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Ancient Greek myths are full of weird birthing stories. From Aphrodite/ Venus, who was the result of a Titan’s castration, to Zeus finding out he is pregnant to Athena after having a headache (yes, the goddess of Wisdom was conceived in the brain), here are the ten weirdest births in ancient Greek mythology!
Perseus is the legendary founder of Mycenae and one of the greatest ancient Greek heroes; he is the one who actually killed the snake-haired Gorgon Medusa. Like with most mythical heroes, he was the son of Zeus and a mortal. The mortal was a princess named Danae. Danae’s father, Akrisios, had heard of a prophecy that his future grandchild would kill him. Akrisios locked Danae into a bronze chamber to make sure that she would never get impregnated. Well, that did not stop Zeus from impregnating Danae in the form of golden rain. Princess Danae ended up giving birth alone in the bronze chamber, surprising everyone when they found her with baby Perseus in her arms.
Number 9: Phanes and the Cosmic Egg
Phanes was an ancient Greek deity of procreation in the Orphic cosmogony. He was the generator of life and he might give the answer to the age-old question “what came first, the chicken or the egg?”. Well, according to Phanes’ myth it was the egg that came first. The ancient Greek deity came out of the cosmic egg along with a serpent and became the first king of the universe, long before Zeus took over.
Number 8: The Parthenogenesis of Hephaestus
Hephaestus is the ancient Greek god of crafts, fire, and volcanoes. He was the only Olympian god who had some physical abnormalities. According to Hesiod, this was a result of parthenogenesis – his mother, Hera, conceived him alone. Hera decided to give birth to a son to take revenge on Zeus for being unfaithful.
Zeus was the youngest child of Titan Cronus and Rhea. His eldest brothers and sisters, including Hera, Poseidon, and Hestia, were swallowed whole after their birth from their father. Rhea was able to hide baby Zeus before he was consumed alive and, once he grew up, he was able to free his siblings from Cronus’ belly. Zeus’ siblings were basically born twice and from both parents.
Number 6: The Birth of Artemis and Apollo in Exile
Artemis and Apollo are two twin Olympians who were the result of Zeus’ and Letos’ union. Hera, Zeus’ wife, had banned Leto from giving birth on land – whether that was the mainland or an island. However, Leto managed to find refuge on Delos island, which was surrounded by swans. Artemis was born quite easily, but Apollo’s birth lasted nine days and nights, because Hera has abducted Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth. According to some variations of the myth, newborn Artemis assisted with the delivery of her twin brother.
Number 5: The Unwanted Birth of Hercules/Heracles and Iphicles
Heracles (also known as Hercules) is one of the most well-known ancient Greek mythical heroes of all times. Since he was the son of Zeus and a mortal, Hera did everything she could to stop his mother Alcmene from giving birth to him and his twin(?) brother Iphicles. Iphicles was actually a brother from another father and was not related to Zeus. Hera did everything she could to slow down the birth of the two brothers and even tied the legs of Alcmene together. The goddess was finally distracted by a servant and Alcmene delivered the babies successfully.
Number 4: The Spectacular Birth of Helen of Troy
Mythical Helen was once considered to be the most beautiful woman on Earth. Her kidnapping sparked the Trojan war, which was the starting point of Homer’s Odyssey. Helen was conceived and delivered under surprising circumstances. Zeus transformed into a swan and mated with a woman named Leda. She then laid eggs that hatched and yielded Helen and her brothers and sisters.
Dionysus is the god of wine and he was later associated with ancient Greek drama. The god was actually born twice. His mother was Semele, a mortal who (unsurprisingly) got impregnated by Zeus, and was targeted by Hera for this exact reason. This time, Hera pretended to be a friend of Semele and asked her about the father of her unborn baby. Semele revealed the true identity of the father but Hera pretended to not believe her. Semele then asked Zeus to tell the world about his son – something that Hera knew would anger him. Zeus sent lightning bolts to Semele, killing her. However, he did not want his unborn child to die as well. He sewed the fetus on his thigh and few months later, Dionysus was born.
Number 2: Athena’s Birth Was a Literal Headache
Goddess Athena was also a result of Zeus’ lust for a mortal woman. This time, the woman was called Metis. Zeus impregnated her but then heard of a prophesy that Metis would give birth to two children; her firstborn would be a girl and she would later give birth to a boy who would overthrow Zeus. The king of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus decided that the best way to protect himself would be to consume pregnant Metis alive. Some months later, Zeus started feeling unwell. He had a terrible headache that felt like something wanted to tear his head apart. Hephaestus then followed Hermes instructions and split Zeus’ head apart to see what the problem was. And that was when goddess Athena jumped out of his head. She was fully grown and already wearing her armor!
Number 1: The Not So Graceful Birth of Venus (Aphrodite)
Aphrodite (or Venus in Latin) is the goddess of beauty and romance. Her birth has been featured in multiple art pieces since the Renaissance, but the reality is that is was not as graceful as it’s been depicted. Aphrodite was the result of the castration of Cronus from the Olympians. Her brothers and sisters threw the severed parts of Cronus in the ocean and she rose from the sea foam.
Many American Universities include social organizations such as fraternities and sororities. These groups are named after Greek letters, a tradition that reportedly started with the Phi Beta Kappa Society at the College of William and Mary. That is because in the 18th and 19th Centuries, higher education in the United States focused on the study of Latin and Ancient Greek. Knowing Latin was a requirement to study in a University, whereas knowing Greek meant that you were very cultured and significantly increased someone’s chances of getting accepted.
The only difference is that ancient and biblical Greek -sometimes modern Greek as well- were taught with the Erasmian pronunciation, which is different than the native speakers’ pronunciation.
Here is how some sororities would sound like in Greek:
Last time we followed Odysseus back to his kingdom, Ithaca. There he met with his son Telemachus and his loyal friend Eumaeus. Today we will cover books 17 to 24 of the Odyssey, finishing this series.
“The Odyssey” Books 17 – 20: The Suitors Meet Beggar-Odysseus
Telemachus visits the palace of Ithaca and meets his mother. She embraces him and asks whether he was able to collect any news regarding his father. The young prince follows the plan and does not reveal that his father has reached the island. Instead, he says that he is captured in Calypso’s island and that they should make a sacrifice to appease the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. That is when Theoclymenus enters the scene. He is a prophet from Argos who was wanted for committing murder. The fugitive had sought refuge in Telemachus’ boat and ended up in Ithaca. He revealed that he had seen Odysseus on the island, but Penelope did not believe him.
It was almost nighttime when the suitors visited the palace to dine and drink wine. They used to eat and drink at the palace every night, along with Penelope’s maids. The queen of Ithaca was feeling helpless and unable to bring order to the kingdom of Ithaca. The island was ruled by complete chaos.
What the suitors did not know was that Odysseus, dressed up as a beggar, was walking towards his kingdom, along with his loyal friend, Eumaeus. A man named Melanthios sees the men and taunts Odysseus for his appearance. And what follows is one of the most iconic parts of Homer’s Odyssey: Odysseus’ dog, Argos, was spotted laying nearby. Argos was only a puppy when the king of Ithaca travelled to Troy. But the dog, which was very old and neglected at that time, was able to recognize his master immediately and started wagging its tail. Argos was unable to run to Odysseus and due to his excitement and old age, died at the scene. The friendship between a dog and a man was considered sacred since ancient times.
Odysseus finally enters the palace and, pretending he is a beggar, starts asking for money from the thousands of suitors. Some of them throw bread at him. The king then starts narrating a story; how he also used to be rich. Antinous, one of the suitors, hits him on the shoulder and Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, asks the gods to punish him. He doesn’t attack yet; his journey has taught him a lot and he has paid for his hybris.
Meanwhile, another beggar appears on the scene and asks Odysseus to fight – he didn’t want another beggar taking away some of his potential earnings. The beggar gets intimidated by Odysseus’ strong physique and the suitors offer some meat to the winner. The suitors have one more drink for the night and leave.
The king and prince of Ithaca then start hiding their weapons in the palace; they will use them tomorrow to scare away and kill the suitors. Once they are done, Odysseus visits Penelope in her chamber. The faithful queen of Ithaca does not recognize her husband. She sees a beggar who was mistreated by her maids and the angry suitors and feels bad for him. She asks him to narrate his story, but the man explains his past is too painful to be brought up. Penelope, feeling very familiar towards this stranger, starts discussing her own problems. How powerless she feels and how she might have to end up marrying one the suitors, although she detests them.
Odysseus then starts narrating a story to Penelope. That he is originally from Crete and that he once hosted Odysseus during his homecoming trip. He manages to describe him accurately; he was the same person after all. The queen cries and promises to host the man in her palace. The man promises that Odysseus is alive and on his way back, but Penelope cannot believe this scenario. So many years have passed by.
Following the rules of philoxenia, Penelope instructs Eyrykleia, her most loyal maid, to clean the host’s feet. The maid recognizes Odysseus from a hunting wound on his thigh and Odysseus warns her to not reveal his identity. Penelope then asks for Odysseus advice. She dreamt of an eagle that preys on geese in her kingdom; the eagle talks to her and says he is Odysseus and the geese are no other than the suitors. Odysseus says he believes that the dream will come true but Penelope is skeptical. She also reveals that she plans to choose her new husband tomorrow. She will marry whoever is able to shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads with Odysseus bow. Her real, disguised husband reminds her that Odysseus will come back and Penelope runs towards her chamber in tears.
Odysseus spends the night trying to convince himself to not attack the suitors while they sleep. Goddess Athena visits him and reassures him he will be able to fight against the suitors on his own. She promised to protect him with her divine powers. Meanwhile, Penelope prays to goddess Artemis to end her life.
The next morning, Penelope gathers the suitors in the main hall and announces them that she will marry one of them. She explains that the new king of Ithaca will be the man who will be able to shoot an arrow through twelve axe heads with Odysseus’ bow.
The suitors fail one by one and then beggar Odysseus asks to give it a try. The suitors laugh but Penelope allows him to use the bow, promising that she will give him food and clothes if he succeeds. Telemachus, knowing what is about to follow, leads his mother inside the house, while Eumaeus makes sure that the doors are locked. Odysseus shoots the arrow, which manages to go through all twelve axe heads. At the same time, a lightning strikes, a sign that Zeus is with Odysseus’ side again.
Once Odysseus shows his skills, he throws an arrow at Antinous, the vilest of the suitors. The rest of the men try to find their weapons but Odysseus and Telemachus had made sure to hid them carefully. With Athena’s help, Odysseus defeats the suitors one by one, and makes sure that the maids that were disloyal to him get punished as well.
Eyrykleia, the old maid, informs Penelope about Odysseus’ return and the death of the suitors. Penelope cannot believe this scenario; she thinks that the gods punished the suitors for their hybris and that Odysseus is dead. But then Odysseus enters her room and reveals his true identity. Penelope is hesitant to believe him; but Odysseus talks about their bed, which he had carved himself from an olive tree that has its roots in the foundation of the house. This bed cannot be moved, just like the couple’s faith and loyalty to each other. This secret that only he and she knew was enough to make Penelope believe that her husband was alive and standing in front of her. She hugs him and apologizes to him for her skepticism.
There are now two things left to do, a sacrifice to god Poseidon and a visit to the vineyards of Laertes, Odysseus’ old father. Odysseus meets his father, they embrace, and makes sure that Poseidon will favor him again by visiting the mainland holding the Winnowing Oar and making a sacrifice when he meets the first person who is unaware of the sea and seamen. As for the suitors, they end up in Hades, and their loss divides the people of Ithaca. With Athena’s intervention, peace is declared, and the Ithacans follow Odysseus, their true king; the one who is favored by the gods.
Last time we followed Odysseus from Troy to the land of the Lotus Eaters. We also saw what was happening in Ithaca during his absence. This time, we will continue with book nine of the Odyssey and follow Odysseus’ journey across the
Many people choose to live in Greece for work, studies, and love or because they want to experience the southern European lifestyle. There is a big expat community in Greece that consists of people from all around the world. Students, scholars, au pairs, entrepreneurs, farmers, artists, history lovers, and tourism workers move to Greece every year. Although speaking the language is not always required, it is recommended that you learn at least the basics of the Greek language. I can assure you that Greek is not as difficult as it seems.
Learning a new language requires building a strong grammatical foundation and enriching your vocabulary. Following your language instructor’s tips is crucial. The same goes with doing your homework and spending time studying. But if you want to become fluent in a language, you have to step up your game and immerse yourself in the language; learn in an indirect way, without studying “the traditional way”. Here are nine ways that can help you immerse yourself in Greek or any other language you want to learn!
Many young women and men choose to travel the world by becoming au pairs (seen also as “aupairs” or “au-pairs”). An au pair is a nanny/babysitter or household helper from a different country, who helps the host family learn his/her native language, while practicing the language of the hosts himself/herself. This is a great way to travel the world, while saving money, learning new languages, and developing important life skills and relationships.
Note: There are many agencies and applications that match au pairs with families. I can’t stretch enough how important it is to do a thorough research before travelling alone to live with a family you’ve never met in person or before hiring someone to take care of your children and live in your house. At the same time, you should be aware of your rights as an au pair and discuss your responsibilities with your host family in advance. Having experience as a babysitter, camp counselor etc. is a great advantage but not always required.
Benefits of Being an Au Pair | Becoming an Au Pair
As an au pair you will:
Become more responsible. Being responsible is a prerequisite when it comes to taking care of children. However, you will soon realize how much more responsible you will become in the process of taking care of someone else’s children and household.
Make friendships that last. Most au pairs create life-long bonds with their host family. In many cases, they become part of the family and visit them again in the future. Not only that, but there are tight knit au pair communities in every part of the world. Many au pairs spend valuable time with other au pairs in their days off and build friendships that easy.
Greek Lessons for Au Pairs | Learn Greek Online with Helinika
When a Greek family looks for a foreign au pair, they probably want you to speak your local language with their children. In this way, they can learn your language in a natural, immersive way. At the same time, it is important that you know at least the basics of the Greek language. The hosts will probably choose an au pair that speaks Greek over someone who doesn’t, even if the goal of having an au pair is to help the children learn your native language. If you daydream about becoming an au pair in Greece but Greek “is all Greek to you”, don’t be discouraged. Learning the basics of a language doesn’t always require spending a lot of hours/money in private language schools or tutors. You can teach yourself Greek at home with easy-to-follow video tutorials! Helinika has a complete video course series for learning Greek that can help you learn Greek in two months (on average). By registering through the following button, you will be able to receive a significantly lower price (special for au pairs). The course includes: