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Trojan War and the Famous Stories about Men and Women From Greek Mythology

Pivotal Myths and Legends


The major stories in Greek mythology focus on specific families ("houses") and heroes. Here are some of the clusters of Greek myths and legends, including the Trojan War and the tragedy-inspiring House of Atreus, as well as the major heroes, and the most famous hunt. You'll also find popular stories from Greek mythology like Pandora's Box and the Minotaur's labyrinth. Also see: Pictures of Proverbial Expressions From Ancient Myths.

1. Trojan War

Helen of Troy Etching by Lord Frederick Leighton
The Trojan War provides the background for much of both Greek and Roman literature. When Paris handed Aphrodite the prize, the apple of discord, he started the series of events that led to the destruction of his homeland Troy, which, in turn, led to the flight of Aeneas and the founding of Rome.

2. The Odyssey

Odysseus and the Sirens. Detail from an Attic red-figured stamnos, c. 480-470 B.C.
Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.
Sometimes called Ulysses, Odysseus was the most famous hero of the Trojan War who made it home. Granted, the war took 10 years and his return trip another 10, but unlike most of the Greeks, he made it back safely, and to a family that was, oddly, still waiting for him. His story makes up the second of the two works attributed to Homer, The Odyssey, which contains more fanciful encounters with mythological characters than The Iliad.

3. Perseus

Perseus was one of the major heroes, founder of Mycenae, and the ancestor of the Persians. His wife is better known as a constellation, but first Perseus had to rescue her from a monster (and a fiance).

4. The House of Thebes

Cadmus and the Dragon. At the Louvre. Side A of a black-figured amphora from Euboea, c. 560-550 B.C.
PD Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.
Cadmus set out to find his abducted sister (Europa, who was carried off on a white bull), but wound up founding the important city of Thebes. Among other adventures, Cadmus slew a dragon that had eaten his men. Oedipus, of Freudian fame, was king of Thebes only a few generations later.

5. Calydonian Boar Hunt

Sarcophagus Depicting the Calydonian Boar Hunt. Proconnesian marble. Musei Capitolini, Rome.
Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.
A group of heroic hunters, including the female Atalanta, chase after a boar sent by the irate goddess Artemis to ravage the Calydonian countryside. This is the most famous of the Greek hunts in art and literature.

6. House of Atreus

Marble sarcophagus with relief scene from the Oresteia. Roman A.D. 2nd century.
CC Zaqarbal at Flickr.com.
The House of Atreus was cursed. Among its unlucky members and ancestors were Pelops, whose shoulder was eaten by Demeter, Menelaus, whose wife was taken by Paris, Agamemnon, who was murdered by his own wife after he murdered their daughter, and Orestes, who was hounded by the Furies.

7. The Quest for the Golden Fleece

Jason and Medea, by Gustave Moreau (1865).
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Adventures of the heroes known as Argonauts and led by Jason to capture the Golden Fleece, its recovery with the help of Medea, and how they didn't live happily ever after.

8. Theseus

Theseus and Sinis. Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 490-480 B.C.
PD Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol.
Theseus was the Athenian hero who volunteered to be one of the victims in the labyrinth of the Minotaur. Before he became king of Athens, he rivaled Hercules in adventures.

9. Hercules (Heracles)

Heracles wrestling with the libyan giant Antaeus. 515–510 B.C. Euphronios (painter).
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Hercules had lots of adventures and a couple of marriages. Among the heroic myths about him, it's told that Hercules went to the Underworld and traveled with the Argonauts on their voyage to collect the Golden Fleece. He also completed 12 labors as atonement for his crimes.

10. Prometheus

Prometheus Statue at Rockefeller Center
Robert Alan Espino
Prometheus was the brother-in-law of Pandora, the first Athenian woman, who unleashed the world's ills, and the parent of the Greek Noah.

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