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Greek Myths, Legends and Heroes I-O
 

Ianthe
A Cretan girl who married Iphis. Iphis was transformed from a girl into a young man for this purpose.
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Iapetus-hurrier
Son of Uranus and Gaea. The Titan that fathered Prometheus, Menoetius, Epimetheus, and Atlas, and considered by the Greeks, the father of the human race.
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Icarius
He was taught the cultivation of the grape vine by Dionysus, and when he introduced wine to some peasants, was killed by them because they thought he had poisoned them when they became drunk. The peasants buried him under a tree, and when Erigone, his daughter, and Moera, his dog, found the body she hanged herself in grief. Icarius became the constellation Boötes; Erigone became the constellation Virgo; and Moera became the star Procyon.
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Icarus
The son of Daedalus. He and his father fastened wings to their bodies and flew over the sea. When Icarus flew higher, the sun melted the wax fastenings and he fell to his death in the waters below.
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Idomeneus
A king of Crete who fought with the Greeks at Troy. After the war he made a vow to the gods to sacrifice whatever he first encountered if they would grant him safe passage home. He met his own son, and true to his vow, sacrificed his son to the gods. The gods, however, sent a plague to his kingdom, and he was banished by his people and branded a murderer.
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Io
She was a princess of Argos, who was turned into a heifer by Zeus to protect her from Hera's jealousy. Hera claimed the heifer and had the many-eyed monster Argus guard it. When Hermes killed Argus, Hera drove Io to Egypt. There Zeus returned her to human form. Io has been identified with the Egyptian goddess Isis.
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Iphigenia
The daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Agamemnon, having offended the goddess Artemis, vowed to sacrifice to her the most beautiful thing he saw during the year. His daughter was born that year. He deferred the sacrifice till she grew to womanhood, but then, with the Greek fleet ready to sail to Troy, was told that there would be no favorable winds for the fleet until he made good on his vow to Artemis. While the sacrificial rite was in progress, Artemis snatched the girl from the altar and carried her to heaven.
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Iphis
See Ianthe.
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Irus
The gigantic beggar who ran errands for the suitors of Penelope (Ulysses' wife), and who tried to stop Ulysses' trip home. He was killed by a single blow.
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Ismene
Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. She asked to share her sister's (Antigone) fate.
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Ixion-rainbow
King of the Lapithes. He murdered his bride's father to avoid paying him the bride price. When no one on earth would purify him, Zeus took Ixion to Olympus and purified him. Ixion attempted to seduce Hera, but Zeus created a phantom of her and by it Ixion fathered the centaurs. In punishment he was chained for eternity to a fiery wheel in Tartarus.
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Jason
The husband of Medea and leader of the Argonauts who went in quest of the Golden Fleece.
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Lamia-lecherous
A monster serpent with the head and breasts of a woman. It preyed on human beings and sucked the blood of children.
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Laocoön
A Trojan priest of Apollo who was killed along with his two sons by two sea serpents for having warned his people of the Trojan horse.
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Laodamia
Wife of Protesilaus, the first Greek slain (by Hector) when the Greek fleet reached Troy in the Trojan War. When the news of her husband's death reached Laodamia, she prayed to the gods to let her see him once again. Her pleas were answered, and Hermes brought her husband back from the underworld for a 3-hour visit. When it came time for him to return, however, Laodamia could not bear to give him up. She killed herself and returned with her husband to the underworld.
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Leda-lady
Wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. In some myths Leda was seduced by Zeus, who appeared as a swan. She bore two eggs: from one issued Castor and Clytemnestra, from the other Pollux and Helen of Troy. Another version has Zeus pursuing Nemesis who changes into a goose; whereupon he changes into a swan and couples with her. She then laid an egg (or two, the stories vary) which she gave to Leda to protect, and from which the above four are born.
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Lycos (Lycaon)-wolf
Father of Callisto. He was changed into a wolf by the gods for having dared serve human flesh to them at a banquet.
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Lynceus
One of Jason's Argonauts, of whom it was said that he could see through the earth, and distinguish objects that were miles away.
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Marsyas
In some tales he is identified as a Phrygian, in others as one of the Greek satyrs. He found the flute that Athena, the goddess of wisdom, had invented and later discarded because playing on it puffed out her cheeks and distorted her features. Marsyas became so accomplished a musician that he challenged Apollo, god of music, to a contest, the winner of which would have the right to punish the loser. The Muses awarded the victory to Apollo, who played the lyre. The god thereupon flayed Marsyas, from whose blood the river Marsyas sprang.
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Medea
A princess and sorceress. She fell in love with Jason and helped him obtain the Golden Fleece. She married Jason and bore him two children. Years later, when Jason wished to marry Creusa, the vengeful Medea sent her an enchanted gown, which burned Creusa to death. Then Medea killed the children that she bore by Jason.
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Meleager
Son of Oeneus and Althea (king and queen of Calydon). Meleager led the hunt for a boar that the goddess Artemis sent to devastate Calydon. The hero finally killed the animal, but gave the head and skin to the huntress Atalanta, who had been the first to wound the beast and with whom Meleager was in love. When his maternal uncles, angered at this award, took the trophies from Atalanta, Meleager killed them.
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Memnon
King of Ethiopia, the son of the Trojan prince Tithonus and of Eos, goddess of the dawn. In the tenth year of the Trojan War, Memnon brought his army to the assistance of Troy. He fought bravely but was eventually killed by the Greek hero Achilles. To comfort Memnon's mother, however, the god Zeus made him immortal.
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Menelaus-might of the people
King of Sparta, husband of Helen, and brother of Agamemnon. When Paris abducted Helen to Troy, Menelaus asked the Greek kings to join him in the Trojan War. At its end he returned to Sparta with Helen.
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Mentor
Odysseus's (Ulysses) trusted counselor
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Merope
One of the Pleiades. She married Sisyphus, a mortal, and bore him a son, Glaucus, who was torn to pieces by his horses because he would not allow them to breed.
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Midas
Midas was king of Phrygia. Because he befriended Silenus, Dionysus granted him the power to turn everything he touched into gold. When even his food became gold, he washed away his power in the Pactolus River.
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Minos
A king of Crete, the son of Zeus and Europa, who was made one of the three judges in the underworld after his death.
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Mount Olympus
Where the gods lived and held court. (In some myths it is located at the center of the earth, in others it is in the heavens, and in some it is believed to be in Greece.)
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Myrmidons
A people of Aegina. When the city was depopulated by a plague, Aeacus, its king, prayed to the gods that the ants infesting an oak tree be turned into people to repopulate his kingdom. The prayer was granted. These men followed Achilles to the siege of Troy, and proved to be fierce and diligent warriors.
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Myrrha
The mother of Adonis.
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Narcissus-narcotic
An exceptionally handsome youth. His mother was told he would live a long life if he did not look upon his own features. He chanced to see his reflection in the waters of a spring, fell in love with that reflection and pined away till he died by the side of the spring. In another version, he thought the reflection was that of the nymph who dwelt there, and jumped in to catch her, and drowned. The narcissus flower supposedly grew at that spot.
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Nausicaa
The Greek heroine who brought the ship-wrecked Odysseus to her father, the king of the Phaeacians.
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Niobe-snowy
Her husband, King Amphion, was a son of the god Zeus and a great musician. Niobe bore him six handsome sons and six beautiful daughters. Although she was happy, Niobe exhibited the same arrogance toward the gods that her father, Atreus, had shown. Niobe commanded the people of Thebes to worship her instead of the goddess Leto, who had only two children. The gods heard her words and resolved to punish her. Leto's children, Apollo and Artemis fired their arrows with deadly aim, killing all of Niobe's children. The grief-stricken Niobe was turned into a stone that was forever wet with her tears.
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Oenone-queen of wine
She was the wife of Paris who jilted her for Helen of Troy. When he was wounded in the Trojan War she was the only one who could cure him, but because she was bitter about being jilted, she refused. When his condition worsened and he was near death, she relented but did not get to Troy in time to save him. Overcome with grief at his death, she committed suicide.
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Omphale-navel
Queen of Lydia. She was very masculine, and when Hercules was her slave for three years, she wore the lion's skin while he wore a female garment and spent his time spinning wool.
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Ophiuchus
(There is a constellation called Ophiuchus which lies on top of the constellation Serpens and many cultures saw a man wrestling with a snake.) He was the son of Apollo and legend has it that he learned the art of healing from a snake. He became so good that he could raise people from the dead. Hades complained to Zeus and Zeus struck him down with a thunderbolt. Ophiuchus and Serpens were then placed in the sky with Serpens wrapped around Ophiuchus' stick (the medical profession's symbol). See also Asclepius for another version.
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Orestes-mountaineer
Son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, brother of Electra and Iphigenia. Orestes was exiled after the slaying of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Later he returned and, helped by Electra, killed his mother and her lover.
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Orion-dweller on the mountain
A handsome giant and mighty hunter, the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Euryale, the Gorgon. Orion fell in love with Merope, the daughter of Oenopion, king of Chios, and sought her in marriage. Oenopion, however, constantly deferred his consent to the marriage. Orion, while drunk, raped Merope. Incensed at his behavior, her father, with the aid of the god Dionysus, threw him into a deep sleep and blinded him. Orion then consulted an oracle, who told him he could regain his sight by going to the east and letting the rays of the rising sun fall on his eyes. His sight restored, he lived on Crete as the huntsman of the goddess Artemis. The goddess eventually killed him, however, because she was jealous of his affection for Aurora, goddess of the dawn. After Orion's death, Artemis placed him in the heavens as a constellation.
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Orpheus
A legendary poet and musician, son of the Muse Calliope by Apollo or by Oeagrus, a king of Thrace. He was given the lyre by Apollo and became such an excellent musician that he had no rival among mortals. He is said to have played the lyre so beautifully that he charmed everything animate and inanimate. His music enchanted the trees and rocks and tamed wild beasts, and even the rivers turned in their course to follow him. He married the lovely nymph Eurydice. Soon after the wedding the bride was stung by a viper and died. Orpheus determined to go to the underworld and try to bring her back, something no mortal had ever done. Hades, the ruler of the underworld, was so moved by his playing that he gave Eurydice back to Orpheus on the one condition that he not look back until they reached the upperworld, but Orpheus could not control his eagerness and as he gained the light of day he looked back a moment too soon, and Eurydice vanished. Grief-stricken, Orpheus forsook human company and wandered in the wilds, playing for the rocks and trees and rivers. Finally a fierce band of Thracian women, who were followers of the god Dionysus, came upon the gentle musician and killed him. When they threw his severed head in the river Hebrus, it continued to call for Eurydice, and was finally carried to the shore of Lesbos, where the Muses buried it. After Orpheus's death his lyre became the constellation Lyra.
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