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Greek and Roman Characters, etymology, and sources 3
Terms in this set (81)
Hippolytus [hip-pol'itus] or Hippolytos, "releaser of horses."
The son of Theseus and his Amazon wife, Antiope, his stepmother, Phaedra, fell in love with him. He refused her advances, so she accused him of trying to seduce her and then she killed herself. Theseus believed the allegations and called on Poseidon to punish Hippolytus. Poseidon sent a bull from the sea and Hippolytus' horses were so frightened that they overturned the chariot, dragging Hippolytus. Theseus was reconciled with his son before the young man died (Euripides, Hippolytus; Seneca, Phaedra; Apollodorus, Epitome 1.18-19; Diodorus Siculus 4.62; Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.497-546; Virgil, Aeneid 7.761-782; Hyginus, Fabulae 47). Family Tree 16.
Hylas [heye'las], "of the woods."
He accompanied Heracles as one of the Argonauts. When the Argonauts stopped at Cios so Heracles could make a new oar to replace one he had broken, Hylas leaned over to drink from a spring. The nymph of the spring g.htmled his neck and pulled him into the water. Heracles searched in vain for his friend and was unwilling to leave him behind, so the Argonauts had to sail without Heracles (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.1207-1357; Apollodorus 1.9.19; Hyginus, Fabulae 14; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 3.521-610).
Hyperion [heye-per'i-on], "he who goes above."
One of the Titans -- a sun god -- he married his sister Theia, and together they bore Helius, Selene, and Eos (Hesiod, Theogony 134, 371-374; Homeric Hymn to Helios 31). Family Tree 30.
Iapetus [eye-ap'e-tus] or Iapetos, "struck"(?).
One of the Titans, he married Clymene, and was the father of Atlas, Menoetius, Epimetheus, and Prometheus (Hesiod, Theogony 132-136, 507-514; Apollodorus 1.2.3). Family Tree 4.
Iasion [i-as'i-on], "healing"(?).
He fell in love with Demeter at the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia. They made love in a nearby field, but when Zeus realized what had happened, he killed Iasion with a thunderbolt. The offspring of this union between Iasion and Demeter was Plutus, the god of wealth (Homer, Odyssey 5.125-128; Apollodorus 3.12.1; Diodorus Siculus 5.48.3-5.49.5). Family Tree 14.
Icarius [i-kar'i-us] or Ikarios, "follower"(?).
He entertained Dionysus in his home in Attica, so the god gave him the gift of wine. When Icarius shared the wine with his countrymen, they thought they had been poisoned and they killed him. When Erigone, his daughter, found his corpse, she hanged herself. Plagues and hardships buffeted the people until, on the advice of Apollo, they instituted a festival to honor Icarius and Erigone (Apollodorus 3.14.7; Hyginus, Fabulae 130, Poetica Astronomica 2.4).
Ilus [eye'lus] or Ilos, "troop."
Founder of the city that was named Troy after his father, Tros, Ilus followed a cow until it rested, and he built a city there. When he prayed for a sign that he had chosen the right spot, Zeus dropped from the sky a statue that was sacred to Athena: the Palladium. Ilus built a temple to house the statue, and Troy was safe from foreign enemies as long as the Palladium remained within the city walls (Homer, Iliad 21.231-236; Apollodorus 3.12.2-3). Family Tree 42.
Ino [eye'noh], "sinew."
The daughter of Cadmus and sister of Semele, she married Athamas and attempted to have his children, Phrixus and Helle, destroyed. Nephele, the children's real mother, foiled her plot by helping the children escape on a golden ram with wings (Apollodorus 1.9.1; Hyginus, Fabulae 2). Ino also became the caretaker of the infant Dionysus, but Hera drove her mad, causing her to commit suicide and kill her son, Melicertes, by jumping into the sea with him (Apollodorus 3.4.3). She became a minor deity and was known as Leucothea. One of her chief functions was to rescue shipwrecked sailors (Homer, Iliad 5.333-353, 458-462; Apollodorus 3.4.3). Family Tree 46.
Io [eye'oh], "moon."
She was the daughter of the river god Inachus and a priestess of Hera. Zeus turned her into a cow to hide his affair with her. Hera claimed the cow as her own and placed it under the guard of Argus. Zeus sent Hermes to free her; Hermes was able to lull 100 of Argus' eyes to sleep at once by telling him a story (other sources say he played the flute for Argus). Hermes then killed Argus and gave his eyes to Hera, who put them on the tail of the peacock. Still in the form of a cow, Io wandered around the world, and Hera sent a gadfly to pester her; eventually Zeus restored her to human form, and she gave birth to Epaphus, Zeus' son. The Ionian Sea was named for her (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 561-886; Apollodorus 2.1.3; Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.583-750). Family Tree 34.
Iole [eye'o-lee], "moon" and "people"(?).
The daughter of Eurytus, king of Oechalia, Heracles won her hand in an archery contest, but Eurytus refused to give her to him. Heracles returned to his home in Tiryns, but later he threw Iphitus, the brother of Iole, to his death from the city walls. When he went to Delphi to learn what he could do to be rid of the fits of madness that led him to such destructive acts, Heracles was told that he had to be sold into slavery for one year. With Hermes serving as auctioneer, Heracles was sold to Queen Omphale of Lydia; after serving her for twelve months, Heracles sacked Oechalia, killed Eurytus, and took Iole (Sophocles, Trachiniae; Apollodorus 2.6.1, 2.7.7; Diodorus Siculus 4.31).
Iphigenia [if-i-je-neye'a or if-i-je-nee'a] or Iphigeneia, "of mighty birth."
She was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. When the Greek army could not sail from Aulis to Troy because of bad weather, they sacrificed Iphigenia in order to appease Artemis, who had been offended because Agamemnon and Menelaus had killed a stag that was sacred to her. Iphigenia was brought to Aulis on the pretext that Achilles wanted to marry her before going to Troy. When she arrived, she was sacrificed, but some versions of the tale say that Artemis snatched her up at the last moment, took her to the land of the Taurians to be a priestess, and substituted a stag in her place at the altar (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis; Apollodorus, Epitome 3.21-23; Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.24-38; Hyginus, Fabulae 98). Family Tree 15.
Iris [eye'ris], "rainbow."
The daughter of Thaumas and the Oceanid Electra, and goddess of the rainbow, she served the gods, especially Hera, as a messenger (Hesiod, Theogony 265-269; Apollodorus 1.2.6). Family Tree 6.
Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, and sister of Antigone, she refused to help Antigone bury the body of their brother Polynices. Later, when Ismene tried to take part of the responsibility for the action, Antigone rebuked her (Sophocles, Antigone; Apollodorus 3.5.8). Family Tree 19.
Ixion [ik-seye'on], "strength."
The son of Phlegyas, he was betrothed to Dia, but he killed her father by setting a trap for him. Zeus brought him up to Olympus to purify him, but Ixion fell in love with Hera. Zeus fashioned a cloud in the form of Hera, so when Ixion forced himself on what he thought was Hera, Zeus captured him and affixed him to a burning wheel that revolves forever. The offspring of Ixion and the cloud was Centaurus, who became the father of the race of centaurs (Pindar, Pythian Odes 2.21-48; Apollodorus, Epitome 1.20; Diodorus Siculus 4.69.3-5; Hyginus, Fabulae 62). Family Tree 33.
Janus [jay'nus], "door."
He is a Roman deity for whom there is no Greek equivalent. Originally associated with water, particularly with bridges and crossing places over bodies of water, he developed into a god of comings and goings, of entrances and exits, and of beginnings. He gave his name to January, the first month of the year. He was often depicted with two faces, one looking ahead and one looking behind, because as a god of entrances and exits, he could look in two directions at once (Ovid, Fasti 1.89-144). He saved Rome from the attacking Sabines when boiling water gushed from the mouth of his statue in the Forum.
Jason [jay'son], "healer."
The son of Aeson, he was raised by Chiron (Pindar, Pythian Odes 4.111-115). Pelias sent him to Colchis to obtain the Golden Fleece. Hera was his ally and protector (Pindar, Pythian Odes 4.71-167), so with the help of Hera and Medea, Jason obtained the fleece and returned to Iolcus, where Medea caused the death of Pelias. Jason and Medea went to Corinth in exile, where Jason fell in love with Glauce, the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth. Medea killed Glauce, Creon, and the two sons she (Medea) had had with Jason. Years later, a piece of the Argo, Jason's ship, fell and killed the hero (Euripides, Medea 1386-1387). Family Tree 45.
Jocasta [joh-kas'ta] or Iokaste, "shining moon."
She is also called Epicaste by Homer. She was the mother of Oedipus and later became his wife, but hanged herself when it was discovered that she had married her son (Homer, Odyssey 11.271-280; Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Apollodorus 3.5.7-9).
Juno [jou'noh], "young"(?), (Hera).
The Roman equivalent of Hera, she was goddess of all.htmlects of the life of a woman, especially childbirth. Originally she was not associated with Jupiter, but when the Romans equated her with Hera, they made her the wife of Jupiter, the chief Roman god, just as Hera was the wife of Zeus, the supreme god of the Greeks. Juno's chief festival was the Matronalia, which the Romans celebrated in March.
Jupiter [jou'pi-ter], "father sky," (Zeus).
The Roman sky god, he is the equivalent of the Greeks' Zeus. He is the chief god of the Romans; he was worshiped as Jupiter Optimus Maximus (the Best and the Greatest) and his wife was Juno.
Labdacus [lab'da-kus] or Labdakos.
The son of Polydorus and Nycteis, he became king of Thebes. He warred with Pandion, king of Athens, over boundaries and died young (Apollodorus 3.5.5; Pausanias 2.6.2, 9.5.4-5). Family Tree 19 Family Tree 46.
Lachesis [lak'e-sis], "she who apportions."
A daughter of Zeus and Themis, she was one of the Fates, who were also called Moirae or Parcae; usually depicted as an old woman, she measured the thread on one's life (Hesiod, Theogony 217-222, 901-906, Shield of Heracles 248-269; Apollodorus 1.3.1). Family Tree 5.
The son of Acrisius, or of Cephalus and Procris, and king of Ithaca, he married Anticlea and became the father of Odysseus, though some sources say Anticlea was pregnant with Odysseus by Sisyphus when Laertes married her (Homer, Odyssey; Apollodorus 1.9.16; Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.143-145; Hyginus, Fabulae 201). Family Tree 37.
Laestrygonians [les-tri-goh'ni-anz] or Laistrygones.
These were cannibals with whom Odysseus had a disastrous experience on his way home from the Trojan War. When Odysseus reached the island home of the Laestrygonians, he was reluctant to dock in the harbor, but the captains of his other eleven ships anchored in the port. The Laestrygonians sank the ships in the harbor by throwing rocks at them from cliffs, then they speared the men floundering in the water for a later meal. Only Odysseus and the men on his ship were able to escape (Homer, Odyssey 10.80-132).
Laius [lay'us or leye'us] or Laios, "unlucky" or "rich in cattle"(?).
He was the king of Thebes when, while a guest in the home of Pelops, Laius fell in love with and abducted Chrysippus, the son of Pelops. His punishment was to have a son who would kill him. Later, when Jocasta, his wife, gave birth to a son, Laius drove a spike through the infant's ankles and ordered a servant to expose the child; the baby was given to a shepherd from Corinth and he was raised there as Oedipus. Oedipus later killed Laius without realizing he was committing parricide (Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Apollodorus 3.5.5-8; Pausanias 9.5.5-10, 9.26.2-3; Hyginus, Fabulae 85). Family Tree 19.
Laocoön [lay-o'coh-on], "very perceptive."
He was a Trojan who realized that Sinon was lying when he said the huge wooden horse the Greeks had left outside the walls of Troy was an offering to Athena that would make the Trojans invincible if it was brought into the city. He uttered the famous words, "I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts." But two snakes swam to shore from the open sea and strangled Laocoön and his two sons -- the Trojans mistakenly interpreted this as Laocoön's punishment for desecrating something that was holy to Athena (Apollodorus, Epitome 5.16-18; Virgil, Aeneid 2.40-56, 199-231; Hyginus, Fabulae 135).
Laomedon [lay-om'e-don], "ruler of the people."
He was the king of Troy when Apollo and Poseidon built the walls of the city. Laomedon cheated them out of their pay, so Apollo sent a plague and Poseidon unleashed a sea monster on the city. Laomedon had to sacrifice his daughter, Hesione, to the monster to save the city, but when Hesione was set out for the sea creature, Heracles saw her and arranged to save her in return for the immortal horses that Tros had received from Zeus. After Heracles had killed the monster, Laomedon refused to give him the horses, so Heracles returned later with an army, sacked Troy, killed Laomedon, gave Hesione to his companion, Telamon, and placed Laomedon's young son, Podarces, on the throne of Troy; Podarces' name was then changed to Priam (Homer, Iliad 21.441-457; Pindar, Olympian Odes 8.30-46; Apollodorus 2.5.9; Diodorus Siculus 4.42; Hyginus, Fabulae 89; Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.194-220; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2.451-578). Family Tree 42.
Lares [lar'-eez], "lords."
Originally, these agricultural spirits brought prosperity and well-being to Roman farmers and their families; they were later seen as household spirits that protected the home. Each family had its own Lar (singular of Lares), called a Lar familiaris, to whom it made offerings. Rome itself had Lares, called guardian Lares, who were worshiped on May 1 (Ovid, Fasti 5.129-146).
The son of Athamas and Ino, he was killed by his father. One account says Athamas was driven mad by Hera, mistook Learchus for a deer, and shot him with an arrow. Another account says Athamas mistook him for a lion and pushed him from a cliff. Yet another version says Athamas learned that Ino had plotted to kill Phrixus and Helle and while attempting to punish her, he accidentally killed Learchus (Apollodorus 1.9.2, 3.4.3; Pausanias 1.44.7, 9.34.7; Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.481-542; Hyginus, Fabulae 2, 4). Family Tree 25.
Leda [lee'da], "lady."
The wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, she gave birth to two sets of twins. One version says Zeus made love to Leda in the form of a swan and she laid two eggs; from one of these eggs were born Polydeuces (also known as Pollux) and Helen, and from the other egg came Castor and Clytemnestra. Some versions say Tyndareus had sex with Leda in the same night that Zeus impregnated her and that Tyndareus was the father of Castor and Clytemnestra (Apollodorus 3.10.7; Hyginus, abulae 77). Family Tree 48.
Lernaean hydra [ler-nee'an heye'dra], "water serpent of Hydra."
It was a huge, nine-headed poisonous snake that haunted the swamps of Lerna, near Argos. Heracles killed this serpent as his second labor. Eight of the hydra's heads were mortal; one was immortal, but each time Heracles cut off one of the heads, two more grew in its place. While Heracles and Iolaus, his nephew, were grappling with the hydra's heads, a huge crab, sent by Hera, snapped at their feet. They killed the crab and then Heracles had Iolaus use his torch to cauterize each neck from which Heracles had severed a head -- new heads could not grow from the burned necks. Heracles chopped off the head that was immortal and buried it under a huge rock; he then dipped his arrows into the creature's poison, and this poison later caused his death (Hesiod, Theogony 313-318; Sophocles, Trachiniae 1094; Euripides, Heracles 419-422; Apollodorus 2.5.2; Diodorus Siculus 4.11.5-6; Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.69-74; Hyginus, Fabulae 30). Family Tree 1.
Lethe [lee'thee], "forgetfulness."
This was one of the five rivers in the Underworld. When the souls of the dead drink the waters of Lethe, they forget their earthly concerns and troubles. According to some ancient religions that believed in reincarnation, the dead drank from Lethe to forget their previous existence before beginning a new life.
Leto [lee'toh], (Latona).
The daughter of Coeus and Phoebe, she slept with Zeus and became the mother of Apollo and Artemis, who avenged and protected her from such adversaries as Niobe and Tityus (Homer, Iliad 5.447-449, Odyssey 11.576-581; Hesiod, Theogony 404-410, 918-920; Homeric Hymn to Apollo 3; Apollodorus 1.4.1, 3.10.4; Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.157-381; Hyginus, Fabulae 53, 55, 140). Family Tree 21.
Linus [leye'nus] or Linos, "flax."
He was the music teacher of Heracles. During one of their lessons, Linus struck Heracles; the youth flew into a rage and killed Linus. Although Heracles was acquitted on grounds of self-defense, Heracles' earthly father, Amphitryon, sent him to Mount Cithaeron lest the young hero lose his temper again and kill someone else (Apollodorus 2.4.9).
These were people who ate the fruit of the lotus plant, which relieved them of all their cares and troubles. They greeted Odysseus and his men warmly, but Odysseus soon realized that the lotus fruit was very dangerous; his men who had eaten the fruit were no longer interested in reboarding the ships to sail back to their homes and families. So Odysseus rounded up all his troops, kept any more of them from eating the drug, and forced those who were under the influence of the plant to get back on the ships (Homer, Odyssey 9.82-104).
Lycaon [leye-kay'on] or Lykaon, "wolf"(?).
He was the king in Arcadia who tested the divinity and omniscience of Zeus by serving him human flesh. Zeus detected the trick and turned Lycaon into a wolf (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.318-415).
Lycurgus [leye-kur'gus] or Lykurgos, "wolf work."
The king of Thrace, he chased Dionysus' nurses with an ox goad, frightening even Dionysus himself and causing him to jump into the sea. Thetis rescued Dionysus, who later returned to Thrace, cursed the crops, and drove Lycurgus mad. Lycurgus killed his son, maimed himself, and was then torn apart by his own people (Homer, Iliad 6.130-140; Apollodorus 3.5.1; Hyginus, Fabulae 132).
Lycus [leye'kus] or Lykos (1), "wolf."
He was king of the Mariandyni. Amycus, king of the Bebryces, had seized much of Lycus' kingdom, so when Polydeuces, one of the Argonauts, killed Amycus, Lycus became indebted to Jason and his men. When the Argonauts came to Lycus' kingdom on their journey, Lycus entertained them hospitably and sent his son, Dascylus, to accompany them (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2.720-903; Apollodorus 1.9.23; Hyginus, Fabulae 18; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.733-762).
Lycus [leye'kus] or Lykos (2), "wolf."
He was son of Prometheus and Celaeno, but we have no significant stories involving him. Family Tree 4.
Marpessa [mar-pes'sa], "g.htmler."
The daughter of Evenus and granddaughter of Ares, she was loved by both Apollo and Idas, one of the Argonauts. Idas snatched her away in his chariot, and Evenus killed himself when he could not get his daughter back. Apollo then took Marpessa from Idas in the same way Idas had stolen the girl from her father. When the two rivals met to fight over Marpessa, Zeus intervened and allowed her to choose between her suitors. Marpessa chose Idas on the grounds that he was mortal and the ageless Apollo would be more likely to reject her as she got older (Apollodorus 1.7.8-9). Family Tree 41.
Mars [marz] (Ares), "to fight"(?).
The Roman equivalent of Ares, he was originally an agricultural deity. He was thought to be responsible for the regeneration and growth in springtime; March, the first month of the pre-Julian calendar, was named for him. As the Romans became more warlike, Mars took on the characteristics of a war god and his agricultural.htmlects were largely forgotten.
Marsyas [mar'si-as], "fighter."
He was a satyr who had the temerity to challenge Apollo to a contest of musical skill after picking up the flute that Athena had fashioned and then discarded. Apollo agreed to the contest on the condition that the victor be allowed to do with the loser as he wished. Apollo won and flayed Marsyas alive; his blood formed the river that bears his name (Herodotus 7.26; Apollodorus 1.4.2; Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.382-400; Hyginus, Fabulae 165).
Medea [me-dee'a] or Medeia, "cunning."
She was the daughter of Aeëtes. As a priestess of Hecate and a niece of Circe, she was skilled in the arts of magic; she used her skill in magic to help Jason perform the tasks Aeëtes had imposed on him as a condition for obtaining the Golden Fleece. As she and Jason fled from Colchis, she killed her brother, Apsyrtus, cut up his body, and threw the pieces one at a time into the sea so that Aeëtes would have to stop many times to retrieve his son's body (Pindar, Pythian Odes 4.213-250; Apollodorus 1.9.23-24; Hyginus, Fabulae 22-23). In Iolcus, Medea arranged the death of Pelias by tricking his daughters into boiling him alive (Apollodorus 1.9.27; Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.238-349; Hyginus, Fabulae 24); for this crime Jason and Medea had to go into exile. In Corinth, Jason fell in love with Glauce, daughter of King Creon; Medea killed her, Creon, and the two sons she (Medea) had had with Jason (Euripides, Medea; Apollodorus 1.9.28; Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.391-403; Hyginus, Fabulae 25). She then went to live in Athens, where she married Aegeus, father of Theseus, and became the mother of Medus. She tried to trick Aegeus into poisoning Theseus so that her son would eventually become king of Athens, but Aegeus discovered the plot (Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.404-424). She then fled from Athens with her son, who later gave his name to the people known as the Medes (Hyginus, Fabulae 27). Family Tree 12.
Medusa [me-dou'sa] or Medousa, "ruler."
One of the three Gorgons, some accounts say she was a beautiful woman until Athena caught her making love with Poseidon in one of her temples. As a punishment, Athena turned Medusa into a monster with bulging eyes, a protruding tongue, and snakes for hair. When Perseus beheaded Medusa, Chrysaor and Pegasus, the children Poseidon had fathered, sprang from her (Hesiod, Theogony 270-283; Apollodorus 2.4.2). Family Tree 35.
Megara [meg'a-ra], "temple."
The daughter of Creon, king of Thebes, she was the first wife of Heracles. In a fit of madness, Heracles killed her and their children. Heracles then went to Delphi to ask where he should live. The Pythia told him he should serve Eurystheus, king of Tiryns, for twelve years; if he completed all the labors imposed on him, Heracles would become immortal (Apollodorus 2.4.12; Diodorus Siculus 4.11.1-2). Hyginus (Fabulae 32) says Heracles killed Megara after he had completed the twelve labors and that he was sold into slavery to Queen Omphale to expiate the crime.
Melampus [me-lam'pus] or Melampos, "black foot."
The grandson of Cretheus, he was the first mortal to acquire the gift of prophecy; he could understand the speech of animals. He helped his brother, Bias, steal the cattle of Phylacus, king of Phylace, a city in Thessaly, but was caught and imprisoned for one year. In prison he heard two worms commenting that they had chewed nearly through the roof beam, so he asked Phylacus to transfer him to another cell. When the old cell collapsed, Phylacus offered to free him and to give him his cattle if Melampus would cure his son, Iphiclus, of impotence. Melampus discovered the antidote to Iphiclus' impotence from two vultures. Later, with the help of Artemis and Hera, he restored the sanity of the women of Argos, among whom were the daughters of Proetus, king of Argos (Homer, Odyssey 15.223-242; Apollodorus 1.9.11-13, 2.2.2). Family Tree 45.
Meleager [mel-e-ay'jer] or Meleagros, "guinea fowl."
The son of Oeneus and the brother of Deianira (the wife of Heracles), the Erinyes told his mother, Althaea, that Meleager would live as long as a certain log in the fire was not allowed to burn completely. Althaea removed the log from the fire and preserved it. Meleager led the expedition known as the Calydonian boar hunt; he killed the boar, but gave its skin to Atalanta, who had first wounded the boar. Meleager killed his uncles in the argument that ensued when they protested this award to Atalanta; when Althaea heard what he had done, she burned the log and Meleager died (Homer, Iliad 9.533-599; Apollodorus 1.8.2-3; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.268-546; Hyginus, Fabulae 171-174). Family Tree 48.
Melicertes [mel-i-ser'teez] or Melikertes.
The son of Athamas and Ino, he was drowned along with his mother when she went mad and took him down with herself. Some sources say that either Athamas or Ino threw Melicertes into a boiling cauldron before Ino took his body into the sea with her. A dolphin brought Melicertes' body to the beach, where Sisyphus retrieved it, buried it, and instituted the Isthmian Games in honor of Melicertes, who was renamed Palaemon (Apollodorus 1.9.2, 3.4.3; Pausanias 1.44.7, 9.34.7; Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.481-542; Hyginus, Fabulae 4-5). Family Tree 25.
Menelaüs [men-e-lay'us] or Menelaos, "strength of the people."
The son of Atreus and Aerope, he became the husband of Helen. When Paris took Helen to Troy, Menelaüs' brother, Agamemnon, led the Greek army that went to bring her back; Menelaüs aided his brother as one of the chieftains of the Greek force. After the war, Helen and Menelaüs returned to Sparta, where Menelaüs regained his position as ruler. Menelaüs and Helen became the parents of Hermione. After Helen and Menelaüs died, they were transported to the Elysian Fields, where they lived forever (Homer, Iliad, Odyssey, 4; Euripides, Helen; Apollodorus 3.10.8-3.11.2, Epitome 2.15-3.12, 3.28; Pausanias 3.19.9-13, 10.26.7-8). Family Tree 15.
Mercury [mer'kyou-ree] (Hermes), "merchandise."
He is the Roman god of commerce and trade. Because the Greek god Hermes, in his role as god of business people, had a similar function, Mercury became identified with Hermes and took on his other functions.
She is a daughter of Atlas and Pleione, thus one of the Pleiades. She married Sisyphus and her star in the constellation Pleiades is said to be very dim because of her embarrassment at having married a mortal (Apollodorus 1.9.3; Hyginus, Poetica Astronomica 2.21). Family Tree 49.
Metis [mee'tis], "wisdom."
A daughter of Oceanus and Tethys and goddess of wisdom, Zeus slept with and then swallowed her, because Gaia and Uranus warned him that her child was destined to be greater than its father. Sometime later, Athena sprang from the head of Zeus (Hesiod, Theogony 866-900, 924-929). Some accounts say that after swallowing Metis, Zeus had a painful headache, which Hephaestus treated by splitting his head open with an axe so that Athena could come out (Pindar, Olympian Odes 7.34-38). The role of Helphaestus is played by Promethetus in Euripides (Ion 453-455) and Hermes in some versions, according to the scholiast [commentator] on Pindar (Olympian Odes 7.35). Family Tree 51.
A river nymph and daughter of the River Ladon, she married the river god Asopus. She was the mother of two sons and twenty daughters, including Aegina, who was carried off by Zeus (Diodorus Siculus 4.72.1-5; Apollodorus 3.12.6). Family Tree 8.
Midas [meye'das], "seed."
The king of Phrygia, he said that Pan had outplayed Apollo in a musical contest even though Apollo had been declared the victor. Apollo turned Midas' ears into those of an ass. Midas hid the ears under a hat, but his barber saw them. The barber was unable to keep the secret, so he dug a hole and whispered into it, "King Midas has ass's ears"; he covered up the hole, but when the wind blew through the reeds that sprang up over the hole, everyone could hear the words that had been buried there (Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.146-193; Hyginus, Fabulae 191). He was given the "Midas touch" by Dionysus for returning Silenus to Dionysus -- everything he touched turned to gold (Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.85-145; Hyginus, Fabulae 191).
Minerva [mi-ner'va] (Athena), "mindful."
She is the Roman goddess of war and mental skills, the patroness of craftsmen, of skilled workers, and of schoolchildren: the Roman equivalent of Athena.
Minos [meye'nohs], "king"(?).
The son of Zeus and Europa and king of Crete, he undertook a military campaign against Megara and Athens to avenge the death of his son Androgeos, who was killed in Attica after he had aroused jealousy by winning all the contests in the Panathenaic athletic festival. Minos sacked Megara when the city was betrayed by Scylla, daughter of King Nisus, who cut the lock of purple from her father's head that made the city invulnerable. The Athenians made a treaty with Minos that required them to send seven boys and seven girls at regular intervals to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. After the Minotaur had been killed by Theseus, Daedalus, who had built the Labyrinth, escaped from Crete; Minos followed him to Sicily, where Minos was killed in the bath by the daughters of Cocalus, king of Camicus. He then became a judge in the Underworld (Apollodorus 3.1.2-4, 3.15.7-8, Epitome 1.14-15; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.6-173; Hyginus, Fabulae 41). Family Tree 23.
Minotaur [mi'noh-tawr], "bull of Minos."
The offspring of Pasiphae and a bull given to King Minos of Crete by Poseidon, it was half human and half bull. It lived in a maze called the Labyrinth which had been built by Daedalus; at regular intervals, youths from Athens were sent into the maze to be devoured by the Minotaur. Theseus came to Crete as one of these sacrificial youths and killed the Minotaur (Apollodorus 3.1.2-4, 3.15.8, Epitome 1.7-9; Plutarch, Theseus 19.1; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.152-173; Hyginus, Fabulae 40-42).
Mnemosyne [ne-mos'i-nee], "memory."
A daughter of Uranus and Gaia and one of the Titans, she slept with Zeus for nine nights and gave birth to the nine Muses (Hesiod, Theogony 135; Apollodorus 1.1.3, 1.3.1). Family Tree 3 Family Tree 54.
Muses [myou'zez], "memory."
They are the nine children of Zeus and Mnemosyne and patron goddesses of intellectual and creative pursuits. Their names and functions are: Calliope, epic poetry; Clio, history; Euterpe, lyric poetry; Melpomene, tragedy; Terpsichore, choral dancing; Erato, love poetry; Polyhymnia, sacred music; Urania, astronomy; and Thalia, comedy (Hesiod, Theogony 75-103, 915-917; Apollodorus 1.3.1-4). Family Tree 54.
Narcissus [nar-sis'sus] or Narkissos, "benumbing."
The son of the river god Cephisus and the nymph Liriope, he was a handsome young man who had many pursuers, but he would have nothing to do with them. The nymph Echo fell in love with him and followed him from afar through the woods, repeating the ends of his sentences (she had lost her ability to say anything more than the last part of what she heard from others). When Narcissus rejected her, she wasted away until only her voice remained. Another of Narcissus' would-be lovers cursed him to fall hopelessly in love with someone who would reject him, just as he had rejected so many others. Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with himself; he finally died from the grief of his unrequited love. When the nymphs came to place his body on the funeral pyre, they found only a flower, the narcissus (Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.339-510).
Nemean [nee'mi-an or ne-mee'an] lion.
The offspring of Orthus and Echidna, it was a savage beast that lived in the area of Nemea. As his first labor, Heracles was required to bring the skin of this lion to Eurystheus. Heracles strangled the beast and then flayed it with its own claws; this lion skin then became Heracles' chief article of clothing (Hesiod, Theogony 326-332; Sophocles, Trachiniae 1091-1093; Euripides, Heracles 359-363; Apollodorus 2.5.1; Hyginus, Fabulae 30). Family Tree 1.
Neoptolemus [ne-op-tol'e-mus] or Neoptolemos, "young warrior."
(He was also known as Pyrrhus [pir'rus], or Pyrrhos.) A son of Achilles, he was brought to Troy after Helenus had prophesied that Neoptolemus had to enter the war in Achilles' place if the Greeks were to be victorious. He went to Lemnos with Odysseus to bring Philoctetes with the bow and arrows of Heracles to Troy. During the sack of Troy, he killed Priam, even though the king was seeking sanctuary at an altar of Zeus; he threw Astyanax, the son of Hector, to his death from the walls of Troy and took Andromache, Hector's wife, as his concubine. Later, Neoptolemus married Hermione, the daughter of Helen and Menelaus; Orestes, who had been engaged to Hermione, found Neoptolemus and killed him (Homer, Odyssey 11.504-540; Pindar, Nemean Odes 7.34-49; Sophocles, Philoctetes; Apollodorus, Epitome 5.10-12, 6.12-14; Virgil, Aeneid 2.453-558; Hyginus, Fabulae 123). Family Tree 8.
Nephele [nef'e-lee], "cloud."
The first wife of Athamas, she bore Phrixus and Helle. When Ino, Athamas' second wife, tried to have the children killed, Nephele sent a flying golden ram that Hermes had supplied to rescue the children; the fleece of this ram was the Golden Fleece that Jason retrieved from Colchis (Apollodorus 1.9.1; Diodorus Siculus 4.47; Hyginus, Fabulae 1-3, Poetica Astronomica 2.20). Family Tree 25.
Neptune [nep'toon] (Poseiden), "damp"(?).
He is the Roman sea god, and the equivalent of Poseidon.
Nereids [nee're-idz], "daughters of Nereus."
They are the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris -- sea nymphs. Among their number are Thetis, the mother of Achilles, Amphitrite, the wife of Poseidon, and Galatea, who loved Acis and was wooed by Polyphemus (Homer, Iliad 18.37-53; Hesiod, Theogony 240-264, 1003-1007; Apollodorus 1.2.7). Family Tree 6.
Nereus [nee're-us], "wet one."
The son of Pontus and Gaia, he was a a sea god. He married Doris and became father of the fifty Nereids. He had the ability to foretell the future and was called the Old Man of the Sea (Hesiod, Theogony 233-264). Some accounts say Heracles had to learn from Nereus the location of the Hesperides and the apples he was to obtain for his eleventh labor; Nereus turned himself into various shapes, but Heracles held on and eventually constrained Nereus to give him the information he needed (Apollodorus 2.5.11). Family Tree 6.
Nessus [nes'sus] or Nessos, "young bird"(?).
He was a centaur who was instrumental in bringing about the death of Heracles. He carried Deïanira across the River Evenus and then tried to rape her while Heracles was stranded on the other bank; Heracles shot him with an arrow that had been dipped in the poison of the Lernaean hydra. Nessus told Deïanira to gather some of his blood as a love potion to use on Heracles should the hero ever begin to stray from her (Sophocles, Trachiniae 555-577; Apollodorus 2.7.6; Diodorus Siculus 4.36.3-5; Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.101-133; Hyginus, Fabulae 34). Later, when Heracles began wooing Iole, Deianira sent to Heracles a robe that had been dipped in Nessus' blood, and the poison brought about Heracles' demise (Sophocles, Trachiniae 757-805; Apollodorus 2.7.7; Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.134-238; Hyginus, Fabulae 36).
Niobe [neye'o-bee], "snowy."
The mother of seven sons and seven daughters, she boasted that as the daughter of Tantalus and the granddaughter of Atlas, she came from a lineage that was more noble than that of Leto and that she had fourteen children, whereas Leto had only two. Apollo and Artemis avenged their insulted mother -- Apollo shot and killed all Niobe's sons with his bow and arrow, while Artemis killed her daughters. Niobe threw herself over her last little girl and pleaded that this one child be spared; as she uttered these words, she was turned to stone and carried off to Phrygia, her homeland, where tears continue to trickle down her marble cheeks (Homer, Iliad 24.602-617; Apollodorus 3.5.6; Diodorus Siculus 4.74.3; Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.146-312; Hyginus, Fabulae 9, 11). Family Tree 40.
She is mentioned only as the wife of Polydorus and the mother of Labdacus (Apollodorus 3.5.5). Family Tree 46.
Oceanids [o-see'an-idz], "daughters of Oceanus."
The are the 6,000 offspring of Oceanus and Tethys, but the term usually refers only to their female children. They are personifications of the bodies of water on the earth (Hesiod, Theogony 337-370; Apollodorus 1.2.2). Family Tree 2.
Oceanus [o-see'an-us] or Okeanos, "swiftly flowing."
One of the Titans, he is the river that flows around the perimeter of the flat and circular world of Greek mythology. He married his sister Tethys, and together they produced the Oceanids (Hesiod, Theogony 337-370; Apollodorus 1.2.2). Family Tree 9.
Odysseus [oh-dis'se-us] (Ulysses), "angry."
The son of Laertes and Anticlea, he married Penelope and fathered Telemachus. He proposed the Oath of Tyndareus, which obligated the Greeks to fight at Troy for Helen, but tried to avoid going to the war by feigning insanity. He helped discover Achilles on the island of Scyros. He was one of the best and craftiest warriors on the Greek side in the Trojan War and an excellent speaker. He had a ten-year voyage home from the war, involving adventures with the Cicones, the Lotus-eaters, Polyphemus, the Laestrygonians, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, Calypso, and the Phaeacians. Once home, he had to kill the suitors of Penelope who had invaded his household (Homer, Odyssey). Family Tree 37.
Oedipus [e'di-pus or ee'di-pus] or Oidipous, "swollen foot."
This son of Laius and Jocasta was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. When he was born, his father drove a spike through his ankles and ordered a servant to expose him, but the servant gave him to a shepherd from Corinth, where he was raised as the child of Polybus, the king of Corinth. When a drunken companion at a banquet told him he was not the child of Polybus, Oedipus journeyed to Delphi, where he asked who his parents were. He was told he should avoid his homeland, since he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. So Oedipus made his way toward Thebes, but along the way he killed a royal old man and his retinue, who assaulted him at a place where three roads meet (Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Apollodorus 3.5.5-8; Pausanias 9.5.5-10, 9.26.2-3; Hyginus, Fabulae 85). In Thebes, Oedipus answered the riddle of the Sphinx, became king, and married Jocasta (Hesiod, Theogony 326-329; Sophocles, Oedipus the King 391-398; Euripides, Phoenician Women 45-49, 806-811, 1019-1042, 1504; Apollodorus 3.5.8; Pausanias 9.26.2-4; Diodorus Siculus 4.64.3-4; Hyginus, Fabulae 67). Years later, Oedipus' investigation of the cause of a plague in the land revealed that he had killed his father and was married to his mother. Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus blinded himself and went into exile (Homer, Odyssey 11.271-280; Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Apollodorus 3.5.7-9). When it became known that the land in which Oedipus was buried would enjoy great bounty, the Thebans came to bring Oedipus back to his homeland, but Oedipus did not wish to return, and Theseus, king of Athens, kept the Thebans from coercing him. In Colonus, Oedipus disappeared miraculouly before the eyes of Theseus (Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus). Family Tree 19.
The son of Porthaon or Portheus and king of Calydon, he married Althaea and became the father of Meleager, Deïanira, and others. When Althaea killed herself in remorse for causing the death of Meleager, Oeneus married Periboea and became the father of Tydeus (Homer Iliad 2.641-642, 6.216-219, 9.533-583, 14.115-118; Apollodorus 1.7.10-1.8.2, 1.8.4-6, 2.7.6, 3.7.5, Epitome 2.15; Hyginus, Fabulae 129, 171, 172, 175). Family Tree 29.
Oenomaüs [ee-noh-may'us] or Oinomaos.
The son of Alxion or Ares and Harpina or Sterope and king of Pisa, he married Sterope and fathered Leucippus and Hippodamia. He promised to give Hippodamia to the suitor who could beat him in a chariot; he defeated and killed all challengers until Pelops outraced and killed him (Pindar, Olympian Odes 1.67; Apollodorus 3.10.1, Epitome 2.4-9; Diodorus Siculus 4.73; Pausanias 5.10.6, 5.14.6, 5.17.7, 6.20.17, 6.21.6-11, 8.14.10; Hyginus, Fabulae 84). Family Tree 15.
Oenopion [ee-noh'pi-on] or Oinopion.
This son of Dionysus and Ariadne and king of Chios enraged Orion by promising and then withholding the hand of his daughter Merope. When Orion raped Merope, Oenopion blinded him. Oenopion hid in an underground chamber when Orion regained his sight and came to avenge himself (Apollodorus 1.4.3-4; Hyginus, Poetica Astronomica 2.34). Family Tree 23.
The son of Hodoedocus and Agrianome, he was loved by Apollo. He became the father of Ajax the Lesser by Eriopis (Homer, Iliad 2.726-728, 13.694-696; Hesiod, Catalogue of Women 83; Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.74-76). Family Tree 10.
They were the main gods of the ancient Greeks and came into power after Zeus and his siblings defeated the Titans in the Titanomachy. They took their name from Mount Olympus, which was the base of Zeus's operations in the Titanomachy and which then became their home. They are Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Dionysus.
The Italian goddess of plenty, she was the consort of Saturn, the Roman counterpart of Cronus. She became identified with Rhea, the wife of Cronus.
Orestes [o-res'teez], "mountain dweller."
The son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, he was commanded by Apollo to kill his own mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover Aegisthus, to avenge the murder of his father (Pindar, Pythian Odes 11.17-37; Aeschylus, Choephori; Sophocles, Electra; Euripides, Electra; Apollodorus, Epitome 4.24-25; Hyginus, Fabulae 119). He was pursued and driven mad by the Furies (Erinyes). At Apollo's behest he went to Athens and pleaded his case before the Areopagus, the court of Athens; Apollo served him as defense counselor, while the Furies (Erinyes) presented the prosecution's case, and Athena acted as judge. Athena cast her deciding vote for his acquittal (Aeschylus, Eumenides; Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris 940-967; Apollodorus, Epitome 6.25). Orestes ruled over Mycenae and, according to some sources, married his cousin Hermione after killing her husband, Neoptolemus. Orestes died of a snakebite (Euripides, Orestes 1652-1658; Apollodorus, Epitome 6.27-28). Family Tree 15.
Orion [oh-reye'on], "urine."
A son of Poseidon, according to some accounts, and of Gaia according to others, he was a mighty hunter. He fell in love with Merope on the island of Chios and won her hand by ridding the island of wild animals, but Oenopion, her father, refused to grant her to him and then blinded Orion. He went to the east, where he regained his eyesight and attracted the amorous attention of Eos. When he returned to take vengeance on Oenopion, Orion was unable to find his foe, so he joined the followers of Artemis. Apollo convinced Gaia to send a giant scorpion after Orion, and he tricked Artemis into killing him because he was afraid Artemis would fall in love with him. In grief, Artemis placed Orion's image and that of the scorpion in the sky. Other accounts say Orion tried to rape Artemis while he was ridding Chios of wild animals for Oenopion; she then produced the scorpion, which stung him to death and both the scorpion and Orion were then placed in the sky. Still other versions say Orion chased the Pleiades, the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, and that they were all transformed into constellations, along with Sirius, Orion's hunting dog (Homer, Odyssey 5.121-124, 11.572-575; Apollodorus 1.4.3-5; Hyginus, Fabulae 195, Poetica Astronomica 2.21, 26, 33-34).
Orpheus [orf'e-us], "darkness."
A son of Oeagrus, a Thracian river god, his mother was one of the Muses (most accounts say she was Calliope). A skilled musician and singer, he accompanied Jason on the quest for the Golden Fleece. He married Eurydice, but she died from a snakebite on their wedding day. He so charmed Hades and Persephone with his singing that they allowed Orpheus to take Eurydice out of the Underworld on the condition that he not look back on his way out; he feared that she was not following, so he looked back to see her, and she slipped back to the realm of the dead. He wandered through the forests and valleys, playing his lyre and singing, until a group of Thracian women stoned him to death and tore his body apart. His head and lyre were washed out to sea and ended up on the island of Lesbos, where Apollo kept a serpent from biting the head by turning the snake to stone. The Muses collected the remaining pieces of Orpheus' body and buried them; his soul went to the Underworld, where it joined the soul of Eurydice (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.23-34; Apollodorus 1.3.2; Virgil, Georgics 4.453-527; Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.1-85, 11.1-84; Hyginus, Poetica Astronomica 2.7).
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