Mythman's Greek Mythology Today



Oedipus & the Sphinx
by Francois Xavier Fabre


Nymphs & Satyr
by William Adolphe Bouguereau


  Lethe (oblivion) was the daughter of Eris, goddess of Discord, and she gave her name to the river of oblivion and forgetfulness in the Underworld. Her name gives us the terms:

 lethargy and lethargic

  Mnemosyne was a Titaness, daughter of Uranus and Gaia and the personification of Memory. We get a number of words.

Mnemonic, Amnesia, amnestic, etc. are related terms.

Narcissus was a youth vainly proud of his great beauty and quite indifferent to the feelings of those who fell in love with him. A goddess cursed him to feel what it is to love and get nothing in return. He subsequently fell in love with his own image when he saw his reflection in the water of a fountain, and believed that this image belonged to a spirit. Every time he tried to embrace the image it disappeared and appeared without saying a word. At the end the desperate Narcissus died and was turned into a flower that still bears his name.

narcissism (extreme self-love based on an idealized self-image)

Oedipus was the son of King Laius of Thebes. The king ordered his newborn son Oedipus to be put to death following an oracle's pronouncement that Oedipus would grow up and kill him. Oedipus survived and years later met, had an argument with and killed his father (without knowing his identity). He then solved the riddle of the Sphinx and unknowingly married his mother Jocasta. When he found out what happened (and his mother killed herself) he put out his eyes. His story has been told in Oedipus the King, Antigone, and Oedipus in Colonus by Sophocles and Seven against Thebes by Aeschylus.

Sigmund Freud named his famous Oedipus Complex after the mythological character.

 Phobos ('fear' in Greek), from whose name the phobias derive, was another illegitimate son of Aphrodite. Officially he was her son with husband Hephaestus; however his real father was Ares the god of war, whom Phobos used to accompany into battle.  

 All the Phobias (fear of something) are named after Phobos

Priapus was the son of Aphrodite, goddess of love, and Dionysus, the wine god. He was the god of reproductive power and fertility and was later regarded as the chief deity of lasciviousness and obscenity. Hera caused the baby to be ugly and endowed with abnormally large genitals.

Priapism is the medical term for unusually large male genitals.

 Psyche was a mortal girl with whom Eros (Cupid) fell in love with. Eros's mother Aphrodite had forbidden him to see mortal girls. He defied her order and started seeing Psyche in the dark, while she was not allowed to ask his name or look at his face. When she could no longer control her curiosity she disobeyed him and lit a lamp to see her lover's face. Distraught that he had been disobeyed, Eros fled away from Psyche. She then wandered long in search of him, they were eventually united, got married and she became immortal.

 psychiatry (medicine of the soul), psychology, etc.
Eros gave his name to erogenous, eratomania, erotic, etc.

 Sappho was a poetess who wrote lyrical poems about sex and love, probably between women. She lived on the island of Lesbos (Mitilini) which was named after the mythical Lesbos, who was the son of Lapithes.

From Lesbos and Sappho are derived the modern words lesbian, lesbianism, sapphism, etc.

 Satyrs were half men (upper part) and half goats (lower part) who were in the retinue of Dionysus, god of wine. These party animals were infamous for their lasciviousness and sexual appetite.

satyriasis (obsessive insatiable desire for sexual gratification).

Syrinx was a beautiful nymph who asked to be turned into a tuft of reeds when the satyr Pan tried to rape her. The air sounding through the reeds produced a plaintive melody and a musical instrument was named after her.

The syringe used in injections originated from her name.

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