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Part II – The Mortal World & Its Heroes. The Creation of Man. Now that the Olympians were enthroned atop Mount Olympus, the human race could make its debut. . Metal Men The Olympians themselves created men out of metal, starting with gold.  The first group were upright and perfect. 

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the creation of man
The Creation of Man

Now that the Olympians were enthroned atop Mount Olympus, the human race could make its debut. 

Metal Men

  • The Olympians themselves created men out of metal, starting with gold. 
  • The first group were upright and perfect. 
  • With each generation the gods decreased the quality of the metal, which increased the amount of wickedness men were capable of.
  • The final generation of men was made of iron. 
  • One day Zeus will no longer be able to tolerate the wickedness of mankind and will wipe them from the earth once and for all.
the creation of man1
The Creation of Man
  • The Gift of Prometheus
  • Zeus put Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus in charge of creating men and animals.  
  • Epimetheus gave all the best gifts to animals.  
  • Prometheus knew that men would not survive long without any advantage over the beasts, so he compensated by creating men in the image of the gods.
  • Prometheus stole fire from Olympus and gave it to men and tricked Zeus into accepting only the fat and bone of animals as sacrifices, thereby allowing mankind to keep the meat and skin for themselves. 
  • With these safeguards in place, Prometheus had ensured that mankind had the means to not only survive, but to thrive. 
  • Zeus’ fury was unfathomable; he condemned Prometheus by chaining the Titan to a rock and sending an eagle to tear out his liver.  At night, Prometheus’ body would mend itself, which allowed the eagle to feed on him day after day for all eternity. 
  • The Greeks believed that the moaning of the wind was actually the agonizing cries of Prometheus as he endured the punishment of Zeus.
the creation of wo man
The Creation of (Wo)Man
  • The First Woman
  • Zeus chose to take out his vengeance on man by creating the first woman, Pandora.  
  • She was made to be an irresistible beauty to men. 
    • “a sweet and lovely thing to look upon, in the likeness of a shy maiden, and all the gods gave her gifts, silvery raiment and a broidered veil, a wonder to behold, and bright garlands of blooming flowers and a crown of gold – great beauty shone out from it”
  • Zeus also gave her an insatiable curiosity.  
  • Zeus gave her a jar (later mistranslated as a box) filled with things like disease, pestilence, and sin.
  • Naturally, Pandora’s curiosity got the better of her and she opened the jar, unleashing its horrors into the mortal world.
  • Fortunately, Pandora was able to close the lid on the jar before hope was lost, thereby allowing humanity to limp along though history without completely succumbing to Zeus’ clever punishment.
why would gods create humanity
Why Would Gods Create Humanity
  • The reason behind the creation of man is vague at best. 
  • Much of Greek mythology seems to support the idea that the gods’ interest in the human race was almost like a game. 
    • “The gods were truly delighted with their new toys.  Every aspect of life on earth came into existence on that day.  Goodness was henceforth defined as whether the brief part danced by a creature on the earth’s stage was pleasing in the gods’ eyes.  It amused the gods to remind their creatures, in various ways, who their masters were, and to test their goodness.  Just when everything was going well, they would cause a flood, or earthquake, or famine, or personal disaster.  And they devised more and more complex dances for their toys” (13). 
  • This view helped the Greeks explain the difficulty, misfortune, and dumb luck that are common in life. 
  • Humanity was in desperate need of mighty men and women to inspire them.  The Greeks were constantly looking for heroes — individuals who experienced the struggles and joys of human life but were also somehow greater than common men and women.  
the great heroes hercules heracles
The Great Heroes: Hercules/Heracles
  • Not overly intelligent, but he was passionate and impulsive; there was no better man to have as a friend, and no man more terrifying to have as an enemy.  
  • He was ruled by his emotions and plagued by outbursts of rage, which could be particularly lethal given that Heracles was the strongest man to ever live.
  • Heracles might have been able to live a normal life had it not been for Hera.
  • When Heracles arrived at the palace of the Mycenaean king seeking punishment for his horrible crime, Hera inspired the king to give Heracles twelve impossible tasks that would surely destroy the guilt-laden Heracles.  These twelve tasks became known as The Twelve Labors. 
the twelve labors of hercules
The Twelve Labors of Hercules
  • Heracles fought the Nemean Lion and choked it to death with his bare hands.
  • Heracles defeated the three-headed Hydra, who grew two more heads when one was chopped off.
  • Heracles captured the elegant Cerynitian Stag after a full year of hunting it.
  • Heracles hunted and captured a particularly destructive boar the size of a bull.
  • Heracles solved the problem of King Augeus’ filthy and overcrowded stables by using his strength to divert two rivers, and employing this torrent of water to flush out the filth.
  • With the help of Athena, Heracles defeated the Stymphalian Birds by making a tremendous racket to drive them from their nests, then shot them all down one-by-one with his mighty bow.
  • The Cretan Bull was known for being fierce and untamable; Heracles, of course, tamed it.
  • Heracles killed King Diomedes and then fought his man-eating horses and drove them away, thus rescuing the people of the kingdom.
  • Heracles was charged with retrieving the golden girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons.  After much confusion and the queen’s accidental death, he succeeded in his task.
  • Geryon, a three-bodied brute, shepherded a flock of cattle.  Heracles fought the monster and captured the cattle.
  • Heracles was charged with retrieving the Golden Apples of Hesperides.  Heracles recruited Atlas for help, and after tricking each other back and forth, our hero of course came away with the golden apples.
  • Heracles was sent to retrieve Cerberus, the vicious three-headed, dragon-tailed guard dog of the Underworld.
the great heroes theseus
The Great Heroes:Theseus
  • Theseuswas no more than a mere mortal.  He was “compassionate as he was brave and a man of great intellect as well as great bodily strength”
  • Theseusis best known for defeating the Minotaur.  The Minotaur was a terrible monster who lived at the center of an impossible maze called the Labyrinth.  Every nine years the citizens of Athens were forced to send seven young men and seven maidens into the labyrinth. These fourteen tributes would be cast into the Labyrinth were the Minotaur would devour them.
  • Theseus would not stand for this. He volunteered himself as one of the young men to be sent to Crete.  He told his father that he would slay the Minotaur and return home with white sails on his ship in place of the usual black sails.
  • Ariadne, fell in love with him and provided him with twine so that Theseus might leave a trail to navigate back out of the Labyrinth.  When Theseus reached the center of the maze, he slew the Minotaur with his bare hands and used the twine trail to lead his people to freedom.
the great heroes perseus
The Great Heroes:Perseus
  • Perseus was a demigod and his father was Zeus. 
  • Later, when Perseus had matured into adulthood, his mother was courted by Polydectes, who convinced Perseus to retrieve the head of Medusa, a Gorgon, as a wedding gift.
  • Athena gave him a mirrored shield and Hermes gave him a powerful sword.  He was also gifted with winged sandals, a magical bag that would allow any object to fit comfortably inside, and a magic helmet that would render the wearer invisible.  
  • On his way home, he rescued Andromeda, a beautiful princess who was to be sacrificed to a sea serpent.  Perseus married Andromeda and returned home. 
  • The prophecy against Perseus’ grandfatherwas fulfilled when Perseus, who was competing in a discus-throwing contest, accidentally hurled the disc into the audience.  It slammed into his grandfather, killing him instantly.
  • Perseus is rare among the Greek heroes because he is one of the few to settle down after a lifetime of adventure with a wife, have children, and live — as far as we know — happily ever after.
the greek heroes atalanta
The Greek Heroes: Atalanta
  • Atalantawas a formidable huntress and athlete who could out-perform any man.  Her father, who had hoped for a son, and abandoned his child in the woods.  Atalanta was raised by a she-bear and eventually adopted by kindly hunters. 
  • When the Calydonian Boar, a massive tusked beast, terrorized cities and slew hunter after hunter, it was Atalanta who felled the savage animal with her bow. 
  • Her reputation brought men from far and wide seeking her hand in marriage.  As a way of disposing of them easily and agreeably she declared that she would marry whoever could beat her in a footrace, knowing well that there was no such man alive.
  • It wasn’t until a young man, Milanion, received help from Aphrodite that Atalanta met her match.  
  • Milanionreceived three irresistible golden apples from Aphrodite to distract Atalanta during the race.  
  • The myth ends with the couple transforming into lions, which seems fitting for someone as fierce and independent as Atalanta.
the greek heroes jason the argonauts
The Greek Heroes:Jason & the Argonauts
  • In exile Jason became a strapping young hero and eventually returned to reclaim his father’s kingdom.  Peliasagreed to surrender the throne…but only after Jason had completed a dangerous adventure.
  • Jason gathered the mightiest heroes and set sail in his ship, the Argo.  
  • Eventually Jason arrived at the gates of the Colchian king. Jason explained his quest for the Golden Fleece to the king and offered to do anything requested of him.
  • The king was secretly furious and devised tasks for his guest to complete.
    • First, Jason would have to yoke two fire-breathing bulls and use them to plow a field.
    • Next, he would plant the teeth of a dragon into the freshly plowed field.  When planted, the dragon teeth would sprout up into a group of bloodthirsty soldiers, which Jason would then defeat in combat.
    • The following day, Jason completed the fearsome tasks with the help of Medea’s ointment.  
  • Jason then took both the Fleece and Medea to his ship and set sail for Greece.

Medea protected Jason and the Argonauts from many other dangers.

When he arrived home tragedy awaited him. Jason turned to Medea for help, who used her treachery and magic to concoct a horrible death for Pelias.

wrap up on the heroes
Wrap Up On the Heroes
  • Greeks were preoccupied with the origin of humanity, the explanation for human suffering, and heroes that could inspire them to rise above their circumstances.