Greek Mythology History and Overview
“There are many Greek Gods of Mount Olympus in the many myths. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are probably the most known gods. The three brothers each rule different areas of our world and have their own powers and strengths. These myths go back to the Bronze Age and a couple of them were written by the Greek poet, Homer. We also have many fictional books and movies. But do these myths still hold up today? Before we get into if these myths still hold up to this day or not, let’s first journey back to where it all started.
It started with the titan god Chaos who gave birth to Gaia, or Mother Earth. She married Uranus and then gave birth to twelve kids, two of which were Cronus and Rhea. When Cronus got older, he married his sister Rhea. Each and every time Rhea would give birth to a child, Cronus would eat them whole. He did this because he was told he would be killed and overthrown by one his children much like he did to his father. He became king of the gods and titans. As the myth goes, only one of their kids was not eaten by Cronus.
How it works
Rhea gave birth to her last child, Zeus, she hid him and then fed Cronus a stone. He ate the stone thinking that it was Zeus. When Zeus returned home years later, he killed his father by mixing a poison into a drink. This made Cronus throw up all of Zeus’ siblings from his stomach including Poseidon and Hades. Not too long after, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades started a war against Cronus and the Titans. This war lasted for about ten years and came to end when the Cyclopes were released by the three brothers. In return, the Cyclopes gave the three gods a reward. Zeus got a thunderbolt, Poseidon got a trident, and Hades got a helmet of darkness. The three brothers then used their new found weapons and put an end to the mad titan Cronus for good.
After that Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades then decided where each of them would rule. Zeus became the ruler the skies as well as the king of all gods. Poseidon became the ruler of the seas and was known as the sea god. He could also control earthquakes, giving him the nickname of the Earth-Shaker. And the last brother, Hades, became the ruler of the underworld and as well as the god of the dead (Reese, 2002). The three gods were also known for their marriages. Hades was the only one of the three brothers not to marry many women. He was devoted to one, his queen and niece Persephone, whom he kidnapped. She is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Together they had three kids, Zagreus, Melinoe, and Makaria. In some myths they gave birth to the Furies. The Furies or the Erinyes were three goddesses who would punish men for the crimes they have committed (Theori, n.d.).
There are a few myths about how other Greek mythology characters tried to rescue Persephone. One involving Hermes and another involving Pirithous and Theseus. Another where Zeus was involved making Persephone angry when she found out. Hades’ brothers were far more different with their women, though incest was still involved.
Zeus and Poseidon had numerous wives, some of which included their sisters and/or sisters-in-law. For example, both gods married their sister Demeter and gave birth to children. In many of the myths, the two gods would take form of an animal and couple with the woman of that specific myth. For example, the story of Poseidon and Demeter is that he turned himself into a stallion and then mated with her. There is another story involving Poseidon mating with a sea-nymph and they gave birth to a cyclops named Polyphemus (Theori, n.d.). Zeus also had many stories with women as well.
While Zeus was married with Hera, he would often have affairs with other women. However, if somebody tried to get with Hera, Zeus would be on them like a fruit fly on fruit. In one myth Zeus threw down a lightning bolt at Porphyrin, a giant, because he tried to lust Hera. There are dozens upon dozens of myths out there regarding Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, but there are two stories that are probably the most well-known. The Greek poet Homer used these the
ee gods among the others in his two epic poems; The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Homer wrote The Iliad first and then The Odyssey which follows the events of The Iliad. There were twenty-four books in all for Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades were all featured in both stories. After being accused of trying to dethrone Zeus, Poseidon went to Troy and helped build a wall around the city. The king of Troy, Laomedon, promised him and another exiled god, Apollo, gifts. But in the end, he refused to pay them as he became very greedy. According to the Iliad, Poseidon said this to Apollo:
“”I walled the city massively in well-cut stone, to make the place impregnable. You herded cattle, slow and dark amid the upland vales of Ida’s wooded ridges. When the Seasons happily brought to an end our term of hire, barbaric Laomedon kept all wages from us, and forced us out, with vile threats””
Also, in anger, Poseidon declared war on the Trojans and he even created a sea monster to feast on the Trojans. Hercules would later go on to destroy the monster. As these books went on, Poseidon became jealous of Achaean walls and wanted to destroy it. His sister, Hera came to him in book nine and wanted him to overthrow Zeus, but he refused. However, things quickly escalated as Poseidon changed his mind and fought with Hera and Zeus. This caused a war for the gods; it was Greek god versus Greek god. The Gods fought each other. Apollo was challenged by his Uncle Poseidon, but he put off the challenge (Struck, n.d).
Zeus and Poseidon were mentioned quiet a bit throughout the Iliad, but Hades’ was very minor. It was mentioned that his underworld could be found in many secret locations across the Earth (Hades, 2014). Homer’s second epic poem, the Odyssey, gave Hades a bigger role. The Odyssey focused on Odysseus, who was the king of Ithaca. He made many gods angry including Poseidon. He angered Poseidon by blinding Polyphemus, which was Poseidon’s cyclops son. On Odysseus’ journey home, he encountered many shipwrecks and sea storms, all created by the god of the sea (Smith, 2014).
It was entirely up to Zeus to decide whether or not Odysseus shall return home to Ithaca or not. But he made a promise to Athena, his daughter, that he would make sure Odysseus had a safe journey home. And so, he did. He sent Hermes out to talk to Calypso and then Athena to tell Odysseus’ son Telemachus about his father’s return. In the end, Odysseus and his family were reunited once again. As for Hades’ role in the Odyssey, he was in the Underworld when Odysseus came to pay him a visit. In order for one to get there, one must cross the River Styx with Charon, the ferryman.
Charon is essentially Hades’ bodyguard and toll booth worker. In order to pass, you must first pay your fare. Odysseus paid his fare and was able to pass. In some myths, many of those who tried to get to the Underworld did not pay the fare. They never made it to the underworld to see Hades. Some never even made it back home. Charon was not the only bodyguard Hades had in his land of the dead.
When Odysseus arrived in the Underworld, he encountered Cerberus, Hades’ three headed dog with snaky tales. Odysseus had also encountered Hades and Persephone. Although in the Odyssey, Odysseus’ goal was not to travel here to meet Hades, but to meet with Tiresias. Tiresias was a blind prophet who told Odysseus his fate as well as how to get back home. Soon after Odysseus journeyed back home with the aid of Zeus and Athena (Homer, Odyssey).
The many myths and Homer’s epic poems are not the only stories in which these three Greek Gods are apart of. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are also featured in stories written in our time. This includes books and movies. Quite a few of the books have been written by American author, Rick Riordan. He is best known for writing the Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympu
The Percy Jackson books were centered around the fictional son of Poseidon, Percy Jackson. There are five Percy Jackson books in total; “The Lightning Thief”, “The Sea of Monsters”, “The Titan’s Curse”, “Battle of the Labyrinth”, and “The Last Olympian” (Riordan, n.d.). He then wrote a spin-off series under the name The Heroes of Olympus and included; “The Lost Hero”, “The Son of Neptune”, “The Mark of Athena”, “The House of Hades”, and “The Blood of Olympus” (Riordan, n.d.). Two of his Percy Jackson books were eventually turned into films.
In 2010, 20th Century Fox released the first Percy Jackson film. It was Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Three years later, The Sea of Monsters, was turned into a film. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades had much more pivotal roles in the book and film adaptation of the first one more than the second one. Poseidon was in the second book, but not the second movie. (Columbus & Freudenthal, 2010 & 2013)
These two movies were not as successful as other book to film adaptations like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or The Maze Runner series. That is most likely the reason why Riordan’s other Greek mythology books were not turned into movies. These are not the only two films that showcase the three brothers in them.
The other film series that is Clash of the Titans. There are three in this series including the original 1981 film, a 2010 remake, and a 2012 sequel called Wrath of the Titans. Zeus and Poseidon were in the 1981 film, but according to IMDB Hades was completely left out. However, he was in the remake and its sequel. The films primary focused around Perseus, Zeus’ son, as he fought monsters to save Olympia. The gods were used mainly as side characters but still had decent roles. Zeus and Hades more so than Poseidon (Davis, Leterrier & Lieberman, 1981, 2010, & 2012). There have been many movies involving one of Zeus’ kids, Heracles or Hercules.
Disney is the studio behind their adaptation of Hercules, which was about the story of Hercules. Zeus and Hades were in this movie, but Poseidon’s role was very minor (Clements & Musker, 1997). There is another film involving Hercules that hardly anybody talks about. Simply, because it is nothing exciting.
It is called Hercules in New York and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hercules. It is not based on the real myths of Hercules but basically Zeus, the only god shown, punishes his son by sending him to New York (Seidelman, 1970). These films and novels are just a couple of ways how Greek mythology is still around today.
Video games are another way people can learn about the gods and other mythical creatures in Greek mythology. There are a lot of video games that featured the gods like Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. A couple of the most known ones are God of War and Age of Mythology. There was even one made of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. There are so many more video games involving Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades out there. Some of these games allow the player(s) to play as Greek gods and/or fight them. Another way people can learn about these stories is through school.
Many high schools and colleges offer classes in which you can learn about the stories behind Greek mythology. In these classes, you learn about Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and of course Homer’s epic poems. My ninth grade English class read the Odyssey, made an in-class play of it, and watch the 1997 movie in class. Though school is not the only thing that we can learn all about Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and Homer from.
We have so much technology out there now, that people can just Google Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, or Homer and learn about them that way as well. Or you can just go old school and pick up a book, perhaps watch a movie about them or play a video game. We live in a world with so much to offer compared to the past where there were no films or computers. For the most part, it was just writing and word of mouth.With all of that being said, we have many books, movies, video games, and other ways we can learn about all these stories passed down from Ancient Greece. They do still hold up to this day because many, myself included, enjoy reading about all the myths and stories. Many enjoy the books and the movies even if they may not be very good or accurate. Myths are like legends, there are different versions, or they change over time. However, there is something going on today, that these stories if written today would not pass.
With several movements out there such as the Me-Too Movement, women would not want to be treated the way Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades treated their women. Some of the women were seduced, raped, and so much more. An example is the myth about Poseidon and how he turned himself into a stallion. If Demeter were here today, she would probably have filed a law suit on Poseidon if she found out it was him. Even Zeus and how overprotective he is with Hera. Today he would probably have gone to jail or maybe not since the gods could be considered as political figures in a way. I’m not saying that those in politics can get away with anything, but I am saying this: our world is way too politically correct these days.
Even in a politically correct world, Greek mythology is and will probably always be a part of our lives. Although not American gods, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades will remain known. As we can learn about them from reading books to the many forms of media to taking a mythology course in school. In fact, some items we have today were named after characters in Greek mythology. For example, Nike is named after the Greek god of victory. So, no matter what, I would say that Greek mythology and their gods, monsters, etc. will always be with us.”