“Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece” are stories from the Greek mythology concerning gods and people. The myth tells us about supernatural heroes and creatures. They serve to give us a proper model of behavior. There are also examples of non proper models of behavior showed to us by antiheroes.
The author collected the stories for 20 years. In the introduction he tells us about all the important characters from Greek mythology, the world’s origins and the Greek concept of Gods.
In his stories he listed heroes, gods, half-gods. The author narrated the most important stories and myths from the Greek mythology which were processed in works of many Greek philosophers, writers and historians.
Theme: every story speaks about a different kind of destiny
Place: Ancient Greece (Crete, Sicily, Phrygia, Athena…) and the areas in which gods lived.
Time: unspecified – even though we know that the stories were made centuries before Christ they are perceived as timeless
Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus was from Athena and he was the most important artist of his time. He was very jealous and it was very important for him to save his position. He had a nephew who he murdered when he found out that he was a better artist than him.
Soon after Daedalus was arrested and convicted to death. He managed to run away and he went to Crete. There he met king Minos and he was astonished by Daedalus’s art so he took him under his protection.
Daedalus wasn’t satisfied with his life because he felt as if he was living in a golden cage. He wanted to runaway but didn’t know how because he could only run away on air since he was on an island.
Daedalus decided to make wings for him and his son. His son Icarus didn’t listen to him and he flied so high that the warmth of the son melted the wax on his wings. Daedalus was crushed after his son’s death.
He went to Sicily. There he was famous and accepted by everyone and the king of Sicily protected him from Minos.
Daedalus never felt happiness again because he couldn’t get over his son’s death. Daedalus was in the end punished for his son’s death.
Philemon and Baucis
Philemon and Baucis were two old people living in Phrygia. Their life was filled with happiness, joy and love.
God Zeus and his son Hermes went to Earth and they were disguised as ordinary people who came to visit Phrygia.
Since no one knew who they really were, they couldn’t find a place to stay. People were rude to them and they rejected them until they stumbled upon Philemon and Baucis.
They offered them a place to stay and apologized for not having more to offer. Zeus decided to destroy Phrygia because of the people’s selfishness but he spared the lives of Baucis and Philemon.
The two of them asked Zeus to be their priest and to let them die together. Since they were so kind to him he decided to grant their wish.
A father rejected his female child Atalanta because he wanted a son. Atalanta grew up to be a beautiful young girl. She radiated beauty and bravery. Even though she was raised by hunters she decided to look for her parents.
When she had found them, they forced her to a marriage she didn’t want. Atalanta challenged her potential future husbands to a race. The conditions were that the one who wins gets her hand in marriage and that the one who loses dies.
Many young men decided to compete but all of them lost except for one. Hippomenes was a young, handsome man and he won. Goddess Aphrodite helped him win so he got Atalanta’s hand in marriage.
Zeus had a son named Tantalus and the gods were prone to him. As time passed by he had gotten more spoiled and started misusing their kindness and he provoked their patience.
One time he prepared his son for a feast for the gods and he put them on the table so they could try him. The gods were furious and they decided to punish him
Instead of killing him, they made him stand on water, unable to reach it, and be surrounded by fruit, unable to eat.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus was the son of Thracian King Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope. His singing skills were outstanding and when he would took his lyre and start singing everything near him would surround him in order to listen to his divine voice. Despite being able to have any nymph he wanted, his heart was taken over by Eurydice. He loved her sincerely and she became his wife. They happiness seemed to be endless but it turned out to be short lasting. Eurydice went for a walk with her friends when she was bitten by a poisonous snake. Despite being young, her body couldn’t take it and she died. Her friends started crying so loud around her that the only thing that was heard in the forest were their screams. Orpheus cried with them and he used his sadness to write the saddest poems. The animals who heard him would grieve with him but nothing could bring back his lovely Eurydice.
The helpless Orpheus remembered of a way to bring his wife back. He decided to go to the underground himself and ask the gods down there to let his wife live. Orpheus went to the doors of the underground, passed the shadows of the dead and he came to the throne by which he saw Eurydice. He decided to express his sadness in the best way possible so he started singing about his horrible faith and miserable life without Eurydice. He only came to ask them to bring Eurydice back because his life was meaningless without her. Before hearing their decision he told them that if they don’t bring her back they might as well take his life so that he could be with her.
Orpheus sang so beautifully that the shadows around his started to cry. Gods and people serving their sentence suddenly stopped doing everything and just cried silently with Orpheus. There were monsters and bead people in the underground and even their hearts were touched by Orpheus’s singing. The queen of the dead told Orpheus can take Eurydice with him as long as he doesn’t look at her or turn around to check up on her until they don’t leave the underground. She will follow him but he can’t look back. In case he looks back Eurydice will stay in the underground.
Orpheus walked fast to the doors of the underground. Darkness was around him and he doubted his wife was still behind him. He tried to hear something but there was only silence. He was so scared that he just had to glance to see if she was behind him. When he did it he saw Eurydice disappearing in the darkness. He jumped and tried to catch her. The last thing she told him was ”Goodbye”.
Orpheus was petrified with fear and grieve so he rushed down to the underground but this time he couldn’t get pass the river which divided the world of the living and the world of the dead. He spent seven days on the shore, without food or liquid and he begged the Gods to have mercy for him. Orpheus went to the forest and spent three years avoiding people. He especially stayed away from women because all of them reminded him of his late wife. One day, while he was sitting on a hill he started singing. The whole forest was listening to his song.
Up in the hills were the women celebrating Dionysus. They hated Orpheus because they knew despised all women except for his dead wife. They started coming at him, hitting him, cursing him and throwing rocks at him. In the beginning the animals still heard his song but when a rock hit him hard in the head he fell dead to the ground and it was as if his soul escaped through his mouth. The women left and the whole forest, including the nymphs gathered around him. They grieved and then gave him a proper funeral and threw his lyre and head into the sea. They ended up on Lesbos where his head was buried and his lyre was hanged in the temple. That is the reason why that island had so many great poets and singers.
Orpheus’s soul went to the underground where he was reunited with his beloved Eurydice.
Pyramus and Thisbe
Pyramus and Thisbe lived in Babylon and they loved each other but they parents were against their love so the lovers spent their days talking through a hole in the wall between their houses. One night they had set up a meeting and Thisbe came to the arranged spot first. She saw a lioness and she got very scared. While she was running to a cave, she lost her veil.
The lioness saw her veil and tore it apart with her bloody teeth. When Pyramus came and saw it he believed that the lioness killed Thisbe.
He was broken because of her death so he took his own life. Thisbe went out of the cave and saw Pyramus dead. The desperate Thisbe decided to take her own life as well.
When Oedipus was born his father, the Thebes King Laius, was told that his son will kill him and marry his wife Jocast.
In order from preventing the prophecy from coming true they decided Oedipus should be killed but the man who was supposed to do it, had mercy for him. Oedipus was raised by another king but he heard about the prophecy and decided to run away because he thought the king who raised him was his father and he didn’t want to kill him.
When he entered Thebes, he killed an old man not knowing he was his father. After that he saved the kingdom and got Jocasta’s hand in marriage. They had four kids.
Oedipus ruled the kingdom and the people loved him but soon troubles started occurring and the cause of it all was Oedipus.
Soon after Jocasta committed suicide and Oedipus ended up blind. His own sons banished him out of Thebes and the only persons standing by him was Antigone.
His sons asked for his help but he had no mercy for them. He left the gods decide what to do with them. Gods also had a verdict for Oedipus which was death.
The author put the emphasize on one characters faith and he is less concerned with describing the characters. The moral of the story isn’t clear and everyone must take out their own conclusion out of the story.
Through certain faiths in these stories the author gives a lesson which covers all of our lives. The Greek myths were famous and well present in many works of the western literature. We can see that there are myths about people, language, kings, leaders, heroes, origins of the world…
The language and the style in these stories is recognizable and the stories are concise and symbolic.
The morals of these stories are different but in general they present people’s live, virtues, and flaws in order to teach us a lesson. In myths all the bad behavior is punished and the good rewarded. Life is the same for all and the same laws apply to all.
Faith has a great strength and it is important in defining life because we can’t avoid it. All who try to do so will be punished and gods will take care of it.
The characters are poorly described because it’s asked of us to, while reading the work, get a moral out of their lives. Even though the characters have flaws and virtues as all others their destiny is the most important.
Daedalus is intelligent and resourceful. He had many capabilities and was able to find his way out in, what seemed to be, impossible situations. He loved his freedom most of all and the only person he cared about was his son. He was vane and jealous and he was punished for it. He paid his ingratitude for the divine gift he had with his life
Icarus is rarely mentioned and his description was very short but he is crucial for understanding Daedalus’s story. He was Daedalus’s son. Icarus was disobedient and very brave. For believing in his abilities and not listening to gods he died.
Philemon and Baucis are honorable people and a role model. They lived modest and were rewarded for their kindness.
Atalanta was a beautiful and strong young woman. She was described as a person with many virtues. Her parent disappointed her by leaving her only because she wasn’t a boy. Their actions left a big trace on her. She stopped believing in love and marriage. She still decided to marry the one who wins in a competition just because she thought it was impossible. In the end the man who did win, with goddess Aphrodite’s help, swiped her off of her feet and she married him.
Tantalus was ungrateful and he always wanted more and better. Despite gods giving him all he wanted more. He had a high opinion about himself and though he was better from gods and he was punished for it.
Orpheus was Aegarus and Calliope’s son. He was a divine singer and Apollo made a lyre for him. He sang so beautifully that the whole world listened to him. Orpheus loved his wife Eurydice more than anything but she died soon after their weeding. Orpheus tried to get over her but he couldn’t so he decided to go to the underground and ask for her back. His action doesn’t only show his true love but also his courage. He was resourceful and knew how to move the gods – with his voice. His love and lack of faith cost him Eurydice for the second time. When Orpheus died he was reunited with his one and only love.
Hades ruled the underground with his wife, the queen of the dead, and they decided to show some mercy for Orpheus and let him take Eurydice. Their mercy had a rule and Orpheus broke it so they took her again. Hades had no more mercy for Orpheus but when Orpheus died he let him spent an eternity with his wife.
Pyramus and Thisbe seem to be victims of unfortunate circumstances and their story shows us the consequences of jumping to conclusions. They thought that they pulled all the string and were impatient.
Oedipus was a victim of his own tragic destiny. Sometimes we are unable to change the course of our lives and this is the moral of the story about Oedipus.
Gustav Schwab Biography
Gustav Schwab was born in 1792 in Stuttgart, Germany. He was a publisher, writer and a pastor. Schwab wrote many poems and travels.
He used his time spent at an university to better his knowledge of literature and he founded a book club with his friends so that he could socialize with other poets. After his studies, Schwab worked as a professor and a pastor.
He loved ancient Rome and Greece’s literature and German literature. His most famous works are: “Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece” and “Das Buch der schönsten Geschichten und Sagen”.
“Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece” are founded on legends and myths of Ancient stories. It has three parts and it is classified as a book of stories. This work was translated into many languages and, despite some modifications by the author, it is very authentic.
The work “Das Buch der schönsten Geschichten und Sagen” is a book of German sayings and folk stories.
Gustav Schwab died on November 4th, 1850.