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The Dark Side of Greek Mythology

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

TW: mention of sexual harassment

I was 11 years old when Rick Riordon introduced me to the world of greek mythology. Long story short, I’ve been obsessed ever since. I mean, let’s be honest- most of us have read Percy Jackson and were OBSESSED in our tweens. No? Only me?

Oh well, I spent my tweens buried in PJO novels, marvelling at the unbelievable universe that I had created in my head. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, the Greeks were the founders of a mighty empire, and truly knew no bounds. They dedicated their lives to the Gods, carrying out everything in their name from drama festivals to war declarations. Personally, I don’t know whether the stories and tales of these supernatural beings are purely fictional and a figment of one’s exaggerated imagination. Fictional or not, these Greek Gods live on through their myths spun by bards and the Riordan fandom alike, throughout the centuries

Their legends of conquest, power, and victory paint a picture-perfect canvas. However, delving deeper into the world of mythology, I soon realised these “flawless” entities were nothing short of barbaric ruthlessness.

The tapestry spun by the Greeks tells tales of honour, war, and conquest. Yet, if you turn this piece of art around, you will find it drenched in the blood of a million human lives- whom the Gods liked to call “puny mortals.” Not only this but a shocking and recurring tendency of chauvinism, victim-blaming, male superiority, immortal complex, and unfortunately, a whole lot of darker stuff characterize greek tales- these values, unfortunately, are too often brushed under the carpet.

Let's start with the King of the Gods, the almighty, the inevitable Zeus: the Greek god of the sky, thunder, lightning, kingship, honor, and justice. A smart ruler, he knew just what to do to ensure that the throne remained his- sometimes to the extent of oppressing a rebellion of his fellow Olympians, led by his own wife, Hera; just for the sake of his dominance. The irony? Zeus also happened to be the God of Law and Order.

Now, I’m not implying that Zeus was an unlawful king- it just strikes me amusing that the god leading the twelve Olympians was one who believed in self supremacy.

The most alarming characteristic of Mr. Thunder? He is portrayed as a justified womanizer. He often (and I mean often) cheated on his wife, Hera, by sleeping with pretty much anything and everything that took his fancy. Nope. Cheating ain’t cool, even if you’re the ruler of the universe.

The flip side is that Zeus’ infamous affairs gave us some of the most iconic heroes in Greek Myths like Hercules and Perseus. The worst part of it all? Ever the Ladies Man, Zeus would chase maidens around, convincing them of his loving intentions. Up there on Mt. Olympus, green with envy, his wife Hera would take all her jealousy out on (yep you got it) the poor women who were sometimes heavily pregnant, thanks to Zeus’ overactive testosterone.

Still not convinced? It gets darker. He raped his sister Demeter. He disguised himself as Artemis in order to lure one of her virgin followers, Callisto, into the woods so he could rape her. He also went on to rape Europa while disguised as a bull. I think I’ve made my point, right?

Medusa. You’ve heard of her I’m sure. Scary lady with poisonous snakes as her hair-do, she could turn mortals into stone with one glare. The story behind this assumed monster is quite upsetting.

As it turns out, Medusa was once a beautiful, mortal girl. She found herself being wooed by Posideon, the God of the Sea, and Zeus’ younger brother. Poseidon was on terrible terms with another goddess, named Athena, and thought it would be a wonderful idea to *cough* make love with Medusa in one of Athena’s shrines. Disgusted and disrespected, Athena decided to lash out by turning Poseidon into… of course not, why would she do anything to dear Poseidon? Her fury was unleashed on poor Medusa, who was cursed into becoming a fearful monster, living out her days as the villain to many lores, suffering the consequences of actions that weren’t hers.

I could go on forever because the Greek Gods truly have a ruthless side, with some of the incidents being not just terrifying but inhuman. (Get it? Inhuman? No!?)

Now, you may think I’m being a little too harsh, given the fact that these gods form the foundation of one of the strongest beliefs on our planet. However, some of the stories that I have come across make me question the legitimacy of having these Gods as ideal statues.

Growing up reading about Greek Mythology, I wasn’t just amused and entertained, I learnt a lot from the stories and incidents, even the darker aspects. In all honesty, the idea of imperfect and flawed gods with human emotions of ego, jealousy, anger, and impatience was something I had never experienced before.

And so for the modern world, they’re better off as history lessons and are interesting as myths rather than reality.

Written by Tavishi Mukherjee

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