The Greek gods aren’t the only ones deserving of your attention. From a divine mixture of immortal and mortal blood came the famous Greek heroes, destined for fame and glory. These Greek heroes encompass some of the most beloved characters in all Greek mythology.
There is something about a hero that makes them relatable. Even more so than the Greek gods, despite their imperfect nature. Mortals are particularly in tune with the hardship and rotten luck that everyday life can bring. Yet the famous Greek heroes had an admirable amount of perseverance and bravado. In the face of adversity, they became the shining stars of many undying legends.
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Heracles is quite possibly the most famous Greek hero. So, this is where I will begin. Heracles was the son of Alcmene and the Greek god Zeus. Being the progeny of one of Zeus’s prolific affairs, Hera had a strong hate for the poor child. She conspired to do everything she could to make his life miserable. Perhaps his most fateful day was when Hera tricked him into killing his wife and children, disguising them as dragons and demons. You can see why Hera’s vengeful personality makes her one of the worst Greek gods!
In Greek mythology, blood crimes were the most unforgivable of betrayals. To atone for his sins, he was tasked with twelve labours, and only then he would be absolved of his crimes. The labours of Heracles consumed much of his life. But his atonement also led to eradicating the natural world of some of the most fearsome and abominable beasts, making him one of the most famous Greek heroes in mythology.
Heracles was the strongest man on earth, no one had ever been able to challenge him physically. But he was also prone to fits of rage. With a formidable temper he wasn’t as level headed as some of the other Greek heroes. But at the same time he had a big heart. He was genuinely remorseful for the wrongdoings he committed while angered and dedicated much of his life to retribution.
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Perseus is another well known and famous Greek hero. He was the son of Danaë and the Greek god Zeus. Perseus’s most significant act of heroism was when he bravely slayed the gorgon Medusa, a snake-headed monster whose look could turn you to stone. Perseus cunningly approached her using the reflection in his shield, never having to make direct eye contact, and when he was just within a sickle swing away he cut off her head!
As with every famous Greek hero, eventually, there is a beautiful young maiden thrown in his midst. Andromeda was the young maiden in Perseus’s story, and he fell madly in love with her. They met when Perseus saved her life from a terrible sea monster and the rest, as they say, was history. It thrills me to tell you that Perseus is one of the famous Greek heroes whose life doesn’t end in a heartbreaking disaster. Perseus and Andromeda went on to live happily ever after.
One of the most famous Greek heroes in mythology was Orpheus and this was because he was the single most talented musician to ever live. It was said that rivers diverted their course just to hear him play. Anyone that heard his delicate lyre or poetic lyrics were utterly enchanted.
His parents were Calliope and King Oeugrus, but Apollo was also believed to his father. Orpheus married the love of his life, Eurydice. But in a cruel twist of fate, she died. To say Orpheus was devastated was an understatement; after her death, he lost all passion for life including his love of music.
After about a full year of mourning, Apollo decided that this could go on no longer and suggested Orpheus retrieve her from the underworld. But no mortal, other than Heracles, had been able to enter hell and get out alive, let alone with a mortal soul! But no one had a gift quite like Orpheus.
Orpheus managed to play so beautifully that Hades agreed to let him take Eurydice home, but when the music’s charm wore off Hades added a condition that led to Orpheus losing Eurydice once again. Distraught, Orpheus’s life was never the same. He refused all advances from women, frustrated by such denial they ended up tearing him to pieces.
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Bellerophon was another famous Greek hero who was the son of the Greek god Poseidon. His mother was Eurynome and the King of the Corinth, Glauscus, raised him as his own. Bellerophon had a particular way with horses and he managed to tame one of the most important horses in Greek mythology, Pegasus. Together they made an incredibly powerful duo.
Sadly, Bellerophon was wrongly accused of trying to take advantage of the King of Lycia’s, daughter. As revenge King Iobates, in an attempt to get him killed, set him several ridiculously dangerous tasks. One being to kill the Chimera, a hideous fire breathing monster that was a combination of a lion, goat and a serpent. Much to Iobates surprise, Bellerophon succeeded at everything he was set and was eventually rightfully acquitted.
Unfortunately, the fame and glory that Bellerophon received after completing these tasks got to his head. On the back of Pegasus, he attempted to fly to Mount Olympus, believing he had now earned a rightful place among the immortal. Zeus, mortified by this blasphemous act, sent a gadfly to attack Pegasus and Bellerophon was thrown from his back, living the rest of his life as a disgraced cripple.
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Jason was the son of Aeson and Alcimede and is another famous Greek hero, well known for his incredible voyage to Cholis (modern-day Georgia) on the vessel ‘Argo’ in search of the Golden Fleece. On this voyage, he stopped at many of the Greek islands we know and love today such as Lemnos, Corfu and Crete.
Jason was the rightful King of Iolcos, but his wicked uncle Pelias tricked him into thinking the land was cursed. The only cure being to retrieve the Golden Fleece (a prized fleece from the winged ram Chrysomallos) that resided in Colchis. Pelias was, of course, hoping that Jason would be unsuccessful and that he could continue ruling himself.
To obtain the fleece he had to complete three tasks. These tasks were ordered by the King of Cholis, Aeëtes. Much to Pelias’ distaste, Jason sailed through each challenge, all thanks to the help of Medea, the daughter of King Aeëtes, who had fallen in love and secretly assisted Jason. Together they had three sons.
But upon returning home Jason had eyes for someone else. Learning this Medea took the cruellest revenge, killing all three of their sons and escaping to Athens on a chariot of dragons. Another disastrous end met this famous Greek hero as Jason later died when a beam from his precious vessel fell, crushing him.
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- Did you know that some of the most famous Greek heroes met such devastating ends?
Kia Ora. My name is Marcia Welch and I am a traveller from New Zealand. I have always dreamed of visiting and exploring Europe and have finally begun my overseas experience, or OE as we call it. I have always been drawn to the vibrancy and beauty that embodies Greece and I am excited to document and share my experiences. I am currently in Athens.