Mythos by Stephen Fry

I am currently reading Mythos, the spellbinding, informative and moving retelling of Ancient Greek Myths, by Television presenter, Broadcaster and Author Stephen Fry. It begins with the yawning nothingness of Chaos from which came The Cosmos and from the Cosmos emerged Gaia (the Earth) and other divine beings including Eros (Love), the Abyss (the Tartarus), and the Erebus. Then Without male assistance, Gaia gave birth to Ouranos (the Sky) who then fertilized her. (Crikey! They don’t hang about)

From that union were born first the Titans—six males: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Oceanus; and six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themis, and Tethys. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones, who were both thrown into Tartarus by Ouronos. This made Gaia furious so she convinced Cronus (“the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia’s children” to castrate his father. He did this, and became the ruler of the Titans with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort, and the other Titans became his court.

However because Cronus had betrayed his father, he lived in fear that his offspring would do the same to him, and so each time Rhea gave birth, he snatched up the child and ate it. Naturally Rhea was horrified so she tricked him by hiding her Son Zeus and wrapping a stone in a baby’s blanket, which Cronus ate. When Zeus was full grown, he fed Cronus a drugged drink which caused him to vomit, throwing up Rhea’s other children and the stone, which had been sitting in Cronus’s stomach all along. Zeus then challenged Cronus to war for the kingship of the gods and with the help of the Cyclopes (whom Zeus freed from Tartarus), Zeus and his siblings were victorious, while Cronus and the Titans were hurled down to imprisonment in Tartarus.

Following the overthrow of the Titans, the new pantheon Greek gods appeared- the Olympians, residing on Mount Olympus under the eye of Zeus. However Zeus was plagued by the same concern, and after a prophecy that the offspring of his first wife, Metis, would give birth to a god “greater than he”, so Zeus swallowed her however She was already pregnant with Athena, and she burst forth from his head.

Besides the Olympians, the Greeks worshipped various other gods of the countryside, the satyr-god Pan, Nymphs (spirits of rivers), Naiads (who dwelled in springs), Dryads (who were spirits of the trees), Nereids (who inhabited the sea), river gods, Satyrs, and others. In addition, there were the dark powers of the underworld, such as the Erinyes (or Furies), said to pursue those guilty of crimes against blood-relatives

Other gods included Aphrodite who was the goddess of love and beauty, Ares who was the god of war, Hades who was the ruler of the underworld, Athena the goddess of wisdom and courage and Apollo the god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, plague, poetry, who was the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis. Another God was Dionysus, the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking and wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre. Helios who was the god of the Sun and traversed the heavens as a charioteer and sailed around the Earth in a golden bowl at night. The goddess Persephone  the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who was the goddess of harvest and fertility. She was also called Kore, which means “maiden” and grew up to be a lovely girl attracting the attention of many gods. Persephone becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld.

Other characters include Tantalus, who stole nectar and ambrosia from Zeus’ table and gives it to his own subjects—revealing to them the secrets of the gods, and Was punished by Zeus by being sent to Tartarus, the deepest portion of the Underworld, and being made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.

The Titan Prometheus, who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization but which saw him endlessly punished by Zeus until he is rescued. Pandora, the first human woman, who was created by Hephaestus when an angry Zeus decides to give humanity a punishing gift to compensate for the gift of fire they had been given By Prometheus. So He commands Hephaestus to mold from earth the first woman, a “beautiful evil” woman who through her insatiable curiosity inadvertently released sickness, death and many other unspecified evils into the word

Another important character is Midas, the king of Pessinus, in Phrygia, who located the missing Satyr Silenus and brought him safely back to Dionysus in Lydia. A thankful Dionysus then offered Midas his choice of whatever reward he wished for. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold which is fantastic at first but ends up having horrible repercussions. Midas then upsets the God Apollo with tragic results.

Mythos Reveals the story of Greek gods and goddesses, the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, whose actions and adventures resulted in the birth of the universe to the subsequent creation of humankind with all its trials and tribulations.

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