Many of us have grown up knowing a little or a lot about Greek mythology, especially those of us who grew up watching the likes of Xena Warrior Princess or Hercules, heck even Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief can’t help but ensnare us and pull us in to that wonderfully fantastical world of the Ancient Greeks. From films such as Troy to 300 to Spartacus, we all have our favourites.
So when it comes down to the biggest and baddest within Greek Mythology, who gets the top prize? Well, we have put together a list of our 5 favourite bad guys in Greek Mythology for you to peruse. Maybe you agree with who we have chosen, maybe you don’t.
Either way, let us know what you think!
In ascending order…
5. Ouranos – Father Of The Year?
At number 5, we have none other than Ouranos/Uranus. The father of the primordial Gods, the Titans. He wasn’t a particularly pleasant chap to say the least. He hated his kids so much he shoved them back inside their mother, Gaia, and refused to let them out! If that wasn’t bad enough, he was such a lusty fellow, that he’d force himself upon Gaia every night and have intercourse with her. Can you imagine how painful THAT must have been, especially with your kids shoved back inside you?! Eeek!
Thankfully his reign of terror was brought to an abrupt end by his son Kronos, who chopped off his crown jewels, which sprayed semen everywhere and brought about the Furies, Giants and the Meliads (tree-nymphs). Ouranos’ genitals were carried across the sea and gave birth to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. If only we could say that Kronos would go on to be a wonderful hero. Alas, tis not to be so…
4. Kronos – Like Father, Like Son
After slaying his father, Kronos/Cronus (also identified as the Roman God Saturn) became the ultimate power in the universe. Through his union with Rhea (another Titan), he fathered the Olympian Gods that many of us know, love and hate today. It was prophesied that, like his father before him, Kronos was to be overthrown by his son – how about that for karma!
Realising that shoving his kids back inside his wife wasn’t going to work, Kronos decided he’d eat them instead. As each was born (Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon) he grabbed them from Rhea and swallowed them whole! Upon advice from her parents Rhea fled to Crete, gave birth to Zeus in secret and returned to Kronos with a stone wrapped in a blanket, which he ate without suspecting a thing. When Zeus was a grown lad he returned, forced Kronos to vomit out his siblings, overthrew him and then banished him to a dark, gloomy place. There’s a lesson in here somewhere – don’t eat your kids! People take offence to that kind of thing!
3. Tereus, Prokne & Philomela – Trouble With The In-Laws
At number 3 we have a trio (quite fitting really) whose stories are so entwined they all need to be included. However, the worst offender of them all is probably Tereus, because his actions set off this chain of events. He was married to Prokne, who bore him a son called Itys. She became very lonely after his birth and sent Tereus to fetch her sister Philomela, whom Tereus lusted after and eventually raped on the return journey.
To stop her from telling her sister, he imprisoned Philomela, cut out her tongue and told Prokne her sister was dead. Philomela wove a tapestry about her ordeal and sent it to her sister via a kind servant. Upon receiving it, Prokne collected her sister and smuggled her into the castle, then she killed her baby son and they both cut him up and cooked him as a meal for Tereus. After eating his son, Tereus asked where Itys was, when Prokne told him he flew into a rage. Before he could attack the women, the Gods intervened and turned all three of them into birds.
Moral of the story? Keep it in your pants!
2. King Minos – The Man With The Animal Sperm
King Minos was not the nicest of guys to be around. He was a major adulterer, which led to his wife, Pasiphae, bewitching him so that he would ejaculate scorpions and snakes when he had intercourse, this naturally made many women shy away from him.
But perhaps the thing he is best known for is his labyrinth that entombed the doomed Minotaur, offspring of Minos’ wife with the beautiful white bull sent by Poseidon. Minos had asked the sea God to send him a bull that he would sacrifice to show his worthiness to be crowned King of Crete. Minos went back on the deal which angered Poseidon who then gave Pasiphae an insatiable urge to mate with the bull, which resulted in the birth of the Minotaur.
He chucked the creature into the labyrinth where he would demand 7 young men and 7 young women be sent him from Athens periodically as a mark of respect to him and food for the Minotaur. The Athenians begrudgingly did this, after Zeus cursed them with a plague and an oracle told them they had to appease King Minos, Zeus’ son, by sending him these tributes. If that wasn’t bad enough, he punished his wife by tying her to the stern of his ship and dragging her through the water behind it until she drowned. Definitely not someone to get on the wrong side of!
1. Ares, God of War
The fight for the top spot is a tough one, but ultimately is awarded to Ares God of War. Probably an obvious choice for some, he is here not just because of his own antics but also because of those of his offspring such as Diomedes (who fed his horses human flesh), Tereus (who we met earlier) and Kyknos (who cut off the heads of strangers and used their heads to build a temple to his father) to name a few.
Ares himself is the Loki of the Greek pantheon. He is devious, deceptive and often downright callous. Anyone who has watched Xena, Warrior Princess can gauge a glimpse of what the war God would have been like, perhaps without that simpering, whining-after-a-woman-like-a-love-sick-puppy image. If his sister Athena stands for cool, calm, collected battle plans with an emphasis on rational uses for war e.g. to protect a community, then Ares is her complete opposite. He is blood-lust, he is slaughter and he is extreme cruelty. Often depicted on the battlefield with his sons, by Aphrodite, Phobos (terror) and Deimos (fear) by his side it is understandable why he was one of the most hated, yet probably most feared, of all the Gods.
And that concludes our top 5 bad guys of Greek mythology. There are certainly some interesting, yet savage characters in this list, some you might never have even heard of until now. So, who’s your favourite bad guy?
“The Penguin Book of Classical Myths” by Jenny March