We’d love to say that our history and literature classes in high school are what piqued our interest in Roman and Greek mythology, but truth be told what really won us over was the 1997 animated classic Hercules. Who can deny a solid ode to the Disney renaissance that’s both (semi) educational and endlessly entertaining? It’s where we first learned that Zeus was the king of the gods, that Pegasus — the weird, blood child of Medusa — was the winged companion of Hercules, the demi god. And although the Disney version sort of glossed over a few of the more unsavory bits, we couldn’t help but wonder the stories behind the other gods atop Mount Olympus.
You may have heard of Hephaestus, the husband of Aphrodite, but did you know that he was the only “ugly” god? The god of fire and the tradesman of Mount Olympus, Hephaestus was actually cast out of Mount Olympus for being so ugly, which to be honest, sounds a little classist/elitist if you ask us, but you know — Zeus was also known for being a dick.
Most of the monsters in Greek mythology were all spawned by one of Medusa’s sisters — Echidna. Half human and half serpent, Echidna is said to have given birth to a whole slew of beasts, many of whom died by the hand of Hercules, like the infamous Hydra, the Nemean lion, and the Sphinx.
There are quite a few similarities between Pandora and her notorious box, and the story of Eve and “original sin” in the Bible. Much like Eve, Pandora was the first mortal woman in Greek mythology who was bestowed with a gift from each god to create the “perfect woman.” Zeus gifted Pandora a box, and warned her never to open it, similar to how Eve was cautioned to never eat the apple from the tree. As we all know, the two threw caution to the wind and unleashed a whole host of horrors upon the world.
In an effort to explain the changing of the seasons, as well as the dismal winter months, the Greeks created the story of Persephone. Described as a beautiful nymph of a girl, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter — the goddess of the harvest — was associated with flora. In an effort to appease his brother Hades, Zeus allowed Persephone to be kidnapped and taken to the underworld, triggering the winter months that lacked any sort of vegetation. Upon hearing the cries of both the gods and mortals who suffered through the seemingly endless winter, Zeus forced Hades to return Persephone to the mortal world. But before he allowed her to leave, Hades tricked her into eating a pomegranate, ensuring that for ⅓ of the year (winter) she would be forced to return to the underworld.
The narratives surrounding Greek and Roman mythology are endlessly entertaining, but if there’s one key takeaway know this — Zeus was the worst.