Facts are everybody’s truth. Fiction is no one’s truth. Myths are someone’s truth. They have fed the souls and imaginations of human beings for thousands of years. While the vast majority of myths are nothing more than stories that people have handed down through the ages, some are rooted in past factual events.
They’re religious, cultural, and a nation’s truths rolled into one to unite a community by offering them a common worldview to function within. So, let’s explore some of the best myth stories that you should know about in 2020. Read on!
1. Prometheus and the Stolen Fire
As one of the first Titans that Zeus threw out, Prometheus was miraculously a coterie of the Olympians who escaped captivity in Tartarus. Nonetheless, he continued bumping heads with Zeus to the point that when Zeus took away fire from mankind, Prometheus stole it back and restored it to them.
As a punishment, the deities tied banished Prometheus to the Caucasus Mountains, where he was forever tied to a rock while a hawk devoured his liver. As a result of his mortality, his liver perpetually regenerated. In the end, Hercules took pity on Prometheus and liberated him from his daily torment.
2. Echo and Narcissus
Narcissus was renowned for his excellence. One day in the woods, Echo, the mountain fairy spotted him and gazed at him in awe. With an unshakable gut feeling of secretly being watched, Narcissus repeatedly yelled out, “Who’s there?”
In the end, Echo revealed herself and attempted to capture Narcissus, but he sent her away which left her distraught. Upon hearing of this, the Goddess of retribution, Nemesis, led Narcissus to a pool of water in the forest, where he had no choice but to glare at his reflection. He was so besotted with his good looks that he couldn’t leave the forest. This Greek story serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of vanity.
As the ruler of Ephyra, Sisyphus was famous for his deceitfulness coupled with self-aggrandizing craftiness. He opposed the deities countless times and used his cunningness and dishonesty to deceive them until they were fed up with his behavior, particularly Zeus. He was so aggravated by Sisyphus that he condemned him to roll up a large rock up a steep slope.
Once the rock reached the peak of the hill, it would roll down to the bottom, causing Sisyphus to repeat the process endlessly. The tedious task came as a hard lesson to teach Sisyphus that his hubris could never outsmart the deities.
As an amazing musician, Orpheus had the uncanny ability to inspire trees to curl upon hearing his music. On his wedding day, his wife, Eurydice, was attacked by a snake that killed her. He was so devastated that he resulted in playing melancholic music and asked the deities to relieve him of his grief.
So, Hermes urged Orpheus to venture into the underworld and plead with Persephone and Hades to return Eurydice to the land of the living. Through his music, he enchanted them enough until they agreed to his request, but under one condition. He was forbidden from getting a glimpse of her until she was back in the land of the living.
In an unfortunate twist of events, he failed to fulfill his end of the bargain. As a result, Eurydice faded back into the underworld.
Daedalus was imprisoned with Icarus, his son, in the tower of the great labyrinth he built on Crete. His captivity by King Minos was to avoid unearthing the secret of the Minotaur that was hidden in the labyrinth. Daedalus crafted a plan to escape captivity. So, he gathered quills and used wax to glue the plumes together to make two pairs of wings, one for Icarus and the other for himself.
When it was time to set the plan in motion, he warned Icarus not to get too close to the sun to avoid the wax from melting and disintegrating the wings. However, he did not heed his advice as he was dumbfounded by the miracle of flight. So, he flew near the sun, which caused the wax to melt. He then plunged straight into the ocean. This myth story serves as a parable against the dangers of conceit.
6. Cassandra and Apollo
As one of Rome and Greece’s most prominent deities, Apollo fell madly in love with Cassandra. She was the most beautiful daughter of Priam, the legendary king of Troy, during the Trojan War. As a declaration of his love for her, Apollo promised Cassandra the power of prophecy, provided that she agreed to become his wife.
However, things took a turn for the worse when she went back on her word and refused to get married to Apollo after receiving the promised gift of prophecy. He was so furious with her that he burst into flames then cursed her such that no one would believe her prophecies regardless of what she did.
Consequentially, people termed Cassandra as a madwoman and a liar. She became a prisoner of her father in Citadel. Regardless of her endless warnings to the Trojans about the Greeks, no one believed her, which ultimately led to the fall of Troy.
As Rome’s legendary heroine, Lucretia committed suicide which was perceived to change the Roman government to a republic, from a monarchy. The son of an Etruscan king raped her, which fueled an instant rebellion against the Roman monarchy.
Moreover, the incident cooked up a storm of disappointment with the rule of King Lucius, the seventh and last ruler of Rome. As a result, the prominent families birthed a republic against the intervention of Etruscan and Latin along with the 1st consul of the Roman Republic who was Lucretia’s spouse.
Consequentially, rape became an important theme in European art and literature. Historians take this story as a factual occurrence that forever imprinted the ancient world.
Belonging to the earliest Roman history, Cloelia takes the crown of the bravest women that ever lived. After the war between Rome and Clusium, a peace treaty was signed in 508 BC. However, King Posena took some Romans hostage, one of which was Cloelia.
However, she spearheaded the escape from the hostage camp with a group of Roman virgins. They embarked on a journey across the River Tiber. Upon discovering their escape, the king begged Cloelia to return for which she put an ultimatum in place. When she returned, Posena was dumbfounded by her bravery that he granted her wish of freeing half of the hostages.
The hostages she chose to take with her were the young Roman men to continue the war between Clusium and Rome. Her courage and wit were so priceless to the Romans that they built an equestrian statue in her honor.
9. The River Styx and Pluto
As a symbol of coldness, the planet Pluto was named after the Roman deity of death. According to the myth, people who pass away travel to the underworld. The journey begins with crossing the River of the Dead, known as Styx. The dead are then buried with a coin to pay the ferrymen for the ride across the river. However, the coin has to be placed in the mouth of the dead for their souls to be ferried across the river.
The planet Pluto derives its title from Charon, the boatman. The water of the Styx was regarded as a bad omen because even the deities couldn’t avoid its ruthless repercussions. Those who came into contact with this water automatically lost their voice for 9 years.
With two faces, Janus, the Roman deity of beginnings, symbolized the future and the past. It’s for this reason that January being the start of every year, derives its name from Janus.
Furthermore, it’s Janus that’s responsible for the changes and movements that occur in time. He played a crucial role in the ancient Roman myth that entails Romulus kidnapping a Sabine woman. As the story goes, Janus swooped in to save the day by flooding the path to the woman with a volcanic hot spring that engulfed her kidnappers.
The legend of Jason and his team of Argonauts on their journey to acquire the Golden Fleece has enchanted the world for centuries. It’s a story that depicts adventure, courage, and risk rolled into one. Jason was the king of Lolcos and the son of Aeson. He embarked on an adventure to Colchis to bring back the Golden Fleece to prove his worth as a ruler. However, his journey wasn’t a piece of cake. It was packed with an abundance of delays and hardships.
As the son of Jocasta, it was predicted that Oedipus would kill his father, King Laius, who was the ruler of Thebes. When the king caught wind of this, he tied his son’s legs together and ordered a servant to take him to the peak of a mountain and leave him for dead. However, in an act of compassion, the servant disobeyed the king and gave Oedipus (who was an infant) to King Polybus.
Granted, these myths and stories seem far-fetched in today’s metropolitan, fast-paced era. Nonetheless, the ancient Romans and Greeks were unmatched in their ability to craft remarkable tales that continue to stand the test of time.