Showing posts with label myths and legends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label myths and legends. Show all posts

Monday, October 7, 2013

History mystery: Intriguing Love Story of Paris and Helen

Paris was the son of King Priam of Troy and his queen Hecuba, who was also called Alexander or Alexandros. He was rejected at birth and raised as a shepherd boy on Mount Ida since it was foretold that he would be the cause of the downfall of Troy as per the dream of Hecuba. The dream was that she gave birth to a firebrand, the flames of which spread all over the city. This dream was interpreted by Aesacus to her and Paris was sent out with the hopes that the dream would be false. As Paris grew up he became a valiant defender of his flock and shepherd and received the name of Alexander which means the defender of men. He was also successful in identifying his real origin and got to know who his parents were when Priam prepared to celebrate a funeral solemnity for Paris, whom he thought was dead, He had ordered a bull to be brought from his herd and the same was to be given as a price to the winner of the game. Paris, who had participated in the game, conquered his brothers when one of them drew his sword to kill him but Paris fled to the altar of Zeus Herceius and it was here that Cassandra declared him as her brother and Priam accepted him as his son.

Paris was loved by a nymph, Oenone the daughter of the river god Cebren whom he married and she gave birth to a son, Corythus, who according to some was later sent by his mother to serve the Greeks as a guide during voyage to Troy. It is also said that Paris himself killed his son out of jealousy when he found him with Helen whom he loved and wanted her. Oenone possessed prophetic powers and she cautioned Paris not to sail towards the country of Helen which he ignored though she promised to heal him if he got wounded since that was the only aid she could offer him. It is said that at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the sea goddess, Eris, the goddess of discord was not invited and in a fit of rage when she was turned away, had stormed in casting a golden apple among those assembled there and addressed them saying ‘To the Fairest”. Three goddess laid claim to the apple namely, Aphrodite, Hera and Athena and Zeus was asked to choose from the three goddesses and fearing to be hated by the two not chosen he meditated and instructed Hermes to lead the three goddesses to Paris to resolve the issue.

The three goddesses tried to win the favor of Paris by offering him gifts and Paris was swayed by the offering of Aphrodite who promised to bestow him Helen, the most beautiful woman as his bride. Being a beauty contest, it seemed most appropriate that the goddess of beauty and love had offered Paris this offering but unfortunately Helen was the bride of Menelaus. The abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War and the downfall of the city. Some are of the opinion that Paris carried off Helen, the wife of Menelaus who followed him willingly due to the influence of Aphrodite while Menelaus was away from Crete, while others believe that the goddess deceived Helen by giving Paris the appearance of Menelaus while still others believe that Helen was carried away by force by Paris either during a chase or during a festival. Helen of Sparta is perhaps the most inspired character in ancient and modern literature and the war which was fought for her sake lasted for ten years.

Helen was a tantalizing enigma and though she was of flesh and blood, she was also immortal since she happened to be the daughter of Zeus and her mother was the beautiful Leda queen of Sparta who was lured by the father of the gods taking the form of a swan and her husband was Tyndareus. According to some versions, Nemesis is named mother in the bird form and the Helen egg was given to Leda to be raised. Helen had a sister Cytemnestra and twin brothers Castor and Pollux or Polydeuces and while Pollux shared a father with Helen, Caster shared with Cytemnestra and the two brothers are called Dioscuri Helen was one of the most spectacular characters of a dramatic love story of all times and one of the reason being the ten years war which took place between the Trojans and the Greeks namely the Trojan War. She was known to be the face that launched a thousand ships due to the vast number of warships that the Greeks sailed to Troy to get Helen back. Helen was famous for her beauty throughout ancient Greece and had many suitors who were most willing to take her as their bride.

Monday, January 28, 2013

History Mystery: The Extraordinary Creatures of Myth and Legend

The Sphinx and the Minotaur, Centaurs and Gorgons, dragons and unicorns- ancient mythology and medieval fables are teeming with strange creatures. Who created the often terrifying and repellent beings that haunt our dreams, and why? Where does the Sphinx come from? How did the Sirens and centaurs come into being, and how was the Hydra created? How are the Gorgons and the Minotaur related? And why did our distant ancestors invent such bizarre creatures?

The origins of many of these mythological creatures lie with the wealth of stories told by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians. We owe their survival largely to the Greeks, who included these fabulous tales in the mythological structure of their world and passed them on to Western civilization. The creatures that feature in these stories all have one thing in common: each is a hybrid, or a creature born out of the union of two different beings. What is unthinkable in nature is made possible through the divine origin of their creators.

Greek mythology is full of such hybrids, who were conceived by the various deities or by their descendants. Thus the old sea god Phorcys and his sister, the sea monster Ceto, produced Echidna, a creature half nymph and half serpent. Echidna herself gave birth to other monsters: the three headed dog Cerberus, who guarded the gats of the underworld; the Hydra, a nine headed water snake with the body of a hound, who lived in the swamps of Lerna; the Chimaera, a fire spitting monster, part lion, part goat and part snake; and the Sphinx, who, unlike the celebrated stone Sphinx of Egypt, was a female creature with the face of a woman, the body of a lion and bird’s wing. Certainly no less horrible were Echidna’s three sisters, the Gorgons the most famous of who was Medusa. The Gorgons had golden wings and hands of bronze; each had a long red tongue handing from her mouth and their canine teeth resembled those of a wild boar. Instead of hair, a repulsive nest of living snakes writhed around their heads and anyone who gazed upon their grotesque faces was instantly turned to stone.

The ancient Greeks regarded the Sirens maidens with the bodies of birds, who are enticing singing lured seamen to their doom, as the three daughters of the river god Achelous and one of the three Muses. The centaurs, which combine the upper body of a man with a horses’ torso and legs, were fathered by Apollo’s son, Centauros, with the obliging co operation of a herd of mares. According to myth, human beings have played an important role in the procreation of hybrid creatures. Thus, the famous and feared Minotaur, a human with the head of a bull, was born out of the union of Pasiphae, the wife of the Cretan King Minos, and a white bull sent by the sea god, Poseidon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

History Mystery: Realm of Myths and Legends -7

Medusa: In Greek mythology, the best known of three Gorgons whose gaze turned people to stone. The hero Perseus killed her with the aid of Athena. While fighting Medusa he avoided her stare by looking only at her reflection in his polished shield. From the blood of the slain Medusa sprang the winged horse Pegasus.

Minotaur: Monster in Greek mythology with human body and a bull’s head. It was born to Pasiphae, the queen of Crete, after she mated with a scared bull. King Minos ordered Daedalus to construct the Labyrinth in which to keep the monster, and every year seven young men and seven maidens were sent from Athens to be its prey. To stop the slaughter, Theseus volunteered to fight the Minotaur. As he went through the maze he unwound a ball of thread and, after killing the Minotaur, used the thread to find his way out.

Phoenix: A mythical bird that lived in Arabia and burned itself to death every 500 years. The roots of this story first appeared in Greek literature, in an account of Egypt given by Herodotus around 430 BC. When the phoenix was nearing death, it built a nest of sweet spices and sang while the sun ignited it. A worm arose from the ashes and grew into the new phoenix. A Phoenix can also be a person or thing that has been restored to a new existence from destruction, down fall or ruin.

History Mystery: Realm of Myths and Legends -6

Hydra: In Greek mythology, a many headed water snake that lived in the marshy plain of Lerna in new Argos. As one if his 12 Labors, Hercules was sent to kill the Hydra, but as soon as he cut off one of its heads two grew in its place. His charioteer had to help by burning the roots of each head.

Loch Ness Monster: large aquatic creature, nicknamed Nessie, said to live in Scotland’s Loch Ness. The first sighting was made in AD 565 by St Columba but only after a newspaper article in 1933 did the creature become world famous. In 1934, a London gynecologist called R.K. Wilson supposedly took a photograph of Nessie’s swan like neck, which resembled that of an extinct marine reptile called a plesiosaur. This has since been exposed as a hoax mounted by Marmaduke Wetherell, a film producer and big game hunter. Large, unidentified shapes have been picked up on sonar equipment, but there is still no undisputed proof of Nessie’s existence.

Mermaid: Mythical sea creature with a woman’s body and a fish’s tail. Mermaid legends are very old, and are remarkably similar whatever their country of origin. Mermaids are seductive Sirens, personifying the beauty and treachery of the sea. They are said to lull sailors to sleep with their sweet singing and they carry them away beneath the waves. Belief in the existence of a race of merfolk was wide spread among seamen until the late 19th century. Ti see a mermaid was considered a portent of danger and disaster.

Monday, August 29, 2011

History Mystery: Realm of Myths and Legends -5

Centaur: Creature in Greek mythology with the upper part of a human being and the lower body and legs of a horse, representing animal desires and barbarism. Centaurs were often depicted being ridden by Eros the Greek god of Love- an allusion to their lustful nature.

Cyclopes: Savage one eyed giants in Greek mythology. Their leader Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, imprisoned Odysseus in his cave and ate some of his men. The survivors blinded Polyphemus in his drunken sleep with a hot poker, and escaped by clinging to the bellies of his sheep when they were let out of his cave to graze. Odysseus incurred the undying hatred of Poseidon, who burdened his journey home with difficulties.

Gremlins: Mischievous spirits in the lore of British and American airmen. Gremlins were blamed for causing mechanical problems in military aircraft during World War II. They supposedly drank petrol , and were said to have the ability to raise and lower airfields beneath novice pilots as they came in to land.

Dragon: Imaginary fire breathing beast that figures in mythology and tales of chivalry, usually as a winged serpent with glaring eyes, flared nostrils, sharp teeth and talons. To Christians the dragon was a symbol of the Devil, and slaying the beast symbolized the triumph of Christ over evil. Many saints were depicted as dragon slayers, including St. George. In heraldry the dragon symbolized strength, and in Chinese mythology it was a benevolent beast.

Gog and Magog: Two mythical giants in British legend, statues of which now stand in London’s Guildhall. According to the legend, they were the last survivors of a race of British giants conquered by Brutus and his Trojan warriors.

Realm of Myths and Legends -4

Leda and the Swan: Story from Greek mythology about the rape of Leda, a queen of Sparta, by Zeus, who had taken the form of a swan. As a result of the rape, Helen of Troy hatched from w a white egg. The rape of Leda has frequently been portrayed in art, and W.B.Yeats wrote a poem entitled Leda and the Swan.

Hercules: Greek name Heracles. One of the greatest heroes of Classical mythology- a son of Zeus and supposedly the strongest man on the earth. To atone for slaughtering his family a fit of madness- inflicted on him by Hera- he was set 12 seemingly impossible tasks were to kill the Nemean Lion; to kill the many headed Hydra; to catch the Arcadian stag; to kill the Erymanthian boar; to clean the Augean Stables; to kill the vicious flock of Stymphalian birds; to catch Cretan bull given to Minos by Poseidon; to catch the man eating horses of Thrace; to seize the girdle of the queen of Amazons; to catch the cattle of monster Geryon; to fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides nymphs; and to fetch the three headed dog Cerberus who guarded the entrance to Hades. After successfully completing his labours and surviving many other adventures, Hercules was rewarded with immortality.
An extraordinary effort or task can be described as ‘Herculean’.

Nemesis: Greek goddess of retribution, who punished the wicked as well as anyone she deemed to be too fortunate. Anything that brings about a person’s down fall is described as their nemesis.