20 Most Famous Greek Myths Of All Time

There is no doubt that much of modern culture was greatly influenced by Greek Mythology. From the arts to modern storytelling, much of what we take for granted today traces its roots to the myths of ancient Greece.

Greek myths run an entire gamut of stories ranging from envious gods to terrifying monsters and, of course, mortals becoming legendary heroes. Thus, some Greek myths are more popular and well-beloved than others. Here are 20 of the more famous Greek myths.

Famous Greek Myths Everyone Should Know!

1. The Birth of the World

One of the famous Greek myths involves the story of how the universe came to be. In the beginning, there was nothing but Chaos. From that Chaos would arise the stars, the sun, the sky (Ouranos), and the earth (Gaia). 

Gaia and Ouranos would meet and from their union arose the race of Titans. Led by Kronos, who deposed his father Ouranos, these gigantic beings ruled the known universe until they were tamed and deposed by their children known as the Olympians. 

These new gods were led by Zeus, the son of Kronos, and took over dominion over certain aspects of the universe. With Mount Olympus as the seat of their power, these gods would bring order to the universe.

2. The Titanomachy

Perhaps one of the most famous Greek myths is the tale of how Zeus eventually toppled the regime of his father. Fearing that his children would depose him as he did with Ouranos, Kronos swallowed each of his offspring with Rhea, save for Zeus. The infant Zeus was spirited away by his mother into a distant land from where he would grow into adulthood.

Returning to his father, Zeus gave his father an herb which caused Kronos to vomit out all his children. With his siblings by his side and an alliance with the Cyclops and Hecatoncheires, the Olympians would wage a long and brutal war that changed the very landscape of the world.

Eventually, the titans were defeated and cast down to the depths of Tartarus. They would remain there unto this day.

3. Prometheus

prometheus famous greek legends

It is no secret in the famous Greek myths that the Olympians did not care much for humans. However, the titan Prometheus felt pity for this new race and wanted to help them. One day, he climbed to Olympus and placed a bit of the fire there on a torch. He would then give this fire for the humans to use.

Angered by this theft, Zeus had Prometheus chained to the top of the Caucasus Mountain from where an eagle would swoop down and eat his liver. Every night, the liver would regrow and be eaten the next morning. Prometheus would suffer this torment for thirty years until he was freed by the hero Heracles.

4. The Sisters of Fate

Although Zeus was the chief of the gods and ruler of the known universe, not everything bent to his will. One of these aspects that he could not dominate was Fate which was controlled by the Moirai or the Sisters of Fate.

The daughters of Nyx, the primordial goddess of the night, the sisters Lachesis, Atropos, and Clotho determined the fate of all beings in the universe which included the gods. It was Clotho that wove the threads of destiny while Lachesis assigned the length and path of each thread. Then there was Atropos which was the one that cut the thread and determined how each being died.

Due to their power over destiny, gods and mortals feared the sisters and had sought numerous ways to appease them. 

5. Persephone and Hades

One of the more famous Greek myths happened when Hades was smitten with the daughter of Demeter, Persephone. While the young goddess was picking violets in a field, she saw a beautiful narcissus flower. When she touched it, the ground split open, and from the fissure arose Hades in his chariot.

Persephone was then taken to the Underworld where she was immediately wed to Hades. Meanwhile, Demeter was looking everywhere for her daughter to the point that she was neglecting her duties over nature. Soon enough, the leaves fell and flowers stopped blooming while a cold breeze swept through the land.

Demeter would eventually learn of Hades’ abduction of her daughter and demanded that she be returned to her. Hades allowed Persephone to return to the world above but had also bound her to the Underworld when he offered her pomegranate seeds, which she ate.

Thus, Persephone could not stay long in the land of the living for long and had to return to her husband. When Persephone visited her mother, Demeter would be joyous which caused the flowers to bloom and the weather to warm up. And when Persephone was in the Underworld, Demeter fell into a deep sadness which caused the leaves to wither and the cold to set in.

Thus, Hades’ abduction of Persephone caused a cyclical change of weather every year which would become the seasons of the world.

6. The Fall of Icarus

famous greek myths icarus

The labyrinth of King Minos that was a central plot point in many famous Greek myths was designed by the architect Daedalus. Once the labyrinth was finished, the king had Daedalus and his son Icarus thrown into prison to prevent them from telling the world of their work.

Thinking of a way to escape their prison, the father and son duo built wings made from bird feathers and wax. Attaching these wings to their backs, Daedalus and Icarus then flew above their prison and into freedom.

However, Icarus flew a bit too close to the sun which caused the wax bindings of his wings to melt. Eventually, Icarus plummeted to the sea where he died. Daedalus would name the place Icaria in honor of his son.

7. Theseus, the Labyrinth, and the Minotaur

Upon receiving news that his son Androgeos was killed while in Athens, the Greek king Minos ordered for seven young Athenian men to be sent to Crete. There, they would be thrown into his labyrinth and killed one after another by the Minotaur.

Half-man and Half-bull, the Minotaur was more than able to kill every Athenian it would find wandering the labyrinth. Unable to bear the humiliation any further, Theseus disguised himself as an Athenian soldier and was sent to Crete.

With the help of Ariadne, Minos’ daughter, Theseus managed to find his way through the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur. He would find his way out of the labyrinth with the help of a thread given to him by Ariadne.

8. Pandora’s Box

The tragedy that befell many mortals in the famous Greek myths could trace their origins to Pandora. Pandora was deemed as the first true mortal woman who was given as a wife to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus. 

On the day of their marriage, Zeus gave Pandora and Epimetheus an ornate box and told them to never open it. For years, Pandora heeded the order but remained curious as to what was inside the box.

Unable to contain her curiosity any longer, Pandora took the box while her husband was not looking and opened it. Once the lid was thrown, a black mist sprang from the container and flew into the world. The black mist contained all the evils of the universe and introduced famine, pain, discord, sickness, and death to the mortal realm.

However, not all that was contained inside the box was evil. One good also rose from the opening of the box, which was Hope.

9. The Birth of Heracles

One of the most famous Greek myths involved the life and challenges of Heracles. Heracles was the son of Zeus and the queen of the Peloponnese, Alcmene. As he was a product of Zeus’s philandering, Hera hated Heracles and grew to hate him more as Zeus doted on his demigod son.

To protect his son, Zeus had Athena take Heracles to be nursed by Hera while she slept. As Heracles fed on the milk of Hera, he was imbued with supernatural strength he would become known for later in his life.

As the infant Heracles was pulling strongly, Hera was awakened and pushed the boy away from her breast. The milk that was spilled would become the Milky Way galaxy.

Hera would also send two snakes to the infant while he was sleeping at night. However, Heracles was able to grab both serpents and crush their heads. Alcmene would awake from the commotion and find her infant son playing with two snake corpses.

10. The Trials of Heracles

As Heracles grew to adulthood, he fell in love with a woman named Megara. They were married and had a rather happy life with their children.

Hera would then cast an illusion on Heracles which made him temporarily mad. In his rage, he killed Megara and their children. Overwhelmed by grief over what he had done, Heracles sought a way to atone for his sin.

The Oracle of Delphi told him to approach his cousin, King Eurystheus. Finding an opportunity to get rid of his more famous cousin, Eurystheus devised a series of impossible missions or “labors” that Heracles must complete to be granted forgiveness.

These 12 labors included dangerous tasks such as slaying the Hydra, hunting the giant lion of Nemea, cleaning the Augean Stables within a day, getting the girdle of Hippolyta, stealing the Mares of Diomedes, capturing the Boar of Erymantheia and the Cerynian Hind, getting the Golden Apples of Hesperides, and taming the Cerberus of Hades.

Using his supernatural strength and much of his wit, Heracles was able to finish all tasks. Each of the 12 labors themselves could be counted as one of the more famous Greek myths in modern times.

11. King Aegeus

Aegeus was the king of Athens and the father of Theseus. Before embarking on his mission to kill the Minotaur, Theseus swore to his father that his ship would unfurl with a white sail if he survived the fight and black if he did not upon returning from Crete.

Although Theseus was indeed successful in vanquishing the Minotaur, he forgot to change the colors of his sail upon nearing Athens. Thus, Aegeus saw a black sail and believed his son to be dead.

In his grief, Aegeus threw himself to the sea where he died. Theseus would succeed his father as King of Athens and named the entire expanse of sea in Greece as the Aegean.

12. Scylla and Charybdis

In his return to Ithaca from the Trojan War, Odysseus encountered several terrifying monsters. Perhaps the most popular of these creatures were a duo of monsters that lived near the Strait of Messina.

On one side of the strait was Scylla which was a monster with 12 feet, six snake-like heads, and rows of sharp teeth. On the opposite side was Charybdis, a violent creature that could create whirlpools.

Odysseus was able to pass this difficult part of his journey but lost six of his trusted men. The ordeal he faced at the mercy of Scylla and Charybdis would forever be embedded into modern culture with the phrase “between a rock and a hard place”. 

13. Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece

One of the more famous Greek myths is that of Jason and his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Jason was tasked to retrieve the Golden Fleece, the skin of a godly ram that was guarded on the island of Colchis.

For this task, Jason assembled a team that included the likes of Heracles and Orpheus on the ship Argos. The crew managed to arrive in Colchis and retrieved the Fleece. However, they encountered several trials on their return trip which the Argonauts bested one after the other.

The crew eventually returned to Iolcus and presented the Fleece to King Pelias. Jason would eventually replace Pelias as king and married the witch Media.

However, like most famous Greek myths, this tale would end in tragedy. When Jason fell in love with Glaucus, Medea killed her and Jason’s children in her jealousy. The saddened Jason would embark on one last trip under the now damaged Argos. 

While on his trip, the mast of the Argos broke and struck Jason, which killed him.

14. Sisyphus

Sisyphus was the ruler of Ephyra and was able to cheat death twice. When Death came for him, Sisyphus had him chained, which prevented the being from taking his soul. 

Before he died again, Sisyphus ordered his wife to leave his body unburied and to perform no sacrifices to the gods. Thus, Sisyphus was commanded by Hades to return to the world of the living to correct his wife’s “mistake”.

Zeus would then craft a punishment that Sisyphus would have to endure forever. Upon his third death, Sisyphus was ordered to roll a stone uphill. But before the stone could reach the highest point, it would be pulled down to the bottom which will force Sisyphus to repeat the process for eternity.

15. Bellerophon and the Chimera

One of the most terrifying creatures in the famous Greek Myths is the Chimera. A creature with the body of a goat, the head of a lion, and a snake for a tail. This creature terrorized the citizens of Lycia with its fiery breath. 

The hero Bellerophon fought this creature while riding the winged steed Pegasus. Although the Chimera had a thick hide, Bellerophon slew it with his spear. It is said that the fires belched by the Chimera remain burning today in Yanartas, Turkey.

16. The Amazons

The Amazons were a tribe of warrior women who isolated themselves from a male-dominated society. Highly independent, the Amazons rejected the presence of men in their society and trained their daughters to be skilled warriors and hunters from birth.

They also figured in several famous Greek myths such as the Illiad, the story of Bellerophon, and the Labors of Heracles. Some of the named Amazons in legends include Hippolyta, Penthesilea, Utrera, and Thalestra.

17. The Tragedy of Oedipus

One of the most tragic characters in the famous Greek myths, Oedipus was the son of King Laius of Thebes and Jocasta. Upon hearing of a prophecy that Oedipus would usurp him, Laius had the boy taken to a mountain where he would die. However, his servant gave the boy to be raised in Corinth under King Polybus.

In Delphi, a now-adult Oedipus would hear the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Thinking that the prophecy referred to Polybus, Oedipus decided to avoid his fate by going to Thebes instead. On his way to Thebes, Oedipus accidentally ran over Laius with his chariot, which fulfilled half of the prophecy.

Upon solving the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus would become the King of Thebes and end up marrying Jocasta. This would fulfill the second half of the prophecy. 

When a plague fell upon Thebes, Oedipus learned that the death of Laius must be avenged. It was here that Oedipus learned that he was not the son of Polybus but Laius and Jocasta.

Jocasta would kill herself upon realizing the truth of her new husband while Oedipus would gouge his eyes out. In shame, Oedipus would be banished from Thebes.

18. Apollo and Daphne

Apollo was smitten by Daphne, a nymph and daughter of a river god. However, Daphne was not interested and refused all of his advances.

This did not deter Apollo, who became more determined to win the love of Daphne. When Daphne could no longer bear Apollo’s persistence, she pleaded to the gods to free her from Apollo. Thus she was turned to a laurel tree.

Due to this incident, Apollo would forever wear a crown of laurels in remembrance of Daphne. The laurel crown would also become Apollo’s official symbol and an item of glory in the Olympics.

19. Achilles’ Heel

When the legendary Achilles was an infant, it was foretold that he would die at a young age. To prevent this prophecy from happening, his mother Thetis bathed him in the River Styx. It was said that the waters of the river could grant a mortal the power of Invulnerability.

When the waters touched Achilles, his body became invulnerable. However, his ankle never touched the river as he was held there by Thetis.

And indeed Achilles grew up to be an undefeated warrior and had a prominent role in many battles including the Trojan War. However, he died from a poisoned arrow shot by Paris to his heel. 

From this legend would be born the term “Achilles’ Heel”. This is used to describe any physical or character weak point of a person that would lead to their eventual downfall.

20. Midas’ Touch

One of the most famous Greek myths is a cautionary tale of greed and the tragedy it brings. Midas was the King of Phrygia and was known for his unhealthy obsession with gold. His desire for the metal was so great that he spent his entire day either counting gold coins or covering his body with gold.

One day, the god Dionysus visited Phrygia and met Midas. Pleased with the feast he was invited to, Dionysus swore to grant any wish that Midas had. True enough, Midas wished that everything he touches turn to gold.

The next day, Midas discovered that his touch indeed could turn anything into gold. However, the wish turned into a curse when everything he did touch turned into gold. That included food, plants, and his daughter.

Praying to the gods, Midas was ordered to wash his hands at the river of Pactolus, which he followed. When the water touched his hands, gold flowed out of Midas and the curse was lifted.