Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The epics of Homer, the wars of Caesar, and temples and palaces characterize the image of classic antiquity and the cultures of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. They are the sources from which the Western world draws the foundations of its philosophy, literature, and, not least of all, its state organization. The Greek city-states, above all Athens, were the birthplace of democracy. The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and great parts of Northwest Europe were forged together into the Roman Empire, which survived until the time of the Great Migration of Peoples. Mighty empires also existed beyond the ancient Mediterranean world, however, such as those of the Mauryas in India and the Han in China.




see also:

Greek and Roman Myths in Art



The Culture of the Greeks and Romans



see also:


HOMER "Iliad", "Odyssey"

The Odyssey of Homer

illustrations by John Flaxman


Greek and Roman Myths in Art


see also EXPLORATION (in Russian):

Homer  "Iliad "and "Odyssey"



APULEIUS "The Golden Asse"

Apuleius "The Golden Asse"

illustrations by Jean de Bosschere and Martin Van Maele



LONGUS "Daphnis and Chloe"


"The Pastorals, or the Loves of Daphnis and Chloe"

illustrations by Marc Chagall



"Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes"




"Bulfinch's Mythology"




The Greek and Roman civilizations of antiquity are regarded today as the origins of Western civilization. The Greek thirst for knowledge and structure and the Roman achievements in political organization have shaped European culture to the present day, and their influence has radiated out to other parts of the world as well.


Greek Mythology

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Body of stories concerning the gods, heroes, and rituals of the ancient Greeks. That the myths contained a considerable element of fiction the more critical Greeks, such as the philosopher Plato in the 5th–4th centuries BC, recognized. In general, however, the myths were viewed in the popular piety of the Greeks as trueaccounts. Greek mythology has subsequently had extensive influence on the arts and literature of Western civilization, which fell heir to much of Greek culture.

Although people of all countries, eras, and stages of civilization have developed myths that explain the existence and workings of natural phenomena, recount the deeds of godsor heroes, or seek to justify social or political institutions, the myths of the Greeks have remained unrivaled in the Western world as sources of imaginative and appealing ideas. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in classical mythological themes.

The Homeric poems: the Iliad and the Odyssey

Herodotus remarked that Homer and Hesiod gave to the Olympian gods their familiar characteristics. Few today would accept this literally. In the first book of the Iliad, the son of Zeus and Leto is as instantly identifiable by his patronymic as are the sons of Atreus . In both cases, the audience is expected to have knowledge of the myths that preceded their literary rendering. Most scholars hold that Homer's tone is light and humorous and that the audience is not expected to take the gods seriously. Others reply that little is known to suggest that the Greeks treated Homer, or any other source of Greek myths, as mere entertainment, whereas there are prominent Greeks from Pindar to the later Stoa for whom myths, and those from Homer in particular, are so serious as to warrant bowdlerization or allegorization.

The works of Hesiod: Theogony and Works and Days

The fullest and most important source of myths about the origin of the gods is the Theogony of Hesiod. The elaborate genealogies mentioned above are accompanied by folktalesand etiological myths. The Works and Days shares some of these in the context of a farmer's calendar and an extensive harangue on the subject of justice addressed to Hesiod's possibly fictitious brother Perses. The orthodox view treats the two poems as quite different in theme and treats the Works and Days as a theodicy (a natural theology). It is possible, however, to treat the two poems as a diptych, each part dependent on the other. The Theogony declares the identities and alliances of the gods, while the Works and Days gives advice on the best way to succeed in a dangerous world rendered yet more dangerous by its gods; and Hesiod urges that the most reliable—though by no means certain—way is to be just.

Other literary works

Fragmentary post-Homeric epics, of varying date and authorship, filled the gaps in the accounts of the Trojan War recorded in the Iliad and Odyssey; the so-called Homeric Hymns (shorter surviving poems) are the source of several important religious myths. Many of the lyric poets preserved various myths, but the odes of Pindar of Thebes (flourished 6th–5th century BC) are particularly rich in myth and legend. The works of the three tragedians—Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, all of the 5th century BC—are remarkable for the variety of the traditions they preserve. In Hellenistic times (323–30 BC) Callimachus, a 3rd-century-BC poet and scholar in Alexandria, recorded many obscure myths; his contemporary, the mythographer Euhemerus, suggested that the gods were originally human, a view known as Euhemerism. Apollonius of Rhodes, another scholar of the 3rd century BC, preserved the fullest account of the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. In the periodof the Roman Empire, the Library of the pseudo-Apollodorus (attributed to a 2nd-century-AD scholar), the antiquarian writings of the Greek biographer Plutarch, and the works of Pausanias, a 2nd-century-AD geographer, as well as the Genealogies of Hyginus, a 2nd-century-AD mythographer, have provided valuable sources in Latin of later Greek mythology.

Forms of myth in Greek culture

To distinguish among myth, legend, and folktale can be useful, provided it is remembered that the Greeks themselves did not do so.

Religious myths

Greek religious myths are concerned with gods or heroes in their more serious aspects or are connected with ritual. They include cosmogonical tales of the genesis of the gods and the world out of Chaos, the successions of divine rulers, and the internecine struggles that culminated in the supremacy of Zeus, the ruling god of Olympus. They also include the long tale of Zeus's amours with goddesses and mortal women, which usually resulted in the births of younger deities and heroes. The goddess Athena's unique status is implicit in the story of her motherless birth (she was born directly from Zeus); and the myths of Apollo explain that god's sacral associations, describe his remarkable victories over monsters and giants, and stress his jealousy and the dangers inherent in immortal alliances.

Myths of Dionysus, on the other hand, demonstrate the hostility aroused by a novel faith. Some myths are closely associated with rituals, such as the account of the drowning of the infant Zeus's cries by the Curetes, attendants of Zeus, clashing their weapons, or Hera's annual restoration of her virginity by bathing in the spring Canathus. Some myths about heroes and heroines also had a religious basis. The tale of man's creation and moral decline forms part of the myth of the Four Ages (see below Myths of the ages of the world). His subsequent destruction by flood and regeneration from stones is partly based on folktale.


Myths were viewed as embodying divine or timeless truths, whereas legends (or sagas) were quasi historical. Hence, famous events in epics, such as the Trojan War, were generally regarded as having really happened, and heroes and heroines were believed to have actually lived. Earlier sagas, such as the voyage of the Argonauts, were accepted in a similar fashion. Most Greek legends were embellished with folktales and fiction, but some certainly contain a historical substratum. Such are the tales of more than one sack of Troy, which are supported by archaeological evidence, and the labours of Heracles, which suggest Mycenaean feudalism. Again, the legend of the Minotaur (a being part human, part bull) could have arisen from exaggerated accounts of bull leaping in ancient Crete.

In another class of legends, heinous offenses, such as attempting to make love to a goddess against her will, deceiving the gods grossly by inculpating them in crime, or assuming their prerogatives, were punished by everlasting torture in the underworld. The consequences of social crimes, such as murder or incest, were also described in legend (e.g., the story of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother). Legends were also sometimes employed to justify existing political systems or to bolster territorial claims.


Folktales, consisting of popular recurring themes and told for amusement, inevitably found their way into Greek myth. Such is the theme of lost persons—whether husband, wife, or child (e.g., Odysseus, Helen of Troy, or Paris of Troy)—found or recovered after long and exciting adventures. Journeys to the land of the dead were made by Orpheus (a hero who went to Hades to restore his dead wife, Eurydice, to the realm of the living), Heracles, Odysseus, and These us (the slayer of the Minotaur). The victory of the little man by means of cunning against impossible odds, the exploits of the superman (e.g., Heracles), or the long-delayed victory over enemies are still as popular with modern writers as they were with the Greeks. The successful countering of the machinations of cruel sires and stepmothers (who are often witches), rescues of princesses from monsters, or temporary forgetfulness at a crucial moment are also familiar themes in Greek myth. Recognition by tokens, such as Odysseus' scar or peculiarities of dress, is another common folktale motif. The babes-in-the-wood theme of the exposure of children and their subsequent recovery is also found in Greek myth. The Greeks, however, also knew of the exposure of children as a common practice.

Myths of origin

Myths of origin represent an attempt to render the universe comprehensible in human terms. Greek creation myths (cosmogonies) and views of the universe (cosmologies) were more systematic and specific than those of other ancient peoples. Yet their very artistry serves as an impediment to interpretation, since the Greeks embellished the myths with folktale and fiction told for its own sake. Thus, though the aim of Hesiod's Theogony is to describe theascendancy of Zeus (and, incidentally, the rise of the other gods), the inclusion of such familiar themes as the hostility between the generations, the enigma of woman (Pandora), the exploits of the friendly trickster (Prometheus), or struggles against powerful beings or monsters like the Titans (and, in later tradition, the Giants) enhances the interest of an epic account.

According to Hesiod, four primary divine beings first came into existence: the Gap (Chaos), Earth (Gaea), the Abyss (Tartarus), and Love (Eros). The creative process began with the forcible separation of Gaea from her doting consort Heaven (Uranus) in order to allow her progeny to be born. The means of separation employed, the cutting off of Uranus' genitals by his son Cronus, bears a certain resemblance to a similar story recorded in Babylonian epic. The crudity is relieved, however, in characteristic Greek fashion by the friendly collaboration of Uranus and Gaea, after their divorce, in a plan to save Zeus from the same Cronus, his cannibalistic sire.

According to Greek cosmological concepts, the Earth was viewed as a flat disk afloat on the river of Ocean. The Sun (Helios) traversed the heavens like a charioteer and sailed around the Earth in a golden bowl at night. Natural fissures were popularly regarded as entrances to the subterranean house of Hades, home of the dead.

Myths of the ages of the world

From a very early period, Greek myths seem open to criticism and alteration on grounds of morality or of misrepresentation of known facts. In the Works and Days, Hesiod makes use of a scheme of Four Ages (or Races): Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. “Race” is the more accurate translation, but “Golden Age” has become so established in English that both terms should be mentioned. These races or ages are separate creations of the gods, the Golden Age belonging to the reign of Cronus, the subsequent races the creation of Zeus. Those of the Golden Age never grew old, were free from toil, and passed their time in jollity and feasting. When they died, they became guardian spirits on Earth.

Why the Golden Age came to an end Hesiod failed to explain, but it was succeeded by the Silver Age. After an inordinately prolonged childhood, the men of the Silver Age began to act presumptuously and neglected the gods. Consequently, Zeus hid them in the Earth, where they became spirits among the dead.

Zeus next created the men of the Bronze Age, men of violence who perished by mutual destruction. At this point the poet intercalates the Age (or Race) of Heroes. He thereby destroys the symmetry of the myth, in the interests of history: what is now known as the Minoan–Mycenaean period was generally believed in antiquity to have been a good time to live. (This subjection of myth to history is not universal in Greece, but it is found in writers such as Hesiod, Xenophanes, Pindar, Aeschylus, and Plato.) Of these heroes the more favoured (who were related to the gods) reverted to a kind of restored Golden Age existence under the rule of Cronus (forced into honourable exile by his son Zeus) in the Isles of the Blessed.

The final age, the antithesis of the Golden Age, was the Iron Age, during which the poet himself had the misfortune to live. But even that was not the worst, for he believed that a time would come when infants would be born old, and there would be no recourse left against the universal moral decline. The presence of evil was explained by Pandora's rash action in opening the fatal urn.

Elsewhere in Greek and Roman literature, the belief in successive periods or races is found with the belief that by some means, when the worst is reached, the system gradually (Plato, Politikos) or quickly (Virgil, Fourth Eclogue) returns to the Golden Age. Hesiod may have known this version; he wishes to have been born either earlier or later. There is also a myth of progress, associated with Prometheus, god of craftsmen; but the progress is limited, for the 19th-century concept of eternal advancement is absent from Greek thought.

Myths of the gods

Myths about the gods described their births, victories over monsters or rivals, love affairs, special powers, or connections with a cultic site or ritual. As these powers tended to be wide, the myths of many gods were correspondingly complex. Thus, the Homeric Hymns to Demeter, a goddess of agriculture, and to the Delian and Pythian Apollo describe how these deities came to be associated with sites at Eleusis, Delos, and Delphi, respectively. Similarly, myths about Athena, the patroness of Athens, tend to emphasize the goddess' love of war and her affection for heroes and the city of Athens; and those concerning Hermes (the messenger of the gods), Aphrodite (goddess of love), or Dionysus describe Hermes' proclivities as a god of thieves, Aphrodite's lovemaking, and Dionysus' association with wine, frenzy, miracles, and even ritual death. Poseidon (god of the sea) was unusually atavistic, in that his union with Earth and his equine adventures appear to hark back to his pre-marine status as a horse or earthquake god. Many myths are treated as trivial and lighthearted; but, as was said above, this judgment rests on the suppressed premise that any divine behaviour that seems inappropriate for a major religion must have seemed absurd and fictitious to the Greeks. It is uncertain whether Homer knew of the judgment of Paris; but he knew the far from trivial consequences for Troy of the favour of Aphroditeand the bitter enmity of Hera and Athena, which the judgment of Paris was composed to explain.

As time went on, an accretion of minor myths continued to supplement the older and more authentic ones. Thus, the loves of Apollo, virtually ignored by Homer and Hesiod, explained why the bay (or laurel) became Apollo's sacred tree and how he came to father Asclepius, a healing god. Similarly, the presence of the cuckoo on Hera's sceptre at Hermione or the invention of the panpipe were explained by fables. Such etiological myths proliferated during the Hellenistic era, though in the earlier periods genuine examples are harder to detect.

Of folk deities, the nymphs (nature goddesses) personified nature or the life in water or trees and were said to punish unfaithful lovers. Water nymphs (Naiads) were reputed to drown those with whom they fell in love, such as Hylas, a companion of Heracles. Even the gentle Muses (goddesses of the arts and sciences) blinded their human rivals, such as the bard Thamyris. Satyrs (youthful folk deities with bestial features) and Sileni (old and drunken folk deities) were the nymphs' male counterparts. Like sea deities, Sileni possessed secret knowledge that they would reveal only under duress. Charon, the grisly ferryman of the dead, was also a popular figure of folktale.

Myths of heroes

Hero myths included elements from tradition, folktale, and fiction. The saga of the Argonauts, for example, is highly complex and includes elements from folktale and fiction, butthe information that the fleet mustered at Colchis may be regarded as genuine legend. Episodes in the Trojan cycle, such as the departure of the Greek fleet from Aulis or Theseus' Cretan expedition and death on Scyros, may belongto traditions dating from the Minoan–Mycenaean world. On the other hand, events described in the Iliad probably owe far more to Homer's creative ability than to genuine tradition. Even heroes like Achilles, Hector, or Diomedes are largely fictional, though doubtlessly based on legendary prototypes. The Odyssey is the prime example of the wholesale importation of folktales into epic. All the best-known Greek hero myths, such as the labours of Heracles and the adventures of Perseus, Cadmus, Pelops, or Oedipus, depend more for their interest on folktales than legend. Certain heroes—Heracles, the Dioscuri (the twins Castor and Pollux), Amphiaraus (one of the Argonauts), or Hyacinthus (a youth loved by Apollo and accidentally killed)—may be regarded as partly legend and partly religious myth. Thus, whereas Heracles, a man of Tiryns, may originally have been a historical character, the myth of his demise on Oeta and subsequent elevation to full divinity is closely linked with a cult. In time, Heracles' popularity was responsible for connecting his story with the Argonauts, an earlier attack on Troy, and with Theban myth. Similarly, the exploits of the Dioscuri are those of typical heroes: fighting, carrying off women, and cattle rustling. After their death theypassed six months alternately beneath the Earth and in the world above, which suggests that their worship, like that of Persephone (the daughter of Zeus and Demeter), was connected with fertility or seasonal change.

Myths of seasonal renewal

Certain myths, in which goddesses or heroes were temporarily incarcerated in the underworld, were allegories of seasonal renewal. Perhaps the best-known myth of this type is the one telling how Hades (Latin Pluto), the god of the underworld, carried Persephone off to be his consort, causing her mother Demeter, the goddess of grain, to allow the earth to grow barren out of grief. Because of her mother's grief, Zeus permitted Persephone to spend four months of the year in the house of Hades and eight in the light of day. In less benign climates, she was said to spend six months of the year in each. Some scholars hold that Persephone's time below ground represents the summer months, when Greek fields are parched and bare; but the Hymn to Demeter, the earliest source, states explicitly that Persephone returns when the spring flowers are flourishing (line 401). Myths of seasonal renewal, in which the deity dies and returns to life at particular times of the year, are plentiful. An important Greek example is the Cretan Zeus, mentioned above.

Myths involving theriolatry

Many Greek myths involve animal transformations, though there is no proof that theriolatry (animal worship) was ever practiced by the Greeks. Gods sometimes assumed the form of beasts in order to deceive goddesses or women. Zeus, for example, assumed the form of a bull when he carried off Europa, a Phoenician princess, and appeared in the guise of a swan in order to attract Leda, wife of a king of Sparta. Poseidon took the shape of a stallion to beget the wonder horses Arion and Pegasus.

These myths do not suggest theriolatry. No worship is offered to the deity concerned. The animals serve other purposes in the narratives. Bulls were the most powerful animals known to the Greeks and may have been worshiped in the remote past. But for the Greeks in even the earliest sources, there is no indication that Zeus or Poseidon were once bulls or horses, or that Hera was ever “ox-eyed” other than metaphorically, or that “gray-eyed” Athena was ever “owl-faced.”

Other types

Other types of myth exemplified the belief that the gods sometimes appeared on Earth disguised as men and women and rewarded any help or hospitality offered them. Baucis, an old Phrygian woman, and Philemon, her husband, for example, were saved from the flood by offering hospitality to Zeus and Hermes, both of whom were in human form. The punishment of men's presumption in claiming to be the gods'superiors, whether in musical skill or even the number of their children, is described in several myths. The gods' jealousy of their musical talents appears in the beating and flaying of the flute-playing Satyr, Marsyas, by Athena and Apollo, as well as in the attaching of ass's ears to King Midas for failing to appreciate the superiority of Apollo's music to that of the god Pan. Jealousy was the motive for the slaying of Niobe's many children, because of Niobe's flaunting her fecundity to the goddess Leto, who had only two offspring. Similar to such stories are the moral tales about the fate of Icarus, who flew too high on homemade wings, or the myth about Phaethon, the son of Helios, who failed to perform a task too great for him (controlling the horses of the Sun).

Transformation into flowers or trees, whether to escape a god's embraces (such as Daphne, a nymph transformed into a laurel tree), as the result of an accident (such as Hyacinthus, a friend of Apollo, who was changed into a flower), or because of pride (e.g., the beautiful youth Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection and was changed into a flower), were familiar themes in Greek myth.

Also popular were myths of fairylands, such as the Garden of the Hesperides (in the far west) or the land of the Hyperboreans (in the far north), or encounters with monstrous or outlandish people, such as the Centaurs or Amazons.

Greek mythological characters and motifs in art and literature

People of all eras have been moved and baffled by the deceptive simplicity of Greek myths, and Greek mythologyhas had a profound effect on the development of Western civilization.

The earliest visual representations of mythological characters and motifs occur in late Mycenaean and sub-Mycenaean art. Though identification is controversial, Centaurs, a Siren, and even Zeus's lover Europa have been recognized. Mythological and epic themes are also found in Geometric art of the 8th century BC, but not until the 7th century did such themes become popular in both ceramic and sculptured works. During the Classical and subsequent periods, they became commonplace. The birth of Athena wasthe subject of the east pediment of the Parthenon in Athens, and the legend of Pelops and the labours of Heracles was thesubject of the corresponding pediment and the metopes (a space on a Doric frieze) of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The battles of gods with Giants and of Lapiths (a wild race in northern Greece) with Centaurs were also favourite motifs. Pompeian frescoes reveal realistic representations of Theseus and Ariadne, Perseus, the fall of Icarus, and the death of Pyramus.

The great Renaissance masters added a new dimension to Greek mythology. Among the best-known subjects of Italian artists are Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” (see ), the Ledas of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, and Raphael's “Galatea.”

Through the medium of Latin and, above all, the works of Ovid, Greek myth influenced medieval poets such as Petrarch and Boccaccio in Italy and Chaucer in England; Dante in Italy during the Renaissance; and, later, the English Elizabethans and John Milton. Racine in France and Goethe in Germany revived Greek drama, and nearly all the major English poets from Shakespeare to Robert Bridges turned for inspiration to Greek mythology. In more recent times, classical themes have been reinterpreted by such major dramatists as Jean Anouilh, Jean Cocteau, and Jean Giraudoux in France, Eugene O'Neill in America, and T.S. Eliot in England and by great novelists such as James Joyce (Irish) and André Gide (French). The German composers Christoph Gluck (18th century) and Richard Strauss (20th century), the German-French composer Jacques Offenbach (19th century), and many others have set Greek mythological themes to music.

John Richard Thornhill Pollard

A.W.H. Adkins

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Myth in culture

Myth and the arts

Visual arts

In principle, the sort of relationship that exists between myth and literature exists also with respect to the other arts. In the case of architecture and sculpture, archaeological discoveries confirm the primacy of mythical representations. Among the earliest known three-dimensional objects built by man are prehistoric megalithic and sepulchral structures. Mythological details cannot actually be discerned, but it is generally believed that such structures express mythological concerns and that mythical images dictated the shape. An especially intriguing example is the stone circle at Stonehenge in southern England. Axes of this construction are aligned with significant risings and settings of the sun and moon, but the idea that the circle was built for a religious purpose must remain likely rather than certain.

Grave monuments of rulers are among the most important remains of ancient civilizations (e.g., the Egyptian pyramids; and the sepulchral structures of Chinese rulers since the Chou period, c. 1111–255 BC). There is worldwide evidence that in archaic cultures man considered the points of the compass to have mythological affiliations (e.g., the West and death or the East and a new beginning). Mythological views even influenced building activity. One architectural feature that can have mythological significance is the column. In a number of popular traditions the sky is believed to be supported by one or more columns. The relatively strict separation between religious and civil architecture that modern man is perhaps inclined to take for granted has not existed in most cultures and periods and perhaps is not universal even in modern times.

Even when art ceases to represent mythological matters outright, it is still usually far from representational. That art has ceased to represent mythology is challenged by some theorists, who argue that what seems to be abandonment of mythological forms is really only a change in mythology. The opposing arguments are analogous to the favour able or unfavourable attitudes toward myth that religions have developed.

Performing arts

Myth is one of the principal roots of drama. This is particularly obvious in the earliest Western drama, the tragedies of classical Greece, not only because of the many mythological subjects treated and the plays' performance at the festival of Dionysus but also because of the playwrights' mythlike presentation of events and facts. An example of such presentation is the story pattern, notably the way retribution follows transgression. Another feature of Greek drama that is relevant to the subject of myth is the fact that the role of the chorus was taken by a group of ordinary citizens. In Greek tragedy the heroic past was presented and explored by a chorus of nonheroic individuals; hence the meaning of the inherited myths was examined by a collectivity that can be seen as standing for the wider collectivity (more than 10,000 in number) that constituted the audience at the plays. In its songs the chorus frequently had recourse to expressions of a proverbial kind, using the distilled wisdom of the community to account for the strange and often disturbing events represented in the plays. The origins of drama are obscure, but Theodor Gaster, an American historian of religion, has suggested that in the ancient eastern Mediterranean world the interrelationship of myth and ritual created drama. Elsewhere, dramatic presentations (as in Japanese no plays and the Javanese wayang) are similarly rooted in myth.

Dance has been a medium for the expression of mythological themes throughout the world and in all periods for which there is evidence. Especially common are dances aimed at ensuring the continuity of fertility or the success of hunting, at curing the sick, or at achieving shamanistic trance states. An aspect of the decay of ritual in the modern West is the tendency for dance to lose its close and direct connection with the life of the community. A further consequence is that the role of dance in embodying and exploring a community's myths has often been overlooked, and dance may have become further removed from myth than any other form of art in the Western world. There are important and significant exceptions, however. One of the most notable is the work of the American choreographer Martha Graham, who frequently used mythical themes—often drawn from Greek antiquity—as the inspiration for her ballets.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


Greek Name Description Roman Name
Aphrodite Aphrodite, the golden goddess of Love; born of the blood of Ouranos (the Heavens) and the foam of the sea.
(Aphrodite, Venus)
Apollon Apollon, the son of Zeus and Leto; the brother of Artemis.
(Apollo, Apollon, Phoibos Apollon, the Striker from Afar)
Ares Ares, the god of War; the son of Zeus and Hera.
(Ares, Aries, Mars, God of War)
Artemis Artemis, Diana
(Artemis, Diana)
Athene Athene, the goddess of Wisdom; the daughter of Zeus and Metis; the virgin goddess of intellect and invention.
(Athene, Athena, Pallas Athene, Tritogeneia, Glaukopis, Minerva)
Demeter Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest; the daughter of Kronos (Cronos) and Rheia (Rhea).
(Demeter, Ceres)
Dione Dione, the Mother Goddess of Mount Olympos (Olympus).
Eos Eos, the Dawn; mother of the Winds.
(Dawn, Eos, Erigeneia)
Enyo Enyo, one of the Graiai (the Gray Sisters); the daughters of Keto (Ceto) and Phorkys (Phorcys).
(Enyo, Bellona, Gray Sisters, Graiai)
Erida Erida, the wearisome goddess of Hate.
(Erida, Hate)
Erinyes Erinys, the Mist-Walking and the Kindly One; punisher of the unfaithful.
(Erinyes, Erinys, Furiae, Furies, Tisiphone, Megaera, Alecto, Alekto)
Eris Eris, the goddess of Discord and Strife.
(Eris, Discordia, Discord)
Eros Eros, the primal god of Love; using arrows of gold and lead, he would wound the hearts of mortals and Immortals alike.
(Eros, Cupid)
Eurynome Eurynome, one of the many daughters of Ocean; the mother of the Graces.
Fates The Fates, the Daughters of Necessity; born of Zeus and Themis.
(Fates, Morae, Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos, Klotho, Lakhesis, Moiras, Keras, Moirai, Moira)
Gorgons Gorgons, the daughters of Phorkys and Keto (Ceto); with snakes about their heads and wrists, Medusa, Sthenno and Euryale were so hideous, the shock of seeing them would turn anyone to stone.
(Gorgon, Medusa, Sthenno, Euryale)
Graces Graces, the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome; the attendants of Aphrodite (goddess of Love) and the incarnations of Grace and Charm.
(The Graces, Graces, Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Thalia, The Charities, Charities)
Hades Hades, Lord of the Underworld; the son of Kronos (Cronos) and Rheia (Rhea).
(Hades, Underworld, Pluto)
Hebe Hebe, the goddess of Youth; the daughter of Zeus and Hera; the wife of Herakles (Heracles).
(Hebe, Youth)
Helios Helios, the Sun; the son of Hyperion and Eryphaesa; he sees everything his light touches.
(Helios, Sun God, the Sun)
Hephaistos Hephaistos, the god of the Smith; the son of Hera and artificer of the Olympians.
(Hephaistos, Hephaestus, Vulcan)
Hera Hera, the daughter of Kronos (Cronos) and Rheia (Rhea); the wife to Zeus; the most beautiful of the Immortals.
(Hera, Juno)
Heracles Herakles, the ultimate hero; the son of Zeus and Alkmene (Alcmene).
(Herakles, Hercules, The Twelve Labors)
Hermes Hermes, the wing shod messenger of the Olympians; the son of Zeus and Maia.
(Hermes, Mercury, Argeiphontes)
Hestia Hestia, the virgin goddess of the Hearth and humble domestic joy.
(Hestia, Vesta)
Hyperion Hyperion, the Titan; father of Helios (the Sun), Eos (the Dawn) and Selene (the Moon).
Hypnos Hypnos, the god of Sleep; a child of Nix (Night) and the brother of Thanatos (Death).
(Hypnos, Somnus)
Io Io, the Heifer-Maiden who rejected the love of Zeus.
(Io, Heifer-Maiden)
Iris Iris, the Wind-Footed messenger of the Immortals.
Kalypso Kalypso, the queenly Nymph and lover of Odysseus.
(Calypso, Kalypso, Nymph, Nymphs)
Kheiron Kheiron, the most righteous of the Centaurs; the powerful master of many arts and sciences.
(Cheiron, Kheiron, Centaurs, Centaur, Eurytion)
Kirke Kirke, the Dread Goddess; the daughter of Helios and the mistress of potions and spells.
(Circe, Kirke)
Kronos Kronos, the Titan; father of the Olympians.
(Kronos, Cronos, Cronus, Saturn)
Leto Leto, the consort of Zeus and mother of Apollon and Artemis.
Muses The Muses attend the festivals on Olympos and entertain and inspire the other gods with their wit and charm.
(Muses, Mousai)
Nereids The Nereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris.
(The Nereids, Nereids, Thetis, Agaue, Aktaia, Amphinome, Amphithoe, Apseudes, Dexamene, Doris, Doto, Dynamene, Galateia, Glauke, Halia, Iaira, Ianassa, Ianeira, Kallianassa, Kallianeira, Klymene, Kumodoke, Kumothoe, Limnoreia, Maira, Melite, Nemertes, Nesaie, Oreithyia, Pherousa, Panope, Proto, Speio, Thaleia, Thoe)
Odysseus Odysseus, the hero of the Trojan War and the long suffering traveler in The Odyssey.
(Odysseus, Ulysses)
Orai Orai, the three sisters, Eunomia (Harmony), Dyke (Justice) and Eirene (Peace) assist the Olympians by organizing the Seasons and adding balance to Nature.
(Hours, The Hours, Eunomia, Dyke, Eiren, Horae, The Horae, Orai)
Pan Pan, the Goat-God; he prances through the fertile countryside in the company of Nymphs playing his seven-reed pipe in wild abandon.
(Pan, Faunus, Goat God)
Persephone Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus; the wife of Hades and queen of the Underworld.
(Persephone, Proserpina)
Poseidon Poseidon, the lord the Sea; son of Kronos (Cronos) and Rheia (Rhea).
(Poseidon, Neptune)
Prometheus Prometheus, the rebel god; in defiance of Zeus, he gave fire and other comforts to the mortals on the earth.
Rheia Rheia, the wife of devious Kronos (Cronos) and mother to the Olympians.
(Rheia, Rhea)
Rivers Rivers; the children of Okeanos (Ocean); Immortals who have chosen rivers as their earthly bodies.
(Rivers, Acheloios, Akheloios, Aiseopos, Alpheios, Asopos, Axios, Boagrios, Grenikos, Gyge, Hermos, Hyllos, Hypereia, Karesos, Kephisos, Lykia, Maiandros, Messeis, Minyeios, Ocean, Okeanos, Parthenios, Peneios, Rhesos, Rhodios, Sangarious, Satnioeis, Simoei, Skamandros, Spercheios, Styx, Titaressos, Xanthos)
Skylla Skylla, the man-eating she-beast with six heads.
(Skylla, Charybdis, Kharybdis)
Styx Styx, the eldest daughter of Okeanos (Ocean) and Tethys; any Immortal who pours the waters of Styx and swears an oath, is solemnly bound to tell only the truth.
Thanatos Thanatos, the god of Death; a child of Nix (Night) and the brother of Hypnos (Sleep).
(Thanatos, Death)
Thetis Thetis, one of the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris; the wife of Peleus and the mother of Akhilleus (Achilles).
Winds The Winds are Immortals who have chosen the air as their earthly bodies.
(Winds, Eos, Boreas, Eurus, Notus, Zephyros, North Wind, East Wind, South Wind, West Wind, Kaikias, Caicias, Apeliotes, Lips, Skiron, Sciron)
Zeus Zeus, the Olympian; the son of Kronos (Cronos) and Rheia (Rhea); lord of the Sky.
(Zeus, Jupiter)

Greek and Roman Myths in Art



























































































































The Trojan War

Paris and Helen




Peleus and Thetis


Hector and Andromache










Aachen Abate Albani Altere Amaury-Duval Amigoni
Backer J. Backer A. Baldung Balen Bassano Batoni
Bellini Biliverti Bloemaert Bocklin Bordone Botero
Both Botticelli Boucher Bouchot Bouguereau Bourdon
Bril Broc Bronzino Bruegel J. Bruegel P. Burne-Jones
Cabanel Caravaggio Carpioni Carraci Cerrini Cesari
Chirico Claude Lorrain Clerck Clouet Copley Corinth
Cornelisz Corot Correggio Cousin Coypel Cranach
Crane Credi Crespi Creti                       
Dali Danedi David Delacroix Delvaux Delville
Domenichino Dossi Durand Dyck                           
Ekwall Elsheimer                                                      
Fantin-Latour Feuerbach Floris                                           
Gabbiani Gerard Gericault Gerome Giordano Giorgione
Girodet-Trioson Giulio Romano Goya Greco Greuze Guercino
Ingres Ivanov                                   
Janssens Jordaens                                        
Kauffmann Klimt                                                
Lastman Lemoyne Liotard Loo                  
Mabuse Moreau                                    
Palma Giovane Piero di Cosimo Pittoni Poussin
Raphael Redon Rembrandt Reni Rosetti Rubens
Sesto Spranger Stuck                        
Tiepolo Titian
Vallejo Velazquez Veronese Vos            
Waterhouse Watts West Wtewael                      



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