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By: xger, Xger
Sep 19 2013 10:24am
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Greek Mythology: It's the template for many of the great works and has it's influence throughout the arts and entertainment - and now a block sourced from it in Magic! Alpha and early magic had a fair amount of Greek Mythology already in it but now we get nothing but myths! The first part will be on the gods, their weapons, and some of the iconic monsters. Please note: Due to the nature of Greek Mythology (a lot of stories and depictions, some incomplete and a lot contrary to others) this is a matter of interpretation. Feel free to add comments if you think I miss connections or there are better ones!

First up is:

The Gods!

 

Heliod, God of the Sun - Heliod is the god of law, justice, retribution and bonds of kinship.

Greek counterparts:

  • Helios, Greek God of the Sun: the back stories of the two have a major similarity - Helios convinced Zeus to use his lightning bolt to wipe out Odysseus' men and ship after Odysseus' men kill one of the sacred red cattle on an isle sacred to Helios. Heliod, according to Theros legend, used his spear to smite a major polis and cast it into the sea. Helios was said to be crowned with a shining aura of the sun - Heliod has essentially the same thing, a presence so bright mortals cannot see Nyx when Heliod is present.
  • Zeus, Greek God of the Sky and Thunder: Zeus is also the god of law; both Zeus and Heliod hold an elevated place in their cultures legal system. Heliod is invoked directly in legal proceedings and to ask for justice; Zeus was thought to ensure oaths were upheld and traders remained honest.
  • Nemesis, Greek Goddess of Revenge, Balance, Righteous Indignation, and Retribution: Nemesis is known for luring Narcissus to a pool where he fell in love with his own reflection. Unable to leave the pool he eventually died. Nemesis did this because she disdained those with boundless gifts and took retribution on Narcissus for his great beauty. Given what we know of Heliod, retribution is central to his persona.

Magic Specific - Heliod's personality is friendly and gregarious while he makes allies easily. He does turn on them but unlike Greek Gods there is little to suggest active plotting against others. Being allies with mortals easily is also different than the Greek gods.

 

 

Thassa, God of the Sea - Thassa is god of ancient knowledge, murmurs, gradual change, introspection, vast distances, long voyages, and far-ranging searches.

Greek counterparts:

  • Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea: The most obvious connections are the choice of weapon - Poseidon a trident and Thassa a bident - and the domain of sea and sea creatures. The stories of their wrath are not directly similar but either could theoretically have completed either - Poseidon sent a sea monster to attack Troy after the King of Troy betrayed his word to him; Thassa turned a sailor's family into eels after he stole her bident to destroy an enemy fleet.
  • Athena, Greek God of Wisdom: Athena has many more attributes than wisdom but that is the primary one of concern with regards to Thassa. Athena is also associated with helping heroes on their quests which ties into "vast distances, long voyages, and far-ranging searches".
  • Thalassa, a Greek primordial sea goddess: Thassa's name is likely derivative of Thalassa.

Magic Specific - Blue's portion of the color pie leads to the always wanting change but slowest to action of Thassa which is generally not what Greek gods wanted - they often enjoyed change for the sake of change but they were impulsive and not restrained.

 

 

 

Erebos, God of the Dead - Erebos is the god of misfortune, ill fate, begrudging acceptance, envy, bitterness, and wealth.

Greek counterparts:

  • Hades, Greek God of the underworld, the dead, and the earth's hidden wealth: Hades is obviously the primary inspiration for Erebos and perhaps the most obvious of the relations of Theros and Greek mythology. Contrary to popular modern conception Hades was not evil; mainly he has passive though cruel to those who tried to betray him either by cheating death or trying to leave his realm. This is very similar to Erebos, though Erebos is less interesting in those trying to cheat death as he knows all mortals will eventually join him. Both Erebos and Hades are strongly associated with wealth due to the accumulation that the dead bring with them as well as being the "under world" where gold is common.
  • Erebus, a Greek primordial deity, representing the personification of darkness: Erebos is pretty clearly a derivative of Erebus - in some cases in Greek Erebos was used. Erebus is also said to have been one of the first beings, born of Chaos, and with him came darkness. Erebos was born of Heliod's shadow when it was first cast which has some connections to Erebus' origin.

Magic Specific - The largest difference is in that Erebos seems very restricted to his realm, he is said to envy the sunlit world, implying little ability to experience it.  The Greek Gods had much more freedom of movement as they pleased (though Hades spent most time in the underworld it was his choice)

 

 

Purphoros, God of the Forge - Purphoros is the god of the restless earth, fire, artisans, obsession, and the cycle of creation and destruction.

Greek Counterparts:

  • Hephaestus, Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes: Hephaestus is the smith of the gods armor and weapons and generally any relic of significance. He is considered the male counterpart to Athena in that he inspires mortals and teaches them the arts. Purphoros inspires just simply by being around others. Purphoros also pushes the boundaries in his crafts; Hephaestus craft grew as well, enough so that he was taken back into Olympus after having been exiled.
  • Poseidon, Greek God of Earthquakes: This is a lot of interpretation on my part, but if "restless earth" includes earthquakes that was Poseidon's realm.
  • Periphetes, son of Hephaestus and Anticleia: The inspiration for the name Purphoros was difficult for me to find, and this seems the closest but it could be something else entirely (or just a name without a direct inspiration conscious or not)

Magic Specific - Purphoros seem to be willing to share his works and techniques much more readily with mortals than his Greek counterparts.

 

 

Nylea, God of the Hunt - Nylea is the god of the hunt, the seasons, the forest, and of metamorphosis and rebirth.

Greek Counterparts:

  • Artemis, Greek god of the hunt, wilderness, animals, young girls, childbirth and plague: In Roman mythology Diana is the counterpart to Artemis and WotC said in a recent Arcana that Diana is the inspiration for Nylea. Artemis and Nylea have a lot in common - both are the best hunters and defend that title. Both anger easily and will punish those that hunt in their realm without their permission.
  • The Greek goddesses of the seasons, Eiar, Theros, Pthinoporon, Cheimon (spring, summer, autumn and winter): Nylea is in control of the seasons and decides when each occurs. This also shows where the whole block name comes from...

Magic Specific - Nylea's major difference is her abhorrence of temples of worship and sacrifices made in her honor. Greek gods had lots of temples and often demanded sacrifices. I was unable to find something that seemed plausible as an inspiration for the name Nylea. If you know of something please include it in the comments!

 

 

The Weapons of the Gods!

 

Spear of Heliod - The full name is Khrusor, the Sun Spear. Heliod can pitch down Khrusor from the heavens to any point on Theros.

Possible inspiration:

  • Zeus' Thunderbolt - The main correlation is the ability to be thrown from the heavens as needed. There are also the similarities of Zeus and Heliod to consider.

Magic Mechanical Flavor - The intention seems to be awe inspiring as well a weapon of retribution, both aspects of Heliod.

 

Bident of Thassa - The full name is Dekella. It is a two pronged spear. Wielding Dekella allows control of the tides and the ability to stir up whirl pools.

Possible Inspirations:

  • Poseidon's Trident - Poseidon is said to have been able to create waves, whirlpools and tsunamis with his trident, the same as Thassa. Being the weapon of the god of the sea is usually correlated to the tridents use in fishing.
  • Hades' Bident - This is perhaps the most famous bident and listed here for completeness. 

Magic Mechanical Flavor - In magic lore drawing a card is akin to gaining knowledge. Thassa is the god of ancient knowledge and secrets of the briny depths so the card draw is appropriate (it is also a throw back to Coastal Piracy due to the sea them of the same mechanic). Forcing creatures to attack could be seen as manipulating the seas to direct voyages where Thassa deems fit.

 

Whip of Erebos - The full name is Mastix. It is golden handled and  has an "impossibly long lash".

Possible Inspirations:

  • I was unable to find anything that seemed feasible as an inspiration. There was no major mention of a whip for the Greek gods and very little overall in mythology. Erebos' whip only real correlation is Cerberus simply because they both worked to keep the dead in the underworld, but that is a tenuous connection.
Magic Mechanical Flavor - This weapon or the green are the biggest mechanically flavor misses in my opinion. Both the abilities are very black but neither really lines up with what we know about the weapon or Erebos. 

Hammer of Purphoros - The full name is Akmon. Striking metal with it causes sparks of enchantment that come to life.

Possible Inspirations:

  • Hephaestus' Hammer - The hammer of Hephaestus doesn't have a particularly special place in Greek mythology. It served as one of his symbols and was used in crafting the various weapons and armor of the gods.

Magic Mechanical Flavor - The first ability has little connection to what we know of Akmon, just that is it very red. The second ability fits very well as Akmon can strike the earth (lands) molten and create something from that.

 

Bow of Nylea - The full name is Ephixis. There is no lore or details on the bow other than it being a short bow.

Possible Inspiration:

  • Artemis' Bow - When Artemis' was a child she asked Zeus for 6 wishes, one of which was a bow and arrow. It is thought Artemis' Bow was gold or silver and among the most famous of the time.

Magic Mechanical Flavor - The first ability is fitting as Nylea would likely want clean kills as she is okay with predation but despises hunting for sport. The second ability seems very awkward and forced. From articles on the mothership we know it's supposed to represent the 4 seasons, a key part of Nylea. The implementation however is just a complete miss - which choice is winter? Summer? Why that one?

Iconic Monsters!

 

Minotaur - A major difference with minotaurs of Magic and Greek myth is the number - in Greek myth there was only 1 Minotaur, in magic there are many - and that is the case with many of the monsters. In the Greek myth the Minotaur is born from Pasiphaë and a bull. The gods made Pasiphaë fall in love with a bull in retribution for a grievance against Poseidon by her husband. The Minotaur was born and grew quickly, eventually needing more nourishment than nursing could provide, thus he started devouring man. He was always ferocious and bestial; eventually he was put into the labyrinth. In Theros the minotaurs are wild and very bestial. Their favorite meat is human.

Sea Creatures - The primary source in Greek myth of sea creatures comes from Odysseus in Odyssey. During the return trip to Ithaca Odysseus had to pass between a sea monster and a whirlpool - Scylla and Charybdis respectively. The "whirlpool" is sometimes a whirlpool and sometimes a giant monster who sucks in water with enough force and volume to create the whirlpool. Both were said to be born of the gods or had special attention paid to them by the gods. On his journey Odysseus ran into many sea creatures from Poseidon. In Theros the creatures are just large creatures that cause havoc. The most dangerous portion of the Theros creatures is their ability to breathe air for some period of time potentially causing destruction on land as well.

 
Hydra - The sole hydra in Greek myth was created by Hera, it was intended to kill Hercules and guard an entrance to the underworld. In the myth, each head cut off would cause two to grow in its place. The only way to kill it was to remove all of its heads. Hercules eventually accomplished this by cauterizing the stumps of the head (depending on version either with a fire brand or his sword dipped in the hydra's venomous blood). The hydra's blood was venomous and acidic, its breath poisonous. In Theros the hydras have acidic blood and grow stronger if wounded but not killed. They also have rapid regenerative properties. Some will lay dormant for years, some even having thickets grow on top of them.  
Gorgon - In Greek myth Medusa is the most famous gorgon, she is the only mortal gorgon of three sisters, the other two being Stheno and Euryale. There are different origins of Medusa in myth, either the child of ancient marine deities or that she was transformed after an affront to Athena. In Greek myth the gorgons are stated are being so ugly to behold that the onlooker turns to stone. They also have a head of live venomous snakes in place of hair. Perseus kills Medusa by looking into a mirror shield so as to not look directly at her. He then uses her head as a weapon. In Theros the gorgons have "the secret of immortality". Their gaze turns onlookers to stone as well, and only the favor of the gods can return someone to flesh. A departure from Greek myth is that the Theros gorgons enjoy interaction with mortals - those willing to take the risk to discover secrets.  
Cyclops - Polyphemus is the most known of the Greek myth cyclopses and is the one that is blinded by Odysseus during the Odyssey. Polyphemus eats several of Odysseus' men over a few days. Odysseus then gives Polyphemus wine and he passes out at which point Odysseus blinds him. There are several other cyclopses in Greek myth: some live on an island, others a distant land, and three helped Zeus overthrow Cronus (those three are the ones who gave Zeus his lightning bolts). In Theros the cyclops are portrayed are more belligerent and stupid as well as being unable to feel pain.  

Well that covers the Gods, their weapons and some of the iconic monsters. In the next part I will cover a number of the "story in a card" pieces (i.e. the Trojan Horse card). If you have any particular one you want to see, add a comment!

As always feel free to comment, I enjoy the feedback!

xger21

14 Comments

I enjoyed these :)Are you by CottonRhetoric at Thu, 09/19/2013 - 11:07
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I enjoyed these :)
Are you going to cover other greek mythological references in another article? Pandora's Box, that "don't look back" myth (I forget the characters' names at the moment... the one where he rescues his wife from the underworld), etc.?

I am going to cover as many I by xger at Thu, 09/19/2013 - 12:26
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I am going to cover as many I as can in the next article - definitely pandora's box. There are a few characters that went into the underworld in Greek myth, I will group them most likely for the card.

I believe you're thinking of by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 09/19/2013 - 21:46
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I believe you're thinking of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Interesting that the magic card puts an happy ending to the story. If only Orpheus tapped 5 black mana at instant speed...

The Whip by browndr at Thu, 09/19/2013 - 16:18
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There are two potential sources in Greek Mythology for a whip. The first is The Erinyes or Furies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erinyes

http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Erinyes.html

The second is Nemesis, Daughter of Erebus and Nyx.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(mythology)

Both carried scourges and are born of Nyx.

That was great. Strangely by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 09/19/2013 - 21:55
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That was great. Strangely enough, I didn't think of Helios when looking at Heliod (duh!), my first reaction was to think of one of the 12 Olympians, and so I immediately went to Apollo (who also represents the Sun), elevated to Zeus status. You believe Apollo was entirely out of the picture with Heliod, then?

I'm curious to know what you'll make of Anax and Cymede.

Also: I think Ashiok (who's not from Theros) takes inspiration from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (probably fused with some other Endless, like Desire, due to the gender ambiguity), which is chocked full with Greek myths anyway, so it's a fitting choice to have him/her appear here.

Apollo was originally on the by xger at Fri, 09/20/2013 - 12:54
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Apollo was originally on the list I had for Heliod, but I didn't include him as he didn't fit quite as well as the other two. Given the structure of Greek myth each of the Theros gods could have a list far longer than I gave, I just wanted to keep it down to make it more digestable. It is very open to interpretation!

Thanks for the referrence on Ashiok, I hadn't even thought of doing anything on the planeswalkers but it does make sense (anyone know if Xenagos' home plane is theros?)

Xenagos by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 10/07/2013 - 09:34
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(A bit late, sorry.)

Xenagos is very much from Theros, I'm told he's one of the main characters in the storyline of the novel. He was a Satyr fed up with the "tyranny" of the Gods, and one fateful day his planeswalker spark triggered (don't remember if because of trauma or just naturally), he became a planeswalker, visited other planes, learned things, and came back to Theros to lead the monsters in a revolution against the Gods to overthrow the current pantheon and elevate himself to the divine rank (it's hinted that we may get Xenagos' God card later in the block.) So the human heroes fight for the gods, and the monsters fight for Xenagos. I find it a nice setup because Xenagos is the antagonist here but he's not evil, he wants to take power to change the status quo.

Can't tell if there's a Greek myth that mirrors this story (probably not, seems made up to fit the block's general setup), or a famous "revolutionary" satyr whatsoever. (It'll turn out the main inspiration for him is Castro, maybe :)

Purphoros's name by midnight_dancer at Fri, 09/20/2013 - 10:17
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If you see it as an anglicisation of por + phyros in Ancient Greek, it means something like 'Red Flame' or 'Burning Red'.

Nylea by midnight_dancer at Fri, 09/20/2013 - 10:23
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Nulos (nylos) means, approximately, 'Grass', so it wouldn't surprise me if there is a more generic word for "growth" or "nature" from which Nylea takes her name.

Thanks for the info! by xger at Fri, 09/20/2013 - 12:55
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Thanks for the info!

I love this. I'm a sucker for by Doctor Anime at Fri, 09/20/2013 - 15:34
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I love this. I'm a sucker for ancient Greek history/mythology. More please!

Hey when is part two coming! by CottonRhetoric at Mon, 10/07/2013 - 08:20
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Hey when is part two coming!

I'm starting it today, should by xger at Tue, 10/08/2013 - 13:59
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I'm starting it today, should have it finished this week. I wanted to wait until MaRo's articles on cards were up so I didn't make any glaring mistakes and have some direct references. On a plus I hit Heliod's Spear right on!

About Purphoros by sliarm at Wed, 10/16/2013 - 13:07
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Excellent work! Being Greek, i can help you about the "Purphoros", its a composite word, comes from the words "pur" which means fire in greek and "phoros" which means "the one who bears (holds)", so it actually means the one who holds the fire!