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Greek Myths, Legends and Heroes A-B
 

Abaris
A priest of Apollo who was given a magic arrow that rendered him invisible and on which he could ride through the air. He cured diseases and spoke oracles.
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Abas
King of Argolis, grandson to Danaus, and a minor character in the story of Perseus. Semitic meaning of Abas is "father", and it also means "lizard" from another myth in which Demeter changes Abas, son of Celeus, into a lizard.
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Abderus
The friend of Hercules who was eaten by Diomedes' horses as he was guarding them.
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Acamas
Means unwearying. Son of Theseus, and a warrior at Troy.
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Achilles
The son of the mortal King Peleus and Thetis, a sea nymph. At birth, his mother supposedly dipped Achilles in the River Styx which made him invulnerable except for the part of the heel by which she held him. This came in handy in his adventures and wars. His most famous adventure is told in the Iliad, which is about the Trojan War. This war lasted 10 years, through the first nine of which Achilles laid waste to the surrounding countryside. In the last year Achilles sulked and refused to fight any longer after a quarrel with Agamemnon, the Greek leader. This caused the war to start going badly for the Greeks and Achilles relented enough to agree to lend his armor and his chariot to his inseparable companion Patroclus so he could impersonate him in the battle. Hector, the Trojan hero and son of the Trojan King Priam, killed Patroclus in the fight. Achilles received new armor from the gods and re-entered the battle where he killed Hector. There is some uncertainty about whether Achilles was slain in this battle, although there is a tale about Paris, another son of King Priam, killing him with an arrow shot into his heel.
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Acis
The son of Faunus, he was crushed to death by a rock flung by his rival, Polyphemus (the Cyclop), for the love of Galatea.
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Actaeon
The huntsman who saw Diana (Artemis) bathing and was changed into a stag by her, and then was torn to pieces by his own hounds.
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Adamanthea
The nymph who nursed Zeus (when Rhea gave Cronos a stone to swallow instead of the new-born Zeus). Cronos was supposedly able to see everything that occurred in the realms over which he had dominion (the earth, heavens, and the sea), but Adamanthea deceived him by hanging the baby Zeus (in his cradle) from a tree, so that suspended between earth, sea, and sky he was invisible to his father. There are MANY versions of this story and the nurse has a different name in each(!)- Ida, Adrastea, Neda, Helice, Aega, Cynosura.
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Admeta
Daughter of Eurystheus, for whom Heracles (Hercules) got the girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons.
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Adonis
Adonis was born after an incestuous union between King Cinyras and his daughter Myrrah. The goddess Aphrodite saw Adonis at his birth and was so taken by his beauty that she hid him away in a coffer. She told this to Persephone who opened up the coffer. When she beheld Adonis she was also struck by his beauty. She kidnaped him and refused to give him up. Aphrodite appealed to the god Zeus, who decreed that Adonis must spend a third of the year with Aphodite, a third with Persephone and the other third on his own. On his own he usually spent the time boar hunting. Aphrodite tried vainly to dissuade Adonis from hunting this dangerous game. One day he was killed by a wild boar, after which Aphrodite begged for his life with Zeus. This time Zeus decreed that Adonis should spend half a year with Persephone and the other half with Aphrodite.
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Adrastus
King of Argos, who led the expedition in the Seven Against Thebes war.
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Aeacus
King of Aegina. He was the son of the nymph Aegina (after whom his kingdom was named) and the god Zeus. Hera, angry with Zeus for his love of Aegina, sent a plague that destroyed most of his people. Aeacus prayed to his father to change a group of industrious ants into human beings to people his deserted city. Zeus granted his wish, creating a race called the Myrmidons. Aeacus ruled over his people with such justice that after his death he became one of the three judges of the underworld. He was the father of Peleus and the grandfather of Achilles.
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Aédon
Wife of Zethus and mother of a daughter Itylus, whom she slew by mistake, whereupon Zeus transformed her into the nightingale who nightly laments her murdered child -OR- a queen of ancient Thebes who plotted to kill a son of her rival Niobe but killed her own son by mistake. Her grief led her to try suicide but she was transformed into the first nightingale by the gods, a bird that still haunts the night with its mournful cry.
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Aega
She was sister to Circe and Pasiphae, and daughter of the sun. When the Titans attacked the gods of Olympus, Gaia placed Aega in a cave to hide her shining loveliness. Japanese (Amaterasu) and Finnish (Paivatar) myths have the same theme.
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Aegeus
Father of Theseus, whom he sent to Crete to free his kingdom of having to pay a yearly tribute of 7 youths and 7 maidens. If Theseus was successful he was to return with white sails (instead of the usual black) on his ship. Theseus was successful but forgot to change the sails. When Aegeus saw the black sails on the approaching ship he threw himself into the sea.
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Aegina
Daughter of the river-god Asopus. She was kidnapped by Zeus, in the form of an eagle, and bore him a son, Aeacus (grandfather of Achilles).
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Aegisthus
The son of Thyestes and his daughter Pelopia. Desiring to avenge himself upon his brother Atreus and acting on the advice of the oracle at Delphi, Thyestes consummated an incestuous union with his daughter Pelopia. Shortly afterward, Atreus married Pelopia, not knowing she was his niece. When Aegisthus was born, Atreus accepted him as his own son, not knowing that he had been fathered by Thyestes. Aegisthus later learned his true identity and, urged by Thyestes, killed Atreus.
While Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, was away fighting in the Trojan War, Aegisthus became the lover of Queen Clytemnestra. He helped Clytemnestra kill her husband upon his return from Troy. Together with the queen, Aegisthus then ruled Mycenae for seven years. He was later murdered by Agamemnon's son Orestes.
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Aegyptus
A son of Belus and twin brother to Danaus. He was a king of Egypt (named after him).
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Aeneas
According to Virgil's Aeneid, a hero of the Trojan War who on his return, ultimately founded the Roman state.
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Aero
Also called Merope. Loved by Orion and promised in marriage to him until in a drunken fit he raped her.
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Aerope
Wife of Atreus and mother of Agamemnon.
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Aethra
Theseus' mother.
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Agamedes
Twin brother to Trophonius. They helped build a temple to Apollo at Delphi where the oracle told them to indulge themselves in all pleasures for six days and on the seventh their heart's desire would be granted. They did, and on the seventh were found dead in their beds. Thus the saying: 'Those whom the gods love die young'.
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Agamemnon
He was the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War; brother of Menelaus; son of Atreus. His children by Clytemnestra, whom he took by force, were Iphigenia, Electra, and Orestes. To obtain favorable winds for the fleet against Troy, he sacrificed Iphigenia to Artemis, incurring Clytemnestra's hatred. Upon his return from the war, he was murdered by Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus. To avenge his death, Orestes and Electra killed Aegisthus and their mother.
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Agave
Driven mad by Dionysus, she saw her son Pentheus as a lion and killed him with her own hands.
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Agdos
The name of the great rock of Asia Minor (Cybele in disguise) that Zeus raped. The offspring of this union was Agdistis, a hermaphrodite.
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Aglauros
Daughter of Cecrops, the half-dragon half-man creature. Sister of Herse who was beloved by Hermes. When Hermes visited Herse, Aglauros, who was jealous, got in his way and said she would not move. The god took her at her word and turned her into stone so she could not.
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Ajax The Greater
A hero of the Trojan War who killed himself when the armor of Achilles was awarded to Odysseus (Ulysses) as champion of the war.
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Ajax The Lesser(Aias)
A son of Oileus, King of Locris. He was one of the heroes in the Trojan War, but had severe character flaws, such as being arrogant, boastful and quarrelsome. He captured Cassandra, a daughter of King Priam, and raped her. He earned the enmity of his Greek allies because of this and left Troy to return home. His ship sunk in a storm but he survived. He boasted, long and loud about his escape, only to incur the wrath of Poseidon, who cast him back into the sea where he drowned.
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Alcestis
Daughter of Pelias, king of Iolcus, and wife of Admetus, king of Pharae and friend of the god Apollo. When it was time for Admetus to die, Apollo persuaded the Fates to let him live if he could persuade another to die in his place. The Fates agreed to let Admetus stay alive if his mother, his father, or his wife would die in his place. Alcestis willingly took poison to spare Admetus's life.In some myths Hercules rescued her from the dead; in others Persephone reunited husband and wife.
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Alcippe
This daughter of Ares and Aglauros was raped by a son of Poseidon. Ares then killed the rapist, and was brought before the other gods to go on trial for murder; the first murder trial. After hearing the brutal facts of the case they quickly acquitted him.
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Alcmaeon
Son of Amphiaraus and Eriphyle. After Amphiaraus was killed in the war of the "Seven Against Thebes", Alcmaeon led the Epigoni (the sons of the Seven) in a second war, that was successful. To avenge his father's death when he returned home, he killed his mother, since she had forced her husband to go in the first war. He afterwards went mad and wandered from place to place, haunted by the avenging goddesses, the Erinyes, until he took refuge at Psophis in Arcadia. There, he married Arsinoe, the king's daughter. When the land was cursed with barrenness because of his presence, he fled to the mouth of the Achelous River and married Callirrhoe, daughter of the river god. The king (Arsinoe's father) and his sons pursued Alcmaeon and killed him.
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Alcmena
Mother of Hercules by Zeus, who took the form of her husband Amphitryon to seduce her. He enjoyed himself so much he made the night last as long as three ordinary nights.
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Amalthea
A nymph, the nurse of the baby Zeus (or alternately the she-goat which suckled him). In thanks, Zeus broke off a horn from the goat and gave it to Amalthea promising that the possessor should always have in abundance everything desired. (The Horn of Plenty, the cornucopia)
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Amazons
One of a tribe of warlike women from Asia Minor. The Amazons had a matriarchal society, in which women governed and fought while men performed the household tasks.
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Amymone
One of the Danaïdes. The only one who murdered her husband and escaped eternal punishment.
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Anaxarete
A cruel virgin who caused her lover (Iphis) to kill himself, and was turned into stone by the gods.
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Andromache
Hector's wife who was given upon his death to Pyrrhus. When he was also killed (by Orestes), she was given to Helenus (Hector's brother).
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Anius
He was the son of the god, Apollo, and of Rhoeo. When Rhoeo became pregnant, her father had her placed in a chest and cast into the sea. She landed on the island of Delos where she gave birth to Anius. Anius became the father of three daughters, Oeno, Spermo and Elais (wine, grain seed and oil, in that order) who were granted the power to bring these three crops to fruition.
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Antaeus
He was a giant, the son of the sea god Poseidon and Gaea, the Earth goddess. He forced all who traveled through his country to wrestle him. Since everytime he touched the Earth (his mother) he grew in strength he was never defeated. Hercules (Heracles), while wrestling him, discovered this and, holding him above ground, crushed him to death.
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Antianara
Amazon queen who crippled all her male slaves, "as the lame best perform the acts of love".
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Anticlea
Wife of Laertes and mother of Odysseus.
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Antigone-in place of a mother
She was the daughter of Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta. This was a union made unknowingly by both parties. When he found out, Oedipus blinded himself and Antigone and her sister, Ismene, became their father's guide. Antigone accompanied her father when he was sent into exile but returned to Thebes after his death. In a dispute over the throne her brothers, Eteocles and Polynices (one of the "Seven Against Thebes"), killed each other. The new king, Creon, gave Eteocles an honorable burial but ordered that the body of Polynices, whom he regarded as a traitor, remain where it had fallen. Proper burial was considered a godly law. Antigone, believing the laws of the gods must take precedence over the laws of man, buried her brother. Creon condemned her to be buried alive. She hanged herself in the tomb, and her grief-stricken lover, Haemon, Creon's son, killed himself.
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Antiope
She was the mother of the twins Amphion and Zethus. Her beauty attracted the god, Zeus, who assumed the form of a satyr and raped her. The twins were the result of that attack -OR- An Amazon queen captured by Heracles and given to Theseus. She bore him a son Hippolytus (named after her sister Hippolyta). She is the only Amazon known to have married.
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Arachne-spider
Arachne was a weaver of such skill that she foolishly challenged Athena to a contest. Athena's tapestry showed the gods in all their majesty. Arachne's tapestry showed the gods in all their amorous adventures. Athena, in a fit of rage at the indelicate poses of the gods, tore it to shreds. In shame, Arachne hanged herself. The goddess took pity and loosened the rope which turned into a cobweb while Arachne changed into a spider. (Spiders are classified today as Arachnida.)
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Arethusa
A nymph attendant of Artemis who, when pursued by the river-god Alpheus, is changed by Artemis into a fountain. The river-god determined to get her, flowed underground so as to mingle his waters with hers.
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Argonaut
One who sailed with Jason on the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.
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Arne
Daughter of Aeolus, ancestress of the Boeotians.
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Arsinoë
Sometimes said to be the mother of Aesculapius.
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Asteria
In order to escape being raped by Zeus, this nymph changed herself into a quail.
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Atalanta-unswaying
Disappointed that she was not a boy, her father abandoned her on a mountainside at her birth. She was rescued and nursed by a she-bear and later raised by hunters. By the time she had grown up, she was a skilled hunter. She took part in the famous boar hunt of Calydon. Atalanta was a fleet-footed runner who offered to marry anyone who could defeat her in a race. Those who lost were killed. The youth Hippomenes (or Melanion) won with the aid of Aphrodite, who gave him three golden apples of the Hesperides. He dropped them one by one, and by stopping to pick them up, Atalanta lost the race. She and Hippomenes were later turned into lions because of an affront to the gods. Parthenopaeus was their son (Seven Against Thebes).
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Atlas-he who dares
Son of the Titan, Iapetus, and the nymph, Clymene (Asia), and the brother of Prometheus. Atlas was one of the Titans that warred against Zeus, and lost. As punishment, Zeus condemned him to hold aloft the heavens forever. He is often pictured holding the earth on his shoulders.
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Atreus
When the king of Mycenae died without an heir, Atreus was chosen as their new king. Atreus's brother Thyestes, a rival for the throne, seduced Aerope, Atreus' wife (and mother of Agamemnon and Menelaus). When he learned of this treachery, Atreus murdered two of Thyestes' sons and served them boiled in a cauldron to their father at a banquet. When Thyestes had finished eating, Atreus ordered a dish holding the bloody heads of the children brought in. Thyestes laid a curse on his brother. Atreus later married Pelopia, daughter of Thyestes, not knowing her true identity. Her son Aegisthus killed Atreus at the urging of his grandfather, Thyestes.
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Autolycus
He was the father of Anticleia, who was the mother of Odysseus. He was reknown as a swindler and thief. It is said that Sisyphus, while visiting, recognized some property that had been stolen from him. In revenge, he seduced Anticleia and thus was the true father of Odysseus, rather than her husband, Laertes.
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Autonoe
Mother of Actaeon, the hunter turned into a deer by Diana (Artemis) when he saw her bathing naked, and killed by his own hunting dogs.
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Bellerophon
He was the hero who, with the help of Athena, tamed Pegasus, the winged horse. Bellerophon angered Proetus, who sent him to the king of Lycia with a sealed message requesting the bearer be slain. The king who entertained, and became friendly with, Bellerophon before reading the message, could not do it. Instead he sent Bellerophon on a mission he thought would be suicidal, to kill the fire-breathing monster Chimera. This was done, and the king was so impressed he gave his daughter in marriage to the hero. Later, Bellerophon defied the gods and tried to fly Pegasus up to Olympus, but, thrown to the earth by his horse, he wandered in misery until he died.
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Bia
A warrior, noted for being the one to bind Prometheus to the rocky crag as eternal punishment for providing fire to humanity. The daughter of Pallas and Styx.
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Briareus
He was also known as Aegeon. A Titan, who had fifty heads and a hundred hands, and fought in the Titan war against Zeus.
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Briseis
First name Hippodamia. She was given to Achilles as a prize in the Trojan War, and taken from him by Agamemnon, which caused the famous quarrel that led to the death of Patroclus.
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Brontes
A Cyclops. He was the personification of a blacksmith, and his name means Thunder.
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