Why Greek Mythology Villains Are More Relatable Than The Heroes

We’ve all heard at least some of the Greek myths. Whether or not you were a Percy Jackson kid like me, the basics of Greek mythology are widely known. There are movies, books, and T.V. shows that boast about the adventures of heroes like Hercules and Achilles, and yet in almost every story, there are characters that are seen as evil even if they’re really the victims. We might relate to these villains and see more of ourself in these antagonist characters.  

A great example of a character from Greek mythology that was actually the victim is Medusa. She’s a popular antagonist, turning people to stone with just a glance. There’s more to her than just that though. She used to be a normal person, but getting involved with a god led her to become a snake-haired villain. What many people might not know is that she was seduced by Poseidon in a temple for Athena. This was considered very disrespectful to Athena, so she cursed Medusa to have snakes for hair and turn people to stone by looking at them. Poseidon, on the other hand, wasn’t punished at all. Pretty apt for present day, right?

Athena seems to be a key player to the backstories of many Greek mythology villains since she was also the reason for why the spider Arachne is evil. Arachne was a weaver that was challenged by Athena to a contest to see who was the better weaver. There are several different versions of the myth as to what was woven, but the similar them is that Athena wove a scene in favor of the gods and Arachne wove a scene against the gods. Athena, after noticing the blatant disapproval decided to punish Arachne by turning her into a spider so she could still weave with her webs.

What about the heroes though? Are all of the Greek mythology protagonists really as great as they sound? Take Jason of the Argonauts. He went on a quest to find a mystical golden fleece and had some interesting adventures on the way, but that’s not all there is to him. His wife, Medea, left everything behind to be with him and loved him unconditionally. Yet after all was said and done, he still left her for another woman, leaving his children behind in the process. Granted, Medea did end up killing her sons out of rage (and a lot of other really awful things), but still, what he did was crappy and not very heroic. And Hercules is also more widely known for his heroics, most notably his quest to complete the twelve labours. But it seems people are forgetting one very important part to his story: he killed his wife and children. And yes, he was under the influence of the goddess Hera, but it seems people just overlook that part of his story.

All in all Greek mythology is filled with interesting stories and adventures. A lot of times the heroes are the heroes and the villains are the villains, but it’s not always so black and white. The victims are portrayed as the villains so often that it’s not so easy to look in the gray. And the same goes with the heroes, where they are over glorified to the point that people forget the bad parts to them. So if you feel like you can relate to the villains of Greek mythology more than you can to the heroes I don’t blame you one bit. Nobody is perfect, and making one small mistake doesn’t automatically make you evil.

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