Greek Mythology is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasure troves of stories that the world mines to tell and retell, to present and re-present, time and time again. They're not called "classics" for nothing, after all.
Are you familiar with these myths? You should be, because many of these great stories have been rehashed, repackaged and retold through different perspectives through centuries. Whether you notice it or not, many of our modern books, movies and TV shows echo the basic character templates of the Greek Myths. Whether they are heroes or villains, gods or mortals, many of these stories have great characterizations remade into modern times and given a modern twist. And some of these great stories and characters can be found in this quiz. Can you try guessing what happened to them or what their story was all about?
It's also great to see how creative these stories are, to present us with story arcs, cautionary tales and plot patterns that are still useful today in a modern context. A great writer can get some of these tales, arcs and patterns and sell it to us today in their newer packages. And most of the sellable ones are the tragic stories, featuring tragic heroes.
So, do you think you can identify these tragic characters or their tragic situations? Take a peek and see!
The unfortunate story of Oedipus was prophesied at the Oracle at Delphi, wherein it stated that he would kill his father and marry his mother. While his biological parents tried to remedy this, fate really has a way of luring you to your destiny, and Oedipus couldn't escape his.
Achilles is the famous Greek hero who was invincible because his mother submerged his whole body in the River Styx when he was an infant, as she held him by one heel. Thus, that heel wasn’t submerged, and one arrow from Paris' bow hit it, making him suffer.
Medusa the Gorgon is a feared creature in Greek mythology because whoever looks directly into her eyes turns to stone. So the only way to defeat her is to behead her, but her piercing stare remained active even when her head is severed.
Orpheus is the very gifted musician who plays and creates music, which is useful in many ways aside from its artistic merits. It is said that the god Apollo gave him his lyre, which he uses to make beautiful music.
Echo was once a very talkative nymph who once tried to distract Zeus' always jealous wife, Hera, during his dalliances with other creatures, by talking to her endlessly. But Hera got wind of the situation and threw some of her Zeus wrath toward the hapless nymph, who ended up being cursed out of a voice and fated to repeat the last words people say to her, as her only way of "speaking."
Icarus was incarcerated by King Minos together with his father, Daedalus the great craftsman, who built himself and his son some wings to escape the prison. But the wings were made of bird feathers attached with candle wax, so he instructed Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, because the wax would melt. But once outside and escaped, Icarus disobeyed his dad and flew way up, feeling pride and arrogance—which led to his literal downfall, as the wax melted and the feathers collapsed. He plunged to his death as a result.
Antigone simply wanted to bury and mourn for her former Thebes ruler of a brother, Polynices, when he died in battle. But since he was seen as a traitor to the kingdom, King Creon declared those acts illegal, but Antigone did it anyway, earning his ire. So she ended up being imprisoned by the king, where she hanged herself as a result.
Eurydice died of a snakebite, so naturally, she went to the Underworld, where her husband Orpheus went to try to negotiate with Hades to retrieve her. Enchanted by his musical abilities, Hades permitted Eurydice to go with Orpheus back to the surface but ordered him to walk ahead without looking back until Eurydice had emerged on the surface from walking behind him. Alas, the excited husband turned around immediately upon reaching the surface, but his wife wasn't fully out yet, so Eurydice ended up being sucked back into the Underworld, to Orpheus' regret.
Narcissus is one of those figures who was blessed with a very beautiful face, but along with it came huge pride, since he deemed people unworthy of becoming his lover because he was far superior to anyone else. This pride caused him pain, when the nymph Echo prayed to a god to punish Narcissus for rejecting her, and he ended up being cursed to love only his own beautiful reflection. But he was so in love with his reflection he saw in a body of water that he remained there on that spot, until he died of grief, knowing that he couldn't possess his one true love—himself.
Sisyphus was actually a tyrannical king who ruled with an iron fist, deeming himself better than Zeus sometimes, and many accounts of his arrogant and violent deeds led him to be punished by the gods in the Underworld. His punishment was to roll a boulder up a hill until it nearly reached the top, but it was cursed to roll down again, so he had to go back and do this again, and again and again. This futile effort gave birth to the adjective "Sisyphean," meaning a huge yet futile task.
Prometheus was actually a Titan, so an immortal, and that didn't go well for him; he ended up being tortured on a daily basis by having an eagle peck at his liver, but it only grew back, and the eagle returned and did it again. Zeus punished him like this for bringing fire to humankind, which Zeus didn't want to happen.
Tantalus was once invited to dine with Zeus in Mount Olympus, but he stole some nectar and ambrosia there and brought it to people on the ground. Worse, he wanted to test the gods, so he killed his own son and cooked him up to serve to them. But Zeus got wind of it and got angry, of course, so he cursed Tantalus to be forever tantalized by food he couldn't have; he stood on shallow water that receded whenever he would try to take a drink, and the hanging fruit branches above him also retracted whenever he would try to reach out for fruit to eat.
Atlas is one of the Titans, so of course between the protracted battle of the Titans and the Olympian gods, he led the side of the Titans, which irked Zeus. So naturally, when the gods won, Zeus punished Atlas by making him carry the heavens on his shoulders. That is why Atlas is famously depicted in classical art as a huge man carrying a globe on his shoulders.
Persephone is best known in Greek mythology as the goddess of vegetation, as she is the beautiful daughter of Demeter. But Hades, ruler of the Underworld, was so smitten by her that he asked Zeus permission to abduct her—which he consented to! Poor Persephone was tricked by Hades to eat pomegranate seeds, so even if Demeter was able to negotiate her release, Persephone had to spend a quarter of the year down there, every year, with her abductor.
Asclepius was actually the son of Apollo, so he also had the healing touch, which could also make him bring back the dead to life. This threatened Zeus and Hades, since the former didn't want humans to be immortal in a way, while the latter thought of running out of customers in the Underworld. So Zeus directly killed Asclepius with one of his thunderbolts to end the healing.
Medea is the wife of Jason of the Argonauts, who bore him children that she later killed herself. She wanted to punish Jason for leaving her and deciding to marry another bride. Such a tragedy, this.
It is said that if you cut off one snake-like head of the Hydra, two more will grow in its place, making it nearly impossible to kill. But Heracles, or Hercules in popular lore, was able to outsmart it by scorching off the neck immediately after he cut off one head, so it wouldn't grow back, until every head was severed. Smart!
Cassandra is a princess in Greek mythology with whom the god Apollo became smitten, and he gifted her with his own skill of foreseeing prophecies if she agreed to be his lover. But she reneged on this once she got the gift, so Apollo cursed her instead—she will indeed make truthful prophecies, but no one will believe her.
Yes, it was the naiad Minthe of the River Cocytus who was turned into the herb we now know as mint, because she became smitten with Hades, and some accounts say she also badmouthed his wife, Persephone. Differing accounts say that it was Persephone herself who turned her into the plant, while others say it was Persephone's mother, Demeter, who did the deed.
Zeus also has this knack of turning his desired women into animal forms, in order to hide them from the green-eyed, jealous Hera, so he transformed the mortal priestess Io into a cow. But as soon as Hera got wind of the situation yet again, she sent a pesky gadfly that tormented the cow form of Io incessantly.
Ixion is the cocky king who was invited to be Zeus' guest, but his ulterior motive of the night was to seduce the god’s wife, Hera. He wasn't able to entirely enact his evil plan, though, because Zeus got wind of it, so he created a cloud in the image and likeness of Hera, and that's what Ixion made love to! For that attempt, though, Zeus condemned him to be tied up to a flaming wheel, and to forever spin on it in the Underworld.
Actaeon is from Thebes and is said to have chanced upon Artemis bathing naked in the forest one day, and his mistake was that he stopped and stared as the goddess did this. Angered by this peeping act, she cursed him not to speak or else be turned into a stag. So of course he spoke, and his pack of dogs attacked him and tore him to pieces.
Chimera is now a term that means something unique that's made up of various different parts. That's because this is a monstrous creature that's made up of different parts of a lion, a snake and a goat.
Agamemnon is the Mycenaean king who fought in the Trojan War, commanding Achilles and the Greek army, but he was also a bit ruthless, and also arrogant, which angered the gods later on as well. He sacrificed his own child to appease Artemis, which earned him the ire of his wife, Clytemnestra. She killed him upon returning from the war in a calculated plan to commit matricide, with the help of her lover, Aegisthus.
Minotaur is the half-man, half-bull creature that lived in the center of the labyrinth in Crete and ate every human being who ended up lost in there. The hero Theseus volunteered to kill the Minotaur, but he got help from its half-sister Ariadne, who helped the hero to navigate the confusing labyrinth to set up the kill.
Marsyas was the one who found the musical instrument called aulos, which was a double-reed wind instrument thrown away by Athena, and played it until he mastered it. He had such arrogance in his musical prowess that he challenged Apollo to a musical contest to see who played music better. So of course he lost, and Apollo was so incensed by the competition that he ended up having Marsyas tied up and flayed. Never mess with the god of music, ever!
Clytemnestra was the wife of Agamemnon, the leader who came from the Trojan army alive, but was killed by her upon her return. They had a child named Orestes who was hidden away after his father's murder, and he grew up to avenge the dad’s death by murdering his own mother and her lover, who helped in the murder.
Midas supplies that cautionary tale of not being greedy in Greek mythology, because the result will always bear harm. When his wish of having anything he touched turn to gold was granted by Dionysus, everything around him literally became gold, so he couldn't function normally anymore, let alone eat a decent meal.
Niobe had seven sons and seven daughters, a fact she took pride in and flaunted in the face of Leto, the mother of twin gods Apollo and Artemis, her only children. So Leto commanded Apollo to kill Niobe’s sons while Artemis killed off Niobe's daughters. Lesson learned: never, ever compete with a god or goddess for anything, in any category!
Zeus has this nasty habit of seducing and abducting women he fancies, and that's what happened to the Phoenician princess named Europa, who was whisked away to the island of Crete by a white, bull-shaped Zeus. She was raped there, producing the future King Minos as a result. But this tragedy was only part of what happened to her, as she was able to regain some of her life back on track eventually after this tragic event.
Bellerophon started out as a good person when he was young, honoring the gods and all, but he became a proud man when he achieved many things, like killing the Chimera and taming Pegasus. So since he felt he was also like a god, he decided to ride Pegasus towards Mount Olympus, which irked Zeus. The god sent a gadfly to make the winged horse disoriented, dismounting Bellerophon in the process, making him fall to the ground, ending up being crippled and blinded. That's the result of hubris, and a it's cautionary tale about having too much pride.
Pirithous was sort of Theseus’ sidekick in his adventures, one of which was the attempt to rescue Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades and taken to be the queen of the Underworld. Unfortunately, they were both captured and taken prisoner by Hades, until Heracles went to Hades to get the Cerberus guard dog, rescuing Theseus in the process but not Pirithous.
Lamia is said to have been Zeus' lover, and she had children which Hera harmed. Due to this tragedy, Lamia lost it and became a child-eating monster, plus Hera also cursed her with insomnia, while Zeus gave her the ability to remove her eyes. Lamia's legend became a sort of scare tactic for children to fall to sleep, or else she would catch and devour them if they didn't.
Arachne is a mortal who was such a great weaver that she arrogantly challenged Athena to a weaving contest. But challenging and angering the goddess of handicraft was a wrong move, and Arachne ended up hanging herself. But Athena also pitied her demise, so she turned her into a spider and the noose into a cobweb.
Danaus had 50 daughters who were betrothed to the sons of his brother, Aegyptus. However, he told the women to kill off their husbands on their wedding night, because he didn’t really agree to this marriage deal but was forced into it. So his daughters were punished in the Underworld by endlessly having to pour water onto a huge vessel with holes, so it's a futile attempt that will last for eternity.