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.
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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. He 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.Is this disturbing?
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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.Is this disturbing?
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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.Is this disturbing?
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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.Is this disturbing?