AP English Literature Mythological Allusions

Topic: EnvironmentNatural Disasters
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Last updated: April 30, 2019
Achilles
Born of mortal and Zeus; mother dipped him in the river Styx to give him immortality but neglected to include the heel she held him by. Eventually, during the Trojan War, he was shot in that spot and killed.

An Achilles heel is the one vulnerable spot in an otherwise invulnerable thing or person.

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Adonis
a mortal youth who was loved by Aphrodite for his great beauty and later killed by a wild boar.

Aphrodite / Venus
goddess of love and beauty (and spring and bloom).

Apollo / Sol
god of the sun; patron of healing; drove a chariot that pulled the sun, so it rose and crossed the sky each day

Arachne
a mortal who was a great weaver and very proud (arrogant) of her ability. She challenged Athena to a weaving contest and won. Athena was mad and turned her into a spider, so she could weave and spin non-stop. This is where arachnids get their name.

She is a symbol of the problems arrogance can cause.

Ares / Mars
god of warfare

Artemis / Diana
sister of Apollo; drives a chariot that carries the moon; goddess of the hunt and patron of virgins. Seen as a huntress

Athena / Minerva
goddess of wisdom and warfare; was “born” full-grown and wearing armor, by springing from the head of Zeus. Her symbol is the owl. She was a great weaver and spinner; in charge of arts and crafts.

Centaur
a race of beings half man (front) and half horse, known for fighting and lustiness (but sometimes for great wisdom!).

Cerberus
a three-headed watchdog who guards the entrance to Hades.

Chaos
Chaos is the void which came into being before anything else. But some say that Chaos was born from Mist, and that Mist was the first to exist.

Others affirm that Chaos is not a void, but a rough unordered mass of things. It is also asserted that Chaos existed from the beginning, together with Nyx, Erebus (Darkness of the Underworld), and Tartarus, and consequently they consider Chaos to be as Nyx and Erebus: one of “the powers below the ground.” It is told that during the war between the TITANS and the OLYMPIANS, the fight came to such a degree of intensity that an amazing heat seized Chaos.

Cronos
the wily, youngest and most terrible of the children of Uranus, whom he hated. He castrated his father and became ruler of the universe, but was later overthrown by his own son Zeus.

Cyclops
a race of one-eyed giants of whom the most famous is Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon; he was blinded by Odysseus.

Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus was an inventor (the Great Artificer) who killed a rival in jealousy and fled to Crete (from Greece) where King Minos gave him refuge and put him to work. The king’s wife lusted after a gorgeous bull which had been given to Minos by Poseidon. She had Daedalus make her a wooden cow in which she hid herself in order to mate with the bull; she conceived and bore the Minotaur from this union. The furious Minos ordered the Minotaur imprisoned in a labyrinth, which he commissioned Daedalus to design.

Eventually, Daedalus and his son, Icarus, were also imprisoned in the Labyrinth, from which they escaped when Daedalus built wings from wax and feathers. On their escape to Crete, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax; but Icarus ignored his father, his wings melted, and he fell to his watery death. Daedalus escaped safely.

Dionysus / Bacchus
god of wine and revelry. Wild feasts were held in his honor, which usually turned into drunken orgies, since that was what he was in charge of.

Eros / Cupid
god of love; often pictured as a winged boy.

Europa
a princess whom Zeus abducted and raped, when he was in the form of a bull.

Hades / Pluto
god of the underworld (sort of like hell but not so awful); the place itself is called Hades. Also, god of wealth (gold and silver came from the earth, which he ruled.)

Hephaestus / Vulcan
God of fire; a blacksmith; the only god who is deformed – rejected son of Zeus and Hera.

Hercules
a son of Zeus and a mortal, he was famous for his great strength and endurance; he performed twelve amazing feats of strength, called the “labors of Hercules.”

Mercury
the messenger of the gods; wears shoes and hat with wings so he can fly very quickly. Known for living by his wits and cleverness.

Midas
was given his wish that everything that he touched would turn to gold but re- thought this idea when he killed his daughter by touching her and was near starvation because all the food he touched turned to gold. He had the spell removed eventually.

Minotaur
monster half man and half bull, wild and violent, demands sacrifices yearly of Greek youths and maidens. Imprisoned in the Labyrinth (see Daedalus). Eventually slain by Theseus with the help of the king’s daughter, who gives him a ball of string so he can find his way out of the Labyrinth.

Narcissus and Echo
Narcissus was a gorgeous male who admired himself enormously. Echo loved him but he ignored her.

Eventually, she was cursed with not being able to speak her own thoughts but only repeat what other said. This bothered Narcissus even more and he taunted her and she eventually wasted away so that just her voice, repeating others’ words, remained. He became so enamored with himself that he got stuck peering into a pond, admiring his reflection, and became a flower that grows there.

Nemesis
the goddess of retributive justice or vengeance.

Odysseus / Ulysses
(meaning “man of wrath” according to Homer, or more likely, from Greek “a guide; the one showing the way”), known as Ulysses in Roman mythology. Known for his guile and resourcefulness, he is the hero of Homer’s Odyssey, and a major character in the Iliad. Odysseus was the son of Laertes and Anticlea, although some sources, prominent among them Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides, state that Sisyphus was his father. As a child, Odysseus was wet-nursed by Euryclea.

Odysseus was the king of Ithaca, husband of Penelope and father of Telemachus, favorite of Athena, and wiliest of the Greeks involved in the Trojan War. Odysseus earns this title by, among other things, masterminding the Trojan Horse. He is most famous for the ten years it took him to return home from the war, which is described in the Odyssey.

Oedipus
abandoned at birth by his parents, who were trying to avoid a horrible prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother.

Raised in Corinth, he eventually fled when he heard the same prophecy. In the road, he met and killed his father, solved the riddle of the Sphinx, and then went to Thebes and married his mother, with whom he had three children. When he learned the truth, he blinded himself and went into exile.

Pan / Satyr
Pan is one of the group of satyrs, which are half man and half goat, with goat’s legs (including cloven hooves), a tail, pointy ears, and a wanton nature, who live in the woods. Pan is the god of forests, flocks, and shepherds.

He usually plays pipes (a flute).

Pandora
the first mortal woman, sent to Earth as a punishment to man for Prometheus’s theft of fire. She brought with her a box containing all human ills, which escaped into the world when she opened the box. Only hope was left at the bottom.

Paris
son of the last king of Troy (Priam), he is forced to award a golden apple (inscribed “for the fairest”) to either Aphrodite, who promises him the love of the most beautiful woman in the word; Hera, who offers him great wealth; or Athena, who offers him wisdom. He chooses Aphrodite, who helps him steal Helen, who’s married to Menaleus of Sparta.

He takes her to Troy and the Greeks come after and we have the Trojan War.

Persephone and Demeter / Ceres
Demeter is the goddess of agriculture and fruitfulness (fertility): guardian of marriage. Persephone is her daughter whom Hades marries and takes to Hades to live. Demeter is so unhappy without her beloved daughter that nothing can grow. A compromise is reached and Persephone spends six months on Earth with Demeter and six months below, with Hades. This is the explanation for why we have seasons (winter is when Persephone is gone and Demeter is too unhappy to make things grow).

Phoenix
a bird that is immortal, but dies in a self-built pyre every 500 or 600 years and is then reborn from the ashes; a symbol of rebirth and/or immortality.

Poseidon / Neptune
god of the sea; often pictured with his 3-pronged scepter, the trident; has a son named Triton

Prometheus
a Titan (preceded Zeus and the Olympian gods) who created man from clay. Later, he stole fire from the gods and gave it to man against the will of Zeus. As a punishment, he was chained to a rock and had his liver eaten out every day by an eagle. The liver grew back each night, only to be eaten out the next day. Eventually, he was released by Hercules.

Psyche
a great mortal beauty, whom Venus was very jealous of, because of her beauty. Cupid loved her but didn’t want her to know who he was, so he visited her only in the dark.

She was curious and eventually snuck a light into their meeting place and shone it suddenly in his face. He was angry for a while but eventually forgave her and had her made immortal. She became the goddess of emotion.

Sisyphus
A wealthy man who cheated the living and, later, the gods. He was sentenced by Zeus to forever push a boulder up a hill, only to fail before it reaches the top.

Styx (river)
the river that divides the land of the living from Hades, the land of the dead The Sirens: a group of nymphs who lived on an island and lured men to their destruction with their sweet singing.

The Titans
The TITANS ruled the world after having dethroned their father Uranus, the first ruler of the universe. It was their mother Gaia who persuaded them to attack their father and overthrow him; for she grieved at the destruction of her children, the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES, who had been cast into Tartarus by Uranus. The Titan Cronos then ambushed his father and castrated him with a sickle, being himself appointed by the TITANS to be their sovereign.

However, once in power, Cronos behaved as his father, and again shut the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES up in Tartarus.

Zephyr
the west wind, which is known for being warm and soft.

Zeus
king of the gods – Zeus was allotted the dominion of the sky, having waged war against Cronos and the TITANS. Zeus, some say, caused the Trojan War, so that the load of death might empty the world.

Zeus got the thunderbolt, his ultimate weapon, from the CYCLOPES, and an eagle brings back the thunderbolts which he has flung. Zeus is married to his sister, Hera.

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