Seven Facts About Zeus (the Greek God) | #GreekMyths

Zeus is perhaps the most well-known Greek god of Mount Olympus. Apart from his leading role in several Greek myths, he has also been featured in countless contemporary books and films. Here are seven facts you should know about Zeus.

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7 Facts about Zeus

  1. Zeus is the Leader of the Olympian Gods
  2. Zeus Looks Much Hotter Than You Might Think
  3. Zeus Is a Womanizer and a Serial Cheater
  4. Zeus Weapon of Choice is the Thunderbolt
  5. Zeus Is Associated with Hospitality (Xenios Zeus)
  6. Zeus Was Raised by a… Goat
  7. Zeus Has a Different Name in Modern Greek

Zeus is the Leader of the Olympian Gods

Zeus is the ruler of Mount Olympus and the leader of all Greek gods and goddesses but also humans. His arrival was predicted by an orator. Before Zeus was in charge, the world was ruled by a Titan with cannibalistic tendencies: Cronus. Cronus feared the prophecy that said that one of his children would violently overthrow him. As soon as his wife would give birth to a baby, he would eat it alive. Zeus was the Titan’s youngest son and the only one who survived. Zeus saved his siblings from his father’s belly and destroyed him. He became Greece’s leading god, and he is often associated with the “father god” of monotheistic religions. However, his appearance and personality are far from these figures.

Zeus Looks Much Hotter Than You Might Think

Fatherly god figures are usually portrayed as old wise men with long white beards, rather than muscular and powerful young men. In some modern-day films and depictions, Zeus is also portrayed as an old man. But, in reality, Greek gods and goddesses were thought to be fit, young, and more attractive than most humans. The same goes for Zeus. Ancient Greek sculptures and pieces of art depict him this way. Although he sports a beard, his facial hair is not that of an old man. Zeus’ appearance evolved over time and there was a time when he was mostly depicted as a wise grandfather.

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Zeus Is a Womanizer and a Serial Cheater

Zeus is an attractive god who used his looks to seduce mortal women on a regular basis. It is impossible to count all of his affairs. Zeus is married to his sister, Hera, who ends up punishing the women Zeus sleeps with. When the ruler of Mount Olympus is rejected in his regular form, he transforms himself into different animals. He appeared to Europe as a bull, to Danae as golden rain, and Leda embraced Zeus in his swan form.

Zeus Weapon of Choice is the Thunderbolt

Zeus’s signature weapon is the thunderbolt. That is why he is also named as the “god of thunder”, throwing lightning bolts to his enemies from Mount Olympus. Zeus’s weapon was created by the Cyclops as a “thank you” gift for freeing them from the tyranny of the Titans.

Zeus Is Associated with Hospitality (Xenios Zeus)

Apart from the ruler of the gods and the god of thunder, Zeus has also another role; that of Xenios. Xenios Zeus is the god of hospitality (philoxenia). The latter was taken very seriously in ancient Greece. There were sacred rules that were followed religiously by those welcoming someone in their home. At the same time, people who wandered in places they’ve never been before had a god to pray to for protection. That was Xenios Zeus.

Zeus Was Raised by a… Goat

As mentioned earlier, Zeus was the only child of Cronus that was not consumed alive. That is because Rhea, his mother, had managed to hide him far from his tyrannical father. Cronus ended up eating a rock, which was swaddled like a baby. Zeus then grew up far away from his family in a cave in the island of Crete. He was raised by a goat named Amalthea. In some variations of the myth, Amalthea is not a goat but… a beautiful nymph.

Zeus Has a Different Name in Modern Greek

Ancient Greeks called Zeus “Ζευς”, hence his international name. But modern Greeks refer to Zeus as “Δίας” (Dias). If you studied ancient Greek in school, then you might know that the genitive of “Ζευς” is “Διός”. And it is assumed that this is the reason why modern Greeks call Zeus “Δίας”.

Do you have any other facts to add to the list? You can leave a comment down below! If you enjoyed watching this video, like, subscribe and share with a friend who loves ancient Greek mythology. At helinika.com and Helinika’s YouTube channel you will find plenty of articles and videos on the Greek language, history, and culture.

Seven Greek Destinations and Sites for People Who Love Greek Mythology

“Live your myth in Greece” – the phrase used to be Greece’s motto in some older international tourism campaigns. And that was for a good reason. Imagine stepping at the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis or cliff jumping at the home of the Cabeirian Mysteries. A trip to Greece is not just a seaside vacation but also a time-travelling experience.

If you have subscribed to Helinika’s YouTube channel, there is a great chance you love ancient Greek mythology and history, while also enjoying travelling. Here are seven Greek destinations and sites for people who would love to visit the most mythical places in Greece. Before we get started, make sure to like this video if you love travelling and mythology!

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7 Greek Destinations and Greek Sites for People Who Love Mythology

  1. Mt. Olympus
  2. Athens
  3. Delphi
  4. Eleusina
  5. Delos
  6. Samothrace
  7. Olympia

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Olympia, Peloponnese

One of the most important Panhellenic religious sanctuaries was situated in a small town in Ilia (Elis), in the Peloponnese. The town was named after the Olympian gods and goddesses, and it is still known as “Olympia”. Not only that but this is where the ancient Olympic Games were held every four years. A modern town with the same name is situated near “Archaea Olympia”, which is the ancient town and archaeological site. In ancient Olympia you will find ancient temples and training grounds that are maintained in a very good condition. Great examples are the “Palaestra”, the training grounds of wrestlers, and the ruins of the Temple of Hera. A trip to Olympia can be compared to a… time-travelling experience.

Samothrace Island, Northern Aegean Sea

Samothrace has been mentioned in many of Helinika’s articles and videos. That is because it is not just one of Greece’s hidden beauties, but also one of the country’s most mysterious sites. The Greek island is located in the northern Aegean Sea and it attracts people who love nature and mythology. Samothrace (also seen as Samothraki) was a major religious site in ancient Greece. It was the place where the ancient Cabeirian Mysteries were held, while it is still the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods; a temple complex to a group of enigmatic Greek gods. By visiting Samothrace you can spend your summer vacation by the sea, in close proximity to one of the world’s most mysterious places.

Delos Island, Cyclades

Delos is another mysterious Greek island. Situated at the heart of the Cyclades, Delos is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. It was also reportedly the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site which can only be visited during the day. Overnight stays are not allowed but you can book a day trip from the nearby island of Mykonos.

Eleusina, West Attica

Eleusina (also seen as Eleusis) is a small town in West Attica, in close proximity to the city of Athens. The town is mostly known for its archaeological site – one of the most visited and well-maintained sites in Greece. The town is associated with goddess Demetra and her daughter, Persephone, and it was the place where the enigmatic Eleusinian Mysteries were held. Eleusina is a place every mythology lover should visit at least once in their lifetime.  

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Delphi, Phocis

Most Greek myths and epic poems involve a prophecy and an orator. One of the most trusted ancient Greek oracles was the oracle of Delphi in Phocis, central Greece. You may have heard the name Pytho, who had the role of Pythia. Pythia was the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, who would give oracles for the future with the rustling of the leaves. Today, the area is an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A new town with the same name is in close proximity to the archaeological site. Visiting Delphi is truly a magical experience.

Athens, Attica

Athens is the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece and a popular destination for people who love history and mythology. Democracy was born in Athens. In Classical Antiquity, it was the most important cultural, artistic, and philosophical center in the West. The city is named after goddess Athena who, according to an old myth, offered the Athenians the olive tree. The production and export of olive oil reportedly contributed to the city’s financial success. The Greek capital has plenty of archaeological sites and museums, such as the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. Visiting Athens should definitely be on your list.

Mt. Olympus, Pieria

Ancient Greeks believed that Mount Olympus was the home of the twelve gods and goddesses who influenced every aspect of their lives. Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and the rest of the Olympians. Olympus is a real mountain located in Pieria in Northern Greece. It is the highest mountain in Greece and a World Biosphere Reserve. Gods and goddesses were thought to reside at 2.917 meters at its highest peak, Mytikas. Many hikers and climbers ascend to Mytikas to see Greece from Zeus’ perspective. If you are not an avid hiker, there are many traditional villages all around Olympus that you can drive to. There are also countless ancient and medieval sites, such as the archaeological park of Dion and the ancient city of Pydna. It goes without saying that Mount Olympus is the number one destination for people who love history, mythology, and nature.

Now, I am curious to hear if you have ever visited any of these places. If you liked this video, you can hit the like button and subscribe to stay connected.

Vampires in Santorini…? Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Mysterious Greece

haunted greek islands

Greek islands are famous for their picturesque villages, aesthetically pleasing architecture, unique landscapes, and crystal-clear waters. But some of these islands are shrouded in mystery. For example, what is the story behind the vampire islands near the island of Skyros? And who were the “sea demons” that scared the locals on the island of Agkistri?

In the last episode of Helinika’s “Mysterious Greece” series, we discovered the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece. Today, we explore a list of six Greek islands that have sparked the interest of archaeologists, historians, and researchers of the unexplained. From Samothraki island in Northern Aegean to the tiny island of Antikythera, Greece is surrounded by legends, myths, and thrills. Stay till the end because no. 1 will surprise you!

Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Greek Mysteries

  1. Delos Island
  2. Vrykolakonisia (Vampire Islands)
  3. Samothraki Island
  4. Antikythera Island
  5. Salamina Island
  6. Agkistri Island (Kekryfalia)

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The Mysteries of Agkistri

Agkistri (also seen as Angistri or Agistri) is a small island situated in the Saronic Gulf, in close proximity to the city of Athens. It is one of the greenest islands in Greece. That is why ancient Greeks called it “Kekryfalia” – which can be translated as “decorated/ covered head”. Today, Agkistri is mostly known as a popular weekend destination for Athenians. But the beautiful island is also associated with several myths and thrills.

Since ancient antiquity, the people of Agkistri feared the “Telhines” – sea demons who visited other islands as well, such as Rhodes and Crete. Although these creatures allegedly taught humans the art of metallurgy, they were also sorcerers that could cause the “evil eye”; they could harm humans with their jealous stares.

The myth of the Telchines survived for many centuries. In Medieval times, Telchines were now believed to be amphibian monsters that terrorized islanders who wondered around the streets late at night. They were short – not bigger than the size of an average dog – but they looked terrifying.

This is reportedly the reason why many traditional houses in Agkistri have enormous staircases leading to their front door. Many of these houses have ceramic faces built on their walls to scare away the Telchines.

According to modern historians and marine biologists, Medieval fishermen were probably terrified at the sight of the so-called “Jenny Hanivers” that were caught in their fishnets. Jenny Haniver is the name given to the carcass of a ray or devil fish that has been dried out or mummified. Their appearance is… terrifying.

Although Jenny Hanivers were often modified by humans and displayed in museums in the past, they can also result naturally under prolonged exposure to the sun. It is therefore believed that the island of Agkistri was not attacked by sea monsters but rather by… dried out rays. Looking at how these rays looked like, no one can blame the islanders for being terrified!

Salamina and the Unexplained

Salamina (also known as Salamis or Koulouri) is another island in the Saronic Gulf. It is the closest island to the city of Athens and many Athenians choose to build their summer houses there. The island has a long history and it is mostly known for the battle of Salamis, the important naval battle in 480 BC, which resulted in the victory of the Greeks against the Persians.

But for reasons that are not yet clear, the island has a disproportionate amount of urban legends, ghost stories, and mysteries. For example, there is the story of the “haunted battleship” named “Lemnos” (link in Greek) that caused panic in the naval base of Salamis in 1932 and resulted in a police investigation.

Sailors had repeatedly reported seeing terrifying ghostly apparitions in the corridors. They would often exit the ship in the middle of the night, after hearing unexplained banging on the walls, along with whispers and screams coming out of nowhere.

According to newspaper reports of that time, most of the sailors had at least one terrifying experience and the police had been called to investigate the subject. But the sailors of the neighboring battleship “Ierax II” were not convinced. They decided to stay awake the whole night, staring at the nearby battleship for any paranormal activity.

A sailor named Emmanuel Maxouris couldn’t believe his colleagues believed in ghosts. He stood up and started yelling at them when he saw something staring at him from one of the portholes of “Lemnos”. He looked closely and he saw an emaciated hand touching the porthole and, right behind it, there was a skull staring back at him.

Maxouris ended up being hospitalized, since he passed out right after seeing the skeleton on the nearby battleship. It is not clear what were the findings of the police investigation but, after this incidence, everyone on Salamis believed that something out of this world lurked on the battleship “Lemnos”.

Salamina is full of many similar stories. Many believe that the forest area surrounding the monastery of Panagia Faneromeni is haunted. There is an urban legend that there is an old woman walking in the area late at night, asking people to follow her. If the person is not wearing a cross, he or she follows the woman in a trans-like state and disappears forever. Not only that but many of the nearby abandoned houses are thought to be haunted. Why Salamina has so many scary stories remains a mystery.

Mysterious Places in Athens, Greece | Mysterious Greece

The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.

The Secret in the Sea of Antikythera

Antikythera (also known as Aigilia) is one of the most mysterious Greek islands, after an archaeological discovery in 1901, which changed the way we viewed ancient civilizations. The tiny island is located between Crete and the Peloponnese and it is one of the least touristic Greek destinations.

In 1901, a mysterious artifact in the sea of Antikythera drew the attention of the international scientific community. That is the Antikythera Mechanism that was discovered in a nearby Roman shipwreck by a group of sponge divers from Symi.

The sponge divers had discovered the shipwreck by accident in 1900, after getting stranded in Antikythera thanks to a storm. A year later, they helped the Greek government explore it. The divers recovered several important artifacts: statues, coins, pieces of glasswork, and several other bronze items – including a weird looking machine. Unfortunately, one diver named Georgios Kritikos died during the expedition and two more were paralyzed after suffering from decompression sickness.

The items were transported to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where archaeologists started examining them. That’s when they realized that one of the bronze items was actually a 2000-year-old complicated mechanism that displayed the motion of the universe and calculated astronomical events. The Antikythera Mechanism -as it was named- was the first analogue computer. This finding baffled scientists, since it required manufacturing techniques that are considered too sophisticated for that time period. Its exact use still remains a mystery.

What makes the story even more interesting is the fact that the mechanism was lost in a storm, during an attempt to transport it to Rome, and it was recovered 2000 years later… thanks to a storm. Although Antikythera is not full of mysteries like many of the other islands on the list, the Sea of Antikythera is definitely a mystery!

Mysterious Samothraki

You may know Samothraki thanks to the statue of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”, which is now displayed in the Louvre. Samothraki (also seen as Samothrace) is an island located in the northern Aegean Sea and a popular summer destination for northern Greeks.

In antiquity, Samothraki was not an area of political or economic significance. But it was an island of religious significance, housing the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, a temple complex where several religious ceremonies used to take place. It was also the meeting point for the members of the Cult of the Great Gods who participated in the Cabeirian Mysteries.  Just like with the Eleusinian Mysteries that we have seen in the past, details regarding the Cabeirian rituals remain a… mystery.

Due to its religious significance, Samothraki continues attracting spiritual people from all around the world. Some of the most popular sights are its waterfalls and Oros Feggari (translated as Mount Moon in English). The island has also its own recent urban legends and stories. For example, many new age believers avoid camping in close proximity to the river Fonias. Fonias (Φονιάς) means “killer” in Greek, but this is not the reason they avoid spending the night there. The area supposedly has a strong energy that… can keep you up at night!

But the weirdest stories about Samothraki surround the “Vdelolimni” a small lake that it is rumored to be the home of the Topakes (Τόπακες) – weird creatures that live under the surface of the Earth and visit our world late at night. If you hear the locals’ descriptions of the Topakes, it doesn’t take long to realize that they refer to what we call “fairies” and “elves” in other parts of the world.

Locals and visitors have also reportedly witnessed a weird phenomenon at Vdelolimni (link in Greek). Every ten years, the lake appears to be boiling and a weird mist surrounds the area. That is your warning sign to leave the place as soon as possible, unless you want to come across the “Skylolakas” – a terrifying dog-like monster that jumps straight out of hell!

Although stories about fairies and other creatures existed since ancient times, the story of Skylolakas is a more recent one. According to the legend, during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, an Ottoman ruler summoned a demon to make sure that locals remain obedient. This resulted in the creation of a portal to hell that opens and closes every ten years.

The Greek Vampire Islands

If you have watched Helinika’s video on ancient Greek vampires, then you already know that legends about the undead existed in Greece for thousands of years. It may be easier to imagine a vampire hiding in a misty forest in Transylvania, but, what if I told you that vampires reportedly lurked in sunny Santorini?

Greek vampires do not have the classic Hollywood look – they are more similar to zombies than to Dracula or Edward Cullen. And they would terrorize the living during the night, by destroying their properties, eating their livestock, and, if they managed to get into a house, they would violently attack anyone living there.

The main reason someone would turn into a “vrykolakas” (as Greeks call vampires) is an improper burial. But the character of the person who was buried also played a role; mean-spirited and jealous people were more at risk. The same goes for people who were wronged and needed to bring justice.

Stories like this survived in many Greek islands -Crete, Santorini, Rhodes…- for thousands of years with only minor differences. In Medieval and Ottoman Greece, locals would often bury the dead in small uninhabited islands, since the “vrykolakas” cannot cross a body of water. These islands are known as “Vrykolakonisia” (Vampire Islands).

Opposite the island of Skyros, there is also a group of islands known also as “Vrykolakonisia”. But the name was reportedly given to these islands after they were used to isolate those who had contracted the bubonic plague during the worst years of the “Black Death”.

For reasons that are not fully clear, there has been an connection between the “Black Death” and legends about vampires. During this health crisis, bodies would be casually buried in a ditch before their proper burial, to avoid spreading the disease. Some patients were buried alive by accident and, when their bodies were dug out to be transported in their final burial ground, their arms and legs were placed in peculiar positions. According to historians, that led people to believe that the dead were angry for being thrown into a ditch without a proper burial ceremony and that turned them into vampires.

The Mysteries of Delos

The most mysterious Greek island is located right at the heart of the Cycladic Archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Apart from the center of the Cyclades, it is also the center of the most extensive archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean. A place with a rich mythological and historical background. This is the mysterious island of Delos.

According to ancient Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of god Apollo and goddess Artemis. It is estimated that it was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC and it later became the meeting point of the cult of Dionysus and Leto. But apart from an important religious site, it soon became a trade, political, and cultural center. Many archaeological findings were transported in Museums in Athens. Others, like the famous lion statues, remain on the sacred island.

The history of Delos has inspired many stories. For example, many people believe that Delos has a strong, almost therapeutic energy, thanks to the repeated cleansings that were performed there by the Athenians but also thanks to the island’s location (it is literally at the epicenter of the Cyclades). Moreover, some people believe that the buildings, sculptures and other items on Delos contain symbols and encrypted messages. Others even claim that the island is visited by UFOs.

Delos is now an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can visit during the day by boat from Mykonos, Naxos, or Paros. The only residents are the people who have dedicated their lives in protecting and preserving the artifacts and monuments of Delos. As you can imagine, an island that is a sacred and fully-protected archaeological site deserves the first place on this list.

Which island is the most mysterious island in your opinion? Have you visited any of these places? Leave a comment down below. If you enjoyed watching this video, feel free to like and share. If you are new here, subscribe and stay connected! In the description you will find a link to Helinika’s Udemy course for learning Greek, among other helpful links!

Is This the Worst Greek God / Goddess? | Evil Greek Goddess

When looking for the evilest ancient Greek god or goddess, usually three come to mind: Pluton/Hades, Pan, and Hecate. But what if I told you that there is another divine being that shares more characteristics with the devil, than the previous three.

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Why Pluton, Pan, and Hecate are not the Worst

Pluton was the brother of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon. He was the most unfortunate one because he ended up being offered the underworld as his kingdom, when the rest resided in Mount Olympus. However, Pluton willingly agreed to take care of Hades, the ancient Greek kingdom of the dead, and all the chthonic deities that resided there.

Hades is often described as the ancient Greek version of hell since it is located under the ground. But Hades was both heaven and hell. And Pluton had both positive and negative traits. He had abducted his niece, Persephone, but Zeus and other Olympian gods had committed similar acts. He was feared because he was associated with death, but he was not considered evil.

Pan and Hecate were two chthonic deities; they also resided under the surface of the Earth. Hecate is associated with witchcraft and magic and got a bad reputation in late antiquity and Medieval times. But she wasn’t necessarily an evil goddess. She was actually the only Titan who was liked and respected by the Olympians and she was the only one who felt bad for Demeter and helped her find her daughter, Persephone.

Pan on the other hand is not only a chthonic deity but he also has some physical similarities to the devil. He is half-man, half-goat. He is a trickster but, in certain circumstances, he can instill fear to people. For example, when Greeks and Persians were fighting in the battle of Marathon, Pan exited a cave and started yelling and making horrifying sounds. He caused panic to the Persians – and now you know where the word pan-ic comes from. But he was never considered an evil god.

There is in fact another deity from ancient Greek mythology who is the most diabolical of them all.

Eris: The Evilest Greek Goddess

The devil is the personification of evil. In Greek, the term «διάβολος» derives from the Greek verb «διαβάλω» (to slander). It represents all negative feelings but primarily jealousy and power-seeking by creating division. Just like the serpent that offered the apple to Eve in the creation myth. The snake slandered God and instilled the idea of rebellion to the first humans. It created division.

By looking at ancient Greek myths and specifically at the Homeric hymns, we can easily detect a goddess who, not only created division motivated by jealousy, but also did this by offering… an apple. And the result was a violent war that we call the Trojan War.

“Strife whose wrath is relentless, she is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.”, Homer says about Eris.

“Potter is angry with potter, craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar (…)”, writes Hesiod in Works and Days.

Eris (Έριδα) is the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Contrary to Pan, Hades, and Hecate, Eris had no temples in ancient Greece. It is safe to say that she was the least liked deity. She is also thought to have inspired countless evil characters in fairytales, including Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. She even inspired a parody religion in the 1950s called “Discordianism”.

According to some sources, she was the daughter of the Night and she also gave birth to many children – including Ponos (pain), Loimos (death by pestilence), and Fonos (Murder). She is supposedly behind every fight, divorce, and problems that result from jealousy. But she is mostly well-known for the “apple of discord myth”.

Once upon a time, the mortal king named Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis got married on the mountain range of Pelion. All gods and goddesses were invited to the reception to celebrate the union of a mortal with deity. All except one: Eris. It was deemed inappropriate to invite the goddess of discord in the celebration of a marital union.

But Eris found a way to bring chaos from a distance. The ancient Greek goddess approached the wedding party holding a golden apple. She had inscribed on the apple the phrase: “to the fairest of them all”. Once she saw a group of goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, chatting with each other, she tossed the apple towards them and left.

What ensued was a vanity-fueled dispute among the goddesses, who asked for the help of a beautiful mortal man, Paris. They asked Paris to give his honest opinion but, they then proceeded to offer him different prices in return. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love and probably the objective winner of the prize, offered Paris the only thing he was missing: a partner to stand by his side. Aphrodite ensured him that he will marry the “most beautiful woman in the world” who was no other than Helen, queen of Sparta. She won and a new war soon began.

If you enjoyed watching this video feel free to like and subscribe. Starting next week, videos will be posted every Tuesday and Thursday. Videos on the Greek language on Tuesdays and videos on the Greek history and culture on Thursdays. The videos will be available on demand, so you can watch them anytime.

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7 Facts about Aphrodite (Venus) | #GreekMyths

aphrodity

Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of beauty, love, and procreation. You may know her with her Roman name, Venus. The Greek goddess played an important role in countless mythological stories, including the Iliad. Here are some facts about Aphrodite (Venus) that few people know.

Facts about the Greek Goddess of Beauty and Love, Aphrodite:

  1. Aphrodite’s Ungracefully Graceful Birth
  2. Aphrodite’s Attendants
  3. Aphrodite’s Complicated Love Life
  4. Aphrodite’s Cult
  5. Aphrodite’s Festival: the Aphrodisia
  6. Aphrodite’s Role in the Trojan War
  7. Aphrodite as an Art Muse and Model

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Aphrodite’s Ungracefully Graceful Birth

Aphrodite’s (Venus’) birth has been depicted in countless paintings and frescos since the Renaissance. The goddess of love and beauty rises from the sea foam, near the island state of Cyprus. But what happened few moments earlier, is not so graceful. Aphrodite’s birth was the result of titan’s Chronus’ castration by Zeus and the other Olympian gods, as narrated in Helinika’s video titled “The 12 Olympian Gods | Greek Gods Family Tree: From the Titans to The Olympians”. The Olympians threw the cut body part of Chronus into the sea and Aphrodite was born.

Aphrodite’s Attendants

Eros and Himeros are the two main Aphrodite’s attendants – her loyal companions who followed her around. They are both depicted as young winged men. Eros is the personification of romantic love and Himeros the personification of strong romantic attraction. Other attendants of Aphrodite are Pothos, passion, and Peitho, persuasion. Peitho refers to both romantic and political persuasion. In romance, it can be described as the art of seduction. It is worth mentioning that in Roman mythology, the attendants of Venus are depicted as winged babies – at least this is the case of Cupid, the Roman version of Eros. In ancient Greek mythology, Aphrodite and her attendants are eternal young adults.

Aphrodite’s Complicated Love Life

As the goddess of love, Aphrodite is known for her various love stories. Her love interests were both gods and mortals. Unfortunately, the mortals who were involved with Aphrodite had very tragic endings, such as Adonis, who was shared between Aphrodite and Persephone, and ended up dying during a hunting trip. Another mortal is Anchises, who revealed the identity of his lover to his mortal friends and was hit with a lightning sent by Zeus. When it comes to her immortal lovers, these include Hephaestus, Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus. In some texts, she is reportedly in a steady relationship with Hephaestus and cheats on him with Ares.

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Aphrodite’s Cult

Aphrodite’s followers included any woman who wanted to ensure she remains beautiful and fertile, while enjoying a successful love life. There was also the cult of Aphrodite in her temple in the city of Corinth, where she had several female servants called hetairai. These women would often perform “sacred mating” in exchange for money.

Aphrodite’s Festival: the Aphrodisia

Aphrodite is also associated with a summer festival called “Aphrodisia”. The “Aphrodisia” were celebrated in numerous Greek city-states but were of great importance in Athens, Corinth, and Cyprus. On the ancient Greek month Hekatombaion -which started on the third week of July and lasted till the third week of August- the hetairai and other women worshipped the goddess. They would purify her temple with the blood of a dove and they would offer salt. Flowers and incense were also offered to the goddess.  In some places, the statue of the goddess was washed in the sea and the worshippers dined together. In Thebes, women would dress up as men, and in other places choreographies were performed. It is not clear how men participated in these festivals, but we do know that they were banned in the Aphrodisia of Thessaly.

Aphrodite’s Role in the Trojan War

Aphrodite also played a crucial role in the mythological story behind the Trojan War. It all started when the prince of Troy, Paris, abducted Helen, queen of Sparta, and took her to his kingdom. The Greeks then united and fought against the city of Troy. But it was Aphrodite that told Paris he should take Helen and she was also the one who helped him do so. Paris had offered the “golden apple of discord” to Aphrodite, instead of Hera and Athena. The goddess of beauty and love had promised him a trophy wife, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Aphrodite as an Art Model

Since classical times, Aphrodite has been sculpted and painted from countless artists who wanted to depict the beauty standards of their time. The most well-known Aphrodites are the sculpture of Aphrodite of Milos (130-100 BC) and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (mid 1480s).

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Daedalus and Icarus | #GreekMyths

One of the most well-known ancient Greek myths is the one of Daedalus and Icarus. You might remember these two as the architects who designed the labyrinth, the huge maze that was the home of the Minotaur in Crete. We talked about the birth and destruction of the legendary beast in another Greek mythology video. Today, we will be following the tragic story of a talented father and son duo: Daedalus and Icarus.

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Who Were Daedalus and Icarus?

Daedalus was a legendary ancient Greek hero who possessed many talents. He was an inventor, an architect, and craftsman. Rumor had it that he had god Hephaestus’ blood running through his veins, giving him the ability to create innovative constructions. There is no proof that there was a real craftsman bearing the same name in ancient Greece. Therefore, Daedalus is considered a mythical figure.

The talented man was an Athenian of aristocratic background. His name derives from the Greek verb “δαιδάλω” meaning “to work cunningly”. He was reportedly the creator of a wooden cow for queen Pasiphae of Crete. The latter was attracted to bulls after meeting god Poseidon in this form and used the wooden cow to… attract bulls. Daedalus’ less weird and most admired creation, however, was the Cretan labyrinth of the Minotaur. A huge maze with countless traps and dead ends.

Icarus, on the other hand, was the son of Daedalus. His mother was a slave. The young man possessed many of his father’s talents and followed him around his trips. Father and son once travelled to the island of Crete, where they were hired by king Minos to construct the labyrinth, the wooden cow, and many other items.

Creators and Prisoners of the Minoan Labyrinth

King Minos was very impressed by the works of Daedalus and Icarus. But everything changed when an Athenian prince, who we have seen in a previous video, visited Crete. Prince Theseus wanted to end a barbaric tradition that wanted young Athenian men and women to be sent to the labyrinth of King Minos as a sacrifice to the beast that resided there: the Minotaur.

Daedalus and Icarus were from Athens and rooted for Theseus. One night, Minos’ daughter, princess Ariadne visited the two men and asked for their advice. She was in love with Theseus and wanted to protect him. Was there a way to find his way through the labyrinth and destroy the beast? Daedalus then recommended that she utilized her yarn. Theseus would attach it at the entrance of the labyrinth and use it to explore the maze safely.

Daedalus recommendations were indeed very useful. Once Theseus destroyed the Minotaur and escaped, King Minos ordered the prosecution of the two craftsmen. Father and son were thrown into the maze with no tools or weapons to use. But cunning Daedalus was able to come up with a new plan, after watching the birds flying above their heads.

According to the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, Daedalus utilized the only two things he could find in the maze: feathers from the birds flying above him and wax from the numerous candles that would light up their way. After days of collecting feathers and hard work, Daedalus was able to create two sets of wings by gluing the feathers together with the wax.

He then instructed his son how to wear the wings on his hands and what movements to make in order to fly. He also warned him of how dangerous it would be to fly too high. The sunlight could melt the wax and the feathers would be scattered around.

Learn Greek at Home During Quarantine

If you are interested in learning Greek but there are no classes taking place in your area, don’t be discouraged. Helinika, a platform dedicated to the Greek language, history, and culture, offers affordable Greek language lessons online. Learn Greek during Quarantine.

Escaping Crete | Icaria and the Icarian Sea

The two men were successful. They were able to fly high over the maze they had built and look over Crete. Daedalus instructed Icarus to hurry up; they needed to reach Sicily now that their wings were intact. They couldn’t reach Athens, because Daedalus was unwanted there after committing a crime.

But Icarus was completely blown away – literally and metaphorically. He was ecstatic seeing the whole world from above and continued flying higher and higher. But the sunlight was also getting stronger and stronger. Icarus wanted to be at the top of the world. But his wings started losing all their feathers as the wax started melting away. The young man fell from the sky and his short life ended in an area that we now call Icarian Sea, where the island of Icaria is found.

Daedalus was shocked at the sight but managed to travel to Sicily safely. His life, however, ended there, since he was murdered by the daughters of a local king. It is worth mentioning that, before the Bibliotheca, there were many other variations of the myth which are less popular nowadays. Some of them, for example, want Daedalus and Icarus to successfully escape Crete on a boat.

What Does Icarus’ Myth Represent?

Icarus’ myth and specifically the ending is a story of hybris. The latter is extreme or foolish pride and dangerous overconfidence. Ancient Greeks believed that there was nothing that Olympian gods disliked the most than arrogance.

Icarus was a young person who was able to escape a dead-end situation with his and his father’s cunningness. However, instead of being thankful for making it alive, he wanted to show-off. He flew aimlessly in the sky and even tried to reach the sun. He paid for this with his life. This is not the first time we encounter this. We have seen stories of hybris in the past, especially in the Odyssey, but also in the story of Atlantis.  

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Theseus and the Minotaur | #GreekMyths

One of the most fascinating ancient Greek myths is the one of Theseus. The young Athenian hero is a legendary figure, although many scholars believe that he might had been a real king during the Late Bronze Age. But let’s see his story from the beginning.

Theseus and the Minotaur | #GreekMyths

One of the most fascinating ancient Greek myths is the one of Theseus. The young Athenian hero is a legendary figure, although many scholars believe that he might had been a real king during the Late Bronze Age. But let’s see his story from the beginning.

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Who Was Theseus?

Once upon a time, before the era of Classical Athens and Democracy, the Greek city-state was ruled by kings and queens. One such king was Aegeas. He had many riches and he was ruling a successful city-state. However, he had no luck in his love life. All of his marriages ended in disaster, he remained childless, and most importantly, heirless.

Aegeas believed he was cursed by Aphrodite, goddess of romance, and he introduced the worship of Aphrodite Urania (Heavenly) in Athens. He also visited the Oracle of Delphi and asked for a prophecy. However, there was no solution to his problem.

The Athenian king finally met Pittheus of Troezen who introduced him to his daughter, Aethra. The two spent the night together and Aethra was able to conceive a child: a boy she later named Theseus. Rumor had it though that Theseus’ real father was Poseidon, god of the sea, and not Aegeas.

The latter was happy to finally have a son. He left Troezen to rule his city, Athens, but made sure to leave his sword, shield, and sandals behind. His son would wear them upon he reached adulthood to claim his birthright.

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Theseus’ Labours and the Arrival to Athens

Years passed by and Theseus was now a brave young man. After retrieving his father’s possessions, he started his trip to Athens. Instead of reaching the city by sea, he decided to follow a dangerous path, completing a series of tasks, known as “labours”.

Among other things, he killed a giant pig and countless bandits, including a serial killer named “Procrustes” or simply “the Stretcher”. This man would place his victims on an iron bed and would cut off any parts that didn’t fit. If the victim was too short, he would stretch their legs – often splitting them in half.

Theseus arrived in Athens safe and sound and he was finally greeted by a cheerful Aegeas and his new wife, Medea. You might remember the latter as the wife of Jason, leader of the Argonauts. Since Medea’s story will be narrated in a different video series, all you have to know for now is that Medea’s first marriage did not have a happy ending. It was a literal tragedy.

Theseus and Aegeas would spend a lot of time together to compensate for all the years they spent apart. Medea was getting jealous. She also feared that her son would have no rights to the kingdom of Athens. The sorceress decided to poison Theseus but her plans were revealed. Aegeas threw her out of the castle and Medea run away from Athens. The king did not know that this would not be the only time his dear son would be in danger.

The Sacrifice to the Minotaur

When Aegeas was younger, he participated in the Panathenaic Games – a religious ceremony and athletic competition that took place in Athens and resembled the Olympic Games. One of his competitors was Androgeos, son of King Minos of Crete. Androgeos was able to win against Aegeas, with the latter being filled with envy.

There are many different variations of the myth that explain what happened next: Aegeas challenged Androgeos with an impossible task that ended up killing him, Aegeas ordered someone to kill Androgeos, or Aegeas killed Androgeos himself, or another man named Pallatides. No matter how it happened, the result was the same. Androgeos died in Athens and Aegeas was to blame.

King Minos learned the news and declared war on Athens. But the two kings were able to avoid war with a mutual agreement. Every nine years, seven Athenian young men and seven Athenian young women would be sent to Crete as a sacrificial offering to a vicious monster known as the Minotaur – the taurus, meaning “bull” in Greek, of Minos.  

The Minotaur was the result of Minos’ wife mating with a white bull, known as Marathonian or Cretan bull, that was sent to Minos by Poseidon. Poseidon wanted Minos to sacrifice the bull to him but Minos was charmed by the bull’s rare appearance. That comes as no surprise.

Regardless of whether this myth is real or not, the Minoan civilization was a real Bronze Age Aegean Civilization – the first advanced civilization in Europe. You can still see their remains by visiting the palaces of Knossos and Phaestos in Crete. If you have ever visited these archaeological places, then you might have noticed the fascination the Minoans had for bulls and bull-leaping or taurokathapsia – a non-violent ancient Greek sport involving bulls.  

The king decided to keep the bull at his residence, and he made a different sacrificial offering to the god of the sea. Poseidon was furious and made Mino’s wife fall in love with the animal. The result was the birth of the Minotaur. The beast resided in a special area of the palace; a labyrinth that was designed by the architects Daedalus and Icarus.  

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Theseus’ Last Quest

When Theseus learned about the agreement between Aegeas and Minos, he became angered. As the future king of Athens, he wanted to end this and he decided to travel to Crete with the next ship sailing with the young Athenians. He would find the Minotaur and destroy him, just like he did with the monsters and criminals he had found in his way.

The future king of Athens promised to Aegeas he would return victorious. He would depart with black sails – a sign of mourning- but he would return with white sails. In this way, his father would be able to see the boat from afar and start organizing the celebrations that would follow. If he was defeated, the captain wouldn’t change the sails and his father would be able to start preparing for his funeral.

Theseus arrived with the rest of the young men and women at the palace of Knossos and he was surprised to see a luxurious and colorful palace with a very strange design. It resembled a labyrinth. The Athenians had to leave any weapons behind and they soon learned that they would be left to wonder in the palace’s corridors for days and the Minotaur would hunt them down and eat them one by one. Even if the Minotaur was unable to find them, escaping the labyrinth was considered an impossible task.

The prince was not scared. He was able to hide a small knife in his tunic to protect himself, but his most helpful weapon were actually his good looks. King Minos had many children and one of them was princess Ariadne. The young woman felt a strong attraction towards Theseus and wanted to help him. When no one was looking, she offered him a ball of thread and advised him to tie it at the entrance of the labyrinth and use it to escape once he defeats the beast.

Theseus followed Ariadne’s instructions and started exploring the labyrinth holding the thread. It didn’t take long to find the Minotaur sleeping. The monster woke up from his sleep and attacked him. Theseus, having Poseidon’s blood running through his veins, was able to overpower him and with his small knife he was able to give him a fatal blow in his neck. He then run back to the entrance of the labyrinth, along with the rest of the Athenians.

They were all free and no one was there to stop them from leaving. They all entered the boat that was waiting for them and soon realized that Ariadne and her younger sister, Phaedra, were also on board. Ariadne wanted to escape with Theseus and live with him in Athens.

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The Return of Theseus

The trip back home started with celebrations. Not only did they survive this ordeal, but a very dangerous custom was coming to an end. No other Athenian would have to be sacrificed to the Minotaur anymore. At some point, they made a stop at Naxos island. Goddess Athena visited Theseus and instructed him to leave Ariadne there for god Dionysus.

Theseus was distraught but he knew that he had no choice. He couldn’t disobey the gods. Ariadne was abandoned in Naxos island and Theseus left with the rest of the crew, including Phaedra. The mood onboard had shifted. No one was in the mood to celebrate and they forgot to change the sails from black to white.

Aegeas was standing at a cliff at Sounion in Attica, near Poseidon’s temple. He was staring at the horizon, waiting for Theseus’ boat. And he finally saw it. But the sails were black, meaning that the crew wasn’t bringing any good news. Was his favorite son, the one who was conceived under such difficult circumstances, gone? Aegeas jumped off the cliff and drowned in the waters that we now know as the Aegean Sea; the sea of Aegeas.

The myth of Theseus ends here, however, countless poems and plays have tried to give another ending to his story. Most of the variations mention that Theseus ended up marrying Phaedra, he had many children with her and other women, and ended up dying after falling from a cliff. Others, want him married to the queen of the Amazons.

As mentioned in the beginning, it is not clear whether there was an Athenian king named Theseus, whose life resembled the myth. However, Theseus’ myth signifies a transitional period in history – from Bronze Age, to Iron Age, and then, finally, to the Archaic Period.

Ancient Greek Ghost Stories (Halloween Special) |#GreekMyths

With Halloween approaching, today’s video on Greek mythology is dedicated on ancient Greek ghost stories. Before we get started, make sure to subscribe to Helinika’s YouTube channel and never miss a video in the future.

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Ancient Ghost History: Facts About Ghosts

Cases of ghostly apparitions have been reported since ancient times, particularly in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. There are many references of ghosts in Mesopotamian religions and in the ancient Egyptian culture, where ghosts were believed to be the souls and spirits of people who exited their material body and influenced the lives of the living. Ghosts could either harm people or assist them.

In ancient Greece, ghosts were called «φαντάσματα», a term that could be translated as “apparition”. Ancient Greek ghosts would reside in Hades, the kingdom of the dead and would be contacted by oracles to reveal truths about the past, present, and future – a practice known as necromancy. For example, Odysseus, king of Ithaca, was believed to have contacted the dead to find the safest way to reach his kingdom. In this story, it is revealed that the souls of the dead were blood-thirsty, having characteristics of modern vampires. Moreover, witches would often leave notes and curse tablets in newly dug graves, expecting the dead to act as messengers and deliver their requests to the chthonic deities of the underworld, such as Pan, Persephone, and Hecate.

In classical antiquity, however, the concept of “haunting” was introduced and ghosts were perceived similarly as in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The souls of the dead could walk on the world of the living and haunt them. An example of that would be the story of Athenodorus’ haunting.

Helinika has collected ghost stories from different times of Greece’s ancient history. Some of them were narrated for entertainment purposes, while others were reported by ancient historians as real events. Stay till the end because some of the stories are terrifying.

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Odysseus Crosses the Veil Between the Living and the Dead

Odysseus was an ancient Greek king of the island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea. He is known as the mythical hero of the epic poem “The Odyssey”, which is attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus goes through a series of adventures to get from Troy to Ithaca. At some point, he is instructed by a witch named Circe to contact the dead and learn more about his upcoming obstacles.

Odysseus arrives at a dark, foggy, and cold place named “Cimeria”, which is estimated to be modern-day Crimea. According to the legend, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is very thin there. As soon as the Ithacan king arrived in Cimeria, he dug a hole in the ground, sacrificed animals, and poured milk and honey in the pit in order to attract the souls of the dead.

The otherwise brave and fearless Odysseus is terrified with the terrifying ghosts that appear before him. However, he manages to keep calm and finally talk to the blind prophet Teiresias, who instructs him how to reach Ithaca safely. He is also able to talk to his late mother – a tragic scene, since the hero was unaware of his mother’s death. It is important to remember that, in order to communicate with the dead, Odysseus had to offer animal blood, milk, and honey. These three things are considered to be attractors of ghosts till this day. So, if you do believe in ghosts, never mix all these ingredients together.

Macabre Tales of Ancient Greek Necromancy

Necromancy (from the Greek “νεκρός” and “μαντεία”) is a divination practice that involves some type of communication with the dead. You might be aware of modern-day mediums contacting spirits through dreams and visions or during seances and even by playing board games. Although these ways of communicating with the dead still give people the creeps, you can’t imagine how terrifying ancient methods of necromancy could get.

The less scary divination and magic practices involved inhaling hallucinogenic gases and chewing Nerium. Just like Pythia did in the oracle of Delphi when she supposedly communicated with gods and spirits. However, ancient Greek witches would often follow macabre rituals that involved digging up graves and stealing parts or entire human bodies. They would then use them to briefly bring the dead back to life and reveal secrets and truths. Sometimes, they would ask the dead man or woman to ask Hecate or another chthonic deity to curse someone. They would then burn the bodies and end their lives a second time.

A macabre story of necromancy is the one of Thelyphron in Apuleius. Thelyphron is a (fictional?) man that visits the Greek city of Larissa, where he learns that the area is infested with shape-shifting witches who try to steal the bodies of people who have recently died. The man is offered a well-paid job: to guard the body of a man the night before his burial. Thelyphron spends a night in a dark room with the dead body, holding a lantern. At some point, a bird enters the room and he tries to catch it. Within seconds, he falls into a deep sleep and awakens only when the sun is shining. Thankfully, the body he guarded was intact.

The widow thanked him and payed him for his service. When he tried to exit the house, he was greeted by an angry crowd. Friends and relatives of the diseased man were accusing the widow that she murdered her husband to live with her lover. A necromancer arrives at the scene to awaken the man. A ghost appears and enters his lifeless body.

The zombie reveals that he was indeed poisoned by his wife. He then turns his head and stares at Thelyphron, who stood there petrified. The zombie thanks his guardian for scaring away the witch who entered his room at night. However, he reveals that the witch, disguised as a bird, hypnotized Thelyphron and stole parts of his nose and ears. Thelyphron is shocked; he touches his nose, then his ear and chunks of wax fall on the ground. The witch had not only stolen his body parts, but had replaced them with wax figures. The crowd starts laughing at poor Thelyphron who runs away from Larissa.

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The Real(?) Haunting of Athenodorus

Athenodorus was a philosopher and student of Posidonius of Rhodes, who eventually became the mentor of the first Roman emperor. However, he is known not only as a great thinker, but also as the witness of the first haunting ever reported. His experience has inspired countless urban legends, novels, and movies, but it has been reported as a true story.

Just like other thinkers in the 1st century AD, philosopher Athenodorus spent time studying in the city of Athens. As a broke student, he was looking for cheap houses to rent. After long research, he came across an amazing opportunity. There was a large and beautiful home offered at an extremely low price. It was a catch!

Athenodorus was warned that the house was rumored to be haunted with the spirit of a chained old man who would roam from room to room at night, dragging his chains and moaning. Not only that, but the ghost was said to have cursed the house. Whoever was brave enough to rent it would suffer from mysterious sicknesses. Rumor had it that those who stayed there for too long would eventually die from the lack of sleep and the abundance of stress and fear.

However, Athenodorus was a sceptic. He kept thinking how much money he would save while staying in a literal mansion. The philosopher rented the house and spent his first day organizing it. The house was a literal mess. And by the time the first night stars started beaming in the Athenian sky, he was able to relax in his new office room and start studying philosophy – his favorite nightly habit.

Athenodorus was concentrated on his studies when he suddenly heard heavy steps and chains rattling within his house. Could the rumors be true? Or was someone playing a prank on him? The young philosopher stayed focused on his books, refusing to look at the source of the noise. The footsteps kept coming closer and closer and he could hear a man’s heavy breathing. He eventually looked up only to see the ghostly figure of a man in chains.

Although terrified, the philosopher asked the ghost to leave his room. He needed to study. The ghost seemed impatient, he rattled his chains and seemed to be asking Athenodorus to follow him. Athenodorus finally understood what was going on and stood up. He was willing to follow the phantom wherever he wanted him to go.

The chained ghost started walking from room to room and finally exited through the backdoor. As soon as the phantom stepped on the courtyard, it vanished. The philosopher grew suspicious. Was someone murdered and buried there?

The next morning, Athenodorus visited the city officials and asked them to excavate his courtyard. He was right; a skeleton tied with heavy chains was discovered there. The bones were removed and buried according to the ancient traditions in a cemetery. No ghosts ever visited Athenodorus again. He was able to enjoy his enormous house all by himself!

Have you ever heard of any of these stories? Feel free to share any ghost stories from your countries and don’t forget to follow Helinika on social media!

This Is Your Sign for Learning Greek

You have been debating whether you should start learning modern Greek and you constantly postpone it. Whatever the reason might be, here is the sign you were looking for. Start learning Greek today.

Ancient Greek Vampires | #GreekMyths

ancient greek vampires

Most of us know vampires from Hollywood and, of course, the 19th Century Gothic horror novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. They are blood-thirsty people (or creatures) of the night. They are called “the undead” and they are still very feared in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe. Vampires are often depicted as being pale, aristocratic, and charming. Sometimes, they resemble frightening monsters. They always seek blood but, in certain occasions, they consume people’s energy and are therefore called energy vampires. All of them fear the sunlight, garlic, and certain metals. +What if I told you that ancient Greeks believed in vampires as well?

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The Modern Greek “Vrykolakas”

The modern Greek vampire is called “vrykolakas”. A vrykolakas is an undead creature that resembles a zombie (at least in the way they are portrayed in Hollywood movies). They drink blood but they have cravings for flesh as well. According to legend, these supernatural beings were once humans. These people either got excommunicated by the Orthodox Church or followed a sinful lifestyle. After their death, they turn into horrific creatures that leave their tombs at night and scare or even hunt the living.

The fear of the vrykolakas spread among Greeks when the latter encountered some Slavic groups in the Balkan region. In fact, as many of you might already know, vampires are very popular among the Slavs. In Greece, the fear of the vrykolakas soon faded away and most Greeks are aware of vampires thanks to Stoker’s “Dracula”. What most people do not know is that stories of vampire-like creatures are way older than the Irish writer’s book and the 17th-century folklore.

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Vampires in Ancient Greece | Ancient Greek Vampires

Ancient Greeks are known for being imaginative and creative when it comes to storytelling. If you have watched Helinika’s video series narrating Homer’s “Odyssey”, then you should remember that Odysseus had to perform a ritual to be able to talk to the souls of the dead in Hades. This ritual involved sacrificing an animal and offering its blood to the souls. It is clear that Ancient Greeks believed that the dead were thirsty for blood; thirsty for anything that keeps the human body alive.

This belief seemed to have led some ancient Greek cities to take protective measures when burying their dead. Neolithic graves discovered in Choirokoitia in Cyprus indicate that people were trying to stop the dead from exiting their graves.  They would place rocks on the dead bodies’ chests, making sure that they would not escape during the night. Similar burial sites were found in other places across Greece.

Apart from these findings, ancient Greek mythology includes many stories of undead creatures that targeted people – especially at night. Empusa and Lamia were two vampiric monsters in ancient Greek folklore. Their origins are not clear; some believed they were the angry ghosts of two dead women, while other said that they were demons.

Embusa and Lamia would take the forms of beautiful women to attract young, energetic men who wandered alone at night. With their charming beauty, they would lure them into dark alleys and fields. There, they would attack these men, drinking their blood and sometimes eating their flesh.

A similar legend is the one of Mormolyceia or Mormo. A female ghost who targeted babies and young children instead. During the Byzantine times, Mormo and Lamia were considered to be the same supernatural being. In fact, it is believed that the original story of Lamia described her as a ghost that targeted infants.

According to the legend, Lamia was a Libyan queen who (unsurprisingly) became Zeus’ lover. Hera, Zeus’ sister and wife, started to harass the woman by abducting and killing her children as soon as they were born. Lamia became so enraged that started targeting other people’s babies. Ancient Greek women would often mention Lamia when their children were misbehaving to make sure that they don’t sneak out of their beds at night. Similar stories were told in other ancient communities around the globe.

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Seven Facts About Zeus (the Greek God) | #GreekMyths

Zeus is perhaps the most well-known Greek god of Mount Olympus. Apart from his leading role in several Greek myths, he has also been featured in countless contemporary books and films. Here are seven facts you should know about Zeus.

Is This the Worst Greek God / Goddess? | Evil Greek Goddess

When looking for the evilest ancient Greek god or goddess, usually three come to mind: Pluton/Hades, Pan, and Hecate. But what if I told you that there is another divine being that shares more characteristics with the devil, than the previous three: Eris.

The Odyssey Part 5 (Final) | Books 17 – 24 | #GreekMyths

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.  

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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“The Odyssey” Books 21 – 24: The End

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.

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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.

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