AP English Literature Mythological Allusions

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Terms in this set (100)
(n.) The one spot that is most vulnerable; one weakness that a very strong person may have; This word comes from Achilles (Ancient Greek name: Akhilleus), the greatest warrior on the battlefield at Troy, leader of the fearsome Myrmidons, sacker of cities, and slayer of Hektor. His father was Peleus, was the king of the Myrmidons in Thessaly. His mother, the sea nymph Thetis, tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the River Styx. He died from a small wound on his heel. Homer's epic poem The Iliad tells about his adventures in the last year of the Trojan War.
(adj.) Omniscient; all-seeing; can see everything; This word comes from Argus, a 100-eyed monster that the goddess Hera appointed to guard Io, the cow into which Io (Hera's priestess) had been transformed. Argus was slain by Hermes, who is called Argeiphontes (slayer of Argus) in the Homeric poems. Hera transferred Argus' eyes to the tail of the peacock.
CALLIOPE(n.) series of whistles, circus organ; This word comes from the Muse of eloquence or beautiful voices.CASSANDRA(n.) a person who continually predicts misfortune but often is not believed; This word comes from (Greek legend) a daughter of Priam cursed by Apollo for not returning his love. Apollo left her with the gift of prophecy but made it so no one would believe her.CENTAUR(n.) a creature that is half-man, half-horse, with a large appetite for sensual pleasures; This word comes from a monster that had the head, arms, and chest of a man, and the body and legs of a horseCHIMERA(n.) a horrible creature of the imagination, an absurd or impossible idea; wild fancy This word comes from a monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail, supposed to breathe out fireCUPIDITY(n.) eager desire to possess something; greed or avarice This word comes from Cupid, the Roman god of love (Greek name: Eros).EROTIC(adj.) of or having to do with sexual passion or love; This word comes from Greek god of love, Eros (Roman: Cupid). A magnificently handsome young man, he is the son of Venus. In art, he is shown as a chubby, winged infant who shoots arrows to make people fall in love.FUROR(n.) (Latin- furere to rage) wild enthusiasm or excitement, rage; fury, "run like fury"; This word comes from any one of the Three Furies, minor female gods, the daughters of Gaea who punished crimes at the instigation of the victims (Greek: erinyes or eumenides; Roman: furiae or dirae).GORGON(n.) a very ugly or terrible person, especially a repulsive woman; This word comes from the Medusa, any one or three sisters with snakes instead of hair and faces so horrible that anyone who looked at them turned to stone.HALCYON(adj.) calm, peaceful, tranquil; This word comes from a bird that can breed in a nest on the sea and calm the waters (the bird kingfisher, Latin< Greek halkyon).HARPY(n.) a predatory person or nagging woman; This word comes from the harpy, a foul creature that was part woman, part bird.HECTOR(v.) to bully; This word comes from Hector, the son of Priam (king of Troy) and the bravest Trojan warrior. He killed Achilles' friend Patroclus.HELEN (OF TROY)(n.) Hellenistic; of or relating to Greece, or a Specialist of language or culture in Greece; symbol of a beautiful woman; This word comes from Helen of Troy, the daughter of Leda and Zeus. Helen was the cause of the Trojan War.HERCULEAN(adj.) very strong or of extraordinary power; This word comes from Hercules, Hera's glory, the son of Zeus. He performed the 12 labors imposed by Hera.HYDRA-HEADED(adj.) having many centers or branches, hard to bring under control; something bad you cannot eradicate This word comes from Hydra, the 9-headed serpent that was sacred to Hera. Hercules killed him in one of the 12 labors of Hercules.IRIDESCENT(adj.) a play of colors producing rainbow effects; This word comes from Iris, goddess of the rainbow.JOVIAL(adj.) good humored; This word comes from the word Jove, a shorter name for the Roman god Jupiter, when people in Roman times would swear by him.JUNOESQUE(adj.) marked by stately beauty; This word comes from the word Juno, the wife of Jupiter, the Goddess of light, birth, women, and marriageLETHARGY(n.) abnormal drowsiness or inertia; This word comes from Lethe, a river in Hades (the Underworld) that caused drinkers to forget their pastMARTIAL(adj.) suited for war or a warrior; This word comes from Mars, the Roman god of warMEDEA(n.) sorceress or enchantress; This word comes from Medea, who helped Jason and the Argonauts capture the Golden Fleece. She is known for her revenge against Jason when he spurned her in favor of the princess of Corinth.MENTOR(n.) a trusted counselor or guide; This word comes from Mentor, a friend of Odysseus' son, who was entrusted with his education.MERCURIAL(adj.) suddenly cranky or changeable; This word comes from (Roman mythology) Mercury messenger of the gods, conductor of souls to the lower world, and god of eloquence. He is a fabled inventor who wore winged hat and sandals (Greek: Hermes).MERCURY/HERMES(n.) a carrier or tidings, a newsboy, a messenger; This word comes from (Roman mythology) Mercury messenger of the gods, conductor of souls to the lower world, and god of eloquence. He is a fabled inventor who wore winged hat and sandals (Greek: Hermes).MNEMONICS(n.) a device used to aid memory; This word comes from Mnemosyne., who gave birth to the nine Muses, who supposedly gave good memory for long storytelling.MORPHINE(n.) a bitter white, crystalline alkaloid used to relieve pain and induce sleep; This word comes from Morpheus, a god who could easily change his form or shape.MORPH(v.) to change from one form or shape into another; This word comes from Morpheus, a god who could easily change his form or shape.MUSE(n.) a source of inspiration; This word comes from the Muses, the daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, singing goddesses who presided over thought in all its forms.NARCISSISM(n.) being in love with our own self-image; excessive physical self-love This word comes from Narcissus, a handsome young man who despised love. He despised Echo, a nymph who was in love with him. She decreed, "Let he who loves not others, love himself." He fell in love with his image while gazing in a pond. He drowned himself trying to capture it.NEMESIS(n.) just punishment, one who inflicts due punishment; This word comes from Nemesis, a goddess who punishes crime. She is the power charged with curbing all excess, such as excessive good fortune or arrogant pride.NEPTUNE(n.) the sea personified; This word comes from (Roman religion) Neptune, the god of freshwater and the sea (Greek: Poseidon).NIOBE(n.) mournful woman; This word comes from Niobe, whose children were slain by Apollo and Artemis because of her bragging. The gods pitied her and turned her into a rock that was always wet from weeping.ODYSSEY(n.) a long journey; This word comes from Odysseus, the main character in The Odyssey, an epic poem by Homer. Odysseus makes his long journey home, returning from the Trojan War, encountering several obstacles along the way.OLYMPIAN(adj.) majestic in manner, superior to mundane affairs; any participant in the ancient or modern Olympic games This word comes from the 12 gods that resided on Mt. Olympus.PAEAN(n.) a song of joy; In Homeric poems, an independent god of healing named Paean or Paeon took care of Hades when the latter was wounded. This word was a ritual title for Apollo the healer.PANDORA'S BOX(n.) Something that opens the door for bad occurrences, opened by someone known for curiosity; This word comes from Pandora, the first mortal. She was sent by Zeus, to punish man for Prometheus' theft of fire. She was curios and opened the box that Zeus gave her. All human ills in the world escaped, leaving only Hope at the bottom.PARNASSUS(n.) Any center of poetic or artistic activity; a group of poetry or poets; a common title for a selection of poetry This word comes from the hero of Parnassus, the son of Poseidon and a nymph. Mt. Parnassus is a mountain that was sacred to arts and literature.PEGASUS(n.) Poetic inspiration; This word comes from a winged horse that sprang from the blood of Medusa at her death. A stamp of his hoof caused Hippocrene, the fountain of the Muses, to issue poetic inspiration from Mount Helicon.PHOENIX(n.) a symbol of immortality or rebirth; This word comes from (Egyptian mythology) the phoenix, a long-living bird that lived in the Arabian desert. It consumes itself in fire, rising renewed from the flame to start another long life.PLUTOCRACY(n.) a government by the wealthy; This word comes from Pluton, the "Rich Man," a ritual tile of Hades. He was originally the god of the fields because the ground was the source of all wealth, ores and jewels.PROMETHEAN(adj.) life-bringing, creative, or courageously original; This word comes from Prometheus, a Titan who brought man the use of fire which he had stolen from heaven for their benefit. In Greek mythology, the Titans were gods who preceded the Olympians. They were children of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth). Led by Cronus, they overthrew Uranus. Cronus' son, Zeus, rebelled against his father and eventually defeated the Titans.PROTEAN(adj.) taking many forms, versatile; This word comes from Proteus, a god of the sea, charged with tending the sea creatures belonging to Poseidon. He had the ability to change himself into whatever form he desired, using this power particularly when he wanted to elude those asking him questions.PSYCHE(n.) the human soul, self, the mind; This word comes from Psyche, a maiden who, after undergoing many hardships due to Aphrodite's jealousy, reunited with Cupid and was made immortal by Jupiter. She symbolizes a soul joined to the heart of love.PYGMALION(n.) someone (usually a male) who tries to fashion someone into the person he desires; This word comes from a myth about a woman- hating sculptor who makes a female figure of ivory. Aphrodite brings the statue to life for him.PYRRHIC VICTORY(adj.) a too costly victory; a win that is actually a loss; This word comes from Pyrrhus, a Greek king who defeated the Romans in 279 BC, but suffered extremely heavy losses in the fight.SATURNALIA(n.) a period of unrestrained revelry; This word comes from the ancient Roman festival of Saturn, with general feasting in revelry in honor of the winter solstice.SATURNINE(adj.) sluggish, gloomy, morose, inactive in winter months; This word comes from named after the god Saturn, often associated with the god of the Underworld.SIBYL(n.) a witch or sorceress; a teller of futures; This word comes from a priestess who made known the oracles of Apollo and possessed the gift of prophecy.SISYPHEAN(adj.) greedy and avaricious; This word comes from the shrewd and greedy king of Corinth, Sisyphus, who was doomed forever in Hades to roll uphill a heavy stone that always rolled down again.STENTORIAN(adj.) having a loud voice; death after losing; This word comes from Stentor, a character in The Iliad, who could shout as loudly as 50 men. He engaged in a shouting match against Hermes and was put to death after losing.STYGIAN(adj.) dark and gloomy; This word comes from the river Styx in the Underworld. The water is poisonous for humans and cattle and said to break iron, metal and pottery, though a horse's hoof is unharmed.TANTALIZE(v.) to entice without satisfaction; This word comes from King Tantalus, who reigned on Mt. Sipylus and was condemned to reside in a beautiful river with sumptuous fruits just out of reach and the water undrinkable, always tempting him as punishment for excessive pride (he boiled his son and fed the broth to the gods as a trick).TERPSICHOREAN(adj.) pertaining to dance; This word comes from Terpsichore, one of the nine Muses, sometimes said to be the mother of the sirens and the protector of dance.TITANIC(adj.) large, grand, enormous; This word comes from Tityus, a giant, the son of Zeus and Elara. His body covers over two acres. Or after the Titans, the offspring of Chronus and Rhea, who went to war against Zeus and the other Olympian gods.VULCANIZE(v.) to treat rubber with sulfur to increase strength and elasticity; This word comes from the Roman god of fire and metallurgy, Vulcan (Greek: Hephaestus).VOLCANO(n.) a mountain that erupts with fire; This word comes from Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, whose forge is said to be under mountains.ZEUS(n.) a powerful man; This word comes from the king of the gods, ruler of Mt. Olympus, vengeful hurler of thunderbolts.NARCISSUS COMPLEX(n.) a psychiatric diagnosis for someone who is obsessed with their own physical appearance, thinking they are very attractive and usually spend a unusually large amount of time grooming themselves and thinking about or looking at themselvesAMAZONS(n.) one of a nation of women warriors of Scythia (who burned off the right breast in order to use a bow and arrow more effectively)JASON(n.) the husband of Medea and leader of the Argonauts who sailed in quest of the Golden FleeceORPHEUS AND EURYDICE(n.) The couple gets married, but one of the pair is bit by a snake and dies. The other travels to the underworld to bring her back to life. She must walk behind him as they ascend to the upper world, and he is forbidden from looking at her. Unfortunately, he is overcome with passion just as they reach the exit. He turns to look at her and she is immediately sent back to the Underworld - forever. (tragic love story)SIREN(n.) a sea nymph (part woman and part bird) supposed to lure sailors to destruction on the rocks where the nymphs lived (danger, temptation)OEDIPUS COMPLEX(n.) a reference to the unnatural feelings of a son for a motherRIDDLE OF THE SPHINX(n.) Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be? Oedipus answered the riddle and in response, the ______ ate herself. (challenging riddle, puzzle, or problem)CIRCE(n.) a sorceress who detained Odysseus on her island and turned his men into swine (power of illusions)SATYRS(n.) a creature that is half-man, half-goat (reputation for mischief, symbols of fertility, eagerness for physical pleasure)GORDIAN KNOT(n.) an extremely difficult or involved problemDAMOCLES(n.) the Greek courtier to Dionysius the Elder who was condemned to sit under a naked sword that was suspended by a hair in order to demonstrate to him that being a king was not the happy state _______ had said it wasROMULUS AND REMUS(n.) founders of RomeAENEAS(n.) a mythical Greek warrior who was a leader on the Trojan side of the Trojan War, was always obedient to the gods and won their protection (duty and piety)AESOP'S FABLES(n.) a collection of fables believed to have been written by the Greek storytellerDEMETER(n.) goddess of fertility and protector of marriage in ancient mythology (overprotective mother)PERSEPHONE(n.) daughter of Zeus and Demeter who lives in the underworld half the year and on earth for the other half; origin of seasonsHADES(n.) the god of the underworld (oppressing male figure)CHARON(n.) the ferryman who brought the souls of the dead across the river Styx or the river Acheron to HadesTHE RIVER STYX(n.) a river in Hades across which Charon carried dead soulsPENELOPE(n.) the wife of Odysseus and a symbol of devotion and fidelityMENELAUS(n.) the king of Sparta at the time of the Trojan WarPARIS OF TROY(n.) best-known was his elopement with Helen, queen of Sparta, this being one of the immediate causes of the Trojan WarPRIAM(n.) the last king of Troy (during the Trojan War)HECUBA(n.) the wife of King Priam of Troy during the Trojan War, with whom she had 19 childrenTHESEUS(n.) a hero and king of Athens who was noted for his many great deeds: killed Procrustes and the Minotaur and defeated the Amazons and united AtticaTHE LABYRINTH(n.) complex system of paths or tunnels in which it is easy to get lostMINOTAUR(n.) a mythical monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man, found in the labyrinthDAEDALUS(n.) an Athenian inventor who built the Labyrinth of MinosICARUS(n.) son of Daedalus, met his doom after he did not heed his father's advice and flew too close to the sunTHE FURIES(n.) Goddesses or spirits who inflicted curses and punished crimes, primarily those within families. They paid particular attention to avenging crimes by children against their mothers.ELECTRA COMPLEX(n.) conflict during phallic stage in which girls supposedly love their fathers romantically and want to eliminate their mothers as rivalsPAN(n.) god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, as well as the companion of the nymphsTIRESIAS(n.) the blind prophet of Thebes who revealed to Oedipus that Oedipus had murdered his father and married his motherLEDA AND THE SWAN(n.) Zeus seduced, or raped, her in the form of a _____

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