|Mythological Characters in Captain Corelli´s Mandolin
Poseidon was the son of Cronus and Rhea, and brother of Zeus and Hades. He lived at the bottom of the sea in a palace made of coral and gems. He became the Greek god of the sea after overthrowing his father and disputing the earth between him and his brothers. He was known to be a moody and violent god. When he was in an angry mood, he would strike the ground with his trident, and the Earth would tremble and split open. When he struck the sea, huge waves rose, and the winds howled. He caused many ship wrecks, and often drowned those who lived on the shores. However, when he was in a calm mood, he would stretch out his hand and calm the sea. He could also cause new lands to rise out of the water. He married the sea-nymph Amphitrite.
Zeus was the ruler over all the Greek gods and goddesses, and also the lord of Olympus. He is the god of light and sky, and protector of the states, and its laws. Zeus is attributed with the lightning bolt. Zeus was the son of Cronus and Rhea. Cronus, had been foretold that one of his children was destined to dethrone him. To prevent this from ever happening, Cronus swallowed every one of his children as they were born. However, Rhea secretly took her sixth child, Zeus, and hid him in the city Crete. She then wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes, and gave it to Cronus to eat. Cronus mistook the stone for the newborn child, allowing Zeus to escape harm. When Zeus grew up, he asked mother Earth to help him. She forced Cronus to disgorge the five earlier children along with the stone. This brought forth Zeus’ brothers, Hades and Poseidon, and his sisters, Hera and Hestia. Zeus went on to marry Hera, but had numerous affairs with other goddesses and mortals. This resulted in many offspring. Zeus is attributed with the lightning bolt.
Demeter is the goddess of corn, grain, and the harvest. She is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and is a sister to Zeus. She taught mankind the art of sowing so they could end their nomadic existence. This also associated Demeter as being the goddess of planned society. Demeter is also associated with controlling the seasons. Her daughter, Persephone, was taken off by Hades to be his wife. Demeter grew angry at her daughter’s loss, and neglected her responsibilities to the mortals. The crops failed, and the trees and plants died. Zeus then became worried and alarmed. He sent Hermes to demand the return of Persephone. However, because Persephone had eaten while in the Underworld, Hades had a claim on her. It was then decided that Persephone would spend four months each year in the Underworld, and the rest of the year with her mother, Demeter. During the months of Persephone’s absence, Demeter became very sad and lonely. During this time, the crops, tree, and flowers would die. This created winter. When Persephone would return, spring would arrive.
Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto (a mortal), and was Artemis’ twin brother. He was the god of the light, cure, prophecy, poetry and music. It is said that Apollo taught the humans the science of medicine, and that sometimes he gave the gift of prophecy to some mortals. In order to know the future, the Greeks used to visit his Oracle at Delfos, where a priestess answered all the questions by riddles and mysterious advices. Apollo was the Greek god of music too. He was a fine musician, renowned for the sweetness of his music, and the gentle touch of his fingers on the strings of his lyre. No mortal or god was ever known to surpass him.
The legend tells us that when Zeus went to see an oracle when Athene’s mother, Metis; goddess of prudence, was pregnant with Athene. He wished to know if the child would be a boy or a girl. The oracle replied that the child would be a girl, and that she would be very talented and skilled. However, the oracle also warned him that his second child with Metis would overthrow, and kill him as Zeus did to his father, Cronus. Zeus did not want to risk being overthrown, and swallowed Metis to prevent the prophesy from coming true. However, Zeus got a great pain in the form of headaches. Hephaestus tried to relieve the pain by splitting Zeus’ skull open. When he did this, Athene emerged fully grown from Zeus’ head. Hence, Athene was the goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill. Athene was very fond of a certain city in Greece, and decided to give it a great gift. She grew an olive tree for the citizens of the city, allowing them to get food, oil, and wood from it. She called this city Athens. Athene also gave man new knowledge. She taught man how to spin wool and make woven cloth from it. She also showed man how to make the wheel, the axe, the flute and the trumpet, the plough, and sails for the Greek ships.
Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, agriculture, drama, and the fertility of nature. He was the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman, Semele. According to legends, Semele was killed by one of Zeus’ lightning bolts. Dionysus was rescued, and was then born out of Zeus’ thigh. He used to be represented by the vine.
Artemis is the Apollo’s twin sister. She is the goddess of the night and the hunt, and also protects women during childbirth. Artemis is associated with the moon, and is attributed with the bow and arrow. The deer, goose, and wild dogs are her sacred animals. She rode in a silver chariot pulled by four white horses. She also had a silver bow and arrow like his twin brother. Artemis had great hunting skill, and roamed the countryside looking for a target worthy of her skill.
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She was born of the sea, when Cronus (Zeus’ father) killed his father Urano, he cut the body and threw the pieces to the sea. Aphrodite was born of Urano’s blood and the sea foam. Aphrodite could make any man fall in love with her, and many tried to impress her. However, Zeus and Hera arranged for their son, Hephaestus to marry her. Although Hephaestus was deformed and ugly, she did not mind marrying him. She thought that he would give her the freedom she needed, instead of controlling her as the other gods had tried. However, Aphrodite loved being independent and glamorous more than anything, and soon grew tired of her marriage. At this point, she had an affair with Ares. Hephaestus caught the two together, but Aphrodite showed no shame or remorse for her actions as she felt that her behavior was acceptable because of being the goddess of love. Aphrodite is attributed with the dolphin, the dove, the swan, and the lime tree.
Memnon was the son of Tithonus I and the goddess Eos. He was king of the Ethiopians who came with a great force to Troy against the Greeks. Memnon was killed by Achilles at the war of Troy. After being killed he was made immortal by Zeus at his mother request.
The huntsman of the Greek myth and grandson of Cadmus. During a hunt he saw Artemis bathing with her nymphs in a large pool and was converted into a stag. Actaeon moved away from the pool not knowing he had been turned into a stag and was finally killed by his hounds whom did not recognise him. Another version says that he was turned into a stag by Artemis because he boasted of excelling her in hunting.
Orion (or Candaon)
The son of Poseidon and Euryale, was a man of gigantic proportions. His constellation is in the form of a hunter against a bull (Taurus). He fell in love with Merope, but her father, king Oenopion, forbid her to marry him, so Orion raped Merope. Oenopion got him drunk, tore his eyes off and threw him into the sea in revenge. Hephaestus found Orion and gave him a boy to be his guide. This way they went east to restore his sight with the rising sun. he then went to kill Oenopion, but could not find him so he went to Delfos were he served Eos sexually. He then became a follower of Artemis and was killed by her. Some say she killed him because Apollo disproved their romance. Others say that Apollo challenged Artemis to hit the “stone” in the sea with an arrow. She hit it and then found out that it was Orion’s head. It is also said that he was killed by a scorpion because he raped one of Artemis’ followers. This is why when Scorpius is rising Orion disappears.
Asclepius (or Asklepios or Aesculapius) (“Cut up”)
Greek god of medicine and healing, son of Apollo and Coronis. Had five daughters: Aceso, Iaso, Panacea, Aglaea and Hygieia. His most famous sanctuary is in Epidarus in the Peloponnese and his symbol is still used as the symbol of modern medicine. Coronis was unfaithful to Apollo and Artemis killed her, but Apollo snatched Asclepius form Coronis’ body. He was then raised by the Centaur Chiron who became his tutor and taught him the art of healing. He also new surgery, the use of drugs, love potions, incantations and also had blood of the Gorgon (this had magic qualities). He knew more than he should, and offended Zeus by accepting money to raise the Dead. He was killed because of this and made into a god (constellation of Ophiuchus). His cult became very popular during the 300s BC, were priests used to cure the sick by a process called incubation. Hippocrates is said to be a descendant of Asclepius.
Son of king Peoas and close friend of Heracles. He was the only one allowed to light Heracles funeral pyre and was given the hero’s bow and arrow. He sailed with seven ships to fight against Troy, but was left in Lemnos for ten years, because he had a wound that produced a terrible smell. According to an Oracle, Troy could not be beaten without Philoctetes, so Odysseus and Neoptolemus took him to Troy were he was cured by Asclepius. He then killed Paris and caused the downfall of Troy. He then went to Italy were he founded Brutti in Petelia (Strongoli).
Son of Jupiter and Alcmene, killed his wife, Megara, and their three children because his stepmother Juno turned him insane. He exiled himself for this and went to the Delphic Oracle to see what he had to do to regain his honour, and found out that he had to spent twelve years serving king Eurystheus. He was then assigned twelve tasks to complete (this were idea of Juno). The tasks were: kill the menacing Nemean Lion; overcome the nine-headed snake known as the Hydra; find the golden-horned stag and bring it back alive; capture the wild boar that terrorized Mycenae’s people; clean the Augean stables in a single day; destroy the man-eating Stymphalian birds; capture a Cretan savage bull; capture the four man-eating mares of Thrace; obtain the girdle of the fierce Amazon warrior queen Hippolyta; capture the cattle of the monster Geryon; get the golden-apples of the Hesperides; bring the three-headed watchdog of the underworld, Cerberus, to the surface without using any weapons. After completing the tasks, Hercules went to Thebes were he married Deianira. Nessus abducted her, but Hercules killed him. Deianira saved some of Nessus blood thinking of it as a love potion and gave to Hercules, but he died. He was then granted immortality and lived with the gods in the Olympus.
An Argive princess, daughter of Inachus. She was subjected to the lust of Zeus, so he turned her into a handsome white heifer to avoid the rage and jealousy of Hera. She was then given as a present to Hera and sent to a place guarded by Argus. Hermes rescued her, but Hera sent her a gadfly that followed her everywhere she went. She went to Prometheus and told him all that had happened, so he told Io that she would be restored by Zeus and bare him a son, when she reached Egypt. She did and Epaphus was born. Hercules is a descendent of Io. While Zeus was seducing her, he threw a cloud over the earth so that Hera could not see them; this is called the Long Night.
Daughter of Perse and Helios, was a sorceress that turned men into animals with her magic wound and had knowledge of magic and poisonous herbs. She met Odysseus and his men in Aeaea, where she turned them into pigs, except Odysseus who had a herb (given by Hermes) to resist her power. She lifted the spell from them realising she was powerless over him and welcomed them in their home. Telegonous is the child she had with Odysseus, that went away after he had been warned of the sirens by Circe.
Odysseus is the protagonist of the Odyssey, which tells his adventures during his journey from Troy to Ithaca. Son of Laertes and Anticlea, he fought in the Trojan War. In his way back home, he had to face the opposition of the Cicones, the Cyclops Polyphemus, the witch Circe, the Sirens, the nymph Calypso and other monsters, as well as Poseidon’s attacks. This took many years, which only he survived, thank to his protector Athene. He also met the Phaeacians, with whom he makes new friends. Finally, Odysseus arrived in Ithaca, where he and his son Telemachus get rid of his wife Penelope’s suitors.
Achilles and Patroclus
He was the son of Peleus and the goddess Thetis, who made him immortal except for his heel. During the Trojan War, Agamemnon stole the beautiful Briseis from him, so he refused to fight, which resulted in many Greek defeats. When his best friend Patroclus was killed, his rage made him kill many Trojans, including Hector, his friend’s killer. Some say that Achilles and Patroclus were homosexual and lovers. When the former was about to betray the Greeks, Prince Paris killed him by shooting him in his vulnerable heel.
He was the son of Thyestes and Pelopia. His uncle Atreus raised him and told him to kill Thyestes. He found out that he was his father, so he killed Atreus, restoring his father to the throne of Mycenae. Agamemnon, Atreus’ son, dethroned him, but when he went to the Trojan War, Aegisthus took over his wife (Clytemnestra) and the country. When Agamemnon returned, the new couple killed him, but after seven years, his son Orestes murdered Aegisthus.
She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, and became Hades’ wife and goddess of the Underworld. Her absence caused her mother’s grief and anger, so it was agreed that Persephone would spend half of the year with her husband and half of the year with Demeter. While living with Hades, her mother’s rage caused coldness and winds, but when she returned, Demeter made everything beautiful to welcome her, thus creating winter and spring.
He was a blind seer, son of Everes. He gave advice many times with respect to problems in Thebes. Some say that he was blinded by Athene for seeing her naked; others say that Hera took his sight away for revealing women’s secrets to Zeus, who gave him the gift of soothsaying.
Nereids and Potamids
These were two types of nymphs, very beautiful deities representing nature. There were fifty Nereids, all daughters of Nereus and Doris. They were guardians of the Mediterranean and of sailors, and they could prophecy through oracles. The most well-known are Thetis, Amphitrite, Calypso and Galatea. Potamids are less famous. They were a group of river nymphs.
She was the daughter of Erechteus and Praxithea. She married Cephalus, who sent a man (Pteleon) to bribe her requesting sex. She accepted and was exposed as an untrue wife. She fled to Crete, but returned some time later. She became reconciled with her husband, but once, when she was hidden among some bushes, Cephalus threw a dart at her (not knowing where she was) and killed her.
Location of Mythological characters in Captain Corelli´s Mandolin
‘(...) The ships of Odysseus were built of Cephallonian pine, his bodyguards were Cephallonian giants, and some maintain that his palace was not in Ithaca but in Cephallonia.’
Ch 1 p.5
‘(...) The Mycenean Hellenes arrived leaving behind the shards of their amphorae and their breast-shaped tombs, bequeathing progeny who, long after the departure of Odysseus, would fight for Athens, be tyrannised by Sparta, and then defeat even the megalomaniac Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander, curiously known as “the Great” and a more preposterous megalomaniac still.’
Ch. 1 pp.5-6
‘It was an island filled with gods. On the summit of Mt Aenos there was a shrine to Zeus, and another upon the tiny islet of Thios. Demeter was worshipped for making the island the breadbasket of Ionia, as was Poseidon, the god who had raped her whilst disguised as a stallion, leaving her to give birth to a black horse and a mystical daughter whose name was lost when the Eleusinian mysteries were suppressed by the Christians. Here was Apollo, slayer of the Python, guardian of the navel of the earth, beautiful, youthful, wise, just, strong, hyperbolically bisexual, and the only god to have had a temple made for him by bees out of wax and feathers. Here Dionysus was worshipped also, the god of wine, pleasure, civilisation, and vegetation, father by Aphrodite of a little boy attached to the most gargantuan penis that ever encumbered man or god. Artemis had her worshippers here, too, the many-breasted virgin huntress, a goddess of such radically feminist convictions that he had Actaeon torn to pieces by dogs for accidentally seeing her naked, and had her paramour Orion stung to death by scorpions for touching her fortuitously. She was such a fastidious stickler for etiquette and summary chastisement that entire dynasties could be disposed of for one word out of place or an oblation five minutes late. There were temples to Athene, too, the perpetual virgin who (with great forbearance, compared to Artemis) blinded Tiresias for seeing her naked, was formidably gifted in those crafts which are indispensable to economic and domestic life, and who was the patron of the oxen, horses, and olives.
‘In their choice of gods the people of the island displayed the immense and intransigent common sense that has been the secret of their survival throughout the centuries; it is obvious that the king of the deities should be worshipped, obvious that a seafaring people should placate the god of the sea, obvious that vintners should honour Dionisios (it is still the most common name on the island), obvious that Demeter should be honoured for keeping the island self-sufficient, obvious that Athene should be worshipped for her gifts of wisdom and skill in the tasks of daily life, just as it also fell to her to oversee innumerable military emergencies. Nor should it be wondered at that Artemis should have had her cult, for this was equivalent of an infallible insurance policy: she was a troublesome gadfly whose mischief should in preference have been made to occur elsewhere.
‘The choice of Apollo as a Cephallonian cult is bost the most and the least mysterious. It is the most inexplicable to those who have never been to the island and the most inevitable to those who know it, for Apollo is a god associated with the power of light. Strangers who land here are blinded for two days.’
(...) You see, I had been searching for a vocation in which my affliction could be used, and I had been ignorant of the love of Achilles and Patroclus, and other such ancient Greekeries.
(...) But why stop there? He might be another Homer. Behind the iconostasis he began to rumble in his deep bass voice, ‘It vexes me to see how mean are these creatures of a day towards us Gods, when they charge against us the evils (far beyond our worst doomings) which their own exceeding wantonness has heaped upon themselves.’ He faltered and stopped, furrowing his brow; was the next bit about Aegisthus, or was it about Athene having a conversation with Zeus? ‘My child,’ protested Zeus, the cloud-compeller, ‘what sharp judgements you let slip between your teeth . . .’
Ever since the time when the Goddess Io had been instrumental in the killing of Memnon by Achilles and had precipitated the accidental shooting of Procris by her own unsuspecting husband, the island had been a prodigy of wonders.
(...) Mandras was too young to be a Poseidon, too much without malice. Was he a male sea-nymph, then? Was there such a thing as a male Nereid or Potamid? (...) perhaps in the time of Odysseus there had been young girls like herself who had gone to the sea to spy on the nakedness of those they loved.
(...) Readers will remember that Homer came from these parts and that Odysseus was famed for his cunning.
(...) Pelagia was reminded of the story, erstwhile Argonaut and suitor to Helen, abandoned by Odysseus upon the island of Lemnos because of the unsupportable decay of his foot, with only his great bow and the arrows of Hercules for company. Pelagia would later recall that the conclusion to this story was that he was cured by Aesculapius and had helped to bring down the Trojans, and would reflect that she herself had been the healer, whilst the Italians had aptly supplied the place of their own forebears.
She knew only one word, ‘Circe’, which I suppose was her name – she kept pointing to herself saying it, so that I had to say ‘Mandras’ and point to my own self – and her voice was like the croak of a raven.
(...) She bit my lip and squirmed, and I tore her clothes away, so that my hands knew her breasts and her thighs, and I trembled with the winds of Dionysus, and entered her.
‘I fucked Queen Circe because I thought she was someone else.’
‘The Queen isn’t called Circe, so that’s all right,’ said Arsenios, wishing that he had not agreed to come.
Lepada Bay is found near Lixouri, beneath the monastery where Anthimos Kourouklis conversed with God, overlooked by the ruined Corinthian hill-city of Pale, where in classical times there flourished an innocent cult of Persephone.
(...) So the sightless bard might have written, for it was certain that General Gandin lacked the clear eyes of the wily Odysseus, and neither did Athene, goddess of the limpid eyes, guide him.
(...) He did not know it, but he buried Carlo in the soil of Odysseus’ time, as though he had belonged there from the first.