The Weirdest, Most Disturbing Stories from Greek Mythology

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Vote up the Greek myth that makes you squirm the most

When it comes to Greek mythology, some of the stories you'll find out there are pretty strange. Goddesses being birthed from clam shells, women being kidnapped by Hades, and plenty of stories of cheating god husbands (we're looking at you here, Zeus). But if you go past the more well-known myths, things start to get even weirder. Yes, those wacky gods on Mount Olympus have a serious strange streak that would shock even the most open-minded historian.

This is not to say that that these Greek myths aren't entertaining. I mean, come on, hearing about gods impregnating clouds or mortals being cursed for eternity is just oodles of fun, right? Just keep in mind that these myths were meant as life lessons for the Greeks - though for a few of these, the meaning is either pretty obscure or just too weird to imagine.

So, if you're up for a little lesson in bizarre mythology, read on. And if you take away two major points from these stories, we hope they're the following: Don't piss off the gods, because they're jerks; and Zeus really, really needs to learn to keep it in his pants. 

  • Erysichthon Is So Hungry That He Eats Himself To Death
    Photo: Johann Wilhelm Baur / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    5,405 VOTES

    Erysichthon Is So Hungry That He Eats Himself To Death

    On the theme of "never piss off the gods," let's have a look at Erysichthon. This man was incredibly greedy and incredibly rich, and really didn't pay the gods much mind. One day, he cut down a sacred grove of trees in order to build another feast hall, as the rich are wont to do. Demeter was slighted by this, and decided to punish him. She gave him an appetite so strong that he ate everything. He ate all the food he had, then all the food he could buy, until he had completely exhausted his wealth.

    He even tried to sell his own daughter for food! This reduced him to such poverty that he lost all standing, his home, everything. When he had nothing else left, he turned on himself and died eating his own flesh off his body. 

  • Leda Gets Down And Dirty With A Swan
    Photo: After Michelangelo / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    4,262 VOTES

    Leda Gets Down And Dirty With A Swan

    Throughout all of mythology, Zeus sleeps with basically everyone: gods, demigods, mortals, animals, and even sometimes with mortals while disguised as animals. One of the strangest myths involving this is that of Leda and the swan.

    In the story, Zeus sees Leda and admires her from afar. In order to get with her, he transforms into a swan and then seduces her. How does a swan seduce a woman? We're not sure, and we probably don't want to know. The two mated, and from this union came two sets of twins. One of these children (born from an egg, no less) was named Helen.

    Yes, as in Helen of Troy, allegedly the most beautiful woman alive. The mythology makes no note, however, if her mother ever told her that she was half Zeus-swan. 

  • Pan Creates The Pan Flute Out Of A Woman Who Rejected Him
    Photo: Walter Crane / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    3,756 VOTES

    Pan Creates The Pan Flute Out Of A Woman Who Rejected Him

    Pan is, in general, a pretty nasty guy. Some myths say he was birthed from Penelope, Odysseus's wife, while others say it was a nymph, or even Aphrodite herself. He was known for tending, and sometimes having relations with his sheep, and for wanting to get with basically every female he ever laid eyes on.

    One such nymph, Syrinx, really wasn't very open to these advances, and fled from Pan. The creepy half-goat half-man followed her, chasing her through the woods. Eventually, Syrinx became so fed up with this, that she got a river god to transform her into something Pan couldn't possible lust after: a bunch of reeds.

    But Pan was so determined to have her, that he decided to take a piece of her with him everywhere. He used the reeds to craft a flute, what is known today as the pan flute. It just goes to show that stalker-like behavior stretches back thousands of years. 

  • Kronos Eats All The Children He Can Produce And Cuts Off His Dad's Penis
    Photo: Giovanni Francesco Romanelli / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    3,837 VOTES

    Kronos Eats All The Children He Can Produce And Cuts Off His Dad's Penis

    Back when the world was just beginning, at least according to the Greeks, there was a Titan God named Kronos (or Cronus, depending on our records). He was birthed of a god called Ouranos, also called The Sky, and married to a goddess called Rhea. He was power-obsessed in the worst way, and proved this by castrating his father in order to become the top dog.

    From there, because he feared one of his own children would overthrow him, he proceeded to eat every single one of his offspring. Well, except for one, named Zeus, who did eventually overthrow him. And by "overthrow," we mean that Zeus grew up, sought out Kronos, and forced him to vomit up all the baby gods he'd eaten over the years. The gods were somehow still alive, and a great war raged for over a decade between them and the Titans, with Zeus and his siblings eventually winning out.
  • Ixion Impregnates A Cloud To Create Centaurs
    Photo: Jules-Élie Delaunay / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    2,779 VOTES

    Ixion Impregnates A Cloud To Create Centaurs

    The story goes that Ixion was in exile for certain crimes against fellow humans, when Zeus took pity on him and invited him to come to Olympus as a guest (you'll figure out pretty quickly in this list that Zeus doesn't make a lot of great decisions). Once there, he saw Hera and became completely obsessed with getting her into bed. To test his loyalty, Zeus created a cloud version of Hera, which Ixion then somehow impregnated.

    How does one impregnate a cloud? It's hard to say, but we do know that Zeus became angry and punished Ixion by transforming him into a giant flaming wheel. And what of his cloud offspring? He was named Centaurus, and was known for mating with a whole bunch of horses, and from that came the mythical creature known as the Centaur, half man and half horse. Makes all those centaur scenes from Harry Potter seem a little bit more uncomfortable now, doesn't it?

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    2,638 VOTES

    Dionysus Gestates In Zeus's Thigh

    There have been some weird births in Greek mythology, a few of which we'll touch on more later, but Dionysus, god of wine and good times, was probably has one of the strangest. It all begins with Zeus, again, not being able to keep it in his pants. He slept with a mortal princess named Semele, and she became pregnant with his child.

    Hera, Zeus's wife, took issue with this, as she usually did, and decided to ruin everything. She sewed seeds of doubt in the girl's mind, and eventually Semele asked to see Zeus in full, to know that he really existed and really loved her. Zeus had sworn an oath to do anything for her, and was bound to do it.

    Of course, seeing Zeus in all his glory killed any mortal who looked, and the princess was engulfed in flame. Even though his new lover was dead, Zeus was determined to save their unborn baby. So, of course, he took him from her womb and put him someplace safe - in his own thigh. Zeus managed to keep the baby there until he was big enough to emerge.