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Discussion Questions on Edith Hamilton’s Mythology

Directions: Answer each question in complete sentences on a separate sheet of paper.

Chapter 1: The Gods Due Date:


1. Who were the first parents of lifelike creatures? Who were their children and grandchildren?
2. Who were the Titans? Briefly describe them, and tell who first ruled them.
3. What is Olympus and who lives there?
4. Who were the twelve great Olympians?
5. Who were Eros, Hebe, and Iris?
6. Identify the graces and the muses. For what were they famous? Who were their parents?
7. Name the two supreme deities of earth and their spheres of influence.
8. What were satyrs, centaurs, and gorgons?
9. Who were the Sirens and the Fates? What powers did they have?

Chapter 2: The Two Great Gods of Earth Due Date:


1. Why was Demeter, the divinity of grain, thought of as a goddess and not a god?
2. Who was Persephone? How did her incident explain the seasons to the early Greeks?
3. With what city was Dionysus associated? Why? What was unique about Dionysus and his
parentage?
4. What was Dionysus’ connection with Greek drama?
5. How did resurrection come to be associated with Dionysus?

Chapter 3: How the World and Mankind were Created Due Date:
1. Describe the creation of Earth and Heaven.
2. Who were the first creatures on Earth before humans?
3. What steps did Zeus take to become ruler of heaven and earth? How did he prepare the
way for humans to live on earth?
4. Describe the world as the Greeks saw it.
5. In one creation story, Prometheus and Epimetheus created humans. How? What gifts did
Prometheus give to humans? Why?
6. In the second creation story, the gods created five ages of humans. Name these ages,
describe the people who lived in each, and tell their fate.
7. Who was the first woman and why was she created? What harm did she bring to earth?
8. Another story of creation begins with a flood. Who survived the flood, and what were they
directed to do? Why?
Chapter 4: The Earliest Heroes Due Date:
1. How did Io suffer? Why? What makes Io a heroine?
2. How did Zeus capture Europa and where did he take her? Describe Europa’s fate.
3. What places are named for Io and Europa?
4. Who were Narcissus and Echo? How did each figure in the other’s life? What were their
fates?
5. Compare and contrast the deaths and transformations of Hyacinth and Adonis.

Chapter 5: Cupid and Psyche Due Date:


1. Who was Psyche, and what was unique about her? In what way did she anger Venus, and
what did Venus plan as revenge?
2. How did Venus’ plan backfire?
3. Describe how Psyche’s marriage was arranged. Whom did she marry, and what was her
marriage like?
4. By what fault did Psyche lose her husband?
5. How was Psyche reunited with her husband, and how was Venus finally pacified?

Chapter 6: Eight Brief Tales of Lovers Due Date:


1. How does the story of Pyramus and Thisbe explain the deep red color of mulberries?
2. How did Orpheus lose his bride, Eurydice? What did he do to try to get her back? What
lesson is to be learned form Orpheus’ ordeal?
3. Who were Ceyx and Alcyone? What tragedy befell Ceyx? What was Alcyone’s virtue, and
how was it rewarded?
4. Who was Pygmalion? What was Pygmalion’s virtue and how was it rewarded?
5. In what way were Bacuis and Philemon different from their neighbors? How did Jupiter
reward them and why?
6. Who was Endymion? What was his outstanding trait? What happened to him because of this
trait?
7. According to mythology, how did the laurel tree come into being? What did Apollo say he
would do with the laurel leaves? Why?
8. Who were Alpheus and Arethusa? Why was Arethusa changed into a spring? What was
Alpheus’ fate?
Chapter 13: The Trojan War

1. Who was Paris, and what situation led to the judgement of Paris?

2. What prophesy had been given to Paris’ father about his son? Why was Paris working as
a shepherd instead of living as a prince?

3. How did the goddesses ask Paris to choose among them? What choice did he make?

4. How did the judgement of Paris spark events that would lead to the Trojan War?

5. Why were the princes of Greece bound to help Menelaus get Helen back from Troy? Why
were they eager to help?

6. How did Odysseus plan to avoid going to Troy and how did his plan work out?

7. Why did Achilles’ mother plan to keep him from going to Troy? How did her plan work
out?

8. Why was Iphigenia killed? What effects did her death have?

9. Identify Protesilaus and Laodamia, and briefly tell their story.

10. Identify Hecuba, Hector, and Andromache.

11. What did Hector and Achilles represent to their armies? What did these two men know
about their fates as they went into battle?

12. What part did Chyrseis play in the war?

13. Why did Agamemnon and Achilles quarrel? What did Achilles do as a result of the
quarrel?

14. What led to Achilles to reenter the battle?

15. How did Athena trick Hector so that Achilles defeated him?

16. How did Achilles dishonor Hector after Hector’s death?

17. Which side did Zeus favor in the Trojan War? Describe how he influence the war, up to
Hector’s death. What were his motivations?

18. Which side did Hera favor in the Trojan War? Describe the ways she influenced the war,
up to Hector’s death. What were her motivations?
Chapter 14: The Fall of Troy

1. Who came to the aid of the Trojans? How did this affect the war?

2. Who killed Achilles and how?

3. How did Ajax die?

4. How did Paris die?

5. What was the Palladium? Why did the Greeks want it? How did they manage to capture
it?

6. What plan did Odysseus devise to conquer Troy once and for all?

7. Who said, “I fear the Greeks even when they bear gifts”? What happened to that
person?

8. Describe the fall of Troy. What happened to the remaining Trojans?

9. What became of Prince Aenaeas of Troy and his family?

10. What became of Helen of Troy?


Answers to Discussion Questions on Edith Hamilton’s Mythology

Chapter 1: The Gods


1. parents: Heaven and Earth, children: Titans, grandchildren: gods (pg 24, 1st ¶)

2. The Titans were also known as the elder gods. There were enormous creatures of
immense strength. Cronus was their first ruler. (pg 24, 2nd¶).

3.Olympus is the home of the gods, and thus they became known as the Olympians.
It is an actual mountain in Greece; however, the Greeks believed that the Olympus where
the gods lived was somewhere above the earth, in the clouds. (pg 25, 2nd¶).

4. See page one of the handout and your book beginning on page 27.

5. Eros (Cupid) was the god of love, Hebe was the goddess of youth who was married to
Hercules, Iris was goddess of the rainbow and another messenger god. (pg 36 - 37)

6. The graces were 3 sisters who were famous for their charm and beauty; they were the
daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. The Muses were 9 sisters who were famous for their
music which caused people to forget their troubles; they were the daughters of Zeus and
Mnemosyne, Memory. (pg 37)

7. Demeter was the goddess of the corn, and Dionysus was god of the wine/vine. (pg 41,
1st¶).

8. Satyrs were goat men, centaurs were half human and half horse, the gorgons were
dragon-like creatures who could turn people to stone. (pg 43 - 44)

9. Who were the Sirens and the Fates? What powers did they have?
The Sirens had mysterious voices who lured sailors in to their deaths. The Fates had the
power of life, death and destiny; when it was time for someone to die, the Fates were the
ones who cut the cord that represented that person’s life. (pg 44)

ROMAN GODS
pg 44 (bottom¶) - 45 (top¶). “It was a simple matter to adopt the Greek gods because the
Romans did not have definitely personified gods of their own. They were a people of deep
religious feeling, but they had little imagination. They could never have created the
Olympians, each a distinct , vivid personality.”
Chapter 2: The Two Great Gods of Earth
pg 48 (1st ¶): “For the most part the immortal gods were of little use to human beings, and
often they were quite the reverse of useful.” (2nd¶): “There were two, however, who were
altogether different, who were indeed mankind’s best friends: Demeter and Dionysus.”

1. (pg 48 2nd¶): “It was natural that the divine power which brought forth the grain should
be thought of as a goddess, not a god. When the business of men was hunting and fighting,
the care of the fields belonged to the women...”

2. (pg 51) Demeter had an only daughter, Persephone, the maiden of the spring. (2nd¶):
The lord of the dark underworld (Hades) carried her off when she strayed too far from her
companions....Zeus intervened...but (pg 45, bottom ¶) Demeter must lose Persephone for
four months every year (winter).

3. (top of pg 56): Dionysus was associated with Thebes because that is where he was born
and because his mother was a Thebian princess. His parentage was unique because he is
the only god whose parents were not both gods themselves.

4.He inspired Greeks to write plays. His festival, which was held every spring, was
celebrated with presentations of plays.

5. (pg 63) The myths say that Dionysus was killed every year by being mutilated, just as
grapevines are pruned each fall. But every spring Dionysus came back from the dead. The
sprouting of new leaves symbolized his resurrection; the Greeks also used his resurrection
to mean that their souls must live on after their own deaths.

Chapter 3: How the World and Mankind were Created


1. In the beginning was Chaos, without shape or form. Chaos had 2 children: Night and
Erebus (the place of death). The child of Night & Erebus was Love. When Love was born,
order and beauty appeared. Then Love created Light and Day. Next Earth rose up and
created Heaven as her cover.

2. monsters (with 50 heads and 100 hands), Cyclopes, and Titans

3. Zeus first rebelled against his father and made Cronus cough up all of Zeus’s brothers
and sisters. Then he waged war on the Titans with the help of the monsters and the wise
Titan Prometheus. Finally Zeus cleared the earth of all giants and monsters to make in
inhabitable for humans.
4. (pg 70) The Greeks saw the world as a disk, divided in the middle by water called the
sea. Ocean flowed around the edges of this disk. On one side were people who lived in a
peaceful, beautiful land, while the other was covered by a dark mist from where people
were seldom seen.

5. Zeus asked Prometheus and Epimetheus to create humans. Epimetheus first made the
animals and gave them all sorts of wonderful qualities (swiftness, wings, fur). When it
came time to create the humans Epimetheus realized he had nothing left, so he went to his
brother Prometheus. It was Prometheus who created the humans and gave them the
ability to stand upright like the gods. He also stole fire from heaven, as man’s means of
protection.
6. golden race= happy people who became spirits when they died.
silver race=unintelligent race who constantly injured each other.
brass race=violent people who killed each other off. 4th race was a time of god-like heroes
who went to the isle of the blessed when they died. iron race=thought to be the current
age, very evil, grows wicked generation after generation, will ultimately be destroyed by
Zeus.

7. Pandora was created by Zeus in his anger against Prometheus for stealing fire. She
brought a box to earth that was filled with plagues, sorrows, misfortunes. She was
forbidden to open the box, but she was so curious that she just had to know. The plagues
filled the earth, but fortunately one gracious god had included hope in the box, so at least
the people had hope.

8. Zeus once destroyed humans by means of a flood when they became very wicked. Only
two survived--Prometheus’ son and niece (Decalion and Pyrrha). They rode out the flood in
a wooden box. Afterward they went to a temple and were instructed to throw stones behind
their backs to create a new race of people. These people were known as the Stone People.

Chapter 4: The Earliest Heroes


1. Io was seduced by Zeus and turned into a cow (heifer) to hide her from Hera. Hera
demanded the cow be given to her as a gift; Zeus could not refuse. Hera put Io under the
care of Argus (who had 100 eyes). Hermes later came and rescued Io, but Hera continued
to torment her for years. Io was eventually restored to her human form. She became a
heroine for the way in which she handled this torture, and she was famous because
Hercules was one of her descendants.

2. Zeus captured Europa by turning himself into a bull and carrying her off to his island,
Crete. She lived there and bore him many glorious sons.
3. Io = Ionian Sea and Bosphorus (which means “ford of the cow”). Eurpoa = Europe.

4. Narcissus was a beautiful lad and Echo a wood nymph. Echo fell in love with Narcissus.
He rejected her, as he had everyone else. She had been cursed by Hera never to speak
freely, but only to repeat what was said to her. She wasted away to nothing and all that
remains today is her voice (an echo). Narcissus finally fell in love with himself as
punishment for breaking so many hearts. He saw his own reflection in a pool of water and
could not leave that place because he found himself to be so beautiful. When he died his
body turned into a beautiful flower that was given his name, Narcissus.

5. Hyacinthus and Adonis both suffered terrible, accidental deaths. The were friends of the
gods and in their deaths their blood became beautiful flowers, the Hyacinth and Anemone.

Chapter 5: Cupid and Psyche


1.Psyche was the youngest daughter of a king and she was famous for outstanding beauty.
Men worshiped her and in doing so neglected to worship Venus. This outraged the goddess
who commanded her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with the most hideous beast.

2. This plan backfired because Psyche was so beautiful that Cupid fell in love with her
himself.

3. Psyche was so beautiful, but yet remained unmarried. Her father sought advice from
Apollo’s oracle who told him to leave Psyche on a rocky hill and a horrible serpent would
make her his bride. Her parents did as instructed, but instead of marrying a serpent Psyche
was taken to a beautiful palace where she was married to a man that she could not see.

4. Psyche’s sisters were jealous; they convinced her that she had indeed married the
serpent and that she must look upon her husband to be sure. One night she brought her
lantern to his bed to gaze upon him. She was so surprised to see that he was the god of
Love, Cupid, that she dripped hot oil on him and he awoke. He was so upset that she had
not TRUSTED him that her ran off.

5. After enduring many tortuous tasks brought on by Venus, Psyche was forgiven and
rescued by Cupid. Psyche was made immortal and became Cupid’s wife. Since she could
not hate her daughter-in-law, Venus was finally pacified.
Chapter 6: Eight Brief Tales of Lovers
1. Pyramus and Thisbe’s blood stained the mulberries and gave them their deep red color.

2. Orpheus was the son of a muse and therefore sang beautifully. Immediately after their
wedding Eurydice was stung by a viper and died. Orpheus sang so sweetly that Hades
(Pluto) allowed Orpheus to take her from the underworld, but he was forbidden to look
upon her until they were both out of the underworld. He turned around too quickly, and
she was forced to return--this time for good. The lesson is that one must obey the gods.

3. Ceyx was a king and Alcyone was his wife. Ceyx went to sea and encountered a fierce
storm. It overpowered his ship and he drowned. Alcyone’s virtue was a faithful love for
Ceyx. It was rewarded when they were both turned into seabirds.

4. Pygmalion was a talented sculptor who hated women. His virtue was his creative genius.
With his talent he created a statue of a woman that was so life like that he fell in love with
it. Venus took pity on him and rewarded his talent by turning the sculpture into a human.

5. Bacuis and Philemon were different from their neighbors because though poor they were
hospitable to strangers. Jupiter (Zeus) rewarded them for sharing their hospitality with him
and Mercury, who were dressed as beggars. Bacuis and Philemon were given a palace
where they lived happily ever after, and when they died they were turned into 2 trees with
1 trunk so they would always be together.

6. Endymion was a shepherd of surpassing beauty. He was so beautiful the Moon fell in love
with him and put him into eternal sleep where she could kiss him whenever she wished.

7. Apollo was chasing Daphne one day. To escape him she cried out to her father the river
god, who saved her by turning her into a laurel tree. Apollo decreed that her leaves would
be used as wreaths for the victors of his games.

8. Arethusa was a follower of Artemis who wanted nothing to do with men. Alpheus was a
river god who pursued her. In her attempts to escape Arethusa called to Artemis to help;
Artemis turned her into a underground spring. Alpheus transformed into a river and
followed her so they could at last be together.

Answers to Discussion Questions Chapter 13: The Trojan War


1. Paris was a young prince working as a shepherd, who was an excellent judge of beauty.
The situation leading to the judgement began when Eris, goddess of discord, was not
invited to a wedding in Olympus. Out of spite she threw a golden apple marked “for the
fairest” into the feast and Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena all began to quarrel over to whom it
belonged.

2. Priam, the King of Troy, had been told that Paris would one day bring ruin to Troy.
Therefore, Priam sent Paris away from Troy to be a shepherd.

3. They each bribed him and he chose according to the best bribe, which happened to be
Aphrodites. She offered him the fairest woman in the world in exchange for the golden
apple.

4. Aphrodite knew that Helen, the wife of Spartan King Menelaus, was the fairest woman on
earth. Paris went to her and “stole” and went back to Troy. Naturally Menelaus called on
the Greek men to help him get Helen back.

5. Because Helen was so beautiful, many princes had sought her hands. Helen’s
stepfather, Tyndareus, persuaded all her suitors to promise that if anyone tried to steal her
away from the prince chosen as her husband they would all come to her husband’s aid. All
agreed to this and were therefore bound to help when Paris took Helen. Furthermore, they
were eager to help because of the adventure and the opportunity to destroy a great city
like Troy.

6. Odysseus pretended to be insane to stay with his family and avoid going to Troy. A
messenger was sent to Odysseus; the messenger doubted that Odysseus was truly sane
and put Odysseus son in front of Odysseus’ plow. This method worked for Odysseus
swerved to avoid the boy and thereby proved his own sanity. He was forced to join the
others.

7. Achilles’ mother had been told that if her son went to Troy, he would die. Therefore she
dressed Achilles in girl’s clothing and hid him among the maidens at the court of King
Lycomedes. Odysseus dressed as a peddler and went to find him. Odysseus hid some
weapons among the jewels he was peddling, and Achilles immediately gave himself away
by showing interest in the weapons. He was easily persuaded to accompany the Greeks to
Troy.

8. Though the Greeks were eager to sail for Troy the north wind prevented them from
leaving. Finally the prophet Calchas told the Greeks that Artemis was angry because a
Greek had killed one of her sacred animals, a rabbit. To make up for that wrong, Artemis
called for the sacrifice Iphigenia, the oldest daughter of Agamemnon, the Greek’s
commander in chief. So the girl was sacrificed, and the Greeks were able to sail. However,
for the evil they had done, evil was sure to be visited upon them.

9. Protesilaus and Laodamia were husband and wife. Protesilaus had sailed to Troy with the
Greek army. He was the first man to come ashore and thus the first to die as had been
prophesied. Hermes brought him from the dead to see his wife on last time. Laodamia
could not live without him, so she killed herself.
10. Hecuba, queen of Troy, was Priam’s wife. They had many sons including Hector
and Paris. Andromache was Hector’s wife.

11. Hector was the greatest Trojan warrior, while Achilles was the greatest
champion for the Greeks. Each knew that they would die in the war.

12. Chryseis was the daughter of a Trojan priest of Apollo. During the ninth year of
war, she was captured by the Greeks and give to Agamemnon. Her father prayed to
Apollo who used his arrows to bring illness and death upon the Greeks. The prophet
Calchas advised that Chryseis be returned to her father. So she was, and Apollo’s
anger was appeased.

13. After Agamemnon grudgingly sent Chryseis to her father, he dispatched


messengers to take another captured girl--Briseis--from Achilles. Achilles was so
angry when his “prize” was taken that he refused to take part in the battle, thus
depriving the Greeks of their best warrior.

14. Achilles reentered the battle when his friend Patroclus was killed by Hector; he
reentered to avenge his friend’s death.

15. Athena went with Achilles in pursuit of Hector. When Hector turned and ran
from the great Greek warrior, Athena appeared in disguise as Hector’s brother,
Deiphobus. Deiphobus encouraged Hector to turn and fight Achilles. Hector lost his
weapon and was defeated.

16. Achilles tied Hector’s feet to the back of the chariot. Then he drove round and
round the walls of Troy, dragging Hector’s body in the dust.

17. Zeus favored the Trojans, but he tried to maintain neutrality because the gods
and goddesses were divided over the outcome. He also wanted to avoid conflict
with Hera, who favored the Greeks. He influenced the war by promising to help the
Trojans---he sent Agamemnon a false dream that he would be victorious if he
attacked, but in reality without Achilles the Greeks could not win. He also
intervened on other occasions.

18. Hera favored the Greeks because she was still angry at Paris for choosing
Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess. She interfered by encouraging Zeus to
remain neutral. She interfered by persuading Pandarus to break the truce. She
persuaded Poseidon to help the Greeks; she also seduced Zeus and put him into a
deep sleep.

Chapter 14: The Fall of Troy

1. Who came to the aid of the Trojans? How did this affect the war?
Ethiopian Prince Memnon and his armies came to aid the Trojans. For a time his
armies helped the Trojans gains the upper hand until Achilles killed Memnon.

2. Who killed Achilles and how? When Achilles was a baby his mother dipped
him into the river Styx to make him invulnerable. However, she neglected to dip
the heel by which she held him, so Paris was able to kill Achilles with an arrow that
Apollo guided to Achilles’ heel.

3. How did Ajax die? After Achilles’ death it was decided that Odysseus, rather
than Ajax, would get Achilles’ armor. Ajax was angry and decided to kill
Agamemnon and Menelaus. However, he was struck by madness and attacked the
Greeks’ cattle and sheep instead, thinking they were human beings. When he
came to his senses he was so ashamed that he committed suicide.

4. How did Paris die? Paris was fatally wounded in battle by Philoctetes. Paris asked
his first wife, the nymph Oenone, to heal him, but in her bitterness over being
abandoned for Helen she refused and he died.

5. What was the Palladium? Why did the Greeks want it? How did they manage to
capture it? The Palladium was an image of Pallas Athena in the city of Troy.
The Greeks learned that they could not defeat Troy as long as the Palladium
remained in the city. Therefore, Odysseus and Diomedes climbed over the wall by
night, stole the statue, and took it to their camp.

6. What plan did Odysseus devise to conquer Troy once and for all?
Odysseus had a Greek woodworker build a huge wooden horse. When it was
finished he and other chieftans hid inside while the Greek army sailed away in their
ships. Only one Greek was left behind and he was to convince the Trojans that the
horse was an offering to Athena. The Greeks hoped that this story would prompt
the Trojans to take it into the city, at which point the Greek warrior could come out
at night, open the city gates, and let the Greek army inside.
7. Who said, “I fear the Greeks even when they bear gifts”? What happened to that
person?
The Tojan priest, Laocoon, made that statement. He was trying to warn the people
of Troy against taking the wooden horse into the city. In retribution, Poseidon sent
two sea serpents that crushed Laocoon and his two sons.

8. Describe the fall of Troy. What happened to the remaining Trojans?


At night the chieftains inside the wooden horse opened the gates of Troy. And just
as planned, in marched the Greek army which had sailed back to Troy. The Greeks
slaughtered the Trojans. By morning the city was in ruins and most of the Trojan
leaders (including King Priam) were dead. The women and children who were
permitted to live were enslaved and divided among the Greeks.

9. What became of Prince Aenaeas of Troy and his family?


Aeneas’ mother, Aphrodite, helped her son escape from the burning city along with
his father, whom he carried on his shoulders. Aeneas also managed to save his son,
though his wife died in the flames.

10. What became of Helen of Troy?


Aphrodite helped Helen escape from the burning city and reunited her with her
husband Menelaus.