Myths are stories created to teach people about something important and meaningful. They were often used to teach people about events that they could not always understand, such as illness and death, or earthquakes and floods. Legends are like myths, but they are slightly different. While myths are completely made up, legends are based on events that really happened.
The Greeks believed in gods and goddesses who, they thought, had control over every part of people's lives. The Ancient Greeks believed that they had to pray to the gods for help and protection, because if the gods were unhappy with someone, then they would punish them. They made special places in their homes and temples where they could pray to statues of the gods and leave presents for them.
The Greeks had a different god for almost everything. They imagined that the gods lived together, as a family, up on the top of Mount Olympus. They did not see them as perfect, but just like people. In the Greek myths the gods argue, fall in love, get jealous of each other and make mistakes.
Some of the most important Greek gods were:
- Zeus, the leader of the gods, in charge of rain and the sky
- Hera, Zeus's wife, was the goddess of marriage and childbirth
- Poseidon, the god of the sea
- Aphrodite, the goddess of love
- Hades, the god of the Underworld, where the dead lived
- Ares, god of war and battle
There are many famous Greek myths and legends. Some of them are reused in stories and films today!
- In one, a woman called Pandora opens up a box full of all the bad things in the world, and lets them out.
Theseus and the Minotaur tells the story of a prince who chases a monster through a labyrinth to save the woman he loves.
- In another tale, two inventors called Icarus and Daedalus try to build wings so they can fly away from prison.
- Perhaps the most exciting is Perseus and the Gorgon in which a man called Perseus has to kill a woman who can turn people to stone just by looking at them!
- If you were to become a Greek God, what would you want to be the 'god' of and why?
- Why do you think the Ancient Greeks needed myths?
- Do you already know the stories of any Greek myths? Can you describe them?
Imagine you have become a Greek god or goddess. Sometimes in statues and pictures, gods are shown holding objects or wearing things to represent their powers. Draw a picture of yourself as a god/goddess, taking care to show your power through the clothes you are wearing and the objects around you.
Create your own myth: Myths often include: an interesting setting, a mythical beast, a journey or a trial, a captivating ending. Why don’t you have a go at writing your own with these four key 'ingredients'?
Download the story of Perseus and the Gorgon, then play the 'Follow Me' game to test your knowledge.
Scroll down for a list of related links on this topic and see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas.