5 Greek Mythological Figures Who Are Actually the Worst, Besides Zeus
"How did I become the bad guy in this story?"
We all know that Zeus sucks. He’s a rapist, a terrible husband, father, son, and grandson—an all around toxic douchebag who creates a lot of problems with his dick.
However, Zeus is not the only douchebag in Greek mythology who needs to be called out. There are a lot of assholes, but we’re keeping this list to just five for now. And no, Hera is not on this list because she is my patron and I think she already gets plenty of criticism from most authors (shout out to George O’Connor for giving Hera some positive play).
1. Apollo: Like father, like son. Apollo takes after his dad in being a hardcore equal opportunity predator. He doesn’t get as called out because he’s pretty and a sensitive poet type, but as the women and gays of Brooklyn know, the poets are the most dangerously emotionally manipulative men around.
A lot of Apollo’s “lovers” are really not interested and often take desperate measures to escape his lyre-holding hands. Daphne was a naiad, a female water nymph, who was just minding her own business, probably admiring her own face, when Apollo saw her. He then decided to “pursue her.” Daphne was not interested, because as I said, she was just minding her own naiad business and ran as fast as she could. Just when Apollo had her in his grasp, Daphne asked her father to turn her into a laurel tree.
That’s not the last person to resort to death in order to not be assaulted by the sun god. One of his male “lovers,” Leucates, threw himself off a rock when Apollo tried to carry him off to Olympus. Castalia, another nymph, fled from Apollo and was turned into a fountain at Delphi, where men could become inspired by drinking her water. Yup. That’s Greek Mythology.
Apollo was also hella petty towards women who rejected him. He offered Cassandra of Troy the gift of prophecy as an attempt to seduce her. When she rejected him, he spat into her mouth, giving her the gift, but then it made it so no one would ever listen to her. Oh Apollo, they wouldn’t have listened to her anyway.
2. Jason: Time to pull out your high school Greek tragedy books; it’s Euripides time. Jason is best known for two things: the quest for the Golden Fleece which basically brought together the Avengers of Ancient Greece, and pissing off his wife really, really badly.
So let’s talk about Medea. Medea is the “barbarian” princess of the kingdom of Colchis and the granddaughter of the sun god, Helios. Medea falls in love with Jason and decides to betray her family to help him obtain the Golden Fleece. That includes, but is not limited to, killing and chopping up her own brother’s body as a distraction for Jason and the crew to escape. #Loyality. It depends on the myth, but some accounts have Medea falling in love with Jason due to the interference of Aphrodite or Hera.
Medea uses her magic to help Jason on his quest, assists in helping to save his father, and delivers some sweet, sweet revenge on Pelias, the guy who screwed over Jason. Now, the type of revenge? Getting Pelias’ daughters to butcher him, thinking that Medea would restore his youth the way she’d done for Jason’s father. One could argue that Pelias’ daughters played themselves by really thinking Medea would help the enemy of her husband, but that’s none of my business. Regardless, due to the crime, Jason and Medea were exiled to Corinth.
After 10 years in Corinth, at least, Jason decides to leave Medea and gets engaged to the Princess of Corinth. Jason breaks his vow to love Medea forever but does offer her a chance to be his mistress. Class act. Medea decides to go full “barbarian” and sends Jason’s bride-to-be a cursed wedding dress (which she puts on knowing it’s from Medea). The dress burns her alive and her father, the king, lays his body on top of hers, and they die together.
Medea kills her two sons with Jason, fearing they would either be enslaved or murdered. Jason, losing the gods’ favor for betraying his oath to love his wife forever died lonely and unhappy, getting crushed by his own ship.
Lesson: Don’t betray your wife, especially not if she is a powerful sorceress who gave up everything for you, just so you can marry a younger woman.
3. Theseus: We all know the story of Theseus and the Minotaur in some way, but for those who don’t, here’s the summary: King Minos of Crete was very disrespectful to Poseidon and tried to basically screw him over via sacrifice, by not sacrificing the most beautiful bull to Poseidon, and apparently, kings in Ancient Greece love to test the gods’ ability to see through bullshit (see Tantalus). So, Poseidon made sure Minos would never, ever be that foolish again and caused Minos’ wife to fall in love with the bull he’d saved. Queen Scapegoat became filled with lust and asked the inventor Daedalus to create a fake … sexy cow costume so she could have sex with the bull. Sure, I guess.
She became pregnant with the Minotaur. Daedalus was forced to create the Labyrinth to house the beast before they were eventually imprisoned with his son, some kid named Icarus.
Where does Theseus fit in? We’re getting there; the backstory is important. Theseus was the prince of Athens, which was under the control of Crete and forced to send 7 men and 7 women to Crete every 7 years. Eventually, Theseus pulls a Katniss and volunteers to go.
Minos’ daughter Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and provides him with the golden rope that helps him find his way through the Labyrinth and escape. Theseus kills the Minotaur, sails off, and takes Ariadne with him, promising to marry her.
Except, instead of doing that, he abandons Ariadne on an island, alone. She gave up her family, betrayed her father, and left her country to protect this asshole, and he abandons her on a fucking island!? Jason 2.0.
Douchebag. He also tried to kidnap Helen of Troy when she was ten years old.
But that’s okay. Payback is a bad bitch, and Ariadne did not die on the island alone. The turn-up god Dionysus saw Ariadne, saw she was a loyal, beautiful badass, and married her. So she didn’t get to be with Theseus, but she got to become a goddess.
4. A lot of people in the House of Atreus: Things didn’t go well for the House of Atreus in Greek Mythology. It all started when King Tantalus decided to murder his son and feed him to the gods to “test them.” That son, Pelops, who was eventually resurrected sans one piece of his shoulder (Demeter felt really bad about that), then carried on the family legacy of either being a douchebag or being surrounded by terrible people.
Hippodamia was a princess and the daughter of King Oenamaus, who was very protective of his daughter, mostly because he heard a prophecy that claimed he would be killed by his son-in-law. Therefore, he decided that any man who wanted to marry his daughter would have to face him in a chariot race, and if that person lost, they would be executed.
By the time Pelops was ready to challenge Oenamaus, the overprotective pop had already killed 18 people, but you never know until you try, I guess. Fearing losing, Pelops went to the sea and asked his ex-lover, Poseidon (all the gods are queer), for help, and Poseidon sent him a chariot with winged horses. Which, I don’t know … seems like cheating, but what do I know?
Despite cheating, Pelops still wanted to make extra sure he would win, so he enlisted Oenomaus’ charioteer, Myrtilus, to help him. Depending on the myth, either Pelops or Hippodamia convinced Myrtilus to betray his master by promising him half of Oenomaus’ kingdom and the first night in bed with Hippodamia. Now, considering that last part, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it was probably Pelops who came up with this plan.
It worked. Before the race, while Myrtilus was putting together Oenomaus’ chariot, he replaced the bronze linchpins for the wheels with fake ones. During the race, just as Oenomaus was catching up to Pelops for the kill shot, the wheels flew off and the chariot broke apart, leaving Oenomaus to get dragged to death by his horses. Pelops then killed Myrtilus when he attempted to get his “reward.”
As Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops for his ultimate betrayal, and since the gods take curses and betrayals really seriously (when they aren’t the betrayer, that is), Pelops’ whole family was cursed. including Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Niobe.
While Myrtilus was a total creep, maybe don’t try and gift away your fiancée’s virginity? Or feed your son to the gods as a test.
5. Athena: Equal opportunity douchebag call out. Athena is kind of the worst. Hera and Aphrodite get called out a lot for victim blaming and being petty, but Athena is hella petty. She’s pretty much the kind of woman who only has male friends because she’s “one of the guys” and wonders why other women don’t like her. Despite being the goddess of wisdom and a champion of heroes, I challenge you to find a myth where she helps a woman. I’ll wait. While you search, here are two of the most prominent stories about Athena with women.
Case #1: Medusa. Medusa was one of three sisters, who was described by Ovid as being “a ravishingly beautiful maiden” (eww). For some reason, Ovid paints that as justification for Poseidon deciding to rape Medusa in Athena’s temple. Athena decided that Medusa should be punished for this and made her into a gorgon. Medusa’s two sisters, Stheno and Euryale, were also turned into gorgons for coming to the defense of their sister and siding with her against the gods. They both attempt to kill Perseus when he slays their baby sister, but fail.
Case #2: Arachne. Arachne was a great weaver and decided to not-so-humble brag that she was a better weaver than Athena. Athena came down in her tried and true old lady disguise and tried to get Arachne to pay her respects to Athena because Athena invented weaving. Arachne doubled down, and Athena revealed herself and challenged Arachne to a weaving contest.
Athena weaved a tapestry of the gods being awesome and the gods punished mortals for hubris. Arachne’s weaving depicted ways that the gods had abused mortals, especially Zeus, tricking and seducing women. #Whistleblower.
To rub some extra salt on the wound, not only did Arachne’s weaving throw a lot of shade towards the gods, but it was more beautiful than Athena’s own. Athena turned Arachne into a spider because, as the saying goes, “haters gonna hate.”
Who are your favorite jerks of Greek Mythology? Volume 2 coming soon.
(via my warped mind, image: Disney)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? email@example.com