Sacrifice and Próödos

Próödos (Πρόοδος) is a Greek word meaning progress or evolution. We are not talking about the term as it is used by the Neoplatonists, but are here referring to the Natural Law of Progress, ruled by Poseidóhn (Poseidon; Gr. Ποσειδῶν). Próödos is the progress of the soul, which, when united with great personal effort and the help of the Olympian Gods, leads to deification.

Próödos occurs when the ýdra (hydra; Gr. ὕδρα) of ego loses its tight grip on our mentality. We are using the term "ego," not in the Freudian sense, but in the more common, simple understanding of the word, as a distortion of reality such that one's self-importance is exaggerated, living one's life as though you are the center of the universe. The Lærnaian Ýdra (Lernaean Hydra; Gr. Λερναία Ὕδρα) was the fearsome creature which Iraklís (Heracles or Hercules; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς) slew as the second of his mighty Labors. This monster was a serpent possessing numerous heads; when one head was destroyed, two more grew in its place. The ýdra is symbolic of the endless deceptions of ego which continuously distort the perspective of one's relationship to the phenomenal world. The ego is compared to the ýdra, because the ego is very clever; we think of it as our servant, but in reality, we are its slave. It is only when we try to escape from it, that we realize that its entanglements are extremely difficult to undo.

By sacrifice, as we are using the term in this essay, we are not talking about making offerings to Gods. We are speaking here of putting one's own desires aside and choosing instead the best option in any circumstance that presents itself in our life. These opportunities occur on a daily basis, hour by hour, minute by minute. Perhaps they can best be understood by example. For instance, when we prioritize our time in order to care for our children, this is a type of sacrifice. We subordinate our own selfish interests in favor of a greater good.

One of the means to foster the development of Próödos is self-sacrifice. There are other means to develop Próödos, such as the nurturing of Sophía (Wisdom; Gr. Σοφíα), all of which develop the highest Arætí (Arete = Virtue; Gr. Ἀρετή), but self-sacrifice is a particularly important and capable vehicle which propels the soul forward.

What is Heroic Self-Sacrifice?

Sacrifice is something that we do every day when we choose things that are important over things which are superficial. But when the circumstances of life become magnified and the stakes are great, the required sacrifice can have the effect of a significant development of the soul, a great Próödos, a mighty progress or evolution. Heroic self-sacrifice ( Iroïkí Aftothysía ; Gr. Ηρωική Αυτοθυσία) is an action whereby the soul has prioritized a situation such that his or her life may be threatened or sacrificed in order to effect a greater good for society.

The difference between heroic self-sacrifice and suicide

When we speak of heroic self-sacrifice, we are considering a situation in which one places one's own life or circumstances in danger, possibly even sacrificing it. But isn't this suicide? Suicide is defined as the intentional taking of one's own life...but the use of this word, suicide, clearly carries a terrible weight; it implies an injustice. There is a clear distinction between suicide, which this website condemns, and heroic self-sacrifice. The critical point is to understand what is being accomplished. Reasoned self-sacrifice is a matter of maintaining proper priority; suicide is something entirely different. Self-sacrifice is actually based on Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως), attraction to Beauty and Good. Suicide is an act of ignorance, whether it be an expression of mental illness, grief, despair, shame, fear, failure, rejection, cowardice, etc. Suicide is the act of taking one's own life, because one does not wish to live anymore, one cannot face the circumstances of one's life.

We are fortunate to possess the opinions of important Hellenic authors who have commented on this subject, authors who have tremendous weight in our religion:

"As regards the attitude of the philosophic schools, the teaching of the Pythagoreans condemned suicide. According to Orphic or Pythagorean doctrine, the soul is undergoing in the body a penitential discipline for ante-natal sin. Hence, suicide is an unwarranted rebellion against the will of God on the part of the individual, whom it behoves to wait until it please God to set him free." (James Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 1908-1927, Vol. 11, from the entry Suicide (Greek and Roman), 6. Philosophy on p. 30)

According to the same source, the Academic, Peripatetic, and Epicurean schools were also all opposed to suicide.

In his Ithiká Nikomákheia (Nicomachean Ethics; Gr. Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια) (V. xi. 1-5), Aristotǽlis (Aristotle; Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης) discusses suicide and condemns it as an injustice.

Plátôn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) repeatedly denounces suicide:

Sôkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης): "...any man who has the spirit of philosophy, will be willing to die; but he will not take his own life, for that is held to be unlawful." (Plátôn's Phaidohn [Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων] 61; trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)

Sôkrátis: "I suppose that you wonder why, when other things which are evil may be good at certain times and to certain persons, death is to be the only exception, and why, when a man is better dead, he is not permitted to be his own benefactor, but must wait for the hand of another....

There is a doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand. Yet I, too, believe that the Gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not agree?"

Kǽvis (Cebes; Gr. Κέβης): "Yes, I agree to that."

Sôkrátis: "And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example, took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?"

Kǽvis: "Certainly."

Sôkrátis: "Then there may be reason in saying that a man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him..." (Ibid., Phaidohn [Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων] 62; p. 445)

To take one's own life would increase one's suffering:

Sôkrátis: "And what shall he suffer who slays him, who of all men, as they say, is his own best friend? .... They who meet their death in this way shall be buried alone, and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be buried in-gloriously in the borders of the twelve portions of the land, in such places as are uncultivated and nameless, and no column or inscription shall mark the place of their interment." (Plátôn's Nómi [Nomoi or Laws; Gr. Νόμοι] IX, 873; trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)

And also from Cicero:

"... why should I remain longer on earth?...

"Not so," he replied, "for unless that God, whose temple is everything that you see, has freed you from the prison of the body, you cannot gain entrance there (ed. the heavens). For man was given life that he might inhabit that sphere called Earth, which you see in the centre of this temple; and he has been given a soul out of those eternal fires which you call stars and planets ... Wherefore you, Publius, and all good men, must leave that soul in the custody of the body, and must not abandon human life except at the behest of him by whom it was given you, lest you appear to have shirked the duty imposed upon man by God." (Cicero De Re Publica 6.15, trans. C. W. Keyes, 1928. We are using the 1977 edition, Loeb Classical Library 213, Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge, MA] and William Heineman [London], where this quotation may be found on pp. 267-269.)

The mystic reason why we avoid suicide

ὁ Διόνυσος, ὅν φασι κατ’ ἐπιβουλὴν τῆς Ἥρας τοὺς περὶ αὐτὸν Τιτᾶνας σπαράττειν καὶ τῶν σαρκῶν αὐτοῦ ἀπογεύεσθαι. καὶ τούτους ὀργισθεὶς ὁ Ζεὺς ἐκεραύνωσε, καὶ ἐκ τῆς αἰθάλης τῶν ἀτμῶν τῶν ἀναδοθέντων ἐξ αὐτῶν ὕλης γενομένης γενέσθαι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. οὐ δεῖ οὖν ἐξάγειν ἡμᾶς ἑαυτούς, οὐχ ὅτι, ὡς δοκεῖ λέγειν ἡ λέξις, διότι ἔν τινι δεσμῶι ἐσμεν τῶι σώ|3 Norv.ματι, τοῦτο γὰρ δῆλόν ἐστι, καὶ οὐκ ἂν τοῦτο ἀπόρρητον ἔλεγεν, ἀλλ' ὅτι οὐ δεῖ ἐξάγειν ἡμᾶς ἑαυτοὺς ὡς τοῦ σώματος ἡμῶν Διονυσιακοῦ ὄντος· μέρος γὰρ αὐτοῦ ἐσμεν, εἴ γε ἐκ τῆς αἰθάλης τῶν Τιτάνων συγκείμεθα γευσαμένων τῶν σαρκῶν τούτου.

(σχόλιον Ὀλυμπιοδώρου επὶ Φαίδωνος Πλάτωνος 61 c p. 2, 25 William Norvin)

Diónysos who, they say, by means of a plot of Íra (Ἥρα), was tore apart by the Titans, who also tasted his flesh. And, Zefs, thus angered, struck them with thunderbolts, and from out of the soot of the vapors rising up was produced the mud from which men are born. Therefore, it is absolutely not allowed to commit suicide. This is not, as the dialogue seems to say, because the body is bondage, for that is obvious, and he (Σωκράτης) would not have spoken of it as esoteric teaching, but, rather, we are not permitted to commit suicide because our body is from Diónysos; we are a part of him, certainly, that is to say, composed from the soot of the Titans who had tasted of his flesh.”

(trans. by the author)

Heroic Self-Sacrifice in the life of Sôkrátis

So, we have commenced our discussion of heroic self-sacrifice by differentiating it from what it is not. And now, to establish what it is, we will give examples.

Sôkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης) himself is our first example of sacrifice, and an illustration of the difference between suicide, which he condemned, and noble self-sacrifice. One day in 406 BCE, Sôkrátis was a member of the Athenian Voulí (Boule; Gr. βουλή), the council of citizens appointed to run the affairs of the city; he was the Æpistátis (Epistates; Gr. Ἐπιστάτης) who presided over a hearing concerning a demand for a collective trial of eight generals who had abandoned the dead and wounded citizens in the Battle of Aryinousai (Arginusae; Gr. Ἀργινοῦσαι). At great risk to himself, Sôkrátis refused the unconstitutional petition. The following day, his duty had expired, there was a new Æpistátis who conceded to the demands, resulting in the generals being jointly condemned to death. Thus commenced a series of incidents that put the philosopher in a negative light with those in power during a very difficult time for Athens. In 404, Sôkrátis refused the command of the Thirty Tyrants to arrest an innocent man, for which he escaped harm when the Tyrants themselves were overthrown. Sôkrátis was a known critic of society, hypocrisy, and the political system of his time. In 399, he was arrested on the trumped-up charge of impiety and corrupting the youth of the city. After a glorious defense, detailed in the Apoloyía (Apology; Gr. Ἀπολογία) of Plátôn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), he was condemned to death by poison. While he had a clear opportunity for escape, Sôkrátis submitted to the penalty, on ethical grounds, his reasoning explained in detail in Phaidôn (Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων) of Plátôn, making him a hero of justice for all time. This willingness on the part of Sôkrátis to accept death and not flee the laws of his society, is not suicide, but an extension of his commitment to live his teaching and not avoid it, sacrificing his own life for a higher goal. And for one final time, within the Phaidôn (see the quotation above), Sôkrátis again condemns suicide.


Heroic self-sacrifice stands in complete contrast to suicide because such a person who chooses to take this path is very much involved with life, such a person is not running away from one's responsibilities, rather, this individual chooses the hard road, facing the circumstances of his or her destiny head-on and is, actually, choosing not to avoid one's destiny by cowardly escaping and preserving oneself. Such action is of the greatest nobility. Self-sacrifice is an act whereby the best choice to effect great good is by denying oneself in favor of others, whether this be simple the sacrifices, such as those that a parent makes for a child, or, in monumental instances, when one gives ones life for another or for a noble cause, such as soldiers in war or saving the life of a drowning person, or similar. It is this last variety of monumental sacrifice that was freely given by the great Heroes, in addition to many other magnanimous qualities possessed by them, and for which makes them noble souls worthy of great veneration and worship. Heroic self-sacrifice is the action that makes a difference, a real difference in our world, a difference which extends in a positive way beyond the confines of one's own life. It is sometimes the only means to bring about great change for good.

Does this mean that we become martyrs for our beliefs, sacrificing our lives to make a point. Probably not. Perhaps such an action would be necessary, but only in the most extreme of circumstances. Often, such martyrdoms cause tremendous suffering to our family, friends, and associates. Correct action requires priority. We should not become Don Quixotes, going out of our way to find chivalrous episodes whereby we can give our lives for noble causes. Our ordinary lives present every opportunity for the development of our souls. The need to sacrifice one's life for a noble cause is a very, very extraordinary circumstance, not meant for all people in one life. Our fascination with the Heroes causes us to love and admire them and to attempt, by their example, to distinguish those things in our lives which are most important and to strive only for those things, placing more mundane concerns in their proper priority. So we honor the Heroes, and Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως) naturally develops towards them, inspiring us to become virtuous people in our personal lives and in our role as citizens of the world. In response to this, the Gods perceive our beauty and innocence and they also develop great Ǽrohs towards us and help us immensely in this endeavor. When we move closer to the Gods, the Gods move a million times closer to us, as their ability is that much greater than ours.

Please also visit:

Arætí: Virtue in Ællinismόs

Compassion in Ancient Greek Religion

Glossary of Virtue

Hymn to Virtue by Aristotǽlis


(See Glossary for abbreviations)

The following are some examples of brave individuals who made great sacrifice, who endured tremendous suffering within their lives, or who accepted death, all for worthy reasons, resulting in great Arætí (Arete = Virtue; Gr. Ἀρετή).

Ærmías of Atarnéfs - (Hermias of Atarneus; Gr. Ἑρμίας ὁ Ἀταρνεύς) In the fourth century BCE there was a banker by the name of Évvoulos (Eubulus; Gr. Εὔβουλος) of Vithynía (Bithynia; Gr. Βιθυνία) who acquired the lands of Ássos (Gr. Ἄσσος) and Atarnéfs when he loaned money to a Persian official who gave him these properties as security. This made him king or tyrant of these lands. Ærmías was a slave to Évvoulos. Something about his character greatly impressed the king and while yet young he was sent to Athens to be educated. While there, he studied at the Platonic academy as well as with Aristotǽlis (Aristotle; Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης) with whom he developed a deep friendship. When Ærmías returned to Atarnéfs he ruled jointly with Évvoulos, but the king soon died and Ærmías inherited the throne. He, in time, attempted to put into practice Platonic ideals of ruling as a philosopher-king, largely under the influence of Aristotǽlis. In 358 BCE Artaxerxes III ascended to the Persian throne, posing a threat to Ærmías. Atarnéfs received protection from Philip II of Macedon, a friend of Ærmías, but due to unfortunate political circumstances, Philip withdrew military support, placing Ærmías and his kingdom in great danger. Artaxerxes employed a Greek mercenary by the name of Mǽntor (Mentor; Gr. Μέντωρ) to trick and capture Ærmías. Mǽntor succeeded in this task and he brought Ærmías in chains to Sousa (Susa; Gr. Σοῦσα) where he was tortured in order to extract information against his friends. Ærmías was able to message his companions saying that, "I have done nothing shameful or unworthy of philosophy." He never betrayed his friends and was tortured to death. When Aristotǽlis received word of this news, he was greatly moved in heart and funded a memorial for the noble king at the sanctuary of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) at Dælphí (Delphi; Gr. Δελφοί) and he composed the great hymn to Virtue which we still possess today to inspire us to great acts of heroism.

Áglavlos - (Aglaulos; Gr. Ἄγλαυλος, also Αγοραῖος)

"A daughter of Cecrops (ed. the first king of Attica) and Aglaulos, and mother of Alcippe by Ares. This Aglaulos is an important personage in the stories of Attica, and there were three different legends about her. 1. According to Pausanias (i. 18. § 2) and Hyginus (Fab. 166), Athena gave to her and her sisters Erichthonius in a chest, with the express command not to open it. But Aglaulos and Herse could not control their curiosity, and opened it; where-upon they were seized with madness at the sight of Erichthonius, and threw themselves from the steep rock of the Acropolis, or according to Hyginus into the sea. 2. According to Ovid (Met. ii. 710, &c.), Aglaulos and her sister survived their opening the chest, and the former, who had instigated her sister to open it, was punished in this manner. Hermes came to Athens during the celebration of the Panathenaea, and fell in love with Herse. Athena made Aglaulos so jealous of her sister, that she even attempted to prevent the God entering the house of Herse. But, indignant at such presumption, he changed Aglaulos into a stone. 3. The third legend represents Aglaulos in a totally different light. Athens was at one time involved in a long-protracted war, and an oracle declared that it would cease, if some one would sacrifice himself for the good of his country. Agraulos came forward and threw herself down the Acropolis. The Athenians, in gratitude for this, built her a temple on the Acropolis, in which it subsequently became customary for the young Athenians, on receiving their first suit of armour, to take an oath that they would always defend their country to the last. (Suid. and Hesych. s. v. Ἀγραυλος; Ulpian, ad Demosth. de fals. leg.; Herod. viii. 53; Plut. Alcib. 15; Philochorus, Fr. p. 18, ed. Siebelis.) One of the Attic δῆμοι (ed. dêmoi) (Agraule) derived its name from this heroine, and a festival and Mysteries were celebrated at Athens in honour of her. (Steph. Byz. s. v. Ἀγραυλή ; Lobeck, Aglaoph. p. 89 ; Dict. of Ant. p. 30, a.) According to Porphyry (De Abstin. ab animal. i. 2), she was also worshipped in Cyprus, where human sacrifices were offered to her down to a very late time."

(DGRBM Vol.I, p. 75, left column)

Álkistis - (Alkestis; Gr. Ἄλκηστις) Álkistis was the daughter of Pælías (Pelias; Gr. Πελίας), the king of Iohlkós (Iolcus; Gr. Ιωλκός), and the husband of Ádmitos (Admetos; Gr. Άδμητος), king of Phærai (Pherae; Gr. Φεραί) in Thæssalía (Thessaly; Gr. Θεσσαλία), who was also one of the Argonáftai (Argonauts; Gr. Ἀργοναῦται). Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) was in service to king Ádmitos as a shepherd, this being a punishment exacted upon him for having killed Dælphýni (Delphyne; Gr. Δελφύνη), the Pýthohn (Python; Gr. Πύθων) of Dælphí (Delphi; Gr. Δελφοί) (later traditions say it was a punishment for killing the Kýklohps [Cyclops; Gr. Κύκλωψ]). Ádmitos loved Apóllohn and became his Æróhmænos (Eromenos; Gr. Ἐρώμενος); Apóllohn also had great love for Ádmitos and helped him in many ways. As Ádmitos' day of death approached, Apóllohn made the Mírai (Moirai or the Fates; Gr. Μοῖραι) drunk and acquired a concession from them that Ádmitos' death could be delayed if someone were to die in his place. Álkistis, who deeply loved her husband, then died for Ádmitos. She was close to death in any case and did not wish her children to be fatherless nor to live on without her husband. Iraklís (Heracles or Hercules; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς), who was greatly impressed with the xænía (xenia or hospitality; Gr. ξενία) that Ádmitos bestowed upon him as a guest, traveled to the land of Aidis (Hades; Gr. Ἅιδης) and wrestled with Thánatos (Death; Gr. Θάνατος), winning Álkistis back to life for her husband. The mythology is immortalized in Evripíthis' (Euripides; Gr. Εὐριπίδης) great play Álkistis, a narrative of the beautiful Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως, ἜΡΩΣ) of many souls. Álkistis' selfless sacrifice for her husband and children was highly celebrated in antiquity. (Aelian, V. H. xiv. 45, Animal. i. 15; Philostr. Her. ii. 4; Ov. Ars Am. iii. 19.)

"For the seven-stringed shell, or for pæan

Unharped, shall thy fame be a song,

When o'er Sparta the moon Carnean

High rideth the whole night long.

And in Athens the wealthy and splendid

Shall thy name on her bards' lips ring;

Such a theme has thou left to be blended

With the lays that they sing."

(Eu.Al. 445-455, p. 443.)

Antigóni - (Antigone; Gr. Ἀντιγόνη)

Antigóni was ..."a daughter of Oedipus by his mother Jocaste. She had two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, and a sister Ismene. In the tragic story of Oedipus Antigone appears as a noble maiden, with a truly heroic attachment to her father and brothers. When Oedipus, in despair at the fate which had driven him to murder his father, and commit incest with his mother (ed. Jocasta), ..."

(DGRBM vol.1, p. 186, left column)

"... the secret afterwards came to light, Jocasta hanged herself in a noose, and Oedipus was driven from Thebes, after he had put out his eyes and cursed his sons, who saw him cast out of the city without lifting a hand to help him. And having come with Antigone to Colonus in Attica, where is the precinct of the Eumenides, he sat down there as a suppliant, was kindly received by Theseus and died not long afterwards."

(Ap. III. v. 9; vol.1, pp.349-351)

Antigóni had remained with her father to the end and then returned to Thívai (Thebes; Gr. Θῆβαι).

"When Polyneices, subsequently, who had been expelled by his brother Eteocles, marched against Thebes (in the war of the Seven), and the two brothers had fallen in single combat, ..." (DGRBM Ibid.) "Having succeeded to the kingdom of Thebes, Creon cast out the Argive dead unburied, issued a proclamation that none should bury them, and set watchmen. But Antigone, one of the daughters of Oedipus, stole the body of Polyneices, and secretly buried it, and having been detected by Creon himself, she was interred alive in the grave."

(Ap. III. vii. 1; vol.1, p.373)

"Creon: You there, whose head is drooping to the ground, do you admit this, or deny you did it?

Antigone: I say I did it and I don't deny it.

Creon: You--tell me not at length but in a word. You knew the order not to do this thing?

Antigone: I knew, of course I knew. The word was plain.

Creon: And still you dared to overstep these laws?

Antigone: For me it was not Zeus who made that order. Nor did that Justice who lives with the Gods below mark out such laws to hold among mankind. Nor did I think your orders were so strong that you, a mortal man, could over-run the Gods' unwritten and unfailing laws. Not now, nor yesterday's, they always live, and no one knows their origin in time. So not through fear of any man's proud spirit would I be likely to neglect these laws, draw on myself the Gods' sure punishment. I knew that I must die; how could I not? even without your warning. If I die before my time, I say it is a gain. Who lives in sorrows many as are mine how shall he not be glad to gain his death? And so, for me to meet this fate, no grief. But if I left that corpse, my mother's son, dead and unburied I'd have cause to grieve as now I grieve not. And if you think my acts are foolishness, the foolishness may be in a fool's eye."

(The Antigóni of Sophoklís [Sophocles; Gr. Σοφοκλῆς], 441-470, trans. by Elizabeth Wyckoff, 1954; found Vol. II {1959} of The Complete Greek Tragedies, University of Chicago Press, pp. 173-174)

Claudius II Gothicus - Claudius II (213-270 CE) was emperor of Rome from 268-270 CE. According to the account quoted below, this emperor, chose to sacrifice himself for the benefit of the empire:

3. "...Indeed, when Claudius had learned from the Sibylline Books, which he had ordered to be inspected, that there was no remedy for the death of the man who stated his position first in the senate - although Pomponius Bassus, who then was the first man, offered himself - , he did not allow the responses to be ineffectual and gave his own life to the state for a gift, having proclaimed that none but the imperator held the first place of so great an order. 4. Inasmuch as this act was beneficial to all, the leading men dedicated to him not only the name "Divinity" but a statue of gold near the effigy of Jupiter itself and, in the senate-house, a gold image."

( [assumed to have been written by] Sextus Aurelius Victor, Epitome De Caesaribus 34:3-4; trans. Thomas M. Banchich; Canisius College Translated Texts, Number 1; Canisius College. Buffalo, New York; 2009 - 2nd edition)

Codrus - See Kódros.

Hermias of Atarneus - See Ærmías of Atarnéfs.

Iphiyǽneia - (Iphigeneia; Gr. Ἰφιγένεια) Iphiyǽneia was the daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon (according to other sources, daughter of Theseus and Helena and foster-child of Clytaemnestra). Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army against Troy, had in some way offended Artemis. Consequently, she caused a deep calm on the waters such that the fleet could not leave the port of Aulis.

"The seer Cachas, or, according to others, the Delphic oracle, declared that the sacrifice of Iphigeneia was the only means of propitiating Artemis. Agamemnon at first resisted the command, but the entreaties of Menelaus at length prevailed upon him to give way, and he consented to Iphigeneia being fetched by Odysaeus and Diomedes, under the pretext that she was to be married to Achilles. When Iphigeneia had arrived, and was on the point of being sacrificed, Artemis carried her in a cloud to Tauris, where she was made to serve the Goddess as her priestess, while a stag, or, according to others, a she-bear, a bull, or an old woman, was substituted in her place and sacrificed."

(DGRBM vol.2, p. 618, right column)

Iphiyǽneia to Agamemnon:

"O Father, I am here at your command--

Willingly I give my body to be

Sacrificed for my country, for all Greece,

If it be the will of heaven, lead me

To the Goddess' altar. Prosper, I say;

Win victory in this war and then return

To our father land. But let no Argive

Touch me with his hand. Silent, unflinching,

I offer my neck to the knife."

(Euripides' Iphiyǽneia in Aulis 1551-1559, trans. by Charles R. Walker, 1958, The Complete Greek Tragedies, Vol. IV, Euripides, pp. 384-385)

Klǽovis and Víton - (Cleobis; Gr. Κλέοβις. Biton; Gr. Βίτων; the β is pronounced like the English v)

" 'Cleobis and Bito,' Solon answered; 'they were of Argive race; their fortune was enough for their wants, and they were besides endowed with so much bodily strength that they had both gained prizes at the Games. Also this tale is told of them:--There was a great festival in honour of the Goddess Hera at Argos, to which their mother must needs be taken in a car. Now the oxen did not come home from the field in time: so the youths, fearful of being too late, put the yoke on their own necks, and themselves drew the car in which their mother rode. Five and forty furlongs did they draw her, and stopped before the temple. This deed of theirs was witnessed by the whole assembly of worshippers, and then their life closed in the best possible way. Herein, too, God showed forth most evidently, how much better a thing for man death is than life. For the Argive men, who stood around the car, extolled the vast strength of the youths; and the Argive women extolled the mother who was blessed with such a pair of sons; and the mother herself, overjoyed at the deed and at the praises it had won, standing straight before the image, besought the Goddess to bestow on Cleobis and Bito, the sons who had so mightily honoured her, the highest blessing to which mortals can attain. Her prayer ended, they offered sacrifice and partook of the holy banquet, after which the two youths fell asleep in the temple. They never woke more, but so passed from the earth. The Argives, looking on them as among the best of men, caused statues of them to be made, which they gave to the shrine at Delphi.' "

(Herodotos' History Book I, Chapter 31, pp. 19-20)

Kódros - (Codrus; Gr. Κόδρος)

Kódros was... "the son of Melanthus, and king of Athens, where he reigned, according to tradition, some time after the conquest of the Peloponnesus by the Dorians, about B. C. 1068. Once when the Dorians invaded Attica from Peloponnesus, they were told by an oracle, that they should be victorious if the life of the Attic king was spared. The Dorians accordingly took the greatest precautions not to kill the king. But when Codrus was informed of the oracle, he resolved to sacrifice himself, and thus to deliver his country. In the disguise of a common man, he entered the camp of the enemy. There he began quarrelling with the soldiers, and was slain in the struggle. When the Dorians discovered the death of the Attic king, they abstained from further hostilities, and returned home. Tradition adds, that as no one was thought worthy to succeed such a high-minded and patriotic king, the kingly dignity was abolished, and a responsible archon for life was appointed instead." (DGRBM vol. 1, p. 811, right column.)

Kóræsos - (Coresus; Gr. Κόρεσος)

"In this part of the city is also a sanctuary of Dionysus surnamed Calydonian, for the image of Dionysus too was brought from Calydon. When Calydon was still inhabited, among the Calydonians who became priests of the God was Coresus, who more than any other man suffered cruel wrongs because of love. He was in love with Callirhoë, a maiden. But the love of Coresus for Callirhoë was equalled by the maiden's hatred of him. When the maiden refused to change her mind, in spite of the many prayers and promises of Coresus, he then went as a suppliant to the image of Dionysus. The God listened to the prayer of his priest, and the Calydonians at once became raving as though through drink, and they were still out of their minds when death overtook them. So they appealed to the oracle at Dodona. For the inhabitants of this part of the mainland, the Aetolians and their Acarnanian and Epeirot neighbors, considered that the truest oracles were the doves and the responses from the oak. On this occasion the oracles from Dodona declared that it was the wrath of Dionysus that caused the plague, which would not cease until Coresus sacrificed to Dionysus either Callirhoë herself or one who had the courage to die in her stead. When the maiden could find no means of escape, she next appealed to her foster parents. These too failing her, there was no other way except for her to be put to the sword. When everything had been prepared for the sacrifice according to the oracle from Dodona, the maiden was led like a victim to the altar. Coresus stood ready to sacrifice, when, his resentment giving way to love, he slew himself in place of Callirhoë. He thus proved in deed that his love was more genuine than that of any other man we know. When Callirhoë saw Coresus lying dead, the maiden repented. Overcome by pity for Coresus, and by shame at her conduct towards him, she cut her throat at the spring in Calydon not far from the harbor, and later generations call the spring Callirhoë after her."

(Paus. Book 7, Achaia, XXI.1-5 ; Vol. 3, pp. 291-293)

Korohnídæs, The - (Coronides; Gr. Κορωνίδες) The Korohnídæs are Mæníppi (Menippe; Gr. Μενίππη) and Mætíokhi (Metioche; Gr. Μετίοχη).

Mæníppi was a..."daughter of Orion and sister of Metioche. After Orion was killed by Artemis, Menippe and Metioche were brought up by their mother, and Athena taught them the art of weaving, and Aphrodite gave them beauty. Once the whole of Aonia was visited by a plague, and the oracle of Apollo Gortynius, when consulted, ordered the inhabitants to propitiate the two Erinnyes by the sacrifice of two maidens, who were to offer themselves to death of their own accord. Menippe and Metioche offered themselves; they thrice invoked the infernal gods, and killed themselves with their shuttles. Persephone and Hades metamorphosed them into comets. The Aonians erected to them a sanctuary near Orchomenos, where a propitiatory sacrifice was offered to them every year by youths and maidens. The Aeolians called these maidens Coronides.

(Ov. Met. xiii. 685; Anton. Lib. 25; Schol. ad Hom. Il. xviii. 486.)" (DGRBM, vol.2, p.1041, left column, under the heading Menippe.)

"There was a city; one could point and count Seven gates; these served to name it and explain what place it was. Before the city, scenes of grief, with funerals and flaming pyres and tombs, and matrons with dishevelled hair and naked breasts; and Nymphae in tears were seen mourning their drought-dried springs. A tree stood bare and leafless, goats were gnawing round parched rocks. Lo, he has fashioned in the heart of Thebae Orion’s daughters, one cutting her throat--no woman’s wound--one with her shuttle’s point stabbing herself, brave injury, as both die for their country’s sake, and through the city are borne in funeral pomp to the great square and there are burnt. Then, lest their line should die, from those two virgins’ embers twin youths rise whom fame calls the Coronae, and they lead the files that lay their natal ash to rest."

(Ovid's Metamorphosis XIII. 685, trans. by A. D. Melville, 1986; found here in the 1987 Oxford edition on pp.315-316)

Makaría - (Macaria; Gr. Μακαρία)

"In Marathon is a spring called Macaria, with the following legend. When Heracles left Tiryns, fleeing from Eurystheus, he went to live with his friend Ceyx, who was king of Trachis. But when Heracles departed this life Eurystheus demanded his children ; whereupon the king of Trachis sent them to Athens, saying that he was weak but Theseus had power enough to succour them. The arrival of the children as suppliants caused for the first time war between Peloponnesians and Athenians, Theseus refusing to give up the refugees at the demand of Eurystheus. The story says that an oracle was given the Athenians that one of the children of Heracles must die a voluntary death, or else victory could not be theirs. Thereupon Macaria, daughter of Deïaneira and Heracles, slew herself and gave to the Athenians victory in the war and to the spring her own name."

(Paus. Book I Attica, XXXII. 6 ; vol.1, p. 177.)

Mænǽstratos - (Menestratus; Gr. Μενέστρατος) Mænǽstratos was a hero who gave his life to save his lover.

"In Thespiae is a bronze image of Zeus Saviour (ed. Σωτήρ). They say about it that when a dragon once was devastating their city, the God commanded that every year one of their youths, upon whom the lot fell, should be offered to the monster. Now the names of those who perished they say that they do not remember. But when the lot fell on Cleostratus, his lover Menestratus, they say, devised a trick. He had made a bronze breastplate, with a fish-hook, the point turned outwards, upon each of its plates. Clad in this breastplate he gave himself up, of his own free will, to the dragon, convinced that having done so he would, though destroyed himself, prove the destroyer of the monster. This is why the Zeus has been surnamed Saviour."

(Paus. Book XXVI. 6-7 ; vol.4, p. 285)

Mæníppi - See Korohnídæs, The.

Mænikéfs - (Menoeceus; Gr. Μενοικεύς) Mænikéfs was a son of Krǽohn (Creon; Gr. Κρέων), king of Thívai (Thebes; Gr. Θῆβαι) and a relative of Idípous (Oedipus; Gr. Οἰδίπους). In the war of the Seven against Thívai, the blind seer Teiræsías (Teiresias; Gr. Τειρεσίας) gave an oracle that the Thívans would conquer if Mænikéfs should sacrifice his life. Mænikéfs then went outside the gates of the city and killed himself.

"So when the Thebans sought counsel of him (Teiræsías), he said that they should be victorious if Menoeceus, son of Creon, would offer himself freely as a sacrifice to Ares. On hearing that, Menoeceus, son of Creon, slew himself before the gates."

(Ap. III. VI. 7, Vol. 1, p. 367)

Mætíokhi - See Korohnídæs, The.

Metioche - See Korohnídæs, The.

Promithéfs - (Prometheus; Gr. Προμηθεύς) Promithéfs is the Titan God, the son of Iapætós (Iapetus or Japetus; Gr. Ἰαπετός) and Thǽmis (Themis; Gr. Θέμις), and the great friend to mankind. For this help, he greatly suffered:

"Prometheus moulded men out of water and earth and gave them also fire, which, unknown to Zeus, he had hidden in a stalk of fennel. But when Zeus learned of it, he ordered Hephaestus to nail his body to Mount Caucasus, which is a Scythian mountain. On it Prometheus was nailed and kept bound for many years. Every day an eagle swooped on him and devoured the lobes of his liver, which grew by night. That was the penalty that Prometheus paid for the theft of fire until Hercules afterwards released him..."

(Ap. I. VII. 1, Vol. 1, pp. 52-53)

Thærmopýlai, The Heroes of - These are the warriors, who, under the leadership of King Læonídas I (Leonidas; Gr. Λεωνίδας) of Sparta, opted to defend the pass of Thærmopýlai (Thermopylae; Gr. Θερμοπύλαι) against an enormous enemy of over a million men under King Xerxes I of Persia, who were invading Greece. This narrow pass was the only way for the Persians to enter, other than the sea. Beginning with a force of 7,000, after learning that they had been betrayed and that a small pass had been shown to the Persians from the rear flank, Læonídas dismissed the bulk of his troops, leaving 300 Spartans, 700 Thesbians, and 400 Thebans. As would be expected, the vast majority of these soldiers were destroyed. This incident is one of the most moving and famous of all examples, a mighty and shining illustration of heroism and sacrifice for a higher goal.

Dimáratos (Demaratus; Gr. Δημάρατος), Spartan king in exile, to Xerxes, king of the Persians:

"Brave are all the Greeks who dwell in any Dorian land; but what I am about to say does not concern all, but only the Lacedæmonians. First then, come what may, they will never accept thy terms, which would reduce Greece to slavery; and further, they are sure to join battle with thee, though all the rest of the Greeks should submit to thy will. As for their numbers, do not ask how many they are, that their resistance should be a possible thing; for if a thousand of them should take the field, they will meet thee in battle, and so will any number, be it less than this, or be it more."

(Herodotos' History Book VII, 102, pp. 548-549)

Víton - See Klǽovis and Víton.

Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεύς) Zagréfs, the mighty son of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), gave up his life that we may be free from the suffering inherent in an endless cycle of rebirths (κύκλος γενέσεως). Read the famous story here: Orphic Theogony.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

The final scene from the movie City Lights; if you have seen this film, you will know why it is here.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology , the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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