The gods are petty, narcissistic jerks. When thinking about the Greek pantheon, that’s as good a place as any to start. Pretty much every one of the major and minor deities in ancient Greece was either consistently pursuing their own selfish ends or being victimized by someone pursuing their own selfish ends. Ancient Greek mythology is just a prolonged soap opera that, you know, loosely explains existence. The world around the Greeks was vibrant, but brutish, and their religious fables are a reflection of that. Here, for your consideration, are some of the most prominent myths of ancient Greece.
The Origin of the Pantheon
In the old times, a Titan named Cronus ran the world. He was a paranoid god who actually ate all of his children in order to ensure that he’d never be usurped. Cronus’ wife Rhea got tired of all the kid-eating and hid away her youngest child, Zeus. Zeus grew up to become Cronus’ cup-bearer — though the Titan had no idea who Zeus truly was. One day, Zeus poisoned Cronus’ wine cup, causing the Titan to vomit up all his kids. In turn, Zeus organized his brothers and sisters against the Titans (he also called in some help from a couple of Titans, one of whom was Prometheus) and overthrew them. Zeus and his brothers Poseidon and Hades drew straws for the Universe. Zeus won the heavens and dominion over everything, Poseidon won the ocean, and Hades drew the short straw, gaining lordship over the Underworld.
The Renegade Fire-Wielder
When Zeus had just wrested power from the Titans, he and his cronies were lounging around in Olympus chowing down on nectar and ambrosia. Prometheus was irritated by the gods’ laziness, so he went down into the world of man hoping to find something to fill his time. Instead, he found men huddled in caves and just barely scraping by. Prometheus knew that the simple gift of fire would get men up off the ground and moving toward something approaching civility, but Zeus forbade it. The head god was worried that fire would give mankind too much of an edge and would ultimately lead to the gods’ downfall (which was true). Prometheus didn’t care for this kind of casual tyranny, so he snuck fire down to the people and showed them how to use it. As a result, mankind was able to stay warm, cook their food, stave off disease, and live longer. As punishment, Prometheus was tied to a mountaintop and left to hang there exposed to the elements and being torn apart by birds.