokne what had happened, but she managed to sew the story into some cloth for her sister, who responded by killing her son ltys and serving him to his father for dinner. When Tereus pursued the two women, seeking in revenge, all three were turned into birds: Tereus to a hoopoe, Prokne to a swallow, and (the most famous case) Philomela to a nightingale, which still sings its woes.
The SIRENS (or Seirenes were sisters, perhaps the daughters of the sea god Phorcys (Phorkys) and one of the Muses, were sisters who lured sailors onto rocks with the irresistable sweetness of their song. In post-Homeric sources, they have women's heads but bird bodies. Odysseus boasts in Homer's Odyssey that he heard their song and escaped alive by having his crew stop their ears with wax, bind him to the mast, and ignore his pleas to be let go.
SISYPHUS, a king of
had a lively and disreputable career, which he followed up by cheating
Death himself more than once. For one or another of his sins, when he
finally went to the Underworld to stay, he was condemned to roll a huge
rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down again for him to start
over. His wife was the Pleide Merope, a daughter of Atlas.
[Last posted July 15, 2002, by Bob Canary, mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org]