From Athena to Zeus: Basics of Greek Mythology
- Question: In what unusual way was Athena born?
- Answer: As was fitting for the goddess of practical reasoning, Athena emerged fully grown from Zeus’s head.
- Question: What effect did Medusa's gaze have on people?
- Answer: The hero Perseus severed Medusa’s snake-haired head from her body and used it to turn a sea monster into stone.
- Question: Prometheus faced eternal punishment for stealing what from the gods?
- Answer: The trickster Titan, Prometheus (his name meaning “forethinker”), took fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. For his thievery, Zeus had him nailed to a mountain where a bird would forever feast on his immortal liver.
- Question: What was the only thing left in Pandora’s jar?
- Answer: Pandora’s jar (which became a box in the 16th century, thanks to Renaissance humanist Erasmus) contained all the ills of the world, which were freed when she opened the jar. The lid was replaced before hope could escape.
- Question: Which of these mighty warriors was dipped in the River Styx as a baby, making him nearly invulnerable?
- Answer: Achilles was dunked headfirst by his mother in the Styx, the famous underworld river. Because she held him by his heel, it remained his only weak spot.
- Question: What monstrous creature resides in the center of the Labyrinth?
- Answer: As punishment for disobeying Poseidon’s will, the legendary Cretan king Minos’s wife was made to give birth to the Minotaur, a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull. The creature was shut away in the Labyrinth.
- Question: Icarus, using wings designed by his father, died because of what?
- Answer: Needing a quick escape from Crete after helping Theseus defeat the Minotaur, the ingenious Daedalus made wings for his son Icarus to fly away with. Sadly, Icarus flew too close to the Sun, melting the wax that held the wings together.
- Question: Used to help the Argonauts overcome the Sirens, Orpheus’s superhuman skills are in what field?
- Answer: Orpheus’s music was powerful enough to counteract the Sirens’ call, notorious for luring sailors to their doom. His music also charmed Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx, and the dog Cerberus while Orpheus was attempting to rescue Eurydice from Hades.
- Question: Oedipus is famous for having which unconventional spouse?
- Answer: Prophesied to kill his father, Oedipus was abandoned in the wild as a baby. He was found and raised by a new family. Not knowing he was adopted, Oedipus unknowingly killed his birth father and married his birth mother. Sigmund Freud named the Oedipus complex after him.
- Question: Zeus’s father, Cronus, did which of the following to his children?
- Answer: Warned that one of his children was destined to overthrow him, Cronus devoured Demeter, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, and Hestia as infants. Thankfully, Zeus’s mother swapped him out for a bundle of stones. He would later free his siblings and lead a revolt against Cronus.
- Question: What horrible event befell Greece when Hades abducted Persephone?
- Answer: Persephone was daughter to Demeter, goddess of agriculture, whose sadness over the abduction caused a famine. Zeus made Hades return Persephone, but, because she’d eaten a pomegranate seed in the underworld, she had to continue to live there part of the year.
- Question: Who stared at his own reflection until he died?
- Answer: Narcissus was so beautiful he fell in love with his own reflection in a river and could not tear himself away. Today the word narcissism is used to denote an excessive degree of self-involvement.
- Question: Zeus assumed the form of what animal to seduce the Spartan queen Leda?
- Answer: Helen of Troy, of Trojan War fame, was said to have hatched from an egg that resulted from the pairing of Leda and swan-form Zeus.
- Question: Which of these was one of the 12 Labors of Hercules?
- Answer: Hippolyte was the queen of the Amazons, a race of warrior women, and her girdle was a gift from Ares the god of war.
- Question: Best known as the god of the sea, Poseidon was also god of which of these?
- Answer: Poseidon’s name translates to “husband of the earth” or “lord of the earth,” and many of his early temples appeared inland.
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