The Ancient Greeks were a wise bunch, and there are many lessons to be learnt about the idiosyncrasies of life from myths and stories passed down over millennia. These myths were used to explain life as it once was: the Gods, what happens when you die and how to live ‘the good life’. Sure, living a good life then and now are two vastly different concepts, but let’s take a look at what we can learn from our ancient Greek ancestors…
Lesson no. 1: The Fickle Finger of Fate!
Do you ever feel like that whatever you do, fate just seems to work against you? Or sometimes everything seems to happen from a reason? Well pals, the Ancient Greeks had a tale or two to explain this. According to myth, the gods of Fate and Destiny spin the thread of life that you walk. Referred to as the “Moirai”, these gods have already sewn the path of your life, so stop stressing about the things you can’t control, live in the moment and go on a holiday! The seemingly random nature of life is further represented in the form of the blind god Pluto, who distributes wealth randomly. But, this wealth comes with a cost…happiness.
Lesson no. 2: Bad = Bad and Good = Good
Punishment is explained in the myths, with as much gore and detail as a battle scene from Game of Thrones! The Ancient Greek version of “Thou Shalt Not Steal” starts with the example of the trickster Prometheus. Prometheus, known for his intelligence and as the author of the human arts and sciences, also gifted mortals with fire after stealing it from the gods. When Zeus found out that Prometheus had done this, he chained him to a rock for eternity. Every day his liver would be eaten by an eagle, only to be regenerated by night, due to his immortality. Years later, the Greek hero Hercules slew the eagle and freed Prometheus from his torment. What can you learn from this example? Ah duh, don’t steal otherwise an eagle will eat your liver! Also, you aren’t immortal and your liver will not return back to normal overnight after doing multiple shots at Slammer Bar in Ios!
So if that’s the bad, what about the good? Well, here we have the heroes, whom with their divine parents, bridged the gap between us mere mortals and the gods. The most famous being Hercules for his strength, Perseus who defeated Medusa, and Achilles the great Greek Warrior. These heroes were used as examples of how to live your life, and if you lived life well, then you could reach immortality. Immortality, in this case, is used in more of a figurative sense as if you lived your life with such notoriety for your good deeds, then you would live on through the stories told about you! So how do you live on after life in the 21st century? Every time you meet someone you have the opportunity to have a positive impact on their lives! You meet so many new people when you travel, and even the smallest thing like a smile can make someone’s day, it’s these things people never forget!
Lesson no. 3: Vanity and greed will always lead to sadness
In contrast to the heroes, many of the characters in these myths portray the negative character traits we all possess to some degree, and what happens if we let them consume us. Like the myth of King Midas who was granted his wish that everything he touches turns to gold! After the initial delight of turning general objects like chairs and tables to gold, without even thinking, he ate a grape and it also turned into gold! The same happened with a slice of bread and a glass of water. Suddenly, he started to fear what life had become as tears filled his eyes. At that moment, his beloved daughter entered the room. Noticing her distraught father she reached out and gave him a hug, but in an instant, she too turned to gold. Horrified by what had happened Midas cried out to the gods to remove this curse!
Lucky for him the gods felt sorry and told Midas to go to the river and wash his hands, and as he did, he was astonished to see gold flowing from his fingertips. When he returned home, everything was back to normal, he hugged his daughter and decided to share all of his wealth with the people in his kingdom. From then on, Midas became a better person, generous and grateful for all the good things in his life. His people led a prosperous life and when he died, they all mourned for their beloved king. What can you take from King Midas? All things in life come and go, including wealth. The things that truly matter are the experiences you share with the people you love. They are what truly make you happy, they last a lifetime, and all the gold in the world cannot buy you that!
The concepts of good versus evil, anxiety, vanity, greed, love and fear were all as prominent then as they are now. These myths carry great lessons on how to look at life because they are based on things that most of us can relate to (okay, maybe not getting your liver eaten by an eagle, but you get the point!).
If you’re keen to check out the birthplace of Ancient Greek Mythology, check out our Greek Island Hopping and Sail Greece tours, taking you through notable locations in Greek mythology such as Athens, Corfu, Santorini and Sivota!