It’s no secret that sex is one of the central themes in Greek mythology. While there are goddesses who chose to stay virgins and stay away from the drama (goddesses like Athena, Artemis, and Hestia), most other Greek gods spent their unnumbered days and abundant free time exploring their sexuality.
When you are powerful, glorious, and immortal, monogamy may not make sense to you, just like these Greek gods who had affairs. Why spend a lifetime with someone if you live forever? Moreover, the small number of immortals and their unlimited life spans make it inevitable that these gods and goddesses keep encountering one another, so there's a lot of incest going on.
The power of the gods to get virtually everything they want ensures that their needs are often met. Zeus and Poseidon are notorious for using their powers to attract, deceive, or even force themselves upon any women they desire. Other scandalous Greek myth love affairs are tragic and beyond belief.
From incest and rape to curses and worse, here are the most distrubing love affairs in Greek mythology.
The goddess of love, Aphrodite, agreed to marry Hephaestus, the god of fire, as a part of an arrangement by their parents. The truth is, she had always been in love with Ares and wished to be with him instead. So the two lovebirds did what they had to do: they embarked on an affair that started on her husband’s bed.
Notified by the sun god Helios, Hephaestus rushed home to find the two lovers on his bed. Naturally, he was furious and forged a chain so that neither Ares nor Aphrodite could move a limb. The betrayed husband chained them up long enough to be ridiculed by the other gods who came to watch.
Aphrodite had quite a complicated relationship with Adonis. She cursed his mother, Smyrna, and turned her into a tree for neglecting to worship her. Smyrna bore the handsome Adonis (a son she conceived with her own father) while in the form of the tree. Charmed with the good-looking newborn, Aphrodite took him and hid him in a chest which she eventually entrusted to Persephone, who later wanted the boy for herself.
After some squabbling, they agreed that Adonis would live four months with each goddess, leaving him four months of freedom, which he later spent with Aphrodite, whom he liked the most. Adonis was then killed by a boar, which some version of the legend noted as Ares, Aphrodite’s jealous lover.
Even though Io was a priestess of the goddess Hera, the promiscuous Zeus couldn’t help but fall in love with the beautiful maiden. One day, when Zeus was seducing Io, his wife descended from Olympus looking for him. Desperately wanting to evade his wife’s rage, Zeus reluctantly transformed Io into a white cow.
However, Hera was so familiar with her husband’s practices of infidelity that she could tell the cow was actually a mistress of his. Pretending not to know, Hera asked Zeus to give the cow to her as a present, and then sent it away. Things got really ugly when Zeus sent Hermes to set Io free, resulting in Hera’s wrath, who then sent a gadfly to sting Io all over and chased her around the world, giving her no rest.
The god of wine and ecstasy, Dionysus, was madly in love with Aura, a virgin Titan goddess who liked to hunt. Desperate for her love, Dionysus used his godly power to create a wine fountain nearby Aura to slake her thirst while hunting. After gulping a lot of the liquor, Aura got drunk. Then Dionysus took advantage of her while she was unconscious.
But that’s not all. Other gods saw the union and convinced Dionysus to marry her, so they threw a wedding for the god and the unconscious bride. Upon waking up, Aura was furious but was helpless against the god so she could only lament her lost virginity and the fact that she was pregnant with twins. Aura devoured the first-born of the twins out of anger, while the second-born was rescued by the gods.