Of Greek Gods and Heroes

I’ve been fascinated with mythology since young, and grew up with on a steady diet of fairy tales, Greek myths and Arthurian legends.

One of my favourite Olympians is strong, silent Hades, also called Pluto by the Romans. Not for me his promiscuous and lascivious brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, whose exploits make them seem heartless. Hades, the King of the Dead (not death — that’s Thanatos), has had to make do with a realm that is harsh, cold and unforgiving compared to the bountiful ones that Zeus and Posiedon had chosen as theirs. I can certainly appreciate why he carried Persephone (which means dazzling brightness, or brilliant destroyer, in Greek) off to his underground kingdom to be his Queen. His poor lonely heart must have yearned for a soulmate to understand and love him. This was the central theme explored to its fullest by Roberta Gellis when she retold the story of Hades and Persephone in ‘Dazzling Brightness’, giving it a very plausible but romantic spin. And fleshing out Hades as the misunderstood hero I’ve always imagined him to be.

She followed up this marvellous tale with ‘Shimmering Splendour’, which immortalised the love between Eros and Psyche, and ‘Enchanted Fire’, a magnificent revival of the timeless romance of Orpheus and Eurydice. Each book presents a fresh perspective of well-loved Greek myths while the emotions experienced by the books’ characters are very human. It is not far fetched to expound that the Olympians are powerful mages that the awe struck ancient Greeks elevate to gods, and then attempt to recreate in their own image.

Edith Hamilton, whose comprehensive compilation ‘Mythology’, is a well-thumbed reference on my shelf, did an excellent job of educating and explaining the existence of the Titans and Olympians. If you wish to gain a sound understanding of prominent characters in Greek myths, then this book is a must. She has even provided some background to the setting for Homer’s Iliad, and makes reference to other authors of Greek myths such as Ovid and Vergil. I daresay this is a collector’s item for fans of Greek myths.

Well, more of the intriguing Greeks later. For now, I’ll leave you with a quote by the great Edith:

The fundamental fact about the Greek was that he had to use his mind. The ancient priests had said, “Thus far and no farther. We set the limits of thought.” The Greek said, “All things are to be examined and called into question. There are no limits set on thought.” ~ Edith Hamilton

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