The Achaeans were the Greeks who fought against Troy.
Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus and the goddess Thetis. He led the Myrmidons at the siege of Troy, and his argument with Agamemnon over the girl Briseis was one of the central issues of Homer's Iliad.
Aegisthus had helped Clytemnestra slay her husband Agamemnon on his return from the siege of Troy. Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, subsequently avenged his father's death by killing both Aegisthus and his own mother.
Aeolus I was king over the Aeolian Islands. He was appointed by Zeus as the ruler of the winds. He had twelve children, six sons and six daughters, and gave his daughters to his sons as wives. Aeolus II was a king of the Aeolians in Thessaly and Aeolus III came into possession of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea (to the west of Italy). He is sometimes credited with being a descendant of Aeolus I or II. Aeolus IV is a companion of Aeneas in Italy and Aeolus V a defender of Thebes. Strabo locates the Aeolian Islands off Sicily (by repute). See map.
affront to the Gods : in many early societies, poisoning was punished especially severely.
Agamemnon was the brother of Menelaus and leader of the Achaean expedition against Troy. He sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia, to get favourable winds, argued with Achilles about the girl Briseis and was killed on his return to Mycenae by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus.
Aias (Ajax) was the son of King Telamon of Salamis. He was joint leader of the Salaminians at the siege of Troy and died by his own hand after the siege having been, in his own mind, dishonoured when the Achaeans decided to award the armour of the dead Achilles to Odysseus instead of himself.
Aias2 : a second Aias, this one the leader of the Locrians, who raped the prophetess Cassandra at the fall of Troy, thus offending Athene in whose sanctuary she was sheltering. She sent a thunderbolt to destroy his ship, but he managed to scramble to safety, only to be thrown off his rock by Poseidon.
Alcmene was the mother of Heracles by Zeus. She was the grand daughter of Perseus, the founder of Mycenae, and the man who rescued Andromeda and cut off the head of Medusa. Zeus lay with her while her husband Amphitryon was away, coming to her in the guise of her husband and extending the night by three times. The result of this union was Heracles.
Amphion and Zethus, the twin children of Antiope by Zeus, were abandoned as babies and brought up by a shepherd. When they grew to manhood, they avenged the ill treatment of their mother by Lycus and Dirce. They were responsible for renaming Cadmea Thebes after the wife of Zethus (Thebe), and building of the wall around the city, with its seven gates (named after the daughters of Amphion). Amphion's wife Niobe, however, provoked the Gods by comparing her own fertility with that of Leto, mother of Artemis and Apollo, and these Gods then proceeded to shoot down her children (their arrows were thought to cause illness). The reign of the twins came to an end, and Oedipus father, Laius took control.
Amphitrite was the Queen of the Sea, wife of Poseidon and daughter of Oceanus and Tethys.
Antinous : a native of Ithaca, the most strident of the suitors.
Antiope had two children by Zeus, the God visiting her in the shape of a Satyr. She was imprisoned and ill treated by Lycus, ruler of Cadmea (later Thebes), and Dirce, his wife, and later avenged by her children.
Aperaea : location unknown.
Arcturus (Alpha Bootes) is the brightest star in the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman, and in the northern hemisphere. Its dates of rising and setting were recorded in ancient calendars.
Argus : A man-like creature whose body was covered from head to toe with eyes. He was set by Hera to watch over Zeus' love, the cow-shaped Io, and was killed by Hermes.
Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete who fell in love with Theseus and helped him to find his way out of the labyrinth after he had slain the minotaur, on condition that he took her with him to Athens. But he either abandoned her on Dia, or Naxos, or she was slain on Dia by Artemis for some reason disclosed by Dionysos. See map.
Artacia : there was an Artacia in Cyzicus, an ancient settlement in Mysia founded by Greeks from Miletus (see map). The coastal area of Mysia was called Aeolis in ancient times as it had been settled by Aeolians from Thessaly (see Aeolus II).
Artemis is the virgin goddess, sister to Apollo. She is devoted to hunting.
Athene : Grey eyed Goddess of War and Crafts. She sprang fully grown and armed from the head of Zeus.
Asphodel : Lucian (De Luctu 5,19) confirms that the Greeks believed there was a large field overgrown with asphodel in Hades. They left roots of asphodel (which were edible) in tombs of the dead to nourish their spirit. Lucian has Charon (the Stygian boatman) say 'Down here with us there is nothing to be had but asphodel, and libations and oblations, and that in the midst of mist and darkness; but up in heaven it is all bright and clear, and plenty of ambrosia there, and nectar without stint.'
Atlas : One of the Titans. He led the Titan army in the war against the Gods and as punishment was made to bear the heavens upon his shoulders.
Atrides : son of Atreus, ie Agamemnon.
Calypso : A Goddess-nymph of the island Ogygia
Cassandra was a daughter of Priam and a prophetess who no-one believed. She predicted the fall of Troy on account of the rape of Helen and warned against bringing the wooden horse into the city, but was ignored. She was taken by Agamemnon as a prize on the fall of Troy and was killed by Clytemnestra when they arrived in Mycenae.
Castor and Pollux were the sons of Leda, according to Homer by Tyndareus, according to later writers either one or both of them by Zeus. They represented the youthful spirit of warlike adventure, and were popular particularly at Rome, where they were called the Dioscuri and had their own temple close to the forum, where the Senate often held their sittings.
The Cauconians : Strabo says there are several accounts of them, but they seem to have been present in parts of both Messenia and Elis.
Ceteian : the River Ceteius is in Mysia.
Chloris is one of the Niobids, a daughter of Amphion and Niobe, who survived the destruction of her brothers and sisters by Apollo and Artemis, and married Neleus, thereby becoming queen of Pylos.
The Cimmerians are generally thought to have inhabited the Crimea and the area north of the Black Sea. There is again the suggestion that the poet knows by hearsay of a land of never-ending night, ie winter in the far north.
Circe was visited by Jason, the Argonauts and Medea after they had stolen the Golden Fleece. The location of her island has been variously thought to be off the western or eastern coasts of Italy and somewhere in the Black Sea.
Clymene was the mother of Atlas.
Creon was regent of Thebes after the death of Laius and again after the death of Oedipus' son Eteocles. He offended both Gods and men by refusing burial to those who had taken the side of Polynices against Eteocles (both sons of Oedipus, who killed each other) and died in the ensuing battle for control of Thebes.
Cretheus was the son of Aeolus by Anarete. He was the founder of Iolcos and father of Aeson, who was father of Jason.
Cyclops : there are generally two types of Cyclopes, the Elder, who were three one eyed giants imprisoned in Tartarus by first Uranus and then Cronos. Zeus released them and they crafted the thunderbolts for him, a helmet of invisibility for Hades and the earth shaking trident for Poseidon, and the Younger, who spend their time herding goats. Polyphemus is one of the latter. They were primitive and lawless, defying the laws of both gods and men. 'Plato ... sets forth as an example of the first stage of civilization the life of the Kyklopes [as described by Homeros], who lived on uncultivated fruits and occupied the mountain tops, living in caves: 'but all these things,' he says, 'grow unsown and unploughed' for them 'And they have no assemblies for council, nor appointed laws, but they dwell on the tops of high mountains in hollow caves, and each is lawgiver to his children and his wives.' - Strabo 13.1.25
Danaans : those who dwell in Argolis, but used to denote all Greeks. Danaans and Achaeans are represented as mingling together in Argolis with the marriage of the two daughters of Danaus (the conqueror of Argolis who originated in Libya and gave the Danaans their name) with the two sons of Achaeus (originating in Thessaly but settling in Argolis and Sparta). See map
Deathless Ones : the Gods
Deiphobus was one of Priam's sons.
Demeter is the Goddess of Fertility and the Mother of Corn. According to one version of her story, she fell in love with Iaision and they lay together in a thrice ploughed field. He was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt on account of this love.
Dionysos was the God of Wine and the youngest of the Olympian Gods. The Goddess Hestia relinquished her position for him. He was the son of Semele and Zeus, and led wild, orgiastic rites.
Egyptian Thebes is modern Luxor.
Elysian plain : the place where mortals made immortal live.
Epeius was the architect of the wooden horse used in the siege of Troy.
Epicaste (Jocasta) was mother and wife to Oedipus. She committed suicide when it became known that Oedipus was her son.
Erectheus was king of Athens and son of either Hephaestus or Autochthonous.
Erembi is perhaps Arabia.
Eriphyle caused the death of her husband by encouraging him to join the Seven Against Thebes in response to a bribe from Polynices in the form of the Necklace of Harmonia. She was later killed by her own son, Alcmaeon, for causing his father's death.
Ethiopia was (and is) situated south of Egypt.
Eurymachus : another native of Ithaca, and the most generous of the suitors.
Eurypylus was a Trojan leader who came from Mysia.
Eurytus received his bow from Apollo, but became arrogant, challenging the God to a shooting match, for which Apollo slew him.
God who shakes : Poseidon, the Earth-Shaker.
The Great Bear (Ursa Major, Big Dipper, Plough, Wain) revolves around the Pole Star. In mythology it is associated with Callisto, a follower of Artemis, who was impregnated by Zeus. He deceived her by coming to her in the form of Artemis. When Artemis noticed Callisto's pregnancy, she was transformed into a bear, either by Artemis, as a punishment, or by Zeus, to save her from the wrath of Artemis.
Hades was the brother of Zeus and God of the Underworld
Harpies : Three winged sisters associated with high winds. They are sometimes depicted as half woman, half bird, and sometimes called the Hounds of Zeus. They were in the habit of suddenly snatching away both things and people.
Hebe is the daughter of Zeus and Hera and cupbearer to the Gods. She was given as bride to Heracles when he was made immortal.
Helios was the Sun, and the God of the Sun, Sight and the Measurement of Time, who rode every day on a chariot drawn by four winged horses across the skies.
Hephaestus was the God of fire, volcanic activity and craftsmen. He was credited with making palaces and their furnishings, temples, automatons, humans, chariots and boats, jewellery, bowls, cups and jugs, chains and bindings, weapons and armour.
Hera : wife to Zeus, who consistently plotted the downfall of Troy due to the Trojan Prince Paris preferring Aphrodite over her in the famous judgement of Paris.
Herakles was the son of Zeus and Alcmena. He received his bow as a gift from Apollo.
Hermes : Winged footed God of Trade, Messengers, Roads and Flocks. He was the Messenger of the Gods, his attributes being Winged sandals and a Cap.
Hypereia : unknown location, variously ascribed.
Iasion : was usually regarded as the handsome son of Zeus and Electra (one of the Pleiades) with whom Demeter fell in love and lay with in a thrice ploughed field.
Icarius was the brother of Tyndareus, father of Helen.
Idomeneus was a king on Crete and Minos' grandson. He was one of the Suitors of Helen. On his way back from the siege of Troy, his fleet was overtaken by a storm and he promised Poseidon that he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he landed if the sea-god would spare his fleet. This happened to be his own son, who he failed to sacrifice with predictable consequences.
Ino was a daughter of Cadmus and married to Athamas She plotted the death of the children of his first wife, but they escaped to Colchis on the back of the Ram with the Golden Fleece. She cast herself into the depths of the sea, where she now lives as Leucothea.
Iphiclus was the son of Phylacus of Phylace in Thessaly. He took part in the expedition of Jason and the Argonauts, and the funeral games of Pelias, where he was swiftest for running. His oxen were guarded by a watchful dog. When Neleus asked for the cattle of Iphiclus for the hand of Pero, Melampus, the oldest of a family of seers called the Melampodidae, offered to bring his brother Bias the cattle. He was caught and imprisoned by Iphiclus, but, hearing from the worms in the woodwork that the building in which he was confined was about to collapse, he asked to be moved. When the building did indeed collapse, Phylacus perceived that he possessed the gift of prophecy and promised him the cattle if he would cure Iphiclus' childlessness.
Iphimedia was the mother of the Aloads, giants who stormed heaven, either by Aloeus or by Poseidon. Ephialtes and Otus (two of the Aloads) tried to unseat Zeus. They stacked Ossa on Olympus and Pelion on Ossa and by this means attempted to attack heaven. Ephialtes made love to Hera and Otus wooed Artemis, and they put Ares in chains. Apollo, however, sent a deer between them, both shot at the deer and killed each other.
Kronides : son of Kronos, ie Zeus.
Kronos : The youngest of the Titans, he castrated and deposed his father Uranus, and took to devouring his own children following a prophecy that he would be deposed by one of them. He was defeated by his own son Zeus after Rhea, Zeus' mother, had given Kronos a stone to eat instead of the baby Zeus.
Lacedaemon : the area around Sparta : see map
Laertes : Odysseus' father.
The Laestrygonians : though Lamos is in Cilicia, later commentators have identified the Laestygonians with the inhabitants of the island of Sicily and also, in virtue of the reference to the closeness in time of dusk and dawn, with the inhabitants of Scandinavia and Ireland. The attempt to impose geographical accuracy on the tale is probably flawed: some places are clearly real places and accurately placed, others are real places and inaccurately placed, others are fictional places with attributes that the poet knew about by hearsay or simply imagined. The important aspect to bear in mind is the interplay between imagination, history and the Gods, not the geographical accuracy of the references.
Lamos is situated in Cilicia. The ancient acropolis was protected by steep cliffs on three sides and a double fortification wall.
Leda was the wife of Tyndareus. According to Homer she had Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux by him and by Zeus, who visited her in the shape of a swan, she was mother of Helen.
Leto was mother to both Artemis and Apollo.
Libya : Africa west of Egypt.
Maera was the daughter of Atlas.
Maron was a priest of Apollo, descended from Ariadne.
Marathon : city in east Attica close to where the Greek and Persian armies clashed in 490BC. The runner Phaedippas ran the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to report the outcome of the battle to the city, establishing the precedent for the modern marathon. See map.
Megara was given by Creon to Heracles and she bore him four children, but he, in his madness, killed both her and the children.
Menelaus was the brother of Agamemnon and husband of Helen, whose rape (abduction) began the sequence of events which led to the siege of Troy.
Either Minos or his father, who was also Minos, was the son of Zeus and the Phoenician Princess Europa, Zeus having carried her off to Crete in the form of a bull. He was involved in a war with Athens and Megara, and died in Sicily, treacherously murdered by King Cocalus or his daughters whilst their guest. His wife was Pasiphae, who developed a passion for a bull and bore the minotaur, and his daughter was Ariadne, who helped Theseus to escape from the labyrinth. He employed Daedelus, the inventor, until, Minos having imprisoned him, he escaped to Sicily with his son Icarus, both borne in the air by a pair of wings. It was in his search for Daedelus that Minos perished. In Hades, he serves along with Rhadamanthus and Aeacus as a judge of the dead.
Moly : 'It would be best perhaps to leave the old allegory to speak for itself, because poetical thoughts are often mishandled, and suffer base transformation at the hands of interpreters; but for all that, it is a pretty trade to expound things seen in dreams and visions, or obscurely detected out of the corner of the eye in magical places; while the best of really poetical things is that they have a hundred mystical interpretations, none of which is perhaps the right one; because the poet sees things in a flash, and describes his visions, without knowing what they mean, or indeed if they have any meaning at all.' (Arthur Christopher Benson) more
Mycene was an Achaean beauty, after whom the city of Mycenae was named.
Nausithos was the son of Poseidon and Periboea.
Neleus was the father of Nestor. He was regarded as either the founder of the city of Pylos, or else it was thought that he took control of the city from Pylas, who had founded it. During his military campaigns in the Peleponnesus, Heracles invaded Messenia and took Pylos, killing all the sons of Neleus apart from Nestor, who was at Gerenia at the time.
Nestor was already old when he went with his two sons, Antilochus and Thrasymedes, to join the Greek fleet for the siege of Troy. During the siege, he tried to mediate between Achilles and Agamemnon, whose dispute over the girl Briseis had caused a rift in the Greek camp and prejudiced the success of the siege. He was one of the few leaders of the Greek armies to enjoy a happy return from the siege.
Ocean (Okeanos) : the great stream that flowed in a circle around the world. He (Okeanos) was the only one of the Titans who remained neutral during the war between the Gods and the Titans. He and his wife, Tethys, looked after Hera, Demeter and Hestia after they had been disgorged by Cronus.
Oechalia : the location of this city is not known.
Ogygia : a fabled island controlled by the nymph Calypso.
Orion (The Hunter): there are a variety of stories about the birth, life and death of Orion. All agree that he was a hunter. The version of the story referenced here implies that he was a mortal who was beloved by the goddess Aurora (Eos, the Dawn) and that he was killed by Artemis' gentle dart (presumably an illness) because the Gods were jealous. Odysseus sees him later in the Underworld (Book 11). He was placed in the skies as a constellation by Artemis, who mourned for him.
other warriors : the story begins after the end of the Siege of Troy.
Paeon succours the gods when they are injured.
Pallas : an epithet of Athene.
Patroclus was the friend of Achilles whose death at the hand of the Trojan champion Hector caused Achilles to rejoin the fight against the Trojans, which in turn led to the death of Hector at Achilles' hand and the fall of Troy.
Pelias was the king of Iolcos, having snatched the kingdom from Jason's father Aeson, his half brother. He it was who required Jason to go in search of the Golden Fleece.
Penelope : wife of Odysseus, mother of Telemachus, patient weaver.
Perse was also the mother of Pasiphae, wife of King Minos of Crete.
Persephone was Demeter's daughter and became the wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld after he abducted her. Demeter complained to the Gods and Persephone was allowed to spend half the year with her, returning for the other half to Hades.
Phaeatia is the island of Corcyra, off the coast of Epirus in the Ionian Sea. See map. King Alcinous of Phaeatia is well known from the story of Jason and the Argonauts, as it was he who protected Medea from the pursuing Colchians after the theft of the Golden Fleece.
Phaedra married King Theseus of Athens and had two sons by him, but fell in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. When he did not return her devotion, she accused him of violating her and hanged herself.
Pharos is an island which was located about a mile from Alexandria, on which the famous lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the world, was built. Homer has it a day's sailing away.
Philoctetes came to fame as the man who set a torch to Heracles funeral pyre, for which service he was awarded the bow and arrows of the great hero. He was one of the Suitors of Helen, but had the misfortune to be bitten by a snake on the way to the siege, and, as his wound began to stink, was left by the Greeks on the island of Lemnos, where he stayed until a prophecy induced the Greek leaders to believe that they would not take Troy without Heracles' bow. A deputation was therefore sent to Philoctetes to take the bow either by negotiation or by force. At this point he was cured and rejoined the siege, becoming responsible for the death of Paris.
Phoenicia roughly coincides with present day Lebanon.
Phorkys : an ancient Sea God, who fathered a brood of monsters on his sister Keto.
Pirithous was kin to the Centaurs and invited them to attend his marriage to Hippodamia. At the wedding feast they got drunk and tried to violate the bride, so Pirithous, with the help of his friend Theseus, joined the Lapiths in their fight against the Centaurs, driving them from Mount Pelion. He subsequently helped Theseus to carry off Helen, then went with his friend into the Underworld to attempt to abduct Persephone, but they were detained there by Hades in the Chair of Oblivion until Heracles descended into Hades to rescue them (or perhaps only one of them).
The Pleiades commemorate the Seven Sisters, daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Their rising is a sign of summer in the northern hemisphere.
Polyphemus : The man-eating Cyclops, son of Poseidon and Thoosa, who imprisoned Odysseus and his crew in his cave, and was blinded by Odysseus.
Poseidon : the Earth Shaker, God of the Sea, Earthquakes and Floods, son of Kronos and Rhea, brother to Zeus. Odysseus had blinded his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, and, on this account, he sought to prevent Odysseus' return to Ithaca.
Priam was the king of Troy at the time of the siege, and his fate was that of utter ruin for himself, his city and his family.
Procris was the wife of Cephalus, and various stories are told about her accepting a bribe for her favours, and about Eos carrying off her husband. She went to Crete, where she became the lover of King Minos, who gave her a wonderful dog that caught whatever it hunted, and a dart-that-flew-straight.
Proteus knows all that has been, is now and also what lies in store. He had the ability to change his form at will.
Rhadamanthus acts as a judge in Hades, along with Aeacus and Minos.
Sidon is in present day Lebanon.
Sisyphus was the founder of the city of Ephyra, later called Corinth. He was punished in Hades as described here (Odysseus Book XI) for disclosing the whereabouts of Aegina, who had been carried off by Zeus, to the River God Asopus, her father.
Skyros is one of the Cyclades Islands. The Goddess Thetis, in order to save her son Achilles from his destiny, which was to die at the siege of Troy, hid him on Skyros, disguising him as a girl. King Lycomedes daughter, Deidamia, discovered the deception and made love with him, in time conceiving a son, Neoptolemus. See map.
son of Atreus : Agamemnon.
The Styx is the main river in the Underworld. According to Hesiod (Theogeny 793-806) any one of the Gods who pours a libation in the waters of the river and swears falsely is paralysed for one year and excluded from the feasts and assemblies of the Gods for nine.
Tantalus was the son of Zeus by Pluto (the daughter of Himas). He was favoured by the Gods, but shared the secrets of the Gods and their nectar with humans, for which he was punished in Hades. His punishment consisted in being immersed up to his neck in water, which disappeared each time he went to drink it, and tantalised with fruit, which swung out of his reach each time he tried to eat.
Teiresias was granted the continuing power of prophecy after he died by Persephone. He was the blind seer who had told Oedipus where to find the killer of Laius (Oedipus the King, Sophocles).
Temesa : in the mountainous centre of Cyprus.
Themis was a Titaness who instructed men in obedience to the laws and peace. She also delivered oracles at Delphi before the time of Apollo.
Theseus was born of Aegeus, King of Athens, and Aethra, daughter of Pittheus, King of Troezen, who made Aegeus drunk so that he would lie with his daughter. She also slept with Poseidon, and it therefore became unclear who was the father of Theseus, though Aegeus never questioned it. He did not take Aethra for his wife. He instructed her not to reveal his identity to Theseus and to place a sword and sandals under a rock which, when he was old enough to roll away, she should allow him to do so and send him to Athens. Aegeus identified him by these signs. He was involved in a variety of adventures on his journey to Athens and subsequently on Crete and in actions against the Amazons. With Pirithous he set out to woo daughters of Zeus, first of all abducting the twelve year old Helen from Sparta, then descending to Hades to attempt the abduction of Persephone. He was married to Phaedra and, on some accounts, Medea.
Thon is the Warden of the Mouth of the Nile.
Thoosa : Sea nymph, beloved of Poseidon, who bore him Polyphemus.
Thrinacia : location unknown, but it is the island where Helios (the Sun) is supposed to have kept his herds of cattle and sheep.
Tithonus was the son of Laomedon, King of Troy, with whom Aurora (the Dawn) fell in love. She persuaded Zeus to make him immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth. Tithonus therefore became ever more decrepit. The son of Aurora and Tithonus was Memnon, who fought at the siege of Troy and was responsible for the death of Nestor's son, Antilochus.
Tityus is one of the sinners of mythology being guilty of an attempt to rape Leto, for which her children, Artemis and Apollo, killed him and for which he suffers perpetual punishment in Hades, variously recorded as having his heart or liver perpetually eaten by a vulture or a serpent. Why the Phaetians should be taking Rhadamanthus to Euboea to meet Tityus is not clear.
Tyndareus was the father of Clytemnestra by Leda, and also, according to Homer, of Castor and Pollux, though later writers make either one or both of these, along with Helen, offspring of Zeus. It was Tyndareus who got the suitors of Helen to swear an oath to protect the successful suitor against every act of injustice and it was by this oath that they found themselves bound to the expedition against Troy when Paris snatched Helen from Menelaus.
Tyro was at one time married to Sisyphus, but killed the two sons she had by him because of a prophecy that these sons would in time kill her father Salmoneus (who was also Sisyphus' brother). She presumably had other qualities known to the poet. She conceived Pelias and Neleus (father to Nestor) by the God Poseidon, and Aeson (father to Jason), Pheres and Amythaon by the mortal Cretheus.
Zeus : the All Powerful, King of the Gods, and God of the Heavens, Weather, the Fates and Kings. He overcame his father, Kronos, and the Titans with the help of the other Gods.
Zeus' son is Apollo.