Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology

Khalid Elhassan - June 14, 2021

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
Ixion. Geneva Museum of Art and History

5. Ixion Was Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

In Ancient Greek mythology, Ixion was a son of the war god Ares and a mortal woman. He became king of the Lapiths tribe in Thessaly, in northern Greece, and from early on, he built up an infamous reputation as somebody who was mad, bad, and dangerous to know. His misdeeds on earth – and up in the heavens as well – led the gods to visit a terrible vengeance upon him. He first offended the Olympians when he promised his father-in-law a valuable present as a bride price – wealth paid by a groom to the bride’s parents. He reneged, however, and did not pay up after the marriage.

The father-in-law seized some of Ixion’s valuable horses as security for the promised bride price. Ixion pretended to shrug it off, invited his father-in-law to a feast, and there, shoved him into a bed of burning coals. That murder was particularly odious in Greek eyes because it violated Xenia – the laws of hospitality governing the relationship between guests and hosts. The breach of Xenia left Ixion defiled, shunned by fellow Greeks and unfit to live amidst men. Nobody was willing to perform the necessary religious rituals that would cleanse him of his guilt and restore him to good standing, so Ixion was forced to live in the wilderness as an outlaw. That was bad, but as seen below, it got way worse for him soon thereafter.

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
Ixion seducing what he thought was Hera as Zeus watches, by Rubens. Louvre Museum

4. Ixion Discovered That it Was Unwise To Hit on the Chief God’s Wife

Although promotion of Xenia was part of the chief Olympian god’s portfolio, Zeus took pity on Ixion. He cleansed him of the defilement and invited him to Mount Olympus to dine at the table of the gods. However, when Ixion was introduced to Zeus’ wife, Hera, he fell passionately in love and lusted after her. Behind Zeus’ back, he hit on and pursued her. That was another big breach of Xenia. To lust after and pursue your host’s wife was a major violation of a guest’s obligations to his host. The Trojan War started when Paris seduced Helen while he was a guest of her husband.

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
‘The Torture of Ixion’, by Giovanni Battista Langetti. Wikidata

When Zeus heard, he could not believe that Ixion, whom he had rescued and cleansed of his guilt, then honored by hosting him in heaven, could be so ungrateful and brazen. So he made a cloud in the shape of Hera, and sent her Ixion’s way to see what his guest would do. Sure enough, Ixion ravished the fake Hera – a union that ultimately produced the centaurs. The astonished and livid Zeus expelled the ingrate from Olympus and blasted his former guest with a thunderbolt. He then ordered the messenger god, Hermes, to seize Ixion and bind him to a wheel of fire, and by way of eternal vengeance, condemned him to spin forever across the heavens.

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
Prometheus, by Otto Greiner, 1909. National Gallery of Canada

3. Prometheus Created Mankind, and Angered the Gods by His Staunch Support of Humans

Prometheus was a Titan – the race of divine beings who had dominated the world before the arrival of the Olympian gods. Prometheus’ name, which means “foresight”, emphasizes his intellect, for he was known as a clever trickster. Ancient Greek mythology credited him with having created humans from clay, and then advocated for and championed mankind in the halls of heavens. That fondness for humans got the Titan in serious trouble with the gods, who visited horrific vengeance upon him as a result.

The Titans, twelve children of the primordial parents Uranus (“Sky”) and his mother Gaia (“Earth”) had preceded the Olympians as gods. When the Olympians led by Zeus rose up to challenge for mastery of the world, Prometheus was one of the Titans’ leaders. However, when his fellow Titans refused to heed his advice and resort to trickery, Prometheus switched sides and joined the Olympians. That ensured the gods’ victory and doomed the Titans to defeat. That did not stop the Olympians from turning on Prometheus when he got on their wrong side.

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
‘Prometheus Brings Fire’, by Heinrich Friedrich Fuger. Research Gate

2. Helping Humanity Got Prometheus in Hot Water With Zeus

Although he had helped the Olympian gods secure victory against the Titans, Prometheus eroded his store of goodwill with them when he took the side of humanity against that of the new deities. He ticked off Zeus and got on his wrong side when he tricked him to accept the bones and fat of sacrificial animals instead of their meat. That set a precedent that allowed humans to sacrifice animals to the gods by burning their bones and fat but got to keep the meat for themselves.

In response, a peeved Zeus took fire away from mankind and wiped its secret from human minds, so they would have to eat meat raw and shiver from the cold in the dark of night. To make his pettiness stick, the chief god prohibited anybody from letting humanity in on the secret of fire. Prometheus however defied Zeus and stole fire from Mount Olympus, then smuggled it down to earth to share with mankind and help them survive life’s struggles. That was the final straw for the chief Olympian.

Truly Intense Vengeance Stories From Greek Mythology
The vengeance visited by Zeus upon Prometheus, by Manuel Veloz Aguilar. Art Station

1. Zeus Sentenced Prometheus to an Eternity of Dreadful Torment

Zeus was livid when he looked down from the heavens and saw the dark of night dispelled by the flicker of fires. To vent his anger at mankind, the chief god sent Pandora down to earth with a box full of calamities. When the lid of Pandora’s box was eventually removed, all the evils that plague humanity were unleashed upon the world. From then on, mankind was afflicted with diseases, plagues, war, death, and the constant need for backbreaking labor to eke sustenance out of the earth. Only hope was left inside the box, to keep life bearable despite all its miseries.

As to Prometheus, Zeus devised a horrific punishment for him. He had the Titan taken to the Caucasus Mountains, where he was chained to a rock. There, Zeus’ vengeance took the form of a giant eagle that flew in every day to rip open Prometheus’ guts and feast upon his liver. The liver re-grew each night, and the eagle returned each day to repeat the process. That way, Prometheus was subjected to an eternity of torment by day, and nights full of dread of what the morrow would bring.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

History Collection – Bizarre and Horrific Punishments of the Ancient Greek Gods

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Prometheus

Bulfinch, Thomas – Bulfinch’s Mythology (2010)

Dalby, Andrew – The Story of Bacchus (2005)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Cronus

Encyclopedia Britannica – Tantalus

Fry, Stephen – Heroes: The Greek Myths Reimagined (2018)

Fry, Stephen – Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece (2017)

Gantz, Timothy – Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources (1996)

Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology – Actaeon

Greeka – The Danaides

Greek Mythology – Io

History Collection – Pythagoras Cup and Other Weird Ancient History Facts

Keefer, Professor Julia, New York University – The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

Nilsson, Martin P. – Greek Folk Religion (1972)

Peabody, Josephine Preston, Tales Beyond Belief – The Myth of Niobe

Ranker – The Most Satisfying Revenge Stories in Greek Mythology

Theoi Greek Mythology – The Titaness Leto

Wikipedia – Ixion

Wikipedia – Lycurgus of Thrace