Greek mythology is full of stories about justice and vengeance. More often than not, the gods dealt with the transgressions of mere mortals by serving punishments that far outweighed the misdeeds. Hera's anger about her husband's illegitimate son, Hercules, for example, led her to send two snakes to destroy him (she didn't succeed). Still, there are a few satisfying revenge stories in Greek mythology.
The most justified punishments doled out by mythological characters are often a result of someone's extreme arrogance, infidelity, or attempt to eat their own children.
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Odysseus Waited Out His Wife's Suitors Once He Returned Home
In Homer's The Odyssey, the Trojan conflict took Odysseus from his home for 20 years. He left behind his new bride, Penelope, and in his absence many men came asking for Penelope's hand, as they believed Odysseus had passed. Over the years, Penelope avoided marriage, but her suitors had a habit of hanging around her palace and eating dinner, attempting to woo her, and feeding their scraps to a beggar.
Eventually, her suitors concluded Penelope was toying with their emotions and demanded she choose. Penelope devised an archery contest she deemed unwinnable in return for her hand.
The suitors all failed, but the final man, the beggar, was able to complete the challenge perfectly. He took out each of the suitors with an arrow before revealing himself as Odysseus, having finally returned for his wife.
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Tantalus Served The Gods His Own Son For Dinner And Got Cursed To Eternal Hunger
The son of Zeus and a nymph, Tantalus was allowed to regularly visit and dine with the gods on Mount Olympus. In his arrogance and hubris, Tantalus took nectar and ambrosia from Mount Olympus in the hopes of discovering the secrets of immortality and divinity. Tantalus then served his son, Pelops, for dinner.
The gods refused to eat the mortal meat, and Zeus brought the boy back to life and banned Tantalus from Mount Olympus. When Tantalus passed, he was cursed to stand in a shallow pool under a fruit tree for all eternity. Whenever Tantalus tries to reach for fruit, the branches grow just out of his reach and the water in the pool recedes.
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Cronus's Children Overthrew Him After Being Regurgitated
Cronus was the youngest of the 12 titans, best-known for swallowing his children - Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon - to thwart a foretelling of his offspring overthrowing him. When his wife/sister Rhea bore Zeus, she hid the child and gave Cronus a rock to swallow instead.
As an adult, Zeus forced Cronus to regurgitate his brothers and sisters, and he clashed with his father, eventually defeating him and taking control.
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Nemesis Forced The Arrogant Narcissus To Stare At Himself Until He Starved
Nemesis is a goddess with wings who represents justice and revenge. Her name means "dealer of proportional fortune," and she gets particularly aggravated by mortals who appear arrogant before the gods. Narcissus, a beautiful young mortal man, was self-obsessed and disdainful. Echo the nymph, cursed by Hera to repeat the words of others, fell in love with Narcissus, but he rebuffed her advances.
When Nemesis learned of this, she led the arrogant man to a pool where he became enamored with his own face staring back at him. She cursed Narcissus to live the rest of his days looming over the pool, unable to abandon his beloved reflection.
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Antigone Disobeyed Her Uncle Out Of Respect For Her Brother
In Sophocles's play Antigone, the titular protagonist seeks to provide her brother Polyneices's body with a proper burial. Her uncle Creon, the ruler of Thebes, wishes for the rebel brother to be shamed and left to rot. In secret, Antigone gives her brother a proper burial, but she gets caught and brought to Creon.
Antigone tells her uncle she has acted morally and, before she can be buried alive in a cave, she takes her own life. Creon loses his entire family as a result of his arrogance.
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Artemis Turned The Peeping Actaeon Into A Stag
Artemis, the Greek goddess of chastity, as well as the harvest, moon, and hunt, commonly sought revenge against various mortals who offended or disrespected her. Actaeon was one of those unlucky mortals. While out on a hunt, he unintentionally became a victim of one of Artemis's revenge plots.
The young man came upon the goddess bathing and took a peek. Artemis, angered at being exposed against her will, turned the man into a stag. Actaeon was then hunted by his own dogs.